For those of us who know Christ, Heaven is something that we should cling very closely to. We know that this current, physical lifetime is not the end destination. Sin has stained our world and we long for something better and perfect. It’s events like COVID-19 that especially remind us of that. God has put “eternity in our hearts” and our days are numbered. Every amazing moment we have in this life is a gift from God and a glimpse of what’s to come. Something amazing is on the horizon. God is redeeming this world back to Himself!
I know this all to be true in my head, but if I’m being honest, I have never known how to really process Heaven. My heart hasn’t truly treasured this truth because I’ve never studied it. I’ve heard about it my whole life, but my thoughts about it were very vague. What is Heaven really going to be like?
This past December, the Lord put this heavy on my heart and I knew I couldn’t avoid it. As I began to study and stretch myself in this area, I quickly realized that my understanding of Heaven was not accurate. It was shaped around misconceptions and a weak theology of it. I picked up the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn and it’s been the most impactful book I’ve ever read. It’s challenged my thinking and given me much more of an excitement and anticipation for Heaven.
As I read this book and various Scriptures, God began to teach me how to process my eternal home. Here are just a few thoughts that I hope encourage you as well:
- We can’t know everything about Heaven, but we can know some things.
Some of us (myself included), have resorted to this type of thinking: “There’s no way I can really know much about Heaven. It’s beyond me and I just have to trust God with it.” Although we should trust God, I believe that God also wants and desires for us to learn about Heaven. The enemy has really convinced us though that we shouldn’t! As we study more about Heaven, our faith should grow for both the present and future.
Many of us have this type of thought because we immediately think about the book of Revelation, which may overwhelm us and even freak us out. As I read this book, I noticed that the author actually used a lot of Scripture outside of the book of Revelation as well. Revelation is apocalyptic literature, which makes it difficult to understand (similar to the book of Daniel). Revelation also uses a lot of imagery, some could be figurative and some could even be literal, but that’s not the point of this blog! Although Revelation does tell us much about the end times and Heaven, it’s not the only book to look at. There are many Scriptures outside of Revelation that also give us a glimpse and idea of what Heaven will be like, we just often read over them and miss their meaning. I’ll provide some Scripture to look up at the end of this blog.
- Heaven will be more familiar than we think.
Randy Alcorn wrote his book with this statement in mind:
The next time you hear someone say, “We can’t begin to imagine what Heaven will be like,” you’ll be able to tell them, “I can”.
I love this! God gave us an imagination for a reason, to use it for His glory! Alcorn speaks of Heaven in two phases: The Present Heaven, and the New Heaven and New Earth. The Present Heaven is where our loved ones and friends who know Jesus are right now that have passed, or as Scripture says, have “fallen asleep”. They are now with Jesus in His presence. If we pass away before Jesus comes back, this is where we will be as well. Scripture gives us some hints about what this Present Heaven is like, but at the minimum, we can know that those people are fully aware of being with Jesus and their loved ones, as well as other believers who have passed away from history.
Alcorn interprets from Scripture that there is a physical element there, not just a spiritual, unseen state or realm. He thinks this may apply to the people in the Present Heaven as well. After all, the resurrected, physical body of Jesus is there. In the beginning, God “created the heavens and the earth.” Jesus says to the man next to him on the cross that cries out to Him before he dies, that “today you will be with me in paradise.” In the Old Testament, manna was sent down to the Israelites from the Present Heaven for them to eat. Moses and Elijah physically appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, coming from the Present Heaven. Both Enoch and Elijah didn’t die a physical death, but were both taken up to the Present Heaven. When Stephen was stoned to death, he literally looked up and saw the Present Heaven opened and saw Jesus there. The New Jerusalem seems to also be there because we are told in Revelation 21:2 that the New Jerusalem will come down to Earth at the end. I don’t want to get into all of that here, but there is a lot of exciting things to consider there!
