Category Archives: heaven

On the Resurrection Body

Body, therefore, affirms the biblical tradition of a positive attitude toward physicality as a condition for experiencing life in its fullness, but also assimilates, subsumes, and transcends the role of the physical in the public domain of earthly life
Hence it would be appropriate to conceive of the raised body as a form or mode of existence of the whole person including every level of intersubjective communicative experience that guarantees both the continuity of personal identity and an enhanced experience of community which facilitates intimate union with God in Christ and with differentiated “others” who also share this union. 
If the marriage bond, e.g., ceases at death, this is also not because the the resurrection body offers any “less,” but because interpersonal union is assimilated and subsumed into a “more” that absorbs exclusivity but “adds” a hitherto unimagined death. 
Such mutuality of union and respect for difference, however, presupposes a “pattern of existence controlled and directed by the Holy Spirit“, and a mode of existence designed by God for the new environment of the eschatological new creation. 
(emphasis his, paragraph spacing mine)
Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 2000), 1279.

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the 3rd heaven?

Sunday night we tried the ‘text in your question during the sermon’ thing again, and this time with a bigger response. The question that got asked the most about the passage (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), was, ‘What is the 3rd heaven that Paul talks about in 12:2?’, but we didn’t get time to answer it on the night.

Let me have a go now – feel free to comment!

The passage in question:
“2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”

So what is the third heaven? It seems fairly clear that we can equate ‘the third heaven’ in v.2 with ‘paradise’ in v.4. The point is, he went to ‘the highest heaven’. The context is Paul countering the boasting of the false apostles in Corinth. That the discussion moves to ‘visions and revelations’ in ch.12 suggests that the false apostles were claiming a superior authority to Paul in part because of the visions and revelations they had received. Paul is dragged into a ‘foolish’ type of boasting in order to undercut their claims – you can tell that he wants to distance himself from claiming authority from these visions by the way he speaks of himself in the third person, before he reveals that the ‘man in Christ’ of v.2 is actually Paul himself.

But, even in this ‘foolish boasting’ mode, Paul establishes that the ‘visions and revelations’ that he had were of a higher order than those of the false apostles – they weren’t just ‘great revelations’, they were ‘surpassingly great revelations’ (v.7).

So, the ‘third heaven’ or ‘Paradise’, in this context, is the highest of all possible heavenly places.

Some say that the cosmology of the first century had layers. So, the first layer of heaven was the sky; the second was the place where the ‘ruler of the kingdom of the air’ dwelt (see Eph 2:2 – and Peter Bolt’s book, ‘Living With the Underworld’ for a good discussion of this); and then the 3rd heaven above that, where God dwelt with all of the heavenly beings. That is the possible source for Paul’s choice of words here.

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Treasure in Heaven?

Just recently, someone aksed me what I thought ‘treasure in heaven’ was. Here’s what I answered:

After 3 or so months of ruminating (ok, just doing other stuff!), I’m ready to give this a bit of a go.

You said:

The idea of treasure still seems a little mercenary: I’m not doing it for Jesus
so much as for the heavenly goodies I’ll get.

I think there may be a false dichotomy in that statement. That is, the heavenly goodies we get is Jesus. Complete fellowship with him. In his presence to magnify his name forever.
The danger with the ‘duty’ perspective that you mentioned is that we think we ‘owe’ God. Its a view that goes something like: ‘Well, God has done so much for me in sending Jesus, that I owe him my life and my service and my good deeds in his name. Its the least I can do.’

The problem with this is it slips into a bit of a ‘merit’ theology. But can we ever really repay God for what he has done? The reality is, that any good works we do for him are ‘prepared in advance for us to do’ by him, and then enabled by him in us to do anyway. He is the one who energises us, who gives us his Spirit-gifts to serve, and gives us the context in which to use them. Consider these two quotes from John Piper:

Every good deed we do in dependence on God does just the opposite of paying him back; it puts us ever deeper in his debt to His grace. And that is exactly where God wants us to be through all eternity.

Good deeds do not pay back grace; they borrow more grace.

Which sort of leads to your second question:

What’s your take Keith: what is treasure in heaven? A room with a river-of-life
view? A seat closer to Jesus?

Here’s my take at the moment. The picture in heaven is of the saints in adoring praise of God and the lamb who was slain. That is the greatest good that anyone can have, and everyone partakes in it. So what then could further ‘treasure’ be? What could give someone a greater experience of that ultimate reality?
I suspect treasure is heaven is a deeper understanding of the grace of God in the gospel. Whether that is in the shape of seeing people that God was pleased to save through your faithful witness, or seeing those who benefited from your faithful and gracious exercise of the gifts God had given you, or whatever. The motivation for service then is not mercenary, for it is out of a desire to have a more complete worship of God who should be the sole object of worship.

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