When I was really young there were no Easter bunnies around our place. The idea was introduced by the teacher of the small Lutheran Day School at Downfall Creak, near Guluguba, north of Miles, west of Toowoomba, when I was about seven or eight. We did have hens eggs coloured with dye, but no chocolate at all, let alone as eggs.
However, that’s not what Easter is about. It’s about the risen Christ, right? He conquered death and rose to heaven in a cloud, to sit at the right hand of God the Almighty, with a promise to return some day. So I was interested in an article What and where is heaven? The answers are at the heart of the Easter story.
That article is by Robyn J. Whitaker, Senior Lecturer in New Testament, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity, so she should know.
Before her, I decided to ask Dr Google – What actually happened when Jesus ascended into heaven?
I found that the Ascension of Jesus was a narrative of the gospel of Luke which:
- tells how Jesus leads the eleven disciples to Bethany, a village on the Mount of Olives, where he instructs them to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit: “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”
The Acts of the Apostles:
- describes a meal at which Jesus commands the disciples to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, a cloud takes him upward from sight, and two men in white appear to tell them (the disciples) that he will return “in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
But the author wasn’t there, and Luke and Acts were written by a man called Theophilus. We are not sure what he was up to when he wrote both books. However, the mention of Jesus disappearing into the clouds leads to this kind of problem if you are looking for heaven:
In the article we learn that 60% of Americans believe heaven is a place where people are reunited with their loved ones after death.
Whitaker tells us that when the authors were writing what became the New Testament they thought the earth was flat, that it was hot below (they got that right) and that heaven was above the blue dome they saw above them. According tp the Bible heaven was part of God’s creation, it was his home, but we could all aspire to go there after life on earth. However, Whitaker recalls:
- My pious Baptist grandmother once shockingly confessed, at the ripe old age of 93, that she didn’t want to go to heaven. “Why,” we asked? “Well, I think it will be rather boring just sitting around on clouds and singing hymns all day” she answered. She had a point.
Mark Twain might have agreed with her assessment. He once famously quipped that one should choose “heaven for the climate, hell for the company”.
Seriously though, although beliefs about heaven in the Bible are varied, complex and fluid, she discerns several lines of thought.
First, heaven was God’s dwelling:
- a place of peace, love, community, and worship, where God is surrounded by a heavenly court and other heavenly beings.
In physical nature the concept of God’s home was fleshed out by notions of paradise, which Whitaker says were influenced by Persian culture and particularly Persian Royal gardens (paridaida).
- Persian walled gardens were known for their beautiful layout, diversity of plant life, walled enclosures, and being a place where the royal family might safely walk. They were effectively a paradise on earth.
The garden of Eden in Genesis 2 is strikingly similar to a Persian Royal garden or paradise. It has abundant water sources in the rivers that run through it, fruit and plants of every kind for food, and it is “pleasing to the eye”. God dwells there, or at least visits, and talks with Adam and Eve like a King might in a royal garden.
These days paradise can take many forms, from tropical beaches to stairways into the clouds, pearly gates and golden cities. You can get a large variety of images from this site in exchange for earthly money.
However, the overall story is that humans were thrown out of the Garden of Eden for their sins, so Jesus conquering death not only brings the possibility of life ever after but a reconciliation with God. Reconciliation with God lies at the heart of the Easter story, and through the book of Revelation includes remaking our earthly existence so that peace and love prevail.
- Heaven or paradise in the Bible is a utopian vision, designed not only to inspire faith in God but also in the hope that people might embody the values of love and reconciliation in this world.
So peace and love to everyone!
My Easter was a barbecue in the park with most of the Brisbane Bahnisch mob, with a special in-law from japasn, plus a catch-up with my eldest son at Starbucks in the city (he has a contagious disease and probably should not have left his bed). Plus tapping away here. The suburbs around here have been almost empty. Listening for sounds I could only hear a couple of crows, no cars. Everyone scarpered to the beach, the mountains, or somewhere else.
This is what our dear leader was doing for part of the time:
That image appeared on Facebook, which, of course is evil, and I think sourced from someone Twittering at #happyclappersloganbogan. I don’t quite understand how these things work. Any way she/he helpfully added:
- This is just plain weird.
Blokey Dads don’t usually sway around with their eyes closed in a state of delirium with their hands in the air babbling unintelligible gibberish… unless they’ve had way too many beers at the pub & someone slots Chisel on the jukebox.
Exactly what (or who) is our Prime Minister under the bizarre influence of?
They look like Religious Extremists in a trance-like state.
Strange days indeed. Most peculiar Scomo.
That’s not very charitable. Perhaps he’s just warming up his vocal chords for his day job: