Is God more pure and good than Heaven?
The Rev. Aubrey Jones, Rabbi Jordan Parr, Monsignor Larry Droll and minister Doug Doyle say no creation of God’s is equal to him, but Heaven is nonetheless so astonishing that it must be seen and experienced to be understood.
The Rev. Jones, pastor of Chapel Hill Baptist Church, said it “is being in the presence of God.
“It’s a physical place, not simply God’s mind,” Jones said. “Nothing is as pure and good as God, but if he is there with his people, then it would certainly be perfection as we understand it.”
Explaining that the Bible is somewhat mysterious on the subject, Jones said, “You might say, ‘I relate with God; therefore, I’m in Heaven.’
“But scripture teaches that it is more than that. We’re given descriptions of streets of gold, but is that literal or a metaphor for what we consider most valuable being simply pavement up there? I’m not sure it matters. We are with God and it’s great, so we’re not going to fuss about the accommodations.
“The apostle Paul says it is bigger and greater than we can possibly wrap our minds around.”
Rabbi Parr, of Temple Beth El, cited the prophet Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 1:4-28 of God’s chariot descending. “In Jewish thought, we believe Heaven is a place where the righteous of all nations go, not just Jews,” he said.
“If you have some sins to atone for, there is a period of penitence before you go. At the end of days there will be a resurrection of body and soul, so Heaven might be a reflection of what the world should be, not what the world is. God and Heaven are not synonymous. They’re separate concepts. God may dwell in Heaven, but he is not Heaven.”
Monsignor Droll, pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Midland, said Heaven has been traditionally been understood “as being a beatific vision of God that brings complete joy and happiness to those who experience it.”
Droll was asked his interpretation of the apostle John’s visions in Revelation 21:9-22 that say Heaven is 1,500 miles square and has 12 gates and bejeweled walls 216 feet thick. “Most of what is in the Book of Revelation is symbolic, meant to encourage Christians of that time who were undergoing persecution,” he said.
“We all hope to get there one day.”
Doyle, minister of West University Church of Christ, said such considerations “are limited because we are just here and we have a limited view.
“In the New Testament, Paul says we know in part and prophecy in part and that no eye has seen and no ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love him,” Doyle said. “Sometimes it’s easier to say what it will not be. It will be a place of no tears, no pain, no death. There’ll be no sun, no moon, no night and no need for cops or guards. The gates are always open.
“One of the ideas is that Heaven is kind of a return to Eden, the blessed place.”