An explanation of Heaven in the Bible

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The Bible Project: HEAVEN AND EARTH VIDEO TRANSCRIPT TEACHER: So, in the bible the ideas of Heaven and Earth are ways of talking about God’s space and our space. STUDENT: So I understand our space really well. We live here. There are trees, rivers, mountains. But my understanding of God’s space gets a little fuzzy. TEACHER: And what we do get in the bible are images, trying to help us grasp God’s space, which is basically inconceivable to us. STUDENT:  So these are two very different types of spaces. TEACHER: Yes, they’re different in their nature, but here’s what is really interesting. It’s that in the Bible these are not always separate spaces. So think of Heaven and Earth as different dimensions that can overlap in the same exact space. STUDENT:  So we talk a lot about going to heaven after we die, but this idea of Heaven and Earth overlapping, we don’t talk a lot about that. TEACHER:  Which is kinda crazy because the union of Heaven and Earth is what the story of the Bible is all about, how they were once fully united, and then driven apart, and about how God is bringing them back together again. STUDENT: So let’s go back to the beginning. Where Heaven and Earth are completely overlapping? TEACHER: Yeah, this is what the Bible’s description of the Garden of Eden is all about. It’s a place where God and Humanity dwelt together perfectly, no separation, and humans then partner with God in building a flourishing beautiful world and so on. STUDENT: But as humans we wanted to do things a different way. We wanted God out and we wanted to create a world apart from Him, TEACHER: Yeah so we have these two spaces now and the Bible actually uses lots of different kinds of words and phrases to refer to these two spaces to make a clear distinction. STUDENT: So you’ve said that these spaces can overlap though, so explain how that works. TEACHER:This is where we have to start talking about temples, because in the biblical world you experience God’s presence by going to a temple. That’s where Heaven and Earth overlap. STUDENT: Now there’s two types of temples described in the Bible. One is a tabernacle, basically a tent that was built by Moses. And the other was this massive building made by Solomon. TEACHER: And these temples were decorated with fruit trees and flowers and images of angels and all kinds of gold and jewels and so on. And these are designed to make you feel like you’re going back to the garden. And at the center of the temple was a place called the holy of holies, which was like the hotspot of God’s presence. STUDENT: Now we can go and be with God again. TEACHER: But not so fast, because the temple also creates a problem. So God’s space is full of His presence and goodness and justice and beauty, but human’s space is full of sin and injustice and ugliness that results. STUDENT: So how do these spaces overlap if they’re so different and they’re in conflict with each other? TEACHER: This was resolved through animal sacrifice. STUDENT:Yeah that’s kinda weird. What do animal sacrifices have to do with this? TEACHER: Yeah the idea is this: animal sacrifices, somehow they absorb the sin when the animal dies in your place and it creates a clean space, so to speak, where you are now free to enter into the temple and be in God’s presence. STUDENT: Ok so if I’m an Israelite and I live in Jerusalem, I might be able to be in God’s presence, but you said the story of the Bible is all of Heaven and Earth reuniting? TEACHER: Right, so we have to keep going in the story where we come to Jesus in the New Testament. And in the Gospel of John, we hear this claim that God became human in Jesus and made his dwelling among us. The word “dwelling” is really curious. It literally means he set up a tabernacle among us. So what John is claiming right here is that Jesus is a temple. He is now the place where Heaven and Earth overlap. Words On Screen: “Gospel of John”, “...made His dwelling among us”, “Tabernacled among us” - ‘Tabernacled’ is a made up word for what the Greek is saying STUDENT: What’s interesting about Jesus is that He isn’t staying this safe, clean space. He’s running around hanging out with sinners. He’s healing people of their sicknesses, and forgiving people of their sins. TEACHER:He’s basically creating little pockets of Heaven where people can be in God’s presence, but He’s doing it out there in the middle of the world of sin and death. STUDENT: And He keeps telling everyone that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. TEACHER: And He even told his followers to pray regularly that God’s kingdom come and His will be done here on Earth just as it is in Heaven. STUDENT: But a lot of people are threatened by Jesus and they kill Him, which seems to spoil this whole plan to reunite Heaven and Earth. TEACHER: But, we have to go back to a scene earlier in Jesus’ story where John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, “Behold this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” STUDENT: So Jesus isn’t just talked about as being a temple, He’s also talked about as being the temple sacrifice. STUDENT: add translation here TEACHER: Yeah so the cross is now the place where Jesus absorbs sin to create a clean space that is not limited like animal sacrifices. Jesus’ sacrifice has the power to keep spreading and spreading and reuniting more and more of Heaven and Earth. STUDENT: This is all really great but it leaves one big question in my mind, which is what happens when I die? Don’t I just fly over to God’s space and be with Jesus? Words On Screen: “WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE?” TEACHER: Yeah so a few times in the New Testament we learn that Christians will be with Jesus in Heaven after they die,  but that is not the focus of the Bible’s story. The focus is on how Heaven and Earth are being reunited through Jesus and will be completely brought together one day when He returns. In the book of Revelation we get this beautiful image of the garden of Eden, now in the form of a city, coming to end the age of sin and death by redeeming all of human history in a renewed creation and God’s space and Human’s space completely overlap once again.