Summary: Heaven is: 1. Real 2. Right 3. Relational 4. Rewarding 5. Residence of God
The Bible is full of wonderful promises, but perhaps the most wonderful of all is this: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). There are many things we do not know about what heaven will be like, because it is beyond our ability to comprehend. But one thing we can be sure of is that it will fulfill our greatest longings, it will dazzle us with its beauty, it will obliterate our greatest problems with its power and splendor, it will be greater than anything we could imagine or dream, it will be a place where love and joy will reign unspoiled. God is busy preparing all of this for us.
For the last two weekends we have been busy keeping our granddaughters. Last week it was Lisa and Jeremy’s daughters while they led the youth retreat. This weekend it is our oldest daughter’s children as she and her husband are away on a combination business and getaway trip. In preparation for their coming, we stocked up on ice cream, cookies and candy. Sue bought finger paints and little plastic smocks. She went to the Salvation Army and bought dress up clothes for the girls to play in. I bought a children’s video, and Sue planned some small cooking projects for them. We made all kinds of preparations to make their time with us memorable and enjoyable. Why did we do all that? We did it because we love our grandchildren and want the best for them. The point is, if we make those kinds of preparations for our grandchildren’s visit, how much more does a God of love prepare for the time his children will come to his eternal home. The Bible says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). Jesus said, “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 14:2-3).
Unfortunately, heaven has met with bad press by those who do not understand what God has prepared for those who love him. People see heaven as sitting on a cloud wearing a halo, while little angels play harps as they float through the heavens. Others see it as an unending church service, or singing hymns for all eternity. Some think of it as a sort of a celestial retirement city. It all seems like an apparition — so unreal. No wonder so many people see heaven as a place of numbing boredom, or secretly say to themselves, “Is that all there is?”
There is so much that could be said about heaven, but first let me say that: Heaven will be real. Heaven will not be some ethereal existence where we float about as spirits without bodies. Why would God take the trouble to create a new earth if there was not going to be anyone to live on it? Why would we be given new bodies if we were not going to live in a material world? It is my understanding of Scripture that we were originally created to live as earth dwellers in a material world. Adam and Eve were not placed on a cloud, but on the earth. Heaven will be Eden restored. We have been living east of Eden since Adam and Eve sinned, but the day will come when the original paradise God intended us to be a part of will be restored. The new Jerusalem is not floating in space, but comes down to earth.
The Bible contains this promise concerning the earth: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).
Heaven will be a real place with real, meaningful and rewarding work for us to do. Heaven will be the fulfillment of what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Bible says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. . . . But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:10,13). The old earth will pass away and God will create a new earth which will be the home of righteousness. Dallas Willard assures us that “The life we now have as the persons we now are will continue in the universe in which we now exist.” It will not be a strange apparition, but the real world we have known, only new and better. T. S. Elliot wrote: