Whenever we lose a loved we talk about them going to Heaven. Sometimes we may paraphrase by saying they've gone to a "better place" or to their "next life", but what does that really mean? Is it possible to know anything about Heaven now or will everything be new and completely different than Earth when we get there? Read on to find out!
For the purpose of this article, I'm going to avoid getting into a discussion of HOW someone qualifies to enter the Pearly Gates after their death (Salvation through Jesus Christ) and instead focus on what we can know in advance.
What sources do we have for learning about Heaven and how reliable are they?
- The Bible
- Near-Death Experiences (and subsequent books and movies)
Believing in God, believing that Jesus died for our sins, and accepting the idea that only through belief in Jesus can we get to Heaven requires faith. But even faith needs something, some foundation of Truth upon which to grow and learn. That's why God gave us the Bible. As Christians, we start with the Bible to learn about God. To learn about Heaven, we need to start with the Bible as well.
How reliable is the Bible? By faith, I believe the Bible is the Infallible Word of God, with two qualifying statements.
- Just because the Bible is infallible does not mean that all interpretations of the Bible are infallible. Clearly, it is critical to rightly divide the Word.
- Rightly dividing the Word requires understanding context. Scripture clarifies scripture and we need to seek to understand the context when we find something in the Bible that we don't understand or that seems counter to the Gospel. Neither my lack of understanding nor my misunderstanding of the context of any scripture invalidate the Bible. Similarly, there may be some scripture in the Bible that we never understand until we get to Heaven and understand the full and correct context of the scripture.
What does this say about Near Death Experiences (NDE's) and dreams? To me, using the Bible as a foundation means that where NDE's and dreams align with scripture these events are possibly valid and reliable. Where they depart from scripture they are invalid and unreliable. In the end, God does not depend on NDE's and dreams to reveal to us what we need to know about Heaven. The Bible tells us all we need to know. Personally, I don't spend any effort reading about or evaluating NDE's and dreams. To me, they are too likely to cause confusion and they are unnecessary anyway. Although, I have a friend who has read and studied some of these books and to her, there are some that seem to line up with scripture and she finds them helpful. I didn't include anything about NDE's and dreams because I don't have any information I feel comfortable sharing.
The good news is the Bible actually tells us plenty about Heaven. It just takes some time searching to piece it all together. Fortunately, Randy Alcorn at www.epm.org has published multiple books that gave me a better understanding of Heaven and that helped me see the numerous scripture references to it. Even though our Earthly understanding of Heaven will always be like viewing the "backside of a tapestry or rug", we can still get some ideas of what the front side of the tapestry really looks like.
The Worldly View of Heaven
Before we get into what the Bible says about Heaven, let's consider the worldly view of Heaven. From a secular, worldly perspective, what words come to your mind when I say "Heaven"? If you are a Christian (which I pray that you are), your mind probably jumps to words like "Jesus, light, joy, happiness, family, etc." However, the worldly view is typically far more negative. Words like:
- Angels with harps on clouds
- Eternally long church services
- No fun
Why do you think that is? My guess is that Satan (the father of lies) has placed these words in our hearts to make us NOT interested in Heaven and the joy that God has planned for His children who join him there.
Instead, let's consider the words of comfort that Jesus offered at the Last Supper; after he had washed the disciples' feet and predicted his death. Jesus said:
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 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? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:1-3
This article is based on a multi-week study I put together for Adult Sunday School classes at my church. The study was designed to break a larger group into multiple small groups for reading and discussion. As a result, I created it in a question and answer format. It's a little different than the typical blog post narrative, but I assume you can follow and get some insights from it. The study was broken down into these topics and each topic consists of a series of questions with one or more Bible verses to read as a reference for answering the question. The topics are:
- What are the most important things to know about Heaven?
- What will we be like in heaven?
- Will heaven be boring?
- What will we do?
- What will it feel like to be in heaven?
Side Note. Did you know there are multiple "editions" of heaven referenced in the Bible? At a minimum, they include:
- The Garden of Eden - God, and humans live together.
- Sheol or Hades - in the Old Testament, the place where all the dead go.
- The current "temporary" Heaven - where believers go when they die today
- The Millennial Kingdom - when Jesus reigns on Earth for 1,000 years after his second coming
- The New Heaven and New Earth - described in Revelation 21 - 22 when God wipes away the old and creates everything new again. God and humans permanently live together again.
