Summary: A brief examination of heaven as revealed in the Word of God.
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”
One way to make scads of money is to write a book describing Heaven. If the writer presents himself or herself as a child, the fascination with what was purportedly seen is that much greater. Some years ago, a large charismatic church in a neighbouring community, hosted a man who claimed to have gone to Heaven. He claimed to have danced with his mother on a sea of glass. Accounts of his “trip” were published in the area newspapers, and his name was on the lips of many people. His account proved, it was claimed, that Heaven existed.
For the record, I have no doubts of the existence of Heaven. The term “Heaven,” and its cognates, appears 286 times in 265 verses in the New Testament; apparently, God wanted His people to know of the existence of that place. The Master was quite certain when He spoke those comforting words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” [JOHN 14:2-4].
I am confident that Heaven is real. I am confident of its existence, not because some individual claims to have been to Heaven, but because the Word of God informs me of Heaven. We who are believers now “groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:2]. We have this longing because “We know that … we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:1].
We know that just as Christ has been raised from the dead and has been seated at the Father’s right hand in the heavenly places, so we who believe know we have been raised up with Him, and we know we are now seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus [EPHESIANS 1:20; 2:6].
We know that “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [PHILIPPIANS 3:20]. In fact, we are confident that we have a hope laid up in heaven [COLOSSIANS 1:5], and so we desire “a better country … a heavenly one” [HEBREWS 11:16].
The child of God may be confident of the existence of Heaven. As the Apostle has said, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” [2 TIMOTHY 4:18]. We who are born from above are assured that we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us]” [1 PETER 1:4].
Let me emphasise at the outset that Heaven is where God is. To be with God is to be in Heaven. The one who is born from above does not fear death, though we cannot enjoy the process of dying. No one enjoys the prospect of ageing. However, we are confident that we are being equipped for our eternal dwelling place. The Apostle has declared, “We are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-8]. In another instance, Paul would testify to his personal desire when he says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” [PHILIPPIANS 1:23]. This is but a practical application of the Master’s declaration, “Where I am, there will My servant be also” [JOHN 12:26].