Heaven: A Relationship Not a Location 


Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all… (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

When St Paul advocated that we Christians pray for every single person in the world, he knew that some of these people, especially those in authority, were not Christian and in some cases were anti-Christian. God wants all people to be saved, but God too knows there are differences in people with some deserving salvation and others not so much. God does not treat all people exactly the same for God takes into account our varied personalities, spiritual gifts, behaviors and virtues.

And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)


God understands there are varied degrees of perfection for each human. God’s salvation is based upon His relationship with us humans – the one Mediator between God and humans, Jesus Christ. In fact, some of the Patristic writers thought heaven is not a location as such but the relationship between God and God’s creatures because being in heaven means being in Christ. The translator of THE FIFTY SPIRITUAL HOMILIES notes:

Since Makarius views heaven as interpersonal relationships between God and angels and human beings, we are not surprised that he insists on various degrees of perfection in heaven and also of evil in hell. Saint Gregory of Nyssa also posits that in heaven there will be continuous growth: ‘For it may be that human perfection consists precisely in this constant growth in the good’ (Life of Moses, PG 44:301 C).  (p 285)


This leads to the author (a 5th Century Syrian monk) of THE FIFTY SPIRITUAL HOMILIES to write:

For some speak of one kingdom and one hell. We, however, speak of many degrees and differences and measures, both in the Kingdom and in hell itself. Just as the soul ‘ensouls’ all the members and yet operates in the brain and still moves the feet below, so also the Godhead contains all creatures, the heavenly and those under the abyss, and is everywhere being filled up in creation, even though it is most transcendent above creatures because it is infinite and beyond any comprehension. Therefore, this Godhead is concerned with men, and it providentially guides all things according to reason. And when some pray, not knowing what they seek, others fast, while others persevere in service, God, being a just judge, gives the reward to each one according to the measure of his faith. For what things they do, they do out of fear of God. But not all of these are sons or kings or heirs.


In the world there are murderers, others are fornicators and others robbers. On the other hand, there are those who distribute their goods to the poor. For both of these groups the Lord has a concern and to those doing good he gives rest and a reward. For there are superior and inferior degrees. And in the very light itself and the glory there is a difference. (p 214)


God cares about all people, including sinners, recognizing the variations in gifts, talents and virtues in each. God wishes to be in relationship with all of His creatures, thus wishes all to be in heaven, though the 5th Century monk author of the above text believes there are different heavens for various people as some are deserving of being closer to God than others. His sense of justice is God’s heaven is big enough to incorporate true saints as well as those who just barely get into heaven and only by God’s grace, mercy and love.