The Meaning of Heaven

The readings for June in A Year with C.S. Lewis begin with Lewis espousing the truth of the resurrection and conversing on what it means when applied to the hope we have in resurrection, and, ultimately, in Heaven. It’s an effective progression.

On June 4, for example, Lewis reminds us that Jesus is the pioneer of life, ushering in “a new chapter in cosmic history.” Then, he brings out the slight sameness and, even more, the stark differences of Jesus’ resurrected body.

“We must, indeed, believe the risen body to be extremely different from the mortal body,” we read on June 7, “but the existence, in that new state, of anything that could in any sense be described as ‘body’ at all, involves some sort of spatial relations and in the long run a whole new universe. That is the picture—not of unmaking but of remaking. The old field of space, time, matter, and the senses is to be weeded, dug, and sown for a new crop.”

If we are then to be remade new, we might wonder about that place that Jesus says he goes and prepares for us, the place where his Father’s house has many rooms, the place where the streets of gold are so pure they appear transparent.

On June 10, Lewis addresses the meaning of Heaven, listing four possibilities:

  1. unconditional divine life beyond all worlds;
  2. blessed participation in that Life by a created spirit;
  3. a whole nature where redeemed human spirits enjoy forever while remaining human;
  4. the physical Heaven, the sky, the space, in which the Earth moves.

Lewis’s response to these four is “latent.” All of these meanings of Heaven may have been at play in the New Testament, but the theology of Heaven was not in the minds or on the tongues of the disciples who stood watching Jesus leave by way of the clouds.

Nevertheless, Lewis argues in the reading for June 13, that Nature is by God’s design and it’s no accident that our longing is upward. The ancient religions that worshiped the sky or the sun from the sky were a veiled reflection of what God would reveal in Jesus, Heaven’s son who comes down in the form of man (Phil. 2).

We might say that Heaven is where God is and where Jesus went, but that would return us to a relationship with Jesus. He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going… I am the way, truth, and life” (John 14:3, 4, 6).

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