For the purposes of this study, the concepts below only apply to the last three in the list. However, I'm not differentiating between them. I'm lumping them all together. This subject goes far enough out on a limb to interpret "Heaven" without trying to differentiate which element goes where. It's too complex for me. Perhaps someone else can or already has done that. Some elements only apply to one of the editions off Heaven. For example, the familiar verse from Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more..." is only applicable to the New Heaven and New Earth. The good news is that whatever is good, joyous and amazing about earlier editions of Heaven will certainly be carried forward (or improved) in the last edition, the New Heaven and New Earth, and that's where we will spend the majority of our time in eternity.
Ok, let's dig in and see what else we can find about Heaven in the Bible.
What are the most important things to know about Heaven?
In this first section, we'll look at what are probably the most important things to know Heaven. Even though some of these are (or should be) obvious, it's still a good foundation to remember as we go further into the study.
1. What do Deuteronomy 26:15 and Matthew 6:9 say about God’s residence?
15 Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey. Deuteronomy 26:15
9 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." Matthew 6:9
Quite simply they say that God lives in Heaven. Therefore God and humans are separated at this point in history.
2. What does John 6:42 say about Jesus' origin? Where did he come from?
42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” John 6:42
Jesus clearly stated that he came from Heaven. He was in Heaven before He was on Earth.
3. What does Acts 1:11 say about where Jesus went after he ascended?
11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11
After Jesus was resurrected, he stayed with the disciples for 40 days, and then he ascended back to Heaven where he waits for us. It also says He will return from heaven at the Second Coming.
4. What does Revelation 21:3 say about the relationship between God and humans in Heaven?
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. Revelation 21:3
God will live together with humans in heaven as He did in the Garden of Eden.
5. What did Jesus promise his followers about Heaven in the Gospel of John?
26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:26
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” John 13:36
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? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:2-3
Jesus promised His followers that we would live with Him in Heaven
6. What will God’s servants see when they get to Heaven according to Revelation 22?
3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Revelation 22:3-4
God's servants who are in Heaven will see His face.
Why is it important to see God's face? In Exodus 33:20, God warns Moses that he cannot see God's face and live. The early Christian theologian, St. Augustine put together a thought experiment on having everything, but not seeing God's face. Here's the quote from his sermon titled “On the Pure Love of God.”
“Imagine God appeared to you and said he would make a deal with you, that he would give you everything you wished, everything your heart desired, except one. You could have anything you imagine, nothing would be impossible for you, and nothing would be sinful or forbidden. But, God concludes, you will never see my face.” Why, Augustine asks, did a terrible chill creep over your heart at those last words unless there is in your heart the love of God, the desire for God? In fact, if you wouldn’t accept that deal, you really love God above all things, for look what you just did: you gave up the whole world, and more for God.
7. What part of Heaven will be granted to the wicked according to Ephesians 5 and Revelation 22?
5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Ephesians 5:5
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. Revelation 22:14-15
The wicked will have no part of Heaven. They will be excluded from getting there.
What does the Bible suggest about our lives in Heaven?
This next section considers what it will be like to live in Heaven. Will it be different or very similar to Earth?
1. What do these verses in Matthew and Luke say about people’s names in Heaven?
11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 8:11
25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. Luke 16:25
Very clearly, people will be called by name, specifically the name they were given on Earth.
2. According to Revelation 2:17, what will God give each individual, and what is special about it?
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ Revelation 2:17
Each of us will be given a new name that God has written on a white stone. The only person who knows what that name is will be the individual and God. Some theologians suggest that since the name will be unique to each believer that it will perfectly reveal what God had in mind when he created that person. While the white stone itself may represent a "ticket" or a prize for the believer who is going to Heaven, some believe (and I agree) that the name on the stone will be even more important than the stone itself.
On a side note, let me suggest that if all humans are unique, the only way that can happen is if God gives each of us some unique aspect of who God is. God cannot give us something He does not have. Therefore, each and every human already received and has the potential to share some unique aspect of God to the world in a way that only they can. If an individual chooses to ignore that aspect of themselves or they refuse to share it, that unique representation of God is lost to the world. Do you want to know why the picture of God is fuzzy to the world? I believe it is in large part due to the fact that so many people have chosen to reject God and they refused to share their unique aspect of who He is the world.
3. What does the Bible say about Jesus’ resurrected body in 1 Corinthians and 1 John?
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20
48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:48-49
2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2
Jesus' resurrected body is the prototype for our resurrected bodies. He was/is the example of the first fruit of what we will become in Heaven.
