Contrary to what most people might believe, the Bible has a tremendous amount to say about Heaven.
There are two Heavens: the Intermediate (or Present) Heaven and the New Earth (the Heaven to come).
One reason life on Earth can be so difficult is that we were not designed or intended ultimately for life on Earth—Earth is not the final destination. Earth is a testing place. Jesus described Earth as a place of trials and tests and persecutions. He offered rewards in Heaven (not on Earth).
All of this is part of God’s plan to redeem fallen humanity.
Hell is a place and Heaven is a place (although we probably don’t fully understand the idea of ‘place’ in this context).
We can take some clues from our world here on Earth what the New Earth might be like. Beautiful mountains, sunsets, pastoral scenes, laughter, love—all hint at God’s glory and power to create.
God creates new worlds constantly (look on astronomy web sites at the nebulae and galaxies he is constantly creating). So it will be with the New Earth.
Our acceptance into Heaven does NOT depend upon our works, only upon our faith in Jesus Christ.
There is continuity from our lives on Earth to our lives in Heaven. We retain our identities in Heaven.
We will have glorified bodies in Heaven, and most probably physical and mental capabilities that we do not possess on Earth.
We will know our (believing) family and friends, and be able to spend time with them.
We will have jobs in Heaven, and will rule with Christ. We will not float around on clouds all day and play the harp.
Our jobs and servant roles will bring us great pleasure. We will NOT be bored. We will learn, and we will achieve.
We will not be married as on Earth—our spouse will be Christ, and everything that we seek to do will be centered around loving and honoring him.
The focal place of the New Earth will be the New Jerusalem.
The afterlife is an eternal proposition—we have a very hard time even imagining how long eternity is.
When a believer dies, they face the “Judgment of Faith.” Based on their acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour during their life on earth, they immediately (no soul sleep) are in the presence of Christ, where Christ dwells in the Intermediate Heaven.
Our relatives and friends in Heaven are aware of what is happening on Earth, and can pray for us.
There’s no free pass—you can’t believe on someone else’s behalf. This is great motivation to fulfill the Great Commission. Ultimately the Judgment of Faith does not depend upon how good a person we were—only on our faith in Christ.
When Christ returns, he will bring with him the New Earth, as the Apostle John described in Revelation.
There will be a “Final Judgment,” and in this respect the decisions and activities in a person’s life matter (beyond our acceptance and trust in Christ).
Scripture leaves room to debate the order and duration of the events of end times. This is called ‘eschatology’, and you’ll hear terms like premillennial, postmillennial or amillennial depending upon specific beliefs. Ultimately, debates about eschatology are not as important as understanding that you are saved by faith in Christ.
As Dick Woodward says, your destiny does not depend upon how you will do at a final exam in theology.
Where do these ideas come from? Largely from Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, a well researched text based on biblical, theological, and doctrinal references. The book jacket contains this quote by a reviewer: “Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you’ll ever read.” If you are interested in the topic of Heaven, this text is a great place to start.
In some respects it’s ridiculous to even try to bullet-list basic ideas about Heaven. There is a lot that can (and should) be debated, and much is up to interpretation. Granted. But what if you only had a few minutes to tell someone about Heaven? What would you say? We asked Pastor Bill Warrick just that question. Bill had some very profound and personal answers, including some different perspectives on the above list. Watch for that video soon on Veracity. And by all means, spend some time figuring out what you believe and why.