“… as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11
The Apostles’ Creed I believe in God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He appeared to His disciples and hundreds of eyewitnesses on a limited number of special occasions. During this final segment of Jesus’ ministry, he tied up some loose ends and made very clear to His followers that He had risen from the dead into a new and glorified state. These scenes are recorded at the ends of the Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts. After this brief period, Jesus ascended into heaven never to die again.
We don’t spend enough time thinking about heaven and contemplating its existence and importance. Heaven is spoken about constantly in the Bible and especially in the New Testament. Heaven is the perfect and mysterious dwelling place of God Almighty. In a number of places in the New Testament a window is opened between heaven and this world, causing the glory of heaven to spill over into our fallen and corrupt world (Luke 2:8-14, Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Acts 7:54-60, 9:3-6). Heaven is a real place, but also a spiritual place. Heaven is where the triune God dwells with those angels who serve Him and those souls that have preceded us in salvation.
Spiritual things are not visible and tangible in the same way as physical objects, but they are no less real. You cannot reach out and touch or see the soul of another person, but that does not mean that their soul is not real. The soul is, in fact, what animates the physical person. The Bible seems to indicate that the spiritual and physical worlds coexist, with the spiritual only being revealed at specific times according to God’s purposes.
In John 14 Jesus speaks to encourage and comfort His disciples by telling them about heaven. Jesus says that He will one day take those who believe in His salvation into heaven. Jesus says that a heavenly place is being prepared for them because Jesus wants us to be where He is! That is an incredible statement that we should spend time thinking about. What would it take for us as sinners to enter into the perfection of heaven? It would require our sins being forgiven and taken away (John 1:29). It would require a salvation that only Jesus could accomplish.
But the reality that Jesus wants us to be near Him eternally is shocking. We know who we want in our house and who we don’t want in our personal space. It’s special to have someone invite you into their home for dinner, but something else entirely to have someone prepare a place for you to move into their house. But this is exactly what Jesus calls heaven, “my father’s house” (John 14:2). Jesus laid down His own life on the cross and rose from the dead to accomplish our salvation. He has now ascended into heaven and will accomplish our salvation by bringing us one day to dwell with Him in glory. Eternal life with Jesus in glory is the end of the gospel. Through our salvation Jesus is glorified now and forever.
Lastly, I would mention that the Bible states that in heaven Jesus serves as our great high priest and advocate. This means that within the mystery of the trinity, the Holy Spirit has been sent to be with us in this life while Jesus is our mediator in heaven. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy2:5). One of the main focal points of the book of Hebrews is the explanation of how Jesus is the “high priest” and mediator of the new covenant of grace (Hebrews 8:1-6). Jesus, in His sinless perfection, offered Himself to God – in substitution for us – so that we might be recognized before God through the righteousness of Jesus. As we confess our sins, from heaven, Jesus forgives our sins by His grace and assures our salvation before God the Father.
We have a great salvation that we should not neglect! I encourage you to spend more time examining heaven in the Bible. It will turn your heart toward our eternal salvation in Jesus and lift your mind’s eye off the corruption and struggle of this world.
Lord Jesus we look for your coming!
< This is part eight in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. If you have missed previous articles, they can be found on the church blog. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >