THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF HEAVEN
Heaven may hold some surprises!
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door
Not by the beauty of it all
Nor the lights or its decor
But it was the people in Heaven
Who made me splutter and gasp—
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and trash
There stood the kid who was in my class
Who swiped my lunch box twice
Next to him was my old neighbour
Who never said anything nice
And my uncle, who I always thought
Was rotting away in Hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud ninety nine
Looking incredibly well
I asked of Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear your take
How did all these sinners get up here?
There must have been a mistake
‘And why is everyone so quiet,
So sombre – give me a clue’
‘Hush, child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you‘
Key Bible reading: Revelation 21: 1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. 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.”
- Do you want to go to heaven when you die? (Why?)
- Do you deserve to go to heaven when you die? (Why?)
- Will your friends and loved ones go to heaven when they die? (How do you know?)
- Do you go immediately to heaven when you die or is there an ‘intermediate’ place called Paradise where you wait for the final resurrection?
- If we don’t go to heaven, where will we go when we die?
Griselda Blanco committed her first murder at the age of 11 when she shot dead a 10-year old boy she had kidnapped after his family refused to pay a ransom. She was known as the Cocaine Queen and The Godmother. She made and spent millions on clothes, jewels, homes, private jets and so forth. Griselda Blanco married and had killed three husbands, dozens of her enemies and even the children of people she hated. Even in prison, she was allowed any luxury she wanted. After release from prison, Griselda was gunned down by a passing motorcyclist in September 2012 and died, aged 69.
However, before she left prison, Griselda Blanco became an evangelical Christian and lived out her final days quietly with one of her sons (two had been killed while she was in jail) spending time with her grandchildren and tending her garden.
The question we must face is whether Griselda went (or will go to) to Heaven or Hell. Our answer will tell us a great deal about our beliefs and understanding of God’s plan of salvation.
So many songs refer to ‘heaven’…
“Heaven, I’m in heaven and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak; and I seem to find the happiness I seek; when we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek”
“Heaven is round the corner, only just round the bend. Some day we’ll turn that corner into our journey’s end. We’ll find a Paradise, daydreams true. Heaven is round the corner and it leads to you”
BUT WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE?
There once was a rich man who was near death. He was very grieved because he had worked so hard for his money and he wanted to take it with him to heaven. So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him when he died.
God hears his plea and sends an angel to visit the man.
“Sorry, but you can’t take your wealth with you.”
The man implores the angel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules just this once. The man continues to pray that his wealth will go with him to heaven.
The angel reappears and informs the man that God has decided after all to allow him to take one suitcase with him, filled with anything he chooses. Overjoyed, the man gathers his largest suitcase, fills it full with slabs of pure gold and places it beside his bed.
Soon afterwards the man dies and shows up at the Gates of Heaven to be greeted by St. Peter.
Seeing the suitcase, St. Peter says,
“Hold on, you can’t bring that in here!”
The man explains to St. Peter that he has permission from God to bring it and asks him to check that he is telling the truth. St. Peter goes away to find out and comes back after a while saying,
“You’re right. You are allowed to bring in one case; but I must examine its contents before letting it through.”
St. Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind on earth and exclaims,
“What! You could have chosen to bring anything at all… and yet you decided to bring a load of paving slabs!” (Think about it… Heaven’s steets are paved with gold!)
So what is your understanding of the place called Heaven?
- Is it like a scene from the Wizard of Oz…but without the bad witch!
- Or a Walt Disney castle…shimmering in the starlight…
The Bible gives us a great deal of information about Heaven:
Heaven was created by God (because all things were created by Him)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)
And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it (Revelation 10:6)
- But notice the plural form of the word
- The word “heavens” can also refer to the area between the surface of the earth and space
Heaven is where God dwells and reigns
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9)
This is what the LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool’ (Isaiah 66:1)
The LORD is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven (Psalm 11:4)
- We also know that God is omnipresent (‘everywhere’) by His Spirit
- He inhabits the universe and sustains all things by the power of His word
- It seems that the Father has His ‘seat of power’ in heaven… but He is not contained by it
It’s probably unhelpful to perpetuate the partial truth that “God is up there in heaven and we are down here on earth”… God’s is present everywhere, including the hearts of those who believe in Him
Heaven is everlasting… it won’t decay like our present world because there is no sin there, so nothing can “perish”
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1)
John had a unique view of the permanent nature of heaven in Revelation 4: 1…
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.
HOWEVER, we also have Jesus’ words:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24: 35)
And from John in Revelation 21: 1…
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea
- So there seems to be a present heaven referred to in Revelation 4 that will eventually be destroyed, together with the present earth
- And the spontaneous creation of a new heaven (and a new earth) referred to in Revelation 21
SO IF WE GO TO HEAVEN WHEN WE DIE, which heaven will it be!
- The heaven referred to in Revelation 4…or in Revelation 21?