4. What does Luke 24 say about Jesus' resurrected body?
37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Luke 24:37-39
If the resurrected Jesus is the prototype for our heavenly bodies, we will definitely have a physical body in Heaven. That's important because humans are more than just spiritual. Humans are physical, mental, and spiritual. To not have a physical body would mean we were non-human in Heaven. Jesus directly rejected the idea that we will be spirit only in Heaven.
5. What might Luke 24 suggest about the outward appearance of Jesus' resurrected body?
15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:15-16
This might suggest that are some changes to our physical appearance that might make it difficult for someone to recognize us at first.
6. What do John and Luke suggest about the communication of our individual identities in Heaven?
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). John 20:15-16
31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:31
Despite any of our outward change, our inner identity will ultimately shine through. We will know who at least some other people are in Heaven without having to introduce ourselves. I'm not sure if we will know everyone, but for certain we will intuitively know many people on sight once we can see with our heavenly eyes.
7. What does 1 Corinthians 13:12 suggest about our mental capacity in Heaven?
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
Our mental capacity will be dramatically greater in Heaven that is is on Earth and that extra capacity will allow us to understand many things that are currently beyond our grasp.
Will Heaven be boring? What will we do?
Next topic. What will we do in Heaven all day for eternity?
1. What does 1 Thessalonians 4 say about our Christian family and friends who die before us? What implication does it have for our arrival in Heaven?
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Yes, these verses describe the Rapture of the Church, but before that, it explains that those who have already died will be called to Heaven first. Therefore, if we are still alive at the Rapture, we will meet our brothers and sisters in Christ who are already there. If we die before the Rapture, we will meet our brothers and sisters in Christ who died before us, plus others as they are brought to Heaven at their appointed time. Regardless, if our loved ones are Christians, we will be reunited with them in eternity.
2. What do Matthew and Luke say about eating in Heaven?
11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 8:11
15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Luke 14:15
30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:30
Not only will we eat, but we will also have feasts in heaven! (I'm getting hungry already!) Humans on Earth eat and so do humans in Heaven.
3. If God will spend eternity showing us this, what does Ephesians 2 suggest about learning in heaven?
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7
God's riches are so great that they are immeasurable. Since we will have eternity to see them all and still never exhaust the riches to see, we will be always learning something new. Do you enjoy learning new things? I know I do.
4. What does John 4:2 say about our housing and what might Luke 16:9 suggest about our social life?
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? John 14:2
9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. Luke 16:9
Jesus is preparing a place for us in Heaven. Clearly, he is preparing an individual "room" or at least a place to call our own. Luke saying "they may receive you into eternal dwellings" could suggest that we have people come for a visit, or that we are invited to go visit others. Combining this with the idea of heavenly feasts suggests we will be actively engaged with other humans in Heaven. A heavenly social life, if you will. Sound interesting?
5. What do Genesis 3 and Revelation 14 say about our earthly labors?
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19
13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:13
The ground was cursed due to the original sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. We have been burdened with the toil of labor ever since. The good news is that in Heaven we will be freed from the burden of our earthly labors. That doesn't necessarily mean there will be no work for us to do in Heaven. Instead, it might suggest that the labor in which we engage will be something the glorifies God and brings us joy, as opposed to something that is necessary to ensure our survival.
6. Two definitions of the word “reign” include “Exercise of sovereign power, as by a monarch” and “dominance or widespread influence” What do 2 Timothy, Luke 19, and 1 Corinthians 6 say about our responsibilities in Heaven?
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us; 2 Timothy 2:12
17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Luke 19:17-19
2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2-3
We will be assigned responsibilities, meaning we will have specific jobs to do according to our gifts and talents. The passage from 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 also indicates that we will judge angels. It is important to understand that angels and humans are two different creations by God. We will not become angels when we die, nor can angels become fully human.
7. What do Revelation 7 and Psalm 149 say about worshiping God in heaven?
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, Revelation 7:9-11
1 Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1-5
In Heaven, a great multitude of saints, from all tribes, peoples, and languages will worship God together. Through singing and dancing, we will praise our God with great joy!
What will it feel like to be in Heaven?
In this section let's look at this from an experiential perspective.
1. Use your five senses to describe this scene. What does Revelation 22 suggest it will it be like?
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2
Personally, I imagine all kinds of wonderful things. Thanks like fresh air, awesome beauty, the smell and taste of fresh fruit from the tree of life, sounds of running water in the river of life. Visualize the most amazing, beautiful, peaceful place you have ever been and multiply it by infinity. Yep, that good or better!
