I've written many words, in several papers, on this subject, and while I'll be the first to admit that I am by no means an authority on this subject; I think that it's abundantly clear that the orthodox church has 'missed the boat', so to speak, on this subject anyway! By making such a heretical statement as this ( 'Outrageous!' you may say ); I am not trying to say that the orthodox, or catholic ( universal ) church, the visible Body of Christ, has been teaching blatant, damning error for these millenia ( although to a greater or lesser extent; I believe that they have, on some other subjects ) since Christ walked this earth. Traditionally, I believe the orthodox church, to differing degrees, has taught that there is an actual place called 'Heaven', basing this largely on passages such as John 14:2, in which Jesus comforts His disciples with 'In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b]', and Solomon's prayer, at the dedication of the Temple, in I Kings 8:30, 'Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive' ( see also II Chronicles 30:27 ). In the John passage; Jesus uses the masculine Greek noun τόπος to describe 'Heaven', and while it does have a primarily physical meaning; it is also used metaphorically, as 'the condition or station held by one in any company or assembly' ( Hebrews 12:18-24 ): think of Jesus' words, which I've often quoted, in Luke 17:20-21, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’[d] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you'. As I was saying; traditionally, 'Heaven ( especially in some circles ) is viewed as a place, even physically speaking, among some that I've spoken to, 'somewhere out there', 'beyond the blue', 'just over Jordan', etc.; but my contention is, that as many verses as we can find to support our theory of 'Heaven'; we can find as many, or even more, that say, as Jesus above, 'the kingdom of God ( or 'Heaven'? ) is within you'. Matthew 13:24-49 are some examples of the 'kingdom of heaven' referring, not to a place, but to more of a conditional status. Again, from Matthew 18:23; we see that 'the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants'. An argument could be made, however, that 'the kingdom of heaven is obviously something different than 'Heaven' itself', but I think we can see, from Matthew 19:23 and Matthew 23:13, where Jesus pronounces judgment on the Pharisees by saying 'woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in'. When Jesus speaks, in verse 13, of those striving to enter the 'kingdom of heaven'; He uses the Greek εἰσέρχομαι , which, like τόπος above, has a very physical meaning but is also used metaphorically 'of entrance into any condition, state of things, society, employment'. In Matthew 25; Jesus again likens the 'kingdom of heaven' to 'ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom' ( verses 1-13, which most will agree, speaks of preparedness ) and 'a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them' ( verses 14-29, which speak, not only of preparedness, but of doing what we can with what God's given us ). Paul wrote, in II Timothy 4:18, 'And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom'; is this 'heavenly kingdom' the same as 'the kingdom of heaven'? If it is ( and I would say that there can be no doubt! ), then it is safe to say that 'Heaven' and the 'kingdom of heaven' are also one and the same! To 'wrap up' this little study then; in Revelation 12:10, John wrote 'I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down"' ( Matthew 6:10 )
Again; I ask the question: 'Are we there yet?'
I submit to my readers that we are! You may wonder how I can say this with any certainty, when it seems that sin still runs rampant 'in the world' ( John 16:33 ), sins such as abortion, pornography, rape, and incest, murder, and other such crimes are at their highest rates, genocide in Africa, etc. The key here, is 'in the world'; in the passage above; Jesus comforts His disciples with these words, 'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[d] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' It is 'in the world' that these things happen, not on the spiritual plane where God resides, within the hearts of true believers. This is where the 'kingdom of heaven' is, not some place that we will go in the future ( when we physically die ), but a 'place' ( Matthew 4:17, Luke 10:9 & 11 ) that came to us, in the form of Jesus Christ, who dwells in our 'hearts' through His holy Spirit! As we saw in the examples above, in Matthew 13, and other places, Jesus' parables of this 'kingdom of heaven' had to do with what we, His disciples, are to occupy ourselves with, whether you believe we are there yet, or not. We are to be acting as 'healing leaves' ( Revelation 22:2 ( Ezekiel 47:8 ), doing what we can with what we have been given, again, whether it be to aid in bringing His kingdom 'on earth as it is in heaven', or simply to further, to build ( up ) His kingdom, through the strengthening and edification of His people.
Another question that I have recently posed is, 'If we are there, should we stop driving?'
The answer to this question is just as simple: 'No!'
In Hebrews 12:22-24; the Author wrote 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.' However you choose to read this; it is plain to me that the writer, at the very least, equates Jesus and His blood with this 'Mount Zion' and 'the heavenly Jerusalem'. Since we have arrived at our destination, or rather, our destination has arrived at us; should we just sit back and rest on our 'laurels'? God forbid! As long as murder, rape, and incest, abortion and pornography run rampant 'in this world'; we a Christians, the 'healing leaves' of the Revelation have a duty and a responsibility to 'heal' the nations of these diseases, to do our part to rid them of this sickness that is so pervasive ( and persuasive ) in their lives!
'Are We There Yet?' Through the grace of Christ, yes! 'Do We Stop Driving?' Again, through the grace of Christ; No!
In the service of the King,
and by His grace alone,