Ooh, baby, do you know what thats worth?

February 22, 2007 at 6:13 pm (God thoughts)

80’s music fans know what’s next, but for those of you not familiar with Belinda Carlisle the song continues “ooh heaven is a place on earth.”

Depending on your eschatology, this silly song might actually make sense.

Many people are surprised to find out that their are different views on the second coming. The Left Behind books have become so popular in church culture that the Premillennial view is pretty much adopted by default in nearly every church-goer I talk to (EVEN Mormons). The only question they now ask is, “Pre-Trib or Post-Trib?”.

As much as this frustrates me it also fascinates me. I recently had a conversation with a 12 year old who was visiting our youth group for the first time. He was shocked to hear that none of my youth knew anything about “the rapture”. I was shocked that a 12 year old could possibly know so much about the “rapture”. Of course I accepted the challenge with this little inquisitor and detailed for him that the question isn’t really, “pre-trib or post-trib” but rather “pre-mill, post-mill or A-mill?”. Well it took a while for me to draw out (literally) the differences between the three and what impact, if any, it would make on your life. The child was fascinated to say the least, but the process was far too time consuming and much too complex (cough) for the average adult, who has already espoused a pre-mill view, to digest. I feel like Christopher Columbus trying to convince the nobles of Spain that the earth really is round.

It’s just too big a concept to explain to someone who has already embraced their own reality. I think the problem is that we are working from Revelation 20, when we should be working from Revelation 21.

Revelation 20 is where we get the “millennial” views. Revelation 21 and 22 however don’t necessarily follow the party lines of “millennial” views nor do they fall into the 4 main views of interpretation in regards to the rest of Revelation.

It all breaks down like this

Revelation 4-19: 4 views
Historicist

Preterist

Futurist

Spiritualist

Revelation 20: 3.5 views

Premillennial (pre-tribulation or post-tribulation)

Postmillennial

Amillennial

Revelation 20-21: 3 views

Literal

Symbolic

Spiritual

Now when it comes to Revelation 21-22 buying any of the three views won’t necessarily change any of your other views, it will however demonstrate that there are different views and perhaps open the door to a more scripturally accurate view.

So without actually explaining the views I prefer to figure out where an individual is and then introduce the possibility that there may be a different understanding of this subject. Nowhere is this easier to do then in Revelation 21.

If any of you, my readers, would humor me by taking a little bit a time to read Revelation 21 and then answer the following questions I think we can have a very interesting conversation.

WHAT do you think the chapter is describing?

WHERE do you think this chapter is describing?

WHEN do you think this chapter is describing?

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26 Comments

  1. RubeRad said,

    Here’s a link to Rev 21 (ESV) that actually works.

    Thanks for posting this — it’s making me think. I could give you a knee-jerk reaction about which-mill I am, but instead I’ll digest this and come back later…

  2. danielbalc said,

    Rube, don’t research it, just give me your first impressions after reading the chapter. It’s much more interesting that way.

  3. itsasecret2u said,

    I HAVE NO ROOM LEFT IN MY BRAIN FOR MORE THINGS TO THINK ABOUT, Daniel Balc! Between this, the Esau thing, the tongues thing, and whatever else, MY BRAIN IS FULL. GOSH.

    Alright, fine. I’ll read it and come back later and answer those questions to throw a highly-uneducated, lay-laylaylay-lay-person view into the mix. Won’t that be a treat?

    😉

  4. RubeRad said,

    OK, here’s my free-association on Rev 21:
    WHAT: The consummation, the afterlife
    WHERE: Here. This earth will be created anew.
    WHEN: After the second coming and judgment.

    Verse 3 reminded me of Ex 29:45-46 which my Sunday School class recently memorized. And of Dad’s recent assertion that Jacob’s ladder comes down from heaven, not up to heaven.

  5. Matt S said,

    What- The bride of Christ (the church) being united with her Husband (the Lamb) at the end of the age

    Where- Heaven

    When- After Judgement

    Just shooting from the hip

  6. danielbalc said,

    Rube,
    Very interesting
    I’m having a hard time reconciling your WHAT with your WHEN though. Probably because your WHAT wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for an object whereas you described an event (sort of). “Consummation, the afterlife” implies where you go after you die, but your WHEN implies that this isn’t a reality until after Christ returns. So let me ask, do you suppose Revelation 21 as descriptive of what you will see and experience when you die or what you will see and experience after the second coming? And let me also ask, regarding your WHERE, since you put it here on earth, where is it now before the second coming?

