Heaven: Are we made for another world?

Heaven_ are we made for another world_
Intro: [00:00:00] Hi there, everyone. I'm Jarrod. And I'm Zenita. We are your hosts of Record Live, a podcast where we talk about church, faith, and living well. We believe as followers of Jesus, faith is more than just a set of beliefs. It's a way of life, something we put into practice. Let's go live.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Welcome back, everybody. It is record live time. Once again, Zanita, our favorite time of the week, when we get to hang out to chat about interesting things with interesting people today, we are joined by Jesse, Pastor Jesse, as he's known in the signs realm, , associate editor of signs of the times magazine, also friend of record.
Jarrod Stackelroth: You're often writing things for record Jesse, and you've written a piece which is going to be [00:01:00] the editorial. This weekend in record, it's called what greater reward in, the May 18 issue of record. You're musing about heaven, I should say. So, today we're going to talk about heaven. Zenita, you have a random question to ask Jesse.
Zanita Fletcher: It's still about heaven, so it's not totally off topic, but I've always wondered this. So, this is just like some random Bible trivia for you, Jesse., I don't know if you're aware of this, but in the Hebrew Bible, heaven is never just heaven, it's always heavens, so it's plural. Cool? And so I've always wondered, is that like one of those, yeah, yeah, but in, in our Bible, sometimes we do just see heaven and it's like singular.
Zanita Fletcher: So when I think of heaven, I think of like a single place, but I've, I've never been sure if it's like a heavens as like, as in, when we think of like trousers is singular, but it's a plural, or when we think of scissors, it's a singular thing, but it's a plural word. [00:02:00] Is heaven the same or is heaven literally singular?
Zanita Fletcher: multiple places.
Jesse Herford: Ah, that's an interesting question. , well, I think the answer is probably more the latter. , I have to admit the, the trousers thing kind of threw me off for a second. So I was just thinking about that and not really thinking about your question., so in the Hebrew Bible,, especially like we see this in Genesis,, the conception that a lot of these authors had about the heavens, quote unquote, was that it was a,, a dome.
Jesse Herford: So I think firmament is a word that's often translated. I don't know the Hebrew word off the top of my head, but I do know that often it was conceptualized like, we're here on the earth. There's like a flat sort of earth and then we have waters above and then we have waters below. So the waters above, that's the realm of God and , heavenly creatures and [00:03:00] heavenly beings and the waters below, that's the realm of the sea monsters, Leviathan and, Tanin is the word that's often used in the Hebrew Bible to describe, the evil creatures of the deep.
Jesse Herford: But then I think there's a separate. Word. And I mean, biblical scholars, if you're in the chat, let us know., but I think there is a different word potentially used to describe the realm of God's rule and reign. The thing that's Jumps out to me at the moment is that opening part in Job where we have God and we have like his heavenly staff there.
Jesse Herford: They're like holding court, they're discussing stuff. It's like a forum. And I think that's probably. Maybe tied up with the idea of the heavens, but maybe not necessarily. , because I do know that , the conception of God's place in the cosmos in early Judaism was much more [00:04:00] like God's the God of Israel.
Jesse Herford: You know, he's our God, he rules over the, is the Israel stuff. And it wasn't until. that we see the, , sort of God is the God of the whole world kind of language being used. So maybe, when Job was written, it was written to imagine God as,, holding court somewhere in Israel, somewhere around Israel, around the land.
Jesse Herford: Or perhaps, somewhere else, , seems like a very long winded, answer, but that's all I got. That's what I got.
Zanita Fletcher: You also mentioned flat earth. Can you tell us more about that? We won't go there.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Before we completely derail this conversation,, what is heaven? Heaven is not. a fluffy cloud with a harp and a toga.
Jarrod Stackelroth: That's the, I guess, pop culture conception of heaven now, that we'll be in a fluffy, [00:05:00] beautiful, golden place that's just floating on clouds and peace and harmony, singing kumbaya. What is heaven in the biblical conception? Particularly moving into the New Testament and the Christian understanding of heaven.
