Category Archives: Heaven

#1 Post of 2015 – Is Heaven an Immaterial Realm?

Not the eternal Heaven (New Earth) that all believers will occupy when they are resurrected. The eternal Heaven (New Earth) will be a physical world with material objects, not some ghostly place where we float on spiritual “clouds.” Randy Alcorn sets us straight about the eternal Heaven in his book called Heaven. Alcorn laments:

Many books on Heaven say nothing about the New Earth. Sometimes a few paragraphs, vaguely worded, are tacked on at the end. Other books address the New Earth but undercut its true nature: “Is this new earth like our present earth? Probably not.” But if it isn’t, why does God call it a New Earth? One author says, “The eternal phase of Heaven will be so unlike what we are familiar with that our present language can’t even describe it.” Certainly our present language can’t fully describe it, but it does in fact describe it (e.g., Revelation 21– 22).

Does anybody want to live forever in a disembodied state? I don’t. Does anybody want to live forever on this sin-filled mess we call planet earth? I don’t. So what is it we crave? What do we desire?

We are homesick for Eden. We’re nostalgic for what is implanted in our hearts. It’s built into us, perhaps even at a genetic level. We long for what the first man and woman once enjoyed— a perfect and beautiful Earth with free and untainted relationships with God, each other, animals, and our environment. Every attempt at human progress has been an attempt to overcome what was lost in the Fall.

Alcorn continues:

Our ancestors came from Eden. We are headed toward a New Earth. Meanwhile, we live out our lives on a sin-corrupted Earth, between Eden and the New Earth, but we must never forget that this is not our natural state. Sin and death and suffering and war and poverty are not natural— they are the devastating results of our rebellion against God.

We long for a return to Paradise—a perfect world, without the corruption of sin, where God walks with us and talks with us in the cool of the day. Because we’re human beings , we desire something tangible and physical, something that will not fade away. And that is exactly what God promises us— a home that will not be destroyed, a kingdom that will not fade, a city with unshakable foundations, an incorruptible inheritance.

This present earth is not our true home. A disembodied state of existence is not our ultimate destiny. Instead, we are looking forward to a newly constituted Earth that is our true home. Alcorn concludes:

Adam was formed from the dust of the earth, forever establishing our connection to the earth (Genesis 2:7). Just as we are made from the earth, so too we are made for the earth. But, you may object, Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us and would take us there to live with him forever (John 14:2-3). Yes. But what is that place? Revelation 21 makes it clear— it’s the New Earth. That’s where the New Jerusalem will reside when it comes down out of Heaven. Only then will we be truly home.

#2 Post of 2015 – Will We Have Desires in Heaven?

Buddhism teaches that the human problem is that we have desires. All desires are bad and Buddhist “heaven” consists of a state where we stop desiring anything. This understanding of the human condition is completely at odds with Christianity. Christianity teaches that there are good desires and bad desires. Our problem is the bad desires. So what will Christian Heaven be like?

Let’s see what Randy Alcorn has to say about this in his book Heaven.

We’ll have many desires in Heaven, but they won’t be unholy desires. Everything we want will be good. Our desires will please God. All will be right with the world, nothing forbidden. When a father cooks steaks on the barbecue grill, he wants his family to listen to them sizzle and eagerly desire to eat them. God created our desires and every object we desire. He loves it when our mouths water for what he’s prepared for us. When we enjoy it, we’ll be enjoying him.

One of the greatest things about Heaven is that we’ll no longer have to battle our desires. They’ll always be pure, attending to their proper objects. We’ll enjoy food without gluttony and eating disorders. We’ll express admiration and affection without lust, fornication, or betrayal. Those simply won’t exist.

Alcorn continues:

Christianity is unique in its perspective of our desires, teaching that they will be sanctified and fulfilled on the New Earth. . . . Christianity teaches that Jesus takes our sins away while redeeming our desires. Desire is an essential part of humanity, a part that God built into people before sin cast its dark shadow on earth . I’m looking forward to having my desires redeemed. (Even now, as redeemed children of God, we get tastes of that, don’t we?)

Won’t it be wonderful to be free from uncertainty about our desires? We often wonder, Is it good or bad for me to want this thing or that award or his approval or her appreciation? Sometimes I don’t know which desires are right and which aren’t. I long to be released from the uncertainty and the doubt. I long to be capable of always wanting what’s good and right.

He concludes:

God placed just one restriction on Adam and Eve in Eden, and when they disregarded it, the universe unraveled. On the New Earth, that test will no longer be before us. God’s law, the expression of his attributes, will be written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). No rules will be needed, for our hearts will be given over to God. David said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37: 4 ). Why? Because when we delight in God and abide in him, whatever we want will be exactly what he wants for us.  What we should do will at last be identical with what we want to do. There will be no difference between duty and joy.

