Reflection from Fr. Charles
What Is Heaven? – Part III
So, IF heaven is real, and heaven is relevant, we must know what it has to do with us, we should work toward a better idea of what heaven is and is not.
Years of Sunday School lessons, illustrations, and simplicities may have misled us. What if we do not actually “go to heaven” bodily — because heaven isn’t like our typical “place” we can go. No spaceship will take us there. Perhaps heaven is better understood as a “dimension of our reality.”
The Hebrew imagery of heaven as the sky is a beautiful illustration of something, we hardly have categories to describe, and it is just that: imagery.
“God is in the heavens” (Psalm 115) does not literally mean that God is in the sky as a bodily being. That is how we try to wrap our words around the fact that God is real and involved, but not here visibly. He is out there, or up there, and by that, we mean that he resides in a dimension of reality outside our own, or something like that.
So much of this has to do with how we conceive of space and time. Theoretical physicists (of which I do not count myself) say that there are at least ten dimensions in the universe, possibly eleven. We can perceive only three. And the way all these dimensions relate to one another isn’t so much in miles and distance, but in what is called the “space-time overlap.”
We can see a clue of this in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8). Recall how it works. Jesus doesn’t take Peter, James, and John to a “galaxy far away - light years out of sight.” They just walk up on a mountain, and here on this earth, (long dead) Moses and Elijah stepped in to talk to Jesus in his glorified form. For that moment, the curtain of all reality was pulled back, as it were, and the heavenly dimension that overlaps with our reality was visibly seen.
Jesus is the one who makes “heaven” heaven.
As theologians contend, some of us may need to flip around the way we have conceived of heaven. Rather than think that heaven is the “ultimate place” — like all our places — where God stays, we should think of it this way: “Wherever the risen Christ is, that is heaven.” That is why John’s vision in Revelation has heaven coming here, heralded as, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev 21: 1-3). Jesus is the one who makes “heaven” heaven. Jesus is the one who makes it good and beautiful and desirable. Jesus is the one we want. (to be continued…)