Years ago, John Lennon wrote a song, Imagine, that contained the line, “Imagine there’s no Heaven.” The song became a bestseller in the United Kingdom. In 2001, MercyMe recorded “I Can Only Imagine,” a song about what it might be like to stand before Jesus in Heaven. With 2.5 million copies sold, it is the best-selling Christian single of all time.
Heaven has been always been part of human culture throughout history. While many religions talk about reaching a state of heavenly rest, nirvana, or other such destination, the Bible is our only true source of information regarding the reality of Heaven. For example, it is God’s dwelling place and home for all who have put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:3, Ephesians 2:6-9, John 3:3).
Although the apostle Paul states, “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’— the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9), the book of Revelation gives us an excellent picture of what Heaven is like and what we can expect. Here is an overview of what the Bible tells us about Heaven.
The Bible describes three heavens. The first heaven is called the firmament or sky that covers the earth (Genesis 1:6-8). This is the atmosphere, the realm of birds and clouds that surrounds the entire earth.
The second is called the celestial heaven, where the stars, the sun, and the moon reside. This is the space outside of earth’s realm that covers the entire universe. Consider that Paul wrote, “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another” (1 Corinthians 15:40).
The third Heaven is unseen and is the residence of God the Father and Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20). This is also where believers who have died are now living. Surrounding God’s throne are angels singing day and night, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord our God” (Revelation 4:8).
A Real Place
In John 14:1-3 Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (New Living Translation). We see that twice in three verses Jesus called Heaven a real place. He is letting us know that Heaven is as real as Los Angeles, Madrid, or Tokyo—and as real as the homes in which we live.
Regarding Abraham, the father of faith, in Hebrews 11:10, the writer says, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (NIV). Philippians 3:20 says that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Consider that Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). These verses, and many more, confirm for us that Heaven is a real, physical place.
God’s Abode, Our Home
Revelation 21:1, 2 tell us that at some point, the “first” heaven and earth will pass away and be replaced with a new heaven and earth. There will be a holy city, a “new Jerusalem” that will come down from God out of Heaven, which will be the eternal home for believers. It will be the perfect place for God’s family and will embody everything that we envision—and dream about—when we think of Heaven. John describes the city as “prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 22:1-3 tells us that a crystal clear river will flow from the thrones of the Father and Jesus down the middle of the city; on each side of the river there will be a tree of life, yielding 12 kinds of fruit every month. Its leaves will bring healing for the nations, and there shall be no more curse (Genesis 3:14-19) on humanity or on the earth.
John gives us further details about what the New Jerusalem will look like (Revelation 21:10-27):
- The city will shine with the glory of God, with the brilliance and clarity of the precious jewel, jasper, and will be made of gold as pure and clear as glass. As well, the city does not need the sun or moon for light; the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor, glory, and honor into it. Nothing impure, shameful, or deceitful will enter the city, nor will such acts be done in the city.
- It will be laid out like a cube, 1,400 miles wide and long, surrounded by a great, high wall 1,000 miles high and made of jasper, 200 feet thick. The wall will have 12 gates, three on each side, with each gate made of a single pearl, and 12 angels at the gates. On the gates are written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The gates will never be shut because there is no night there.
- The wall of the city has 12 foundations, and on them are the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. The foundations of the city walls are decorated with precious stones in this order: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, ruby, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, turquoise, jacinth, and amethyst.
- Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be citizens of the city.
The Real Beauty
While it may seem that we can only imagine the beauty of the new Jerusalem, those in God’s family, born again Christians, have something even greater than a material extravaganza to look forward to: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away . . . I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV).
Think about this: No disease or sickness. No more sorrow from a lost love or the death of a loved one. No more wars. No more of life’s struggles. But the true glory of our eternal home is this: God himself will live with us!
On December 8, 1980, John Lennon died and immediately realized there is, indeed, a Heaven. MercyMe still performs, and their hit song continues to spur the hearts and minds of Christians throughout the world. While the apostle John gave us a description of Heaven that we can see in our mind’s eye and even create a rendition of, the truth is we can only imagine what Heaven will truly be like, including being caught up in the presence of God. Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon” (22:20). To which all Christians say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
Simon Presland is a freelance writer and publisher (www.authorsourcemedia.com) in Clinton Township, Michigan.