'Heaven' is a hot topic! Especially when a loved one has passed, it's difficult not to affirm that there is indeed an afterlife & that's where your loved one is. No doubt they're there, but where IS 'there'? WHAT is 'there'?! IS 'heaven' a place, like some have said ( a few have even reportedly been 'there' ) or is it all a pipe dream; ARE our psyches actually tied to these biological bodies? When our physical perishes, is that it, or IS there life after death; do our spirits indeed continue after this biology becomes worm food?!
The wisest man on earth, Solomon king of Israel, is recorded as saying, 'Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it' ( Ecclesiastes 12:7 ). Although it would be difficult to prove beyond all reasonable doubt aside from what Scripture says about it, it is pretty clear that there is a spirit inhabiting our mortal bodies! Even the modern vernacular of the ordinary person is used to talking about the 'spirit' of a thing, such as 'The Spirit of '76' or saying such things as 'show your team spirit', or 'that girl's definitely got spirit'. Most people, even those who don't claim to be Christian, are pretty sure that after the biological body of any given person ( or animal, for that matter ) dies, the spirit of that person ( or animal ) continues on & strangely enough, many believe that where that spirit spends eternity depends on how this spirit lived while it was housed in the flesh!
Whether you believe what Solomon said about our biology or not, even nature itself has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that it takes a relatively short time ( years ) for a human body to be assimilated into what ground it's buried in! The fact of the matter is, whether animal or human, unless somehow preserved ( naturally or unnaturally ), this biology will eventually become worm food & may even provide the beginning for new life!
The spirit, though an intangible, is clearly evident! If a given human being is able to push their body beyond what is normally evident in most other human beings ( this applies to animals too ), we take note that this one ( or ones ) has a strong spirit, even an 'indomitable' one. The spirit of a man or woman is what drives them; it's what makes them who they are! It is even common that when a relatively healthy person 'gives up the ghost' or just begins to lead a 'life-less' existence, it is reported that he or she lost their spirit, their reason for living.
So, is there life after death? Scripture seems to imply there is; depending on the interpreter, there are even descriptions of this 'after-life! Anything from the utopian fairy-tale of sitting on 'Cloud Nine', playing harps to enjoying a totally peaceful existence like the prophet Isaiah described in Isaiah 11:6. That, of course, is 'Heaven' ( according to most interpreters ); 'Hell', on the other hand, is a place of continual flame & burning torture derived from the pages of Greek mythology! Can you imagine you body forever being forever seared by flames ( though not like a good steak, to perfection ) but never consumed; constant, nervous pain that never ends ( with no hope of reprieve )? This is the option that all evangelists & most 'good' Christians teach you to fear; after a session with one of them, most end up hoping that, as 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' they will have done more good than bad before the curtain falls & their number is called!
'Heaven' being the optimal 'place to go then, what might we expect when & if we get there? Well, for most Christians, 'Heaven' means the Blessed Presence of our Heavenly Father, where as one creed/catechism says, 'we will enjoy Him forever'! It seems to me there is a Scripture of very similar import, I Thessalonians 4:17b, 'And thus we shall always be with the Lord' Other writers besides this one have written numerous accounts of what it really means to be 'always be with the Lord', 'enjoying Him forever' & it should be very clear that one does not need to be separated from his or her biological body, to say nothing of the Body, in order for this to be a Reality!
The After-life makes for a fascinating study; so many thought-provoking & awe-inspiring questions! The possibilities seem almost Infinite! If indeed Heaven & Earth HAVE become One, then maybe We ARE Divine; maybe our spirits HAVE become so intertwined with the Creator's that We have become Creator's ourselves; the possibilities seem almost endless! Who's to say that each of us, after we have done away with these physical bodies, will not become 'Gods' ourselves & rule our own planet?! Maybe, when it's all said & done, we will inhabit a veritable utopia where Isaiah's vision ( Isaiah 11:6-9 ) of the wolf dwelling with the lamb & the toddler playing with snakes will come true, in a literal sense!
One thing is for sure, as most Christians ( however begrudgingly ) will admit; We ARE in the Presence of our God & Father NOW! Some may only acknowledge the Blessings of His Presence at certain times & in certain places, but most will readily admit His Presence, here & now. Most Christians look forward to a day when we will be free of this biology so that we may enjoy our Heavenly Father's Presence forever & I must say, this actually seems more enticing the older I get! Is this utopia something we can look forward to? Maybe, but as for me & my house, we will enjoy the Presence of our Heavenly Father NOW; we will live the lives we have been given in these bodies NOW & for His Honor & the Glory of His Eternal Kingdom!
Charles Haddon Shank