Heaven (Part Six)


For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17).

At home in the Father’s house

Our eternal home is a city. God develops his plan in taking his new humanity (those in Christ), not to a garden, but to a city. Cities are marked by density and diversity. The New Jerusalem has both (Revelation 5:9-14; 21:15-17). What will the eternal city be like? Let’s think about our eternal destiny.

  • It will be a new place (Revelation 21:2, 5). It is part of the new creation, suitable for the habitation of those who are new in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:15).
  • It will be skillfully designed and built (Hebrews 11:10) by God (Revelation 21:2, 10), the master builder of all things.
  • It will be beautiful (Revelation 21:2, 11). There will be no ugliness, no urban blight, no slums, no neighborhoods to avoid, and no pollution.
  • It will be pleasant and joyful in the city. The curse of sin and its consequences will be totally removed (Revelation 21:4, 6-8; 22:3).
  • It will be a place of safety (Revelation 21:12). The only fear will be a holy reverence for the majestic God.
  • It will be the meeting place for all God’s people (Revelation 21:12, 14; cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) with God (Revelation 22:23; 22:4). We will always be near those that love the Lord and enjoy him
  • It will be an immense city, about 1,400 miles cubed (Revelation 21:16), if this is intended literally or a figurative way of pointing out its enormity.
  • It will have immeasurable wealth (Revelation 21:18-21). All poverty will be forever removed. There will be an plentiful supply from the God of all grace.
  • It will shine with the splendor of God’s surpassing brilliance (Revelation 21:11, 22-23; 22:5).
  • It will be a place of great human creativity, as we reflect the glory of likeness to Christ (Revelation 21:24-26; 22:3).
  • It will have all we need for life and eternal renewal (Revelation 22:1-2).
  • It will be marked by eternal victory and celebration (Revelation 22:5, 14).

How then should we live, since we have such a glorious destiny?

  • We should worship God (Revelation 22:9).
  • We should focus on the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:12-13, 16).
  • We should invite others to join us there (Revelation 22:17).
  • We should look for Christ’s return (Revelation 22:20).
  • We should rely on his grace until he comes (Revelation 22:21).

So then, let’s do these things!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Five)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17).

In our previous article, we examined two truths about heaven as a world of love. First, the great cause and source of love in heaven is God himself. Second, we saw three characteristics of the people who will know God’s love for all eternity. Now, let’s continue with three more truths about heaven and love.

The exchange of love in heaven will be threefold.

  • The Triune God will share his infinite love among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as they have from before the creation of the universe. And out of their Triune love will be love for all they have chosen to be the objects and beneficiaries of their love.
  • The holy angels and the redeemed will respond to God’s love with perfect love. In this we will experience the fulfillment of the First Great Command, as a spontaneous, delightful desire. We will love God as Father, Redeemer, Spouse, and Friend.
  • The holy angels and the people of God will love each other perfectly. We will be sincerely united in love. There will be no loners or outcasts or enemies in the holy city. And since all are fully lovely, we will experience perfect joy in loving each other.

The principle of the love shared will be agreeable to the character of those sharing it.

  • Love in heaven will be totally holy. Most of the love in this world has some mixture of sin. But love in the eternal state will be free from corrupt principles or selfish motives. It will not be directed toward low or evil purposes. But it will be a pure flame, consistent with God’s glory and happiness. We will love God for God’s sake and one another for God’s sake, and for their relation to him.
  • In its intensity, this love will be perfect. There will be no remaining hatred toward God, or distaste or coldness or deadness of heart toward God. There will be no envy towards others. Those who have a lower position in glory will suffer no thoughts of loss by seeing others in glory above them, but they will rejoice in the happiness that each one has attained. True love delights in seeing the prosperity of another, and a satisfaction in seeing another perfectly happy. There will be a pure, sweet and fervent love among the saints in glory, and we will agree in the position that each one occupies, as to the rightness and beauty of it. Those who have a superior position in glory will not be proud, because they will have a perfect humility, and will have an abundant love to all.

The excellent circumstances in which this perfect love will be exercised and enjoyed.

