Saturday, September 23, 2006

Levels of Honor in Heaven and Mary's Queenship

Some people posit as their first problem with Mary's Queenship the fact that we are all equal in heaven. "A saint is a saint is a saint," they will say. But, if we can show from Scripture that there are levels of honor in heaven, then their argument no longer works

First, it is helpful to note that God rewards every man according to his works:
Mt 16:27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.

Rom 2:6 For he will render to every man according to his works

2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

2 Cor 11:15 So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Rev 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.
Now, one could say about these verses that the payment for one's works only goes so far as to distinguish between heaven and hell and not also between different levels of honor in heaven. But, what then should we make of the following verses?:
Mt 5:19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 11:11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Mt 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
If one can be the "least" or the "greatest" in the kingdom of heaven, does that not imply that there are levels of honor? I can't be the "greatest" until there are people who are less than me.

Jn 14 has an enticing verse that may bear on this topic as well:
Jn 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
Note that the RSV translation says there are many "rooms," in which case this verse would just mean that there is room for everyone (or, at least, many people) in heaven. It would not imply anything about levels of honor. But the DRV and the KJV translate this verse as "there are many mansions." Now we have a different picture, one of many rooms on separate floors.

The Jerome Bible Commentary says, "there are no grounds for understanding 'many' to mean also 'many kinds' or 'degrees.'" However, the Ignatius Study Bible points out that John also uses the phrase "my Father's house" in 2:16 for the Jerusalem Temple. It goes on to say that the "many rooms" would make the "Father's house" similar to the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem, "which had several courts of worship, chambers for storage, and living quarters for priests." Relating the Father's house to a temple would in fact imply levels of honor because we know that, in a temple, each courtyard represents degrees of closeness to the "holy of holies." There are separate floors in the temple as well.

Outside the templeInside the temple

Furthermore, St. Augustine, has this to say:
But the many mansions point to the different grades of merit in that one eternal life. For there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory; and so also the resurrection of the dead. The saints, like the stars in the sky, obtain in the kingdom different mansions of diverse degrees of brightness; but on account of that one penny no one is cut off from the kingdom; and God will be all in all in such a way, that, as God is love, love will bring it about that what is possessed by each will be common to all. (Tractate 67)
With the varying commentary on this verse, I am not certain if this verse would be helpful in making the case for levels of honor in heaven. I leave it for the reader to decide. There are other interesting verses as well:
2 Cor 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.

Col 1:16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
In the first verse, Paul mentions the "third heaven." I see this most often interpreted in the follwoing way: the first heaven is the sky, the realm of the birds and the clouds; the second heaven is outer space, the realm of the sun and the stars; the third heaven is the place where God dwells. However, 2 Enoch adds to this 4 more levels within God's dwelling place. If Paul were borrowing from this tradition, then we could have here another verse that proves my point.

In Colossians, we see the hierarchy of angels. This is also seen in Rom 8:38; Eph 3:10; 6:12; Col 2:15. A hierarchy not only orders individuals with different responsibilities, but also orders their rank. So, it could be said that the angels at the top of the hierarchy have a place of greater honor in heaven than those beneath them.

All of this is very interesting, and it shows that there is, at the very least, an implication in Scripture of levels of honor in heaven. And once we have established that, we can proceed to consider Mary as holding the chief place among all the saints.

For more on this, see the following articles:
Pax Christi,


  1. This is a little off topic, but you might enjoy putting one of those page counters on your blog. I use the basic free version from It tells you how the last ten vistors to your blog got there, like if it was through a Google search or whatever. I just found out that searching Google for "incorruptibles" my blog is on the second page of results. I don't even get that much traffic, but I wrote a post about incorruptibles a while back and apparently someone read it (or saw it, anyway).

    oh yeah, btw, I met your brother a few weeks ago at BBC with some other MOCA folks. Hope seminary's going well. I'm still discerning... feels like I do an about face between marriage or priesthood every day or two. It'll be clear in God's time though.

  2. i was actually going to mention what jason mentioned above. a page counter would be really good. you could use that one or the one that i use (free as well). you could also use the TLB system. (i use both.) it'd be good to have that record of page hits. and you can tell if people are returning or if they're new. it tracks IP addresses too so you can see from what spot on the globe they are accessing your page. i've gotten hits from something like 32 countries (i'd have to look again to give you the right count).

    oh and while i'm commenting again, do you have a copy of the second picture that might be bigger than the one you posted? is that the actual size or did you make it small like that? i can't read it very well and that's a little disappointing...

  3. laura,

    regarding the size of that pic, i'm afraid this is as large as it gets:

    here is a similar pic, slightly bigger, of the first two buildings:

    i also found a close-up of the other two:

    these might help as well:


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