We don’t hear many sermons on heaven these days. That may seem strange, since it is every Christian’s joy to ponder being with the Lord for all eternity. The promise of heaven is at the very core of the gospel we preach.
Yet there is a reason why we don’t hear much on this joyful subject. The fact is, the Bible doesn’t say much about what heaven is like. Jesus never sat down with his disciples and explained the glory and majesty of heaven. He did say to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” but he didn’t say what it would be like.
The apostle Paul refers to heaven when he speaks of being taken up into paradise. He says he saw and heard things there that so staggered his mind he had no language to describe it. You get the idea from Paul’s description that, even if he could explain what he saw, our human minds couldn’t comprehend it.
Paul was thankful for his life, his calling, his ministry. I believe he loved God’s people with a passion. But throughout his years of ministry, Paul’s continual desire was to go home and be with the Lord. His heart was simply anxious to be there.
So, where is heaven? We don’t know. We do know that a new heaven is coming, as well as a new earth. And this new planet won’t merely be the old earth as refined by fire but something entirely new. At its center will be the capital city, the New Jerusalem.
We do also know that the throne of God is in heaven. Likewise, Jesus is there, as are the angels of the Lord, in innumerable multitudes. Moreover, Paul says that once we’re there, we will behold Jesus “face to face” (1 Corinthains 13:12). In short, we’re going to have immediate, personal access to the Lord throughout eternity. (Beloved, if that alone were all that heaven is, it would be enough for me!)
Evidently, we will learn things there that simply can’t be contained by the human mind here on earth. We’ll have access to the mind of Christ himself, which is unlimited. And I believe he’s going to teach us about all things eternal.
The Bible tells us that in heaven we will rule with the Lord as “kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). We’re going to act as his servants there and “shall serve him” (22:3).
This tells me we’ll be given thrilling, blessed assignments in this new world to come. Scripture speaks again and again of the roles angels have played throughout history, ministering even to Jesus. Whatever our thrilling work will be, we can know it will continue for eternity, because God’s worlds are without end.
Consider for a moment the seeming infinity we see in space. Our own solar system is said to be at least five billion miles in diameter, and yet it’s a mere dot in the universe. Scientific discoveries show there is system after system after system, apparently without end. It is all so staggering to the mind.
Even as our solar system races through space, revolving around the sun, countless other systems are moving one upon another as well. And it’s all taking place according to God’s divine order. For this reason I believe that in heaven we’re going to receive assignments that are now incomprehensible to our human minds.
The Hebrew scholars of Paul’s day taught there were three layers of heavens: first, the physical atmosphere we inhabit; then the second heaven, where the stars are; and, finally, the third heaven, where God and paradise are.
All I can say for sure on this subject is that Jesus ascended to “the heaven above all heavens.” And he told us he’s there now preparing a place for his people. He also said, “I’m going to come again, and I will take you there. Where I dwell, you will dwell.”
In short, beloved, I can’t tell you what heaven is like. And I don’t know much about what’s going to be there. I have no new revelation to offer, no Paul-like vision. But I can tell you what heaven isn’t like, and what is not there, because that’s what Scripture offers. And, as you’ll see, what this reveals gives us reason to rejoice!
John tells us we won’t find the following things in heaven:
1. There will be no more seas. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1, my italics). John isn’t saying there will be no water. He’s stating that there won’t be any more threats from the earth’s large bodies of water: no more hurricanes, typhoons or killer tsunamis.
In fact, the only water that’s mentioned concerning this new earth will be a river of gladness that flows through the streets of the New Jerusalem. John says of it: “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1).
2. There will be no handkerchiefs in heaven. We won’t have any need for such things, because Scripture implies we won’t even need tear glands. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (21:4). According to John, tears simply won’t exist in heaven.
Likewise, there will be no more funeral parlors, caskets or cemeteries. Why? “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying” (21:4). Think of it: no more standing in front of caskets, grieving for lost loved ones. No more sorrow, crying or mourning, because in heaven we will never die. Once we have been raised up from the earthly grave by Christ’s resurrection power, we can never die again.