  7. danielbalc said,

    Matt you only differ with Rube in regards to it being in Heaven instead of here on earth, but you also have the reconciliation problem with the when. i.e. Where are those who die between before then if this is heaven?

    Both of these answers though demonstrate that you lean towards the “symbolic” view. For further clarification if you will. The dimensions of the city (verse 16-17) are we to anticipate these to be reasonable size dimensions for the eternal abode?

  8. danielbalc said,

    I should let you know that size dimensions questions is a loaded question. I am basically trying to rule out literalism before introducing spiritual interpretation of Rev 21.

  9. RubeRad said,

    Were you perhaps looking for “WHAT=Heaven”? I was trying to avoid that, in order to make the point that (as you hint with your 80’s title) heaven will not be spirits up in the clouds — it will be resurrected, glorified, physical bodies on a recreated, glorified, physical New Earth.

    As for when I die vs. after the 2nd coming (assuming Christ doesn’t return while I’m alive), I don’t have any clear ideas. Because of the physical nature of heaven above which I do believe is quite biblical, I lean towards some kind of soul-sleep, because it seems that the way Humans work requires both bodies and spirits — neither can function without the other. Or perhaps consciousness cannot function without both. Which is why Heaven cannot be spirits without bodies.

    As for where is the WHERE now? That’s also a tough question. Is God going to re-create the earth we have now under our feet, or while we’re caught up in the air, before we are brought back down? If the old earth goes somewhere else, does the meaning of “here” go with it? Currently, what we think of as “here” orbits around the sun, but in the New Earth, where there is “no need” for the light of a sun, is there still an irrelevant sun anyways? But generally speaking, I would guess that where the WHERE is, that’s here. The recreated earth will occupy the same position(s) in space that the current earth does. That’s my final, speculative, answer, Regis!

  10. RubeRad said,

    I should let you know that size dimensions questions is a loaded question. I am basically trying to rule out literalism before introducing spiritual interpretation of Rev 21.

    Why? The literal dimensions sound plenty big to accomodate only exactly 144,000 people, don’t they?

    🙂

  11. danielbalc said,

    I am not specifically looking for WHAT=HEAVEN not everyone thinks of this “new Jerusalem” as heaven. Some see it as just that, the city Jerusalem landing on earth.

    it is plenty big enough, in fact it’s way too big to be on earth, at least an earth our size.

  12. danielbalc said,

    When you say the “physical nature of heaven above” that is what I am looking for in the WHAT. So you do think the streets of gold, the pearly gates etc is literal?

  13. Matt S said,

    Size dimensions definitely not literal

    As for the other questions:

    Perhaps there is a heaven and hell now for those who die before the second coming, but it will not be perfected or like it is described in REV 21 until all is accomplished (ie Christ returns to judge the world)

    just thinking out loud

  14. Matt S said,

    I can see the entire description of the “new Jerusalem” not being literal, but rather symbolic of the perfect and beautiful eternal home that awaits those who are written in that most important Book.

  15. itsasecret2u said,

    Uhhhhhh…………. Can that be my final answer?

    OK,

    What: The Church

    Where: The New Earth (but I don’t necessarily see anything to suggest that this will be our current earth… or perhaps this is figurative… ugh)

    When: I was going to say “After judgment,” but to be different I will say that this is ongoing as people die. Like, it is happening now and will continue to happen. Uh-huh, that’s what I’m saying.

  16. Echo_ohcE said,

    Daniel,

    I LOVE Rev 21. This is an interesting post.

    WHAT do you think the chapter is describing? Why, the New Creation, of course. The city whose builder and maker is God. Ultimately, the church, the bride of Christ, also known as Israel. The vine into which we are all grafted, the line of Abraham.

    WHERE do you think this chapter is describing? John’s vision: except for verse 5, where God speaks to John about the vision.

    Rev 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

    But that is of course not a fully satisfying answer. The passage is clearly talking about the New Heavens, New Earth. This can be taken a number of ways, but usually, most people recognize this to refer to the cosmos, the universe (both visible and invisible) as a whole, i.e., Gen 1:1.

    WHEN do you think this chapter is describing? It is clearly, clearly talking about the consummation, at the end of the age. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an in-breaking of this future reality in the present. Notice that in verse 5, God doesn’t say that he WILL (future tense) make things new, but that he IS MAKING (present tense) all things new. In our theology, the reformed and others have sought to maintain a tension referred to as the already-not yet. There are some things about this city that are already true. For example, the 12 (actually 13 if you count Paul, ahem) apostles have already laid the foundation of this city by their testimony, which began the church, and the time of the 12 tribes of Israel, which began the church under less revealed conditions, have already passed. This is, on the one hand, a memorial to those two collections of 12, but on the other it also symbolizes them themselves. Thus we say that in some ways, this future reality, being so certain, breaks into the present, most particularly in Jesus Christ, the eschatological man. It has broken into this present evil age, making us who are united to Christ by faith the citizens of two cities at once: the city of man, being of this present evil age, and the city of God, being of the age to come. We already are inhabitants of that city (inwardly/secretly), and it is having an effect on us, namely our sanctification. Sanctification, it is said among some, is actually the result of glorification, already beginning to become a reality in us. That’s why the reformed get very testy when people say that there are two justifications: one now by faith, one later by faith and our good works. (Such as the Federal Vision, the Roman Catholic Council of Trent, New Perspective on Paul, etc.) Our present-reality justification results in glorification (because it is the same as that justification which will be pronounced publicly on Judgment Day), which begins to have an effect on us even now in sanctification, because our glorification is already a reality, in that our justification, which inevitably leads to glorification as the reward for justification, is already a reality, because there aren’t TWO justifications, but one. This one justificatiion is not yet fully revealed and pronounced before the whole universe, but it will be. Nonetheless, we are just as justified now as we will be then. We don’t possess our salvation to a lesser degree now than we will then. It just hasn’t been fully revealed yet. Thus the meaning of the aorist “glorified” in Rom 8:30, meaning perhaps simply “glorified” or even “began to glorify”. So the short answer is, the “when” of this passage is the age to come (excepting verse 5, which is whenever John wrote Revelation), but the reality of the thing signified by this awesome image has already begun to be true, though it is not yet fully true. Thus the already-not yet.

    E

  17. danielbalc said,

    Aww man Echo, you pretty much laid out most of the Spiritual view. Interestingly though Secret seems to have grabbed onto it before you just with a lot less verbiage.

    Matt seems to have a symbolic/spiritual type of view.

    I am still waiting for rube’s answer to whether the streets of gold are literal/physical or symbolic

    I would really like to get a literalist into the discussion that way all three views could be represented.

  18. RubeRad said,

    I would guess not literal gold/gems, etc. It’s just using the most beautiful things we can think of to try to communicate, ‘but as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”‘

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen gold. I wear some on my finger every day, matter of fact.

  19. danielbalc said,

    rube, ok then you are going with the symbolic approach.

  20. danielbalc said,

    Actually everybody seems to have a bit of a hybrid symbolic/spiritual view, and that makes sense.

    Difference between symbolic and spiritual

    symbolic- the images in revelation 21 are symbolic of the the physical aspects of the eternal abode.

    spiritual- the images in revelation 21 are illustrative of the beauty of the church (the elect) as God sees them. This imagery is both now and not yet. Hence it is not inappropriate to associate the imagery of rev 21 with the current reality of the invisible church. therefore “heaven is a place on earth” could be better understood as “heaven is a people on earth”, meaning the church in it’s radiance.

    Consider if you can apply these words to your life NOW

    “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

    “I am making everything new!”

    Consider if these verses apply to you NOW

    II Corinthians 6:16 “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

    II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

    I really enjoy reading II Corinthians 4,5,6 and comparing it to Revelation 21. it puts into perspective how God views the church.

  21. Echo_ohcE said,

    Daniel,

    I think I’m going to have to change my name from Echo to Mr. Contrary, who always has something mean and negative to say.

    🙂

    Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be mean and contrary. I think I’ll ask some questions.

    You said:
    “Hence it is not inappropriate to associate the imagery of rev 21 with the current reality of the invisible church. therefore “heaven is a place on earth” could be better understood as “heaven is a people on earth”, meaning the church in it’s radiance.”

    – Echo:
    Now the conversation you and I had about the church that caused such consternation makes sense. This is an AHA! moment for me.

    I’m thinking about how to phrase my answer in the form of a question, jeapordy style, so that I seem less contrary.

    I can’t seem to do it though, so I’ll just say what I’m thinking.

    Yes it is inappropriate to associate the image of the church in Rev 21 with the current reality of the invisible church.

    While this does in fact picture the invisible church, it pictures the glorified invisible church. It pictures the eschatologically fulfilled invisible church made visible.

