By Will Green
There's a common perception out there that heaven (or eternal life in the new creation) is just a place. There's a common view that all God has to do to let people into heaven is put them in heaven. And that God doing this would instantly make hell empty.
The Bible also talks about heaven as a state of mind rather than a location:
Romans 14:17: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Psalm 16:11: You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 36:8-9: They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Luke 17:20-1: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."
In the Bible, heaven and eternal life also involve one's mind or self being deeply and intimately connected to God.
So heaven isn't just about going to a heavenly location in a spiritual dimension, it also involves a state of mind. Judging from the verses above, this state of mind involves experiencing whatever happiness or contentment God feels through being reconciled fully to God.
The question is: how do you get reconciled to God to experience a state of mind heaven? The problem is that our wrong actions (sin) separate us from the kind of closeness to God that is heaven. The Bible's answer to this problem is that God/Jesus Christ "bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness" (1 Pe 2:24
). This meant God could "[make] [us] alive with Christ" dealing with the problem (Col 2:13
) - meaning that although we can't avoid sinning in this life (1 John 1:8
), our fundamental orientation has changed.
This analysis says that going to heaven isn't simply a matter of God letting someone into heaven. Intentions, thoughts, desires, and so on need to be different as well, and a two-way loving relationship needs to exist between us and God.