Theology

Heaven-bound: What will it be like?

We’ve all been told there’s no such thing as a stupid question. And we all know that just isn’t so. That may be why in our desire to avoid the embarrassment of asking that big dumb one, many seemingly silly, but actually good, even important, questions go unasked. And I think that’s particularly true when it comes to the topic of heaven.

So, for example, many of us may remember back in our younger years, wondering if heaven was going to be boring. The idea of strumming on a harp and singing all day, every day, isn’t appealing to most children (nor to many musically inept adults). But while this question bothers many kids, few will ask it out loud – even at a young age they’ve discovered asking these sorts of questions can be embarrassing.

Adults also have “heaven questions” that go unasked. What is heaven going to be like? When we get there will we remember our time here on earth? And will we recognize each other in heaven?

When these questions are raised they rarely get treated with much respect. Instead of garnering thoughtful responses, questions about heaven are usually answered with another question: Does it really matter? After all, we’re going to get to heaven soon enough and then we’ll find out exactly what it’s like, so what’s the use in thinking about it now? What’s the point?

Comfort and correction

Well, when we turn to Scripture we find out there are at least two reasons to learn more about heaven.

First, many of the heavenly descriptions are a means of comfort to us. Those who weep now will laugh in heaven [1]. Mourning, crying and pain will end and God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes [2]. Yes, here on earth we may have to suffer, stumble, and endure but we can do so knowing that God has prepared a heavenly reward for us [3].

And God does more than comfort us with His descriptions of heaven – He also uses them to correct our misdirected desires. You see, Satan loves to use our desires, even our desires for God and heaven. If he can twist them, just a bit, he can use them to point us in exactly the wrong direction. For example, a friend recently told me about his desire for a “great teacher.” He had learned from some of the smartest men alive, and yet, ultimately, they had all disappointed him. They might provide great insight in one area, and yet be blind in another. This friend wanted to be able to sit at the feet of a great teacher, and just learn. He was very surprised when I told him that what he was really looking for was Jesus. He had wasted all this time trying to satisfy a desire that couldn’t be met here on earth; it was one that could only be fulfilled in heaven.

In his book In Light of Eternity Randy Alcorn gives another example of this misdirected desire. A couple in his congregation wanted to give more to the church but also had a strong desire for a “perfect home” in the country. Was that desire wrong? “Not at all,” Alcorn noted. “In fact the dream of a perfect home is from God. It’s just that such a dream cannot and will not be fulfilled in this life.” That perfect home does exist though, but we have to look to heaven for it, where Jesus has prepared just such a place for us [4].

All of us have misdirected desires. We might be looking for that special someone who will finally complete us, or the friend who will totally understand us, or that career that will fulfill us. All of us are busy storing up treasures here on earth, investing our time and energy into things that will rust away or be broken, the sorts of things that will be destroyed by fire [5] when Christ returns. If we focused more on heaven, talked more about it, and thought more about it, perhaps then we would start trying to store up treasures there instead of here.

So will heaven be boring?

That’s why it’s worthwhile thinking about heaven. Now what will it actually be like? Let’s try and answer a few of those questions. 

When we get to heaven will we remember our time here on earth?

It would seem we will have to remember our time on earth, as we are going to be called to give an account for our every earthly word and deed [6]. Works done in faithfulness will follow us into heaven, where we will be rewarded for them [7]. so it seem clear we will remember these acts as well. Revelation 6:9-11 gives a glimpse into heaven where the martyrs there remember what happened to them on earth – they call out to God to avenge their blood. And the fact that the crucifixion scars remain in Christ’s eternal resurrected body seems to be conclusive proof that we will remember earth. These scars will forever bear witness to what He did for us; they will be a constant reminder of just how undeserving we were, and how gracious and merciful God is.

Since we are gong to remember our time on earth that means what we do here is a foundation for our eternal life. This is only the beginning, but it is a beginning we will build on later in heaven [8].

Will we recognize each other in heaven?

Some think that since in heaven we will “no longer marry nor be given in marriage” [9] we will no longer recognize our marriage partners or any of our other past relationships made on earth. But that reads far too much into a single text. Many other passages in the Bible would suggest that we will recognize each other. For example, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus [10], the rich man recognizes both Lazarus and Abraham in heaven. When Moses and Elijah come down from heaven for Jesus’ Transfiguration [11] they were still recognizable as Moses and Elijah. And according to Luke 16:9 the friends we make through our generosity here on earth will remember us in heaven and welcome us into their eternal dwellings. So friendships, interrupted for a time by death, can continue on in heaven.

Will heaven be boring?

One of Satan’s biggest lies is his portrayal of heaven as a tedious place of idleness and enforced endless singing. We are not going to be idle in heaven – we’re going to reign with Christ, and be assigned responsibilities based on what we did on earth – and when we sing it will be because we can’t contain the praise within us (and even the musically inept will now be able to carry a tune). Have you ever been to a wedding where the bride beamed happiness? Where the joy just spilled out of her? Her joy is but a pale reflection of the greater Joy we will experience in heaven. Everything good and amazing here on earth, from the Niagara Falls to the Grand Canyon to the intricacy and wonder of a single living cell, reflect only a tiny part of the glory of their Creator. And in heaven we will finally be able to see Him face to face [13]. Face to face!

Heaven will be the very opposite of boring!

Though most every reader will find some points of disagreement, Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven” is a great, biblically-rooted look at what God has planned for us after this life. It is an encouragement and challenge to Christians – highly recommended!

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Liette Pilon

    December 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Once seeing pictures of returning soldiers and the faces of their family members, I was given a glimpse of the Joy of seeing Jesus returning, and being with him,9 and also our loved ones , and also a reign of justice and mercy). Awe struck, Overwhelming.

  2. John Clark

    December 28, 2017 at 12:59 am

    And to think that it will be eternal existence! Have you ever stopped and let that hit you, that our life will go on and on and one…without end!

  3. Bill Myers

    January 5, 2018 at 4:47 am

    I’ve been encouraged by the last chapter of Augustine’s “City of God.” Book 22, Chapter 30. Highly recommended. Today’s excerpt:
    In the everlasting City, there will remain in each and all of us an inalienable freedom of the will, emancipating us from every evil and filling us with every good, rejoicing in the inexhaustible beatitude of everlasting happiness, unclouded by the memory of any sin or of sanction suffered, yet with no forgetfulness of our redemption nor any loss of gratitude for our Redeemer.
    Augustine, City of God, book 22, chapter 30.

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