Cancer had invaded her brain, radiation was stealing her energy, and her rapidly approaching death was shattering her hope. She needed to hear about heaven—not just that she was going there, but what it would be like. As her mental faculties and thus her world shrunk, she needed to build her anticipation for what lay ahead.
When life’s problems feel more than we can bear, our hope of paradise can give us strength. Here are 10 truths about heaven that we can hold on to:
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1. Heaven is a physical place.
Many people hold varying beliefs regarding the afterlife. Some deny it exists. Others feel there are stages one goes through before reaching a certain level of paradise. Still others view heaven as a place filled with angels and everything spiritual but nothing material.
Scripture, however, reveals an actual place with a specific location. Speaking of heaven, Jesus told His disciples He was leaving to prepare a place for them. The apostle Peter wrote about “the new heaven and Earth” God would create, which, according to Revelations, contains physical things such as horses, trees, a temple, and a glorious city—the New Jerusalem (Rev. 12:22, Rev. 15:8, Rev. 19:14, Rev. 22:2).
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2. Heaven is a place of inexplicable joy.
Imagine a place free of pain, sorrow, sickness, and sin. Imagine having nothing to fear—not rejection, failure, loss, or death. Imagine experiencing perfect relational intimacy with God and others. No more hiding, isolating, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations. Nothing but love and unity—the deep community our hearts long for.
In heaven, with all of our deepest needs met and unhindered, constant access to our Savior, we’ll discover—and live in—the true source of joy, Jesus Christ, and the pleasures He grants will be eternal.
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3. In heaven, we'll be surrounded by God.
Before leaving Earth, Jesus prayed that the disciples would be one, just as He and the Father are one, “just as You,” speaking of the Father, “are in Me and I am in You… I in them and you in me.” This indwelling of the Father, Holy Spirit, and the Son speaks of intimacy, an intimacy that will only be deepened in heaven where God Himself dwells.
In heaven, God’s Spirit will surround us in a way our earthly minds can’t comprehend.
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4. Heaven has an entry fee.
God longs to remain eternally in relationship with us. But we’re a stubborn, rebellious species, bent toward self-destruction. Daily, we fight the very hands that formed us and choose our way over His. Scripture calls this sin, and our sin separates us from God.
But God loved us too much to leave us in our self-imposed misery. In Jesus Christ, He bridged the gap between us and Himself, and between life and death. To cross that bridge and gain our “get into heaven free” card, all we have to do is believe because, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV).
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5. We'll have physical bodies.
According to Hollywood, heaven is filled with winged, ghost-like people, but this isn’t what Scripture teaches. Jesus is the “firstborn of the dead” (Rev. 1:4) and “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). In Ancient Greece, first fruits referred to an early sampling of a crop that revealed the crop to come. Paul’s analogy, then, assures us that Christ provided tangible evidence of what our resurrected bodies will be like.
When Jesus resurrected, He had a physical body that the disciples were able to see and touch, and He shared a meal with them (John 20:27, 21:15). Similarly, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul tells us, when our earthly bodies are destroyed, we’ll receive an eternal body and won’t “be found naked” (v. 1-4).
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6. Believers enter immediately upon death.
According to the Bible, once we die, we go, immediately, to one of two places—heaven, where we’ll remain with Christ forever; or hell, where we’ll spend eternity separated from Him.
In Hebrews 9:27, Paul said we die once and then face judgment, and in 2 Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:23 he says he longs to die to be with Christ, verifying the immediacy of heaven upon death. Furthermore, Jesus promised the criminal on the cross next to Him that he would be with Him, that day, in paradise (Luke 23:43).
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7. Heaven is eternal.
Most of us have no problem believing heaven is eternal. This truth, reiterated throughout Scripture, appeals to our heartfelt longings—our desire that Christ will, one day, free us from this sin-filled world of pain, sickness, and death.
Many of us, however, struggle with the flipside to this, illustrated in Matthew 25:46: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Scripture teaches both destinations are eternal, and where we end up depends entirely on whether or not we believe that God’s Son is our Savior.
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8. Heaven is incredibly diverse.
Throughout Scripture, God welcomed people from all nations under one condition—that they follow Him. Through Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish nation, God said He’d bless all nations. (Gen. 22:18). In Romans 9:7-8, Paul says nation of Israel, which arose from Abraham’s descendants, represents all who believe in God.
If you’ve ever attended a multicultural worship service, you caught a glimpse of the beauty that awaits us in heaven where a “great multitude… from every nation, tribe, people, and language” will worship together (Rev. 7:9, NIV).
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9. We'll do more than sing.
When our daughter was young, she said if in heaven all she did was sing, she didn’t want to go. I imagine some of you agree. Though abiding in God’s presence will be sure to fill our hearts with praise, music won’t be our only expression. According to Romans 12:1, true worship involves living as God desires.
God instituted work before sin, when His creation was still “good.” And Jesus told His disciples they would one day serve with Him. Scholars also believe verses speaking of the vastness of God and His treasures of wisdom (Col. 2:3, Eph. 3:18-19) imply a storehouse of knowledge waiting for us to discover. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume we’ll each have fulfilling roles and the pleasure of continual learning.
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10. We'll experience final victory over sin.
Christ’s death on the cross broke the power of sin and death, freeing us to live as He desires. And yet, we live in a broken world and have developed negative thought and behavior patterns that keep us from yielding, fully and consistently to the Holy Spirit. In heaven, however, we will finally experience full freedom from sin and will have the ability to live, think, and love as God desires.
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who's addressed women's groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She's the author of six contemporary novels, and maintains a devotional blog found at jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Originally published Friday, 22 March 2019.