Throughout history, most human societies have believed in some form of afterlife. This should be no surprise as the Bible tells us that God has ‘put eternity in their hearts’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We all have a sense of there being more to life than this present world. But when it comes to describing what heaven is like, people have many conflicting ideas. Will it be a place of clouds, harps and cherubs? Will it contain our favourite pleasures on earth? Will it be boring? Who will go there? We cannot answer these questions by speculation and observation, as heaven is not part of this present material realm. However, in the Bible, God has graciously revealed them to us.

Who lives there?

The first thing we need to know about heaven is that the Bible describes it as the dwelling place of God. Psalm 11:4 tell us, ‘The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.’ This might surprise us, as the Bible also tells us that that God cannot be contained anywhere. A king called Solomon once said of God, ‘Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You!’ (2 Chronicles 6:18). So how do reconcile these two realities? The answer is that while God is present everywhere, He shows His presence and glory particularly in the place the Bible calls heaven. In heaven, the goodness, majesty, justice and holiness of God are on full display. But God shares this dwelling place with others. There, the angels and heavenly beings that God has created worship Him constantly (Revelation 7:11-12). Also, those who have been saved and forgiven, will also be there, praising and adoring God (Rev 19:5-7).

Where is it?

Many people argue that heaven is simply a state of mind or enlightenment. However, the Bible confirms that it is a place. Jesus told his disciples he was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). Jesus, as a man, ascended to heaven as a place after His resurrection (Acts 1:11). Stephen, when he was martyred for his faith in Christ, saw the Lord Jesus in heaven standing at the right hand of God the father (Acts 7:455-56). However, whilst heaven is a place, it is not within this dimension. It is outside of the physical universe as we know it.

What’s the future?

At the present time, heaven and earth are separated. That is because the earth is the dwelling place of fallen human beings and nothing sinful can enter the presence of a holy God. There is a great divide between earth and heaven. But the message of the gospel is that God has done something to bring heaven and earth together. By obeying God’s law and dying on the cross for our sins, the Lord Jesus Christ has reconciled sinful people with a holy God. When Jesus returns, he will renew the earth and create a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. The great climax of the Bible is that when the Lord Jesus does this, heaven will come down to earth and God will dwell with His people forever. Revelation 21:3-4 says this: ‘And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”’

There in God’s new heavens and new earth, those who trusted in Jesus Christ and found forgiveness will live with new bodies in a new world. There will be some similarities to the present age, but all that is sinful and all that causes suffering will be banished forever. It will be a place of unspeakable joy and delight.

How can I get there?

The Bible teaches that those who trust in Jesus Christ as their saviour go immediately into the presence of God in heaven at their deaths (Luke 23:43). This is not because of their own goodness or works, but by the grace of God. There they will wait for the day when Jesus returns and makes all things new. From then on they will live with Him forever in the new heavens and new earth.
Do you know where you are going when you die? The Bible assures us that the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is only way to get to God’s heaven. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6).