A Brief Look at Heaven

In this day, there is no shortage of confusion about Heaven: it’s one of the topics of Christian theology that innumerable unbalanced and unregenerate people love to focus on (that and angels, which is highly related).  There is no shortage of fools and frauds that claim to have insight into Heaven; what it’s like, the nature of it, who goes there, etc.  Also, the last twenty years or so has produced a gaggle of I Went To Heaven books where some clown claimed to go to Heaven and get the inside scoop (every single one of those people is lying, and I explain why here).   There’s no shortage of claims about Heaven out there, and it gets pretty crazy.  Try and survive a few minutes of this barking-mad insanity, which is shockingly peddled by the New Apostolic Reformation crowd (Just kidding…I’m not shocked for a second).

So in an effort to help sort through the mess of misinformation,  I took my youth group through a brief exploration of the topic of Heaven.

Here’s the notes I gave them, for your encouragement and edification!

Let’s explore the topic of Heaven with a few questions:

  1. What is Heaven?

Heaven is the dwelling place of God, in a place other than where our planet is (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27, 30, 32, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49; 2 Chronicles 6:21, 23, 25, 27, 30, 33, 35, 39; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Chronicles 30:27; Nehemiah 9:6, 27-28; Psalm 2:4, 53:2, 73:25, 102:19, 115:3, 139:8; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Lamentations 3:41, 50; Isaiah 63:15; Matthew 5:16, 5:45, 6:9, 10:32, 12:50; John 12:28).

We can speculate about the spiritual realm (where it is, what it’s like, etc.) but speculation isn’t terribly helpful.  All we really need to know is that Heaven isn’t here, meaning part of this world that we see and touch.  It’s somewhere else, and the exact nature of what that means is a mystery to us.

Heaven is the home of Jesus (Luke 24:51; John 3:13, 3:31, 6:38; Acts 1:9-10), where he administered his priestly work for believers (Job 16:19; Hebrews 9:24) and current sits (Acts 7:55-56; Ephesians 1:20, 2:6; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22), awaiting his return (Hebrews 10:12-13; Acts 1:11).

Heaven is the dwelling place of elect angels (Luke 2:13-15, 22:43; Galatians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

Heaven is the place where believers go (temporarily) when they die (2 Kings 2:11; Luke 10:20, 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 2 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 12:23).

Heaven is also the place where the things believers hope for are stored (Ephesians 1:3-10; Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:4).

  1. What is Heaven like?

The exact nature of Heaven is unknown to us, since Heaven is a place inaccessible to people (Deuteronomy 30:12).

Still, we know that there is a current Heaven (known as the intermediate Heaven):

The intermediate Heaven is where God sits on his throne; the floor is clear like crystal and God is surrounded by his angels (Exodus 24:9-10, 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Psalm11:4, 103:19, 123:1; Ezekiel 1:22-28; Matthew 18:10; Revelation 4:1-11).

The intermediate Heaven has a temple in it; it is the temple on which the earthly temple was based (Hebrews 8:5, 9:23-24; Revelation 11:19).

The intermediate Heaven is the place where believers go while they await the resurrection (see previous question for Scriptural support).

The intermediate Heaven is the place where believers get their eternal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:47-49; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4), therefore Heaven has some sort of physical aspect to it.  Just how that works, we do not know.

The intermediate Heaven is also a place where believers store up rewards (Matthew 6:19-21; Mark 10:21); the idea that one stores up incorruptible rewards with money again suggests that there is some sort of tangible aspect to Heaven, though the Bible doesn’t directly address the nature of Heaven in this regard.

The intermediate Heaven is also the “country” (so to speak) in which believers have their citizenship (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:16).

The intermediate Heaven is also a place of righteousness; there’s no sin or temptation and believers will perfectly love one another (Matthew 22:30; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Revelation 21:27).

There is also a coming Heaven (known as the eternal Heaven) that will be different than the current intermediate Heaven and will be discussed below.

  1. Who goes to Heaven?

Those with the Holy Spirit go to Heaven (2 Cor. 5:1-5).

The ones who Jesus has prepared a place for; he will take them to Heaven to be with him (John 14:1-6).

The ones who God calls to Heaven go to Heaven (Rev. 11:12).

In other words, the righteous go to Heaven (Rev. 6:9-11).

  1. What do people do in Heaven?

In Heaven, people worship God (Rev. 4:10, 7:9-11, 11:15-16, 15:2, 19:4).

Those who are in Heaven also observe the earth and respond to earthly occurrences accordingly (Luke 15:7, 16:27-31; Revelation 6:9-11).

In Heaven people are finally sinless, having the presence and power of sin removed from them completely (Rom. 8:18, 28-30; 1 Peter 4:13; Revelation 7:9, 13-14).  This is the main reason that Heaven is a place of unmitigated joy.

Heaven is also a place where believers receive comfort (Luke 16:25), rest from all the struggles and trials of life (Heb. 3:7-4:11), and reunion with fellow believers (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 2 Thessalonians 2:1)

  1. How long are people in Heaven?

Heaven is not where believers will spend eternity.  Believers who die in the time before the second coming will go to Heaven and return with Jesus when he comes to gather believers (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27) and set up his thousand-year kingdom (Is. 65:17-25; Daniel 2:36-45, 7:23-27; Revelation 20:4).  Before the kingdom, all the wicked men and angels will be rounded up and removed from this realm, awaiting their final judgment (Isaiah 24:21-23; 34:1-8; Matthew 13:40-43).  After the kingdom and the final rebellion of Satan and sinners (Revelation 20:7-10), God will destroy both the earth and space (Is. 51:6; 2 Peter 3:7-12; Matthew 5:18, 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; Hebrews 12:26-28) and re-create the entire universe (Isaiah 66:22-24; 2 Peter 3:13).

