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Question 57:

John 3:13 states that only Jesus went into Heaven. 2Kings 2:11 says Elijah went up into Heaven. 2Corinthians 12:2-4 speaks of a man who was caught up into the third Heaven. And Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch was taken from this life because of his faith. The first reference speaks of one single person, Jesus, yet the same Bible also mentions three other people. Could you explain that please?

 

Answer: In all religions, Heaven refers to the dwelling place of God/the gods and supernatural powers. At the same time, Heaven is a metaphor for the otherworldly and the infinite, the symbol of transcendence. Hermeneutically speaking, there are several different levels of meaning: the cosmological view of the Old Testament has Heaven as a „place has to be understood in the light of the ancient world view, according to which Heaven as a part of the universe is the firmament, a giant hemisphere above the flat earth. Theologically, Heaven is Gods dwelling place. The firmament is His throne from where He directs the fate of mankind. The Old Testament itself already de-mythologizes this view: Heaven and Earth alone cannot contain God; dwelling in Heaven refers to His transcendence, His remoteness and distance (Jeremiah 23:23ff). At the same time He is also a very close and present God whose glory fills the whole earth (Isaiah 6:3). He hears and answers the pleading of His people, even the pleading of each and every human being. Because Heaven is seen as Gods dwelling place, the word Heaven is also used as a synonym for God Himself and is used to paraphrase His name. From Heaven is synonymous with from God (see Daniel 4:23; John 3:27). “In Heaven” means with God (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; Luke 19:38).

The anthropological and an eschatological view that the just ones will be with God („in Heaven) forever, originates in the late writings of the Old Testament. The image of the „ascension of a just one” also stems from there, its meaning being the God-given grace to allow us to come into His presence.

In the New Testament, the Christological perspective is of prime importance. In accordance with His nature, Christ came down from Heaven (John 3:13; 6:38, 41ff, 50ff) and returned there after His resurrection to sit at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Acts 3:21; Ephesians 1:20; 2:6; Hebrews 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22). This return is depicted using the image of the ascension. So he ascended into Gods dwelling place (Hebrews 9:11ff., 24) to come again at the end of time (Hebrews 9:28). It is in this sense that Paul describes the Christian attitude to life as a hopeful waiting for the expected second coming of Christ from Heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Philemon 3:20), when a new heaven and a new earth will arise (2Peter 3:13).

In summary, it can be said that from the Christian point of view, Heaven is the theological metaphor for the ultimate salvation and redemption of humankind which has been reconciled with God through the death and resurrection of Christ. Heaven is thus not a timeless and real place, not a spatial Kingdom-come, but personal reality. It is the everlasting union of humankind with God, life in unity with him and with each other. (cf.. L. Hagemann, art. Himmel 2. Christlich in Adel Th. Khoury [Hg.] „Lexikon religiöser Grundbegriffe. Judentum. Christentum. Islam”. Graz: Styria, 1987. p. 486-488.)

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