Opinions vary from person to person. Children’s imagination soars to experience a land of fun. Teenagers and young adults view heaven as a fulfillment of their dreams and a compensation for their seemingly boring and empty lives. The wealthy identify heaven as something better than what they already have in their expensive houses, expansive living, and positions of power. The poor long to set foot on the Promised Land, where every desire will be fulfilled and where no shortage will ever afflict their lives. Still others dismiss the concept as a pie-in-the-sky by-and-by.
Each group tends to define heaven in terms of either their present disappointment or their future anticipation. Regardless, the perennial question remains: Where do we go to get meaningful answers for an issue as crucial as the legitimacy or even the existence of heaven?
We Christians turn to the Bible. The Word of God unlocks the mystery of heaven and removes all ambiguity that surrounds it in human understanding. The Word provides an accurate description of what it is, and what it offers to the redeemed.
It is satisfying to know that we do not have to depend on human theories and speculation. We have authentic and reliable information. We have “the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).*
The Bible teaches and promises that the present earth, with its thorns and thistles, with its storms and quakes, will be transformed and restored to the beauty and perfection it had when it came from the Creator’s hands. The promise is unequivocal: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17).
From the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God and propelled Planet Earth into rebellion, the prophetic word of the Scriptures pointed to a new heaven and a new earth, where all traces of sin will be removed and where the redeemed will inherit what God has planned for them. The Scripture showcases a brand-new earth devoid of bloodshed and violence, war and senseless destruction, and any threat of a nuclear holocaust. Land, air, and sea will be devoid of anything destructive. There will be a world free from terrorism’s maddening outbursts, blood-curdling violence, and cold-blooded crime. No one “shall . . . hurt . . . [or] destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isa. 11:9).
The Word of God promises an amazing worldwide culture of love, joy, and peace. Think of the restoration of the Garden of Eden: its breathtaking beauty, its imagination-defying splendor, its pure and unspotted glory, far exceeding that of the greatest of current human creativity. Can you envision a world without smog and pollution, with transparent bodies of water and perpetual sunny days without clouds? Can you imagine trees and bushes loaded with your favorite fruit?
The Bible teaches that in Eden all nature was in harmony. Animals and fowl gravitated to the approach of Adam and sought to spend quality time with him. If Eden will indeed be restored, think of a place where conflict is not a part of interaction between creatures. Instead, there will be unconditional love, joy, and companionship.
Can you envision a world bereft of heart disease, neurological and hematological disorders? Can you imagine a society with no obesity, diabetes, cancer, hypertenson, or upper-respiratory disease? Can you imagine a new home where there will be no taint of sickness, suffering, or disease?
How shall we be citizens of that heavenly home? Only by being members of the family of Jesus here on earth.
Scripture teaches that an evil predator interrupted the bliss of Eden. This smooth-talking enemy of good sought to convince Eve that disobeying God would provide greater fulfillment and joy for her. The platform of the enemy’s argument to Eve was that sin provides us greater freedom. That’s still the devil’s claim. Our first parents fell for that deception, and our planet, consequently, was plunged into an adversarial stance against God.
The tragedy of disobeying God pierced a sword through the hearts of our first parents. Picture Adam watching the first lamb die as a sacrifice for his sin. Imagine the pain Eve endured as she watched each pigeon, turtledove, or goat on an altar dying because of her disobedience to God. Each dying animal pointed them forward to the coming of Jesus, dying for the sins of the world as a means of bridging the gap between earth and heaven for humanity’s salvation.
Although the promise to save the human race was real, so was the pronouncement that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Every sacrifice, every drop of blood shed, pointed Adam and Eve and their succeeding generations to the Savior of the world, dying on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, yours and mine.
Because of the disobedience of the human race in Eden, sin multiplied, disobedience flourished, and evil grew exponentially. Consequently, God destroyed the world with a flood that left the earth’s surface broken and eroded. This obviously caused jagged mountain ranges and vast desert wastelands.
Over the centuries since the Flood totally destroyed and rearranged the original beauty of this planet, there has always been a strong lineup of faith warriors who have tenaciously trusted and obeyed God. They looked beyond time to eternity. A prophetic chorus resounding through generations since the destruction of this world by water has been, “This earth is not my home.”
My real home is on the horizon, ready to break out. It is a home without illness, pain, broken hearts, bereavement, and physical debilitation. It is not a result of fanciful imagination; it is real. I am waiting for that “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).
The Bible speaks of men and women who have kept their hearts and eyes focused on that distant goal. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and countless others looked forward to that “better [country], that is, a heavenly country” (verse 16). God did not intend this world as we know it to be our home. We don’t belong here. We are pilgrims plodding through the predicaments of this planet. We are strangers here; yet eternity is in view. In the darkest of circumstances, children of God have hope and confidence that heaven is on its way.
When schools are bombed, yielding mangled limbs; when innocent citizens of community establishments are gunned down indiscriminately; when diseases such as HIV/AIDS ravish the lives of young men and women; when deterioration and destruction of God’s gifts such as marriage and family become routine; when tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes bring about instant devastation and tragedy; when escalating statistics of international hunger, increased crime, and moral decay challenge the very meaning of life; we ought to be convinced this world is not where we belong. We are just pilgrims passing through this world of woe toward our ultimate home.
That home is truly an unimaginable reward for those who are faithful and place their trust in God. No human language is adequate to express the beauty and the grandeur of that home God has prepared for His children. The biblical portrayal of the Holy City is astounding. Its walls are real: “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14).
Who are these apostles? Peter, who denied; James and John, whose ambition and anger had no boundaries; Thomas, who doubted, and others whose character provided no certificate of entrance into heaven. Unacceptable character traits plagued each disciple. They were believers created of common clay, just like us. If they could make it, so can we, by the grace of God.
Heaven is real. The new earth is real. The streets are real. The fruit trees are real. The water is real. The air is real. Our bodies will be real. Mannerisms, personalities, and voice intonations will be real. Our looks will be identifiable.
Perfect harmony and peace will mark every aspect of heaven. “And the inhabitant will not say, ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity” (Isa. 33:24). “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isa. 35:5, 6). “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6).
God Himself shall make His abode with the redeemed of all ages. God with us becomes the finest definition of the heaven that we shall inherit. The prophet adds these beautiful words: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3, 4).
How shall we inherit this promise? How shall we be citizens of that heavenly home? Only by being members of the family of Jesus here on earth. A right relationship with Jesus now will guarantee our entry and residence into the place God has prepared for us.
Are we actively engaged in the daily pursuit of Jesus? Do we spend time talking with and listening to Him daily and maintain a close and lasting relationship with Him?
Do we depend upon Jesus for everything, every day, claiming His promises?
Who is Jesus to you? If you have had a stroke, is He just a neurologist? If you have a bad heart, is He just a cardiologist? If you have a sinking boat, is He just a good passenger? If you are hungry, is He just a grocer? If your family is breaking apart, is He just a counselor?
Sure, He is all these, but much more. When you’re lonely, is He your best friend? When you’ve messed up and you’re embarrassed, is He your robe to cover your shame? When you are unemployed, is He the best employment agent in the universe?
He’s the Lamb of God that takes away our sins. He is our high priest, pleading on our behalf. He’s our Shekinah that lights the dark way. He rends the veil so we can reach God. He’s the way, the truth, and the life. He’s the one altogether lovely
He’s our passport to our ultimate destination, to that heavenly country in the new heaven and the new earth.
Have Him, and you are in heaven.
* Bible texts are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.