News Commentary from a Biblical Perspective

by James T. Bartsch
Current Events

And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm. Revelation 11:19

What is Heaven? Reflections by Pope Francis

Recently Pope Francis wrote a book entitled, Our Father: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer. In his book he gives his version of what Jesus meant when He urged His disciples to pray to "Our Father 'who art in heaven.'"

Here is what the Pope said:

“Heaven” means the greatness of God, his omnipotence. He is the first, he is great, and he is the one who has made us. “Heaven” represents the immensity of his power, of his love, of his beauty.

Later, he said,

Yes, [our Father] is always there waiting for us. And “in heaven” he is powerful and great and majestic—this is what the expression “who art in heaven” means—but he is close and walks with us.

Sadly, the Pope uses a flawed hermeneutic, or method of interpreting the Scriptures. For him "heaven" apparently is not to be taken literally. It is not really a place. It is a condition, a state. A state that describes God.

The Pope's description of heaven is not the heaven described in the Bible. And his description is to be rejected out of hand.

Here are some of the things the Bible says about heaven (ouranůs, 3772):

(1) God is not heaven. Rather, God exists in heaven (Matt. 5:16, 45; 6:1, 9; 7:11, 21; 10:32, 33; 12:50; 16:17; 18:10, 14, 19; Mark 11:25; Rev. 4:2; 11:13; 16:11).

(2) Heaven is the place where God's throne exists, upon which He sits (Matt. 5:34; 23:22; Rev. 4:2). Heaven is God's throne, and earth is God's footstool (Acts 7:49).

(3) Jesus descended from heaven (John 3:13, 31; 1 Cor. 15:47).

(4) God gave the ancient Israelis bread out of heaven to eat (John 6:31), but Jesus is the true bread out of heaven (John 6:32, 33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58).

(5) After Jesus' baptism, God's Spirit descended as a dove upon Him from heaven and remained upon Him (John 1:32). A voice from heaven said, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).

(6) Heaven is a place where God's will is done (Matt. 6:10).

(7) Heaven is a place in which we can store up treasures for ourselves (Matt. 6:20; 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 6:23; 12:33; 18:22).

(8) There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).

(9) Heaven is sometimes synonymous with that which originates from God rather than from mere man (Matt. 21:25, 26; Mark 11:30, 31; Luke 20:4, 5).

(10) There are angels (messengers) in heaven (Matt. 22:30; 24:36; Mark 13:32). From time to time they descend to earth to do their bidding (Luke 2:15; 22:43; Rev. 10:1; 18:1).

(11) There will be no marriage in heaven, after the resurrection of our bodies. In that regard, we will be like the angels (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25).

(12) Jesus returned to heaven (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11; 3:20, 21). He is our Master in heaven (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1). He will return to earth the same way in which His disciples observed Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

(13) From time to time heaven is opened, and certain humans on earth catch a glimpse or a sound from the beyond (Luke 3:21, 22; Acts 7:55, 56; Rev. 4:1; Rev. 19:11).

(14) As Christians, our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly await a Savior, Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10). We in the church are enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:23).

(15) We Christians have an imperishable inheritance reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4)

(16) The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. Then the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thess. 4:16).

(17) When we Christians die, we will be granted a temporary body from heaven (2 Cor. 5:1, 2).

(18) Paul was apparently caught up into the third heaven, also called Paradise (2 Cor. 12:2, 4).

(19) Every family (patria) in heaven and upon earth (Eph. 3:15) derives its name from the Father (pater) (Eph. 3:14).

(20) Jesus is presently our high priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb. 8:1; 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:21, 22).

(21) New Jerusalem apparently now exists in heaven. In the final future, New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God. Presumably it will either rest on New Earth or orbit around New Earth. (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10).

(22) When the Apostle John was transported up into heaven by means of the Holy Spirit, here is what he saw:

(a) A throne in heaven, and One sitting upon it (Rev. 4:1, 2). The One sitting on the throne was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance. There was an emerald-like rainbow surrounding the throne (Rev. 4:3).

