February 3, 2022

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:31-33).

The doctrine of heaven encompasses both the Old and New Testaments. The English word ‘heaven’ is found in both the Old and New Testaments and is often thought to refer to the place where God and the angles live. That’s not always true. To the Hebrew people, ‘heaven’ (Hebrew: shamayim; Greek: ouranos) was a general term that had to be qualified in the context where it is used. They understood heaven to be a 3-tiered reality: [1] the sky, [2] outer space, and [3] where God exists. But in the New Testament there are other terms for the realm in which God exists.

Abraham’s bosom. This term is used once in the Bible. (Luke 16:22) So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. To the Jew, Abraham’s bosom was Paradise, a place of peace and rest with God.

Paradise. This term is used 3 times in the Bible. (Luke 23:43) Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (see 2 Corinthians 12:3-4; Revelation 2:7). It is a Persian word describing a park or place of pleasure and happiness.

Kingdom of heaven. This term is used often in the Bible. (Matthew 4:17) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This phrase is used 33 times, only in the New Testament. It refers to that place where God reigns.

Most unorthodox, non-biblical Jews are atheists that do not believe in life after death. Traditional Judaism (biblical, orthodox Jews), however, holds to the concept of sheol, the realm of the dead, that has 2 ‘compartments’ or spheres separated by an impassable chasm or ‘gulf’. All souls went to sheol upon death. The unrighteous dead went to sheol, then on to hell, hades, or gehenna forever. The righteous dead went to sheol, then on to ‘Abraham’s bosom’ or ‘Paradise’ (Luke 16:22-23; 23:43) where they would live forever.

In Christian theology the reality is different. When an unrighteous, unsaved person dies, the person immediately goes to hell, hades, or gehenna, a temporary place of torment until the day of final judgment when they would be cast into the Lake of Fire forever (Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 20:11-15). The righteous, saved person immediately goes to heaven until the new creation (Revelation 21:1-2) upon which his/her primary residence will be on the new earth.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Amen.


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