Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. — Matthew 6:33 KJV
Where is Heaven? How do we get there? What will be waiting for us when we arrive? And perhaps most provocatively, is Heaven a final, eternal, destination, or a continuation of the marvelous journey toward fully understanding God, and feeling in our hearts what it means to be loved?
Even in the 21st Century, we certainly do not have all the answers; or even a paltry few; but we do share some crucial questions with generations of theologians, scientists and ordinary people, who have come before us.
As an unapologetic man of faith, and humble follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that all knowledge comes from seeking first the Kingdom of God, as promised in the first book of the New Testament; which is precisely why I have chosen the Search for Heaven to open this series of articles.
My objective is not to convince, but rather to invite all those who continuously search for ultimate Truth, to take a few steps along this journey with me, as we explore the mysteries of God through the eyes of faith.
The Journey Begins With Humility
All journeys worth taking must begin with humility.
God created us as sentient beings; blessed with a brain with which to reason, but obligated by a conscience with which to search tirelessly for divine wisdom.
The beginning of all knowledge — as Socrates suggested — and the object of wisdom; is to accept that we know very little for certain.
The thoughts contained in this article are examples of Socratic questioning, ie. disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions, and for many purposes, including to explore complex ideas and to get to the ultimate truth.
From Parables to Paradise
When the Earth was blessed with the physical presence of the Lord, we knew a great deal less than we do today.
We understood so little back then, as a world of fishermen and shepherds, that it was necessary to learn about the Kingdom of God through parables.
Two centuries later and a world away, we understand that the Earth is not flat, the atom is not the smallest particle of creation, God’s creative power is unlimited, and with current events as a yardstick, there is apparrently no depth below which mankind may sink — out of hatred, prejudice and sin.
Now, more than ever, we need to find Heaven; not just as a destination, but as a journey; not just as an exit ramp, but as a roadsign pointing to God.
Many insist they have been there, and returned.
Most recently, and compellingly, the three-year-old pastor’s son, Colton Burpo, from the staggeringly believable book and movie, Heaven is for Real, makes even non-believers pay strict attention.
But urgent questions remain.
If every human being has a living soul that leaves the body after death, where in the body is it located, and why have we never found it during life?
In Latin, there is an expression: reductio ad absurdum, which when translated means reduced to absurdity.
Originating with the earliest and most profound Greek philosophers, and simply stated, it means that:
An argument is not valid, if a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance.
- The Earth cannot be flat, otherwise we would find people falling off the edge.
- Rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot cannot help you pass your Physics exam, otherwise you could use it to make your mom’s cancer go away, your father get a new job, or your family win the Lottery, and of course, every atheist’s favorite argument …
- An all-loving God cannot exist, otherwise there would be no terrorist massacres, natural disasters, plane crashes or incurable diseases.
Is the notion that we all have living souls; souls that always leave our bodies when we die, and occasionally leave as we near death; simply a poetic creation of ancient biblical writers, with no possible foundation in modern reality?
Or is it something else entirely?
Is it merely a lovely, spiritual idea — one that brings solace to our broken hearts whenever we need it most; as skeptics sometimes suggest — but not a scientific possibility?
Is it simply a normal, routine, neurological event; caused by the biological shutting down of the brain; or is it something much more complicated, completely misunderstood and Divinely orchestrated; requiring quantum mechanical leaps into alternate dimensions, and requiring enormous power.
Perhaps if we broaden our minds just a bit, and review the options dispassionately, the resulting discussion will prove fruitful.
Near Death Experiences
In the United States alone, according to a Gallup poll of the adult population done in 1992, an estimated 13 million Americans have had NDEs (Near Death Experiences). Since the U.S. population in 1992 was 260 million, that equates to a whopping 5% of the population.
How significant is this percentage?
Every person we know, has had someone in their family die from cancer. Yet out of the 2016 population of 322 million in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, there will be only 595,690 cancer deaths, or .001845%.
In other words, if my math is correct, it is 27 times more likely that an American will experience his soul leaving his body than dying from cancer.
Despite the ubiquity of near death experiences, no empirical, or scientific proof of any kind, has ever been found of the human soul or spirit. Does it follow, reductio ad absurdum, that the human soul or spirit does not exist?
Let’s use vanguard scientific thinking to further investigate this potentially life-altering question.
Modern Science Points to Answers
Like many others in my generation, it was in science class, during my freshman year in high school, that I was first introduced to the atom.
No one had actually seen one with the naked eye, of course, (much too small), but science insisted they were there and that was more than enough for me at the time.
Atomic Structure, as it became known, was another idea originally floated by the ancient Greeks.
It’s hard to believe, 50 years later, but at the time our high school text books insisted that the atom was the smallest building block of all matter in the universe.
Atoms were composed of a variable number of electrons, circling wildly around a nucleus, which was composed of protons and neutrons.
Atoms combined to make molecules, and molecules combined to make human cells.
Simplified models of the atom were created to explain these tiny relationships, and interestingly, at the other extreme of scientific thought and immense size, so were models of our solar system.
Significantly, these models were provocatively similar in appearance, and for me at least, planted an ineluctable, intellectual seed, arguing forcefully in favor of a Divine Creator.
Seemingly lost in this advancement of knowledge, was a fascinating and startling corollary proposition:
The vast expanse of all atoms, solar systems, galaxies, and even the Universe itself … is 99.9996% empty space.
It has been argued, by much more astute minds than mine, that there is enough empty space between every atomic nucleus and its orbiting electrons, to park a relatively-sized Mack truck — more than enough room for the soul and spirit to reside, we just don’t know how.