  • Love in heaven is always mutual. Love will always be returned with love, which will be much different from life in this age. When we reach out in love, our love will be accepted and prized.
  • We will know the greatness of God’s love for us, and we will have the capacity to express appropriate appreciation to our Sovereign Redeemer. At that time, the truth of our loving because he first loved us (1 John 4:19) will be deliciously comprehended.
  • The joy of heavenly love will never be interrupted or cooled by jealousy. When we share love in heaven, we will have no doubt of the love of others for us. “Everyone will be just what he seems to be and will really have all the love that he seems to have.” We will have no fear that God or others will withdraw their love from us, and we will not withdraw our love from others.
  • There will be nothing to hinder the mutual expressions of love. Here, we can feel dull and heavy in spirit, and our flame can flicker or smolder, but there it will be forever new, vibrant and fresh. We will not lack correct words to tell others of our love, and we will feel freedom in expressing it for God and others.
  • Love will be expressed with perfect decency and wisdom. There will be no false steps, no poor decisions, or lack of discretion. There will be no indecent, impure or dissonant actions or voices. No passion will run out of control.
  • We will not be separated by distance or time. We will become fully acquainted with one another, and not able to come to misunderstandings or forgetfulness. We will agree in truth, and so in our opinions, worshiping the ever-glorious Lord. We will be employed together in serving God and helping each other in the joy of that employment.
  • We will be united to each other as very near and dear relations, as children of God and brothers and sisters together in his family. All will be closely related to Christ, the Bridegroom as his beloved Bride.
  • All will belong to each other. We are God’s, God is ours, and we are one another’s forever.
  • We will enjoy eternal prosperity and blessing together, sharing in God’s eternal riches.
  • All things will promote our love, because all things will show forth the beauty and loveliness of God and Christ by the Spirit (Revelation 21:22-23). The beauty and glory of the city will be an eternal testimony to the glory of God that we share in love.
  • There will be no lessening or end to the enjoyment of love together (1 Peter 1:4).

Let us all meditate on the glory of God in Christ that we will share!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Four)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17 NIV).

How will we live in heaven?

What will life be like? We will live in love, fulfilling a great purpose of God in our salvation. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 CSB). When all things pertaining to the present state of the church pass away, love will continue. Love will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8); cf. Edwards, Heaven, a World of Love. Let’s think of two aspects of the love that will be shared by God’s people forever.

The great cause or source of love in heaven is the presence of God himself, who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). God will reveal the majestic greatness of his love in heaven (Revelation 7:17; 21:4). Having determined to live eternally with his chosen people, God will make known to us the riches of his love and grace (Ephesians 2:7; cf. 3:18). Since God is all-sufficient and infinite, it follows that he will be eternally the overflowing and inexhaustible fountain of love.

  • We will be with the Father, who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). We will see the fullness of the love of the One who loved the world so much that he gave his Son for it.
  • We will live with the Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain and resurrected, the Prince of peace, who so loved us that he gave himself for us (Ephesians 5:25). The great Mediator will see the results of his atoning work and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:10-11).
  • We will be with the Holy Spirit, who has poured out God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and whose great task is to produce love in us (Galatians 5:22).

The people who are the objects of God’s immutable, unending, inexhaustible love have three characteristics.

  • They are completely lovely, because no one who is unlovely has any admittance into the Holy City (Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15). No one will have any moral deformity, but all will be beautiful to look at and wonder at the power of God’s grace in Christ. The church will be a radiant church, without any blemish, but it will be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). False professors or hypocrites will not mar that company. No one will have a hateful, malicious spirit, or will have any motive to dislike anyone. Everyone will draw forth love from each other.
  • They are perfectly lovely. Too often now there is in the best of believers some defect of character or attitude or conduct that damages what is otherwise quite attractive. But there will be nothing sinful or foolish or weak in that city. No words will disturb the perfect harmony of love that will reign there.
  • They will be able to set their hearts upon what they have always desired and delighted in without hindrance. Many great realities of the faith have captivated their minds on earth, and they were willing to suffer the greatest loss for what they held in prospect. Yet what we desire to know now, too often the presence of sin, suffering, death, or the simple weakness of the flesh keeps from our full apprehension.

This week, meditate on the coming glorious love that followers of Christ will share forever. Since we’re headed for this destiny, walk in love together on this earth.

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Three)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:3).

What will be some of the essential features of the future happiness of God’s chosen people?

