12 things every Christian should know about Heaven

Category: The End Times 1,757 3

Every Christian should have their heart set on heaven. Here are 12 things that every single Christian should know about heaven. Some will be obvious while some may surprise you. I will be providing links to my previous articles on Heaven. A more in-depth discussion and my sources (unless a direct quote here) can be found in those links.

1. The Heaven that Christians go to when they die is only temporary.

This will probably come as a shock to many Christians as most of us believe that the place where Christians go when they die will last for all eternity. This is actually false. Although Scripture tells us that when we die we will go to be with the Lord, be comforted, to “die is gain,” and that the current heaven is even called paradise by Jesus (Philippians 1:21-23, 2 Corinthians 5:8, Luke 16:22-31; 23:43), neither the Old nor New Testaments teach us that the heaven of today lasts forever. The eternal future for Christians is the new heavens and new earth (I’ll talk about that more below).

2. Scripture does not teach that Christians in (today’s) Heaven watch over us.

Many of us think that our loved ones help watch over us after they have passed away. However, there is no place in Scripture that directly teaches this. Although there are passages that tell us that the saints in heaven do have some kind of knowledge of what is going on here on earth (1 Samuel 28; Revelation 6:10), they do not teach that they are watching our every move.

The main passage in favor of this is Hebrews 12:1 which says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This verse is referring back to the saints and their faithfulness mentioned in the previous chapter, not to them literally watching over us. It is there great faith that surrounds us as we run the race. Although one could argue that Scripture never says “loved ones do not watch over you,” Christians must be careful not to be so dogmatic about something that Scripture never actually teaches.

3. Jesus, Peter, and Paul teach that our eternal destination is a physical reality and that it is this creation restored to a sinless paradise.

All three of these men teach that the eternal heaven is a restored world, a physical earth in a physical universe. Jesus says in Matthew 19:28, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne…” Jesus also says in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:5) that the meek “will inherit the earth.” Most Christians believe that this world will be completely annihilated (more on this below). How can the meek inherit the earth if it is completely obliterated?

Paul also teaches about a physical, eternal heaven that awaits Christians. In Colossians 1:15-20 Paul teaches that through Christ, God will “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” In this passage Paul is teaching that Christ created and sustains all things, and “He will also redeem all things by the blood of His cross.” Notice that Paul says that Jesus will redeem and reconcile all things on earth and in heaven.

Paul’s most important teaching about a physical eternity is found in Romans 8:19-22. In these verses, when Christians receive their resurrection bodies creation itself will be set free from sin. How can the world be set free if it is going to be completely destroyed?

Even Peter speaks about the restoration of the world. In Acts 3:21, he says that “[Jesus] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” The Greek word for “restore everything” indicates that the passage is referring to all of creation, not just people.[1]

4. 2 Peter 3 teaches that the eternal Heaven is a restored world.

Many Christians think that the passages just mentioned are referring to the millennium instead of the new heavens and new earth. However, this belief comes mostly from a faulty interpretation of 2 Peter 3:7, 10-13. Most people think this passage teaches an annihilation of the world. On closer inspection, however, it actually tells us the opposite.

First, in verses 3-7, 13, Peter tells his readers about three different stages in history: 1) The world that existed before the Great Flood; 2) The present world (that will be destroyed by fire); and 3) The new heavens and new earth. Peter is drawing a parallel between the two judgments. The world before Noah’s Flood was destroyed by water just as our stage in history will be destroyed by fire. The Flood was devastating, but it did not completely annihilate the world. We are still living on the same planet that Noah did. This seems to heavily imply that since the world was not completely obliterated by the Flood it will not be completely obliterated by fire.

Second, although this passage uses words that seem to heavily imply destruction, for example, “burned up,” “to dissolve,” etc., recent studies have shown that it is highly likely that these phases have been misunderstood. They do not teach destruction, but purification.

For example, in 2 Peter 3:10 we find the Greek word, katakaesetai, which is the word translated “burned up” in some translations. Interestingly, it does not appear in the oldest Greek manuscripts that we currently have. Instead, these manuscripts actually contain another Greek word (heurethesetai) that is best translated as “found.” However, the typical meaning (“found”) does not fit the context of 2 Peter 3:10.

This word, along with other Greek words in this passage, seem to point to a meaning of “a smelting process from which the world will emerge purified.”[2] The meaning of the passage would then indicate not a fire that destroys, but a fire that will purify the world as fire purifies metal. Even the prophet Malachi (3:2-3) also looked at judgment day as a refiner’s fire. Lastly, a Greek word (kaiomai) which has the meaning of something going up in flames is absent from these verses.

This passage tells us in verse 13 that all of these details concern the new heaven and the new earth, not the Millennium.