Multiple: Mm.
Jesse Herford: Yeah. When I think of like the pop culture version of heaven, I often think of, Simpsons. There's this, , really probably quite sacrilegious moment where I think it's Marge Simpson goes to heaven. And on the one hand you have Protestant heaven, which is very proper and very, you know, very, you know.
Jesse Herford: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. laid back and everything is just right. And then on the other side, you have Catholic heaven where everybody's drinking and having a party and it's all very fun. Um, you're right. That's sort of what we think of when we think of heaven, but the conception of heaven, the heavenly realm is, it's an idea that definitely evolves throughout the biblical narrative. , and it's a realm, [00:06:00] at least, From my understanding that kind of intersects in many different ways, with earth. So, , I think probably the easiest way to explain that idea is, , Eden. So the garden of Eden is the first place specific on earth that we're introduced to in the biblical narrative. And it's a place where humans dwell.
Jesse Herford: But it's also a place where God can dwell and the place where God dwells, we're not told whether God can dwell in any other part, but we know that Eden is a place where God can dwell. And after the humans are evicted from Eden, they are essentially cut off from that overlapping space where God can dwell and also humans can dwell at the same time.
Jesse Herford: And so we have. Things like alters,, you know, Abraham, famously sacrifices many times and alters and sacrifices are often conceived [00:07:00] of as a place where heaven can come down to earth when, Abraham goes to sacrifice Isaac, his son, he goes up into a hill and it's on the hill where he meets with God, where God provides a suitable sacrifice so that he doesn't have to sacrifice his son.
Jesse Herford: And,, where God, Again, meets with, with Abraham. And so, as we get into, , Ezekiel or Job, again, , heaven is often conceived of as, , an other. World is the heel. Particularly, it's a bit of a psychedelic book. , it almost seems like the sort of thing that somebody would write when they're on a bad trip because you have, all these crazy angelic beings with wheels and eyes and fire.
Jesse Herford: And then you have the king of The, the What is it? The ancient of days is, is described in all this really fantastical language. And I think that's probably to communicate how other heaven is,, in relation to, to [00:08:00] human beings., You know, it's funny when we get to the New Testament, Jesus talks a lot about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God, and Jesus talks about again, heaven coming back down to earth because that's the whole point of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesse Herford: It's not that we go up to heaven and maybe that's a, a bit of a prelude to what we're about to talk about that God actually wants to rule and reign here on earth. That actually God wants to become the king of the earth. And. being part of God's kingdom is about what's the kind of person that can inhabit the realm that is coming and who can be a subject, a citizen in the kingdom that Jesus is setting up.
Jesse Herford: , None of that kingdom of heaven stuff really focuses on heaven as a, an other worldly place. And in the new Testament, we actually don't get that much of an insight until we get to the book [00:09:00] of Revelation. about heaven as a place, the emphasis is on what is the kind of environment and what are the kind of people, that can inhabit the space that Jesus is wanting to set up on this earth.
Jesse Herford: , I think that's where probably these high minded ideas interact with us now today.
Zanita Fletcher: Hmm. So I guess you're saying there's a distinction between the kingdom of heaven being on earth compared to us going to this place of heaven that we don't really know that much about.
Jesse Herford: Yeah. Yeah. And there are many different ideas that are presented in the New Testament about what it's like to, to be in heaven or what does life look like, after death, there are sort of three different ideas. There's,, eternal conscious torment, which is,, talking primarily not about heaven, but the other place. , and, in the Judeo Greco Roman [00:10:00] period. around that turn of the millennium, , these ideas about what happens when we die are becoming more discussed. And so the, the Greeks had,, ideas about Hades and the underworld., just so you know, in, in early Hebrew, thought Sheol was the place where everyone goes.
Jesse Herford: It's not a nice place. It's not a bad place, but it's not a nice place to be, but it's the place where everyone goes. And of course you have other ideas like Solomon Talking about how the dead know nothing. And so there are all these ideas that are thrown around. Eternal conscious torment is one of them that is thrown out primarily in the gospels.