We will have an intimate knowledge of God. Though God is everywhere present, he will reveal himself especially in the eternal city, where he will live with his people forever

  • This will be the fulfillment of all the covenant promises (Leviticus 26:12; Ezekiel 37:27; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10; 13:5).
  • At that time, we will be permitted to see God (Psalm 17:15; Matthew 5:8), not that we will see God’s spiritual essence, since that is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16), but that we will be able to see God as revealed through the Mediator, Jesus Christ the Lord (John 1:18). He will communicate the glory of God to our senses (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 17:24; Revelation 21:23). “The glory of God is the illumination, and the Lamb is the luminary from which it emanates. Jesus will still be our teacher there, and through him we shall acquire our knowledge of the perfections and counsels of God.” [Dagg, Manual of Theology, p. 359]
  • Our knowledge of God and God’s ways will always increase, as those in fellowship with each other continually grow in knowledge of each other, as we will not have anything to hinder its progress, and we will have an inexhaustible subject for study.
  • What will we learn of God? We will be able to study his works (cf. Psalm 111:2), his government of history, and his deep plans of redemption (cf. Romans 11:33). Perhaps in the eternal state, we will be able to see how truths that now seem disconnected form one harmonious whole and perhaps many other things beyond our current understanding.

We will have perfect moral conformity with God (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). In Christ, this is already begun (Ephesians 4:24), but then it will be perfected. Being free from sin forever and always thinking righteous thoughts will be a new and very enjoyable experience. “In being conformed to God, who is love, we shall love the display of divine perfection, of which we shall obtain increasing discoveries… As our knowledge enlarges, our love to the things learned will become more intense, and the new developments which will be made at every stage of our endless advancement will be increasingly ravishing” (Dagg, p. 361).

We will have a full assurance of God’s approval. Now in this world, we grieve because of our sin, even though we know the truth of justification (Romans 5:1-11; 8:1; etc.) But in that day, the assurance of Christ’s word of welcome (Matthew 25:34) will govern our hearts and banish all fear (cf. 1 John 4:18).

We will have the best possible society (Revelation 21:3; Hebrews 12:22-24). Since our eternal home is a city, we should think in terms of residing in fellowship with beings sharing the exceeding riches of the eternal God.

  • God will live with us.
  • We will be with Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
  • There will be an innumerable company of angels.
  • The full assembly of Christ’s chosen people will be present (Hebrews 11:39-40). We will sit down (Matthew 8:11) in perfect fellowship with the people of God from all generations. We will be with believers from before the Flood and before the giving of the law. We will meet those believers like Moses, Joshua, David, Hezekiah and Daniel, who lived under the law. We will fellowship with the apostles, prophets and many others whose names are written in the New Testament Scriptures. We will share life with those who suffered martyrdom in the earliest days of the church, with those who lived during many dark years, with those who rejoiced during times of great awakenings and the spread of the gospel to all nations, with those from other places and times, and those who sat in church buildings and homes with us, and with those who will make up the last generation when Christ returns.

We will have delightful employment. We are told simply, and his servants will serve him (Revelation 22:3). This service will occur in an atmosphere where the curse because of sin will be removed, and so we will be released from wearisome toil that characterizes our work now. What kind of service is not revealed, so it is useless to speculate. But we will be doing the will of the holy, wise and loving God, and we may sure that it will be significant and fitting for us. One of our activities will include worship.

Nothing will be present that can damage our happiness. God will remove our sorrows and all that accompanies them. Everything will be new (Revelation 21:4-5). No sinners will be present to disrupt the joy we will forever experience (Revelation 21:8).

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Two)

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world (John 17:24 NIV).

Since heaven is not presently accessible or visible to us, we should expect many honest questions on the subject. All that we can know is what God has chosen to write in the Scriptures, and in his word, we are not told many details. This can be somewhat frustrating, but this is the will of our Father in heaven. I think it is useless to speculate about God’s reasons, but since he is holy and wise, I’m sure that his reasons for not telling us more are best for us and most for his glory. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:3-4. The apostle Paul said by the Spirit, And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell (NIV). God does not permit knowledge about heaven outside of what is written in the Bible. For this reason, do not be led astray by these supposed accounts of people that claim to have seen heaven’s glories. In this and a couple posts to follow, let’s consider various questions sincere questions that believers in Jesus have about heaven.

Is heaven a place or a state of mind?

Many outside the sphere of Bible-believing Christianity deny that heaven is an actual place, and they consider it to just be a state of mind. However, we do not determine truth by the opinions of people, but on the authoritative word of God. We have clear evidence from the Scriptures that heaven is an actual place that can be inhabited by physical beings.

