By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I am so excited about going to heaven. I am ready for the rapture. I hope it comes right now! But I don’t know enough about heaven. Can you fill in some of the details for me?
There are ten common questions I hear all the time from people who are seeking to know more about heaven. I’ve collected them here, along with some biblical answers and practical application. I hope they’re helpful for you!
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1. Why does God need to make a new heaven and a new earth?
Satan and sin have desecrated God’s creation. In fact, Satan has had access to the present heaven—both before the Fall and after. In Job chapters 1-2, Satan leaves earth bound for heaven and argues with God over the righteousness of Job. I’m certain that God has a perfectly logical reason for allowing Satan to approach him in heaven; but, for the life of me I can’t imagine why!
Regardless, God needs to make a new one that is free from all sin. Looking to Revelation, John says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea” (20:11).
Notice that Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” and will not be cast down from heaven to earth until Revelation 12.
2. If God is planning to make a new heaven and earth, what will happen to the old one?
Heaven and earth can be destroyed as easily as God first created it. Peter gives us a picture of this destruction in 2 Peter 3:7-13:
And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire.
But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire.
On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heaven and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
A hundred years ago, no one could figure out how this might happen. But today, secrets of the universe are on display.
Einstein’s simple but profound E=MC2 revealed that a little matter could be turned into an unbelievable amount of energy. In the same way, the discovery of the Hicks-Boson particle verifies that a lot of energy can produce a small amount of matter. Both point to an understanding of how the elements will melt and how internal fires in the depths of the sun will destroy everything.
There will one day be a vast holocaust (see Revelation 21:8). But instead of emptiness, stillness, and lifelessness, God promises a new and glorious world emerging from the ruins (Revelation 21:15-21). God's aim is transformation!
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3. How big is heaven, and what does it look like?
Again, look at Revelation 21. An angel literally measures the city “using human measurement”:
The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick.
You might ask, "Well, will there be room enough for all of us?"
Let me show you how much room there will be …
Heaven is symmetrical, laid out like a large cube. Twelve thousand “stadia” converts to
1,500 miles. Imagine an area that reaches from Maine to Florida, and the Atlantic Coast
to the Continental Divide … then raise that up 1,500 miles.
That means heaven is a city with 2,250,000 square miles … and that is only the bottom level! Based on ratio population of persons/square mile in Dallas, heaven could hold six billion people.
Australian engineer postulated that a city the size of heaven with the density of London could hold 100 billion people … and only nine billion people now exist on earth.
Right now, heaven has room for every soul that has ever walked upon the face of the earth since the beginning of time. And that’s only the first floor!
Next, John saw heaven and described it as a prism of light, jewels, gold, and pearls. It's all transparent, and the light of God flashes through the entire dazzling spectacle throughout all eternity:
The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 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. (Revelation 21:18-23).
We will be able to see God and His glory from everywhere in the city. His presence indwells every inch.
Every biblical writer who had even a glimpse of heaven was totally overwhelmed. Each saw a large lake of ice or crystal surrounding a throne upon which was seated the white-haired Ancient of Days.
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4. Will we recognize our family, friends, and loved ones in heaven? Can we have relationships with people that we never knew on earth?
I am often asked about marriage in heaven. Many people who are delightfully married want to still be married in eternity. Matthew tells us that we may be with our spouse, but we will not be married to him or her: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
Paul tells the Corinthians that we will know others and be fully known in heaven: “Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
We will recognize our loved ones more by who they are than by that they look like, because we will inhabit our spiritual bodies rather than our earthly ones.
It follows from Jesus’ teaching that we may form as many relationships and talk to as many people as we like (see Matthew 8:11).
When I go to heaven, I first want to have a talk with Jesus! After I talk with Jesus, I want to spend time with my family. Then, I’d like to talk to my closest growing-up church friends: Gary Courtney, who was my most intimate Christian friend; Randy; Larry; Mike; Becky and Allison. Then, there’s Albert Fox who mentored me to desire to be a man of God at any price. Along the way he taught me the Bible as well as quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Then, there are my religious heroes, like Charles Spurgeon. I’ll stop there. I could go on and on. So could you.
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5. What will we be doing with our time in heaven?
Two things will occupy most of our attention in heaven. First, we will spend a significant amount of time worshiping and praising God:
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 4:9)
Second, much of our time will be invested in fulfilling our God-given duties and responsibilities, based on the number and types of awards that we earned on earth as a result of our profitable or unprofitable service for Jesus.
6. Will we find healing and comfort in heaven?
Revelation 21:4 declares, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Alexander McLaren used to say, “Please be kind to everyone you meet because everyone is fighting a battle.”
Sometimes, he paused in the middle of a worship service and invited the people to look up and down the rows of people. Then he would say, “Why don’t you say a word of comfort to those who are sitting around you? Everyone of them has needs. Sometimes overt but most of the time hidden.”
I once did the funeral of a man who had suffered a lifetime of physical pain and agony. I was standing beside the open casket when one woman said to another, “He looks so peaceful. He doesn’t have to suffer anymore.”
No more pain and suffering. Jesus will wipe away all of our tears.
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7. Will we have a full understanding of spiritual and earthly things in heaven?
Think of all the questions that you want to ask Jesus when you get to heaven. We will be able to ask and receive answers to everything. However, I would imagine that many questions that seemed so important on earth will not be nearly as important to us when we get to heaven:
For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
8. Can my loved ones in heaven see me and know what’s happening on earth?
Many would say "No." I will emphatically say, "YES!"
Let me give you several examples.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells about the rich man who see his brothers on the way to hell. The rich man begged Jesus to let him go warn them.
I am often asked, “But, will it hurt my loved ones in heaven if they see me having troubles and trials on earth?”
I don’t know the answer to that. I trust that God has it all figured out.
When our daughter Jessie died, we said to Jesus, “Would you please tell Jessie that we love her with all of our hearts and are looking forward to seeing her in heaven? I believe that she knows.
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9. How will I get from earth to heaven when I die?
Jesus promised, “In my father’s house are many mansions. I go now to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am” (John 14:1-4).
Isn't that fantastic? Not only does He promise to go up to heaven and get our room ready, He's going to come back and get us and take us up there.
I love that the Lord doesn't send someone else to get us. That’s such an integral part of His character. He does it Himself. The Lord's not going to send someone else. He'll come in person to get us and to take us home. How precious we must be for Him to do that for us!
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
10. How can we get to heaven?
The first step to experiencing the love of God is to confess your sin, invite Jesus to forgive your sin and to come into your life and be your Savior:
"For God loved the world so much, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Surrender to Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Place your faith in Him as the one who died on the cross in order to forgive all your sins. At the moment you receive Him into your life He gives the gift of eternal Salvation, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit who indwells you in order to guide and empower your life (John 3:5-8).
I hope this answers many of your questions about heaven. I look forward to seeing you there!
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