Volume 56, Number 1
The word Heaven appears about (222) times in the New Testament. More than half of those occurrences (127) are in the Gospels. And more than half of those (70) are in the book of Matthew, which emphasizes the kingdom of Heaven where Jesus Christ is King. The word Heaven then appears about another (48) times in the book of Revelation.
Revelation chapter 20 describes the end of the age, the final judgment where there will be two sets of books. One set of books is a record of deeds. And the other book is a record of names. The book of names is described as the Lamb’s Book of Life, and only those whose names are written therein will be permitted to enter the holy city (Revelation 21:27). Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The lake of fire is the second death, and will be the ultimate destination of Satan himself (Revelation 20:10).
Heaven is where God dwells, and where Christ has come down from (John 3:13) and where He has returned to. In heaven, Christ is acting as the Great High Priest on behalf of the saints (Hebrews 9:24). And just as He has gone into Heaven, we wait for Him to return from there again. For it is He who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Heaven is described as the inheritance of the believer. Christ, by His resurrection from the dead, has obtained, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5). The Christian is preserved (through faith) for the eternal inheritance, and the eternal inheritance is reserved in Heaven for the Christian.
And so, the New Testament teaches that Heaven is a real place with real people, and a real Savior, and a real God! Please read this informative article by brother Harold S. Martin regarding Heaven, the home of the saved.
— Eric Brubaker
HEAVEN FOR THE SAVED
By Harold S. Martin
Our knowledge about Heaven is limited to what God has revealed to us in the Scriptures. The Bible is clear in stating that somewhere beyond the limits of our visible creation—there is a place called “Heaven.” Heaven is a real place—not a mere idea. Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). At some point, Jesus will say to the faithful, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
In the account of Stephen’s death (recorded in Acts 7), the Bible says, “But [Stephen], being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).
The Psalmist David says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
And when we finally see the Lord face to face, our hearts will want nothing else: We’ll say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in Heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire beside thee…. God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
1. THE NATURE OF HEAVEN
Heaven will be the future dwelling place of God’s people. Heaven will be the eternal presence of everything that can make the believer happy, and the eternal absence of everything that can cause sorrow.
a. Heaven is described as a city.
Abraham looked for a city, having foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). The writer of Hebrews later says, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
Heaven is also said to be a “country” (Hebrews 11:14), and an “inheritance” (1 Peter 1:4) — but Revelation 21:2-3 describes heaven as “the holy city”—called the “New Jerusalem”—which is the home of God, a prepared place that becomes the final abode of the saints.
b. Heaven will be a place of worship.
Revelation 19:1-8 describes a scene of worship in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God—for true and righteous are his judgments …. Let us be glad and rejoice, for the marriage of the Lamb is come…” Revelation 14:3 mentions the redeemed from earth learning a new song.
Revelation 5:12 describes the voice of many angels and the four living creatures, along with multitudes, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain—to receive power, and riches, and wisdom and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.”
c. Heaven will be a place of service.
We read in Revelation 22:3 that “His servants shall serve Him.” One who enters heaven does not begin a life of idleness. Heaven will be a place of rest the long hours of struggle and frustration here on earth will be ended, but this does not mean a cessation of service.
Revelation 7:14-15 says that those who “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” shall serve him day and night in His temple, and he who sits on the throne will dwell among them.
Heaven is not going to be a great big eternal holiday—with nothing to do!
–some will be engaged in worship (5:12)
–some will have authority over ten cities (Luke 19:17)
–some will sit on thrones (Matthew 19:28)
–some will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3)
Heaven will involve labor and excitement and adventure, but the elements of toil and frustration will be gone.
d. Heaven will be a place of unspeakable grandeur.
Heaven is described in the Bible as a place of extraordinary beauty. One of the rewards for faithfulness to Christ (according to Revelation 2:7), is to be given a place “in the midst of the paradise of God.”
The last two chapters of the Bible describe the beauty of Heaven—-by speaking of gates of pearl, streets of gold, and walls of jasper. The description may very well only be symbolic—-but the saints can be assured that the reality will defy all description.
