We have just celebrated the birth of Emmanuel, or 'God with us'; as Christians, of course, this is something we celebrate year 'round (let that sink in ), but how often do we really think about what that means; in other words, 'what does it mean to us that God is with us ( John 14:23 )?' As discussed in a previous post, 'sure, we have the Spirit indwelling us', but why are most Christians waiting for more, in other words, why do they continue to look for salvation outside themselves? The concept of looking within oneself for salvation will most likely sound heretical, even blasphemous to most, but given the twin facts that Israel was the receptor of the salvation we read of in the Scriptures & that the so-called Godhead, or Trinity now dwells with us, in our hearts, so to speak, it should really not be shocking to realize that it is within ourselves that we should look for the Strength to work ( out ) our own salvation!
The subject of 'Heaven' is quite a controversial one: whether it is an actual 'place' out there somewhere, in the heavens or whether it is a separate realm or dimension, one thing is clear; it is the Dwelling ( place ) of the Creator God, also known as our Heavenly Father! Jesus told the Pharisees, who were a bit confused about the Nature of the coming Kingdom, 'the kingdom of God is within you' ( Luke 17:21 ). Coupled with Jesus' words in John 14 ( 23 ), 'if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him', it should not be hard to understand that 'Heaven' is in our hearts. By saying 'in our hearts', of course I do not refer to the physical organ, nor to biology at all, but to our inmost being, our spirit. As the Kingdom of Heaven & the Kingdom of God seem to be interchangeable in Scripture, we may safely conjecture that they are the same & refer to the Realm of the Creator God!
The Creator, or 'God', if you will, though He has made His ( Her, Its ) Home with man, is not however confined to mankind: He ( She, It ) is still the Creator! One issue I have encountered when bringing up John 14:23 in conversation is the supposed omnipresence of the Creator God. I do not mean to say, along with the Deists, perhaps, that after everything had been finished, the Creator God stepped out of the picture & let it all go to hell, nor do I mean to imply that it is only with ( in ) His human Creation that He abides, or dwells. I mean simply to say that our Heavenly Father has awakened us, opened our eyes, so to speak, to the Reality that we can exist on two different planes, in two dimensions at once!
The fact that we are spirit beings having a physical experience is one that I have tried to make clear in my writings, as it has become more impressed upon my own mind of late. Along with this realization has come its own difficulties, leading to further study & consideration. The issue of gender, for instance, has been a rather hot topic lately! If, as I posited in a certain conversation recently, the body, not the spirit, determines gender, then may we rightly say that there are male & female spirits? Could this be one thing that the apostle Paul referred to when he wrote, 'there is neither male nor female' ( Galatians 3:28 )? Another question that might arise is, 'do spirits dwell in the physical ( biological ) realm, or do they exist in the another dimension altogether, although right alongside the visible realm?' Is this not what the prophet's servant saw, as recorded in II Kings 6:17? Could this be the real import of what Jesus said in Luke 20:34-36?
Jesus, as recorded in John 6:63, said, 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [ they ] are life'. A bit out of context maybe, but couple this with the fact that in the beginning, the Creator God breathed into Adam 'the breath of life' ( Genesis 2:7 ) Along these same lines, the prophet's vision in Ezekiel 37 showed that it was not the physical, or biological body of Israel that needed to be resurrected, it was the spiritual body which was about to be raised to life once more.At the end of his famous diatribe on 'faith without works', in James 2:14-26, the apostle wrote 'the body without the spirit is dead' & in the same breath that 'faith without works is dead also'.
Believing in a Covenant Creation, as I & many others do, one might note a seeming inconsistency with this viewpoint, in that the body of Adam, as the Body of Israel in Ezekiel 37, had no life until 'the breath of life' entered the picture, because that would mean that Adam, or mankind, had no life in them previously. Well, that might pose a difficulty if it were not for the fact that Ezekiel 37 at least, is metaphorical of the fact that the body of Israel had become entangled in the lies of Sin & Death! With that aside, one might well note that it is the spirit, with or without the blessing of the Spirit of Life, that animates the body!
The spiritual dimension, though known & experienced by many since the dawn of time, has recently been opened to the eyes of even more. Some religions, but the Christian religion in particular, has traditionally taught that it is not until the spirit leaves the body that one enters this realm, also known as 'Eternity'. This could lead to another discussion entirely, but I believe that, since the Resurrection occurred in the first century, we inhabit that Realm! As human beings, yes, our biological 'self' is confined to this earthly ( physical ) realm, but as spiritual beings, we have ascended, or at least are ascending, in a manner of speaking, to the spiritual, or heavenly realm. Is this not what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he 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' ( Hebrews 12:22 & 23 )?
The Creator God, we can truly attest to, operates without the confines of Time, which all human beings, biologically speaking, are liable to! Since the Kingdom of Heaven has been brought to earth, we, though not our 'flesh and blood' ( I Corinthians 15:50 ) have entered this Hidden Realm. One might wonder if the spirit had not always existed in that other dimension, but that might be another matter for another post. While in this body, we often feel as if we're in 'Hell', so to speak; it is with our spirit & strengthened by the Spirit, that we can choose to transcend this mere biological experience & make a home in 'Heaven'!
'Somewhere, out there.............' is a cry of hope that a host of dreamers have uttered for millenia! The traditional Christian hope of 'Heaven' is not a false hope ( 'Yes, Virginia, there IS a Heaven!' ); it is simply a misplaced one! Heaven is not some place that we will inhabit only in the after-life ( ? ), 'Heaven' is another dimension, another plane of existence, if you will, in which our spirituality leads our biological bodies to live in a way that's heavenly!
As we prepare to enter upon a New Year, in a timely manner, let us determine within ourselves to live beyond the mean, to realize that we are spiritually with our Lord, the Creator God, our Heavenly Father! Though these biological bodies will never enter this Realm, we may, through the Strength of the Spirit Within, transform our World into a recognizable 'Heaven', as the Spirit causes Life to flow through our fingertips, from one Realm into another!
Charles Haddon Shank