The message Jesus went around preaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). When Jesus was questioned by Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst [or ‘is within you’]” (Luke 17:20-21).
Unfortunately, most christians have not taken his words to heart; they have not “repented” (i.e. change the way they think) but keep on believing that heaven is not “at hand” but rather is far off, reserved for some future time. “Heaven” has become an idea about a place we go after we die.
Nevertheless, Jesus consistently proclaimed that heaven is here! His message was that heaven is available now, and to all.
But what is heaven, anyways?
Most people, christian or not, picture it as a place in the clouds, or further out there, possibly in another dimension that is currently inaccessible, where there are people, angels, God, and everything is perfect. Furthermore, a variety of words in the scriptures are often thought to refer to the concept of heaven (or being accepted there). For example, the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3), the kingdom of the Father (Matthew 13:43), life (Matthew 7:14), life everlasting (Matthew 19:16), the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21), great reward (Matthew 5:12), the kingdom of God (Mark 9:45), the kingdom of Christ (Luke 22:30), the house of the Father (John 14:2), city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22), the holy place (Hebrews 9:12), paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4), incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25), crown of life (James 1:12), crown of justice (2 Timothy 4:8), and crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).
Nowhere in the scriptures, however, is it explained what heaven is. Thus, our understanding of what it is should be that which the people who heard it at the time would have thought it to be when they heard it (since, besides Jesus proclaiming that heaven is here and now, no one tried to give an alternate explanation).
The Old Testament is silent on the topic of the afterlife, and the Jews were quite agnostic about what happened after death and did not have a firm belief in either (our modern conceptions of) heaven or hell.
In the Jewish Republic, both the rewards and punishments promised by heaven were temporal only: such as health, long life, peace, plenty, and dominion, etc.; diseases, premature death, war, famine, want, subjections, and captivity, etc. And in no one place of the Mosaic Institutes is there the least mention, or intelligible hint, of the rewards and punishments of another life. – Warburton
Since our modern concept of an eschatological heaven was nonexistent in the minds of the Jews to whom Jesus spoke, these terms cannot be taken to refer to our modern concept unless they are explicitly stated to. Our default interpretation should be the default interpretation of the Jews (since Jesus would have spoken to them with concepts they were familiar with so that they could understand), and their default interpretation would have been that these were references to their current lives on earth.
Live it now.
What the Heaven is Hell?
What is “Eternal Life”?
NO ONE IS GOING TO HEAVEN! – The Fire House Chronicles
NO ONE NEEDS TO DIE & GO TO HEAVEN! (part 1)
NO ONE NEEDS TO DIE & GO TO HEAVEN! (part 2)