I was recently given a book by a protestant friend, “My Time in Heaven,” by Richard Sigmund. The author claims that it is a true account of his near death experience and his brief sojourn in Heaven during it. There are many details about Heaven in this book, which the author claims are true.
I cannot help but feel a bit uneasy reading it. I don’t believe the author’s claim that it is a true account of his experience, but believe instead that it is fiction. But more importantly, it raises a more general question for me: are we to speculate on what Heaven will be like? I know we are discouraged from speculation about the Parousia: the time, the place, the exact events, etc. I wonder if heavenly speculation is also in that same category.
I myself believe that Heaven will be so far beyond our current corporeal experience that any conjecture on the details is pointless.
And I keep thinking of 1 Corinthians 2:9
“But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.”
Are we allowed to speculate about the details of Heaven?
Details? I wouldn’t spend too much time speculating on the details of Heaven. I think the Scripture you provided has the answer…and you have already come to the correct conclusion: no matter what we may imagine Heaven to be or to look like…we are most likely grossly underestimating the reality. Which is why I wouldn’t spend too much time in speculation. It’s going to be so far above any human expectations that we may have!
Certainly we can speculate, as long as we make it clear we are speculating. I have two books in front of me by Catholic authors that are the products of educated speculation (it is still speculation since neither author has actually been to Heaven… yet)
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven, But Never Dreamed of Asking, by Peter Kreeft
A Travel Guide to Heaven by Anthony De Stefano.
These two books rely on Scripture and Church teaching, better I think than someone’s anecdotal account of actually having been there and back.
I think its pointless to speculate about heaven or hell, and agree, that both are more than likely beyond anything we could even think of anyway. When we dream or speculate, or try to guess how another place will be, we can only use what we currently know as a base, so we would be trying to ‘paint’ a picture of heaven/hell using only earthly themes, as we know nothing else, so not really possible imo anyway.
Heaven and hell will be SOOOO different than anything we could possibly imagine, but it is fun to think how it could be sometimes.
The problem with that, as I see it, is why would God have Heaven resemble or even have some of the same things, as earth, which is only our worldly home and only for a VERY VERY short time, our bodies are the same thing, they are basically only ‘meat suits’, we only use them for the length of our lives, so around 50-80 years for most people…compared to the immortal nature of our REAL self, that is nothing and probably not even worth thinking about once in the afterlife.
people naturally describe heaven (and hell) using earthly and worldly terms, because, that is really all we know, so that is our base line, we dont know anything else, so we have no choice but to use earth as a baseline. However I find it VERY unlikely heaven or hell even slightly resembles earth at all…I think its more likely we wont even recognize either one, it will be SOOOO different, we literally wont be able to give an explanation.
Think of it like this…if I ask you to describe the interior of an alien spaceship…but you have never seen the inside of one…so in your mind, you would start to develop a mental picture of it, but you would be using worldly things in your image, like a metal floor, some sort of control panel, banks of switches and levers, pilots chairs, etc. BUT, in reality…the REAL alien space ships probably look nothing like this…we could not form an accurate image in our head because we only know OUR world and whats in it.
Plus, they need to give us some description we could understand, if they described how it truly is, we would not be able to comprehend it, so it wouldnt make any sense to us upon first hearing it, they are likely doing this for our benefit, equating heaven with the best and most beautiful here on earth, so we get the idea.
I don’t agree with much of this, although I will admit that my thoughts are speculation.
First of all, our bodies are not just “meat suits” for our souls. A human being is a body and a soul. In fact, one could say our soul’s purpose is the animating force for our body, without the body it has little purpose. The period between our death and the resurrection, when our body and soul is separated, is temporary. We will never be like angels: purely spiritual, complete beings.
That being the case, it seems to me that heaven must have a physical aspect to it, since the human inhabitants will have physical bodies.
Why would God make heaven resemble earth? Because He made earth as the home for the human person. Now, since the fall, earth has been corrupted, so heaven will certainly be a “earth” in its uncorrupted state. That will be vastly different than anything we know. But that does not mean it won’t resemble earth. And we when (if) we see it, we will be able to give an explanation. We will see exactly what it was in our current earth, and our current body, that was corrupted and understand why it is then different.
True. And don’t forget the New Heavens and New Earth that is going to be our dwelling. There is another issue. What about the unbaptized? I believe that the New Earth will serve as their dwelling, as it is the opinion of some theologians.
From “The Future Life” by Fr. Joseph C. Sasia: “What about the place of their [unbaptized] abode? Where shall it be? Learned theologians, says Suarez, piously think that our own earth, renewed and embellished, after the destructive fire of the last day, will consititute their abode.”
Here is what the Catechism has to say about the New Heavens and New Earth if anyone is interested.
1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
The Church . . . will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.631
1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, "new heavens and a new earth."632 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head "all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth."633
1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.634 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."635
1045 For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation and of which the pilgrim Church has been "in the nature of sacrament."636 Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city” of God, "the Bride, the wife of the Lamb."637 She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community.638 The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion.
1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.639
1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.640
1048 "We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men."641
1049 "Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society."642
1050 "When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise . . . according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom."643 God will then be “all in all” in eternal life:644
True and subsistent life consists in this: the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, pouring out his heavenly gifts on all things without exception. Thanks to his mercy, we too, men that we are, have received the inalienable promise of eternal life.645"
I share your discomfort and skepticism with accounts of “near death” experiences.
Especially since most of them happen on hospital operating tables under the influence of excellent drugs.
As far a s being “allowed” to speculate…as long as you know that’s what you’re doing, it’s probably allowable. That’s different that whether it’s a good idea.
I don’t do it myself, because I think we’re all in for a big surprise, no matter what our religion or beliefs are. So my view is that it’s best to try to get there, and trust in Him about what it is.