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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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)
- 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).
- 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