It has also been argued by some, that we are naturally blind to the implications of this empty space, for perfectly legitimate reasons dealing with the eternal nature of the souls we are attempting to locate.
Said simply; we are not yet supposed to know.
Instead of losing you entirely in the empty space weeds, by making the entire idea even more complicated by injecting quantum physics into the mix, let me posit one alternative approach:
Suppose, for sake of argument, that this enormous empty space, is by design.
Suppose further, that the empty space was not merely unkown until this modern day … it was intentionally and divinely unknowable.
We now understand that the atom is decidely not the smallest unit of matter in the Universe, nor is the electron that orbits around it.
In fact, we have discovered, categorized and named, 18 known types of smaller elementary particles called leptons; including muons, tauons and neutrinos.
Amazingly, as recently as today’s headlines, the previously obscure and tantalyzing empty space idea has emerged as a potentially mundane addition to computer storage technology.
Nanotechnology will soon allow computer storage at the sub-atomic level.
Amazingly, computer storage requirements — that during my lifetime alone have grown from a minimum room-sized area for the original Univac computer in 1951, costing over a million dollars, to a microchip-sized memory which can be purchased at any Walgreen’s Drugstore for less than $20 — will soon inhabit the empty space between atoms.
Ponder that for a moment. In the space of 50 years, the imponderable and unimaginable, is becoming the simple and commonplace.
With this level of exponential intellectual growth, what incredible breakthroughs can we logically anticipate in the next few years?
The Prophecy of Daniel
In the 1980s, research at CERN in Switzerland by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee resulted in the World Wide Web.
As happened to biblical literacy in the 15th Century, when Gutenberg invented the moveable type printing press which made the bible widely and generally available to the common man; the vast public suddenly has access to every growth spurt in cosmology, physics, neuroscience and technology.
Resurrection Power – The Power of the Son
Beginning in April, 1932, when brilliant scientists split the atom for the first time, we began the Herculean task of identifying nuclear power — the power of the Sun.
13 years later, in August, 1945, we unleashed that unimaginable power, bringing World War II to an end.
Over the years we have attempted to fully understand and harness that power, and the spectatcular mysteries explored by that single event have placed mankind at the epicenter of a shockwave that has permanently altered our capacity for good — and for destruction.
In 2008, 10,000 scientists collaborated to open the Large Hadron Collider; the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator; housed in a 27-kilometer tunnel, buried 574 feet beneath the France-Switzerland border. Its task? To accelerate two opposite beams of sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light, and forcing them to collide with each other, to test unsolved questions of physics and enhance mankind’s understanding.
Perhaps one day, through our incredible and exponentially increasing scientific knowledge and immense wealth, we will come to understand the extraordinary power God used to bring His crucified Son back to life, in a simple tomb, 2,000 years ago, simply by deciding to do so.
And perhaps we will finally learn the mystery of our souls’ ability to leave our bodies in search of Heaven.
The Bible records a prophetic recommendation in the Book of Daniel:
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Daniel 12:3-4 KJV
We were promised an explosion of knowledge, near the end of this earthly journey. It was destined to occur, has already begun and the world will never be quite the same.
As we look closer at the divine creation of God; as we dig deeper and deeper into His mysteries; and as we more completely understand the infinite power released by the atom when it is split; will we discover the simple truth that our souls reside exactly where God intended them to be all along?
As we harness His imponderable power, we may come to understand the most important mystery of all … the infinite power of the resurrection, that enabled our Lord Jesus Christ to defeat death — the power of the Son.
The Transformative Power of Love
And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV
We stand together now, a blessed generation, poised at the epicenter of an intellectual and spiritual shockwave, that has permanently changed our world.
If we wish to resolve the apparent dichotomy between science and God, our remaining task is to expand our abilities and knowledge, refine our thinking, deepen our prayers and redouble our efforts to understand and appreciate our loving God, and the science He uses for His divine purposes.
But one final question eludes purely scientific explanation: why?
We may come to understand the scientific answers to how God accomplishes His will, but unless we understand why He wishes to do so, we have actually accomplished very little.
To ask the ultimate question, and to grasp the ultimate answer, we must understand what it means to be loved.
Why would an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God, sacrifice His only Son to an incredibly painful death — for usually selfish, constantly sinful and seldom attentive mankind?
Because He loves us.
Why would He help us to understand His ways, when understanding isn’t necessary for salvation?
Because He loves us.
Why would He create a beautiful, glorious, and eternal Heaven — a place without fear, or pain or death; replete with vibrant colors and grand surroundings — as a final destination for those who believe in Him?
Because He loves us.
And why, for a fortunate few, would He give a glimpse of Heaven, before we make the final and everlasting journey?
Because He loves us.
Our time on this Earth is limited; our present capacity for learning is insufficient; and our human ability to love is inadequate; but since we are created in His magnificent image, He only requires three ingredients from us:
Faith, Hope and Love … and the greatest of these is Love.
One Final Thought:
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5
Far too many kind and wonderful men and women, spend their lives loving the Lord, sometimes enduring terrible suffering or great loss, and waiting patiently to spend a blissful eternity in Heaven.
They have been promised the desires of their hearts, and joy in the morning.
For all these many kind souls, my last thoughts are for you.
We serve a Lord who always keeps his promises.
Never forget that for a moment, and begin every morning in joyful anticipation of the Heaven you can enjoy today, without leaving home.
(This is the second article, in the Light of the World series, that explores the profound nexus between science and God. To read the introductory article, click here.)