Heaven – God’s Home For Believers
What Can I expect in Heaven?
While some people struggle with believing in hell, few struggle with the concept of heaven. Heaven is everything we could want or wish for that is good for us. When John described heaven, he described it as the very best of the city (gold streets, brightly lit) and the very best of the country (the pure river of life, healthy trees). He described heaven not only by what he saw, but by what he saw missing (no death, sorrow, crying).
The Bible uses several expressions to describe both heaven and hell, but in both cases those expressions are probably limited. Hell is probably far worse than we could imagine with our limited human ability. In contrast, heaven is probably far greater than we could ever hope in our wildest imagination. As she closed her eyes in death, a dying saint said, “I didn’t realize it would be so beautiful.” Many of us may be surprised at how beautiful heaven is when we first walk through those gates.
The splendor and beauty of heaven far outshines anything the human mind can comprehend. It will be impossible to comprehend heaven until we arrive on location, but we do know that heaven is a huge and colorful city.
Who Lives in Heaven?
Heaven is more than the eternal home of the saved. Many others will forever live with us there. These include God and his angels and special creations. Both Jews and Gentiles will live in heaven in perfect harmony. Citizens of every linguistic group and race will live in heaven for eternity. It will be the ultimate international community.
John “heard the voice of many angels about the throne in heaven” (Rev. 5:11). These include several kinds of angels. The seraphim, a special kind of angel who deal with God’s altar, are present in heaven (Isa. 6:1-7). Another special angelic group who deal with God’s throne, the cherubim, will also be there (Ps. 99:1). Both Gabriel (Rev. 22:8) and Michael (Rev. 12:7) live in heaven.
The Bible identifies twenty-four elders around the throne of God in heaven (Rev. 4:4). Much has been speculated concerning the identity of this group. One suggestion is that these men are twelve tribal leaders of Israel and the twelve apostles of Jesus. Another is that they represent the saved from both Jews and Gentiles.
Hebrews 11 lists a number of individuals and groups who practiced faith in the Old Testament. “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). These who have experienced saving faith have an eternal place in heaven.
One of the first events after the rapture will be the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is when the church, the Bride of Christ, will be presented to her Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ. The new Jerusalem has been described as “the wedding ring of the church.” The size of the church is innumerable. John writes, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, stood before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Rev. 7:9).
The Triune God
Heaven is, of course, the eternal home of each member of the trinity of God. The Father sits upon a throne in heaven (Rev. 4:2, 3). John saw Jesus standing in heaven (Rev. 5:6). Though not as prominent, the Holy Spirit also lives in heaven and is twice quoted in John’s account of his experience there (Rev. 14:13; 22:17).
What is it Like in Heaven?
The Bible tells us what is not in heaven to help us understand what is there. “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22). The temple was a symbol of the presence of God. Since the centralized presence of God is heaven, there is no need of a temple there. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them” (Rev. 21:3). In the Old Testament, the glory cloud over the tabernacle was symbolic of the presence of the glory of God. In the future is the place of the glory of God, “Having the glory of God” (Rev. 21:11) and “the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).
Heaven is eternal
Heaven is the place of those who have eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7) and an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Therefore, heaven is described as having no day or night. This is because it is eternal and there is no time which is measured by day and night sequences in heaven. Eternity is timeless: “No need of the sun, neither of the moon” (Rev. 21:25). “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46).
Once we have passed through the gates of death, nothing will ever change this everlasting destiny. When King David’s baby died, David said, “Can I bring him back? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (II Samuel 12:23); and Abraham in Paradise said to the rich man in the place of torment, “…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26).
Heaven has no death
Since death means separation, there is no death in heaven because we will live forever with God and those who die in Christ. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Rev. 20:14). “And there shall be no more curse” (Rev. 22:3). Sin, the reason why God originally cursed the earth, is gone, therefore death, fts result, is also gone.
And there shall be no more curse… (Revelation 22:3). This means if there is no curse, there is no need of the end of the curse which is death. And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (Revelation 20:14). All of death, which is separation from God, will be thrown into Hell. There will be no death in Heaven (Revelation 21:4).
