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The concept of heaven has intrigued artists, theologians, and laypeople throughout history. According to recent polls, two-thirds of Americans believe that heaven is a real place. But what is heaven really like? Is it a Hallmark card, filled with cherubs and celestial music? Or is it a Zen-like afterlife where the souls of good people go to be at peace? Can we really know anything definitive about it? Absolutely we can. The Bible presents a clear picture of heaven.

Heaven Defined
In the King James Version (KJV) translation, the word "heaven" is found 327 times in the Old Testament and 255 times in the New Testament. The word "heaven" is used three different ways in Scripture:

  1. Heaven as sky - The Old Testament frequently refers to the sky or earth's atmosphere as the "heavens; Matthew 6:26. Psalm 19:1 says that "the heavens declare the glory of God," meaning that the literal sky, the one with air and clouds, is a testimony to God's creative power.
  2. Heaven as space - The second way the word heaven is used in the Bible is to describe or speak about the realm of space or the stars (Jeremiah 8:2). When God is creating the world, He places the sun, moon, and stars in the "heavens" (Genesis 1:14-18).
  3. Heaven God's dwelling place - Scripture is clear that the third heaven is God's home. It is a literal place where God sits on His throne (Ezra 1:2; 2 Corinthians 12:2). Only four biblical authors had visions of the third heaven; Isaiah and Ezekiel (Old Testament prophets) and Paul and John (New Testament apostles). The apostle Paul recorded just such an experience in II Corinthians 12:1-9. There biblical figures, (Stephen and Micaiah) who got a "glimpse" of heaven was a mere mention and not an actual description of heaven itself (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55).

The first two ways the word "heaven" is used in the Bible are fairly straightforward. The third way the word "heaven" is used is what we commonly think when we talk about heaven today.

The Third Heaven
It is natural to be curious about heaven, particularly as our short years on earth are waning. There are several things we can know about the heavenly realm: who resides and will reside there, what it looks like, how it is different from earth, and its most glorious attribute.

  • Heaven is my home - Heaven is God's eternal dwelling place. God's throne is there and when Jesus left the earth He returned to heaven to live and to prepare a place for His followers (John 14:2). Believers in Christ will call heaven their home for eternity (John 3:16). Also, servants of God who died before Christ's coming will go to heaven (Ephesians 4:8).
  • Streets of gold - God showed a glimpse of heaven to the apostle John (Revelation 21:10-27). John describes heaven to be a city built with gemstones and gold. Twelve gates and twelve foundations surround the city (Revelation 21:12,14). John's awe and wonder are apparent as he attempted to describe the indescribable beauty of heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  • No more sin - Sin and the consequences of sin are eradicated in heaven. Pain, tears, sorrow - all have no place there (Revelation 21:4). Death is no more (Revelation 20:6). The fruit of the tree of life, forbidden to humanity after the fall, is available to all of heaven's residents (Revelation 22:1-2).
  • God's presence - Best of all, heaven is filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:11). His presence is so bright that neither sun nor moon is needed (Revelation 22:5). The closeness that existed between the Creator and His creation in the Garden of Eden is found in heaven. We will see God's face and walk with our Savior there (I John 3:2).

The Bible's descriptions of heaven gives us a taste of the rich wonders of heaven and as Christians we are commanded to set our hearts and minds on it (Colossians 3:1-4). The burdens and cares of this world will fall away forever upon entering that glorious place because of our wonderful and perfect savior Jesus who waits to be reunited with his us.

Recommended Read: Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Recommended Video: What is Heaven Like?

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Cary Byrd is the founder of ChristiansLikeMe.net, a free Christian social network that is dedicated to connecting people to Jesus Christ and others. He is also the president of eDrugSearch.com, a free price comparison engine for prescription drugs that helps consumers to get safe access to affordable medications.

Comments

  • Thank you Brother Cary.  You confirmed my picture of heaven with streets of gold.  When Mom passed, I pictured her and my Dad (the love of her life) dancing on those streets of gold.  What I did not realize was that there are 3 levels of heaven, again food for more study and thought. 

    Thank you for all of your efforts in providing this site and also providing the thought provoking things you all do for me.  I may get some of it muddled in my head at times, but I (with the help of you and others) usually get it straightened out.  :-)

  • I think one of the most common flaws in our thinking about such things as heaven is that we think in human, corporeal terms, which is very natural as up until this point, this is the sum total of our experience.  However we must think in terms of 'spirit'.  We know God is spirit and we know that, although created beings, angels are spiritual beings, as is Satan and his demons.  When we die our corporeal bodies are shed and they return to the dust of the ground, we can, therefore, assume that what is left of us is also spirit.

    Secular science now believes that before the event-horizon of creation (the Big Bang) there was neither space, matter nor time, it seems to me that this is what the Bible tells us also.  As Genesis claims that God created the cosmos (heavens and the Earth) or universe we have to ask, into what did God create the universe?  Physics would dictate that if God created the universe, there was nothing there prior to that act of creation, a total and perfect void.

    This view is supported by the statement that God is not limited to our concept of time, temporal existence.   In 2 Peter 3: (ESVUK) we read:

    8 “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

    This certainly suggests that God’s natural environment is outside of time, but can also ‘dip’ in and out of time.  The Psalmist also supports this line in Psalm 90: that says:

    4 “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, nor as a watch in the night.

    We are also told that God is ‘eternal’, also meaning “lasting or existing forever; without end.” Which also suggests that God is outside of time.

    So what picture does this give us of ‘Heaven’, certainly not the traditional picture of green meadows, streets of gold and magnificent mansions.  Heaven will surely be a completely different experience, one that we cannot possibly imagine.  We cannot even imagine a non-material, timeless environment, and one that is impossible to recreate within this universe.  We cannot imagine it because it is so alien to us, we can only imagine that which we have, or can experience.  That is as far as I can go on this voyage as I also have no reference point to suggest what heaven may be like.

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