Foreword: A while back my 13 year old son (in 2011) told me that we won’t be doing anything in Heaven besides praise God all day. I told my son this is not so, that we will have tangible dwelling places, be able to eat and fellowship together, sing praises of worship to our Lord, be able to know each other and travel as well. I then proceeded to have him look up verses at the bottom of the text and tell me what he thought. Afterwards, my teenage son told me that he now believes Heaven will be more like a thriving, physical community of believers with some cool things to experience as well. Amen to that! Also in attempting to stay true to God’s word and keep my imagination in check, most of my statements when not directly backed up by scripture are based on contrasts to natural conditions changed by the Fall of Man. In the garden when Adam and Eve sinned, some rules of nature were changed which created more toil and work for mankind, such as thorns, weeds, etc. I imagine there will be flowers in the Restored Earth (Heaven) without thorns to hurt us or nuisance weeds when admiring them. A endless myriad of modified and improved designs.
Before we start, Heaven is only for believers. I hope and pray that you’ll be one of the celebrants in Heaven with us. Here’s a blog link to the Gospel with scripture references, http://www.bibleanswerstoquestions.com/is-the-verbal-gospel-important-to-preach/ .
I. Where is Heaven?
There are three things I believe I can tell you about this question. The most important fact is that HEAVEN IS A TANGIBLE PLACE! Listen to the words of Jesus on the night before he was crucified:
- Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).
- Twice in three verses Jesus calls heaven a place. He means that heaven (“my Father’s house”) is a real place, as real as New York, London or Chicago. The place called heaven is just as real as the place you call home. It’s a real place filled with real people, which is why the Bible sometimes compares heaven to a mansion with many rooms (John 14:1-3) and sometimes to an enormous city teeming with people (Revelation 21-22).
- The Bible also tells us that heaven is the dwelling place of God. His throne is there, the angels are there, and the Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 says very plainly that “our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s why Jesus told the thief on the Cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
- The Bible hints that Heaven is not as far away as we might think. Because heaven is a real place, we sometimes think it must be outside our present universe-which would mean that it is billions and billions of light years away. However, it’s very clear that the early Christians understood that they would pass immediately from this life into the presence of Christ in heaven. How can that be possible if Heaven is beyond the farthest galaxy?
- Hebrews 12:22-24 tells us something very cool things about what the gospel has done for us: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” The writer is here comparing Mt. Sinai with Mt. Zion. Under the old covenant no one could come near God except under very strict conditions. That’s why the mountain shook with thunder and lightning. [Note: three times the writer of Hebrews uses a Greek word that means “to come near” or “to approach closely.] But now in Christ we have been brought near to heavenly realities.
- Think of what he is saying:
(1) We’re not that far from heaven.
(2) We’re not that far from the angels.
(3) We’re not that far from our loved ones in heaven.
(4) We’re not that far from God.
(5) We’re not that far from Jesus himself.
(6) Heaven is a real place, it’s where Jesus is right now, and it’s not far away from us.
II. What is heaven like?
First, the Bible really doesn’t give us a great deal of information, but from what we can read, we do have images and pictures of heaven and comparisons with life on earth.
- What is heaven like? Here are some biblical facts about heaven. It is …
(1) God’s dwelling place (Psalm 33:13).
(2) Where Christ is today (Acts 1:11).
(3) Where Christians go when they die (Philippians 1:21-23).
(4) The Father’s house (John 14:2).
(5) A city designed and built by God (Hebrews 11:10).
(6) We will eat (Rev 22:1-6)
(7) A better country (Hebrews 11:16).
(8) Paradise (Luke 23:43).
Most of us have heard that heaven is a place where the streets are paved with gold, the gates are made of pearl, and the walls made of precious jewels. Those images come from Revelation 21-22, which offers us the most extended picture of heaven in the entire Bible. If you ask me if I believe those things are literally true, the answer is yes and no. Yes, they are literally true but no, heaven won’t be anything like we imagine. It will be much greater.
When John writes about a street paved with gold, I do not doubt his words. He simply reports what he saw in his vision. Thus his words are literally true. They are also meant to tell us that the things we value so highly in this life will be used to pave the roads in heaven.