Jesse Herford: We see that in, things like the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, , we have the rich man languishing and then You know, he can see the, Lazarus, the beggar having a great time in heaven. Then there's , temporary conscious torment followed by an annihilationism, , which we see a little bit in Paul's writings, but then [00:11:00] primarily in Paul and in Revelation and the, viewpoint that I agree with probably most is, annihilationism.
Jesse Herford: The fact that, for, for most of us,, , especially those who don't want to belong to God's kingdom, annihilationism is what awaits , those people. But then that begs the question, well, what reward awaits people who, , pledge themselves to Jesus? And, you know, I think it's funny that a lot of the conversations around Christians are about what happens when you go to hell, but not many conversations are about what is the other side look like?
Jesse Herford: Because I think most people assume that, well, If I'm not going to hell, I guess that means I'm just going to go to heaven. And we just kind of take that at face value. , even amongst Adventists, there was a, , survey done recently,, where, which revealed that a lot of Adventists even in our region, , [00:12:00] really do, , entertain some of these ideas of either, , eternal conscious torment or like, I'm just going to go to heaven when I die, which is surprising to me, but perhaps it shouldn't be given.
Jesse Herford: This is not really a conversation that we have. I think we just take it for granted.
Jarrod Stackelroth: I guess, there's a, Christian thought. And, you know, many of our people come from other traditions, faith traditions, and maybe haven't been, haven't had that conversation. Haven't talked about, you know, what the Adventist belief of the state of the dead is when they start believing. , I guess what I'm hearing you say though, in a sense, , and I think this is something that we also just take from general Christian, you know, culture, pop culture.
Jarrod Stackelroth: If we die, the assumption is, outside of the Adventist faith, in many other denominations, the assumption is we go, , sort of to heaven, , until some point [00:13:00] when Jesus returns or something happens, , and yet our conception is the dead die and know nothing. And then Jesus comes back and the dead are raised, the dead in Christ are raised first as the in Thessalonians, the verse says.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Now That's interesting because we also have this conception then that, yes, we do go off to be with Jesus for a time, but then the ultimate destination is the new earth. The earth is remade and it becomes again an Eden like place where God dwells. And it's almost like that. What our conception of heaven is, is actually This earth, but made new, restored brought back to how it was intended to be.
Jarrod Stackelroth: And it is a place where God can again set up his dwelling amongst us, like he wanted to do in Eden, like he tried to do with the Israelites, in the tabernacle and with his people. pillar of fire and his presence with them and [00:14:00] has done at different points throughout history. And then ultimately, I guess, with Jesus, Jesus was God with us.
Jarrod Stackelroth: So he was somewhat that representation. What do you think are some of the dangers of, Maybe getting that wrong or not thinking that through in terms of the idealization of heaven as a otherworldly place that has no bearing on this earth, that God has no impact or no care for what this world is because it's all going to burn and be remade. , what do you think are some of the ramifications of that perspective?
Jesse Herford: Yeah, that's, I think that's a great question because that really hits home to where we live today. , Yeah, there's a couple of things there. , the first is that idea that the world, you know, when I think of, those sci fi, , moments where they're a meteor hits a planet and then everything is just completely wiped out, and that, that allows [00:15:00] life to, be made in you.
Jesse Herford: I think that's what a lot of people think about, , that God's just going to burn this place up, right to the foundations. And then he's just going to plant a couple of trees and we'll start again. thing. And, the Bible doesn't tell us that for sure. , there is a passage in Revelation 21 where it says, , there is, then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
Jesse Herford: , And I think a lot of us take that to mean, , the first heaven and the first earth. First heaven and first earth, by the way, we don't talk about the first heaven. Like, why does the first heaven have to be passed away? You know, and I think what, what it does is it kind of reinforces this idea that I was born for a different world.