Heaven will be beautiful beyond words! No wonder Jesus says (in Luke 10:20), “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
And no wonder that the Apostle Paul says, (in Romans 8:18), “Our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
2. THE RESIDENTS OF HEAVEN
Heaven will be a wonderful place—a place of rest from sin, rest from labor, and rest from pain and suffering. God will “wipe away all tears …… there will be no more death, neither sorrow or crying—and neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).
–Heaven will be a perfect place.
–Heaven will be a land of pure delight.
–Heaven will be marked by total satisfaction. Heaven will be a glorious place, partly because of its unique inhabitants.
a. God is in Heaven.
We often declare that God’s throne is in Heaven, for whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Our Father who art in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9). In Psalm 80:14, the Psalmist in the midst of distress, says, “0 God, look down from Heaven.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we are to be perfect, even as our “Father who is in Heaven—is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
b. Angels are in Heaven.
In the resurrection, we shall in some ways be like the angels in Heaven.
“For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels who are in Heaven” (Mark 12:25).
In Revelation 5, the Apostle John says, “And I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne … saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain—to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12).
c. Jesus is in Heaven.
The Bible says that He “entered into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus (in Matthew 26:29), when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, says that He will eat and drink with His disciples again… “when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
In Heaven, Jesus will move among us as a great Servant—and His glory will be seen as He wipes all tears away from our eyes. The Bible says that in Heaven, the children of God will “hunger no more, neither thirst any more …for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17). One of the joys of Heaven will be the presence of Jesus!
d. Redeemed saints will be in Heaven.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:3-4, that we have been begotten unto “a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fades not away, reserved in Heaven for you.” Revelation 19:1 speaks of “the voice of many people in Heaven, saying Hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honor and power to the Lord our God”
In John 14:1-3, Jesus promised (before He ascended into Heaven), that He was going away, and would return again Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you” and Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Exactly what life will be like in Heaven—is far beyond our ability to understand and to fully comprehend (with our limited earthly minds).
First Corinthians 2:9 says that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, what God has prepared for those who love him”—-but just knowing about our wonderful and eternal home—gives us hope and courage to press on, to endure hardship, and to avoid giving in to temptation!
This present world is not all there is; for God’s people the best is yet to come! Sometimes when a fellow-Christian becomes ill, we immediately pray for physical healing—and rightly so—but we’re not always sure.
And so we pray: “heal—if it is the Lord’s will.” When a person has lived a long life, and has virtually no hope of recovery, we must simply commit that individual to the Lord—rather than to use heroic medical procedures simply to eke out one more day of pitiful existence.
After all, for the Christian, the day of our death—is the day of our glorification! That’s why, in some Christian groups when one of their number dies, they never say, “Brother Jacob died last night.” Instead, they say, “Brother Jacob has been promoted to glory.”
3. FALSE VIEWS ABOUT HEAVEN
Every heathen religion has a heaven of some kind, all the way from “the Happy Hunting Grounds” of the Native Americans—to the land of Nirvana described by the Buddhists. While the Bible does not fill in many details about heaven, there are some false concepts floating around—erroneous ideas about heaven.
One false view about heaven is that:
a. Heaven will be somewhat like life on earth.
Every tribe and nation holds to a belief in some sort of afterlife. There has never been a group of people anywhere (even among the most primitive tribes) that did not believe in the conscious existence of the soul after death. In ancient times, people often buried a number of items in the graves of those who died.
–the Greeks placed a silver coin in the mouth of the corpse, to pay his fare across the mystic river.
–the Egyptians placed food and boats and chariots in the burial chamber, so that the dead could use these resources in the next world.
In modern times there is a movement which encourages people to freeze the bodies of those who die—and someday—after a cure is discovered for the disease that killed them they hope that the body can be thawed, and given doses of medicine, so that life will continue here on earth. (The American Cryonics Society has already signed up more than 400 persons, who paid $120,000.00 each to have their bodies frozen.) Many folks today fail to conceive of anything that is really much better than this life is—and so they hope to survive here on earth [apparently] forever.
