In the last several years there have been books written and movies made by and about people who said they had been to heaven. Some of them said that they had died, went to heaven, were now alive and wanted to tell their story. Others aren’t sure if they died or not but they are sure that they were in heaven. Some of them even said that they saw Jesus or God. All of them said that they saw people that they knew, who had died. Some said that they saw people who they didn’t know but who knew them and their family. I even heard a preacher, whose name I will not mention here, say that he went to heaven although he had neither died or was near death. All of the stories although similar in that they describe heaven as peaceful they were very different in other details. I have often wondered about the legitimacy of their claims.
Now that I’m retired and have been able to spend some time thinking about many things that I have or/had questions about I decided to look, not at what these people say about heaven but what the Bible says about heaven.
What Does the Bible Say?
(See my post Heaven)
According to Jewish tradition and teaching there are three heavens.
Genesis 1:6-8 (NKJV)6 Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which wereabove the firmament; and it was so.8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
The Celestial Heavens
The celestial heavens refers to the solar system, outer space, the place of the sun, moon, and stars.
Deuteronomy 17:2-5 (NKJV)2 "If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant,3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven,which I have not commanded,4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel,5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. (bold mine)
Matthew 24:29 (NKJV)29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
The Heaven of Heavens (Third Heaven)
The throne of God is is the third heaven.
Deuteronomy 10:14 (NKJV)14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to theLORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
1 Kings 8:27 (NKJV)27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!
2 Corinthians 12:2 (NKJV)2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven.
What and Where is Paradise?
Sometimes heaven is called or referred to as paradise.
This was Jesus’ message to the church at Ephesus.
Revelation 2:7 (NKJV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." '
If this is the Paradise of God it should be obvious that God is there. We said earlier in the post that the third heaven is the abode of God, He’s there. So I believe thay the Paradise of the Bible and Heaven are one in the same.
1 Heaven is a real place, and Jesus is preparing a place for us to live there with Him.
Jesus comforted his disciples with these powerful words at the Last Supper, just before His journey to cross. And they still hold the power to bring great comfort and peace to our troubled, uncertain hearts today:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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
What it tells us is this - we don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to live troubled in our hearts and wrestling with our thoughts. He promises us that heaven is a real place, and it’s big. It’s not the image we may have heard or seen of just clouds in the sky where we float around playing harps, being bored forever. Jesus is there and is working to prepare a place for us to live there too. He assures us He will come again and that all believers will be there someday. And if our Maker has created us with such uniqueness and power, we can be confident that our heavenly dwelling place will be greater than we could ever have imagined. Because that’s just the way He is.
2 It is amazing, and more than our minds can perceive.
God’s Word clearly reminds us that we just simply can’t comprehend all that’s still in store. It’s that good. It’s that amazing. And in a world that can often feel dark and is full of struggles and worries, that thought can be hard to even begin to wrap our minds around. But His Word says this:
“’No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’” – But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit…” - 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
For those who have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, we are promised an incredible future, an eternity, with Him. Just knowing that this life is not all there is can give us the perseverance to carry on through the toughest of times. We have so much to still look forward to! The Bible talks much more about the free gift of Christ and the forgiveness and new life He alone can offer than it does about exactly “what” to expect in Heaven. I think that’s a clear reminder to us to stay alert and active in sharing light and love in a world that needs His hope. This life is short, time goes by fast, let’s use our days wisely, so that many more have a chance to hear God’s truth now and experience heaven someday.
3 It is a place of true joy and freedom, with no more death, suffering, or pain.
This promise brings us so much hope in a world that knows great suffering, loss, and pain. It’s hard to imagine even one day without some trouble or pain, because we’re so human, and caught up in sin or struggle. We can’t even begin to comprehend an eternity of no more pain and sorrow, wow, that is simply mind-blowing, and such great news! If you have ever suffered illness, disease, or held the hand of a loved one who was in such pain at the end of their life…if you have ever experienced great anguish of the soul, or have struggled through addictions, or walked a painful road through trauma or abuse…there is hope still ahead. Heaven is a place where truly, the old is gone, the new is come. The struggle and pain we carry here, will be lifted away. We will be healed. We will be set free in every way of the burdens that now weigh us down.
“…They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:3-4
No death. No mourning. No pain. God will be with us and He will wipe away our tears for the very last time. Heaven is a place of joy and goodness, freedom and life.
4 Our bodies will be transformed.
God promises that we will be made new. We will have heavenly bodies for eternity and won’t be succumbed with sickness or physical weakness that we know here on earth. Contrary to some popular ideas out there, we do not become angels in heaven. There are angelic beings, the Bible is clear about that and gives many descriptions of them in heaven and on earth, but we don’t suddenly become an angel once we go to heaven. We are God’s children and have received the amazing gift of eternal life because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
“There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another…When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory…” - 1 Corinthians 15:40, 54
Other stories and scriptures in the Bible tell us that our heavenly bodies and lives will resemble who we are today, and that we will recognize others in heaven who we know here on earth. Many may wonder, what about when a baby dies? Or any older person? Is that the age they continue to be in heaven? Though the Bible isn’t totally clear on this, we can believe that if Christ is giving us a body that we will have for eternity, and since He is the Creator of all things, it will be the best ever and far greater than we have ever had here on earth! And if God is giving us a new body and eternal life, we can be sure that He has great purpose for us still in heaven. (You And Your Loved Ones In Heaven)
5 It is beautiful and a whole new environment than we have ever known, for God dwells there and makes all things new.
Through the chapters of Revelation, we can find glimpses of heaven and what is still to come, as John reveals the vision given to him.Revelation 21 describes in detail the beauty of the city, its gates, walls, and the amazing truth that it is the very dwelling place of God:
“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone…the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass…the glory of the Lord gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” - Revelation 21:18-19, 21, 23
God’s powerful presence is greater than any darkness we may face on this earth. And there is no darkness there. His words go on to say that in eternity, the gates will not be shut and there will be no night there. There will be nothing impure, no shame, no deceit, but only those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. (v. 25-27)
Heaven is real, and so is hell.
Jesus spent more time talking about its reality than any other person in the Bible. He didn’t talk about it to scare us, or to simply stir up strife. He told us of heaven and of hell too, so that we could make the best choice of where we want to spend eternity. And it comes down to that, it’s a choice. We can know for a fact that as much as people want to joke about hell as one big party, it will be no party. Just as heaven is a place of light and freedom, hell is a place of darkness, despair, and suffering. If you’re reading this now, and aren’t sure where you will spend eternity, take a few minutes to talk with God and get things straight. Don’t wait, we’re not promised tomorrow.
Christ came to set us free, He choose to die on the cross, He was willing to do that, for you and for me, so that we can be forgiven of the sin and wrong in our lives, and receive the gift of eternal life. That is true freedom. There’s no other way that we can be saved, but through Jesus. He was buried, and placed in a tomb, but He didn’t stay dead. He rose again and is now in heaven with God, He defeated death, and He’s given us His Spirit to help us in this life. The Bible says if we confess Him as Savior and Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. Pray to Him today, and know that He is with you always, and won’t ever let you go.