A Place Called Heaven

Know where you're going.

If you asked a number of people if they believe there is a place called heaven, most would probably say yes. But if you asked them what it’s like or how to get there, I suspect you’d get a variety of answers. Though many people cling to a belief in heaven and hope to go there when they die, very few have an accurate understanding of it.

Since human beings are earth-bound until death, misconceptions about heaven are common. Some people imagine it as a foggy haze where formless spirits float about or winged saints sit on clouds playing harps. Movies about the afterlife present their own version of what awaits. And a few people who have reportedly returned from near-death experiences have described what they believe they saw.

Amid all the confusing and contradictory views, we need to remember that the only sure source of accurate information about heaven is the Bible. In its pages, God gives us glimpses of celestial scenes. Although we may long for more details and descriptions, the Lord has revealed what He wants us to know and, more than likely, what we can handle. Our human limitations keep us from adequately comprehending the inconceivable glories above. We have no frame of reference for understanding all that God has prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). Many times we have more questions than answers.

How Do I Get to Heaven?

The Bible clearly states that after death, there are only two possible destinies for mankind—heaven or hell. In a story that vividly contrasted the comfort of eternal life with everlasting torment, Jesus explained that switching locations is impossible (Luke 16:19-31). Knowing this, we would be foolish to ignore God’s Word and risk relying on our own ideas about how to get to heaven.

Many people think that eternal destiny is determined by behavior. If their good works outweigh the bad, they believe God will accept them. But the Lord says all our good works are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). Since every person on earth inherits a fallen nature, no one is qualified to enter God’s holy dwelling place.

Our entrance into heaven has nothing to do with how good we are; what matters is how good Jesus is, and what He did for us. He lived an absolutely perfect life and paid the penalty for our sin by dying in our place. Those who believe this and accept His payment on their behalf are given a ticket to heaven which can never be revoked.

Why Should I Be Interested in Heaven?

Some Christians are content simply to know they are eternally secure. Sure, they want to experience the glories above but see no immediate connection between their daily lives and their future destiny. Therefore, they feel no desire to learn more about it. But Christ wants believers to know “the hope of His calling, . . . the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). None of us would be uninterested in an earthly inheritance, yet many of God’s children make no effort to discover what He has prepared for them in eternity.

Heaven is our future home. That’s where our citizenship is; we’re only travelers on earth. A lifetime here will seem like a mere breath compared to the time we spend in eternity. Whenever you read a Bible passage that describes some heavenly scene or activity, put yourself in the picture, because that is going to be your reality. The pearly gates and the street of gold are not just a fairy tale. You will one day walk through those gates, step on that street, and come face to face with Jesus.

This eternal dwelling place is home for all of God’s family. We’ll meet the saints from every age and be reunited with our believing loved ones. But this reunion will be so much better than any we’ve previously experienced. There will be no conflicts or misunderstandings—only perfect love and intimacy. The ideal fellowship we all yearn for will be ours forever.

But the most important reason to learn more about heaven is because it’s the dwelling place of God. We will finally be in the presence of the One who died for us. For all of our earthly years, we have loved and served Him, but in eternity, our faith will become sight. The sin that kept us from perfect, intimate fellowship with the Lord will never again hinder our relationship.

What Is Heaven Like?

Because Jesus came from the Father to earth, He had firsthand knowledge of our glorious future home. Shortly before dying, He told His disciples that He was returning to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them and would come back to take them to their new home (John 14:1-3). Ever since that day, Christians throughout history have been waiting for His promised return.

Today, when believers die, their souls are ushered instantly into the Lord’s presence to experience all the joys and comforts of heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). Jesus will bring them with Him when He returns for His church, and their souls will be reunited with imper-ishable resurrected bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Those of us who are alive at that time will be changed—our bodies will be transformed from weak, mortal, and sinful to glorious, immortal, and perfect.

If you want to know what your new body will be like, look at Jesus’ body after His resurrection. He was not an ethereal spirit but literal flesh and bone; the disciples could see and touch Him. He even ate with them (Luke 24:36-43). But the best thing about our new bodies is that they will be free of sin and its curse. Never again will we experience an inward struggle to obey the Lord. Nor will we ever live with the pain, suffering, and death that came as a result of the fall of mankind.

Many years after John heard Jesus promise to prepare a place for His followers, he was given a vision of the future. He saw a new heaven and earth that were completely cleansed of all sin. Standing on a high mountain, he watched the New Jerusalem come down out of heaven. The promised place was prepared and ready. The sight was beyond human description, but John did his best to put this celestial vision into earthly language (Rev. 21:1-22:5).

The brilliance of God’s glory radiated from the structure, and its foundations gleamed with various colors of precious stones. The gates were made of pearls and the street of transparent gold. This  1500-mile-long cube-shaped city was designed by the Lord as a place where He and mankind would share an intimate, perfect relationship forever.