  1. What happens after the intermediate Heaven?

After the earth and space are destroyed, Christ’s kingdom will be handed over to the Father when the eternal Heaven merges with the new Earth. This coming Heaven will be the New Jerusalem; the “streets of gold” place that most people confuse with the current Heaven (Revelation 21:1-27).

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Longing to be Home” Unger

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13 thoughts on “A Brief Look at Heaven

  1. Hi, Lyndon, dear brother in Christ Jesus – finally there’s someone who is really up to-date with biblical “Heaven” information! Thank you!! The most detailled commentary on ‘Heaven’ I read recently was by Randy Alcorn, and even he (after himself claiming 25 years of research on this topic OMG!) did in fact only describe the 1,000 years of earthly kingdom of peace with Christ but in the book neglecting totally this period of time! He only described OT prophecies regarding the 1,000 years of restored earth and named this a sort of “NT revealed Heaven insight”… – When I then wanted to read John MacArthurs thoughts about this some time lateron, the Lord prevented the delivery of the book that was already ordered – I took this as a heavenly sign please not to read it anymore and better get my money back. 😉 Meanwhile, I think that God has NOT given us any more information about our eternal state (and about Heaven in future) in the Bible because we hardly can imagine the future state of earth during the kingdom of Christ here for the next 1,000 years (there is too much struggle even with the seven years of tribulation period we can hardly grasp and which is VERY near future though). We have to get our new bodies and sinless minds first after resurrection before we could talk about anything like this and God knows that. As far as we are still sinners, we cannot get a glimpse (and understand it) of ANY more information – Ezechiel and John tried to describe sth for us but we CANNOT get that either. For sure, this is Gods friendly grace towards us, too IMO. We could simply not stand this in our actual condition. Actually, there are 3 different “heavens”, the first is visible sky, the second is beyond atmosphere (= space orbit) and the third is the one Paul was relocated to, not being able (and allowed) to describe it as well. All three will (have to!) be redone because either man or Satan (see Hiob 1) have polluted and corrupted them. — Thanks again and be very much BLESSED together with your young audience, who finally hear sth far better from you than from any other “trendy” Bible commentary. Greetings from GER!

  2. Thanks, Lyndon. That’s helpful. So I guess another word that describes this “intermediate heaven” would be “Paradise.”

    “And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'” (Luke 23:43)

  3. The study of Heaven has been long neglected in most of the Christian circles I’ve been associated with. Over a period of many months, my men’s weekly morning study group went thru Randy Alcorn’s book. I was greatly blessed during that study. Now I see that you have plunged deeper. Only a serious student–or someone about to die–would devote the time and effort to pursue another study. I intend to re-blog this posting in hopes that others will likewise pursue what God’s Word has already said … to comfort, encourage, and especially, to inspire others in getting a “step up” in understanding some of the things that already await us in Glory.

  4. I agree that there are some kooky accounts of near death experiece (NDE) people. However, to be fair, there are also a good amount of kooky theologians out there too…
    I would urge you all to read pastor John Burke’s research book called “Imagine Heaven.” He has reviewed over a thousand NDE accounts over 100 years and throught the world. You may be surprised, as I was, that almost all experiences have the same core elements and track, or do not contradict, our biblical understanding of heaven.
    -Steve

    • Dear Steve, NEAR-death is… NOT = dead, right? So, the rest for the Christian is simple: Do not believe in the “Angel of light”, how nicely never he might masquerade (2 Cor 11,14). Satan will have a nice story for everyone who strays off from the bible. Be vigilant, do not fall for his Tricks! God bless.

    • Psalm 139:16
      Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
      in your book were written, every one of them,
      the days that were formed for me,
      when as yet there was none of them.

      So, correct me if I’m wrong, but if this is true then there are no “near death experiences.”

      Hebrews 9:27
      And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that judgment.

  5. I struggle with concepts of heaven being like Elysium. Most “near death” experiences are tales of that kind of place.
    That seems hard to rectify with the belief in “Resurrection of the Dead.” And besides Lazurus there aren’t many “near Resurrection” experiences.
    Honestly, I think we over play heaven (which will pass away when the new one comes) because we’ve downplayed Easter and it’s radical position as core to the faith.

      • I think it’s an issue that many Christian’s believe in “immortal souls” and take that the immortality is inherent to the soul. Tied to that is often “Roman Heaven” aka Ellysium where the dead Go instantly to meet Jesus in bliss (after purgatory maybe) and resurrection is just sorta slotted into the back were “we don’t really know” covers it.

        It’s got all sorts of entry points for bad theological anthropology/ christological errors. Like that makes death not an enemy, but a friend that “releases” you from flesh (Gnostic).
        There’s also issues with dual anthropology, Paul’s use of Psyche/ psuche /sarx (I’m not typing in the greek!) is not really an endorsement of a full blown tripart system either, and the Hebrew view is a nuanced type of “You don’t have a soul… you ARE a soul.”

        I’ve a few bits in my not quite launched blog about it (Looking for more Seminary/ Pastor friends that don’t agree with me on things to contribute), but it was a theme of my Seminary studies I’m intending to take further.

        Still, I’m not really looking to jump the gun on that discussions yet… as it’s not good to publish half-cocked theology.

        Right now I’m just surveying rather unscientifically whatever views I can get. I’m an a-millenial post-trib; ya’ll represent a very different view from my own to take into account as I study it.

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