No conversation has a greater boost for my faith than when I think about heaven. One day all of the sorrows and strife in this life will come to an end just to make room for a glorious eternity filled with perfection as God intended. When I’m feeling down and defeated, I ponder what’s to come in heaven. While it doesn’t change the difficult circumstances of today, thinking about eternity does diminish the size of my problems.
While heaven is a wonderful place to talk about, there’s still a lot of questions about heaven. Questions such as: What’s it going to look like? Will I know other people there? Will we do anything while we’re there? Will it be boring? Will we see Jesus there?
One of the first questions I’m confronted with when I talk about heaven is, “What happens when we die?” The question beneath the question I presume is, “Will we immediately go to heaven or will we wait a while someplace?”
The problem with developing a Biblical understanding of heaven is so much of our eternal worldview has been shaped by media, Hollywood, and personal experiences. I’m more interested not in what we “think” about heaven; rather, what the Bible tells us about heaven.
Will we go to heaven when we die?
Presuming that we’re talking about Christians (professing believers in Jesus Christ), the answer is yes…someday.
What we often refer to as “Heaven”, the place for Christians where we go when we die, is really an “intermediate” place where believers await Christ’s return before heaven.
Upon death, the soul is separated from the body – body remaining here on earth and soul drawn immediately into the presence of God rejoicing.
• Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
• Paul also said in Philippians 1:21-24 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
• Jesus calls this place by name in Luke 23:43, “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This temporary state in the presence of God, while not yet heaven, is not the same as what the Catholic Church calls purgatory.
A Roman Catholic teaching of a place where souls of believers go to be further purified of sin until they are ready to be admitted into heaven. Itʼs a place of temporal sufferings given to God as a substitute for the punishment for sins due in life.
Itʼs support comes not from the pages of Scripture, but from the pages of the Apocrypha in the book of 2 Maccabees 12:42-45. In this text believers (Jewish) are encouraged to give an offering and a prayer for the dead as an atonement for the dead that they might be delivered from sin. From this passage, Catholic practices such as praying for the dead were born.
The problem with this religious practice, according to the New Testament, Jesus has made a whole and complete atonement for our sin (Ephesians 2:4-5). Moreover, upon death, Scripture teaches us that the souls of believers enter directly into the presence of Jesus (Philippians 1:21-24).
The Bible teaches that Christ paid the complete price for our atonement, and thus we can not and ought not attempt to do anything to add to it.
So this intermediate heaven that Jesus calls ‘paradise’ (even if it be temporary) is a destination a believer’s soul will go to upon death, without suffering, in the presence of God; however, it is not the place where weʼll live forever.
Our forever eternal home is called the “New Earth”.
Revelation 21:1-3 says, “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. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! Godʼs dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
God has promised through the prophet Isaiah (65:17) “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”
And it’s in this “new earth” that Christ will resurrect our bodies from the earth and unite our souls with newly redeemed bodies that will last for eternity (Romans 8:10-11, 1 Corinthians 15:42, 53-54).
Since Heaven is, by one definition, Godʼs dwelling place, it sounds as if God will, at the culmination of human history, unite heaven and earth and He will come down to dwell with us in bodily form and weʼll live in His glorious presence and this New Earth will be made synonymous with Heaven.
Often we think of going to Heaven as departing from our place into an angelic realm to live with God in his place. Perhaps this is true of the ‘intermediate heaven’. But the Bible says that in the ultimate Heaven, God will come down from his place to live with us in our place, the New Earth.
I imagine a recreation of Eden – perfect home for Godʼs creation and God present with us. Imagine our world, without the curse of sin. What would be so different?
- God is the sovereign ruler
- All false gods will be taken down
- Satan will be eternally dethroned
- People who reject God will be eternally dethroned
- God will be permanently enthroned
- Temptation will be banished
- Christ will become the unchallenged, absolute ruler of the universe
God and humanity will live together in eternal happiness, forever deepening their
relationships, as the glory of God permeates every aspect of the new creation. Itʼs a world without sin, suffering, and death—a world delivered from the Curse, will one day be ours to live in . . . forever.
Heaven is such an inspiring place to talk about, I’ve devoted the month of September to study it in our MidWeek Groups at my Church. If you can, join us Wednesdays at 6pm for dinner and a conversation about Heaven.
Thinking about heaven is good for Christians. There’s a yearning inside everyone of us for something more than this life. King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has also set eternity in the human heart.” Since heaven is so glorious, let me encourage you to think about it more often! It will build your faith as you forward to it. (2 Peter 3: 13)
Question: Why don’t you think about heaven more often than you do? (Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.)
**If this has been helpful for you, I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts and/or questions in the comment section below.**