“‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
Little children get so excited when they learn about heaven for the first time. Children are so innocent, and they have not yet seen all of the pain and sorrow sin can cause on this Earth. They do not have a jaded perspective of life. They can more easily accept heaven at face value. As people age, it becomes more challenging to believe heaven is not a mythical utopia. How can there be a better place, so different than here? It is easy to forget what we’ve learned as little children about heaven. We get caught up in the things of this world. That is, until someone we deeply care about is dying or has passed away. Then our minds can wander from the temporal into the eternal. Whether we have the hope of heaven often becomes a major factor in our response to death. As Christians, our calling is essentially the hope of heaven. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24, 25)
What exactly does the Bible say about heaven? What kind of place is it? How do people get into heaven? What will we look like in heaven? How will we live once we’re in heaven? What will it be like meeting our Savior? What will it be like dwelling with God forever? Will we ever see our loved ones again? This study will attempt to answer these questions.
We will begin this study examining the scriptures as they relate to our heavenly bodies. When you experience someone suffering or have just watched someone die, your first thoughts are often focused on how they are finally free of suffering and at peace and rest.
1) There is no pain, sickness and suffering in heaven. When you watch someone fade away from this life or have just lost someone you loved, the following scripture can be a source of great comfort to you. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Our trials and tribulation on Earth are a test of our faith and preparation for eternity in heaven. Our work is complete once we reach heaven. As children of God, we will free of the bondage of decay, receive a glorious freedom only found in Christ, and the glory of God will be revealed in us. “Consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21) I hope this passage brings you hope and joy of what is to come!
2) In heaven we will exchange or natural bodies for spiritual bodies. When we die, our natural bodies can look tired and worn out. They have been through the trials of life and through a great battle of life and death, for which death ultimately won out. The good news is that these “Earthly tents” are just temporary dwelling places for the Holy Spirit to reside within us and send out the message of Truth throughout the Earth (2 Corinthians 5:1, Ezekiel 36:26,27). Our Earthly bodies were formed from dust and shall return to dust (Genesis 2:7, Genesis 3:19). While death may have won out over our natural bodies, we will be resurrected into new spiritual bodies that will never die. They will be designed to dwell in heaven. “Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 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. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1 Corinthians 15:39-49) I am personally glad to know I will not have to take my aging body into heaven! I love the idea of having a spiritual, heavenly, imperishable body that is raised in glory and power and transformed in image (Philippians 3:21)! No cosmetic surgery by the best plastic surgeons can even begin to compare to the way our new bodies will look! We cannot even begin to fathom how different they will be.
3) There is no way of knowing or describing exactly how our bodies will look in form because it is incomparable to the things of this world. However, we can catch a glimpse by reading from the book of Luke, chapter 9. Here we read of the transfiguration. (There also are many other accounts of this moment in other books of the Bible.) Jesus took three of his disciples–Peter, James and John–up to a mountain to pray late at night, away from the crowds, when they were extremely tired. During this time, Jesus’ figure underwent an amazing transformation, His disciples didn’t even recognize Him! “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (Luke 9:29) Not only did Jesus change, Moses and Elijah came to speak with Him, and they looked completely different than their Earthly appearances too! “Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” (verses 30 and 31) The disciples were in such awe of what they had just seen. “Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what he was saying.” (verses 32 and 33). At this moment, God spoke from heaven about His son, Jesus. “While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.” (verses 34-36) I am sure this experience must have changed these disciples forever. They were used to seeing Jesus in His Earthly form, as a man, who walked among them. This experience made it clear to them that Jesus was much more than just a man–He is God’s son! And heaven must be very different from anything on Earth for Moses and Elijah to look so different too. Yet, his disciples could recognize these two men, so something of them as people knew them on Earth still remained.
When Jesus showed Himself among men after His death and before ascending to heaven, the disciples and His followers and even those closest to Him had a hard time recognizing Him at first, but they eventually could tell it was Him. “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them,“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” (Luke 24:36-43) There were more than 500 witnesses over 40 days that saw Jesus alive after His death (1 Corinthian 15:6). Many of these people went on to tell others of what they saw and eventually many were killed for their faith.
Just as Jesus died and rose again, so to must we die before we can brought back into life. Satan fooled Adam and Eve into thinking they would never die (Genesis 3:4). This, of course, is untrue. Everyone must die. The great news is that Christians will be given a new body and new life in heaven. We are inwardly transformed when Christ comes to live within us and when we die we will be transformed once again. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we will have a glorious future awaiting us when we die. Death is not to be feared by the Christian. Death is only the beginning!
Pray this prayer: “Dear God, thank you that Jesus died and rose again so we could have the hope of heaven and eternal life. I believe my sins have been erased forever because of Jesus, and I thank you that I do not have to pay the penalty of death for my sins. Please help me to accept that my loved one is in a better place, free of pain and suffering and given a new and glorious body and future. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice your son made at the cross and the opportunities His death presents for me. Give me boldness to share the hope of heaven to others who do not yet know Jesus, so that they too may share and rejoice in my joy and hope. Amen.”