The Myth of Heaven (?)


Our Pastor is preaching through 1 Corinthians.  Today we started chapter 15.  Paul is dealing with a Corinthian coterie that says there is no resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12).  It’s possible this was a group of Gnostics.  Gnostics said the body was meaningless.  It was only a house of corruption imprisoning the spirit.  Bodily resurrection would be an affront to Gnostics.  They were looking forward to an existence of pure spirit, free from the degradation of physicality.

Paul refutes these resurrection rejectors with the following points:

1) If there is no bodily resurrection then Christ hasn’t been raised (1 Cor. 15:13).

2) If Christ hasn’t been raised the gospel is a lie and the Corinthians have believed that lie (1 Cor. 15:14-15).

3) Even non-Christians recognize resurrection.  If they didn’t, why do they get baptized for dead people? (1 Cor. 15:29).

4) If Christ hasn’t been raised, why do people risk their lives preaching it? (1 Cor. 15:31-32).

As we reflected on the hope of bodily resurrection, I began to think about “going to heaven.”  Here’s the popular view: When we die, we embark on a disembodied, spiritual existence in heaven.  Is this similar to saying there is no resurrection?  Would Paul challenge us as he did the Corinthians?  What’s the point of bodily resurrection once we “go to heaven?”  Doesn’t this teaching have a Gnostic flavor?

I would love to hear what you think, whether it’s good, bad, or ugly.  Do Christians “go to heaven?”  Or is this a myth?  Comment below or email

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Would it feel better if we used the term “paradeisos” -Paradise? Jesus told the thief on the cross, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42) Paul mentions the man (whom we assume to be himself) who visited it. (2 Cor. 12:4) and Rev. 2:7 also talks about such a place. Paul also says that he would prefer to be “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” Then there is Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and “the bosom of Abraham.” Both imply a conscience existence and not some sort of deep sleep. Could this be the place of no more tears before our resurrected bodies are transformed, the bodies which will resemble our old bodies no more than a luxurious plant resembles a seed?

    Perhaps this place is not easy for us to describe (Paul certainly struggled) because as physical beings we simply do not have a grid for it?

    I have no idea what hell is either, but Jesus did not avoid the topic and spoke of Hades as an actual place. Perhaps heaven and Paradise or Hades/Gehenna and hell are different places or states of existence. I don’t know. This I do know: for followers of Jesus Christ there is no fear of death. Death has lost (past tense) its sting and precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of one of His saints.

    1. mrteague says:

      Charis, thanks for your thoughtful reply and the scripture references. I’m not going to say too much about what I think because I’ll probably write a post about it. I will say that, for me, it’s not a matter of terminology (i.e “heaven” vs. “paradise”). You’re right though: there is a lot about the next world that is a mystery to us now. 🙂

  2. Hi! I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet, but I think we are looking at eternity all wrong. As far as bodily resurrection, Jesus compared it to a seed dying in the ground. What we bury is not what comes up out of the ground. I believe some new type of physical form will come up, but I think it will have lost the limits of mortality just as a seed loses the limits of its shell. I think somehow our current physical bodies are like seeds which hold only a little capsule of life and that if it spiritually germinates and remains alive this side of eternity will grow into eternal life. At the end of time we will be judged either spiritually alive or spiritually dead. Those who are alive are transplanted into the Kingdom. Those who are dead are thrown into the fire and are destroyed. I think right now our disembodied souls go to a holding place either paradise or Hades, but in eternity, God makes a new heaven and new earth and the divide between the spiritual world (which is now mostly invisible to our physical eyes) and the tangible, empirically measured world will be lifted. All will be seen and all will be tangibly discernible. We will not “go to heaven” because what is now considered heaven will not exist. We will live on a new earth (and maybe other parts of the universe, ie the heavens?) filling creation with the likeness and image of God, ruling and reigning as public servants together forever. What we have done with our minas this side of eternity will determine our role on that side.

    1. mrteague says:

      Our thinking is the same on this. You articulated it very well so thanks for the comment! I have a booklet about the feasts, & you might like the section about Firstfruits as I go into resurrection & its agrarian parallels. A lot like what you said in your comment. Thanks & God bless!

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