Heaven is a wonderful place, isn’t it?

Reading the words of St John’s Gospel at the head of the funeral cortege is a most surreal of experiences:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,…”

(John 11:25,26)

This particular occasion was the funeral of someone with whom we were well acquainted—someone that we’d met on a reasonably regular basis; such an occasion as this person’s funeral is particularly poignant. This isn’t the place to speculate as to the post-mortem destiny of any particular person—or to philosophize as to the actual/temporal post-mortem state of affairs prior to the biblical notion of ‘The Judgement’—save to say that, according to the Bible, there is the promise of ‘personal existence’, i.e. the survival of the person after death. It is the author’s opinion that, even though ‘the matter’ (no pun intended) isn’t settled regarding the actual nature of man, i.e. whether there is a dualistic factor that is presently undetectable, there is a strong argument for there being a ‘dimension’ to humanity than meets the critical eye of the materialist thinker. The philosopher J.P.Moreland[i] opines that “…if the dualist arguments are successful the principle/seat of life and consciousness is a transcendent self or immaterial ego of some sort.” (‘The Soul: How We Know it’s Real and Why it Matters’ P49, 2014) It’s often said of someone who has died that they are ‘with the angels’ or even that they have ‘joined the stars in heaven’. Of course, if this is the opinion of someone we know and love who is referring to a deceased relative or friend, we are not likely to question the sentiment behind the aspiration. However, as far as we are able to comprehend the ‘reality’, it is the case that, in order to function as individuals, it is necessary to ‘inhabit’ the ‘space’ i.e. the physiology that makes up the material—the DNA that, it is perceived, makes us who we are. Ergo in order to continue to exist postmortem, we shall, most likely, need something akin to our physical bodies. The idea of there being any such thing as post-mortem survival is, of course anathema to both Materialists and Monists. Indeed, it is the obvious conclusion of persons ascribing to a world-view that allows for no such possibility at death. For the Monist ‘soul-life’ is a social construct that evaporates into the oneness of a universe that is seen as having a ‘soul-life’ of its own—a non-personal figment of a lively imagination—that, somehow, denies the potentiality of the soul-life of the individual person whist allowing for the alleged creative capacity of  an indescribable ‘ultimate reality’. The Monist notion of this alleged ultimate reality, however, need not be confused with the God of Judeo/Christian Scriptures who is an entirely different proposition.


[i] Moreland, J.P.,’The Soul: How We Know it’s Real and Why it Matters’, 2014

It’s often said of someone who has died that they are ‘with the angels’ or even that they have ‘joined the stars in heaven’. Of course, if this is the opinion of someone we know and love who is referring to a deceased relative or friend, we are not likely to question the sentiment behind the aspiration. However, as far as we are able to comprehend the ‘reality’, it is the case that, in order to function as individuals, it is necessary to ‘inhabit’ the ‘space’ i.e. the physiology that makes up the material—the DNA that, it is perceived, makes us who we are. Ergo in order to continue to exist postmortem, we shall, most likely, need something akin to our physical bodies. The idea of there being any such thing as post-mortem survival is, of course anathema to both Materialists and Monists. Indeed, it is the obvious conclusion of persons ascribing to a world-view that allows for no such possibility at death. For the Monist ‘soul-life’ is a social construct that evaporates into the oneness of a universe that is seen as having a ‘soul-life’ of its own—a non-personal figment of a lively imagination—that, somehow, denies the potentiality of the soul-life of the individual person whist allowing for the alleged creative capacity of  an indescribable ‘ultimate reality’. The Monist notion of this alleged ultimate reality, however, need not be confused with the God of Judeo/Christian Scriptures who is an entirely different proposition.

If heaven is such a ‘wonderful place’ then one might expect that it has an altogether different set of physical laws than experienced on earth andin the known universe. Scripture gives a strong impression that, in heaven, there is a different environment. In the book of Revelation we read the following words of comfortable promise: I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Revelation 21:1-5

The book of revelation is exactly that—a REVELATION. It is addressed to the seven churches in late first century Asia Minor (present day Turkey)—churches in: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. There isn’t the space to delve further into the life of these seven centres of Christian life and worship save to say that they were vibrant centres of community life—moreover churches that were having rather mixed fortunes. Dennis  E. Johnson describes Revelation as a letter for a church (churches) under attack, “Its purpose, to reveal ‘things which must soon take place’ is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity or feed  futuristic conjecture but to fortify Jesus’ followers in steadfast hope and holy living.”

The book of revelation is exactly that—a REVELATION. It is addressed to the seven churches in late first century Asia Minor (present day Turkey)—churches in: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. There isn’t the space to delve further into the life of these seven centres of Christian life and worship save to say that they were vibrant centres of community life—moreover churches that were having rather mixed fortunes. Dennis  E. Johnson describes Revelation as a letter for a church (churches) under attack, “Its purpose, to reveal ‘things which must soon take place’ is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity or feed  futuristic conjecture but to fortify Jesus’ followers in steadfast hope and holy living.”[i]


For the purpose of clarification there is, within the Christian tradition an increasingly disparity—or rather a polarization between the view that sees a newly refurbished earth on which the incumbents, somehow, live a ‘New heaven & New Earth existence’, and the view that has a less than earthly hope, i.e. the view that realizes the belief that the Sovereign God—creator and sustainer of all that exists— both known unrealised.  The argument here is that any ‘permanent abolishment of death must take seriously the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that should death be swallowed up by victory, there would be a totally different state of affairs in operation, i.e. ‘different physical laws’:

 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man in heaven. I tell you this brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither does the perishable inherit the imperishable…and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed .For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on an immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death where is your sting?’   (1 Corinthians 15:49,52,53,54,55). The writer of the letter to ‘The Hebrews’ refers to ‘a better country’, i.e. a ‘heavenly country’ (11:14) and ‘a kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (12:28}. The implications are obvious: heaven, wherever its location, cannot be a renewed version of the old—it has to be an altogether different state of affairs. in heaven—on the ‘new/refurbished earth’—than exists anywhere on Earth. Clearly there shall be an altogether ‘different’ order. And yet there are many, well meaning, well informed, theologians who insist on informing us that everything created has always meant to be material—and all that there will ever be—at least to do with the created biosphere—shall only ever be material. Materialism, as Edgar Andrews outlines[i] is based on the idea that every effect, including every human experience, must have a physical cause. Richard Middleton [ii]poses the question of why it is that the idea of an ‘other worldly destiny in heaven’ has displaced what Middleton refers to as ‘the biblical teaching of the renewal of the earth’. Middleton we believe is ‘half-way’ correct—yet he, along with a growing number of others, seems to want to ‘throw the baby out along with the bath water overflowing with, it is alleged, 19th century fundamentalist theological denial.


The objective of this book is to offer some light regarding the state of affairs necessary to offer an ‘other-worldly’ hope. ‘Heaven’ is, we suggest, ‘worlds apart’ from the material world on offer by those with a fixation on a return to a ‘biospheric utopia’, which was never the ideal home of men or even of angels.

[1]Moreland, J.P.,’The Soul: How We Know it’s Real and Why it Matters’, 2014
[2] Johnson Dennis. E, ‘Triumph of The Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation’, 2002
[3] Alcorn, Randy,’Heaven’, 2004
[4] Andrews Edgar, ‘What is Man? Adam, Alien or Ape?’, 2018

[5] Middleton Richard, ’A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology’, 2014

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