- There is no mention of the dead in Rev 4… only in Rev 21… so we must assume Revelation 21 refers to the Heaven to which the spirits of the dead ascend
Heaven is a holy place
For this is what the high and lofty One says—He who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite’ (Isaiah 57:15)
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Ephesians 5:5)
- Note in the last reference that Paul is not referring to the sorts of occasional sinful acts that affect humankind… or no one would have any hope!
- These are people who have chosen to follow the broad way that leads to destruction…and rejected the One who is the Way
If we relied upon our own righteousness, not one of us would be allowed into Heaven, suitcases of gold slabs or not!
Heaven is a place of new beginnings
God 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: 4)
- It’s one thing to change the way we live… it’s quite another to be “born again (anew)” by the Spirit of God
- At the moment, we live in a fallen world, so we experience emotions attached to our situation, including sadness, depression, anxiety and fear
- In Heaven, we will have emotions that are shaped by the sinless place in which we will dwell… love, joy and peace
Heaven is a place of happiness
They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes… (Revelation 7: 16,17)
- What creates sadness?
- What makes someone happy?
- Whatever it is, it usually doesn’t last for long… because sadness and happiness are both an emotion and an attitude
- Emotions and attitudes vary and change
- But heaven’s happiness is continuous and does not depend upon human attitude but upon God’s all-sufficient love
Perhaps we should be making more effort to avail ourselves of that grace while we’re still alive! The Apostle Paul wrote that he had ‘learned to be content’… We could all benefit from such learning!
God answers His people from Heaven
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand (Psalm 20:6)
HOWEVER, there’s a paradox here…
- God answers from heaven but also offers to reside within us
- The hymn-writer puts it like this: “He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way…”
- The wonder of the Gospel is that God became a man and dwelt among us…but then the Holy Spirit came in power to all believers
- The mighty wind, the holy fire came first to the disciples in the upper room
- It was, among other things, a visual representation of a spiritual truth… Only those with the Spirit of Christ belong to Him
God sends His judgements from Heaven
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness (Romans 1:18)
- Note here the emphasis on suppression of the truth and wickedness
- As Jesus made clear, the mercy of God comes to those who are merciful to others
- People who choose to oppress and misuse others will not receive God’s mercy… which is a frightening prospect
The wicked are not allowed in Heaven
But who are “the wicked”? Again, we must turn to the Bible for answers:
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5)
But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practises a lie (Revelation 22:15)
- Again, bear in mind that the reference refers to those who give over themselves irrevocably to these practices… not those who fall, acknowledge their sin and seek forgiveness through the body and blood of Christ
Note also that our deeds do influence our eternal destinies…
- James makes it clear in his letter to the churches that merely declaring our trust in Christ is simply not enough… our deeds need to match our words
- We need to “walk the talk”
Christ entered Heaven as Mediator
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one. He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence (Hebrews 9:24)
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2: 5)
- A mediator is someone who intervenes on our behalf
- I’m so glad that Christ is my mediator
- Fancy facing God alone and unaided!
The Roman Catholic notion of praying to the Virgin Mary, so that she can make intercession for us through Christ is not supported by Scripture
Angels live in Heaven
Angels are, of course, messengers of God… not little girls dressed in lace, wings and painted haloes!
Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 18:10)
- Note that each child has an angel attached to him or her
- The topic of angels is a badly neglected one… yet the Bible has many references to their work and significance (x195)
- And we shall be in the presence of angels… and cherubim and seraphim… worshipping the Lamb
Names of believers are written in Heaven
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this—that the spirits are subject to you—but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20)
You have come … to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven … (Hebrews 12:23)
But also note that in Revelation 20: 12…
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books
- So those who stand outside of Christ will be judged according to the way they have lived!
- When people ask, “What about those who have never heard?” we have at least part of the answer right here
Heaven is a place of joy when sinners repent
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who [think they] need no repentance (Luke 15:7)
We see from the true story of Lazarus and Dives that the dead are aware of what is happening on earth and affected by it…
So can our loved ones see us and do they know what we are doing? The answer seems to be ‘yes’.
It is unclear how many people will go to Heaven
But small (narrow) is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:14)
HOWEVER… in Revelation 7:9…
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
So the road is narrow and few find it, yet heaven will be bulging!
This apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that people from every period of time will be represented in Heaven… thus the reference to ‘multitudes’ gathered across thousands of years
However, be assured…
There is sufficient room for everyone who wants to be in Heaven
As we read in 2 Timothy 4: 8…
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. We go to a place specially prepared for us by Christ…
And the wonderful words of Jesus…
In my Father’s house are many mansions (rooms)…I go to prepare a place for you (John 14 v 2)
Whatever we know and understand about heaven, or don’t know and understand… this is surely the best news of all?
NOTE: I have gleaned much of the above from various sources but failed to make a note of them. Apologies, therefore, to anyone who has faithfully presented Biblical truth about heaven on a web site and recognises some of their own work in the above text. Thank you, and may the Lord bless you.