- A City Built By God
(1) Heaven is a real place filled with real people. The Bible pictures it as a great city filled with all of God’s people.
(2) What would such a city look like? It would be a city with …
(3) No pollution for the skies would always be crystal clear.
(4) No crime or violence for no criminals would ever enter.
(5) No greedy politicians, no drug pushers, no child molesters.
(6) No potholes and no power outages either.
It would be filled with abundant parks, rivers, rolling meadows, and flowing streams. Lining the streets would be flowers in constant bloom, fruit trees of every kind, every species of plant life growing free from pestilence and disease.
The gates would be made of pearl, the walls of jasper, the streets of gold. Precious stones would lie on the ground like playthings (emeralds, rubies, diamonds, etc.).
On every hand there would be children laughing, bright conversation, music piped in from every direction (heavenly surround sound).
In the city that God builds, there are no tears, there is no sorrow … no regret … no remorse. Bitterness gone forever, failure left far behind, suffering redeemed and rewarded.
There are no cemeteries in the city God builds. Why? There are no funerals … for in that joyous city no one ever dies.
III. Who is in heaven right now?
This question is not difficult to answer. God is in heaven because heaven is his dwelling place. The Lord Jesus has been in heaven ever since he ascended from the earth shortly after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). The Bible tells us that angels are in heaven. In fact there are myriads of angels-uncountable numbers of heavenly beings-all of them serving the Lord in various ways.
And the saints of God who died on this earth are in heaven. [Note: I mean by this that heaven includes the Old Testament Saints who by faith trusted in God’s Word and looked forward to God’s redemption at Calvary (which they did not fully understand). It also includes every true believer from every continent and every denomination. Everyone who has genuinely trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior will be there. I also think that children who died before the “age of accountability go to heaven and I would also include those born with such mental limitations that they cannot understand the gospel. The Bible teaches that the moment we die we go directly into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 5:7-8 and Philippians 1:21-23.
IV. Will we know each other in heaven?
See 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” How does God know us? Answer: He knows us completely, intimately, thoroughly, inside and out, with nothing hidden but everything seen as it really is. Also see Psalm 139:1-4 and Hebrews 4:12.
In heaven we will know each other intimately. That’s why Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they had been dead for hundreds of years, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). There was something about those two men that made Peter, James and John recognize them even though they had never seen them before.
V. What will we do in heaven?
So what will we do for all eternity? The answer is, we’re going to help God run the universe. Do you remember the story Jesus told about the man of noble birth who gave his servants money to invest? One servant had doubled his money so the man said, “You will rule over ten cities.” The next servant had seen a 50% increase so his master said, “Rule over five cities.” And the man who hid his money had even that amount taken from him in punishment. (Luke 19:11-27). The story is a picture of what heaven will be like. We will use our gifts to administer the new heaven and the new earth. Think of the flowers the botanists will study. Gifted astronomers will go from galaxy to galaxy studying the wonders of God’s creation.
Here are five things that will occupy us in heaven. We will …
(1) Worship without distraction.
(2) Serve without exhaustion.
(3) Fellowship without fear.
(4) Learn without fatigue.
(5) Rest without boredom.
To me, the best part of heaven will be seeing Jesus himself face to face. We will worship the Son of God and celebrate his great victory over sin while the endless ages of eternity roll on and on. The best music you’ve ever heard will pale compared to the music of heaven. The most awesome worship you’ve experienced on earth is but a dim reflection of the praise we will render around the throne of God.
1 Corinthians 13:12
2 Corinthians 5:7-8
For further, more exhaustive study, you might want to read Randy Alcorn’s book that he wrote on Heaven. He has a healthy weight of Scripture in his research and truly loves God’s Word. You can find this book on Amazon.com website. Although I did this study by just reading through the Bible in response to my son’s initial statements about Heaven, I’m sure others have influenced me in their insight so I ask forgiveness if I’ve overlooked anyone in acknowledgement of credits. A dear pastor friend of mine has a quote that “We need less theologians and more Bible”. I believe that deserves a big AMEN!