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Article 0105 - Heaven: Types & Figures
Heaven: Its Types and Figures
Jon Gary Williams
The thoughts of most Christians pertain to this present life. We think of our home here on earth, the family into which we were born, the hour of our marriage, the time when we begin to contemplate having our own home, as well as many other material things. These things are certainly important, but there is another place - - another home - - that is far more important.
We, of course, are speaking our eternal home, the home of the soul. This is a place which should be of profound interest to us. To entertain the thought of heaven will make us more spiritually minded and less concerned about worldly things. It will help remind us that this present world is not our true abiding place, but is only a temporary dwelling abode for our physical being.
The Bible gives us many descriptions of the heaven. These are found in the forms of types and figures which help us grasp the true significance of heaven.
Types Describing Heaven
Garden Of Eden
Eden's physical garden exemplifies heaven. The original garden was a place of sinlessness; in the eyes of God it was hallowed. Likewise, heaven is a place where no sin is known and where absolute holiness will forever characterize its inhabitants. Found in the garden of Eden was the "tree of life" (Gen. 2:9). In heaven is found the spiritual "tree of life" (Rev. 2:7). Heaven will be a place of pure beauty and splendor beyond anything we can imagine.
Land of Canaan
Canaan was the wonderful promised land of the Jews. It was described as a land of abundance, a land "flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:8, 17). Heaven is also a wonderful place of promise. It holds an abundance of riches beyond anything we can envision. In heaven we will receive a "crown of righteousness" (II Tim. 4:8). In contrast to the afflictions of this life, heaven will be "an eternal weight of glory" (II Cor. 4:17).
Jerusalem was to the Jewish nation the greatest and most famous city in the world. It was their highly exalted "Zion," so named because this was the mount on which the city rested (Psa. 147:12). Likewise, heaven above is referred to as God's exalted city, "Zion" (Rev. 21:2). It is, indeed, the "New Jerusalem" (Rev. 3:12).
Most Holy Place
The Jewish temple had two sections. The first section, the "holy place," made up two thirds of the temple and was a type of the church. The second section was the "most holy place," where
the ark of the covenant was located, and into which the high priest entered to offer blood sacrifices (Heb. 9:1-3). This was a type of the wonderful, glorious heaven where Jesus ascended to offer His blood for our sins (Heb. 9:23, 24).
The Sabbath of the Mosaic law was the Jewish day of rest (Ex. 16:23). The word Sabbath means "rest." In contrast, in heaven a much greater rest is pictured. It is the ultimate "rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). We are to labor to "enter into that rest" (Heb. 4:11).
Figures Describing Heaven
Heaven is an actual place and not just a fanciful idea. Jesus specifically described heaven as a "place" (Jn. 14:2,3). This is the eternal home of the Father (Matt. 6:9). From this place Jesus came to earth and following His resurrection He returned there (Acts 1:9-11). Jesus said this place contained "many mansions" (Jn. 14:2) which is where the redeemed will abide.
In giving a symbolic, figurative picture of heaven, the apostle John said he was shown a great city descending from God (Rev. 21:2). The scriptures tell us that Abraham "waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). Also, of all the faithful of old we read that God "has prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11:16). The great cities built by man intrigue and impress us, but they all fade into obscurity when compared to the eternal city, heaven.
The apostle Paul referred to heaven as the "heavenly kingdom" (II Tim. 4:18), and the apostle Peter spoke of it as the "eternal kingdom" (II Pet. 1:11). While the Lord's church is God's kingdom on earth (Matt. 16:18,19; I Thess. 2:12), heaven is God's everlasting, perpetual kingdom.
A Victorious Crowning
We are told that heaven will be a victory for the redeemed. This victory is exemplified with the figure of a crown. The Bible teaches that faithful Christians will receive a "crown" (I Cor. 9:25). We are told that this crown is a "crown of rejoicing" (I Thess. 2:19). The apostle Paul said that he and all faithful Christians can anticipate a "crown of righteousness" (II Tim. 4:8). The apostle Peter said this crown would be the "crown of glory that does not fade away" (I Pet. 5:4).
For all of God's faithful, heaven is pictured as a wonderful inheritance. The Bible speaks of this inheritance as "the riches of the glory of His inheritance" (Col. 1:18). Christians are spoken of as "partakers of the inheritance of the saints" (Col. 1:12). The saved will "receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15). The apostle Peter said this is "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (I Pet. 1:4).