Heaven; Is it for real?
We have heard from more than one testimony that it must be real, otherwise those who have spoken about it would lose their status as spokespersons. Where do we begin to listen to the most astute persons who claim to have been there or know someone who has? Let’s begin with a testimony from a person who claims to have known someone who went there. St. Paul, speaking about a person he claims to know; “I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. About this person I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except my weaknesses.” (2 Cor 12: 2 - 5).
“There was a rich man who dressed in fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at the door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would have gladly eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dog’s even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, Father Abraham, have pity on me, send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames. Abraham replied, My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours. He said, Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment. But, Abrahem replied, they have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them. He said, Oh no, Father Abrahm, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. Then Abraham said, If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” (Lk 16: 19 - 31).
Perhaps one of the most profound parables that Jesus used to describe the very existence of heaven. If Abraham, the first prophet called by God who was promised to have descendants as many as the sands on the shore, or stars in the sky, their destiny would be a place of eternal happiness with God. (Gn 15: 5).
“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in view of the foolish to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold is in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.” ( Wis 3: 1 - 6).
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you , O God.” Longing for God’s Presence in the Temple; Psalms42-43. Three times this question is asked; “why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.” (Ps 42: 6, 1 2, 43: 5). The quest of looking for God in his temple and being consoled when waiting for Him.
From the day that Jesus was crucified and the thief who took issue with the unlawful and immoral execution of Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus responded with; “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The one concluding scripture that assures us heaven is real. (Lk 23: 43).
Ralph B. Hathaway