Is Heaven a real place, or just a figment of imagination in the minds of people? Is it a place where people sit around on clouds playing harps all day, as Hollywood and the media would have you believe. Or is something more?
Why do people hope for a heaven anyway? And what does the Bible have to say about heaven? Is there any evidence for heaven, or are people just deluding themselves?
What the Media Would Have You Believe
The popular media, through books, films and records, would have you believe 1) that heaven is a boring place that is not worth going to, or 2) that it doesn’t exist anyway.
But is this a reasonable position to take, given the evidence? The Bible says that the LORD has “put eternity” in our hearts, and thus people seem to have almost an inherent longing for something more than this very brief existence on Earth. When asked if they believe in an after-life, most Americans say they do.
In fact, throughout history peoples of all races, creeds and nationalities have entertained beliefs about heaven. It seems that this belief is almost an integral part of human nature. Even the Greeks, via Plato, taught about the existence of an eternal soul that transcends the existence of the physical body and life on earth.
Contemporary Beliefs About Heaven
Some claim “There is no God, or Heaven -we just die. Period.”
Is this a reasonable position? If those that trust in God are right, and there is an after-life and an
accountability to God, then they have a rich and rewarding faith in this life, and an eternity of
blessings to gain if they put their trust in Him. If on the other hand they are wrong about this, then they have little to lose: they just die like the rest.
On the other hand, if those who say there is no God or Heaven are WRONG, then they have much to lose - not only in this life, but in the eternity to come! Who has more to lose? Which is the more reasonable position?
One of the most famous scientists of all time, Blaise Pascal, wrote a document that epitomizes this argument. It’s called “Pascal’s Wager”. Read more at this link http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm
Others claim “Heaven is boring. I am looking forward to being in Hell with all my friends, having a good time.”
Really. Those who say such things are fooling themselves. Heaven will be anything but boring. It will be the most fantastic, most fulfilling life possible.
In fact, the Apostle Paul writes “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
In other words, we can’t imagine how wonderful, exciting and beyond our wildest dreams it will be! It will be anything but boring. We will have new “celestial” bodies that will never age, and be able to transcend time and space.
What is Heaven Like?
Its a REAL PLACE
When asked about Heaven, Jesus spoke about going away to prepare a place for His followers, so that where He would go, we may follow:
John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. 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 unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.”
Its Beyond Our Four Dimensions of Time and Space
One must keep in mind that when we pass from this earthly existence, we pass into eternity and beyond the four dimensions of time and space we all now occupy. We will enter a new time and space, outside of what we have known in this reality. In fact, the Bible points out that we cannot even imagine what this will be like:
1 Cor 2:9: “But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Paul also wrote that “now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face”. In other words, in our current four dimensional biological existence, its practically impossible to imagine what heaven will be like. Imagine you were a caterpillar trying to visualize what it would be like to be a butterfly! Impossible – but one day that caterpillar will change into beautiful creature that will fly effortlessly through space! That’s just a lame example of what your fantastic transformation will be like!
Or consider the following example. Suppose you existed as a two-dimensional creature, with only length and width. And someone tried to explain to you what “depth” was like, and what its like to exist in three dimensions. As a 2D creature, how do you get a grip on what it would be like to live in 3 dimensions? Hard to imagine for a 2D being, as 3D existence is not to be compared with anything they can imagine. Now, extrapolate this to 10 or 11 dimensions, at a minimum. Heavenly existence will transcend our limited dimensions of time and space, allowing us a form of fantastic existence which is beyond our capacity to imagine.
However, the Bible does give us glimpses of what we can expect in heaven, and thus hope for a fantastic life of eternal joy and excitement.
What Will People Be Like?
We Will Have Transformed “Celestial” Bodies
The Bible states that we will have transformed bodies in heaven, not unlike Jesus was endowed with after His resurrection. We don’t know much about these now, but we will “shall be like Him” in this respect (see below). And although these are “celestial” bodies, these are indeed bodies nevertheless – so as with Jesus after His resurrection, we will also be able to eat, drink, and yet pass through walls! In the following passages, John and Paul the Apostles speak about the new bodies we will inherit …
1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear [Jesus], we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1 Cor 15:40: “[There are] also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial [is] one, and the [glory] of the terrestrial [is] another.”
