Heaven is a place…
Part three of a series of studies on the Lord’s Prayer
“Our Father in heaven…”
Matthew 6:9 (NKJV)
In the BBC series ‘The Repair Shop’, damaged and neglected items, often passed down through generations, are brought to a team of restoration experts. When the repaired and renewed items are revealed, it is not uncommon for the owner to refer to a deceased relative and to say something along the lines of: ‘I’m sure he’s looking down and smiling.’ It seems that many people believe in heaven, but more and more it seems that fewer people believe in God.
Christ teaches us in the Lord’s prayer, in the version we find in Matthew’s gospel, to pray to God – ‘in heaven’. We can know, therefore, that there is a heaven and that it is God’s space. It is described in Psalms 33:14 as His ‘dwelling’ place. Revelation 4:2 describes it as the place where His throne is. The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus, after the pain of the crucifixion, as being, ‘sat down at the right hand’ of the throne of God. (Hebrews 1:3). After his resurrection Jesus seemed equally at home in the earthly and the heavenly realms, passing between the two, to continue instructing his disciples. The resurrection could be seen as an event that formed an unbreakable bond, joining heaven and earth.
Throughout scripture there are moments recorded when the earthly and the heavenly realms intersect, and we can learn more about heaven from each one of them. At Christ’s birth, some shepherds witnessed a remarkable sight – ‘…a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” ’ (Luke 2:13-14). The account records that the angels – spirit beings – returned to where they came from: from heaven.
The Apostle John, imprisoned on Patmos and near the end of his life – the only one of the original twelve left, describes himself as being taken, in a vision, before the throne of God in heaven (Revelation 4:2), another moment where the two realms intersect. In his dramatic and often disturbing vision he witnesses God the Father, the risen Christ, angels, elders and beings described as ‘living creatures’. There are rainbows, thunder, lightning, fire, singing – it seems there is a lot going on in heaven. An art installation in Folkestone – a message in lights on the top of a building – proclaims, ‘Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens’.1 Revelation says otherwise.
Heaven is real. God the Father is real and dwells in heaven, along with Jesus Christ and a host of countless angels. And most of the activity recorded as going on there looks towards the time when Christ again intervenes in earthly affairs – which Jesus returns to later in the prayer.
Our heavenly Father, with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, thank you that we can be sure of your loving commitment to the troubled world we live in, and to the longed-for return of your Son. Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
1 Nathan Coley, Heaven Is A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens, 2008
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council
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