Heaven is so crucial to our understanding of our current life but most Christians have all sorts of weird perceptions of what it’ll be like. And no, it’s not an eternal church service.
What is Heaven and Where is it?
The first misconception is that when we die we go right to the final-after-judgement-day Heaven. That doesn’t happen yet, we go to Heaven how it is now (Rev 6:9-11). But Heaven is going to change after judgement day.
Heaven is the dwelling place of God. Heaven can change. Only God is eternal and changeless. Heaven is a finite and a specific location where God chooses to fully display his glory. Heaven is not for God since He is infinite, but for creatures such as angels and humans.
So currently, Heaven (the dwelling place of God) is separate from Earth (the dwelling place of man). After judgement day God will dwell with man – meaning Heaven and Earth will be united and Heaven will reside on Earth (Rev 21:1-3).
So What Happens At the Moment of Our Death?
- The Judgement of Faith. Depending on your faith, you go to present Heaven or present Hell. (Luke 16:22-31, 23:43)
- It’s not the Judgement of Works yet where we receive varying degrees of rewards or punishment depending on our lives. (2 Cor 5:10, 1 Cor 3:13-14, Rev 2:26-28, 3:21, 14:13, 20:11-13)
- We’re conscious. (Rev 6:9-11).
- We have intermediate bodies, not fully resurrected glorified bodies.
Heaven is Physical
Heaven is physical, but just not in the same physical plane our universe is in. We simply call anything we can’t touch “spiritual”. But apart from God, it doesn’t mean that these spiritual things don’t have dimension. In this higher realm, there is space, time and matter – there is stuff, there is physics. Some examples from the Bible of physical stuff in Heaven are Jesus, smoke, scrolls, martyrs with clothes, palm branches, musical instruments, horses and eagles. And New Jerusalem can only descend to the new Earth if it is physical where the physicalness of the higher realm unite with the physicalness of our realm.
How to Change Your Thinking… Continuity
Continuity of God’s Plan: Basically just think of Heaven as what would have happened if mankind didn’t sin. God didn’t throw out His plan and start over. He’s restoring his plan. The only difference is that he shows his amazing love and grace because of our sin. God doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. He cleans the baby. And his ‘baby’ is both us and the universe.
So the quickest way to wrap your head around future Heaven is just to think of the Garden of Eden. People in fellowship with God and others, enjoying his gift of the universe. In fact, the tree of life of the Garden of Eden will be in future Heaven (Rev 2:7).
So really… while we are going home, Adam and Eve will be returning home.
God created a home for his family. We messed up the home, then he fixed up the home so that we could one day live in the home.
So What Will Life Be Like? (No, it’s not an endless church service.)
Life now and in Heaven is about Loving God. In his love for us God created the universe as a gift for his ‘firstborn son’ Christ and his children (Rom 8:17). In Heaven when you play with a penguin, we can love God by being thankful for the penguin and enjoying the penguin. It’s like during Christmas when you give your kid a gift. You don’t want him to sit there and just say thank you and not play with it. You want him to play with it.
Out of love, God gives us the gift of the entire universe to ‘play’ with, and we will not be able to stop praising and thanking God for how amazing the gifts are and how generous and loving he is.
Another gift God has given us is fellowship and friendship. So stuff like music, the arts, sports, culture, all will be an expression of the gift of fellowship. Yes, we will have fun and we will laugh (Luke 6:21).
What Will We Be Like?
Looks: After Jesus got his glorified body, people on earth still recognized him. So yes, you will look like yourself with one major exception – no imperfections. The curse of sin screwed up everything, including your body, your DNA. So you will look like yourself now, but perfect. And not only that, because we won’t have sin, you will know and feel that you are perfectly beautiful.
Learning: God cannot change because he is infinite. But finite beings change and grow, including growing in knowledge. It is not a sin to be finite, everything God made is finite. Adam and Eve and the angels were not created to be all knowing or all powerful. So bottom line: when you’re in Heaven you won’t know everything and you will still suck at golf. But you will have an eternity to learn whatever you want. Learn guitar, golf, mathematics, the history of every single person in Heaven.
Now think of what the human race learned and accomplished while we were sinful. We invented the wheel, musical instruments, tools, cities, transportation, mathematics, physics, the computer. Imagine if sin didn’t get in the way of us cooperating with each other? Instead of the Russians and Americans competing to go to the moon, what if they cooperated in perfect love? Now think of a billion years of this perfect cooperation? Then a billion times a billion years of this cooperation. The entire universe truly becomes a place to explore and a vast gift to God’s children. (Editor’s Note: Whoever wants to build the Enterprise 1701-D with me, find me in Heaven and we’ll get started).
Desires: All our desires will be holy, you can seriously do whatever you want because you will only desire to do what God wants.
Immortal: New Jerusalem has the actual tree of life, giving fruit in season, leaves for the healing of nations. Even though we can’t die, we may need sustaining of health and energy. It’s not that we won’t have needs, it’s that all our needs will be met.
Reigning: Christ is king and he delegates responsibility. Like with angels, there’s a hierarchy. He delegated dominion of the Earth to Adam and Eve. He delights in doing so. This would lead to societies and culture where we exercise creativity, imagination, intellect and skills – manifesting God’s reflected attributes. We will have differing roles in Heaven.
Marriage: Will there be marriage in Heaven? Yes, but not in the way you think. The ‘marriage’ will be between Christ and his bride (the church). Earthly marriage, no matter how awesome you think it is, is only a symbol of the glory of what Heavenly marriage of Christ with His church will be.
Knowing that we have Heaven to look forward to should change your entire outlook on life.
- First, it should give you comfort during your struggles because you know God’s plan is to bring you home into his family.
- Investment. Not only will your current struggles be gone, your faithfulness during your struggles will be rewarded for all eternity. Your faithfulness is how you “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” So we can embrace hardship and our sanctification.
For more, read “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn.