Apostles’ Creed: Of Heaven and Earth

What does the Bible mean when it speaks about Heaven and Earth? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

When we hear Heaven and Earth, our minds can often think of two opposites. In some ways, this is accurate, but not totally. The danger with many Christians is to make it such a contrast that there is no relation between the two, whereas in Revelation 21, what one ultimately sees in the end is the marriage of Heaven and Earth. Christians don’t go up to Heaven. Heaven, in the New Jerusalem, comes down to Earth.

What is really going on when we see Heaven and Earth spoken of in the Scripture then?

What is happening is what is called a merism. This is where you speak of two contrasting realities and by speaking of them, you mean to include everything in between them. North and south, east and west, good and evil, etc. In the Psalm, when the Psalmist says he can go to the highest heaven or the deepest darkness and not escape God, it doesn’t mean that if He stays right in the middle God won’t notice Him. It means that by saying those two opposite, He’s included everything.

What this means then by Heaven and Earth is not saying the celestial realm, but rather the skies above. Now of course, sometimes the Bible uses the term Heaven and refers to the celestial realm, but not normally. One place I can think of that is an exception in fact differs in that Paul refers in 2 Cor. 12 to going to the “third Heaven.”

So when we read that God created the Heavens and the Earth, it means He created the universe. As was said yesterday, this is a being of great power and intelligence who can do something like this and that is a power and intelligence that deserves to be respected.

If we form a divide between Heaven and Earth that the two will have nothing to do with each other, we end up holding to a more Gnostic worldview that says this world as it is evil. Now there is much that is fallen about our world and I am of the viewpoint that it was not created to be perfect as it is, but there is much that is good. I agree with the old hymn that says “This Is My Father’s World.”

Heaven is not meant in the Bible to be seen as an escapist reality. To be fair, Christians should think about Heaven, but we should be aware of how much of our idea of Heaven comes from modern popular thought and how much from Scripture. I happen to agree with many skeptics who say they don’t want eternity sitting on a cloud playing a harp. I’m not much of a musical man. Some of my favorite words to hear in church are “You may be seated.” An eternal concert would have me thinking I was in the other place.

If there is one defining feature I’d point to about Heaven, it would be the presence of God. Heaven is where God’s presence is made manifest. God is in fact what defines Heaven and for those who love Him, being eternally in His presence will be a great joy. For those who do not love Him, being eternally in His presence will be Hell.

If we make Heaven too much about other things, then we distract from what makes it Heaven. Of course, we can ask other questions such as what will be the status of our marriage in Heaven and will our pets be in Heaven and what will we do, but these are secondary questions. The primary question is “What will our relationship to God be in Heaven?”

Until then, let us realize this Earth is not a plan B. This Earth is God’s idea. We are to care for it and cherish it. Now of course, we are not to worship the creation or find our salvation in it, but we are to be stewards of the creation and to care for it. For those who think that Heaven is in a way like “God’s House” it is a wonder that we think He would let us in His house if we can’t take care of the place to live that He gives us.

Let the fact that God is the creator remind us that creation is a good and we ought to cherish and celebrate it. There is much in our world that is good and beautiful and we should thank the Creator for it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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