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What is Heaven?
Thank you very much for your intriguing question about heaven. Christians often say their hope is heaven, but it can be hard to understand what it is. People often ask for proof of heaven. The idea from cartoons of people sitting on clouds and strumming harps is definitely not what the Bible has in mind!
First and foremost, heaven is where God the Father is. He is there with his angels praising him. Revelation 4 speaks of God sat on the throne (Revelation 4:2), with various creatures praising him and singing "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come." (Revelation 4:8). Jesus is also in heaven at the right hand of God (1 Peter 3:22). We could picture it like this, if the universe is God's country, heaven is his capital, the place he rules from.
Another thing we learn about heaven is that this is where those who trust in Jesus go when they die. There is no in-between state, a limbo or purgatory where a person has to pay for their misdeeds. If we have trusted in Christ, he has paid our penalty and we can go and be with him in heaven as soon as we die. The Bible doesn't speak much about this, but there are hints that we go there when we die. For example Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of those who have been killed for their faith pleading with the Lord to return to earth and avenge them.
This points us to another aspect of the future of Christians, which is often mistakenly called heaven. Jesus will one day return to the earth to rule and create a new creation. Paul tells the Thessalonians that he doesn't want them to weep over dead Christians. He speaks of the day when Christ will descend from heaven with a shout and the dead in Christ will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16).
Jesus will restore to each person resurrection bodies just like his: a body unable to die. We don't know much about this body but we know it is much better (See 1 Corinthians 15:25-57 for a description). It will however be a real physical body, since Jesus had a real physical body. Moreover, we will not live in heaven (or sit among the clouds like the cartoons suggest) but we will live on a perfect Earth where there is no suffering or pain any more.
Revelation 21 gives us an incredible description:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:1-5)
We see three things in this passage. Firstly, suffering is gone. This new world will be without pain. Secondly, this is a new place. There will no doubt be much similar to Earth but it will be renewed to the way it was always meant to be. Thirdly, this is where God is. God will not be distant from us anymore, but he will be with us.
Of course, we want to know more. Will the world look the same as it does now or will there be differences? What kind of things will we do? The Bible doesn't answer every single question, but rather tells us whatever it will be like: it will be amazing. It will be the world that we wanted this one to be. We won't struggle against suffering, frustration and death. It will be eternal bliss centred around a perfect relationship with God.
The only other question is how do we get there? A perfect place requires perfect people. To get into heaven or the new creation we have to be perfectly holy, not one thing wrong. There of course lies the problem: we are not perfectly holy, we have sinned.
Yet God's Son, the King of heaven, sacrificed his eternal bliss and came to earth. He lived a perfect life, without sin. Yet he died on a cross, separated from God as we deserved. Why did he do this? He was performing a great exchange. He took our record of imperfection and took the punishment we deserved. In exchange he gave us his perfect record. That means we can get into heaven.
That is what being a Christian is all about. It is recognising that we have done wrong and deserved to be rejected from heaven, but acknowledging that if we accept Christ and his perfect record, then we can achieve it as if we were as perfect as him.
In summary then, heaven is the place where God is and Christians, by trusting in Christ, can go there when they die. Yet the Christian's greatest hope is when heaven comes to earth so that "God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:3).
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- 1 Corinthians 15
- Revelation 21-22
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The New King James Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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