What Is Heaven Really Like?
Some time ago Max Lucado sent out an e-mail devotional in which he talked about foretastes of heaven. He spoke of those few moments in life when we get a preview of eternity, moments he describes as “samplings from heaven's kitchen.”
Lucado refers to those times when we are caught up in doing something we love to do–indeed, work we were created to do–and “satisfaction flows within like a gulp of cool water.” This got me thinking about what heaven will truly be like. If God has promised believers they will spend eternity with him, what will that world be like?
A brief study of scripture reveals that believers will probably not actually live in heaven, where God dwells, but will have special places in the new earth and the spectacular new city of Jerusalem. Either way, we will have free access to both the new heaven and the new earth.
Is Heaven All Harps and Streets of Gold?
Nearly nine out of 10 people in the United States say they believe in heaven, according to a recent ABC News poll. (http://abcnews.go.com/International/Beliefs/story?id=1374010) Most of them have heard tales of a place where people sit on clouds, strumming harps and singing. I don’t know about you, but that would get boring for me awfully fast! And no one wants to hear me sing... How about those streets paved with gold and the pearly gates? Are they fact or a silly idea developed over years of speculation?
As always, I found the best answers to these questions came from God’s Instruction Manual (better known as the Bible). The new creation we call heaven will certainly be a place of awesome beauty. Throughout the Bible it is described in terms of precious jewels and metals, a description which helps us understand the amazing beauty of heaven.
As the writers of the Bible were given glimpses of it, they could only use words they knew to describe it, though heaven will probably hold many wonders we on earth have never seen and cannot imagine. The Bible states, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corinthians 2:9, NIV).
Do we have a blueprint? The Bible says Eden, mankind’s first home, was “good,” so I think perhaps heaven may be based on Eden’s blueprints. That would make it a glorious garden, alive with color, variety and wondrous things to tantalize the senses. And, yes, there will be animals there–that much the Bible tells us. (If they weren’t present, I think I would really miss cats!)
And about those “pearly gates,” Isaiah 65:21 describes the 12 city gates as12 huge pearls. Guess that description was accurate, though I can’t imagine a pearl big enough to serve as a gate.
So what will people do there? What will God’s family members do there? We have a few brief glimpses of our future work: Besides acting as judges, the Bible says that we will reign with God in heaven. Exactly what this entails is not defined. We will also be serving God directly. Although this may sound boring at first glance, it obviously won't be, since we will be doing exactly what we were designed to do and love. For instance, I’m sure my job will involve writing in some way, and I never find that boring.
How about our homes? Will we live in glass houses? Isaiah 65:11 speaks of the new Jerusalem, center of God’s new creation, stating it gleams like a jasper (diamond) and is clear as crystal. Verse 18 tells us the city is made of gold “as pure as glass.” Perhaps the houses will be created from diamonds or pure gold, not glass. Think of that!
Some things we are used to will be missing in this future paradise. There will be no sun or moon as God, who is the essence of light, will provide constant illumination. There will be a river flowing through the center, but it won’t be water as we think of it. Revelation 22 calls it “the river of the water of life,” clear as crystal and flowing from the throne of God.
Isaiah 65 notes that our life on earth won’t even be a distant memory in heaven, it will be totally forgotten. God’s people will “enjoy the works of their hands,” and there will be no more death or sadness, as these are the result of sin, and sin will be no more. We are assured that God will wipe away all tears, so they will be notably absent, too.
Any bad news? This glorious city, God’s jewel, will have one limitation: Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter it. It’s the ultimate gated community that only residents may enter. The entrance fee was paid on Calvary.
The natural laws of our world will be no more. Years of speculation and dozens of stories have made it difficult for us to really know what heaven will be like. A fascinating website, http://www.godandscience.org, contains some interesting comments about this future world, based on the fact that physical laws will be entirely different there. How do they know this? The writer states there will be a lack of gravity, probably the most notable difference from our world. His proof? “The New Jerusalem is described as a 1,500 mile cube. Structures of this size would automatically become a sphere in this universe, because of gravity. “
Conclusions Whatever heaven holds, we Christians believe it will be a perfect dwelling place because our God will rule there and we will be His family for eternity. But isn’t it fun to picture what your eternal house will be like? Mine will look like a sand castle and will sit right on the beach!
References: http://www.maxlucado.com/ The Holy Bible, New International Version http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/heaven.html