[David B. wrote:]
Similarly, there are spiritual things that we cannot relate to other
than by figurative languance, since there are no words in our language
that adequately describe them. This is what I see in Rev. 21. If I
am wrong, no problem — just demonstrate this to me. I can see where
a literal interpretation of Rev. 21 could be quite erroneous if we are
pinning God down to the dimensions, pavement and furnishings of
heaven. But again, I would not be dogmatic on this because if my
brother believes that heaven is going to be on a recreated earth, I do
not see that as being something worth arguing about. I just want to
do what God wants so that we all get into heaven. I will take
whatever He wants to give me at that point.
[James J. replies]
In your statement, David, you have made the assumption that there are
spiritual things that we cannot understand in terms of literal
language. On what basis do you make that assumption? I find
compelling evidence that requires a literal intepretation of Rev 21.
Consider the resurrection of Christ. It is the fundamental fact of
Christianity. Upon it rests our whole hope and future. The evidence
for that resurrection is a literal body of Christ that is risen from
the dead. We can hear it, look upon it, carefully scrutinize it, and
touch it (I Jn 1:1). Christ’s resurrected body was a substantive body
that was the same body that was buried (with some changes–Jn 20:26,
Lk 24:16,31,36-37, 39). After He rose from the dead, Christ invited
people to touch him (Lk 24:39) and he ate the same food that other
people ate after His resurrection (Jn 21:13-15, Acts 10:39-41). That
resurrected substantive body is the keystone of Christianity. It is
the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, and it is our guarantee
that we also shall rise from the dead. Consider the following verse:
Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the
dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also
quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The resurrection of Christ is the same as our resurrection, otherwise
His resurrection cannot be the guarantee of ours. We know Jesus
received a physical body raised to life and His resurrected physical
body is the guarantee that our physical bodies will arise, because the
same Spirit works on both occasions.
Every Christian is pretty much agreed that Jesus physically rose from
the dead, but opinions differ as to what happened to Jesus’ body as He
ascended back to the Father. Those who hold that nothing material can
enter heaven assume Jesus’ body disintegrated after it entered into
the cloud (Acts 1:9). They are sure that Jesus’ resurrected body
could not enter heaven, for it was physical (I Cor 15:50). However,
we know that Jesus’ spirit is in heaven for He is now sitting by the
right hand of God (Acts 2:34-35). If His body is not there, however,
Jesus died on the way to heaven, for the body apart from the spirit is
dead (Jas 2:26). It is not possible that Jesus’ died, however, for
Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more (Rom 6:9).
Some feel the force of the argument that Jesus’ resurrected body could
not die and attempt to avoid it by assuming that the physical body of
Jesus changed to an insubstantial body, but that also cannot be. The
reason that it cannot be is that Paul was an eyewitness of the
Resurrection of Christ (Acts 26:16, I Cor 15:8). If Paul was an
eyewitness, what did he see, and of what could he testify? He
testified that Jesus rose from the dead (I Cor 15:15, Acts 25:19).
How could Paul testify that Jesus rose from the dead if all Paul saw
was the spirit of Christ? Before He ascended back to the Father,
Jesus assured the other apostles, as evidence that He was truly risen
from the dead, that in His risen form He was not a ghost (Lk 24:39).
If Paul did not see the physical body of Christ, Paul cannot testify
that Jesus rose from the dead, he is inferior to the other apostles
(II Cor 11:5, 12:11), and he is not qualified to be an apostle (Acts
1:22). Paul therefore saw the physical body of the resurrected Christ
several years after Jesus had already ascended back to heaven.
David, I want you to carefully consider what I have written above,
because it is crucial to understanding the world to come. Jesus’ body
in its physical form is eternal. Jesus cannot die (Rev 1:18, Rom
6:9). Paul is a witness that Jesus’ physical body resides in heaven,
as the apostle John also witnessed–Rev 1:17. His body now is like
our body will be (I Jn 3:2), but His body now is material (I Cor
15:8), observable (Rev 1:12-13) and eternal (Acts 13:34).
Furthermore, He promises us that if we overcome we will eat of the
tree of life (Rev 2:7). However, the tree of life is a real tree that
it was possible for Adam to eat from and live forever (Gen 3:22). The
tree of life is inside the city of God and grows by a river (Rev
22:2). The tree of life is therefore not a figure representing the
resurrection of the dead, but is a real tree that will be accessible
to those righteous who have already risen from the dead (Rev 22:14).
Our resurrected bodies will eat, just like Jesus’ body ate (Jn 21:15,
Now, why did I spend so much time to carefully establish the eternal
physical existence of Jesus’ body? Because if Jesus’ body in heaven
is substantive, it requires a substantive place. The idea that heaven
is sooo different that it cannot even be described by things that we
know, is not correct based upon the eternal existence of Jesus’ body.
What is to come will be familiar to us in that it will have length,
width, and depth, inertia, weight, and time because His substantive
body requires those things to support it. Jesus’ substantive body
will not just be floating in an etherial fog in dimension x with no
means to interact with anything. He is King of kings (Rev 19:16, Eph
1:20-21, Php 2:9-11) who requires a suitable environment in which He
may interact with His realm, if the term “king” is meaningful in any
real sense. When Jesus is said to be sitting on a throne (Rev 3:21),
the fact of His substantive body requires a substantive throne upon
which He can sit and the fact of the substantive throne requires a
substantive place. Heaven is a real place with real dimensions and
structure and substantiality. It was created “in the Beginning”, just
like the earth was (Heb 4:3). Furthermore, King David by inspiration
spoke of his physical Descendant who would one day sit upon David’s
throne (Ps 132:11, Acts 2:30). The resurrection of Christ supplied
that physical seed of David who will sit upon David’s throne for ever
(I Chr 17:12, Lk 1:33).
I do believe that it is a sin to elevate this type of issue to the
point of dogma. This is a favorite trick of cultists. This is
exactly what JWs and Mormons do to destroy faith in basic fundamental
doctrine. We recently lost a couple of our members recently to a cult
that teaches that there is only one pronouncable name of God. It is
amazing how people get so fascinated with this type of thing that they
lose all regard for sound biblical teaching. Please do not think I am
accusing you of this — you have stated that you do not make this a
test of fellowship, and I respect you for that.
I am interested in moving our discussion ahead, but don’t really know
what question to ask. Do you see where we might have a disagreement?
I have outlined our differences above. It appears to me that you hold
that heaven is immaterial and unknowable. It is so utterly different
that we cannot even comprehend what it is like. The physical
description of Rev 21-22 is God’s attempt to create a vague notion for
us poor mortals of the glories He has prepared that defy description.
My view of heaven is dramatically different. I believe that Rev 21
and 22 are a straightforward description of what will be. The only
thing I see in Rev 21 that is figurative is Rev 21:9 where the angel
promises to show John the bride of Christ and John actually sees a
city (Rev 21:10). However, when John saw the city of God, it
contained the redeemed who are the bride of Christ (Eph 5:31-32), so
he did see the bride of Christ as far as where they were located was
You have listened to the teaching regarding the impossibility of
anything material entering heaven that you cannot conceive of heaven
having a substantial reality. If you can train your mind to look at
heaven as a place having substance, Revelation stops being a complete
bewilderment, and becomes much plainer and more reasonable. The rest
of the prophets begin at once to fall into place. It is the only
approach that offers a harmonious and satisfactory explanation that
will enable one to make sense of God’s wonderful Revelation.