Heaven, is it a good idea, an actual place, or spiritualization of many peoples hopes and beliefs?

Heaven, the heavens, and the heavenlies are all words describing the physical realm.  The first heaven being earth's atmosphere.  The second pair of heaven words being used to depict the celestial universe.  However, there is a "third heaven" that is spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2.

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know - God knows."

The "third heaven" is considered the dwelling place of God and His Glory.  Even though God is omnipresent, everywhere, He seems to have a highest heaven reserved for His immediate presence/glory (1 Ki. 8:27).  Many have made the mistake of worshiping the created place or space instead of the Creator Himself and Romans 1:25 warns us to this point.

"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."

Even with His immediate presence manifested in this highest heaven, all other heavens should not be worshipped but Christ alone whom God the Father seated above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26; Philippians 2:9-11).

Not only is heaven a space which is beheld, flown in, and unfortunately polluted - there is also a heaven that is an actual place to which many desire to spend eternity.  "Those claiming a heavenly inheritance are required to bring the earthly and the heavenly into alignment.  Jesus linked entrance into the kingdom of heaven to repentance (Matt. 4:17), humility (5:3; 18:1-4), witness (5:10,16;10:32; 16:19), obedience (5:19), righteousness (5:20), compassion (18:10, 14; 23:13) and stewardship (19:23).  Proactively, believers store up treasures (6:20) by being prudent managers of the little and perishable on earth in order to insure the abundant and enduring in heaven (Luke 16:1-13)."  (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

Heaven has a kingdom?  The phrase Kingdom of Heaven is only found in Matthew and is usually equated with the phrase Kingdom of God because of the reservation of the Jews to speak the name of God.  This Kingdom of Heaven is not only considered a place, but a lifestyle, shared by fellow believers in Christ, lived out on earth until the destination can be reached and the lifestyle perfected.  "Paul stresses the believer's solidarity with Christ.  Since a believer is 'in Christ' and since Christ is in heaven, the believer is 'in the heavenlies'.  Accordingly, God has blessed the believer 'in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ' (Eph. 1:3).  God does not merely apply the ministry of Christ to believers.  He sees believers with Christ wherever he is - and he is now in heaven.  Believers are commanded to adopt an earthly lifestyle of dying to sin and living to righteousness (Rom 6:4), and to set their minds on the heavenly reality that will soon be revealed in Christ (Col. 4:1-4).  In other words, believers should live consistently with who, and where, they really are." (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

Wow!  Believers are seated with Christ right now in heavenly places and are blessed with every spiritual blessing!  Why would God desire to bless us so?  Said another way - why would God want to equip us so?
Because the heavens also contain spiritual powers.  Paul speaks to this when he names some of them - "rulers", authorities", and "spiritual forces" (Ephesians 3:10; 6:12).  "...believers are called upon to practice an eschatological lifestyle, equipped with heavenly weaponry wielded by those who are 'strong in the LORD' (Eph. 6:10).  The battles of life are won on earth with heavenly weapons, not earthly ones."  (B.E.D.B.T.)  We should be heavenly minded so we can be and do earthly good!

As believers in Christ are living this heavenly lifestyle out here on earth - being sensitive to how God desires to use us and our heavenly/spiritual abilities, the unseen heaven becomes more intriguing and closer to directly experience than ever before. 

To me there seems to be four stages of heavenly existence:  (1) the Intermediate stage, (2) Marriage of the Lamb stage, (3) Millennial Reign of Christ Stage, and (4) the New Stage.

If you are in heaven in the Intermediate stage then you have died a "natural death" here on earth.  As a believer in Christ you are with the LORD in Paradise, according to Luke 23:43.  "None of this tells us what the interim body is like, but it does tell us that a conscious existence, morally continuous with this life awaits us - Paradise..." (B.E.D.B.T.)  Paradise is a Persian word meaning "an area enclosed by a wall" or "a garden".  We see examples of this usage in Neh. 2:8, Eccl. 2:5, and Sol. 4:13.  The Greek version, Paradeisos, is translated as "the garden of God" and is exemplified in Isa. 51:3 and Eze. 28:13.  "In Luke 23:43 Jesus promises the penitent thief: 'Today you will be with me in paradise.'  The intermediate state was transformed by Jesus' emphasis on being with him 'today'.  No longer is paradise just an anticipatory condition awaiting the messianic presence at the end of the age.  Those who die in faith will 'be with Christ' (Php. 1:23).  The dead in Christ will not experience life diminished, but life enhanced, as Jesus' words to Martha in John 11:23-26 imply." (B.E.D.B.T.)  What once was Paradise lost is now Paradise gained/restored - all because of Jesus.

Next the Marriage of the Lamb occurs, but first the groom has to go get the bride - the church - and that is what many in Christendom call The Rapture.  It is at this event that Jesus raises the dead in Christ, joining their souls that have been in Paradise with their new resurrected bodies, then those who are alive and remain are caught up with them to meet the LORD in the air and go back to His house to be wed.  Before the wedding though the bride must be arrayed perfectly and that is what the Bema Seat or Judgment Seat of Christ is all about - judgment of all believers works as Christians while on planet earth.  After this purification/beautification the wedding is on and seven years are spent here.