In Heaven we will be completely free to always desire what is good and right. Our freedom will no longer be tainted with the ability to choose what is evil.

#4 Post of 2015 – What Will Worship Be Like in Heaven?

Many a pastor and worship leader has told their congregations that they if don’t like singing and worship in church services now, they won’t enjoy Heaven, because that’s all we’ll do in Heaven. Is that literally true? Is that all we’ll do?

Randy Alcorn tackles this question in his book Heaven. Let’s see what he has to say about it.

Most people know that we’ll worship God in Heaven. But they don’t grasp how thrilling that will be. Multitudes of God’s people— of every nation, tribe, people, and language— will gather to sing praise to God for his greatness, wisdom, power, grace, and mighty work of redemption (Revelation 5:13-14). Overwhelmed by his magnificence, we will fall on our faces in unrestrained happiness and say, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:9-12).

Alcorn continues:

I find it ironic that many people stereotype life in Heaven as an interminable church service. Apparently, church attendance has become synonymous with boredom. Yet meeting God— when it truly happens— will be far more exhilarating than a great meal, a poker game, hunting, gardening, mountain climbing, or watching the Super Bowl. Even if it were true (it isn’t) that church services must be dull, there will be no church services in Heaven. The church (Christ’s people) will be there. But there will be no temple, and as far as we know, no services (Revelation 21:22).

So, will we always be engaged in worship in Heaven?

Yes and no. If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no. But if we have a broad view of worship, the answer is yes. As Cornelius Venema explains, worship in Heaven will be all-encompassing: “No legitimate activity of life— whether in marriage, family, business, play, friendship, education, politics, etc.— escapes the claims of Christ’s kingship. . . . Certainly those who live and reign with Christ forever will find the diversity and complexity of their worship of God not less, but richer, in the life to come. Every legitimate activity of new creaturely life will be included within the life of worship of God’s people.”

More specifically, will we always “be on our faces at Christ’s feet, worshiping him?”

No, because Scripture says we’ll be doing many other things— living in dwelling places, eating and drinking, reigning with Christ, and working for him. Scripture depicts people standing, walking, traveling in and out of the city, and gathering at feasts. When doing these things, we won’t be on our faces before Christ. Nevertheless, all that we do will be an act of worship. We’ll enjoy full and unbroken fellowship with Christ. At times this will crescendo into greater heights of praise as we assemble with the multitudes who are also worshiping him.

Alcorn explains what it means to properly worship God with every thing we do.

Worship involves more than singing and prayer. I often worship God while reading a book, riding a bike , or taking a walk. I’m worshiping him now as I write. Yet too often I’m distracted and fail to acknowledge God along the way. In Heaven, God will always be first in my thinking. Even now, we’re told, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). That God expects us to do many other things, such as work, rest, and be with our families, shows that we must be able to be joyful, pray, and give thanks while doing other things.

Have you ever spent a day or several hours when you sensed the presence of God as you hiked, worked, gardened, drove, read, or did the dishes? Those are foretastes of Heaven— not because we are doing nothing but worshiping, but because we are worshiping God as we do everything else.

In Heaven, where everyone worships Jesus, no one says, “Now we’re going to sing two hymns, followed by announcements and prayer.” The singing isn’t ritual but spontaneous praise (Revelation 5: 11-14 ). If someone rescued you and your family from terrible harm, especially at great cost to himself, no one would need to tell you, “Better say thank you.” On your own, you would shower him with praise. Even more will you sing your Savior’s praises and tell of his life-saving deeds.

#6 Post of 2015 – Will Everyone Be Equal in Heaven?

We live in an age and place (21st century western civilization) where equality is near the top of the list of principles that we hold dear. Because equality is so important to us, many of us just assume that equality must be equally important to God. If it’s important to God, then surely Heaven is a place where everyone is equal, right?

Not exactly. As with any question, we need to be careful in defining our terms. Equality can mean a lot of different things, so let’s take a look at equality in Heaven. As usual, our guide is Randy Alcorn and his book Heaven. Alcorn writes:

All people are equal in worth, but they differ in gifting and performance. God is the creator of diversity, and diversity means “inequality” of gifting (1 Corinthians 12: 14-20). Because God promises to reward people differently according to their differing levels of faithfulness in this life, we should not expect equality of possessions and positions in Heaven.

Let’s stop there. The Bible is clear that believers will receive different rewards in Heaven based upon their faithfulness and service to God while on earth. So, we know that everyone will not be equal in rewards. Alcorn continues:

If everyone were equal in Heaven in all respects, it would mean we’d have no role models, no heroes, no one to look up to, no thrill of hearing wise words from someone we deeply admire. I’m not equal to Hudson Taylor, Susanna Wesley, George Mueller, or C. S. Lewis. I want to follow their examples, but I don’t need to be their equals. There’s no reason to believe we’ll all be equally tall or strong or that we’ll have the same gifts, talents, or intellectual capacities.

