You don’t have to be a Christian to have questions about heaven. The afterlife is a topic most people wonder about, which makes books and movies about near-death experiences or visions of heaven so popular. Bestselling books like “Heaven is for Real” have even been made into movies.
What happens when we die? What is heaven like? How do I know if I’m going there? If you’ve ever wondered, here’s what the Bible says about heaven.
READ ALSO: 8 BIBLE VERSES ABOUT HEAVEN AND ETERNITY
Is Heaven A Real Place?
“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
Lift your eyes to the glorious expanse of the sky – the billowing clouds, the sun, the moon, the stars. The heavenly view tugs on a person’s soul and creates a longing inside to experience the One who created it all. The physical heaven points us to God.
But heaven is also a real place. Jesus talked about it in a somber moment on the night He was betrayed. He encouraged His disciples, “‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’” (John 14:2 NIV)
Don Piper’s heavenly experience made a believer out of him. In his book, and the movie based on the book, “90 Minutes in Heaven,” he was pronounced dead in a tragic car accident and transported to heaven where he experienced blissful moments in God’s presence. He even spent time with people who had died before him and were now in heaven. Don miraculously came back to life after a pastor came upon the accident scene and prayed for him.
Don now shares his “to heaven and back” experience with others. His remarkable story offers great encouragement as he verifies that God is preparing a place for us and heaven is real.
What is Heaven Like?
In heaven, God’s will is done. On earth – not so much. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He encouraged them to pray the good things of heaven into the earth.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10 (NIV)
On earth we are caught between the tussle of good versus evil, but in heaven, there is no war! No sickness, no death, no sorrow, no crying. The Bible says every tear will be wiped away.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away... ‘I am making everything new!’” – Revelation 21:4-5 (NIV)
The Bible paints a peaceful picture of a heavenly place where wolves and lambs feed together. The angels sing in worship. The King sits on His throne in glory. Everything is good and beautiful and exactly as God intended it to be. See Isaiah 11:6, Revelation 5:11, Revelation 20:11, Revelation 21:4 on Biblica for more Biblical evidence that Heaven is a real place.
Will I Recognize People in Heaven?
We long for the comfort of knowing we will see our loved ones in heaven. The Bible says that multitudes will gather around God’s throne in heaven, but it’s challenging to explain heaven in ways our natural minds can understand.
The Bible says that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 NIV). Jesus explained to the religious leaders of His day, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30 NIV).
Can you imagine a heavenly meeting with the angel Gabriel whom God sent to Mary, the mother of Jesus? Or with the archangel Michael who disputed with the devil about the body of Moses? (Luke 1:19, Jude 1:9) Knowing that God’s angels have names and identities offers insight into what our encounters will be like in heaven.
From the atheist-turned-Christian who built “The Case for Christ,” comes a new documentary that investigates Near-Death Experiences and presents evidence for Heaven and Hell. Discover “The Case for Heaven,” by New York Times best-selling author Lee Strobel as he uses the same evidence-based and systematic approach to build a case for an afterlife.
What Will We Do In Heaven?
Heaven is a noisy place filled with worship and singing and even shouting! Angels, elders and people from every tribe, tongue and nation worship the Lord God Almighty with shouts of triumphant victory and songs of rejoicing.
“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God … Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!’” – Revelation 19:1, 7 (NIV)
Although it may be difficult to imagine this atmosphere of worship, the glorious presence of God will surround you and you will not be bored as you join this jubilant assembly. Life will be happening all around you – a life that is beyond our current human imagination.
How Do I Know if I’m Going To Heaven?
Evil does not reside in heaven, which means that those who enter must have their sins washed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The Book of Revelation describes those in heaven as the ones who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are the ones whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
If you want to be sure to go to heaven when you die, repent of sin and allow the blood of Jesus to wash you clean. Salvation is a gift from God, and if you confess your sins, He promises to forgive.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)
Is Heaven the Reward for the Saved?
As Christians, we do indeed believe that heaven is the rewards for the saved. We can see this in many verses throughout the Bible. Time and time again there is evidence in scripture promising us our reward of being united with God in heaven.
We first read of this promise in Genesis, where God promises Abraham that his descendents will be guided to "the land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1-3 NIV). God's promise of heaven to Abraham and his descendents is further explored in Romans:
"It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." - Romans 4:13 (NIV)
Righteousness can be interchanged in this passage for salvation. Meaning that if we confess our sins and proclaim the faith, then we will indeed go to heaven.
There are other Bible verses that also show God will reward us for confessing our sins and keeping the faith with the promise of heaven:
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. - 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NIV)
This comforting Bible verse is often read at funerals, because it gives us a clear description of heaven. When we're struggling to grieve a loved one, this verse gives us peace in knowing that our loved one is meeting "the Lord in the air" and that we should rest in knowing they now "will be with the Lord forever."
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Matthew 5:12 (NIV)
While on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes this proclamation, giving us further evidence that heaven is real and is indeed the reward of the saved. If we follow His commandments and repent when we sin, we indeed can be sure that our salvation awaits for us in heaven.
What About 11th-Hour Christians? Does Everybody Get Into Heaven?
We will see people in heaven we never dreamed would gain entrance. But that is the power of Jesus’ blood over sin. You never know what happens in someone’s last moment on earth. A person can be saved in the twinkling of an eye with a final acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is Lord.
It happened with the thief who hung on the cross next to Jesus. With his dying breath, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord and King.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” – Luke 23:43 (NIV)
If you think it’s unfair for God to let someone into heaven with a split-second of repentance, then remember Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. The workers who had worked all day long in the hot sun grumbled when those hired at the end of the day received the same wages as them. The heart of God is shown in the landowner’s response to their grumbling, “‘Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’” – Matthew 20:15 (NIV)
Never discount the generous nature of God. He desires all men to be saved – even if it’s the 11th hour.
Do I Have To Live A Perfect Life To Go To Heaven?
Only Jesus lived a sinless life and through that life made provision for the cleansing of our sins. God’s will for you as a Christian on earth is to be a light in the world and bring God’s good and perfect will into the earth by being His ambassador. That doesn’t mean perfection; it means living a holy life empowered by His spirit.
When we sin, we quickly repent. When we fall, we look to the One who can lift us up.
Remember Jesus’ prayer for God’s kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven”? Though you may feel weak in your humanity at times, you have an opportunity in this life to reconcile others to God and populate heaven.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf; be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)
As you contemplate heaven, consider ways you can inspire others to have faith in God. God has prepared a place for His people. Heaven is real.
What Did the Apostles Teach about Heaven?
As we're aware, the apostles went out to teach around the world and testify to Jesus Christ. So what did they teach new followers about heaven? We can find these answers in books of the New Testament, including the writings of Paul and the book of Revelation, written by John (rev 1:1 NIV).
"Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?" - 1 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV)
Apostle Paul wrote this about what those who are hoping to go to heaven should expect in order to gain entrance into heaven. Paul's words confirm that we will indeed be judged based on if we've repented for our sins.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21: 2-4 (NIV)
John gives his description of what he saw as the "new heaven" which is one of the more widely-known descriptions of heaven. John's vision of heaven was given to him in a dream, as explained in the book of Revelation. This passage is John's teaching and proclamation about the vision God gave him of what heaven is like. In heaven, there will be no pain or sadness, because we will all be with God Himself.
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