The theme of “Heaven and Earth” begins in the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” But what’s that really about?
The two spaces
In the Bible, the themes of heaven and earth can be thought of as heaven being God’s space and the earth being the human space. There are images presented that try to help us understand these two spaces, which although they are different, are not always separate. It may be helpful to think of them as different dimensions that overlap. In the Garden of Eden, the two spaces totally overlapped and God and man dwelt together. Humans were to be partners with God and were to live and build this beautiful garden with God. Unfortunately, they decided to do things their own way rather than God’s. The story of the Bible is about how at one time, heaven and earth were totally united and how God is once again going to bring them back together.
The temple, God’s presence on earth
In the Old Testament, the temple became the place where people could experience God’s presence. It was the place where heaven and earth overlap. The temple was decorated and designed to make people feel like they were going back to the garden. The Holy of Holies, in the center of the temple, was where God’s presence dwelt. The problem is that God’s space is perfect, pure, just and holy and the earth’s space is full of sin and corruption. This problem was resolved through the sacrifice of animals. The idea is that the animal absorbed the sin of the people and died in their place, creating a clean space.
Jesus, The Lamb of God
In the gospel of John, we see that God became human in Jesus and made his dwelling among us.
John 1:14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
Jesus became the place where heaven and earth intersect. Instead of God’s presence being separate in the temple, Jesus, God in the flesh, came outside to us. Jesus told people that the Kingdom of God was coming. He healed many people, creating little pockets of heaven on earth. He even instructed people to pray that God’s will would be done on earth like it was being done in heaven.
Once again, it appeared that man messed up God’s plan. Many were threatened by Jesus and they killed him. But God had a plan. Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He was not just the temple (God’s presence), but he was also the temple sacrifice. Jesus at the cross absorbed all the sin of the world.
“Going” to heaven
Christians will be reunited with God when they die but this is not fully the focus of the Bible. The focus is that when Jesus returns, heaven and earth will be reunited and the human space and God’s space will completely overlap again. In the book of Revelation, we see again this image of the Garden of Eden, but it is now in the form of a beautiful city. It is the ending of the age of sin and death and describes the new creation where once again the two spaces totally come together.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What are the images that come into your mind when you think of “heaven”? Where did those images and ideas come from?
- What do you make of the biblical passages that show heaven and earth as “overlapping” spaces? Is this a new concept for you? What are its implications? (See Genesis 28:10-17; Exodus 3:1-6; Exodus 19:9-12).
- Look up all the passages mentioned in the video where Jesus is described in the language of temple and sacrifice. What is the significance of Jesus being talked about in this way? (See John 1:14; John 2:18-22; Colossians 1:19, 2:9.)
- Is the idea of heaven and earth rejoining at the end of the biblical story a new concept for you? Read Revelation 21-22 and discuss how it differs from popular conceptions of the end of the world.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.