God does not tell us much about heaven. Perhaps He has told us a great deal if we can just understand. Like anything we have not experienced, it is hard to put the pieces together.
However, God has told us all we need to know about heaven.
We know God’s will is done in heaven:
“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
Everything will be perfect in heaven. No sin or evil will be allowed in (Revelation 20:10-15, 21:8, 22:15).
We know who will go to heaven:
“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:12-16
Jesus is God the Father’s gift to us. Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins so we could have a relationship with Him, both now and forever in heaven. If we believe in Jesus as God, we will go to heaven. Believing implies obedience – even the demons believe in Jesus (“… Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19), but they consider Him their enemy and live opposite to His commands.
Jesus came down from heaven – He is the only one who has. He is in “very nature God”:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 3:6-8
When Jesus was on earth He gave up some of His attributes. For example, He did not know why power had gone from Him (Mark 5:24-34 Luke 8:42-48) or the time of His return (Matthew 24:36 Mark 13:32). He obeyed the Father perfectly and depended completely on Him (John 5:17-47, 6:38, 7:18-18)
Jesus is now in heaven. He has been exalted to His rightful place, and someday everyone will acknowledge that He is Lord:
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
Since Jesus is the only God, belief in Him is the only way to heaven:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
If we believe in Jesus, we will live in heaven for eternity. This life is very important in that it determines where we will spend eternity, but this life is less than nothing in time compared to eternity.
Revelation 21-22 is exclusively about heaven. Sections of these chapters will be quoted below.
Jesus is in heaven:
“…God’s 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.” Revelation 21:3
He is with us now; His Spirit is everywhere. However, we will see Him in person in heaven, the way the first disciples did. We will worship Him with praise and song for long periods of time. I imagine that we will be able to visit with Him perhaps at times in our homes with other guests. We can ask Him questions. We will feel the joy of being aware of His presence at all times.
“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.” Revelation 21:4
Sin, the consequences of sin and the sinful nature will be gone. It appears that even the memory of sin will go, perhaps immediately, perhaps with time. Because the people who go to heaven believe in Jesus, they will be like Him (“But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” 1 John 3:2). The people in heaven will be a joy and blessing.
We will meet new people and become good friends with them and others we knew before. We will meet the people whose stories are recorded in the Bible and perhaps even hear more of their stories. We will each be ourselves, with our own personalities and preferences, but we will be our best selves, the way God meant us to be.
One of the rewards we receive will be the people who are in heaven as a result of doing what the Lord wants us to do. Paul said to the Thessalonians:
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
There will be many angels, and we will probably interact with them as well. How fascinating to learn of their origin and hear their stories!
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:9-27
The New Jerusalem is somewhat of a mystery. John said:
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:2
We are “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” Revelation 21:9, but the New Jerusalem is also a physical city. It has a “great, high wall with twelve gates” Revelation 21:11 and “twelve foundations” Revelation 21:14 and is “laid out like a square” Revelation 21:16.
The nations will be brought into it (Revelation 21:21). Some of its description could fit both a people and a physical city – “shone with the glory of God” Revelation 21:11. Probably, in some way, the New Jerusalem is both the people of God and a physical city.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5
The city is “of pure gold, as pure as glass” Revelation 21:18, and the street of the city “was of gold, as pure as transparent glass” Revelation 21:21, yet there will be more in the city than streets. Within the city there will be “the river of the water of life” Revelation 22:1 and “the tree of life” Revelation 22:2 –the tree that was in the garden where Adam and Eve were placed (Genesis 2:9, 3:22).
When Jesus was on the cross one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked and Jesus answered:
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
Paradise is a place where the saved dead go before Jesus comes back, but does it include more? Is it outside the New Jerusalem, is it inside the New Jerusalem or does paradise include the New Jerusalem? We will find out.
The new heavens and earth are mentioned several times in the Bible. It seems the new heaven and earth are a cleansed heaven and earth. (The flood in Noah’s day destroyed the earth, but it kept the basic structure):
“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Isaiah 65:17
We are not sure of the timing of the new heavens and new earth. Isaiah 65-66 appears to be speaking about the millennium where all people do not believe in Jesus. Jesus will set up His kingdom from Jerusalem during His thousand year reign on earth. The millennium (thousand year reign of Jesus) is mentioned over and over in Revelation 20.
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.” Isaiah 66:22
God is speaking to the Jewish people that have come to believe in Him.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare…That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:10-13
The day of the Lord starts at the time of the rapture of the church when the majority of the Jewish people do not believe in Him. That day includes a long period of time; it is likely the new heavens and new earth come sometime after the rapture.
“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.” Revelation 21:1
This passage occurs after the millennium.
Many blessings come during the millennium as shown in Isaiah 11, 65 and 66 but death remains (“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” 2 Corinthians 15:26). Death will still be around during the millennium, although less frequently (“the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed” Isaiah 65:20). It isn’t until the end of this thousand years when Satan is cast forever into hell (Revelation 20:10) that death is destroyed.
The animals are at peace with each other during the millennium:
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-8
There will probably be many animals in heaven, including the ones that have become extinct and even new kinds.
“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 65:17-25
Not everyone will believe in Jesus during the millennium (as shown in Revelation 20 when Satan is released after the thousand years).
After this thousand years and a final battle, evil will be completely held captive forever.
Perhaps, just seeing this world and imaging it without sin and destruction will help to understand heaven. God had to punish Adam and Eve for of listening to Satan. There were serious consequence of Adam’s disobedience:
“…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food…” Genesis 3:17-19
There will not be any “painful toil” in heaven for there will no longer be “thorns or thistles” for one thing. There are many curses not mentioned, like insects that bite, etc. that will be eliminated. Any “work” we do will be a creative joy. There will be a wide variety of activities – enough to last for eternity.
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:20-22
When man is set free, the animals, insects and all creation will be free from any destructive ways to man and to each other.
In one way we, through faith in Jesus, are in heaven now:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
We already are blessed in the heavenly realms.
We died with Christ and our life is now hidden with Him:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3
We are to “set our hearts/minds on things above”.
Paul goes on to say what “things above” are:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17
Do everything in love (“…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16). Then we are setting our hearts/minds on “things above”.
Paul could say that “to die is gain” and that it was “better by far” to be with Christ:
“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.” Philippians 1:21-24
He knew that the reason he remained on earth was for others. Otherwise it was “better by far” to be in heaven.
(Scripture verses in italics are quoted at another time throughout the article.)