Protestants believe in literal heaven?


#1

I just got through talking to some Protestant friends of mine, and they were saying things like, “the streets of heaven are paved with gold, but it is so fine that it is clear.”

They also said that it was certain amount of miles from end to end, and that it was a perfect square. They said the walls were adorned with every jewel imaginable.

I suppose this comes from the idea of a “literal” interpretation and I assume it came from Revelations and maybe some of the prophets (Daniel and Isaiah).

On some fronts, I can accept it because we will still be our physical selves if we make it to heaven. My trouble is, didn’t the prophets and John use overly expressive language to make a point? What are Catholics to make of this interpretation? I would assume heaven would be more than can be described in words. This was the first time I came across this. What do the Catholics (or Protestants) on the board think?


#2

I certainly believe in a literal heaven, as there is a literal hell. Why shouldn’t we? Jesus said, I go to my father’s house and I go to prepare a PLACE for you. Also in the revelation of John, John saw a city with walls and a river, clear as crystal, with trees on both sides of this river. John also said the city has 12 gates which have inscribed in them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps the streets are gold, for that indeed is a pure metal.

                           There also is a temple in heaven and the the ark of the covenant resides within that temple. Also myriads of angels and other heavenly beasts inhabit heaven. Heaven is a real place, with buildings, water, trees, light, angels and the saints of God.

                            John the apostle said someday that same city which now is in heaven, will descend to the NEW earth and will reside upon it. It was St Augustine who was chiefly responsible for allergorizing every prophetic writing in the New Testament. It became so ridiculous that it was believed a thousand angels could dance on the head of a pin. When in reality, angels are created beings, just as we are, who occupy time and space.

#3

Yes… I had heard that before from my husbands family. I think the square concept comes from the fact that Jesus told us he would build us many rooms…and he said my father’s house. You’re right…very literal interpretation.


#4

There’s a difference between a literal translation and a literalist translation of the bible.


#5

[quote=piety101]When in reality, angels are created beings, just as we are, who occupy time and space.
[/quote]

You are half right. Angels are created beings, but they do not occupy time and space.

The Church teaches that heaven is a place – it has to be for the glorified bodies of Jesus and Mary to be there. But eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, nor has it so much as entered into the mind of man what God has in store for those who love him.

The main point is that, God willing, we will see God face to face, and know him, even as we are known.

Streets paved with gold, sort of pale in comparison.


#6

[quote=piety101]I certainly believe in a literal heaven, as there is a literal hell. Why shouldn’t we? Jesus said, I go to my father’s house and I go to prepare a PLACE for you. Also in the revelation of John, John saw a city with walls and a river, clear as crystal, with trees on both sides of this river. John also said the city has 12 gates which have inscribed in them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Perhaps the streets are gold, for that indeed is a pure metal.

There also is a temple in heaven and the the ark of the covenant resides within that temple. Also myriads of angels and other heavenly beasts inhabit heaven. Heaven is a real place, with buildings, water, trees, light, angels and the saints of God.

John the apostle said someday that same city which now is in heaven, will descend to the NEW earth and will reside upon it. It was St Augustine who was chiefly responsible for allergorizing every prophetic writing in the New Testament. It became so ridiculous that it was believed a thousand angels could dance on the head of a pin. When in reality, angels are created beings, just as we are, who occupy time and space.
[/quote]

I guess I should have phrased the question better. I certainly believe in a literal heaven. What I meant was can the human authors (albeit with divine guidance) of the Bible do it justice? I guess what I meant to ask is, are the descriptions of heaven from the Bible meant to be taken as literal? Or are they just to give us a conception of what it will be like?

Also, in regards to angels, I don’t think they are material beings. Just because they are created doesn’t mean they exist in time, or that they have a physical size. To be “created” doesn’t equal, “material” in my mind.

I think heaven, as well, is outside of time. Otherwise, there is no way the saints could “hear” our prayers. There wouldn’t be enough time for the millions of prayers they get. Especially our Lady. She would never have time to herself if she existed in time.


#7

Angels do occupy time and space. Just as the stars and the planets do. There are earthly bodies and there are heavenly bodies, but nevertheless, each has it’s own body, whether heavenly or earthly. We are encompassed by myriads of angels, good and bad. But you can’ t see them in their natural state, because we dwell in a physical three dimensional realm. The angels dwell in a spiritual or heavenly realm. But when they enter our dimension they are VERY visible. As when the angels visited Lot and his family during the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.


#8

[quote=Dan-Man916]There’s a difference between a literal translation and a literalist translation of the bible.
[/quote]

Could you enumerate? I’ve heard the distinction before, but can’t remember the gist of it.

Thanks.


#9

Some Protestants believe that about the square heaven (from the description of the New Jerusalem). But only some Protestants. I never believed that, and it wasn’t taught at any church I went to.

Other Protestants (of which I wasn’t one either) believe that heaven is a planet in space on which God (who is human shaped) lives. The Dake Study Bible teaches that God is going to move his capital city from planet heaven to planet earth after Christ has already lived here for 1000 years.

