In this week’s Bible Study, we’re looking at the phrase “heaven and earth.” Most of us have trouble thinking about the concept of heaven the way the Bible actually describes it. We tend to imagine it as a beautiful place where we go after we die, but it’s so much more than that. Heaven and earth—God’s space and humans’ space—were originally united as one. When humanity chose to go their own way, those two spaces were driven apart.
But Jesus made a way for the two spaces to be one again. Right now we can experience the overlap between heaven and earth, but one day soon we will see the two spaces fully reunited again. As we wait, we are invited by Jesus to live out this prayer, “Father let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In this week’s study, we’ll explore and practice the hope of this reality together.
Without a doubt, it’s a question we would all love to know the answer to, but one that the Bible spends very little time focusing on. What we do know about Heaven, though, is that God’s realm and ours are a lot closer than it might seem.
When God first created the Garden of Eden, Heaven and earth existed within the same realm. Mankind dwelt with God in the garden, and the garden itself was a form of paradise. It was God’s intention that Heaven and earth continue to coexist like this, however, the fall of man made that impossible.
The new heavens and earth is not some strange world we can’t begin to understand. When Jesus talks about the new creation, he mentions things we are familiar with like family, homes, and places of work (fields). But things will also be different than the world we know now. The future earth will be so permeated with God’s own life and love that death will be no more and power structures will be turned upside-down. What happened to Jesus on Easter morning is what God has in store for the whole universe. Everything will be renewed.
Consider one scenario in your life that is hurting and broken. What do you think that situation will look like when it is fully renewed?
Jesus’ sacrifice created a clean space where heaven and earth continue to overlap. Consider again that scenario in your life that needs renewal. How can you imitate Jesus in that situation? What can you sacrifice that would allow others to see a little pocket of heaven on earth?
Who usually gets to enjoy the first, best, and most powerful scenarios on earth? Who usually has to endure the last, worst, and most vulnerable situations on earth? Read Matthew 19:30 again. What will it be like when Jesus renews all things?
God’s realm, being perfect and purely holy, was no longer able to coexist within our realm, and Heaven and earth were driven apart. Thankfully, God had a plan to bring them back together.
The first reunions between Heaven and earth took place in the temple. Here, animal sacrifices were used to atone in part for the sin of mankind, creating a sort of “clean zone” where Heaven and earth could meet and God could dwell with His people. We see this most clearly in accounts of the Holy of Holies – a place in the inner temple where God Himself resided and one that the high priests had to take the utmost care and precaution before entering.
Temples and animal sacrifices, though, were only a temporary solution for reuniting God’s realm with ours. God’s permanent solution was His son, Jesus Christ.
There are several Bible verses about Heaven that talk about Christ bringing Heaven down to earth. In Matthew 3:1-2, John the Baptist proclaims “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” and in the Lord’s Prayer, Christ says, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Everywhere on earth that Christ visited, He brought little pieces of Heaven with Him, and though mankind ultimately killed Him, His death created a permanent access point between Heaven and earth. Today, Christ intercedes on our behalf and allows us to approach the throne of God whenever we desire through prayer. Though Heaven and earth are still far from fully united, the two realms do overlap thanks to the death of Christ – the ultimate sacrifice that offers us the forgiveness and sanctification we must have in order to interact with God and the heavenly realm.
While we wait for the new creation, we have to deal with evil, death, and chaos. But when Paul reflects on the future hope of the world, he says the earth will be “liberated from its bondage to decay.” Paul says that creation is groaning like a woman in childbirth. The new creation is taking form, being knit together in our midst, even when we can’t see it. But we see hints of it. Every now and then we see movement on the surface, and one day soon it will be pushed forth into fullness of life.
Consider the childbirth metaphor in verse 22. How is the world as we know it like a woman in labor? How is the new heavens and earth like a newborn?
Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Take some time now to ask God to turn our hearts, homes, neighborhoods, and cities into pockets of heaven on earth.
We see throughout the Bible the theme of Heaven and earth being brought back together, and, when Christ returns again, this theme will be complete. Once again, God and man will fully coexist within the same realm, and Heaven and earth will be one.
So is Heaven real? Not only is the answer to this question a resounding yes, but the truth is that we are able to interact with Heaven right now in this very moment. Until the day comes when we die and go to Heaven or Christ fully reunites Heaven and earth, we as Christians should all be doing our part to make the bond between Heaven and earth a little bit stronger.