top of page

Revelation 21:1-6

Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Ooh, heaven is a place on earth They say in heaven, love comes first We’ll make heaven a place on earth Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.

In 1987 Belinda Carlisle released the song “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” and unknowingly gave theologians and pastors a great song to use when discussing the topic of heaven, especially in light of the book of Revelation. There are a few ways this song mirrors our epistle text for this Sunday: Revelation 21:1-6. It speaks of love having primacy in heaven, which the text shows us as it talks about there being no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. The whole text shows us the ways in which God loves us and is making all things new for us.

Another way in which this song mirrors our text is the primary one I want to focus in on. “Ooh, heaven is a place on earth!” Possibly without realizing it, Belinda Carlisle did a better job talking (or well, singing) about heaven then a lot of Christians in the last few centuries have. In the last few centuries the Christian view of heaven began to morph and change into something odd. It somehow began to change into an old heresy which has constantly been fought by the Church – Gnosticism. The view in Gnosticism is that there is a separation of spirit and body, with spirit being the higher and better of the two. The Church early on declared this to be heresy and helped its people to see the importance of both body and spirit and that the two cannot really be separated. Christians, however, began to fall back into gnostic thinking, and the view of heaven shifted. As the idea of the spirit took on more importance, and the body became less important, the view of heaven became one that is more spiritual, rather than physical. Thank God for Belinda Carlisle’s song and the book of Revelation to draw us back into orthodoxy.

Pastors, this Sunday is a great day to preach on the implication of the resurrection in regards to our view on heaven. The resurrection of Jesus is the example for all of us and the first fruit of what is to come. Jesus’s resurrection gives us a glimpse of what will happen to all of us one day. Instead of us being taken to heaven as some disembodied spirit, heaven will one day fully come down to earth where it will be as one. Just as Jesus came down and became one of us, so too will heaven. It will come down and heaven and earth will be made fully one. NT Wright states it like this in his book Surprised by Hope, “Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” We see that Jesus is the beginning of making all things new. His resurrection changes everything, and gives us glimpse of what that change will ultimately look like. This new creation or what can be called salvation

then, is not ‘going to heaven’ but ‘being raised to life in God’s new heaven and new earth.’ But as soon as we put it like this we realize that the New Testament is full of hints, indications, and downright assertions that this salvation isn’t just something we have to wait for in the long-distance future. We can enjoy it here and now (always partially, of course, since we all still have to die), genuinely anticipating in the present what is to come in the future. ‘We were saved,’ says Paul in Romans 8:24, ‘in hope.’ The verb ‘we were saved’ indicates a past action, something that has already taken place, referring obviously to the complex of faith and baptism of which Paul has been speaking in the letter so far. But this remains ‘in hope’ because we still look forward to the ultimate future salvation of which he speaks in (for instance) Romans 5:9, 10.

The joy of our faith, and part of its uniqueness, is that God comes and dwells among us. God became incarnate and walked among us. It doesn’t stop there, though. God and all of heaven will descend as heaven and earth become one; humanity will follow after Jesus through a grand resurrection. Our faith is not about us one day going to heaven, but instead it is about heaven coming down to us. So pastors, preach boldly of the hope of a bodily resurrection, preach boldly the joy of heaven coming down to earth, and preach about why that is important. Since heaven is coming down to earth, let’s prepare to live like that. Let’s live our lives as an example of the reality that is to come. We will be a resurrected people, so let’s take this Sunday to help our people embrace living out that future resurrected life here and now. As the song reminds us, “heaven is a place on earth,” and that place is everywhere on earth.


Additional Resources