Heaven is actually a loaded word that means a lot. In Hebrew, the word is always plural, so it would be translated in the Old Testament as "heavens" or "heavenlies." It is also usually translated plural in the New Testament. This is because there are diferent heavens and many different parts of heaven. The heavens themselves are the throne of God because God sits over the heavens. Isaiah 66:1 says, "Thus says the LORD: 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? The Church is now the Temple of God so we are therefore the throne of God on the earth. Another example is that Jesus ascended "far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things" (Ephesians 4:10). To complicate things, heaven and earth overlap (as do hell and earth). As Dr. Adonijah Ogbonnaya explains in his book HaShamayim 1A: Angels, Heavenly Structures and the Sons of God, "Heaven is actually a series of interconnected dimensions - more accurately described as 'the heavens' - that God wants you to discover right now... These heavenly dimensions are your home, the place you were born. Understanding the nature of these heavens and how they relate to each other, and to yourself, is key to starting your journey of discovering all God has for you - and revealing who you truly are."A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
After the "end times" events, the current heavens and earth will be replaced by the new heavens and new earth (read Revelation 21-22). The new earth is the “heaven” where the converted will spend eternity with their glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-58). The concept that heaven is in the sky or that we will be floating around in heaven is unscriptural. The new earth will be a new and perfect planet, free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death. It will likely be similar to our current earth, or perhaps even a re-creation of our current earth, but without the curse of sin. It may be just like the Garden of Eden before the fall, we do not know yet. As far as the "new heavens," It is important to remember that in the ancient mind, “heavens” referred to the skies and outer space, as well as the realm in which God dwells. So when Rev. 21:1 refers to the "new heavens," it is likely indicating that the entire universe and perhaps God's heaven will be recreated.
WHO WILL BE IN HEAVEN?
Despite what you may have heard or think, most people will not be in heaven (Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 7:22, Matthew 22:14, Luke 13:23,24, 1 Peter 4:18). In Revelation 21, John wrote down the vision God gave him of heaven in all its glory. This is what he learned: God Himself will dwell with His people (v.3). God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death, pain, crying will be things of the past (v.4). But then John writes in Revelation (v.8) that there are some people who will not be in heaven. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
Here are two types of people that may surprise you on the list:
There are a few other lists in 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 states clearly, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."
Galatians 5:19-21 states clearly, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Ephesians 5:5-7 states clearly, "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them."
Keep in mind that this can all change upon genuine conversion. The verse we read in 1 Corinthians stated, "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." However, also keep i mind that these verses would pertain to people who think they are genuine converted Christians, yet they would be characterized by sin. The Bible clearly teaches that a genuinely converted Christian cannot continue to live in sin or have a sinful lifestyle (e.g. Mt. 6:24; Mt. 7:18-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-2; Heb. 3:12-14; Heb. 10:26-31; Heb. 10:36-39; James 2:24; 1 Pet. 4:17-19; 1 John 3:6,9-10; 1 Jn. 5:18; Rev. 3:16-18, etc.).NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES (NDE)
Some people, much like Paul in the New Testament, have the opportunity to see some of heaven in visions or dreams without actually dying. Sometimes children are so young they cannot read or write but they draw incredible pictures, and retell what they can about what they experienced. Other times, children or adults have had what are called "near death experiences" when they have either almost died or have died but came back to life. These experiences can be a "dangerous diversion" as Hank Hanegraaff points out in the article, "Heaven Is Real, but Heaven Is for Real Is Really Not." For example, NDEs are interpreted within the worldview of the individual. However, consistent with other accounts but very detailed, Alex Malarkey and Colton Burpo are two boys who apparently died, went to heaven, and experienced some of these remarkable things. There were apparently several things these two boys were told not to tell anyone, but they did say the following:
- They both left their bodies, could see the hospital, family and details until taken to heaven.
- Lots of things in Heaven are similar to things here on earth. There are trees and fields of grass, lakes and rivers, and many other parts of the earth that we know. It's just that in Heaven, every last detail is perfect. Sin has warped the earth, and even the colors here are less bright than in Heaven. There are also things in Heaven that we don't have here on earth. (Malarkey Ch. 4).
- Angels are different sizes and have many different roles (Malarkey Ch. 5).
- We can speak in a heavenly language (tongues), including to angels, even now while on earth (Malarkey, Ch. 8).
- "Daddy, I'm always in prayer because part of my brain, through the Holy Spirit, is in constant communication with Heaven. My mouth is for talking to people." (Malarkey, Ch. 9).