According to the study notes heaven is a created planet like the earth, somewhere in the north part of the universe (and there I was thinking that verse had something to do with Jerusalem), is round and perhaps larger than the earth judging from the size of its cities. It has real cities, temples, food, mansions and a lot of other things. For more details see his notes on Ps11:4 which use as literal truth probably over 200 scripture references to show what heaven is like.

I have a Dake Bible in print and on computer - some of his notes are fantastic in the sense of being wonderful. Some others I think are more fantastic in the sense of being fantasy. He takes everything literally if at all possible (except for things like John 6 and the words of institution of the Eucharist).

Personally I think Dake’s literalism led him into all sorts of problems. But I still refer to his Bible for cross-references, subject indexes, Greek/Hebrew definitions and for other reasons, including curiosity (I wonder what he says about …)

I’ve never been in a church that teaches what Dake taught about heaven, but I have heard of some on TBN talking about planet heaven - Dake is almost unheard of but his influence is wide in some circles.

On the other hand, if Enoch, Elijah and Mary (and Jesus) have all been taken bodily to heaven, what views of heaven fit in with this?


#10

Angels can surely make themselves visible to us if they choose. God has chosen to use visible angels as messengers described in various ways in the bible.

But angels in their essence are non-material. They are purely spiritual beings. To be made only of spirit means they do not occupy space or time, because they have no parts or extensions.

We occupy space because our bodies need space into which our various parts are extended. This is a limitation: what has parts can come apart.

In heaven after the resurrection we will still have our bodies. But they will be glorified bodies with preternatural properties we do not now possess. Like Jesus appearing to the Apostles after the resurrection, our bodies will be able to pass through solid objects, and traverse space and time without passing through the points in between.

But streets made of gold? I suspect it’s a metaphor, not a physical description.


#11

[quote=JimG]Angels can surely make themselves visible to us if they choose. God has chosen to use visible angels as messengers described in various ways in the bible.

But angels in their essence are non-material. They are purely spiritual beings. To be made only of spirit means they do not occupy space or time, because they have no parts or extensions.

We occupy space because our bodies need space into which our various parts are extended. This is a limitation: what has parts can come apart.

In heaven after the resurrection we will still have our bodies. But they will be glorified bodies with preternatural properties we do not now possess. Like Jesus appearing to the Apostles after the resurrection, our bodies will be able to pass through solid objects, and traverse space and time without passing through the points in between.

But streets made of gold? I suspect it’s a metaphor, not a physical description.
[/quote]

Thank you, Jim G. This was what I was getting at. I am sure it is in the CCC.


#12

Hmm, has it not been said that those who have been given glimpses of heaven could not describe it?. I wonder how accurate revelations is with regard to likeness to earthly things.?Maybe it was the best John could do.


#13

Angels DO have body parts. They are not just like the wind. John saw the angels in heaven, along with the four beasts. The old testament describes cherubims with wings. Two angels went to Sodom to visit with Lot. Nowhere does it say in scripture that angels materialize bodies, when on earth. They simply enter our plane of dimension and they become visible. If angels were bodiless, then the prophets, nor John could have said they actually seen them and wrote of it.


#14

as a former protestant I would say that most do believe in a literal heaven as described in Revelations and Daniel,but… these desriptions are of the spiritual realm (outside of our space & time) and would be just as real to our spiritual bodies.

unfortunately Hell just doesn’t seem to exist for OSASer’s, except for those other people & don’t even think of them believing in Purgatory (except for skiing)


#15

[quote=JP2Admirer]Could you enumerate? I’ve heard the distinction before, but can’t remember the gist of it.

Thanks.
[/quote]

In reference to literal versus literalist interpretation - I’ve heard John Martignoni talk about this (www.bcs.com - awesome site and excellent free apologetic cds). Catholics interpret the bible literally - meaning we try to understand what the author intended to communicate. Fundamentalists interepret (usually) the bible as a literalist would - every word means exactly what it says (except for John 6, of course…sorry, had to get that in there).

Here is the example Martignoni gives:
If I read in the bible ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’, the Catholic would interpret that literally, meaning we would know that during the time this was written, this expression means that it’s raining a lot, and that is the concept the author was tconveying. The literalist view would understand it to mean cats and dogs are actually falling from the sky, disregarding figures of speech used at the time of writing, customs, culture. Hope this helps.


#16

[quote=Elzee]I’ve heard John Martignoni talk about this (www.bcs.com - awesome site and excellent free apologetic cds).
[/quote]

The British Cardiac Society :smiley:

here it is www.biblechristiansociety.com


#17

piety101: Just because something can appear in our physical world does not make it physical. Holograms can appear as well, but are completely immaterial. You seem to be confusing image (wings, shape, ect.) with matter (existing as physical “stuff”). There is nothing to indicate that angels have physical properties like we do, and traditionally the Church has held that they do not. From the CCC:

328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.