Another false view about heaven—is that:
b. Heaven will be a pleasurable state of bliss.
Heaven is sometimes thought to be a land of material pleasures. One writer says, “We’ll sit around a fireplace, and have parties, and angels will be there to wait on us.” He continues, “I expect we’ll drive around on golden streets in yellow Cadillac convertibles.”
Another writer likens Heaven to a rest-area where people will be lounging around in piles of dollar bills, and will be sitting-down to platefuls of jumbo steaks and large bottles of their favorite soda.
Some view Heaven as a dreamland—lakes of lemonade, blossoms on pear trees and bumble bees buzzing from one daffodil to another. It’s what critics call “pie in the sky—a land of make-believe—a silly myth, something that people invent in order to make them feel good. To them, Heaven is not really a place–but rather, a state of awareness. Heaven is where your heart is!
A third false view about Heaven—is that:
c. At death all persons are embraced by a light.
The teaching that has been. popularized recently, was started some years ago by Raymond Moody and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the teaching that all people (regardless of belief or behavior), will “make it” after death into some state of well-being! They tell about people who were supposedly dead, and later came back to life. They attempt to scientifically prove that there is no judgment after death, and that a “being of light” receives dying people with understanding and compassion.
The experiences recorded by Moody and Kubler-Ross (in their book “Life after Life”—and more recently, Betty Eadie’s book “Embraced by the Light”—are merely accounts of resuscitations, and are not experiences of people who were irreversibly dead.
The Bible teaches that not everybody who dies–is embraced by a “being of light.” Robert Ingersoll (in the moment of death) froze with terror—and in his fright, he said, “Oh God, if there is a God—-have mercy on my soul, ifl have a soul.”
For the genuine Christian who accepts the Bible as God’s revelation of truth—Heaven is a real place—with real people, and a real Savior, and a real God! It is being prepared by a peerless Contractor—the Carpenter of Nazareth, even Christ Himself! Jesus says, “I go and prepare a place for you.”
Heaven will be a habitation with God. Revelation 21:3 says, “The tabernacle of God (i.e. “the home”) of God is with men … and God himself shall be with them, and shall be their God!”
It is a beautiful thought that—-today we are together for a brief time—-tomorrow we shall be separated for a brief time (death brings a separation) but in the great eternity, we shall be re-united on into the future forever.
John Bunyan, in Pilgrim’s Progress, offers comfort to those who may fear dying. (Mr. Fearing dreaded death all his life, and likened it to the Crossing of the Jordan by the Children of Israel. But when Mr. Fearing reached the river, the waters were at a record low, and he crossed over it with only his feet getting wet.) Death was not nearly as bad as he thought it would be!
The Bible uses several figures of speech to help us understand what death truly means for the child of God:
—death is a departure (2 Timothy 4:6): The Apostle Paul spoke of his approaching death, and said, “The time of my departure is at hand” (it’s like the sailing of a ship).
—death is likened to sleep (John 11:11): Jesus approached the village of Bethany at the time of the death of Lazarus, and said, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep.”
—death is like a collapsing tent (2 Corinthians 5:1): Death means that our earthly tent (the body) is being torn down, and in its place—we have “a building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
We have no choice regarding the fact of death. All will die—but—-we can choose how we will die. For those who are “in Christ” (at peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ), death is a pathway to blessing. For those living “in sin” (those who reject God’s offer of pardon), death is a doorway to eternal damnation!
Fanny Crosby was thinking of her friends over in heaven, when she wrote:
“Oh the dear ones in glory
How they beckon me to come,
And their parting at the river I recall,
To the sweet vales of Eden
They will sing my welcome home,
But I long to meet my Savior first of all.”
Many of us can say, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Help us to realize anew that human life does not end here on earth, but extends on into the future forever. Remind us from time to time that we need to live each day in light of the fact that each of us has a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.