I love to travel. I enjoy flying, but prefer not to experience turbulence. On one “bumpy” flight I was on we experienced a significant bump that led a voice from a few rows back to shout out, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!” Often times in life we can feel this way. We just want to escape the situation, circumstance, and the pain that we are in. We are tired, scared, and our hope is wasting away. We long to just be out of this place. This feeling of “escapism” I believe is natural for us as humans but leads us to a deeper question, “what am I escaping to?” I want to get away from the things I am experiencing but where am I going?
We need to develop a clear picture of where we are going. We need to know what we are actually longing for. Revelation 21:1-7 gives us a brief description of what is being prepared for the children of God…
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I 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 the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
As we seek to have a clearer picture of our eternity with God here are some thoughts to consider…
- Doctrine of Heaven needs to come from Scripture, not “near death experience.” Our understanding of heaven must come from what God has revealed and taught about it. Not from visions and experiences individuals have had. I believe God gives people visions, experiences, and meets people in powerful ways to grow their faith, strengthen their belief but not to build a theological doctrine on heaven.
- Judgement will happen before the throne of God, not at the “pearly gates.” There is a narrative out there that says we will be met at the “pearly gates” and enter into heaven. For believers who have died they are with Christ in Paradise awaiting the judgement of works. When we stand before the throne of God we will be judged on our works and be rewarded with crowns. This means what we do now matters. How we live is important to God. On a side note, the city of God that comes down to earth in the new earth will have 12 gates made of a pearl that are always open (Revelation 21:21,25).
- Heaven will be a physical renewal of all things. Our present heaven will not be future heaven. Heaven will come to earth, the city of God will come down, and God Himself will dwell with His people and be the light of the earth. God plans to physically restore His entire creation including us, earth, and animals (Isaiah 65:17-25). We look forward to living with a perfect body, with perfect community, and with a perfect God.
A confident understanding of eternity with God informs and inspires our right now. It fills us with hope and defeats fear. God is making and will make all things new. We will get to go back to Eden-like existence for all eternity. This is the beauty and promise of God. As your picture of heaven comes more and more into focus remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’.”