What is heaven? Heaven is defined as “the dwelling place of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death.” Figuratively, heaven is a place or state of supreme happiness. When someone dies, we often use the cliché, “They’re in a better place.” However, heaven is not just a “better place”—it’s the best possible place! Jesus promised, “In My Father’s house are many mansions [dwelling places] . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3, NKJV). Christ has been preparing that place for 2,000 years (what a place it must be). He is also preparing us for that place. So, heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.
What are the three heavens? Paul spoke of being caught up into the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2-4). The first heaven is the atmosphere around the earth (where birds fly, clouds form, and winds blow). The second heaven is outer space (the vast, galaxy-filled universe of planets and stars). The third heaven is God’s dwelling place (where God, angels, and the spirits of redeemed saints live).
Where is heaven? God only knows. The Bible does not specify a place you can pinpoint on a map or with GPS. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He went UP (Ac. 1:9-11) and when He returns, He will come DOWN (1 Th. 4:16). Is heaven up geographically or dimensionally, or both? Heaven knows. Wherever it is, you can’t reach it in a rocket (no astronaut has ever seen it from space). You can only reach it by faith in Christ via the rapture or resurrection.
Is heaven literal or spiritual? Yes, it is both! Heaven is a literal place we will enjoy in the future but it is also a higher dimension we can experience to some degree now. Paul wrote that we are seated together “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). In a spiritual sense, the Kingdom of Heaven is wherever God’s presence manifests and the King is in authority. So, spiritually speaking, when we are born again and submit to the King, we can live in a heavenly realm. Being a Christian means experiencing a foretaste of heaven here in this life. At the resurrection, we will experience and enjoy it in totality.
What will heaven be like? The best description of heaven in the Bible is in Revelation chapters 21-22, but it isn’t called “heaven.” Instead, John the Revelator used four analogies comparing heaven to earthly things we can relate to and imagine:
A City: New Jerusalem—Rev. 21:2, 10-21. When God moves to earth, He’s bringing a whole new city with him. This massive city (1,500 miles long, wide, and tall, bigger than half of the U.S.) will be a haven of rest eternally. Some say New Jerusalem is just the capitol city of a much larger heaven. Surely, it’s the city that Abraham and the Patriarchs longed and looked for—“He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). Old Jerusalem was David’s capitol where he moved the Ark of the Covenant and where Solomon built the Temple (God’s headquarters on earth). Ironically, Jerusalem means “possession of peace,” although it’s been a most war-torn city. Muslims, Jews, and Christians, all claim it as their spiritual capitol. New Jerusalem will dwell in permanent peace because the Prince of Peace will rule over it. John described it is a majestic city with walls of Jasper, gates of pearl, and streets of pure gold like transparent glass (Rev. 20:14, 18-21).
A Bride: The Lamb’s Wife—Rev. 21:2, 9-10. John also compared New Jerusalem to the bride of Christ. But Christ’s bride is not just a building; His bride is His church (Rev. 19:7-9). A city consists of its citizens. You’ve probably heard Squire Parson’s famous song “Beulah Land.” The name “Beulah” means “married” and is found in Isaiah 62:4-5, “You shall no longer be termed Forsaken . . . but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For . . . as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” Heaven is not really about mansions and gold; heaven is about a passionate, love relationship with our heavenly groom. This is a love story, a divine romance—the Creator of the universe is head over heels in love with us (His Bride). God is meticulously preparing heaven for us the way a bride prepares for her wedding day. Think of all the preparation that goes into a wedding: clothes, hair, make up, flowers, jewelry, nails, music, food, place settings, cakes, drinks, etc. Endless preparation goes into every detail so when the bride strolls down the aisle, she looks her absolute best and captures the eye and heart of her groom. Heaven is not just a physical place but also a spiritual marriage to our Maker (Eph. 5:25-27, 31-32).
A Tabernacle/Temple: John also compared heaven to a Tabernacle—a place of perfect fellowship. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). The main reason God created mankind was for communion, which was broken by Adam’s sin. Ever since, God has been restoring it. Notice His purpose for building Moses’ Tabernacle, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). That wasn’t fully realized in the Old Testament. There was always a barrier between a holy God and fallen man. Jesus removed the barrier, the veil was torn in two, and the relationship has been repaired. Now, God is not interested in merely visitation; He desires habitation! God doesn’t want just visitation rights on weekends (church on Sunday); He wants full custody (a daily walk)! Strangely, there will be no churches in heaven. “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22). We won’t go to church in heaven; we will live in God’s presence 24/7.
A Garden: Rev. 22:1-3. John also compared heaven to a garden of perfect provision, an Eden-like paradise. Remember, God planted the Garden of Eden perhaps as an earthly version of heaven (Gen. 2:8). The pure River of Life will flow from God’s throne to quench our thirst. Plus, the Tree of Life, the same food source Adam and Eve enjoyed, will bear twelve kinds of fruit continually to satisfy our hunger. Furthermore, its leaves will release healing and divine health to the nations.
There will be at least ten “No Mores” in heaven:
1. No more sea—Rev. 21:1.
2. No more death—Rev. 21:4.
3. No more sorrow—Rev. 21:4.
4. No more crying—Rev. 21:4.
5. No more pain—Rev. 21:4.
6. No more curse—Rev. 22:3.
7. No more night—Rev. 21:23; 22:5.
8. No more devil—Rev. 20:10.
9. No more evil—Rev. 21:27.
10. No more sickness/disease—Rev. 22:2.
Doesn’t that sound like the kind of place you want live eternally?
Universalism teaches that everyone eventually goes to heaven. Many think that no matter how they live, or what they believe, or what religion they follow, they will make it. That’s not what the Bible teaches. Don’t be deceived, friend, not all roads lead to heaven (Jn. 14:6, Ac. 4:12). The Bible is crystal clear on who will and who won’t make heaven their home (Rev. 21:8, 24, 27; 22: 14-15). Certainly, God wants everyone to go to heaven (2 Pt. 3:9), but none of us deserve it. The good news is He extended an open invitation to all—“Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Your free ticket has been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus if you confess, repent, and believe (Rom. 10:9-10, Eph. 2:8-9). Nothing in this world is worth missing heaven for. Don’t sell your eternal, heavenly heritage for a cheap, carnal counterfeit. Heaven—don’t miss it for the world!