2. According to Psalm 15, with what will we be filled with when we get to Heaven?
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
It sounds likely we will be eternally full of joy and blessed with countless pleasures at our right hand.
3. When you read it, how does Revelation 21:4 make you feel?
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and it is one that most Christians know or have at least heard. The idea that in Heaven, there will be no more mourning, crying for pain is for me a great source of hope.
4. What does Paul say we will give up in Romans 7 when we are rescued from the "body of death"?
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25
When we go to Heaven, we are rescued from our body of death, our sinful nature. On Earth, our flesh serves the law of sin. In Heaven, we will be freed from sin and free to live as God originally intended humans to live.
5. Why are they rejoicing in Luke 15?
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance... 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7,10
In Heaven, some of the biggest celebrations of joy will be reserved for sinners who repent. Even the repentance of one sinner will spark a joyous celebration.
6. What do shining and white garments represent these verses from Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation and what do they say about those who are shining or wear white robes?
3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:43
4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:4-5
Shining and white garments represent moral purity and they are for those who are righteous. Those who are overcomers (those who conquer), Jesus will cloth them in white proudly shout their name to the Father and all the angels. They will experience great joy from being morally pure.
7. In Matthew 25:23, what will Jesus share with us when we get to Heaven?
23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23
Those who have served the Lord in their earthly life will receive the most favored greeting and approval, "Well done good and faithful servant...". They will be received into the joy of their master. It is possible that not everyone who enters Heaven will receive the most favored greet, "Well done..." We each have the choice to serve the Lord. Who are you serving in your life?
Living Our Lives With A Heavenly Perspective
What are the things that jump out at you that you wish we had in this world? If you are like me, there are many things about Heaven that I would like to have in this world. However, the truth is we live in a fallen world. And as Paul states in Romans 8, it is not just the humans who were cursed in the Garden of Eden. The Fall affected every part of creation and every part longs to be set free from the bondage of corruption.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:20-23
All of this together begs an important question. What do we to think of a world where we can’t have the things that we truly desire? How do we look past the bondage of this world to see our lives from a heavenly perspective?
Here’s one possible explanation; a quote from C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity”
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”
Here’s an additional explanation, from a passage in Hebrews 11 that is often referred to as the Hebrews Hall of Fame. Chapter 11 refers to many of the most important Hebrews of the Old Testament. Here’s what it says about them in
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16
All of these people died in faith, having not received the promise and ultimately acknowledging that they were strangers and exiles on Earth. If we are strangers and exiles on Earth, then that means we are essentially aliens in an alien world. But, by the Grace of God, we do not live in darkness and we do not live in fear because of this.
When we accept Christ and we are born again. And when we are born again, we are not born as citizens of Earth, but as citizens of Heaven!
Our true home is in Heaven, a place we have physically never been. However, let's remember that God the entity and Heaven the place are not as separate as we might think. God is not defined by Heaven. Heaven is defined by God. Therefore, Heaven is wherever God is. Once we accept Jesus into our lives, He dwells in our hearts. Since Jesus, who is God, is in our hearts, Heaven is in our hearts as well. I believe little bits of Heaven exist all around us as well if we will only open our eyes to see.
Unfortunately, we are not capable of completely experiencing Heaven in this life; probably in part because see "dimly as in a mirror". However, we seem to be permitted to experience small samples of Heaven throughout our lives. Think about those extraordinary moments, the God moments that occur in life…the ones that you cherish but are so fleeting. You want to hold onto them forever but you can’t. These are small samples of what you will experience in Heaven. One author suggested that perhaps we can see heaven for as much as 60 seconds a day if we are serving God and we are open to experiencing the unseen world around us. However, 60 seconds a day is your limit…until it is your time to go home.
Here's a critical point to remember.
In Heaven, we will not be LESS human. Instead, in Heaven, we will be MORE human. Perhaps a better way to say it is this. In Heaven, we will be FULLY human for the first time!
According to Randy Alcorn, to be fully human, we must have two things.
- Be in a personal relationship with God
- Live in God’s presence
We can accomplish the first, at least to a limited degree while we are on Earth. The second requires making it to Heaven.
What do you think about that? Does the idea of Heaven give you hope? It does for me!
Here's a story that I adapted from Randy Alcorn's excellent fiction book Deadline. I highly recommend the book if you like Christian Fiction, or even if like suspense and mystery novels but have never read a Christian Fiction novel. Anyway, my purpose for adapting this story from the book and sharing this story is to help others is to help them visualize what Heaven might be like when they get there. Most importantly, if you are not sure you are going to Heaven please use this to encouragement to investigate the free gift from Jesus do something about before it is too late!
