I was visiting with my pastor over lunch today and the subject came up of heaven. It was noted that most people view heaven as simply a remodeled form of things of earth. You hear statements at a funeral of someone who has died that go something like this, “He is up there doing what he always wanted to do.” Rarely do we hear a description of heaven that actually depicts what the Bible teaches. Even then, it may not be heaven at all but a place describe that we are not familiar with so it is understood as heaven.
There are several places described in the Bible that are often understood as heaven but are not heaven. One such place is Paradise. It is referenced three times in the New Testament in reference to the place of the righteous dead (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7) In the Jewish concept of Hades had two compartments, a place of torment for the unrighteous dead and a place of rest for the righteous dead, called Paradise. This picture is seen clearly in the story that Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). When Jesus was resurrected He gathered the righteous saints from Paradise and took them with Him and now the compartment of Paradise is empty. Now, when the righteous die, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Only the unrighteous remain in Hades and are preserved to the day of Judgment.
Another place that is often confused as heaven is the millennium or 1,000 years. This is in reference to the time that the Lord will reign over all the earth and establish peace among all people and living creatures. (Isaiah 11:1-16, 65:17-25) This scene is where the wolf and the lamb feed together and the lion will eat straw like the cow. It a picture of perfect harmony and peace. This is the picture of the righteous, but the picture of the unrighteous is a picture of terror and horror. It is also known as the day of the Lord.
A third place that is often confused with heaven is “Heaven above“. This is also know in different translations as: firmament, expanse, dome or vault and is understood as the spiritual dwelling place of God now, as opposed to earth as a physical place. It includes the atmosphere and the expanse of space and is referred to being above. It is also addressed as the unseen world.
The place that we know as heaven has several characteristics. One is that it is an eternal place. It is unending, which is a concept that our feeble mind has great difficulty grasping. We exist in time and space and change. In eternity there is not such thing as time or dimension or change. Everything is: and it is without beginning or end; it is without measurement; and it is without change.
Another characteristic is that in heaven there is that the things that were necessary for our development have now ended and no longer have an eternal purpose. Tears are gone, death is defeated, sorrow, crying and pain are no more, and the memory of all these difficulties cannot be found. I think it is similar to a mother giving birth to a child. She has pain that is necessary for the birth of the child, but once the child is born the mother cannot remember the pain. Yes, she can remember that she had pain but she can no longer feel the pain.
In heaven, there will be a lot of rejoicing. It will not be so much for our gain but because of the full realization of God and His glory. Like a diamond that is uncut looks a lot like just another rock but when it is cut, the beauty and the magnificence of it is revealed. It was there all of the time but now it is fully realized. We are the workmanship of God and look just like other people but when the Lord is finished shaping and making us into His image we will appear like Him and so the glory of God will be seen in us. This picture pales in comparison to the Glory of the Lord as we behold Him for who He is.
1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. It won’t be a remodeled world it will be the presence of the Lord with an eternal and spiritual existence. Our activity will have eternal purposes and not for selfish or wordily reasons.