    Let me explain it in terms of righteousness.

    In justification, God declares us to be righteous, based on the merits of Christ, obtained by faith alone. In justification we are not made righteous at all. We are declared to be righteous based on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.

    In sanctification, Christ’s righteousness becomes infused into us. (Yes, I know the Romans use that word, talking about infused grace, but they also put this in the category of justification, that’s what makes it wrong.) The Holy Spirit in sanctification actually cleanses, sanctifies our hearts, causing us to long for the things of God, having an effect on our deeds/actions, because by this work of the Spirit we actually want to be obedient to God. This is our hearts of stone being replaced gradually with living tissue. But of course, sanctification is a process not completed in this life, no matter what John Wesley says.

    In glorification, we actually become fully righteous, unable to sin, thus the term glorification, because we share in Christ’s glory, because he gives it to us. What is merely a legal status now becomes fully reality in glorification.

    So to review, justification is declared righteous, sanctification is a gradual growth into righteousness, and glorification is a becoming perfectly righteous.

    Associating this image in Rev 21 with the present reality in the invisible church, I think would be a mistake. What is pictured is what God has declared us to be, and what we are slowly becoming, but not yet are. What is pictured is what is to come, namely glorification.

    We must be extremely careful not to claim too much for ourselves in this life I think. For example, John Wesley taught that you can become perfectly, fully sanctified in this life through a second experience similar to the Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit. (Notice I said Pentecostal, which you have not claimed to be. I mean the distinct denominational Pentecostal doctrine of say the A/G.) John Wesley would say that this image in Rev 21 is a present reality in the invisible church.

    But we do not actually affirm that, and I say we including you. We believe that while we are being conformed to the image of Christ – i.e., to the Rev 21 image – we do not attain that image. What we are witnessing in Rev 21 is a picture of the glory of Christ fully realized in the church.

    Well, but of course, that isn’t true of us yet. While it is becoming true, and we are growing in real, actual righteousness, we remain sinners because we remain sinful. We cannot fully escape sin in this life. Sin is conquered, yes, but it’s still bleeding to death. It’s mortally wounded, but still putting up a fight.

    I’ll leave it at that and await your response. I’m quite interested as to how you will respond actually. It will tell me a lot.

    E

  22. danielbalc said,

    Echo, not that I am asserting perfection in this life, but I am very interested in preaching the importance of being “in Christ.” Reading Revelation 21 and recognizing it’s relevance is not just for later, but also for NOW is incredible. This isn’t such a far fetched notion either, especially when we read verses like this…

    Ephesians 1:3-4 ” praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

    Notice, it is HIS sight, and that we are blessed in the “heavenly” realms. If this is just to be realized at the resurrection, then so be it, (it wouldn’t diminish it’s greatness one bit) however the context of Ephesians seems to be mostly aimed towards informing us about who we are in Christ, both now and eternally.

    After all, are we not, “raised up with Christ and seated in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (2:6)?

    is it not his intent that NOW through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the heavenly realms (3:10)?

    I think reading Revelation 21 and seeing it as a reality (as how God sees the Church) is only possible when God opens our eyes to it. Similar to what Paul prayed for the Ephesians 1:15-23
    For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

    Notice 21 “not only in this present age, but also in the one to come.”

    John 14:23 ” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

    When will this happen? When will God the Father and Jesus come and make a home with me?

    Is the kingdom of God really “within me”? (Luke 17:21)

    This is really a conversation about how much our union with Christ effects us now. Rev 21 is a glimpse of how God views the church. How much of a difference is there? Some, but not enough to diminish the present glory of the church (Eph 3:21), nor is there enough to diminish the future glory of the church by assuming the present is “as good as it gets”. truly the second coming/final judgment/ resurrection/ glorification of our bodies will be a greater reality, I think greater then the description of Rev 21.

  23. Echo_ohcE said,

  24. danielbalc said,

    So you agree?

  25. Echo_ohcE said,

    Pretty much, perhaps with slightly different nuance, but who has the time for nuance in this day and age?

  26. Missy said,

    Perfectionism in human flesh is simply not possible. It grieved God that he made man flesh. Jesus died for our sins He was the only true human who was fully sanctified in the flesh. the only one born of a virgin. He shed blood for our sins, because some followed Satan in the first world age and thus he made a way for them to have a chance for salvation. Many people are ignorant of that fact, which is very sad.

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