God, I Want to Ask You
Seven Questions When Facing Death
The Seventh Question
"What is Heaven Like?"
Note to God:
Father, leaving home and the people I love is so saddening. I have heard of the promise of heaven, but can it ever take the place of home? What will it be like?
Home tugs on the heart. No matter where we go or how old we get, home has an appeal that we cannot escape. Soldiers and sailors get homesick. Restaurants entice us by offering food ‘lust like homemade." Our schools draw us back with "homecomings." Truly, there is no place like home.
I believe that God put the desire for home into our hearts to point us toward something larger and greater - that we belong in the Father's house. Following the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that He would shortly go away. He softened the news by adding, "In my Father's house [ heaven] are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). The word translated "mansions" most simply means "abiding places" - what we know as "homes." This promise is for all who believe in Jesus (John 17:20- 24). If you believe, then rest assured that heaven - God's house - has a home for you.
What has God told us about our eternal home? Most of what we know comes from the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22. These chapters form the grand finale of the Bible. Like the preceding portions of the Book of Revelation, they are vivid with imagery. Commentators disagree on how much of the imagery should be taken literally, and how much symbolically. Based on the belief that the Bible is true and not deceitful, let me offer two thoughts. First, every image in Revelation describes something real. Second, if symbolic, the image describes something no less wonderful than the symbol itself. With these two concepts in mind, let's look at what is said about heaven.
To begin, heaven is a place of blessedness. The Apostle John, to whom was given the revelation, writes:
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 2 1:3-4)
Now God is with His people in the Person of the Holy Spirit. In heaven, His presence will be more visible. Like sunshine on a beautiful day, His glory will cheer and gladden us, fulfilling Psalm 16:11: "In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (NKJV). Will we be lonely in heaven and miss those we love? Impossible. Banished forever will be things that now cause sorrow and pain. Heaven will be a place of reunion with no more "good-byes" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 supports this idea).
In heaven we will also enjoy new bodies. The twentieth chapter of Revelation describes the resurrection of the dead. In our resurrection bodies we will inherit heaven (21:7). More is told about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:42. There we learn that the body to come is incorruptible (it will not wear out), glorious (more magnificent than any body can now be), powerful (stronger than the strongest now are), and spiritual (that is, spiritually attuned). 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 compares the present body to a tent, but the resurrection body to a building. I've camped in cold, damp, and cramped tents enough to know that I prefer living in a nice, solid house. We'll say the same when we have our new bodies.
What's more, heaven will overwhelm us with its beauty. The Apostle John compared its beauty to that of "a bride adorned for her husband" (21:2). Once there was a man named William Dyke who was handsome, witty, intelligent - and blind. He fell in love with the daughter of a British Admiral and planned to marry her. At the insistence of the Admiral, Dyke submitted to a newly developed surgery for his type of blindness. Desiring his first sight to be that of his bride, Dyke asked that the bandages not be removed until the ceremony. When the last bit of gauze came off his eyes, he looked into the face of his bride and said, "You are more beautiful than I ever imagined." When we behold heaven, we shall say the same.
In addition, heaven will be big. The dimensions of the eternal city are said to be 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide, and 1500 miles high! In case you have forgotten, 1500 miles is halfway across America. If these are the literal dimensions of the eternal city, then it could easily have 400,000 stories, room enough for several billion people. Possibly the city will be an immense satellite orbiting a new earth (21:1). If not literal, then the symbolism still means that heaven will be big enough for everyone! Whichever view you take, think of the endless exploration that could take place in such a city! Once I toured Vatican City where one can spend days gazing at architecture, art, and treasures. We will spend eternity seeing all that heaven contains.
Finally, heaven will be busy (not boring!). There "His servants shall serve Him" (22:3) and "they shall reign forever and eve?' (22:5). Heaven will be a place of activity, but without the weariness that accompanies earthly labor now. What will be the activity of heaven? Worship? Yes, but not an endless, dull church service. The worship of heaven will be more exciting than a Super Bowl halftime show. Heaven will apparently involve creative work, for Revelation says, "they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it" (21:26). In some way, our work and worship will add to the glory of heaven! Perhaps we will paint like Rembrandt, sculpt like Michelangelo, compose like Beethoven, sing like Caruso, dance like Nureyev, or write like Shakespeare. How fulfilling and satisfying!
An old song says, "I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun." It is true - true because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, assuring us a place in the Father's house as He promised.
We are headed home.