People have argued for centuries about Heaven. Some say it is a place and others say it is a state, but Scripture indicates it is both. It tells us in many places the Kingdom of Heaven is "within" and "among" us. Jesus tells us, "No one has gone up to Heaven except the One who came down from Heaven,—the Son of Man who is in Heaven." (Jn. 3:13)
Here we have a clear indication that Heaven is both a place and a state of soul. Jesus came down from Heaven, and because of His union with the Father, He was in Heaven.
So it is with us. When we keep His Word, He makes His home in us, and that is a Heaven on earth—the Kingdom within us. (Jn. 14:23)
When we die and our souls leave our bodies to await the Second Coming, Jesus promised us a place to live. "I am going now to prepare a place for you, that after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with Me: so that where I am, you may be also."(Jn. 14:2,3)
At death, we see Jesus face to Face. He comes for us because all during our life, through joys and sorrows, He prepares a place of glory for us in His Kingdom. He used everything to change us to His Image and we shall take our places in the Kingdom according to the clarity of His Features in our souls. There are many rooms in His Father's House and glory will differ from glory as star differs from star.
Jesus used many parables to show us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, but most of them seem like only the frame of a building—a building not finished or furnished.
The reason for this is that the Lord is speaking of different aspects or parts of the same Kingdom of Heaven. Wherever God is, there is Heaven and since God is everywhere, Heaven is everywhere.
We must remember that Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven within us, around us, and above us.
There are not three Heavens—only one Heaven. We live in the first two phases during our earthly pilgrimage, and the third—in the Eternal Kingdom.
Our concept of Heaven, with all its glory and our realization of the misery within and around us, makes the concept of Heaven on earth unreal and exaggerated.
No human mind would ever think there could be such a thing as Heaven on earth, but since Jesus revealed it, we must see what He means.
The first thing we think of about Heaven is the Love that reigns there. We will love everyone, and everyone will love us—love us with a completely unselfish love. We will love in the same way God loves.
We shall all be changed from self-centered individuals to God-centered sons. We shall see as we have been seen and know as we have been known.
Our Memory will be at peace, no longer tormenting us with guilt complexes, resentments or the recollection of old injuries. It will rejoice over its past weaknesses as it praises the Mercy of God, who was so bountiful in its regard.
Our Understanding will comprehend the deepest mysteries with ease, ever delighting in the limitless realms that it can roam, as it constantly learns new things about God and His glorious works.
We shall be free—really free—free from unbridled passions that cause turmoil in our souls—free of those uncontrolled emotions that drive us from exaltation to desperation—free of the possessiveness of friends and the hatred of enemies.
We shall stand tall and unafraid of anyone or anything. Death and all the separations it imposes will be gone forever. Fear will be unknown and unfelt in that place. Only perfect peace and loving serenity will be our portion—and that forever.
We shall see God in everyone and everywhere and the most exalted creatures—the Angelic Hosts—will be our most intimate friends.
The Kingdom among us depends upon the Heaven within each member of the Christian community. It must begin "within" before it can reach out to others. There can be no compromise between good and evil—virtue and vice.
Our human nature longs for love and to be with the one we love, so it is both natural and supernatural to desire God and Heaven—to desire Love and the possession of that Love—to desire Union and the place where that union is most perfect. Jesus has asked us to keep the Father's Word that we may live in the Father's House, for this is the purpose of our creation and the end of our pilgrimage.
Jesus never forgot His Father or His Home, so we must follow in His footsteps and see the place to which He leads us.
Joys Of Heaven
It is difficult for us to envision the joys of Heaven because all the joys we experience in this life are short-lived. They are tempered by the realization that sorrow usually follows.
In Heaven this will not be so. Our joy will be complete and eternal. It will never be lessened by any sorrow, for sorrow will be no more. "God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; there will be no more death and no more mourning or sadness." (Rev. 21:4)
When those tears have been wiped away by the Hand of God, we shall gaze into His Face and see what eyes have never seen or imagined. The beauty and joy of that moment is so exquisite that only the immortal soul, separated from the body in death could gaze upon it and live.
It is a light so bright and a beauty so ravishing, that the created soul would be annihilated by the sight, had not God given it grace—a divine participation in His own nature—a gift by which it can "carry the weight of eternal glory."(2 Cor. 4:17)
To know that we are loved totally and without limit by such a great God will fill our souls with a joy that we cannot conceive on each.
The joy of all joys shall come when God writes His Name on our foreheads and gives each one of us a name—a name known and understood only by God and our soul. (Rev. 22:4; Is. 62:2)
We shall be as one who has fought the good fight and arrived home to be refreshed and strengthened—not for more combat, but for the reward of victory—victory over sin, weakness and evil.
In Heaven our joy will be enhanced by the presence of loved ones, old acquaintances and people we have read or heard about. We will be happy to see them and they will rejoice over our presence in their midst.
Everyone in Heaven radiates God in a different way and degree. Each one will have that degree of love and union he had at the moment of death. When we die, we cease to merit; we cease to use our talents; it is the time of reward or punishment. Whatever talents we have been given, used, and increased will be ours for all eternity. We will be rewarded in proportion to the way our free will chose God above ourselves and the world.
This means that our capacity for love and joy will be set forever and each of us will radiate Jesus in a different way.
We shall receive a "denarius" (Heaven) for our wages, but each will enjoy the glory of Heaven according to his capacity for Love.
