In my C-Group last night, we talked a lot about eternity, and we realized that we have misconceptions about heaven and hell. I thought I would share some of what we talked about last night on heaven and then also talk about hell later this week. We talked about if St. Peter is really at the gate, is there a waiting room between this life and heaven, are our loved ones omnipresent, and so much more. Below is some of the characteristics of heaven:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).
The pivotal element that makes heaven heaven is none other than the presence of God. Heaven’s identity centers on the presence of God. If that isn’t enough for you, then you really don’t grasp what this means. It’s the return to Eden. It’s the way things were meant to be before mankind sinned and messed up everything good God created. In the Garden of Eden, God walked side by side with Adam and Eve in perfect harmony. God dwelled with His people face to face. They could hear the sounds of His footsteps as majesty approached (Gen. 3:8). When sin entered, God banished them from the garden, and ever since, humanity has only experienced a fraction of the life that God offered us.
Heaven is Eden’s return. It is a chance to live in a place with no more hurt or suffering. You not only hear the sound of God walking towards you, but you are able to dwell with Him. No sin can separate you any longer.
Normally, people think of heaven as a place full of countless pleasures. Heaven is definitely better than anything that we could ever imagine. People also make statements concerning who they can’t wait to meet in heaven. Sometimes we mention questions we are ready to ask. But in our anticipation of the great benefits of heaven, we must never neglect the greatest prize of all – God Himself. The Psalmist stated, “Whom have I in heaven but You?” (Psalm 73:25). His declaration should be ours that our greatest anticipation of heaven is that we get to be near God and live with Him forever!
Due to God’s distinct presence, heaven will be filled with amazing benefits. First, all evil will be gone in heaven. The presence of the spotless Lamb of God means that all sin and evil will not be present. Second, we will obtain heavenly knowledge. All the questions and misunderstandings about God and His work will be clarified when we encounter God Himself (1 Cor. 13:9-12; 1 John 3:2). Third, heaven will be filled with unspeakable glory. As Millard J. Erikson writes, “It is likely that while John’s vision employs as metaphors those items which we think of as being most valuable and beautiful, the actual splendor of heaven far exceeds anything that we have yet experienced. There will be no need of sun or moon to illumine the new Jerusalem, for ‘The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp’ (Rev. 21:23; 22:5)” [Taken from Christian Theology, p. 1236].
While heaven is the final destination for believers, we will have heavenly activities. First, heaven is described as a place of rest (Heb. 3:11, 18; 4:9-11). Rest is more that pausing from work. Rest is truly experienced once someone has accomplished something of great importance. Heaven is a place where the implications of Christ’s work and our toils on the earth are finally fully realized. No more efforts required against our own flesh, against the influence of the world, and against Satan and his forces. We will not be lazy in heaven, but we will cease from the tiring work that consumed us in this life.
Secondly, heaven is characterized by worship. “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements'” (Rev. 19:1). When we worship on this side of eternity, we are practicing for a level of worship we cannot even begin to imagine.
Finally, heaven will also be full of community life. Scripture indicates a level of service in heaven. Not tiresome service, but willing hearts serving Jesus and each other. Heaven is a place of “perfected spirituality” as the saints encourage one another forever.
Whatever we imagine about heaven, it isn’t nearly enough.
For more info, check out Randy Alcorn’s Heaven or Millard J. Erickson’s Christian Theology.
Do you have any questions you would like to talk about concerning heaven? Post them below.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.