5. The word “new” in Revelation 21:1 does not necessarily mean a replacement.

This is one of the other major reasons that Christians believe in a complete destruction of the current world. It is thought the new heavens and new earth must be brand new as replacements for the current ones. A closer look reveals something different however. The Greek word for “new” does not necessarily mean something that is brand new. The sense of the word is that of “being repaired and refurbished” as the Greek word here is kainos, which “indicates a newness in terms of quality,” which is different from another Greek word that is also translated “new” (neos), which indicates “newness with respect to time” (i.e., a replacement).[3]

The New Testament tends to use kainos predominantly when referring to a change in quality or essence, especially in passages which relate to eschatological or redemptive-historical transitions (the end times). It is also worth noting that Paul uses this same word in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he speaks of a Christian becoming “a new creation.” This seems to heavily imply that the new earth will, in fact, be the same earth that we currently live on now, just as a new Christian is the still the same human being that he currently is (except being made more in the likeness of Christ).[4]

6. All of the basic words that Scripture uses for Heaven imply restoration.

Even the basic words that the Bible uses for salvation indicate a restoration and not annihilation. These words are redemption, renewal, reconciliation, and even salvation.

1) “To redeem something is to ‘buy free,’ which means literally to ‘buy back.’ The image that it calls forth is to that of a free person being kidnapped and someone paying a ransom to free the kidnapped person from bondage. Remember what we saw earlier in that both earthly and heavenly things will be redeemed.

2) Renewal means ‘a making new again.’ Something that was once new but has been worn out is now renovated and brought back to what it was before.

3) Reconciliation gives the image ‘of friends who have fallen out, or former allies who have declared war on one another. They have become reconciled and return to their original friendship and alliance.’

4) Finally, the Greek word for salvation, soteria, has the general meaning of “health” or “security” after being sick or in danger. One scholar sums it up well when he says, “All of these terms suggest a restoration of some good thing that was spoiled or lost.”[5]

The earth will be liberated from sin and death.
The earth will be liberated from sin and death.

7. The Resurrection Body will be physical.

Jesus continued to have a physical body after his resurrection (John 20:24-29) and Paul tells us that our glorious bodies will be like his (Philippians 3:21). Considering the fact that the earth and the rest of the universe will be restored (thus being physical) it makes sense that our bodies will be physical as well.

Some people will reject to this because Paul says that our resurrection body will be “spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:44). However, the word “spiritual” has been misunderstood. The Greek word for “spiritual” (pneumatikos) is often used by Paul not for things that are “nonphysical” but is instead used for something “consistent with the character and activity of the Holy Spirit.”[6]

The resurrection body isn’t spiritual in the sense of nonphysicality, but in the sense of being raised by the Holy Spirit. Paul even speaks of Christians as being “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 and those Christians are physically alive (this shows that “spiritual” does not have to have the meaning of something like a ghost).

What about “flesh and blood” not entering the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50)? By “flesh and blood” Paul is referring to our present human nature, as they are now in the likeness of Adam. This is the point Paul has been making in this chapter when he compared Jesus and Adam. (See my article on this topic for more information.) This also shows us that we will not become angels in heaven as some Christians tend to believe.

8. There will be animals on the New Earth.

Yes, there will be animals living on the New Earth. First, as I mentioned earlier the New Earth will be a restoration of the way things were meant to be. Remember that God created animals to live in the original “very good” creation. Second, Romans 8:19-23 tells us that creation will be liberated from sin (see the link in point #3 above for a detailed look at how this passage is referring to animals especially when speaking about the “creation”). It is also worth noting that Scripture, in Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; and 7:15, 22, tells us that animals have nephesh, which is the Hebrew word translated “living being” or “soul” in Genesis 2:7 in relation to mankind.

9. The mentally handicapped and infants who died will be on the New Earth.

This is probably one of the best things that a Christian can know about heaven in this life. Let’s begin with Romans 1:18-23. These verses teach that all people are recipients of God’s general revelation and that they are “without excuse.” All people know in their hearts that God exists and that they willingly reject him. They cannot make the excuse that they simply “didn’t know” that God existed. However, the question arises: do infants and the mentally ill understand this general revelation?

Throughout Scripture there is a consistent teaching that there will be a judgment of sins committed voluntarily and consciously in the body (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-12). Author and Pastor Sam Storms explains this very well:

“In other words, eternal judgment is always based on conscious rejection of divine revelation (whether in creation, conscious, or Christ) and willful disobedience. Are infants capable of either? … Thus, those dying in infancy are saved because they do not (indeed cannot) satisfy the conditions for divine judgment.”[7]

The first chapter in Romans makes good sense when we look at other passages throughout Scripture such as Deuteronomy 1:39 and Jonah 4:11. Deuteronomy says that children “have no knowledge of good or evil” and Jonah mentions that children do not know their right hand from their left. How can children who are too immature to know their right hand from their left and do not yet know the difference between good and evil be held accountable for rejecting God’s general revelation revealed in Romans 1? The answer is obvious (at least to me).