3. There will be no more drug stores, hospitals, doctors, nurses, ambulances, painkillers or prescriptions. John writes, “Neither shall there be any more pain” (21:4).
I’m reminded of a mother and her disabled daughter who visited our church. This woman’s son had committed suicide after seven years of enduring excruciating pain that no doctor could diagnose. During that time, he had to take heavy narcotics just so he could endure each day. The source of his pain was never found.
Now the daughter is showing the same symptoms. She is a gifted dancer and a brilliant student, who won honors and was offered scholarships. But her condition has so deteriorated that she is in constant, excruciating pain.
Like her brother, this young woman lives with such a high degree of pain that doctors say it measures “fourteen on a scale of ten.” She was told the narcotic she would need for the pain would have to be so strong, it would kill her within months.
I rejoice that a glorious day is coming when this young woman will never again know pain.
My granddaughter’s pain from her brain tumor became so severe that it caused her limbs to shake violently. She had awful seizures, and I had to help her dad hold down Tiffany’s arms and legs during that awful time. The pain was simply too much for her, and in truth it was too much for her grandparents, too. Finally, Tiffany told her mom and dad that the Lord had spoken to her heart, telling her, “I want you to come home. With me, there will be no more pain.”
John’s verse has special meaning for me: “Neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4). As Tiffany’s granddad, I rest in the knowledge that this is where my granddaughter is right now: with Jesus, where there is no more pain.
4. There will be no more fear, no more unbelief, no more abominable things, murders, lies or witchcraft. The Bible tells us that all who practice such things will be cast into the lake of fire: “The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (21:8).
Newspapers reported some time ago that an elderly couple were found dead in their apartment. This couple was so fearful of being robbed or attacked that they regularly locked the doors to their home and sealed all the windows. They were so fraught with fear they did this even during summer’s blistering heat, and they ended up suffocating.
There will be no more such fear in heaven. Neither will there be any more violence or murder. Just recently, a child molester admitted to molesting over two hundred children. Thank God, in heaven there won’t be any more such abominations.
5. There will be no more reason to move in heaven. My wife and I have moved out of one home and into another a number of times in my adult lifetime. I’m thankful that when we get to heaven, we will never have to move again. How do I know this? Jesus tells us, “Let not your heart be troubled…In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1–2).
I recently read of a Christian woman who asked, “If there will be multitudes in heaven who can’t be numbered, how could God possibly make a habitation for everybody? How could there be room enough for so many dwellings?”
These words ought to mean something to us. Some Bible scholars interpret Jesus’ meaning here as “many dwellings.” That may or may not be accurate. All I know is this: If Christ is building it, we can be sure it is something glorious.
As we each think about the place our Lord is building for us, we ought not to picture brick buildings or anything like that. Rather, his habitations are of another realm altogether. As humans, we can’t conceive of a realm in which the body passes through all material substances unhindered. (Jesus did this after his Resurrection, and he says that in heaven our glorified bodies will be like his.) This is a realm no scientist has discovered, one vastly different from anything we could comprehend.
The important point Jesus makes about heaven is, “This is home. You’re going to live eternally where I live.” “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Simply put, there is a home in eternity for each of us. And, Jesus says in essence, “When that day comes — when you’re here with me — I’ll personally show you what I have built for you.”
6. There are no crippled limbs in heaven, no blindness or deafness, no decaying bodies. The Bible says we’re going to have new bodies in heaven. Of course, this is a well-known doctrine of Christians, and Paul had much to say about it. He writes, “Some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35). In other words, people may wonder, “What kind of body is going to be raised from the dead?”
“That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be…But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him” (15:37–38). In other words: “The bodies we’ll inhabit in heaven will be in his likeness. They will be celestial (heavenly) and not terrestrial (earthly).”
According to Paul, our physical body is “sown in corruption” but “raised up incorruptible.” Simply put, when our body is “sown” — or, buried — it is a natural, or terrestrial, body. But when we’re raised up, it will be as a celestial, or heavenly, body. The body we’ll have then will be “glorified” by the resurrection power of Christ.