Heaven has no tears
This means there will be no more sadness because, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there by any pain; for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Heaven has Divine Eternal Brightness
There will be no need for the sun to give its light because Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) and the Light of the world (John 8:12) will be the central figure in Heaven. “And there shall be no night there; and they need not candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:23). “And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there” (Revelation 21:5).
Heaven is a place of memory
The question is often asked, “Will we know one another in heaven?” The answer is yes! David said that he would know his son. “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:22, 23).
Moses and Elijah, who had been to heaven, were recognized by Peter, James, and John (Mark 9:4, 5). Also, “[We] shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11). They shall be recognized and known. The Thessalonians were concerned about Christians who had died. Paul answered, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Finally the Bible teaches, “I shall know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Heaven is the largest city ever built
When people think of a city, they usually conceive a city about the size where they live. Even cities like Tokyo, New York, London, Sao Paulo, have not begun to approach the size of the city of God. John writes, “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth; and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and breadth and height of it are equal” (Rev. 21:16).
This description of heaven suggests that it will be a gigantic cube, pyramid, or sphere. According to our present measurements, 12,000 furlongs would be equivalent to 1,500 miles or 2,400 kilometers. If placed in America, this city would reach from New York City to Denver, Colorado, and from the Canadian border to Florida. If the new Jerusalem takes the form of a sphere, it will be slightly larger than the moon which presently circles our globe.
Heaven will be beautiful and clean
From time to time, most every city council attempts to beautify their city. The most elaborate efforts of any city council would fail to rival the natural beauty of the city of God. Heaven will be constructed of things that are described as minerals, crystals, and metals of this present world. These colorful elements will form a cavalcade of beauty as the pure light of the Lamb shines through them.
The city itself will be built of transparent gold
It will be surrounded by a wall of jasper; it will be as beautiful as a crystal clear diamond, as bright as a transparent icicle in the sunshine (Rev. 21:18). The wall will rest upon twelve foundations inlaid with various precious stones.
This city wall will stand some 216 feet high (Rev. 21:17) and include twelve gates, each made of simple white pearl (Rev. 21:21). The main street of the eternal city will be paved of pure transparent gold (Rev. 21:21).
The central focus of heaven will not be the walls, streets, foundations or gates, but rather the Lamb and his throne. The throne was the first thing John saw in heaven (Rev. 4:2). He saw an emerald green rainbow surrounding the throne (Rev. 4:3). John also noted, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass like crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne” (Rev. 4:6).
The river and the tree of life
From the earliest pages of the Bible, two natural elements are described, which find their ultimate existence in heaven. Both the river (Gen. 2:10; Rev. 22:1) and the tree of life (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 22:2) were part of the original creation of God. They were placed in the original garden and now are in the paradise of God as constant symbolic reminders that God himself is the source of life. In the midst of the confusion and chaos of his circumstances, David received strength from the eternal presence of God: “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High” (Ps. 46:4).
The tree of life, though it is not mentioned after the Fall of man until the final chapters of Scripture, is pictured holding a place of prominence and providing for the growth of the people by its fruit. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve kinds of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). The word “healing” means “nurture or growth.”
We Will Know and Recognize Each Other
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (I Corinthians 13:12). During His transfiguration, our Lord spoke freely with Moses and Elijah centuries after both these Old Testament heroes departed from this earth. [See Matthew 17:3.1] Yet they are still recognized as Moses and Elijah! In addition to this, the Apostle John, during his vision of the Revelation, sees and recognizes the differences between elders, angels, and various redeemed peoples from all the nations of the earth.
Experience Progress, Growth and Knowledge
“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (I Corinthians 13:9-10). What child of God has not looked forward to the time when the Lord will answer all the questions that he has wondered about in this life? Christians will learn throughout all eternity: They will learn facts, they will learn more love, and they will learn how to serve Christ better. In the description of the heavenly city, Revelation 22:2 states, “…the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The word “healing” in the Greek means “nurture” or “growth.”
A place of Purity
“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or worketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27)
A Place for Prepared People (John 14:2; 3:3,5)
Just as Jesus said, “…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), so must each person entering that celestial city have prepared himself while in this earthly life for Jesus said, “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3,5).
How does a man prepare himself? By being born again, which means accepting God’s gift of salvation provided through Christ’s death at Calvary. Heed the words “… Today if ye will hear His voice, Harden not your heart…” (Psalm 95:7,8) “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2)
Some would argue that it is wrong to describe heaven in specific terms.
