Saturday, November 10, 2012

Where Is Heaven? When Is Heaven?

Where Is Heaven? When Is Heaven?


What do we do when all human capacity is exhausted? Are we willing to allow for the possibility that a divine power breaks into the reality of our systems? In the story of our people, the divine power that breaks into our systems is called God, LORD, revealed through Jesus Christ. With the presence of God, there is a metaphysics. For us, that metaphysics is called heaven.


The commonly held belief is that heaven is a place, and thus we ask, "Where is heaven?" When we ask that question, too often our reflection is upon: Who gets into heaven? What must one do to get into heaven?  Will those with whom I disagree or those that offend me be rejected from heaven? We ask what is right, what is wrong, and replace faith with what Professor Willie Jennings from Duke Divinity School calls "ethical oughts."


I want to put forth the possiblity that heaven is a time as well as a place. We can then ask a second question, "When is heaven?" At the point of asking that question, we can follow up by asking, What will God do when heaven happens?"


Some scriptural references to the concept of heaven being a time as well as a place include:

-Now is the acceptable time.

-Now is the day of salvation.

-The day of Lord.

-Jesus, "I go ahead [future] of you o prepare you a place."

-The phrase eternal life connotes an aeon, age, epoch.

When we add the image from revelation of the Holy City being established on earth, then the vision for the future is when God's kingdom is established here on earth.


When we allow the possibility of heaven being a time, we allow room for the following ideas:


Walter Brueggeman writes that "God is unwilling to go the whole way with creation...God cannot tolerate this possibility for God has too much at stake in creation...God's grace continues to mean something." See Genesis 6: 7 and 8 for an illustration of this belief. So, while, in times of disaster, we can believe all has come to an end, there is yet "to dawn a more glorious day" of restoration.


If the future holds the power of God at work in restoring creation to something even greater that before, then we must ask ourselves, "Do we look far enough into the future?" In the midst of the passion, despair, fear, and angst of a calamity, our sight lines are short. Perhaps, we do not look far enough into the future. Perhaps, then, we can be motivated by a vision of the future more so than a fear of the future because we are no doing what we ought. Inspiration can come through vision instead of motivation through despair.


Allowing room for heaven to be a time as well as a place opens up the possiblity for theology and science to have a conversation. Rev. George Murphy writes of what is called the Final Anthropic Principle. The principle states, "Intelligent information--processing must come into existence in the Universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will never die out." Murphy goes on to write, "Those who espouse FAP assume that life will evolve toward ever greater knowledge and control of the universe...The most extreme of these ideas is Frank Tipler's 'Omega Point' theory, which claims to predict, purely on the basis of physics, the coming into being of an omnipotent God and the resurrection to eternal life of all who have ever lived in the ultimate future of the universe."

When we ask "When is heaven?" The answer is the source of hope and inspriation.

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