As a side note, I am not saying that infants and the mentally handicapped are saved because they are not sinners, they are. They are saved because of God’s love. (See here for more on this topic.)

10. We will still be ourselves in heaven.

You will still be you, minus the sinful nature of course. This will include your memories, ethnicity, and other things. Remember that we will have transformed bodies like Jesus’. Notice that he was still a male Jew after his death and resurrection. His original identity was not wiped away. Moses and Elijah were still Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration of Jesus, and Jesus even spoke about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 8:11).

We will also have our memories in heaven. Christians in the present heaven clearly remember their lives on earth (Revelation 6:9-11) even remembering their own murders and calling out for justice. Jesus also promised in Luke 16:25 that those in heaven will be comforted. Comfort implies that we will remember what happened to us. How could we be comforted if we don’t remember why we need comfort in the first place?

Scholar Randy Alcorn makes an excellent point concerning memories:

“If we weren’t ourselves in the afterlife, then we couldn’t be held accountable for what we did in this life. The Judgment would be meaningless. If Barbara is no longer Barbara, she can’t be rewarded or held accountable for anything Barbara did. She’d have to say, ‘But that wasn’t me.’ The doctrines of judgment and eternal rewards depend on people’s retaining their distinct identities from this life to the next.”[8]

How could a loving God allow us to remember bad things? Recalling the bad things that happen in this current life will actually intensify God’s mercy and love, and will allow us to fully experience the glory and perfection of heaven.

(See here for more on this topic and some common objections.)

11. There will be space and time in eternity.

Most think that there will be no space and time in heaven because they have the view that heaven will be some kind of nonphysical world. A few good points should suffice here:

First off, Jesus occupied both space and time after his resurrection. Second, Eden was a real place in space and time, and so will the restored Eden. Space is not evil. It was pronounced “very good” at the beginning, and it will continue to be good for all eternity.

Revelation 6:10-11 has Christians in heaven asking God “how long” it will be before Christ’s judgment on the wicked. Although these are speaking of the present heaven, this shows that even now, dead Christians in heaven are living within time.

There are also places in Scripture that mention time will continue on forever. Paul speaks of Heaven as “the coming ages” in Ephesians 2:7. Note that he said “ages” (plural) and not “age” (singular). God says in Genesis 8:22 that day and night will never cease as long as the earth endures. Remember, the earth will exist forever (although it will be purified and transformed). (See here for a discussion of Revelation 21:23 and the sun in the eternal world).

12. Heaven will not be boring.

Believe it or not, there are many Christians who think that heaven will be boring. How can living in a perfect physical body living in a perfect physical world with our Creator be boring? How can living alongside animals with the Creator of animals be boring? If a Christian thinks that heaven will be boring then they have missed the point of everything that Scripture teaches about life and God’s ultimate plan for eternity. Heaven is not some kind of ghostly existence with us floating around on a cloud singing songs for all eternity. It is the way life was meant to be.

Conclusion

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Did you learn something new? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

 

[1] The Greek for “restoration of all things” is apokatastaseos panton. This appears in the genitive neuter construction (panton) “of all things”. Ron Minton. 2008. “Apostolic Witness to Genesis Creation and the Flood.” In Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth. Ed. Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury. Green Forest: Master Books. 349. I do admit that words can have different meanings depending on the context. Since Scripture teaches that unbelievers and demons are not saved, it is clear that “everything” in this verse cannot mean literally every single thing in creation.

[2] Albert Wolters. “Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10.” Westminster Theological Journal 49/2 (Fall 1987), 408.

[3] Andrew Kulikovsky. 2009. Creation, Fall, Restoration. Geanies House: Christian Focus Publications Ltd. 274. Also see G. K. Beale. 1999. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1040.

[4] Kulikovsky, 274; Beale, 1040.

[5] Albert M. Wolters. 2005. Creation Regained. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 69-70. Italics in original.

[6] For example, see Romans 1:11, 7:14, 15:27; 1 Cor. 2:13, 15; 3:1, 9:11, 10:3-4, 12:1 14:1, 37; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 1:3, 5:19; Col. 1:9, 3:16. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 832.

[7] Sam Storms. Tough Topics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 100-111.

[8] Randy Alcorn. Heaven (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2004). 287.

Liked it? Take a second to support Christian Worldview Press on Patreon!

Related Articles

3 thoughts on “12 things every Christian should know about Heaven

  1. Desiree Adams

    Can you tell us who the author of this article is? Thank you!

  2. Robert

    So what does this say about the “New” Testament? Replacement Theologians, pay attention!

Comments are closed.