It is so in this world. We all live on the same planet—Earth, but each has a different personality, intelligence, virtue and talents. We have all received the denarius of life, but each one uses that opportunity in a different way.
It is not important what we possess in this world; it is how we use these possessions that counts. Jesus warned us not to judge Heaven by worldly standards, for the "first" here may be the "last" there.
The joy of those who have suffered much will be greater than those who have suffered little. The joy of those who have loved much will be greater than those who have loved less.
Because our joy in Heaven has God for its Source, it will be everlasting in duration and insatiable in capacity. It will always be fresh because there will always be something new to be joyful about.
There will never be anything to mar or lessen our joy because, unlike the joy on earth which springs forth from people and things in a constant state of change, this Joy is like God—Changeless, because it springs from an infinite source of beauty and love.
Work In Heaven
The question as to what we shall do in Heaven has puzzled millions of people throughout the centuries. Though we regard Heaven as a place of rest, it is certainly not a "do nothing" place.
We often forget that everything we see, animate or inanimate, is a visual manifestation of the work of our invisible God. We have become so accustomed to trees, mountains, sky, air, water, flowers, animals, vegetables and people that we no longer see them for what they are—God's work.
It may be well for us to examine the word "work" before we go on. The word "work" normally means exertion, fatigue and physical effort—all geared towards the accomplishment of a goal. The goal being the preservation of life as we produce food to eat, clothing to wear, money to use, luxuries to buy and possessions to hold. The very thought of work in Heaven is distressing because physical work is something we dread to begin and long to end.
The physical work necessary to maintain life is the lowest type of work. There is an intellectual work by which we acquire knowledge to store in our Memory or to give to others.
There is also Spiritual work by which we are not only enlightened but changed.
In fact, all work has the power to change. It changes things and it changes people. The difference lies in the fact that while both physical and intellectual work changes things, spiritual works change souls.
In Heaven, we shall look down upon those we love on earth and pray for them. Our prayers in Heaven shall be totally unselfish and united to God's Will, without any mixture of fear, uncertainty or hesitation. We will ask and will know the reason why some of our prayers are not answered and we will marvel at His Love and Wisdom.
God will often give us permission and power to help those on earth by invisibly directing their ways to the path of God. We will be able to fight the evil spirits as they tempt those we love. We will fight as sons of God—powerful and unafraid, dispelling those enemies of God and triumphantly paving the way for those still in the earthly Kingdom to travel in peace. We will continue to work for the Kingdom until every last sheep is in the fold.
We have an example of this in the Book of Daniel. We read that the Archangel Gabriel, who was given charge over a nation to aid and protect it, was finding opposition from another Angel whose nation was a rival to Gabriel's charge. (Daniel 10:13-19)
We read this amazing account with a spirit of incredulity, but this is only because we lack an understanding of the Love and Power of God. In our pride we reject any concept of pure spirits and when we read of them working for our salvation, we look upon these accounts as fairy tales.
Gabriel had been sent by God to tell Daniel about the coming struggle between Israel and their pagan neighbors The prophecy of the Angel was one that the guardians of these pagan nations feared, for it might lessen the time of their charges' repentance.
The Prince of Persia was desperately biding time for his nation to repent and so he resisted Gabriel. This indicates that the fate of nations is something known only to God and as long as God's Will was hidden from them, these Angel Guardians persevered in interceding and protecting their charges.
When Gabriel left to deliver his message to Daniel, he asked the great Angel Michael to take his place while those great Princes interceded before the Most High for their charges.
We feel we are given a look into Heaven as we read this—a Heaven filled with spirits totally given to God and yet interested in our earthly welfare. We will also be interested in our brothers' welfare on earth and we shall pray for them with love and concern.
Unlike our interest on earth, our heavenly concern will be based on perfect knowledge of their condition and sufferings and how these sufferings increase their eternal glory. We will work for their salvation and perform whatever task is assigned to us by God in this regard.
To serve is to work and the work we do here, so mixed with pride, ambition, fatigue and exertion, will be changed into effortless. tireless, selfless and undistracted work.
We must not compare the work of Heaven with the work or talents we have on earth. The kind of work we have here is necessary for this material world. The talents we possess are also geared towards our earthly existence.
We often look at Heaven through the eyes of this world and we become confused. To most of us Heaven is a place of eternal rest—absence of work—a place of lulled sleep.
But this is not the Heaven we see in Scripture and as we change places—earth to Heaven; change characteristics—self to Jesus; change names—our own for a new one, so we shall change work—earthly to Heavenly.
In Heaven we shall sing in tunes, in heart and in mind, for there we shall see Everlasting Beauty face to Face and we shall burst forth in songs unsung before—songs in the Spirit—spontaneous, free flowing, rich in melody, pleasing to the ear and personal.
We will sing alone of the Mercy of the Lord in our individual lives and we shall sing together of His Victory and Power.
Those of us on earth who have been deprived of a beautiful voice or were born deaf and dumb will sing and hear the most beautiful of melodies.
The deaf will hear tones and songs that others will never hear because God is just and His Justice will make up to them for ail the sounds and music they have never heard. We on earth look upon the deaf with sympathy, but in Heaven, where the last are first, their souls will be delighted with the most exquisite tones for all eternity. They will forget the sorrow of their earthly privation as soon as they hear a voice for the first time—the Voice of God!
Who could ever describe the ecstasy of that moment—the moment a person born deaf, dumb or blind dies and sees God, hears God and speaks to God!
Excerpts from INSIDE THE KINGDOM by Mother M. Angelica
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