After seven years the Millennial Reign of Christ is begun by the Second Coming of Christ and ended by the Great White Throne Judgment, of course a thousand years later.  This time of existence consists of those who made it through the Tribulation Period on the earth, the church who come back with Christ, and the Tribulation Saints and Old Testament Saints which Christ will raise at the beginning of the Millennial Reign.
"There, according to Ezekiel, will be built the millennial temple.  The Lord Himself will be there and during that time, David, apparently will be raised from the dead to be the King of Israel again.  Offerings will be established and offered again in this temple for sin.  This is a picture of conditions on earth during the millennium when Christ shall rule, according to the Scriptures, with a rod of iron.  'He shall rule the nations with a rod of iron'.  Second Psalm says that righteousness shall be the dominant theme of earth.  Sin and crime will still be present but subdued and not visible, quickly judged.  Death will occur, but it is limited and life will be greatly prolonged.  Apparently there will exist together a strange combination of living persons of flesh of blood who, like ourselves, will have been born through the natural process of birth, human beings, mingled with them will be redeemed resurrected creatures from the saints of the church, plus the Lord Himself, and as I have already suggested, Old Testament saints, including David and others."  (The New Earth, Ray C. Stedman, 1983)
"Nevertheless, there will be children born in that period who will still inherit Adam's fallen nature.  They will not be able to express it very much.  As they grow there will be evil desires that will be immediately prevented from being expressed.  It is exactly the reverse of what we find today.  Here we find righteousness put down, oppressed, opposed and evil allowed to reign triumphant in many ways.  Then it will be evil that is oppressed and put down and has to live sub rosa, underground as it were.  Righteousness will be allowed public and full expression." (The New Earth, Ray C. Stedman, 1983)
Other characteristics of the Millennium to distinguish it from other periods are - (1) the animal kingdom is changed - diet and temperament (Isa. 11), (2) the landscape of the earth will be changed, especially where concerning the Mount of the Lord (Isa. 2; Zech. 14:9), (3) we will have a perfectly run world government (Isa. 2:1; 4:2) (4) infant death eliminated (Isa. 65:18), (5) God's chosen - "enjoy the work of their hands"/"shall not bear children for calamity"/"will answer them before they call"/"will hear while they are yet speaking", (6)there will be an interesting, tasteful land (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13),and (7) a Millennial Temple is present with some kind of offering system re-instated (Eze. 40-48).
I don't know what kind of celebrations we will have in heaven or during the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth, but I would like to think that one of them might be the celebration of the Day of the Rapture.  There are many significant Jewish days that might be celebrated during the Millennium, so maybe other days special to the rest of us will be observed.

The New Stage deals with, if I may borrow a line from Toy Story, "to infinity and beyond" [with Christ].  The New Heavens, New Earth, and New Jerusalem and more are all involved in this phase.  The New Heavens and New Earth are not the same as the Millennial Earth.  All the events that transpire with Jesus as the Ruler of all the governments of the world for a thousand years do not match up to the eventual descriptions of the New Heavens and New Earth with it's lack of sea and God-made city, New Jerusalem.  Even though major topographical changes will have occurred during the Tribulation Period due to all the judgments (Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls) and during the Millennium itself, especially in the beginning by the LORD Himself - these changes do not equate to the New Earth and New Heaven to come, which is suppose to be burnt up by fire along with the other elements (2 Peter 3:10-12) and after the Great White Throne Judgment.  "At the final consummation, God will make 'new heavens and a new earth' (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 22:1).  It is 'new' in kind, not merely in time.  One may wonder why a new heaven is necessary.  One possibility is that the heavens (the plural is employed in Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:6; see also Heb. 1:10; 2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12) have been affected by sin inasmuch as they are the place of the activity of evil angels and forces (Matt. 24:29; Eph. 6:12).  The 'new heavens and earth' follow the judgment of Satan (Rev. 20:7-10) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15), both of which take place in heaven and will never be repeated.  Also, the 'new Jerusalem' that John saw 'coming down out of heaven from God' (Rev. 21:2, 10) is a new characteristic of heaven, perfectly suited to extend God's glory (Rev. 21:11)."  Want a good look at the New City?  Now this is not a restored Jerusalem during the Millennium.  This is a splendid New Jerusalem that comes down and out from God in the New Heavens!  Then check out Revelation 21 and 22:1-6.

I do not know exactly what God has in store for me in the restored universe, but whatever it is I know God will bless my socks off and enable me too bless and glorify Him in return.  Could I rule a city?  Sure, with God's help I can and will do many great and marevelous things, for apart from Him I can do nothing.  He has been, is, and always will be -  the creator of my journey, sustainer of my life, and source of everything good and pure. 

I get tired when I think about dwelling in eternity. Today my bones and/or flesh feel the brunt of The Curse and the restrictions of time and space.  To think about my body, even though restored/renewed, going on forever does not give me a sense of rest and peace.  Yet I know God will take care of that when He resurrects our bodies.