From music to movies to books and more, heaven is a topic that fascinates people both in the church and in the world. Yet as with other spiritual matters, much confusion abounds regarding the concept of heaven. Scripture alone gives us the truth. Here are five things you should know about heaven.
1. Heaven is a place.
Acts 1:6–11 tells us that Jesus ascended to heaven, indicating His movement from one place (earth) to another (heaven). Furthermore, we know that Jesus continues to have a physical human body after His resurrection, albeit one that is glorified by the Holy Spirit (John 20:24–29; 1 Cor. 15). Physical objects are located in space and time; in other words, they are localized in a particular place. On the last day, Jesus will descend from heaven to bring the final resurrection and judgment (1 Thess. 4:16). His physical, glorified body will move from one place (heaven) to another (earth).
2. Heaven is the place of God’s throne.
The psalms often refer to heaven as the place of God’s throne (Ps. 9:7; Ps. 11:4; Ps. 103:19). Since God is spirit and does not have a physical body (John 4:24), we understand that to some degree this is a metaphor that indicates that God makes His special ruling presence felt most powerfully in heaven. However, to say God does not have a physical body is not quite right. Since the incarnation more than two thousand years ago, the Son of God has had a physical body, for it is part of the human nature that is united to the divine nature in the one divine person of Jesus Christ. This means that since the incarnation, many of the references to God’s throne can be read as an actual location where Christ is seated on high (e.g., see Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:1–3). This throne is actually the throne of David’s kingdom, which was promised to Christ forever (Luke 1:32–33). In other words, God in Christ has made David’s kingdom His kingdom.
3. Heaven is where the souls of believers go when they die.
Paul anticipated in Philippians 1:23 that when he died, he would be “with Christ.” Since we know that Jesus is presently in heaven, this must mean that believers in Christ go to be with Him in heaven when they die. Similarly, 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 says that to be “away from the body” is to be “home with the Lord.” Again, if the Lord Jesus Christ is presently in heaven, then at death we are in heaven. Specifically, our souls, “absent from the body,” go to heaven, where we will enjoy a continuing conscious existence while we await the resurrection. “The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection” (WSC 37).
4. Heaven is where believers are presently seated with Christ.
Although the Bible is clear that the souls of believers go to be with Christ in heaven when they die, there are also texts that say Christians have already been seated with God “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Since believers who have not died are presently on the earth, this must be a positional reality. In other words, although we are not physically present in heaven right now, we are there in effect. We are to regard ourselves as already ruling and reigning alongside Jesus by right even if we do not have the full realization of that in our experience. This is a great encouragement to sanctification. We may not be ruling over nations just yet, but with Christ, we already sit with Him over sin and the other rulers and authorities disarmed by the cross of Jesus (see Col. 2:13–15). When Romans 6:12 tells us to “let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” we really can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, obey this command. Sin has no real dominion over us and exercises such dominion only to the extent that we allow it. So, let us not allow sin to reign in us.
5. Heaven will not last forever.
The present locale of heaven, where Jesus sits on His throne and believers who have died enjoy His presence, is just temporary in terms of the full scope of history. One day, Revelation 21:1–22:5 explains, God will bring “a new heaven and a new earth.” Heaven and earth will be reunited, and we will live there with our Creator forever, seeing Him face to face. The ultimate hope is not the destruction of creation but its full renewal and restoration (see also Isa. 65:17–25; 2 Peter 3:13).
This article is part of the 5 Things You Should Know collection.