Would you really want Heaven to be a place where everyone had the same talents and gifts as everyone else?

If we all had the same gifts, they wouldn’t be special. If you can do some things better than I can, and I than you, then we’ll have something to offer each other. We live in a culture that worships equality, but we err when we reduce equality to sameness. It’s illogical to assume everyone in Heaven will be able to compose a concerto with equal skill or be able to throw a ball as far as everyone else.

In a perfect world, Adam was bigger and stronger than Eve, and Eve had beauty, sensitivities, and abilities Adam didn’t. In other words, diversity— not conformity— characterizes a perfect world.

Alcorn poses the question: how can we all be happy in Heaven if some people have greater talents and rewards than others? He provides an answer from theologian Jonathan Edwards:

The saints are like so many vessels of different sizes cast into a sea of happiness where every vessel is full: this is eternal life, for a man ever to have his capacity filled. But after all ’tis left to God’s sovereign pleasure, ’tis his prerogative to determine the largeness of the vessel.

Alcorn explains:

A pint jar and a quart jar can both be full, but the larger jar contains more. Likewise, in Heaven all of us will be full of joy, but some may have a larger capacity for joy, having been stretched through their dependence on God in this life. John Bunyan said it well: “He who is most in the bosom of God, and who so acts for him here, he is the man who will be best able to enjoy most of God in the kingdom of heaven.”

Why Does God Not Give Justice to the Wicked?

Some wicked people do receive justice while they live. Think of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, as recent examples. They both were forced into hiding and died violent deaths. However, Job is correct that many sinful people seem to live a perfectly comfortable life and die peacefully.

If you are an atheist, the fact that evil people never face justice is a real problem for your worldview. Once a person dies, after all, there is no further chance for justice to be done. If you are a Christian, though, there is an afterlife and God promises that justice will be done.

So it is only in the Christian worldview that justice is guaranteed to be done for both the wicked and the righteous. God promises that each person will face the judgment seat and their thoughts and actions will be assessed by the Almighty Himself.   Whether a person receives justice during his earthly existence is, therefore, not the end of the story.

Will Extinct Animals Live on the New Earth?

Now this is an interesting question. Randy Alcorn says “yes” in his book Heaven, and here is how he explains his answer:

I think it’s a question based on a rational conclusion. Were dinosaurs part of God’s original creation of a perfect animal world? Certainly. Will the restoration of Earth and the redemption of God’s creation be complete enough to bring back extinct animals? Will extinct animals be included in the “all things” Christ will make new? I see every reason to think so and no persuasive argument against it.

Resurrection is the key concept he builds from to draw his conclusion.

I think we should fully expect that extinct animals and plants will be brought back to life. By resurrecting his original creation, God will show the totality of his victory over sin and death. It’s apparent that the Curse that fell on the earth resulted in some species dying out. But God promises, “No longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22: 3). And because it seems that the Curse will not merely be nullified but reversed, it seems likely that God might restore extinct animals and plants on the New Earth.

Animals are created for God’s glory. What could speak more of his awesome power than a tyrannosaurus? When talking to Job, God pointed out his greatness revealed in the giant land and sea creatures behemoth and leviathan (Job 40– 41). Why shouldn’t all people have the opportunity to enjoy these great wonders of God on the New Earth? Imagine Jurassic Park with all of the awesome majesty of those huge creatures but none of their violence and hostility. Imagine riding a brontosaurus— or flying on the back of a pterodactyl. Unless God made a mistake when he created them— and clearly he didn’t— why wouldn’t he include them when he makes “everything new”?

Will We Lose Our Identity in Heaven?

Is Heaven some kind of dystopia where everyone drones on and on about how they love God? A place where everyone talks, thinks, and acts the same? Is Heaven full of Stepford Wives?

Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, answers with a resounding “no.” Alcorn first reminds us that

[w]e can all be like Jesus in character yet remain very different from each other in personality. Distinctiveness is God’s creation, not Satan’s. What makes us unique will survive. In fact, much of our uniqueness may be uncovered for the first time.

Alcorn then quotes from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity:

Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. . . . Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

In Heaven you will finally be you! All of the unique aspects of your personality will shine through brilliantly for the first time. Rather than everyone becoming automatons in Heaven, we will be the most fascinating group of people you can imagine.

Will We Lose Our Identities in Heaven?

No, but this seems to concern some believers. Author Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, deals with this question.

A man wrote me expressing his fear of losing his identity in Heaven: “Will being like Jesus mean the obliteration of self?” He was afraid that we’d all be alike, that he and his treasured friends would lose their distinguishing traits and eccentricities that make them special.