Jesse Herford: You know, there's that famous,, C. S. Lewis quote that we love to quote so much and has worked its way into our songs and our, , rhetoric. , And it, I think it, it [00:16:00] makes us not care so much about making this world the best that it can be right now. , I remember as a young minister, I was sitting with a bunch of other clergy talking about, heaven on earth and all that sort of stuff.
Jesse Herford: Stuff. And I remember at one point, a couple of them got very defensive and saying, well, no, we can't be talking about this sort of thing. That's what the Pentecostals teach., this idea that we can make earth like heaven, that through the, the power of Jesus and the Holy spirit and whatever else that we can actually make heaven on earth.
Jesse Herford: And they actually considered that to be a very dangerous idea and not an Adventist idea at all. And it just made me wonder,, what does that actually do to the way that we practice our faith?, , one of the things that is very, I guess, prominent in our [00:17:00] eschatology, our understanding of the end times and what's going to happen, before the end of, of the world and before Jesus.
Jesse Herford: It's returns and, whilst I think it's important to keep our eyes open to not be blind to the signs of the times, I think that in some ways it makes us expect things are going to get worse and worse and worse, and perhaps maybe even make us not care so much about that whole kingdom of heaven on earth as it is in the sky sort of thing.
Jesse Herford: And that's what Jesus. teaches us his disciples to do. He teaches us to, , ask for the father's will to be done here as in, in heaven. Did, do we just not take that seriously? Do we just say God, did it be really nice if you made things better here, but you know, things are getting terrible. So what's a guy going to do?
Jesse Herford: No, I, I think Jesus is [00:18:00] quite serious when he says to his disciples, , pray to God to, for his will to be made, known on earth as it is in heaven. And don't just wish it work alongside,, God, and his new creation project here on earth. , I, I think that we're seriously missing out on a lot if we.
Jesse Herford: If we don't take that seriously.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Sorry, just before you jump in Zanita. So that's a different conception to some denominations or some thought Christian thought is that we will usher in Jesus return by like a thousand years on. On earth, a thousand years of peace. What you're saying is not, this is, that's not the concept we're talking about, that we can make the world perfect, but that we work to make it better in, in amongst the brokenness and disasters and difficulties.
Jarrod Stackelroth: That just to clarify, that's what [00:19:00] you're referring
Jesse Herford: to. Thank you, Jared. Yeah, no, absolutely. That's what I'm referring to. And,, I'm not, I'm not saying that I think that., you know, through our effort, we can usher in a millennium of peace. That's definitely one eschatological school of thought.
Jesse Herford: That's definitely not one that I believe in. , and it also feeds into the idea of the rapture, which is, , the whole other kettle of fish that we don't have time for. But, , I think that in our efforts to move away theologically from that idea, it affected our practice. , and that's, what you're touching on.
Zanita Fletcher: I was just going to say, , why is it that they think that's dangerous idea to live that heaven on earth concept? Because when I think of it, living heaven on earth or bringing heaven to earth is kind of motivating for me. Like it prompts me and it spurs me to live out those values of like love and peace, like now, because like, why would we wait?
Zanita Fletcher: Isn't that why we're [00:20:00] here? , do you know why they think that?
Jesse Herford: I hate to presume anybody's motivations, but I do see it as part of our culture that we have an expectation that the earth is just going to get worse and worse and worse. And any, evidence to the contrary is almost like. I guess it's almost like an attack, on that core belief that, we see the trajectory of history.
Jesse Herford: History has a trajectory. The trajectory is everything's just going to get worse and worse and worse. And then we'll have the time of trouble and then Jesus will return. It's a very, it's a very simplified book. way of looking at it. I'm not trying to downplay or like, , be reductive of our eschatology because it is, I believe, beautiful.
Jesse Herford: And I think, very much worth, , study. I also think, , , I'm trying to choose my words. So I don't get into trouble. I also think it's easier. I think it's just easier to not have to care so much about making the world a [00:21:00] better place. But I also have to remember that primary audience to whom this message was given in the first century, the first Christians that took Jesus's word seriously were people who were under oppression of, empire, who in many cases were persecuted, , for their beliefs, who did not have it easy and who many of them probably literally thought that they were The last generation before Jesus returned.