(b) There were 24 elders sitting upon 24 thrones surrounding the central throne. The elders were clothed with white garments and wore golden crowns (Rev. 4:4). Presumably 12 elders represent Israel and 12 represent the Church.

(c) There were flashes of lighting and peals of thunder emanating from the throne; and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne. These are the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 4:5).

(d) Before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal (Rev. 4:6).

(e) In the center, and around the throne were four living beings full of eyes in the front and in back (Rev. 4:6). The first creature resembled a lion, the second, a calf, the third possessed a face like that of a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle (Rev. 4:7). The four living beings each had six sings full of eyes. The four living creatures cry out ceaselessly, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come" (Rev. 4:8).

(f) The four living beings were joined in worship by the 24 elders (Rev. 4:8, 10), who praised God for His power in creating all that exists (Rev. 4:11).

(g) John saw, in the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, a seven-sealed book, or scroll (Rev. 5:1). A strong, loud-voiced messenger wondered aloud who was worthy to open the book (Rev. 5:2). No one was found worthy to open the book / scroll, and John wept (Rev. 5:3, 4). One of the 24 elders comforted John and assured him that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, had conquered and was able to open the scroll with its seven seals (Rev. 5:5). This, of course, was none other than Jesus the Christ.

(h) John saw, between the throne and the elders a Lamb, as if slain, which had seven horns and seven eyes (Rev. 5:6). The Lamb (Christ) took the book from the hand of the One sitting upon the throne (Rev. 5:7). When He had done so, the four living creatures and the 24 elders prostrated themselves before Him. Each was holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8). They sang a new song to the Lamb, praising Him for His qualification to break the seals. He was worthy because He had allowed Himself to be killed, and in doing so, had purchased for God with His blood men from every conceivable nationality and ethnic group. And He had made them to be, on God's behalf, a kingdom and priests, and they will reign upon the earth (Rev. 5:9, 10).

(i) John looked and heard the voice of many messengers (angels) surrounding the throne and the four living beings and the 24 elders (Rev. 5:11). John stated that the number of the messengers was, at a minimal level, 404 million. These messengers and the four living beings and the 24 elders joined loudly together in praising the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:12).  They were joined by every created being in all the creation uttering blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb (Rev. 5:13). The four living beings kept saying "Amen!" And the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev. 5:14).

Heaven is the place to which God's two witnesses (Rev. 11:3-6) will be taken up after they are murdered (Rev. 11:7-10), then resurrected (Rev. 11:11, 12).

(24) There is a temple in heaven (Rev. 11:19; 14:17). The ark of the covenant has been seen in the temple, punctuated by flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm (Rev. 11:19; 15:5).

(25) Satan apparently has, at times, access to heaven (Luke 10:18). One day there will be war in heaven, Michael and his messengers waging war with the dragon and his messengers (angels) (Rev. 12:7). The devil and his messengers were unable to conquer Michael and his messengers (Rev. 12:8). Satan and his messengers will be thrown down to earth (Rev. 12:9). This bodes ill for the earth and the sea (Rev. 12:12).

(26) There are those on earth whose names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20). Additionally, there are those who dwell in heaven. A monstrous world leader will blaspheme God and those who live in heaven (Rev. 13:6).

(27) One day a Rider clothed with a robe dipped in blood, sitting astride a white horse will descend from heaven, accompanied by heaven's armies arrayed in white garments. He will strike down the nations on earth by the word of His mouth and rule them with an iron rod. He will annihilate the armies on earth conspiring against Him. He will throw the beast and the false prophet alive into the lake of fire which burns with sulfur (2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 19:11-21).

The initial portion of this article is based on a news article by Fox News entitled, "What is Heaven? Reflections by Pope Francis".

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

March 23, 2018

Updated August 27, 2018

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