I think that one of the biggest problems facing evangelical Christianity in the west is a lack of imagination. Fear seems to be the biggest obstacle. We are afraid to let our minds go in case we get into vain imaginations and get puffed up. So one verse in the Scripture (Colossians 2:18) prevents us from using a God given gift. But without imagination we can get terribly confined in our thinking.
This can particularly apply to how we think about what happens when we die. An unimaginative view puts us immediately in either heaven or hell whereas the Scripture would seem to indicate lots of events before that state is arrived at. It is not that straight forward. First our disembodied spirits go somewhere. I think that somewhere is the same place they go when we worship when we are alive (see my article on the Sea). I’m not sure where those who don’t know how to worship in the Spirit go – perhaps to some holding place like Sheol or Hades (see Luke 16).
Then there is the Lord’s return which I believe happens before His Millennium reign on earth. At that point those who are able to look Him in the eye and those who died in Christ receive their new bodies and reign with Him for the thousand years. Then comes the amazing period of non-time, non-eternity called the Judgement Day when everyone who is not a judge is judged. And then after all that comes the New Heaven and the New Earth.
So it is not simply a case of heaven and hell. Actually it is quite complex. That is not surprising seeing as we are in time and natural 3D space and the events in the hereafter are in eternity and in who knows how many dimensions.
I was walking down by the canal near where I work at lunch time as I often do. There are dragon flies, moorhens, teeming fish (the water was as clear as crystal and you could see every fish), swans and all sorts of plant life. At one stage I looked across at a simple bank of bulrushes all moved by the wind into one lovely pattern.
Any God who can think up that kind of thing – let alone create it – can surely think up even more wonders that will keep us all going for eternity.
Revelation helps – not the book, the experiences- I got a revelation while walking down by the canal. It was simply that I will feel very comfortable in my new body in the new earth and heaven. It will feel very natural (if that makes sense). It was a revelation that came and went again but left behind an impression.
We need revelation, without it we are groping in the dark. Revelation and imagination are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.
Many years ago a preacher pointed out the curious statement at the beginning of Revelation 21:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.”
I’ve been thinking about that ever since (among other things).
Now I am going to make some bold statements about it all and back it up with some Scriptures.
The sea that is referred to is the one before the throne in the “old” heaven, i.e. the heaven that is there now (Rev. 4, 5).
This heaven is also known as the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2) and is the place where God’s throne currently is.
The sea (Rev. 4:6) is the way time and events on earth look like to an observer in the third heaven (Dan. 7:2,3; Rev. 13:1). Spirits (winds) blow upon it and things are stirred up and come up out of the sea before the throne. However the most wonderful sight is that of the spirits of men worshipping God (Hebrews 12:22-24; Rev. 15:2).
So why is there no more sea when the new heaven comes along?
Well there is no more time nor difference between the spirit and the flesh in the new heaven. In this life the life of this mortal body is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11,14), in the new heaven the life of the immortal body will be in the spirit (Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:44). When we are seen in the existing heaven it is our spirits that are seen. However in the new heaven we will be body and soul with the Lord forever.
There is also a very clear picture about being born again here. What happens when we are born again? Well, a baby moves from a place of breathing and living in water to breathing and living in air. So we too, according to this picture of rising above the surface of the sea in heaven, move from death beneath the waves to life in the spirit above them. The first time we do this is when we are raised together with Christ from death to life when we are born again. I believe that walking in the spirit means walking on water (on the sea) which explains one of the main points of that miracle (Matthew 14:22-33; John 6:19).
So if it helps you, the next time you are worshipping God either on your own or at church imagine that your spirit is rising up out of the sea before God’s throne in the third heaven. Because that may very well be what is actually happening (cf. Hebrews 4:16).
Some people say Revelation is purely symbolic. Some people say it is literal. Personally I consider all of Revelation open to a literal interpretation, i.e. it was literally what events on earth looked like from the vantage point of heaven to a human transported there (i.e. John).
John is in eternity looking down at events on earth occurring in time. That being the case there is bound, even for this reason alone, to be considerable differences between what he saw of the same events in comparison to someone viewing from earth in time. Add to that that he was also more than likely looking at the spiritual rather than the corporeal bodies of each participant and the imagery in Revelation is more easily understood (perhaps).
Here are some thoughts:
Revelation is the spiritual view of events on earth through the second heaven – c.f. Daniel 7.
Animals represent creatures, corporations with no relationship with God, humans represent creatures or corporations capable of a relationship with God. Corporations in this sense are collectives of people with one spirit, e.g. nations, empires, companies, etc.