Jesse Herford: I mean, Paul in many places kind of basically says Jesus is coming soon as in in our lifetime. So let's just focus on the stuff that we have to focus on because he thought that Jesus was going to return. Many of the disciples did., so the fact that the world is terrible now, I don't think should [00:22:00] motivate us to not care because when I think of the world that the first Christians lived in, as terrible as the world is today, I think I prefer to live in this one than that one in many ways. So yeah.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Got a comment from Luke,, who's watching along with us. I think there must be tension between both ideas. We are each responsible for our own sphere of influence, but we can't realistically expect enough people to operate harmoniously in order to find heaven on earth. Yeah. So that's a nice summary of, I guess what we've been trying to say as well.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Yeah, I, I think the, the danger, what's the danger, Zanita asked you, Jesse. And I'm wondering again, not to put words in people's mouths, but I'm wondering if there is a reaction to the pre millennialism, I think it's called, where that thousand years of,, we can usher in peace on earth. And the, some of the.
Jarrod Stackelroth: The governments, the [00:23:00] state empires, the church empires that have tried to enforce, their peace,, their gospel peace on people to, to usher in that. And as Adventists, we've come out of the Reformation and we've had a reaction to some of those theologies, and perhaps that's one answer to the question, why?
Jarrod Stackelroth: Do we feel nervous about,, that idea? I think maybe for myself as well. We mentioned it's not necessarily discussed in this light. It's sort of in our songs and we grow up with this idea of Jesus is coming soon. We have to be ready. And that urgency of the readiness is there, but we don't necessarily explain.
Jarrod Stackelroth: What does it look like to bring about heaven on earth? What does it look like to have those points where heaven and earth touch? And,, we're actually,, being filled with the Holy [00:24:00] Spirit and impacting our world, and others., something nice to, to come out of PNG for Christ was that,, the church leaders in PNG have been reflecting on how they need to reach the least of these, feed the hungry, the poor, , reach the prisoners,, get back to that real,, practical Christianity, that helping and healing ministry of Jesus.
Jarrod Stackelroth: And we saw that the programs were proceeded by the mega health clinic. There was healing and there was, physical needs being met. That was part of the, Proclamation of the Adventist message. You know, that was the first part of it. And I think linking the idea of, yes, this world is not our home.
Jarrod Stackelroth: You know, we all love the, the hymns and the songs that we have that,, give us that hope. Like, yeah, there is something we have this hope,, , that's our anthem as Adventists. We have this hope,, there's something better to come without neglecting and forgetting. And I'm seeing more [00:25:00] people, , Conscious of and working towards, hey, we need to make this world a better place while at the same time being excited to proclaim that there is a better place,, coming, there is a better, or there is restoration of our brokenness coming, Jesus is coming soon.
Jarrod Stackelroth: So I think, yeah,, there's a, a beautiful thing, I think, when those two things work in harmony.
Jesse Herford: I think you're right. sorry, did you have something you wanted to jump in Zenita?
Zanita Fletcher: Yeah, I was just going to say on that, , I think sometimes, cause we're kind of talking about, striking the right balance between heaven and then heaven on earth. And I think sometimes we can focus too much on heaven and getting to heaven and like the end of times and actually forget like about the whole kingdom of heaven concept and what we're actually here to do.
Zanita Fletcher: I don't know if you have anything to add to that, but like, I read this book, just before COVID, it was a memoir called [00:26:00] educated. And it was all about this family who was like preparing for the end of times and making sure they were doing the right things to get to heaven. And they just did like active in crazy ways.
