The concept of heaven has intrigued artists, theologians, and laypeople throughout history. According to recent polls, two-thirds of Americans believe that heaven is a real place. But what is heaven really like? Is it a Hallmark card, filled with cherubs and celestial music? Or is it a Zen-like afterlife where the souls of good people go to be at peace? Can we really know anything definitive about it? Absolutely we can. The Bible presents a clear picture of heaven.
In the King James Version (KJV) translation, the word "heaven" is found 327 times in the Old Testament and 255 times in the New Testament. The word "heaven" is used three different ways in Scripture:
Heaven as sky - The Old Testament frequently refers to the sky or earth's atmosphere as the "heavens; Matthew 6:26. Psalm 19:1 says that "the heavens declare the glory of God," meaning that the literal sky, the one with air and clouds, is a testimony to God's creative power.
Heaven as space - The second way the word heaven is used in the Bible is to describe or speak about the realm of space or the stars (Jeremiah 8:2). When God is creating the world, He places the sun, moon, and stars in the "heavens" (Genesis 1:14-18).
Heaven God's dwelling place - Scripture is clear that the third heaven is God's home. It is a literal place where God sits on His throne (Ezra 1:2; 2 Corinthians 12:2). Only four biblical authors had visions of the third heaven; Isaiah and Ezekiel (Old Testament prophets) and Paul and John (New Testament apostles). The apostle Paul recorded just such an experience in II Corinthians 12:1-9. There biblical figures, (Stephen and Micaiah) who got a "glimpse" of heaven was a mere mention and not an actual description of heaven itself (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55).
The first two ways the word "heaven" is used in the Bible are fairly straightforward. The third way the word "heaven" is used is what we commonly think when we talk about heaven today.
The Third Heaven
It is natural to be curious about heaven, particularly as our short years on earth are waning. There are several things we can know about the heavenly realm: who resides and will reside there, what it looks like, how it is different from earth, and its most glorious attribute.
Heaven is my home - Heaven is God's eternal dwelling place. God's throne is there and when Jesus left the earth He returned to heaven to live and to prepare a place for His followers (John 14:2). Believers in Christ will call heaven their home for eternity (John 3:16). Also, servants of God who died before Christ's coming will go to heaven (Ephesians 4:8).
Streets of gold - God showed a glimpse of heaven to the apostle John (Revelation 21:10-27). John describes heaven to be a city built with gemstones and gold. Twelve gates and twelve foundations surround the city (Revelation 21:12,14). John's awe and wonder are apparent as he attempted to describe the indescribable beauty of heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9).
No more sin - Sin and the consequences of sin are eradicated in heaven. Pain, tears, sorrow - all have no place there (Revelation 21:4). Death is no more (Revelation 20:6). The fruit of the tree of life, forbidden to humanity after the fall, is available to all of heaven's residents (Revelation 22:1-2).
God's presence - Best of all, heaven is filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:11). His presence is so bright that neither sun nor moon is needed (Revelation 22:5). The closeness that existed between the Creator and His creation in the Garden of Eden is found in heaven. We will see God's face and walk with our Savior there (I John 3:2).
The Bible's descriptions of heaven gives us a taste of the rich wonders of heaven and as Christians we are commanded to set our hearts and minds on it (Colossians 3:1-4). The burdens and cares of this world will fall away forever upon entering that glorious place because of our wonderful and perfect savior Jesus who waits to be reunited with his us.
Cary Byrd is the founder of ChristiansLikeMe.net, a free Christian social network that is dedicated to connecting people to Jesus Christ and others. He is also the president of eDrugSearch.com, a free price comparison engine for prescription drugs that helps consumers to get safe access to affordable medications.