  • The Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven in his resurrection body (Acts 1:9-11; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 9:11-12, 24)
  • The Lord Jesus was seen in heaven by Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:55-56)
  • The Lord Jesus promised to prepare a place for us to be with him (John 14:2-3; cf. 17:24)
  • The Lord Christ will come from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

Where is heaven?

The Bible nowhere states where heaven is, and we have no way of finding out. In addition, we have no way of knowing how the universe will be formed after the reordering of all things in the new creation. Avoid empty on these matters.

Will we know one another in heaven?

Yes, we will. Why would we not? An example of personal knowledge is found in the account of Christ’s transfiguration (Luke 9:30-33). Peter could recognize Moses and Elijah, though he had never met either man. If we were not able to recognize one another in heaven, how could the words of hope and joy of the apostle be true (1 Thessalonians 2:19)? Clearly, the apostle expected to recognize his converts and to rejoice with them to the glory of Christ. Paul comforts us with the assurance that those who have died with Christ will be brought with the Lord at his return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Where would the comfort be if we were unable to know one another? The point of his comment is that we are not parted in fellowship forever. We will be with one another again!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part One)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV).

One of the privileges of being a pastor or elder is the spiritual care of God’s people, especially as they approach the end of their earthly journey. Then, we see together what is truly important in this life, and it is not houses, cars, career accomplishments, victories by our favorite sports teams, vacations, entertainment, and gourmet restaurants. At the end, family and friends matter most, and if we are wise, our approaching meeting with the Lord. Our present purpose is to examine what the Bible says about life after death for believers, about what most people refer to in a general sense by the word “heaven”.

What do we mean by heaven? The term is used in two general senses in relation to God’s purposes of salvation. The first refers to the past ages and this present age. When we speak of heaven in the first general sense, the term is used in to speak of:

  • The sky (Matthew 8:20; 16:2-3)
  • The region of the stars and galaxies (Acts 7:42: Hebrews 11:12)
  • The place in the present age where God reveals his glory, where Christ resides in his glorified humanity, and where the angels and the spirits of the justified currently reside (Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:45; 18:10; Luke 22:43; John 12:28; Acts 1:11; 3:24; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 1:8; Hebrews 8:1)

When we speak of heaven in the second general sense, which is the primary subject of this study, we are speaking of the eternal destiny of God and his people. In this second sense, we refer to the new heavens and the new earth, and what the Bible reveals about them. “Heaven is the place where God most fully makes known his presence to bless” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1159).

Eternity is a most solemn and heart-searching subject. Our present life is but a very brief blip. Think on the following (cf. Ryle, Practical Religion, pp. 472-488):

  • We live in a world where all is temporary and passing way (2 Corinthians 4:18), whether beauty, strength, wisdom, or the worldly wealth we accumulate.
  • We are all going to a future where everything is eternal, whether for eternal happiness with God or for eternal misery under God’s wrath (Matthew 25:46)
  • Our state in eternity depends entirely on what we are in time (John 3:16-18, 36; Romans 2:6-7; Galatians 6:8)
  • The Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Friend to whom we must all look for help, both for time and for eternity (John 6:37-40; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:15; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18)

Next, consider the various terms used in the Scriptures to describe the future blessedness of the saints. Invest some of your time in reading and meditating on these verses.

  • Life, eternal life, live forever (Matthew 7:14; 19:16, 29; 25:46; John 5:24; 6:47, 54-58)
  • Glory, the glory of God, an eternal weight of glory (Romans 2:7, 10; 5:2; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:10)
  • My Father’s house, home with the Lord (John 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:8)
  • Peace (Romans 2:10)
  • Salvation, eternal salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 5:9; 9:28)
  • Paradise (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7)
  • The Jerusalem that is above, the city with foundations, the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22; Revelation 3:12)
  • A better country (Hebrews 11:16)
  • The kingdom, heavenly kingdom, eternal kingdom (Matthew 8:11; 25:34; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:11)
  • Eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4)
  • Eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9)
  • Glorious freedom (Romans 8:21)
  • To live and reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
  • Heaven (Matthew 5:12; 6:20; 19:21; Luke 12:33; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Peter 1:4)
  • New heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1)

Each of the above ought to stir the hearts of followers of the Lord Jesus. They tell us what to set our minds upon. Make room for heaven in your thoughts today!

Grace and peace, David