1 Cor 15:42-44: “So also [is] the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
1 Cor 15:49: “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
We will NOT be Disembodied Spirits, but Will Have Flesh & Bones
Contrary to what the media would have you believe, we will not be disembodies “ghosts”. Our new celestial bodies will have the ability to touch an be touched, and will be able to manifest physical bones and flesh:
Luke 24:36-38: “Now as they said these things, Jesus
Himself stood in the midst, and said unto them ‘Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
We Will Have Bodies That Can Materialize/Dematerialize!
While we will have bodies that can touch and be touched, we will also have some fantastic abilities. One example will be the ability to materialize or dematerialize at will, and to pass through walls!
There are several instances in Scripture where Jesus dematerialized and then materialized. The first instance of this was His initial Resurrection. Jesus’ body was dematerialized from a dead, corruptible body and materialized into a new celestial body. That dead body was no more in the tomb, leaving behind only the linen shroud. What appeared to His disciples was His new, resurrected body – one that could dematerialize (disappear) and materialize (appear) at will.
Other instances of this include His appearances to His followers after the Resurrection:
Luke 24:31: “Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.”
Luke 24:36: ““Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst…”
Mark 16:14: “Afterward He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table …”
John 20:19: “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you”‘.
John 20:26: “Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you”.
So just as Jesus was able to materialize or dematerialize at will, due to the nature of His new celestial body, so too will we!
We will Eat and Drink if We Want to – But We Won’t Have To!
According the Scriptures, when Jesus appeared to His followers after His resurrection, He asked for food, eating and drinking with Him:
Luke 24:41: “But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said unto them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.“
So since we will have a celestial body like Jesus, and He ate and drank, it follows that we will be able to do likewise. But since our new bodies will be of a new spiritual substance no longer subject to things corruptible, we will not HAVE to eat or drink to survive.
The laws of our existence will be turned upside down in heaven. In the earthly existence, the body’s demands drive much of our activity, with the mind following and the spirit in tow. In heaven, our subsistence will be based on a spiritual union with the Lord. The Spirit will power our existence, and the mind will act in concert with the spirit and the celestial body.
We Will Have Emotions, But So Much More Deeply!
The Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image, and so just as God feels emotion, so do we in this earthly life. When we pass to Heaven, there is every reason to believe that emotions will be transformed into a higher state, just as the rest of our earthly body will.
Rather than controlling us, our emotions will be controlled by
our spirit -as our spirit will be leading our existence, rather than our flesh.
Just as our earthly body is a shadow of what we will become, our emotions will operate in perfect harmony with our whole being - and as we are led by the spirit, allowing us to feel deeper joy, and overflowing happiness.
Our New Body Will Resemble the Old, but Will Be So Much More!
After His resurrection, Jesus appears a number of times to people who at first don’t immediately recognize Him. Then, when something familiar triggers their remembrance, suddenly they recognize Him for who He is …
Luke 24: 30-31: “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him. and He vanished out of their sight.”
In the previous passage Jesus broke break, and no doubt they saw the marks in his hands as He passed the bread to them.
His new resurrection body has no doubt taken on a dramatic new look, than resembles the old, but is so much more vibrant! The old body is …
1 Cor 15:43-44: “…sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power”
Its no wonder that His new resurrection body was so much more vibrant, and not recognized at first. Just as we have to take a second look when we see a photo of ourselves at a young age, the astonishing look of our new body will far exceed the appearance of our old earthly body!
Frequently Asked Questions About Heaven
Will We Recognize Loved Ones? Yes!
Jesus said to one of the thieves hung on a cross next to Him, “Today thou salt be with Me in Paradise” - indicating that He would see (and recognize) the thief in Heaven after they passed from this earthly life.
Jesus loved each person individually, and since we are made in the image of God, we too love each other individually. There is no reason to believe that this capability for recognition will be removed or diminished in Heaven; rather, like other capabilities, this ability will be enhanced, so that we will know each other even more deeply.
Won’t We Be Sad for the Loved Ones Not in Heaven?