Definition of corporeal:

cor·po·re·al( P ) Pronunciation Key
adj.
[list=1]
*]Of, relating to, or characteristic of the body. See Synonyms at bodily.
*]Of a material nature; tangible.
[/list]Therefore non-corporeal, or incorporeal, is:

in·cor·po·re·al ( P ) Pronunciation Key
adj.
[list=1]
*]Lacking material form or substance. See Synonyms at immaterial.
*]Law. Of or relating to property or an asset that does not have value in material form, as a right or patent.
[/list]This is the understanding and teaching of the Church on the nature of angels.


#18

piety 101: it is a truth of the faith that angels exist, that they do not have bodies, that they have “appeared” to certain saints and have had effects in the physical world.

I think the problem you are having is this: how can they appear, i.e. be visible to the eye, tangible to the hand, act in time and space at all if they are not material and not in time and space.

I don’t think there is an official explanation. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, acknowledged that they can act in time and space, even as God, who is pure spirit, does. The only stipulation that St. Thomas saw was that an angel, or all angels collectively, cannot have power equal to God, so they (one and all) are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.

As for appearing, he seemed to think there were two possibilities: (1) angels cause people to have a hallucination of them as being where they want to be seen, doing what they want to be seen as doing, etc. or (2) angels affect the world to cause some matter to appear to men to be as they wish. Thomas seemed to think (1) was a kind of deception, so he thought (2) was true: angels manipulate matter, “clothing” themselves in vapor, or light or something, to be able to really be visible to the eye of man. In themselves, being without matter, they are invisible.


#19

I disagree. There are all sorts of bodies and forms in the universe whether terrestrial or extra terrestrial. On earth there are terrestrial beings. Man, plants and animals. In the universe there are the planets and the stars and I suspect other living beings on other worlds we are yet to discover. But other wordly beings is conjecture on my part.

                          Despite Catholic theologians such as Ambrose and Augustine, heaven is a very real place. I have talked to people who have had OBE and lived to retell their stories. My former wife was one. There are trees, meadows, rivers, birds and people from all walks of life dwelling in heaven. Their are beautiful homes, streets and gardens in heaven as well. Christ also is there in a BODY. The Father resides in his temple in heaven and angels attend to him. Angels are also real beings who have form, shape and bodies. But bodies of a heavenly nature. They are created beings. Each of us have personal guardian angels who are with us til we die and assist us in passing over into the light, through the tunnel.

                             Man in his own foolish knowledge thinks he is superior and the only beings that house space and time in this vast universe. Man is very ignorant and egotistical. Man will be dealt with accordingly, when our heavenly Father sends his Son back to the earth at some distant time, only known to him

                             We live in dimensions. We are in the third dimension. But there are dimensions beyond our own. There are also parallel worlds similar to our own. Sometimes due to a time flux,  aircraft and ships pass thru a deeper dimension and never return. Man is but an ant in knowledge to what lies beyond these dimensions and within our own universe. 

                               But getting off track, angels are actual beings, with bodies and form. They can enter our dimension at will. Yes, they can appear in many forms, because of molecular structuring that is an unknown science that we are yet to understand. 

                                Angels, both good and bad have enormous power. They are constantly at war maintaining balance within the universe and on our planet, as well as parallel worlds beyond our dimension. I have studied this matter out through research and dealing with many people from all walks of life. You may think angels are mere spirits, formless and invisible, but this is far from the truth. Many on earth have seen and entertained angels unaware they ever did so.

#20

I am not sure how much we disagree, and how much is a matter of misunderstanding. When I say angels and God are pure spirit without any body or matter, I still think they are real. Something can be real and not be a body. Spirits are real, but have no matter or body. It is not that they are “mere” spirits or whisps of vapor: spiritual reality is more real than material reality. You could say spirits exist in another dimension, but I think it is more proper to say they exist outside of dimensions, since it is a property of material things to occupy space. Material things are also subject to transmutational (transitive) change or motion, and so subject to time. Pure spirits do not change, at lease not in this sense, and so are outside of time. Nevertheless, pure spirits (both God and angels) can cause effects in the world of time and space, and so, in a sense, be seen and heard. I don’t think this happens through any “molecular science” we could ever understand or duplicate. It is a unique angelic power. All the spatio-temporal universe (or parallel worlds) with planets, moons and stars are still part of the material (as opposed to spiritual) realm.

Yes, heaven is a place, because that is where Christ’s resurrected body is “at the right hand of God” and where Mary’s glorified, assumed body is, but thrones, streets and gardens are generally understood to be metaphorical. When I have heard of a saint who has been granted a vision of heaven, what predominates is the vision of God’s glory, seeing Him face to face. There usually isn’t mention made of literal mansions and streets, etc.
Anyway, it is a truth of the Catholic faith that angels have no bodies, exist outside of space and time, but have effects in space and time. I am not sure how central this is to salvation, but there it is.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.