Heaven is a state of mind. It's hard to describe, which is why it's always done in parables. But it's what happens when you take that "Love your
neighbor" command seriously.
I will share a quote from William Ernest Hocking (emphasis mine):
Love and sympathy are the activity of the idea. And in their exercise, the idea is enlarged. The lover widens his experience as the non-lover
cannot. He adds to the mass of his idea-world, and acquires thereby enhanced power to appreciate all things. Is not this the sufficient solution of
that long-standing difficulty between 'egoism and altruism?' The altruist alone can accumulate that treasure of idea through which all things must
be enjoyed that are enjoyed. No one has, or can have, any 'egoistic' satisfaction except as a consequence of so much effective love of reality as
there is in him by birth or acquisition.
Hocking is basically saying that by practicing love, you experience
more, and by experiencing more, you open yourself up to new joys and
pleasures (and pains) that you never knew or understood.
A simple, somewhat trivial, example for me is in sports. I grew up hating them, because of bad experiences with my peers. I started getting into
them in my 20s, and experienced new things: the joy of a hard-fought, miserable game that you finally win, being one of them. This example isn't even
really about love, but the idea is that by becoming connected with others, you broaden your horizons, you make the experiences of others your own, and
join in the fun of being alive.
I was watching a World War II special once, and somebody they were interviewing said something which struck me. He said that never in his life has he
had friends like those who were in his company in battle. Everything worth having is earned, and that guy earned some profound intimate friendship on
a level which I will probably never see.
Remember that Jesus Himself said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within/among you." The original language was a pun on "within" and "among", which is
perfect. Heaven is an inner state of mind, but it's also the secret society of those around you whose hearts are in the right place and who struggle
daily to keep them there. Doing this properly does require giving up your current unrealistic fantasies, and finding your real needs, and suffering
(hence all those metaphors about giving up everything you own, taking up your cross, etc.), but promises much greater rewards (hence that stuff about
giving up your mother to find a whole bunch more mothers, etc.)
I know this wasn't quite the answer you're looking for. You might already know all this and be way ahead of me here. But it's what I understand
"heaven" to mean, so I shared.
You were looking for stuff on the afterlife. But start down this road, and your ideas on the afterlife will evolve too. I've slowly moved from not
paying any notice to death because it's simply lights-out, to wanting to make sure I die with a halfway-tolerable conscience.
edit on 29-10-2012 by NewlyAwakened because: (no reason given)