This week, I have been reflecting on heaven. I have considered how I might spend my initial time before the Throne of God and how some aspects of life on earth may be echoed in heaven. I also mused briefly on heaven's relationship to earth and provided some other random ideas about surprises in heaven. Today, I get down to brass tacs.
After all my brainstorming this week, I thought I should bring us back to something more concrete than my musings. Below are some clear conclusions we can draw about heaven, directly from the Scriptures:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"
Heaven is a place of many "rooms", prepared by Christ himself for his bride, the church. Please note my language here. I am neither saying that Christ is preparing individual, cookie-cutter homes for each Christian person, nor am I am implying that we will have our own little kingdoms. We only know that a number of unique places will exist in heaven, prepared by Christ himself. What they will be exactly, I do not know; but believers can be assured that if Christ is preparing them, they will be perfect.
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."
2 Corinthians 5:8
"Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
Heaven is far better than earth, a place where those who believe will be home. I know that over the course of my life, I have felt like I was not meant for this world any longer, that my joy was not in earthly things, that my hope was not here but elsewhere--still I feel that very thing, more often than I ever expected. For the believer, heaven is a destination for which to yearn, a place to be with Christ; and I am assured more and more each day, that such a place is better than this one, if for no other reason than its enabling more abundant fellowship with God himself.
"And [Jesus] said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'."
This is my single favorite verse about heaven in all of Scripture. If I were to boil all my thoughts about the afterlife for the believer into one thought, it would be simply this. "Christ called heaven, 'Paradise'." If Christ himself refers to a place as paradise, then surely it must be a grand place, indeed. His standards are beyond any standard we can imagine; his view of beauty is higher than any human's. Christ would know when something is not only good but great, and when he describes heaven as "paradise", my longing for that future destination deepens further.
And from what I glean from Scriptures, the heaven to which the dead go now, the paradise of which Christ speaks, is merely the beginning...
2 Peter 3:13
"But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness dwells."
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."
And what is that new heaven going to be...
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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."
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city: also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever."
So be it.