Descriptions of Heaven
There are many references to heaven in God's Word. Cruden's concordance lists over 300 references to heaven, and one can determine from the context that most of those passages are referring to the abode of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, as well as the future dwelling of the faithful. While heaven might be written about from many approaches, this article will point to six descriptions God gives us to better understand the place toward which those in Christ are headed.
Heaven is described as real. In 1 Peter 1:3,4 the apostle points us toward "our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." The disciples of Jesus were troubled by the statements (John 13:33ff) Jesus made regarding His leaving them. Jesus comforted his disciples with these words - John 14:1-4 - "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." These familiar words point us toward a definite place called Heaven, and says that the way to that place is through Him - the True and Living Way.
Heaven is described as reachable. It is obtainable, within our grasp. How could God be God and promise the unattainable? Is God cruel? In the passage quoted above Jesus promises: "I will receive you unto Myself." Think of the disciples who heard that statement - there was Peter who would deny his Lord and would curse and swear that he never knew Him! James and John, Thomas, and all the others were individuals who had all the tendencies toward sin that we have. Jesus spoke in a way that assured them that heaven could be reached! I believe we do faithful Christians a great disservice if we seem to teach that almost none can be saved. We can be saved by the blood of Christ applied to our souls and if we are faithful. "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." Revelation 2:10b. Let us press on in humble and faithful service toward our beautiful heavenly home.
Heaven is described as remarkable. So many descriptions of heaven fill us with wonder and awe. Perhaps no description challenges my imagination more than that mentioned in connection with Abraham's hope. In Hebrews eleven we read of his wonderful faith which gave him the strength to leave home and kin and travel to an unknown destination. His dwelling places as well as those of his son and grandson and their families, were tents. As far as we know Abraham never lived in a house or place we would consider permanent. Verse 10 of Hebrews 11 tells us he "waited for the city
which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." How would you like to have a house designed by the architect of the universe? The God who made us and has loved us, has also prepared a home where we will dwell with Him forever.
Heaven is described as a place where we will receive the reward of the faithful. In Matthew 5:11,12 we read: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." In Colossians 3:23,24 Paul wrote these encouraging words: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." When we view the promises of God, we should remember the character of the One who is promising heaven as a reward to the faithful.
Heaven is where the inhabitants may be characterized by a single attribute: righteousness. In 2 Peter 3:13 - "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." There are many wicked and dangerous cities in this world. These are places where, given a choice, you would not want to live. There are people you would not want for your neighbors. In Revelation 21:8 there is a list of people who will not be in heaven: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire...". Think of living in a city where every inhabitant is righteous!
The sixth descriptive word for heaven points to the fact that heaven will remain forever. We exist in bodies, live in houses, and associate with people who will pass away. Nothing is permanent that is earthly. Where is Babylon, Pompeii, and many other places that were once great cities? Where are many of our loved ones of the past? They are all gone. Heaven is described as permanent because God, who is its "builder and maker" lives forever! The Hebrews writer describes our spiritual journey with these words: "For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come" (Hebrews 13:14). Are you looking to that city?