Bishop Tom Wright is a firm and frequent critic (in Surprised by hope and other writings) of the idea that ‘salvation’ equates to ‘going to heaven when you die’.
What, then should we understand to be the meaning of ‘heaven’ in Scripture? Several answers may be given to this question:-
1. ‘Heaven’ can mean ‘sky’, or what we would understand as the rest of the cosmos apart from the earth, Gen 1:1.
2. ‘Heaven’ can mean the abode of God and of those closely associated with God. In this sense, heaven is not so much considered as a place ‘out there’, but as another dimension, God’s dimension, existing alongside our own dimension and interfacing with it in a number of ways. See Deut 26:15; Mt 5:45; Mk 13:32; 1 Pet 1:4.
3. ‘Heaven’ can be used as a periphrasis for ‘God’. So, for example, Matthew refers to ‘the kingdom of heaven’ where the other Gospels speak of ‘the kingdom of God’.
4. Scripture does not refer to ‘heaven’ as the future destiny of the righteous, but it refers rather to ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ (Is. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:10–13; Rev. 21:1) – a renewed cosmos that reflects God’s will in every way.
See articles in NBD; ISBE.