They claim that these are only heavenly symbols to represent the idea that the presence of God is beautiful. While on the surface, this sounds logical, it is also a subtle undermining of the authority of God. God could have made heaven without streets of gold or he could have used other symbols to describe his home, but the fact is that God did not choose to do that.
Since he has told us there would be streets of gold in heaven, why should we not expect it to be as he described it? If language is inadequate to describe heaven, why did not God create words that approximated heaven? Also, if God chose, he could have created us with an understanding that could have comprehended heaven.
Of course, there are many things about heaven God has not told us. We may never know some things about heaven until we learn about them upon our arrival there. But what God has revealed in his Word is an adequate introduction to the city. Perhaps after we have lived several weeks, months, or years in heaven we will know our city better, much as is our experience when we move into a new city here.
What Are Our Bodies Like in Heaven?
The question is often asked concerning just what is the nature of the body Christians will receive at the resurrection. There are several Scriptures that present insight into the answer to the question of the nature of the resurrected body:
Now, this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; he shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (I Corinthians 15:50-53).
This passage of Scripture is actually a statement of a principle, that being the fact that a change is mandatory if the believer is to realize the promised blessings awaiting him in Heaven and the resurrection (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II, p. 464).
The apostle Paul gives detail as to what is involved in this change. As he wrote in Philippians 3:21, “Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” This change was also mentioned by the apostle John in I John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; we shall see him as he is.”
These verses tell us that those who die, having trusted Christ as personal Savior, will be given bodies like that of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be a body that is not subject to disease and death any longer. It will be in all points perfect, as the Lord Jesus Christ’s body is also perfect.
A passage that gives a clear description of Christ’s resurrected body is found in Luke 24:39, as He appeared unto the disciples: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” In this passage, Jesus draws attention to His completely physical and yet glorified body. With clear words Jesus instructed His disciples to view His hands and His feet, and even to touch Him, and to see that He had a real physical body and not a spiritual body that could not be touched. With these words, given in the context by Christ Himself, He rids the world of the false view of the nature of Christ’s resurrected body as being some mystical “spiritual resurrection.” Yet there are those false cults and “isms” that maintain the heresy of a “spiritual resurrection” of Christ.
It should be noted, the fact that Jesus said flesh and bones rather than “flesh and blood” does not necessarily indicate that his body had no blood. One cannot say, but flesh and bones usually do operate with blood. However, the life principle in a resurrected body may not be in its blood, but in the spirit of God. (For further proof of the fact of Christ’s material bodily resurrection, Jesus gave public demonstration by eating some broiled fish and part of a honeycomb, as seen in Luke 24:42.) (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II, p. 209).
It should be noted that the Christian will not receive his glorified body until the time of the rapture and resurrection. Those Christians who die before the rapture must wait until the Lord comes in the clouds to call His church. At that point, those who have died in Christ will have their bodies resurrected, and they will be changed and united with their souls once again. It is at this point that we will receive our glorified bodies.
A Body Made in Glory
In Philippians 3:21 we read: “[Jesus] shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Additionally, in I John 3:2 we read: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
These verses tell us that those of us who die, having trusted Christ as our personal Savior, will be given bodies like that of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be a body that is not subject to disease and death any longer. It will be in all points perfect as the Lord Jesus Christ’s body is also perfect. We further know from II Corinthians 5:8 that a Christian, immediately upon his death, goes into the presence of the Lord.
Received At the End Times
It should be noted that the Christian will not receive this body until the time of the rapture. Those Christians who die before the rapture must wait until the Lord comes in the clouds to call His church. At that point, those who have died in Christ will have their bodies resurrected and they will be changed and united with their souls once again. It is at this point that we will receive our glorified bodies.
A Body Without Sad Memories
Though we cannot be dogmatic concerning our memory of the affairs of this life when we get to Heaven, it is our belief that once we enter into eternity with the Lord, which is at the conclusion of the millennial reign, the things of this life, with all the tragedies and sorrows and sufferings, will be permanently erased from our minds. Therefore, we simply will not have any remembrance of the struggles, the sufferings, and heartaches of this life.