Science fiction made real

Do you ever wonder where heaven is? Not the sky kind of heaven, but the place where God lives. Where is it? We often speak of it being "up" there. Somewhere. But of course that's not possible, since "up" is different from any point on the globe. Many people say they expect to be with God when they die. But where is that and what does it look like? Hard to say, it seems.

Besides the logical problems with the common answers, another concern with the 'up there' or 'out there' concept is that it makes God distant and separated from us and our world, our reality.


The Bible, however, paints a very different picture, one of a God who is anything but distant and uninvolved. In fact, he is just the opposite.

So how do we understand this? Where is God, and what difference does it make to us now?

The traditional concept among Christians (and many others) is that someday, in the unlikely event that we die (not that we really expect that to happen), we will "go to heaven" and spend the rest of forever somehow with God. Perhaps floating on a cloud, playing a harp.

But what if that's not the case at all? What if we have if all wrong? What if the teaching of the Bible is far different?

So where is heaven? And why does it matter?

Even a glance through the Bible reveals a God who is neither distant nor disengaged from our world. On too many occasions to list here, he acted into our world, climaxing in the person of Jesus. In fact, it seems that our world might be the primary area of activity for God.

But to address these questions, I want first to talk about another: the nature of reality. (I can see your eyes rolling, but bear with me.)

Science fiction writers have been very good at creating imaginary parallel universes. They often do it in a way that is "realistic" and plausible. But, of course, we know that there is only one universe, one reality. Right?

Nevertheless, what if...? What if there really are two realms of reality? And what if they are somehow intimately close, so that elements of one can show into the other? Would it matter?

The Celtic Christians spoke of the reality of man and the reality of God as two realms separated by a kind of curtain. Occasionally, there was a small tear in the curtain, allowing someone a glimpse into "the other side," the dwelling place of God. Ezekiel wrote of such an experience, as did John in Revelation.

What if there is indeed some kind of divider between the two, but elements of one reality can move "through the curtain" into the other? What if God can move and work in our reality, and people can in some way experience his?

There are many examples in the Old Testament of God working in the world, entering into our reality. Not much question about that, except whether we accept the accounts as true. And there are a few of human beings moving or seeing into God's reality.

And then there is Jesus, the personification of God's major foray into the world of human beings.

Jesus came that we might know God and have a way to live in relationship with him, manifesting the kingdom of God to the world. In fact, most of what Jesus taught and did was about the kingdom, not the "gospel of salvation" that we often put in its place.

But what is that kingdom? We might correctly say it's the realm where God's will is done. It might be correct, but it doesn't satisfy me. I want to know more of what the kingdom looks like, what happens when people obey God. What should we expect? What should we seek?

What if, in Jesus, God began the task of rebuilding or recreating the fallen world, expanding his kingdom, starting the work of the restoration of creation?

What if the curtain is becoming transparent, ever so slowly, so that we - those with eyes to see - witness increasing evidence of the kingdom and God's presence among us, of his reality spilling over into ours? What if "Immanuel" is about more than Jesus?

What if what we call "miracles" and "supernatural" are simply manifestations of an increasingly indistinct boundary between two realities? What if our "supernatural" is the entry of God's "natural" into our reality?

What if all this is so? What difference would it make? I can say it rocks my boat pretty hard, and changes my view of the world and of God's presence.

How can God be "everywhere present," one of the basic principles of Christian doctrine? Not a problem, if we consider the "alternate reality" concept.

I used to have an idea in my imagination of God sitting in some distant throne room, "up in heaven," wherever that might be, and that his presence with me was at best a vague, pretty much irrelevant matter.

I think I was wrong, and I am finding the idea that I was wrong very attractive. I never liked the idea of a distant God, removed from the actions and concerns of my life. Makes it too hard to live a life that - in my eyes, at least - honors him. I want him close by. Distance and intimacy are not easily compatible.

As I write this, I am acutely conscious that there is some sort of something, a reality that I cannot see, but which is closer than the end of my arm. And God is there. He is never distant, and he is never uninterested.

And - I think this is so very important - his word tells me that he has chosen me to represent him in this reality, speaking and acting for him, making his grace present and his Jesus real to those I encounter. He has chosen me to begin bringing his reality into our reality.

And if you follow Jesus, he has chosen you, too.

Amen.

9 Comments

I like the description of the curtain becoming transparent, wonder if this happens because our eyes are becoming eyes that see more of the supernatural happening? Lots of people have told me of supernatural things they have seen. I believe it is true but I shy away from it for many reasons.

Kathy,

Thanks for your comment. I think perhaps the transparency is a combination of our increasing awareness, and an increasing activity of the Spirit among us.

I'm aware that any talk of "supernatural" (if there even is such a thing) scares some folks off. And yet, these manifestations of the power of God are throughout both the Bible and the history of God's people. To reject them is to reject the kingdom of God, and to promote a partial gospel. Paul said (I Cor. 4:20) that the kingdom is not merely words, but power. If all we have to offer the world is a lot of talk, we have nothing. Something to consider.

Hi Larry,

Out of all the posts I've read, this one is the most thought-provoking to me. I've always found the subject of a parallel, or alternate reality so fascinating - especially as it relates to God. In the Lord's Prayer, we are taught to pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". I've always believed that because He told us to pray this prayer, it meant that He wanted to use us as agents to manifest His kingdom here on earth. This truth drives my prayers and my actions towards others as I remember that there is something profound taking place beyond what I can see and touch.

I know that in Revelations, John speaks of a New Jerusalem and I don't pretend to be knowledgeable enough to know whether or not this is the physical dimension of heaven or if there is a physical place where we will one day spend eternity. I do, however, believe that in some way, beyond my ability to describe, the kingdom of God resides in my heart and I believe God challenges me to open the doors to that Kingdom so that others can taste and see that He is good.

Blessings!

-Norah

Thanks, Norah, for your comment. Very interesting.

As a matter of interest, John's New Jerusalem, in the last chapter or two of Revelation, is not a place, but a people. As a boy, I used to hear about this city (a huge cube, fastened on the side of the earth like a tumor) with mansions and gold streets, and I thought I didn't want to go there. I was from Colorado, and I loved mountains and lakes and trees. I didn't care a bit for gold streets. And then, voila!, I actually read the passage. It's not a city, but a people! It's us!

I know that leaves lots of questions, but so does the idea of a city. And John specifically describes the "city" as a people. It's apocalyptic literature, and as such should not be taken as a literal description. Read it again, with the idea of the church in mind. Fits nicely, I think.

Hi Larry,

I might need some help with this one. I'll go back and read it, but I may need a little help translating some concepts.

Would you be open to discussing this (if not in this post, private email is fine). Are there any books you can suggest?

-Norah

Norah,

Discussion is welcome, here or elsewhere. If you post here, then others might read, as well. Who knows? A good starting book, I think, is "Surprised by Hope" by NT Wright. Excellent read.

Hi Larry,

I will look for it. I just started reading Revelations again (I think it's been about 25 years since I last read the book). When I get to the part where John describes New Jerusalem, I know I'll have questions. :-) Thanks for always being open to answering them when you're able to. :-)

Hey, between Jesus and me, we know everything and can do anything.

may be i missing something here. somewhere i did remember something about some one being called up to the thrid heaven (paul) or was it jesus or God saying come up here(revelation)

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  • jerry said:
       may be i missing something here. somewhere i did remember something a...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Hey, between Jesus and me, we know everything and can do anything. ...
  • Norah said:
      Hi Larry, I will look for it. I just started reading Revelations aga...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Norah, Discussion is welcome, here or elsewhere. If you post here, th...
  • Norah said:
      Hi Larry, I might need some help with this one. I'll go back and rea...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Thanks, Norah, for your comment. Very interesting. As a matter of int...
  • Norah said:
      Hi Larry, Out of all the posts I've read, this one is the most though...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Kathy, Thanks for your comment. I think perhaps the transparency is a...
  • Kathy Wirth said:
      I like the description of the curtain becoming transparent, wonder if ...

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