Scripture never says God is going to search out every lost limb, every lost tooth, every grain of dust of our natural body, and somehow put them back together. On the contrary, Paul taught, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” He then adds, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (15:52).
On that remarkable day, the graves are going to open. And in his awesome power, the Lord will bring into being new, eternal bodies. These bodies will be in the image of the holy and righteous, never to be corrupted. And when this happens, we’re going to speak one language, a new tongue we’ll all understand. Indeed, all things will be new.
Most exciting to me is what will happen for the millions of dead and dying children from throughout the ages. In an instant, these precious ones will be raised up with new bodies. I think of the young children whose bodies went to the grave ravaged by sickness, whose flesh was slaughtered in genocides, whose bodies were shattered by bombs.
I also think of the men and women whose bodies were withered and wasted away by disease, bodies that had to be buried in closed caskets. I think of the martyrs from throughout the ages who died by torture, their bodies maimed, sawn in two, beheaded, burned in fires. All of these are going to come out of the grave with new bodies, never to see corruption or pain again.
My mind can hardly register the thought of it — and yet my heart rejoices over it!
7. There will be no clocks in heaven, because time shall be no more.
John writes that an angel appeared before him and stood on both the sea and land. The angel then raised his hand to heaven and, according to John, “Sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:6, my italics).
A moment is going to come when time itself will be cast aside. Imagine it: no more years, no more months or weeks, no more days, hours, minutes or even seconds. There will be nothing to mark time, nor even nighttime nor daylight, for Christ will be the light in paradise.
A Puritan pastor tried to describe to his congregation the limitlessness of eternity. He told them not to try to figure it out, that eternity always was and always will be, with no beginning or end. He gave them this illustration: “Picture the earth as a ball of sand, 25,000 miles in circumference. Once every thousand years, a bird flies in and takes away one grain of sand. When that creature has taken away the very last grain, then eternity has just begun.”
In other words, in the grand scheme of eternity, “time” is right now having only a brief appearance. The day is coming when time will have utterly served its purpose and be done away with. It’s all so amazing for me to consider.
Paul exults, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Many Christians quote this verse daily, applying it to their trials and tribulations. Yet the context in which Paul speaks it suggests a deeper meaning. Just two verses earlier, Paul states, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (15:54–55).
Paul was speaking eloquently about his longing for heaven. He wrote, “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1–2, my italics).
The apostle then adds, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (5:8).
According to Paul, heaven — being in the Lord’s presence for all eternity — is something we are to desire with all our hearts.
First, I imagine Jesus’ description of a huge gathering, when the angels “shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
When all these multitudes have been gathered, I picture a great victory march taking place in heaven. Almost everyone knows the song, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Try to imagine that song being played out literally in heaven, with millions of glorified children singing hosannas to the Lord, the way children once did in the temple. What a sound of victory and praise it will be: multitudes of orphans crying, “Father!” I can just see the beam of delight on Jesus’ face. “For such is the kingdom of God,” he has declared.
Then come all the martyrs. Those who once cried for justice on earth now cry, “Holy, holy, holy!” I picture the beheaded touching their heads and saying, “I am whole again.” Those who were sawed in two look for the marks of agony on their bodies but find none. Those who were burned at the stake now have whole bodies, with no trace or scent of smoke. All of these will be dancing with joy, crying, “Victory, victory in Jesus!”
Then a mighty roar comes forth, a sound never before heard. It is the church of Jesus Christ, with multitudes from all nations and tribes. This group includes those who were once addicts or alcoholics…who were once blind or diseased…who were poor, widowed or forced to beg. I picture among them the impoverished widow who faithfully cast a penny into the collection plate when she didn’t have anything else.
When the faithful apostle was caught up into heaven, he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paul said he was staggered at what he heard there. I believe these were the very sounds he heard. He was given a preview of the singing and praising of God by those who will be rejoicing in his presence, their bodies made whole, their souls filled with joy and peace. It was a sound so glorious that Paul could hear it but not repeat it.
Dear saint, make heaven your earnest desire. Jesus is coming for those who long to be with him there!