“Heavenly Hash,” “like heaven on earth,” “almost heaven”–we use the word “heaven” in colloquial language all the time. Yet most of the time, earth consumes our thoughts, concerns, and efforts. For those who reject the supernatural, the phrases “like Valhalla on earth” or “almost Mt. Olympus” will do just fine, since in the mind of the materialist, the physical universe is all there is.
But what good reason can be given for rejecting the supernatural? For a multitude of reasons that I’ve been offering here for months now, I firmly believe there is a supernatural. And as part of God’s creation, heaven is as much a reality as the chair I’m sitting in while I type this. In a way, it’s more real. It will outlast the iPhone, tablet, or laptop you’re using right now, the building you’re sitting in or near, and the body you walk around in.
For all the comparisons in songs, sayings, and product branding of the way we would like earth to be like heaven, I’ve actually been told by some people that they’re not sure they want to go to heaven. “If it’s like one long, boring church service, then I don’t wanna be there,” some have said. “What’s the whole deal with clouds and harps?” others have asked. If you’re thinking of heaven like that, or even like some kind of human utopia, I almost don’t blame you for being uninterested. But that’s not the way the Bible explains heaven, and the heaven that the Bible describes does present us with yet another reason why we would want to believe in Jesus Christ.
Heaven Right Now
In some sense, the omnipresent God who cannot be contained by space or by time (since God as the Creator of space and time is greater than these) makes His presence accessible in this place we call heaven. So to be in heaven is to be in the company of the Almighty. Those who have already passed away as believers in Jesus Christ are described as being “absent from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
During my lifetime, as I’ve traveled and have been the house guest of many, many people, there have been people with whom I’ve stayed where I’ve felt less than comfortable, and there have been those who have genuinely made me feel completely, totally at home with them. Heaven is where people will feel entirely like the latter–at home, at rest, at ease, and at peace in the presence of the most beautiful, glorious, powerful, and pure Being who exists.
We’ll look at His face. We’ll hear His voice. He will know that each of us is there. You won’t feel like that “fifth wheel” tag-along at somebody else’s party. You will know that you belong. For the first time ever, you will know what it feels like for everything to be “right.” There will be no discord, only harmony.
John Lennon challenged everybody to “imagine there’s no heaven.” Let me challenge you to try to envision a place of absolute splendor, with no flaws, a place where there is no evil–no violence, no disease, no tragedy. It is a good place because the Originator of all that is good has caused His presence to be there. And you and I, at last, are made completely good. We have no more proclivity to selfishness, envy, outbursts of anger, or meanness. (We all know the things within ourselves that we wish were not part of our makeup–the ugly side of us–and those things will be gone from us.)
What Will We Do in Heaven?
The apostle Paul was once stoned with rocks and left for dead. (Acts 14:19) He later wrote that he was “caught up into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak.” (2 Corinthians 12:4). In order that Paul would complete the ministry that God had given him on earth, God returned Paul to his body on earth. (Acts 14:20) After that occasion, Paul was not allowed to give us details about what He saw or heard in heaven. But this much we know–it was so marvelous that there was danger that even Paul’s ego would be inflated were he allowed to boast about it. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
What Jesus did say is that, among other things, in heaven, believers will dine with Him and with other believers. (Matthew 8:11) He did say that we will apparently have places of our own to retire to. He promised,
… You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. (John 14:1-3)
How then, can I tell you that we will not be sitting around on clouds in saffron robes, strumming on somewhat uncommon musical instruments for all eternity? For one thing, harps are mentioned only three times in the New Testament of the Bible regarding heaven–once vaguely (Revelation 14:2), once pertaining to 24 unique individuals in heaven (Revelation 5:8), and once of Christians who die in a future time of Great Tribulation (Revelation 15:2).
Heaven on Earth
What the New Testament does teach is that there will be a resurrection of the dead (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 42-44) wherein all believers in Jesus Christ will be given back their bodies, only perfected, as Jesus’ resurrection body is perfect (Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). In our resurrected bodies, we will be with Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 4: 17) We will be about His business, working meaningfully with Him.
He promised that those who have been faithful to Him on earth in little things will be put in charge of bigger things in His eternal kingdom. (Matthew 25:14-23) He, also, promised that believers will reign with Him when He returns to earth to reign here! (Revelation 20:6).
There will eventually be a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1) The implication of the Bible is that, just as the first humans were given meaningful, enjoyable work to do in collaboration with God in a world without chaos (Genesis 1:28), so also, the final state of believing humans will be to engage in similar fulfilling, gratifying work on the recreated earth. (Revelation 22:3)
We don’t need to imagine a heaven. Jesus Christ has already promised that there is such a place that He is preparing for us who believe. (John 14:1-3) These few words have only begun to explain the eternal wonders of the flawless realm where God Himself invites us to dwell with Him through the merits of His righteous Son.