Heaven refers to God’s power and presence promised to us
I wrote this letter to Paul and Sally Dwyer, beautiful people who have often waded into the ugliness of others’ lives because they’re in love with Jesus.
You’re well acquainted with hell on earth. You know all about the pain people suffer—whether through loss, divorce, failure, rejection, or betrayal. You know how far down people can go, how deep the human spirit can descend, and how difficult it can be to raise someone up who’s fallen so far.
But as painful as those moments are—both to witness and to experience firsthand—I think you also know the pleasure of their opposite. You know the richness available in Christ that can only be described as heaven-on-earth. You know the joy of seeing someone turn from their destructive habits and patterns, embracing new life with Jesus. You are true believers in the power of the Spirit to heal, restore, and redeem.
If you’ve been reading the rest of this book, you’ll know much of what I’m saying can be summarized like this: when we live the way God wants, we get to enjoy life the way God intended. I stand by that statement, even while recognizing that it seems to promise blessing and peace more directly than we typically experience. But the truth is God’s gameplan results in God’s blessing, and if we’re ever going to experience heaven—either here, in part, or later on, as a whole—then we’ve got to realize there is a residual benefit for obedience, stewardship, and creativity.
In the Bible the word “heaven” is a complicated term that refers to several things simultaneously. First, it refers to the place where God is now, ruling and reigning over the cosmos. But heaven interpenetrates every place, such that God is everywhere even while technically still in heaven.
Heaven also refers to any place above the earth. The skies are called the heavens. So are the stars. The sun and the moon are part of the heavens. This is why so many Christian people perceive heaven as being “up there.” It’s not, not any more than hell is down below, because “heaven” isn’t a strictly physical place. Not yet.
Heaven is also a way of being, a state in which things are the way God wants them to be. This is the heaven with which you and I are most familiar. This is the version of heaven we get to experience now, as a foretaste, in anticipation of God’s full and final cleanup of the world.
Finally, heaven is the terminus point of all Creation. Revelation concludes with a New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem, comprising New Creation. These are all components of God’s plan to make things right, such that there is no longer any pain or hardship or evil or malcontent left anywhere.
Heaven is a metaphorical way of denoting God’s ultimate locus of power and presence. When we say we’re “in heaven” or that something is “heavenly,” what we’re really saying is that it feels good, like it should, and we’re permitted to enjoy it, like we should. To experience life on earth as it is in heaven is to laugh without fear of mockery, to smile without bitter disappointment, to risk without fear of exposure, and to love without the worry of rejection.
If there is a danger in speaking of heaven, it is the erroneous belief that nothing in this life could ever be wholly good.
But of course it can!
We have been welcomed into God’s kingdom, adopted as his heirs, and given status as a royal priesthood. We are permitted to enjoy good things in this life as signposts of God’s blessing and a down payment toward God’s future redemption of the world. Despite the fact that not everything will go well, nor will all things go well simultaneously, we won’t be forced to endure a life of unabashed misery until Christ shows up at the end.
We may not get all God wants now, but we definitely get what God wants earlier.
 Psalm 103.19.
 Jeremiah 23.24.
 Psalm 103.11.
 John 17.3.
 Revelation 21.
 2 Peter 1.11.
 Romans 8.17.
 1 Peter 2.9.
 John 10.10.