Zanita Fletcher: That was like, so un Christ like, and I think when COVID happened and I started seeing other people. Freak out about the world ending as well and making all these like actions to make sure they were right with God and make Sure that I would be in heaven or that I would be ready for the end of times It just reminded me of that and it also kind of freaked me out because it was like you can just see That happen sometimes I think in the church is that people focus So much on that and not on that we're here to , love people and show people, God,
Jarrod Stackelroth: I like the saying, , that people can become so heavenly minded that they're of no earthly use.
Jarrod Stackelroth: Kind of, that's what I comes to mind when you're speaking Zanita, like, Hey, we can become so focused on getting to [00:27:00] heaven. In other words, , Even that monastic life, cutting ourselves off from anything that might be temptation or anything that might put us in jeopardy. So, , I guess in the Adventist, context, that's moving to the country and, , cutting ourselves off, not being in influencing culture, but.
Jarrod Stackelroth: , and there is a place potentially for that. I don't want to knock people that make that commitment because it is a brave commitment. It is a big commitment, but I guess. How then do we be the salt of the earth? How do we be in the world, but not of the world? How do we influence culture? How do we influence people to get them to?
Jarrod Stackelroth: And this is again, using just cliched language, but how do we get them to heaven with us rather than just going there ourselves? , we want others to be whatever heaven is, whatever it looks like we want. Others to partake in that., and yet, if we pull ourselves so [00:28:00] far away from the world that we're not influencing or impacting anyone, we're not actually causing anyone to have that experience with us.
Jarrod Stackelroth: So that can be a challenge. I think to our faith, if we become so insular and,, focused on getting ourselves to heaven, we miss the opportunity to invite others into the restoration that Jesus promises. , we've fast run out of time today, guys, and we could probably talk a lot more, but we like to end record live on a practical note, Jesse,, open floor.
Jarrod Stackelroth: We've talked theoretically, we've talked philosophically, we've sort of mused about heaven and earth and , what that can look like. What can we do this week to make heaven touch earth, to make this concept a reality of living in the kingdom now?
Jesse Herford: Well, unlike some of my thoughts, which are sometimes too complicated and heavenly minded to be of any practical use.
Jesse Herford: I think for me, it's really simple. [00:29:00] One of my favorite theologians talks about this a lot, Tom Wright. And he asked the question in many of his books and in podcasts to listen to, what does it look like for God to be king? What does the world look like? If God was king of a country, would he send in the tanks? , would the kind of people that are part of God's kingdom with God at the helm be the sort of people that would send in the tanks? And he says, no, God's kingdom and God's people send in the doctors and the medics and the social workers and the people who heal. The wrongs of the world who serve the least of these and who have dedicated their lives to making this place better.
Jesse Herford: And I think, the PNG for Christ, example. I think that's a perfect parallel because I think the way that we. Get people excited for [00:30:00] heaven is by showing them what heaven looks like or at least a tiny glimpse of that. And that's exactly what happened in PNG.
Jesse Herford: It's serving the poor. It's washing each other's feet, whatever that looks like for you, it's just I'm taking care of the least of these. I think the way that we excite people about the kingdom that is coming is by showing them a tiny little portion of what the kingdom of heaven looks like right here, right now, as imperfectly as we can represent it, and as flawed as we are, we still have the That opportunity in our thoughts and deeds in our service to show people a tiny little glimpse of what heaven looks like.
Jesse Herford: It could just be as simple as kind word to a stranger. , whatever that might look like for you. I think we all have that opportunity.
Zanita Fletcher: I love it. So good. Such good advice. Well, thank you, Jesse, for coming on. Hopefully we can have another one of these [00:31:00] conversations about heaven. , cause it's really interesting.
Zanita Fletcher: Save up those esoteric, save up those esoteric
Jesse Herford: questions, Zenita. A lot of lighting around.
Zanita Fletcher: Yeah, but like you said at the beginning, I feel like we don't talk about it that much. , so it would be cool to have more conversations, but thank you for coming on, Jesse, thank you for imparting your wisdom. , and we will be back next week for another episode of record live and we'll have to have you get on soon.
Jesse Herford: Awesome. Thanks guys.

Heaven: Are we made for another world?
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