“Now my idea about heaven is …” and then the writer or speaker reveals himself far more than he tells us about heaven. The materialist, sensual, mystical, aesthetic, and surrealist all have a field day with heaven. It is “pie in the sky” to those who ridicule its reality; and an extremely plush “paid vacation” for those who equate “real” with earthly literalism. “Heaven” is a divinely revealed place, state, or condition; and we can know only that which is revealed about it in God’s word. We say “place” with some hesitation, using accommodative language; for “location” is space related, and may lose its literal significance when applied to eternity. But God’s word is directed to time and space related beings, and information about deity and eternity are necessarily couched in terms that translate into mental images. We cannot truly imagine “eternity” or things eternal in nature, so we must expect the Bible to use anthropomorphisms: whereby things of God, totally incomprehensible to mortal man, are described in the time and space terms of man.
Jewish typology finds its final usage here. God built a literal people, a literal nation, through whom His Son would put on flesh and dwell among men. He used these people, a distinct advantage to them, as His vehicle for demonstrating God-to-man dealings (Rom. 3:1f; 9:4-5). Then, as His eternal purpose began to reach its fruition in Christ, the literal kingdom of Israel is seen as a type of His spiritual rule over whosoever will. Christ reigns on “David’s throne,” and is our High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Acts 2:30f; Heb. 6:20f). Scattered Israel finds a “highway” and “returns … in righteousness” (Isa. 10:20f; 35:8f); and all Christians are “Abraham’s seed” or “the Israel of God” (Gal. 3:29; 6:16). It should come as no surprise that heaven is called “New Jerusalem”; and praise to God there is described in Jewish terms: “golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints” (Rev. 5:8).