The Criminal on the Cross
Before Jesus took His last few breaths on the cross, He made a promise to a certain individual. This promise was to a criminal who was hanging on a cross next to Him. The criminal understood he deserved to be hanging on the cross but he realized Jesus was innocent. With that in mind, the dying criminal yells out to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus famously responds back, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This dialogue is recorded in Luke 23:42-43 and it introduces an interesting idea of Heaven.
Most biblical scholars understand when Scripture mentions Heaven, it can be referring to two different Heavens. One heaven, which is called Intermediate Heaven or Present Heaven, is where Christians who have placed their trust in Christ go immediately after they die. The other Heaven, Eternal Heaven, is where every Christian will receive their glorified body after the final judgement day.
Present Heaven & Eternal Heaven
The heaven or paradise that Jesus promised the criminal on the cross in Luke 23 can be called Present Heaven or Intermediate Heaven. This is because Judgment Day has not yet come, so the promise of paradise is referring to immediately after death (Intermediate Heaven). We see this same concept from Paul as He says, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” in Philippians 1:21. In verse 23 of that same chapter Paul says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” Philippians 1:23. When Paul expresses his desire to be with Christ after he dies, he is not referring to being with Him in Heaven after Judgement Day but to be with Him immediately after he passes. This is why to die is gain in Paul’s eyes. Heaven after Judgement Day is where the Saints will receive their glorified bodies and reign for eternity with Christ. We see this idea of Eternal Heaven in Revelation 21:1-3.
In the second week of our Heaven and Hell series we asked a series a questions focusing around the present or intermediate state of Heaven.
1. Where is Present Heaven?
2. Is Present Heaven a physical place?
3. Will we have bodies in Present Heaven?
4. What will Present Heaven be like?
Here are some possible ways to answer these questions to help you wrap your mind around Scripture referring to Present Heaven along with a link to the full sermon below.
- Present Heaven is not somewhere we can take a plane or a rocket. The Present Heaven is less geographically located and more like another dimension. We see this idea when Jesus ascends into Heaven and then disappears in Luke 24:51.
- Present Heaven is a physical place. We see this idea in Scripture when Stephen is being stoned in Acts 7:54-60. Stephen sees “Christ standing on the right hand of God” vs 55-56. Stephen did not see Christ hovering or floating, but standing. In order to stand, one must have something to stand on which points to Present Heaven being physical.
- We cannot truly know if we will have bodies in Present Heaven but the answer may be closer to yes than no. The reason for yes can be found in Revelations 10:9-10 where the Apostle John is taken into Heaven and he grabs, tastes, and eats. In order to do this one must have a physical body. Some may label this as merely a vision which is why one cannot be wholeheartedly sure. But this piece of Scripture must be noted when dealing with this question.
- Although Scripture does not give us specific details about Present Heaven, one can see in Scripture there is continuity between what’s happening on Earth and what’s happening in Present Heaven. We see this in Revelations 6:9-11 as some martyrs are crying out to The LORD asking when will their blood be avenged. This text shows the people who are in present Heaven being aware of the fact that sin is still in the world and God has not completely done away with it. This is one detail that Scripture reveals about the Present Heaven.
For a more in depth hearing of this message and topic please click on the link below: