One of the complications that at first glance feels unhelpful is that when we die, we know we are immediately in the presence of Jesus, and yet that destination is not our final destination. The word heaven is applied both to our destination at death now, but also to our final destination, the eternal destination of the new earth and the new heaven. The present heaven is fantastic – the best we will have ever experienced – but is not the best we will ever experience. In other words, heaven will change over time and at a specific time.
Heaven is God’s address and God moves! There is a new day coming, where a new Jerusalem will come down out of heaven to be located on the new earth, and as the apostle John explains, from then on, ‘the dwelling of God is with man, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’ In other words, heaven, God’s dwelling place, will one day be on the new earth with a new city, the new Jerusalem. Ultimately, our final destination is an embodied resurrection where, with fantastic new bodies like the body of Jesus himself, we inhabit a new heaven, a new earth and a wonderful new Jerusalem.
N.T. Wright calls the final destination after the intermediate state or present heaven ‘life after “life after death”’. Life after death is therefore, and importantly, not all there is. If we do not go straight to our final destination, where do we go at the moment when we die? N.T. Wright also suggests that when Jesus says, ‘I go to prepare a place for you’, the Greek word for place, mone, is most often used for a temporary dwelling place, implying an eventual move to another location.