But he needn’t worry. We can all be like Jesus in character yet remain very different from each other in personality. Distinctiveness is God’s creation, not Satan’s. What makes us unique will survive. In fact, much of our uniqueness may be uncovered for the first time.

At the very end of Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. . . . Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him , and with Him everything else thrown in.”

There is a profound lesson here. The more like Christ we become, or the more we approach the good, the true, and the beautiful, the more unique, fascinating, and special we become. The farther away we move from Christ, or the more we move toward the evil, the false, and the ugly, the more dull and monotonous we become.

God brings out the best in us, and so we can never reach our full, glorious potential away from Him.

Will Human Culture Disappear in Heaven?

Some Christians are under the impression that in Heaven everything will revert back to a primitive paradise, like what Adam and Eve experienced. They reason that the achievements of mankind are worthless, and in most cases, an affront to God’s plan.

Did God plan, though, for Adam and Eve, and all mankind, to remain in a state of “nature,” to never invent architecture, music, literature, technology? What about the sciences or even athletics?

Randy Alcorn, author of the book Heaven, thinks not. Alcorn argues that at least parts of human culture will be retained, and even improved in Heaven. Alcorn writes,

Earth exists for the same reason that mankind and everything else exists: to glorify God. God is glorified when we take our rightful, intended place in his creation and exercise the dominion that he bestowed on us. God appointed human beings to rule the earth: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ ” (Genesis 1: 26-28, NKJV).

God’s intention for humans was that we would occupy the whole Earth and reign over it. This dominion would produce God-exalting societies in which we would exercise the creativity, imagination, intellect, and skills befitting beings created in God’s image, thereby manifesting his attributes. To be made in God’s image involves a communicative mandate: that through our creative industry as God’s subcreators, we should together make the invisible God visible, thus glorifying him in the sight of all creation.

Alcorn quotes theologian Erich Sauer writing about the phrase in Genesis 1: 26 “let them have dominion”:

These words plainly declare the vocation of the human race to rule. They also call him to progressive growth in culture. Far from being something in conflict with God, cultural achievements are an essential attribute of the nobility of man as he possessed it in Paradise. Inventions and discoveries, the sciences and the arts, refinement and ennobling, in short, the advance of the human mind, are throughout the will of God. They are the taking possession of the earth by the royal human race (Genesis 1:28), the performance of a commission, imposed by the Creator, by God’s ennobled servants, a God-appointed ruler’s service for the blessing of this earthly realm.

Let’s pause for a moment. A thoughtful Christian might reply, “What about those verses in the Bible that say we should avoid the world and its ways. How can Heaven contain human culture when we’re warned that human culture is to be avoided?”

Alcorn explains,

We need to think carefully when we read Scriptures that talk about ‘the world.’ I recommend adding the words as it is now, under the Curse, to keep the biblical distinctions clear in our minds:

Friendship with the world [as it is now, under the Curse] is hatred toward God. (James 4:4)

Do not be conformed to this world [as it is now, under the Curse]. (Romans 12: 2, NKJV)

The wisdom of this world [as it is now, under the Curse] is foolishness with God. (1 Corinthians 3: 19, NKJV)

The world as it was, and the world as it will be, is exceedingly good. The world as it is now, inhabited by humanity as we are now, is twisted. But this is a temporary condition, with an eternal remedy: Christ’s redemptive work.

Yes, human culture has been horribly tainted by sin, but that doesn’t mean that everything humans have created will be tossed in the garbage. There are elements of human culture that glorify God, and why shouldn’t those elements continue on with the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth?

Will Worship Be Boring in Heaven?

If you really believe that worship could be boring in Heaven, you have no idea of who God is. Randy Alcorn slams this point home in his book Heaven.

Some subjects become less interesting over time. Others become more fascinating. Nothing is more fascinating than God. The deeper we probe into his being, the more we want to know. One song puts it this way: “As eternity unfolds, the thrill of knowing Him will grow.”

We’ll never lose our fascination for God as we get to know him better. The thrill of knowing him will never subside. The desire to know him better will motivate everything we do. To imagine that worshiping God could be boring is to impose on Heaven our bad experiences of so-called worship. Satan is determined to make church boring, and when it is, we assume Heaven will be also. But church can be exciting, and worship exhilarating. That’s what it will be in Heaven. We will see God and understand why the angels and other living creatures delight to worship him.

Have you known people who couldn’t be boring if they tried? Some people are just fascinating. It seems I could listen to them forever. But not really. Eventually, I’d feel as if I’d gotten enough . But we can never get enough of God. There’s no end to what he knows, no end to what he can do, no end to who he is. He is mesmerizing to the depths of his being, and those depths will never be exhausted . No wonder those in Heaven always redirect their eyes to him— they don’t want to miss anything.