A thought was solidifying in my head lately about what to make of ‘heaven’, as it exists right now. Generally I take heaven to be not a place, but a proximity of the soul to God. When asked about where Jesus went when he ascended to the sky, I always answered that Jesus ascended to the sky because it was the natural image of heaven, but that Jesus’ body was not anywhere in our universe (thus, he isn’t hiding on the dark side of the moon). William Lane Craig once put forward an image of a fork vibrating in a vacuum suggesting that just as the fork retains its properties, remains a physical object, and doesn’t have any causal interaction with anything outside of the vacuum, so Christ could retain his body even while not extended in our universe. The image is helpful, but lately I was thinking that another solution, which I have previously found unattractive, is probably right after all. There are a number of bodies which are supposedly in heaven right now (Elijah, Enoch, Mary Mother of God, plausibly Moses, etc) along with Jesus’. What kind of state, though, are they in?
Perhaps there is some sense in which heaven, right now, is physically realized as a place of paradise, and which is analogous to our physical world. This would imply some kind of multiverse view of the cosmos, where the universe is one world, and heaven is in another universe entirely disconnected from ours. Thus, the bodies of the saints are in a space-time (if we can call it that) which isn’t connected to ours, and reside in a special paradise while awaiting the true heaven at the eschaton, involving the resurrection of the dead. I have always had trouble with this view, probably for the same reasons that I’ve had trouble with the view that Jesus was hiding on the dark side of the moon. However, it seems plausible, and there may be some Biblical precedent for it in Jesus’ discussion of Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16).
This proposal raises further interesting thoughts. For example, if the saints who have bodies are in a completely different universe, then one avoids saying with heretics that the saints in heaven no longer experience temporal duration or anything of the sort until the resurrection, so that for them the end of the world occurs moments after they experience death. More interesting still, it becomes plausible to imagine that, while Mary (for example) experiences temporal progression, she herself can answer prayers without having ‘too many at once’ precisely because she belongs to a different ‘universe’ from which she can see our world’s end from the beginning. This solution bothers me though. I think maybe a better solution would be to say that temporal progression is simply subjective and it is based on the appetitive quality of the rational soul, thus all one has to do is imagine that the soul’s appetite is greatly satisfied in heaven, for the effect that temporal progression is experienced much more calmly and serenely than we can experience it “this side of heaven.”
In any case, all of this is speculation at its worst, but interesting nonetheless for a morning reflection.