Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | May 2, 2008

In Heaven

If you died tonight would you go to heaven? Yes, because you’re already there. That’s what the ascension of the incarnate Son, Jesus, is all about.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:6:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

He doesn’t say he will seat us in heaven someday if we get our act together, he says he did it when Jesus rose. When he ascended to heaven we ascended with him.

That’s why our place in heaven is by grace, not works. The Greek word for grace means “gift”. Our Father loves us so much that he gave us heaven in his Son Jesus Christ as a free gift, without us doing even one thing to earn it.

And just in case we thought this only applied to us special people who’ve gotten our heads straight, Paul tells us a few verses later (Eph. 2:15) that all human beings – Jewish ones and Gentile ones – have been included in this new, heavenly humanity created in Christ:

His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two [Jew and Gentile].

In Christ we have already died and gone to heaven! Happy Ascension Sunday!

For those who’ll read this and think I’m a heretic, you might consider the following quote from On the Resurrection of the Flesh by Tertullian of Carthage:

Jesus is still sitting there at the right hand of the Father,  man, yet God – the last Adam, yet the primary Word – flesh and blood, yet purer than ours . . . For as “He has given to us the earnest of the Spirit,” so has He received from us the earnest of the flesh, and has carried it with Him into heaven as a pledge of that complete entirety which is one day to be restored to it.

Be not disquieted, O flesh and blood, with any care; in Christ you have acquired both heaven and the kingdom of God. Otherwise, if they say that you are not in Christ, let them also say that Christ is not in heaven, since they have denied you heaven. On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 51

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Responses

  1. From that quote by Tertullian, I can only see him that part of us is in heaven. “He received from us the earnest of the flesh, and has carried it into heaven” would be like taking the earnest money paid toward a house and putting it in the bank. It’s not the whole thing. Then he says that he’s taken that to heaven “as a pledge […] one day to be restored to it.” So, the rest of our body will be there as well some day.

    One question: if this is heaven, how do explain all the tears that are supposed to be wiped away in heaven?

  2. As Paul says in Colossians 3:1-4, we have already died and our lives are hidden with Christ at the right hand of God. It is this hiddenness that causes our problems.

    The suffering we are experiencing comes from being included in the heavenly life of the Father, Son, and Spirit and not believing that we are included because our inclusion is hidden to our natural minds and eyes.

    When we die we will see the truth, that we have always been in Christ and he has always been in us. As Paul says in Colossians 3:4, when Christ appears the truth about our place in glory will also be revealed.

    Because we keep living by sight and not by faith we keep disbelieving our inclusion in the heavenly life of the Trinity. Our disbelief brings about our sin, and the ways in which we hurt one another, and thus we are, as Tertullian says, “disquieted.”

    But Tertullian wants us to see the gospel and not be “disquieted”: Since flesh and blood (humanity) is in Christ and Christ is in heaven we can rest assured that we “have acquired [past tense, completed] both heaven and the kingdom of God.”

    In that regard heaven isn’t so much a place as it is a revelation. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all around us – and where God is that place is heaven – but we need an apocalypse, an “unveiling”, to allow us to see that reality. When earth is at last fully aware of heaven, with no more hiddenness, then every tear will be wiped away and all suffering will cease.

    Until this unveiling takes place and we see reality we are called to live by faith, believing that we are who and where the Word (Jesus Christ) says we are.

    If we aren’t in heaven, then what does Paul mean in Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 3:1-4?

  3. Here’s a great blog post on this same subject, you might want to check it out:

    http://godlikesyou.wordpress.com/2008/02/02/so-why-is-my-life-hell/


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