The Bible says that in Heaven God “will wipe every tear from our eyes” - so their will be no sadness in heaven, and we will not remember those that did not join God’s family.
Rev 21: 3-4: “He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be nor more pain, for the former things have passed away”
While we are hear on earth, each of us will have an opportunity to know the Lord and join God’s family. Those that do will join God’s family in Heaven, and be ‘found written in the Book of Life’; those that choose not to know the Lord while hear on Earth will simply be lost to our remembrance. So pray for your loved ones, and ask God to bring them into His kingdom!
Will There Be Music in Heaven?
Most probably yes. And very beautiful music I might add. David, “a man after God’s own heart“, was a prolific musician. He wrote most of the Psalms, which are poems designed to be sung. He was also famous for dancing and singing before the LORD. Here is just one example …
1 Chron 13:8 “Then David and all Israel played [music]before God with all [their] might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets”.
The Apostle Paul also records a time when he “was caught up into the third heaven“. In the Bible, the “first heaven” is understood to be the sky above. The “second heaven” contains the sun, moon, and stars (outer space). The “third heaven” is beyond our time-space continuum – the abode of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We don’t know if this was a vision of heaven, or in fact transportation into the heavenly dimension. But 2 Cor 12:4 records “How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which is no lawful for a man to utter..”
Paul is saying that he heard unspeakable words (musical words?) that were beyond his capacity to describe (presumably because they were so beautiful). Many other visionaries who have been “caught up” into heaven have reported hearing beautiful music that was beyond ability their ability to describe.
Will There be Animals in Heaven?
There is no reason to suppose that there will not be pets in heaven. In Isaiah, the prophet wrote that ‘the lion will lay down with the lamb’. Also, in the New Testament, Paul wrote that ‘the whole of creation groans for the revealing of the sons of man’. The conclusion one can draw from these accounts – both Old and New Testaments – is that all of God’s creation is anticipating the return of the Savior, and the redemption of the creation. All will participate in the new Heavens and New Earth.
What Can We Conclude About Heaven?
In sum, we can conclude the following about the existence of heaven:
1. It is designed and prepared for God’s creations, and especially humankind – His most beloved of all creations.
2. It is beyond our wildest dreams!
3. It exists beyond our present time-space continuum.
4. We will populate it in new, supernatural “celestial” bodies that will have special powers far beyond our natural bodies!
Choose Heaven – Ask Him Into Your Heart!
If you died today, would go to Heaven? Did you know that you can be sure you can? Jesus said “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my father honor.” (John 12:26)
God has done and will do everything possible to save us and provide eternal life to his creatures. He is all loving, but also all pure and righteous and holy. He cannot tolerate evil and wickedness, and thus must punish sin. Yet He loves His creation and desires to save everyone if possible. How did He accomplish this? But being BOTH the Just and the Justifier for all, and taking the penalty for sin in our place.
Indeed, He loves each of us so much that ‘He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever puts their trust in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16 paraphrased). The ultimate LORD paid the ultimate price for sin, dieing once for all mankind for all time. He died for us so that we didn’t have to die – so that by trusting in Him, we could inherit eternal life.
Are you a follower of Jesus, and do you know Him? If you do, then you have everything to look forward to – in this life, and in the life to come! You were made for a purpose, and receiving the Lord into your heart and walking daily with Him will help you come to realize His purpose in your life and fulfill it. If you don’t have a relationship with your Creator, you can! Here is a link to Billy Graham’s web site that can show you how you can accept the Lord into your heart, and begin a right relationship with Him…
Go To Steps to Peace with God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
Resources and Links:
God and Science – Discussion on Heaven and Supporting Resources: http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/heaven.html
Christianity Today - Philosopher Peter Kreeft agreed to write this chapter because Christianity Today still capitalized Heaven. In this essay, Kreeft addresses (often whimsically) 35 frequently asked questions about Heaven. See the article “What Will Heaven Be Like”
Got Questions.org - See the page “What is heaven like”?
Peter Kreeft -Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 45 books. He
discusses the question - “Is there sex in heaven”
Article on pets in Heaven: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/do-animals-or-pets-go-to-heaven-a-biblical-analysis/