- "You can't see God on His throne—the angels fly so fast that they block Him from view. (Malarkey, Ch. 9).
- "There is the hole that I told you about in outer Heaven. I know that if you go through that hole, you end up in hell." (Malarkey, Afterword)
- Everyone except Jesus has wings to fly (Burpo, Pg. 69)
- Christians on earth and everyone in heaven have lights over their head (Burpo, Pg. 70/71).
- Gabriel sits on the left and Jesus the right of the Father (Malarkey & Burpo, Pg. 90).
- Gates of heaven made of gold with pearls (Malarkey - "like fish scales") & Burpo, Pg. 93).
- In heaven we look like ourselves, just younger (Burpo, Pg. 106).
- God can shoot power down to us (Burpo, Pg. 107).
- The men in heaven will fight in the Battle of Armageddon against "monsters" (Burpo, Pg. 115-117)
- "There are hundreds of millions of more colors we don't know yet." (Burpo, Pg. 119)
- "But after three years of examining Jesus pictures, we did know that Akiane's rendering was not only a departure from typical paintings of Jesus; it was also the only one that had ever stopped Colton in his tracks." (Burpo, Pg. 121).
WHAT WILL WE DO
It is clear that heaven is going to be exactly what we want, not what we think we want now in this body of flesh. So what will we do? Proably a lot of the things we have done or wished we could have done on the earth, but it will all be done in perfect pleasure. What does that mean? Do you like to sing? Whether you have a voice or not, I believe in heaven you will have a perfect voice, exactly as you would want. Do you like to dance? I believe you will be able to dance perfectly. You will know the Dance, never get tired or bored, and it will fill you with pure joy. Will there be sex? Probably not, and somehow everyone there will be fine with that. We know from Matthew 22:30 that, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” "Somehow the appetites and desires of this world will give way to higher and infinitely more gratifying delights in the world to come." For example, "the temple and its sacrifices were at the heart of worship, but once Christ came and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, the temple system and its sacrifices were no longer needed (John 4:22-23). They were “copies of the heavenly things,” and the earthly temple was only “a copy of the true one” in heaven (Hebrews 9:23-24). In the same way, the marriage relationship is a picture of our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 5:31-32). Once we are present with Christ, the illustration will no longer be needed. We will have the reality, which is far better than any earthly representation. This is why Jesus is called the Bridegroom, the Church is called His Bride, and our celebration in heaven is called the Wedding (John 3:29; Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:7-9)." I believe heaven will be beyond what we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).
In the book Heaven, author Randy Alcorn states, "…If the eternal Heaven will be a New Earth, doesn't that suggest that the current Earth must be bursting with clues about what Heaven will be like?...If we can't imagine our present Earth without rivers, mountains, trees, and flowers, then why would we try to imagine the New Earth without these features?...If the word Earth in this phrase means anything, it means that we can expect to find earthly things there—including atmosphere, mountains, water, trees, people, houses—even cities, buildings, and streets. (These familiar features are specifically mentioned in Revelation 21–22.)"
It is very possible that as God redeems us, and eventually the heavens and the earth, that He may also redeem our gifts and abilities for His glory on the New Earth. Peter preached that Christ "must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:21). Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matt 19:28-29)." "The word paligenesia, translated 'renewal' in Matthew 19:28, comes from two words which together mean 'new genesis' or 'coming back from death to life.'"ANIMALS IN HEAVEN
As far as animals in heaven, the Bible is largely silent. 2 Kings 2:11 mentions "horses of fire" which pulled the chariot which took Elijah into heaven, and the Old Testament prophesies that "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a litle child will lead them. The cow wll feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, an the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9). This is clearly on the new earth ("for the earth") in the Millennium when the Messiah comes to reign.
However, it is interesting that people who have near death experiences (NDE) and go to heaven report that there are animals in heaven. While this is not as reliable as the Bible, I feel very confident there will be animals there.FOOTNOTES:
1. Dr. Adonijah Ogbonnaya, HaShamayim 1A: Angels, Heavenly Structures and the Sons of God, Seraph Creative, 2015, p 17.
2. Malarkey, Kevin and Alex, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Tyndale House Publishers.
3. Burpo, Todd and Vincent, Lynn, Heaven Is For Real. Thomas Nelson Publishers.
4. http://www.gotquestions.org/sex-heaven.html Accessed November 5, 2010.
6. Randy Alcorn, Heaven. Tyndale House Publishers. pg 78-79
7. Ibid. pg 91
© Todd Tyszka
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