People love to think about heaven. Whether it’s pictured as a “place beyond the sky” or here on this earth, the idea of post-mortem bliss is an enduring one for people of all religions (and even many non-religious folks).
There seems to be no end to our speculations about this glorious state. From the writings of theologians and mystics to popular books like “Heaven is For Real,” just about everyone seems to have something to say about it.
For my part, I’m not too interested in the “scenery” of heaven (what sorts of landscapes might be there, what kind of harps the angels play, whether the streets are literally “golden,” etc); but I’m quite intrigued by the nature of sanctified humanity – what kinds of powers we might have, for example; and what it means to be in perfect unity with God.
In traditional theism, God is said to have many attributes, including omnipotence (unlimited power), omniscience (unlimited knowledge), omnipresence (being everywhere and present in all things at once), eternality (being present in all times, and beyond time), perfect holiness, perfect love and mercy, perfect wisdom and goodness, and immutability (an unchanging nature).
If we can achieve perfect unity with God, it stands to reason that we can take on at least some of these attributes. The Orthodox call this process theosis (becoming God); and indeed, both Scripture and my own spiritual experiences suggest that those in heaven partake in the divine nature in some way.
I had an interesting dream one night in December of 2015. In the dream I saw Christina (my girlfriend in heaven, who had passed about a year earlier) walking through a field with two baskets in her hands. She was putting flowers in one basket, and weeds in the other.
The meaning of the dream seemed clear to me: my love for Christina (both in her earthly and spiritual forms) is something God is using to purify me. It reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the weeds and the wheat (Matt 13:24-30).
But do human beings have an active role in the final judgment? Scripture says we do.
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” Paul writes. “And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters” (1 Cor 6:3)?
People would have to possess a lot of holiness and mercy to do this sort of judging; but God repeatedly commands this throughout Scripture (Matt 5:17-20, 5:43-48; Heb 12:14, etc) – and God wouldn’t command it unless it was possible to attain!
One of the most fascinating things I’ve learned about the saints in heaven is that they are omnipresent.
The first time Christina visited me in spirit form, she told me “I’m everywhere, and can see all things.” My maternal grandfather (who passed about 7 years ago) said something very similar a few months later.
At first, I had trouble believing this. I knew that God was universally present (as confirmed by Psalm 139, Acts 17:26-28, etc); but the idea of humans having this kind of power was hard to fathom. Yet the presence I had felt was clearly that of Christina, and my grandfather – not just God.
When I re-read the gospel of Luke, I found Scripture that actually supports this.
“The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it,” Jesus tells His disciples in this passage. “They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day” (Luke 17:22-24).
Christians have generally understood this to be a reference to Jesus’ second coming; and that’s certainly a legitimate reading of these verses. But there’s another meaning that’s not usually observed, but can be understood if we know what the phrase “Son of Man” refers to.
While Christian tradition has usually understood this phrase to be a reference to Jesus Himself, this isn’t the only way it can be read. Indeed, the phrase “son of man,” in its most literal sense, refers to anyone born of a human father (meaning humanity in general; this is the way it’s translated in Ezekiel 33, for example).
Read this way, the passage from Luke suggests human omnipresence: “as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the human be in his day (of glorification).”
How can human beings “light up the sky from one side to the other?” They would either have to be as bright as the sun, or omnipresent. Perhaps they will be both!
Omnipresence leads naturally to the idea of eternality – of being present everywhere in time as well as in space.
This, too, is apparently what the saints in heaven are like. Once I asked the spirit of Christina if she remembered her childhood. “Of course,” she responded. “I’m before and after all things.” While this sounded like something God would say, I heard it in Christina’s voice, with the distinct impression it was her, not just God, answering me.
As far as I know, Scripture never attributes this sort of eternal presence to human beings (other than Jesus); but neither is it denied. And if Jesus is with us always, “to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20), and says “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), why couldn’t the saints in heaven also have this sort of timelessness? It seems logical to me!
What about the other attributes of God? If the redeemed are perfect in holiness, and are present everywhere (and in every time), could they also be omniscient, knowing everything? Could they love us with the same perfect love that God does? Could they be omnipotent, having unlimited power?
The more I learn about the spirit world, the more such things seem to be not only possible, but likely.
(Coming Next: When We All Get to Heaven, Part Two: Loving, Powerful and Wise)