Though we may have difficulty imagining the physical structure of this city, we have no trouble understanding the meanings of the things that are not in the New Jerusalem. There will be no pain, tears, mourning, or death. All frustration, boredom, and problems will cease. No one will have handicaps, and our bodies will never grow old, tired, or sick.

What Will I Do in Heaven?

Although most of us understand that heaven is a place of great joy and delight, we may wonder what we are going to do there. Some Christians have even voiced their concern that it might be boring—one long church service that never ends.

Although praise of our God and Savior will be an essential part of our activities, we must be careful not to view it strictly from the perspective of our present earthly experience. Right now we live in fleshly bodies and struggle with self-centered thinking, but then we will be free from selfishness and will take constant delight in praising the Lord. When the blinders of this mortal life are removed, we will see things as they really are (1 Corinthians 13:12). Knowing fully what Christ has saved us from and seeing the glories He has provided for us, we will not be able to stop ourselves from joyfully thanking and exalting Him.

In fact, everything we do will be an act of worship. In Luke 19:12-26, Jesus told a parable that clearly shows we will be given responsibilities in heaven according to our degree of faithfulness with what God entrusted to us on earth. Even in eternity, we’re described as bondservants of the Lord (Revelation 22:3). Our service for Christ began the moment we were saved and will continue forever. Relocation to heaven does not bring about the end of service but rather the perfection of it—all the frustration, failure, and inadequacy that has accompanied our work since the fall will be removed.

How Can I Prepare for Heaven?

Knowing the glories of eternity should motivate us to live for Christ during our time on earth. Keeping an eternal perspective enables us to endure hardship and pain without losing heart. Like Paul, we will realize that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). When the difficulties of this life become burdensome, remember that the only trouble and pain you’ll ever experience will occur during your earthly lifetime, but the ecstasy of heaven will be yours forever.

As long as we remain here, God has work for us to do. Because we’re Christ’s witnesses, it is our responsibility to tell others about the Savior so they, too, can be with Him forever. In fact, everything we do is to be done as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). Our purpose is to live for Him, not for our own pleasures and ambitions.

An awareness of eternity should also motivate us to live godly lives that are worthy of reward. When believers stand before the judgment seat of Christ, their eternal destiny will not be the issue; that was settled at the cross. But He will evaluate their works and compensate them accordingly (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Those who have been faithful servants will be rewarded with increased responsibility, a greater capacity for joy in heaven, and praise from the Lord (Matthew 25:20-23).

Each day is an opportunity to prepare for our eternal home. It’s so easy to get sidetracked with the cares of this life, but what we do today will shape our experiences in eternity. Let’s spend our lives in faithful service to God, glorifying Him by bearing much fruit, and selflessly storing up treasure in heaven. Christ’s commendation of “Well done, good and faithful servant” will be worth every earthly sacrifice.

Questions for Further Study

Description of Heaven

Read Revelation 21:1-22:5 and imagine yourself in the scene. Describe what you see as you approach the New Jerusalem and enter through its gate. What are you going to experience in this city? What will you not experience?

Benefits of an Eternal Mindset

How does Peter describe our inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5)? Knowing this, what attitude and perspective can we have (vv. 6-9)? Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. What difficult conditions are mentioned in verses 7-11? Describe the hope that is presented in verses 14-18. To prevent us from losing heart, where should our focus be?

Preparation for Heaven

As we wait for our eternal home, what ambition should motivate us (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)? Read 2 Peter 3:10-15. What is going to happen to the earth and everything that goes on here? How should this knowledge shape our lives now? What does Jesus recommend that we do to prepare for eternity (Luke 12:15-34)? Read the parable of the minas in Luke 19:11-27. How did the slaves’ faithfulness affect their futures? How did the master respond to each one? What has the Lord entrusted to you? How can you use what He’s given you to faithfully serve Him?

Related Topics:  Eternity

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19 Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.

20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,

21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.

23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried out and said, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'

25 But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'

27 And he said, `Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house--

28 for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

29 But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'

30 But he said, `No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!'

31 But he said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"

6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

1 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

3 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.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

12 So He said, A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.

13 And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, `Do business with this until I come back. '

14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.'

15 When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.

16 The first appeared, saying, `Master, your mina has made ten minas more.'

17 And he said to him, `Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.'

18 The second came, saying, `Your mina, master, has made five minas.'

19 And he said to him also, `And you are to be over five cities.'

20 Another came, saying, `Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief;

21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.'

22 He said to him, `By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?

23 Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?'

24 Then he said to the bystanders, `Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.'

25 And they said to him, `Master, he has ten minas already. '

26 I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;

20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, `Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.'

21 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

22 Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, `Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.'

23 His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.

11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.

14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.

15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

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