Take your time and try to visualize this in your mind. Here we go:
You are asleep tonight at home and you are having a dream. Its one of those dreams that seems absolutely real. You've been reading about Heaven and discussing it with other Christians. You like what you have heard… but its really hard to understand it all.
You are in your car driving to work the next day and you find yourself daydreaming about what Heaven might be like….then wait….something’s happening… something’s not right. There’s a buzz... and then a blur... and then a screech then…. nothing…..
It takes a moment before realizing what’s happened. You’ve been in a terrible car accident. While everyone else is okay…. suddenly you realize that you have died. “ I don’t want to die. I’m not ready,” you say to yourself. But there's nothing you can do. What's done is done. While you can still see everything going on at the scene of the accident… after some time you feel yourself moving by some unseen force away from the accident and towards a tunnel. Are you really moving? Can this be possible?
As you turn your attention away from this world and look into the tunnel you see a light that is calling for you. It’s the most beautiful thing you have ever seen… It's like all the light you have ever seen in your life was only a poor reflection of the Real Light you now see... As you edge closer to the end of the tunnel you begin to feel a sense of peace and joy far greater than you have ever felt in your life… You want to turn back to look at the world, but you can’t.. you can’t keep your eyes off the light…it's like the light is both calling you and also filling you with life, real life. While traveling you begin to recognize a clarity of thought beyond anything you have ever known. Suddenly you are starting to understand things that have puzzled you all of your life...things that were always fuzzy are now becoming crystal clear. How can this be happening?
You think that maybe you are starting to feel ready for the next world, but when you reach the end of the tunnel and you emerge, you are overwhelmed by this stunningly beautiful yet strangely familiar new world…trees and rivers…cities and stars.. mountains and clouds. As you continue to look around you see something else. What is it? There seem to be hundreds of them…. maybe even thousands... What are they?….Are they people?….Yes, they’re people …..and they are all looking directly at you… They look different…but somehow strangely familiar….Then all of a sudden you are struck by the fact that you know who all of these people are!
Who do you see? Grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles, cousins, cherish friends, even children…. they are all there waiting for you… People whose lives you have touched and who have touched your life…you remember how much you’ve have missed them…The joy of the moment is simply incredible … with tears in your eyes you frantically rush back and forth trying to greet everyone… every reunion seems better than the last…. There are so many people…you had no idea that you touched this many lives…..
Then suddenly you see someone else…someone different…someone waiting patiently and smiling in the back of the crowd… Even though you want to greet your loved ones, you can’t seem to take your eyes off of Him. Slowly He begins to move toward you and the crowd quickly parts to clear a path…. For the first time, you realize who He is…and you see Him in His full glory…your Creator! As He moves toward you, you suddenly and completely comprehend the fact that this is the world you were made for and that He is the One you were made to be with. Your feelings of inner peace and wholeness are finally complete! You realize you are finally home and you are exploding with joy!
Then as He moves closer you see something else… You see His disfigured hands and the scars from the nails. You see where the spear pierced His side and the marks on his body… Suddenly you feel absolutely unworthy to be standing in His presence… As your knees tremble you realize that He is walking toward you and that you have nothing to offer Him…Nothing except that which you have already done…you’ve painted your life’s portrait through your earthly love and service to Him….It is done…and it is all you have to offer. You wish for a second chance. A chance to make it better, but it is done and it can’t be changed...
Now the Lord is standing right in front of you. He reaches out to touch you and He begins to speak….“Welcome my child… Enter the kingdom prepared for you, by virtue of a work done by another…a work you could not do for yourself.” Then He pauses for a moment and you tremble as you wonder what he will say next. Will your earthly service to the Lord be counted worthy? Will you receive that most cherished of heavenly blessings, “Well done my good and faithful servant?” Is your heart burning right now? What do you want the Lord to say? Is there anything more important in life than receiving the affirmation and approval of your Lord and Savior? What would it take to live your life in such a way that when you reach this point the Lord will say “Well done my good and faithful servant”….
Suddenly you wake up from your dream. As you struggle to reorient yourself, you ask... was it only a dream? It all seemed so real… Finally wide awake you begin to realize that it was more than a dream. It was a gift. You have been given the gift of perspective and a second chance to live your life. The question is…
What will you do with that gift?