What Is Heaven Like?
The pictures in our minds of what heaven will be like are perhaps of mansions on golden streets and angels floating around on clouds playing harps. And St. Peter sitting there at the gate of heaven like a bouncer, letting some people in and keeping others out. Let’s face it; since all we have ever experienced is life in this imperfect world, our ideas of a very different realm - heaven - are a bit obscure and hazy.
We listen to what the Bible says about heaven and it all sounds too good to be true! Scripture says that God will create a new heaven and a new earth. Everything will be made new. God will live with us and He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or crying or pain since the old order of things has passed away. And we will drink from the spring of the water of life. (Revelations 21:3-4, 6) How will the water of life taste?
Isaiah writes “the nations will stream to
, and God will settle disputes for
many peoples”: .. God will teach His
ways and everyone will walk in His paths…. They shall beat their swords into
plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. (That probably goes for guns
too: no more guns!) Nations shall not use weapons against other nations.
Neither shall they learn war anymore. ” (Isaiah
Scripture mentions that all the people will be given grain and fruit and crops and new hearts and new spirits. (Ezekiel 36) The desert will bloom and new wine will drip from the mountains. (Amos 9) Everyone will love everyone and there will finally be peace on this new restored earth!
Scripture tells us that the Day is coming when God will finally say: “Enough!” and “No More!” Some things simply will not survive in the new heaven and the new earth! Enough to oppressors who take advantage of the vulnerable and enough to guns and swords and weapons. Enough to corporations more interested in profits than people and enough to killing (no more hunting) and greed and rape and injustice. No more pride or exploitation or bullying or gossiping. And no more prejudice or hate or rude behavior or holding grudges. Only God’s will is done in this new heaven and earth.
It is very comforting to hear that there will be no death or sickness or gossip or prejudices in heaven. But can we handle it – Can we handle heaven? If our hearts were not transformed could we perhaps gossip or bring our prejudices into heaven and mess up this perfect paradise? We could, but God will not allow that to happen! He will judge us, change us and we will finally be sinless. There will be a judgment for each of us– and even flames in heaven!!
Flames in heaven? Did we get that wrong? Aren’t the flames only supposed to be in hell? This judgment will “bring everything to light” and “reveal it with fire,” the kind of fire that will “test the quality of each person’s work.” So it seems that the work we did while we were on earth will be tested! Jesus Christ should be the foundation for all of our life work. Through this testing by fire some folks will find that they spent their life working for things that had no substance – (that were not built on Christ) and their work will be shown to be worthless (and burned up!) “If it is burned up,” Paul says, “the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved, even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
Let’s read the Scripture about how our life and our work will be judged by flames! “Each one should be careful how he/she builds. (How you work and live out your life) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any person builds on this foundation (Jesus) … their work will stand, because the Day (judgment) will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what a person has built survives, that person will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the person will suffer loss: but the person will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-16)
Scripture also says: “Just as a person is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many: and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28) After death we will face judgment but Christ after His death will appear bringing salvation from sin and its judgment. Even if a believer in Christ has wasted his life and has done no good deeds at all, this person will be saved because of Christ, “but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Cor. 3:16)
Not only will we not sin in heaven but we will receive new bodies that will never get sick or die. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it will be raised imperishable: It is sown in dishonor, it will be raised in glory: It is sown in weakness, it will be raised in power, It is sown a natural body, it will be raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” ( 1 Corinthians 15:42-44) “Death has been swallowed up in victory…. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b, 57)
Everywhere we look in heaven there will be victory! Over the top jubilation! Victory over every problem and every trouble! Shouts of love and joy and praise everywhere! Justice and mercy entwined! The mysterious Tree of Life with leaves for the healing of the nations. Saints from all the ages – all together as family. Face to face with Christ our Savior! We will serve Him and “reign with Him” (Rev.20) Actively participate in working with Him in His new kingdom. Heaven - Words can never describe it all! Heaven –better than anything you or I could ever imagine!
Some ideas were taken from Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, Chapter 2 “Here Is The New There” p.21-62.