“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” – Revelation 21:2-3
The prevailing idea is that heaven is up. As a child I thought hell existed somewhere in the center of the earth and heaven could be found somewhere beyond the stars. There are definitely verses that imply this. In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul talks about being caught up in the third heaven (the “third” heaven being that which is above our atmosphere). Yet there are other verses which give a different road map to heaven.
Revelation 21 speaks of the vision of John of Patmos. In his vision he sees God coming down from heaven to establish a new heaven and a new earth right on earth. In this vision, the heaven God creates for us appears to be not above us but among us. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” This image seems to fit with our prayer, “Thy kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.”
So, is heaven “up there” or is it “right here”?
Well I think the verse from Revelation tells us that heaven is less about where you are and more about who your neighbor is. Heaven is not defined by location but by presence.
About 20 years ago, I had an opportunity to vacation in the Dominican Republic. The beach, the water, and the vistas were gorgeous. I was well cared for throughout the vacation and didn’t have to worry about anything. Yet, the trip was far from heavenly. The entire time I was there all I could think about was this wonderful woman named Janelle that I was dating. I wanted to be with Janelle but she was thousands of miles away.
No matter how beautiful the place was it wasn’t paradise without the one I loved.
For those who follow Christ, paradise is found when our lives are hidden in Christ. We are in heaven when we are with God and the more fully our lives are inline with God the more fully we experience heaven. Again, we hear this in our prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our road map to a heavenly experience is Christ’s way of love. We enter paradise by quieting our ego, surrendering our need for control, and trusting that the God who started us on this journey knows how to lead us through it.