Although we can know that the Present Heaven will be incredible and much better than this broken world now, the ultimate aim of Heaven is NOT the Present Heaven, but rather the New Heaven and New Earth. This is Johns vision from Revelation 21, where Jesus comes back to Earth at the end. He will bring down Heaven as well as all of His children with Him. We will live and rule with Jesus again on this Earth that we are now living on, but it will be forever, without sin and made NEW! Therefore, what we see today should make us think of Heaven, because it’s created by God and beautiful. But it’s not complete until Jesus returns because it’s stained with sin. He’s bringing His Kingdom here to us, restoring back the original Eden that we see in Genesis 2. Heaven will be on Earth!
Obviously, the New Heaven and New Earth WILL be physical and familiar. When God created us in His image, he created us with body AND spirit. We aren’t truly human without both of these elements. When Jesus comes back to make all things right, He will bring us with Him in our perfect, resurrected bodies! As Christ rose, so will we. We will eat, drink, work, worship, rest, explore, fellowship, be with those we love, meet new friends and never be separated from His presence. Sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? But way better! This is the ultimate, final destination. We think parts of creation are beautiful now, just wait for the New Heaven and New Earth!
- Heaven will be beyond better than we can ever imagine.
Although Heaven will be familiar to us, it will also exceed our expectations! Many of us are scared or overwhelmed when we think about Heaven. I know I was. The uncertainty has brought fear and anxiety to my mind at times, especially when people pass away and I have to think about it. Ultimately, we have to trust God with this plan and process. If He’s faithful with everything else, He will be faithful to the end. But, we also shouldn’t fear. Death is not the end!
“Anticipating Heaven doesn’t eliminate pain, but it lessens it and puts it in perspective. Meditating on Heaven is a great pain reliever. It reminds us that suffering and death-they are but a gateway to our eternal life of unending joy.”
He is going to make us new. We WILL be with Jesus physically and the ones we love. We will meet the heroes of faith that we read about and people from all over the world. Our life and memories on this Earth will not be erased, rather it will continue into a perfect state. We will reflect on all God did in our lifetime and see how it all came together and also embark forward to the great adventure that we were originally intended to live, prior to the fall. Our bodies will be perfect where we will be able to live with Christ forever! In the New Heaven and New Earth we will be actively doing things for God’s glory that we will enjoy. This is our home.
So, now what?
What I have written in this blog is just a cliff notes version of all God has been teaching me. There is so much more! Obviously, a lifetime of learning is ahead and even after that! We will never stop discovering and growing in Christ. I obviously don’t have all the answers about Heaven. No one does! I do believe though that we are cutting ourselves short if we don’t study and dive into it. After all, this is the place we tell people they can be if they give their lives to Christ. The alternative to Heaven is not good! Shouldn’t we strive to anticipate and long for it more with the help of the Holy Spirit? When we do this, our life right now has more joy, purpose and urgency, knowing that everything we do here echoes into Heaven. Although what I’ve written here is future driven, it also applies now. The children of God are bringing Heaven to Earth right now through the power of the Holy Spirit, expanding the Kingdom and preparing the way for Jesus to come back. That’s a perspective I want!
If you haven’t read the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, I would encourage you to order a copy. As you read it, look into the Scripture that he references and pray and process things along the way. It’s not a perfect resource, but it sure was helpful!
*Here is some Scripture about the Present Heaven or New Heaven & New Earth to read carefully in context: John 14:2-3, Philippians 1:21-23, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Colossians 3:1-4, John 16:33, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, John 14:23, 2 Kings 1:11, Acts 1:11, Acts 7:56, Genesis 5:24, Luke 16:19-31, Ephesians 2:6, Romans 6, Daniel 12:13, John 6:54, Romans 8, Psalm 23:6, Psalm 16:5-11, Psalm 73:23-28, Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 8:11 (there is much more!)
If you would like to start a conversation or have questions, please reach out to me. Be blessed!