What Is Heaven? A Biblical Overview

By Todd Clay / May 20, 2018

Heaven in the Bible: God’s home and believers’ destination, what heaven is like, and who will go there.

Short Answer

The Bible teaches that heaven is where God lives, where his angels do his will, and where his people live with him forever. Heaven is an unimaginably glorious place, but the unrighteous will never go there.

Long Answer

There are many opinions about heaven.

For instance, if you talk to a Muslim terrorist, they plan to meet  72 virgins in heaven after they detonate their suicide bomb. That’s one version of heaven. But if you talk with a Hindu priest, they may ignore heaven entirely because they believe in reincarnation. More commonly, Western humanists think if there is a heaven, then everyone goes. But there’s probably no heaven, so don’t worry about it.

There is little consensus about heaven.

Because so many competing ideas about heaven litter the World System, we should aim to understand heaven from the most reliable source available, God’s word – the Bible.

In summary, the Bible teaches that heaven is where God lives, where his angels do his will, and where his people live with him forever. Heaven is an unimaginably glorious place, but the unrighteous will never go there.

Heaven: Defined

Taken from the Greek word “ouranos” (οὐρανός), heaven has several meanings in Scripture. According to Strong’s Concordance, heaven can mean “heaven, the visible heavens: the atmosphere, the sky, the starry heavens, the spiritual heavens.” It depends on the context.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. (2 Corinthians 12:2)

In Paul’s vision, he was taken to the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2), indicating there are at least two other “heavens”. From a Biblical perspective, the first heaven is where the birds fly. The second heaven includes the sun, moon, and stars. The third heaven is where God lives. That’s where Paul traveled in that passage – what we commonly understand as heaven.

Heaven: Where God Lives

God lives in heaven.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he started the prayer with “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). God is not on another planet or in a different universe. God is in heaven.

God the Father lives in heaven with Jesus the Son. Jesus is now in heaven preparing a place for his disciples (John 14:2-3). This is a present reality. Jesus is at God’s right hand, as a second in command, ruling the universe (Psalm 110:1).

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? (Isaiah 66:1)

Heaven: Where The Angels Are

Heaven is also a place where God’s angels are. There are many passages that suggest God’s angels worship God or are dispatched from heaven.

  • One hundred million angels or more worship God in heaven in Revelation. (Revelation 5:11)
  • The angels will return with Jesus from heaven at the second coming. (Matthew 24:31, 25:31)
  • One angel descended from heaven with a key to the abyss. (Revelation 20:1)
  • The angels rejoice before God when a sinner repents. (Luke 15:7, 15:10)
  • Seven angels stand before God with seven trumpets. (Revelation 8:2)
  • God’s seraphim (angels) worship God before his throne. (Isaiah 6:3)

Heaven: Where God’s People Live After They Die

Moreover, Jesus is preparing heaven for his people. And what we do here matters in heaven. By our actions we store up “treasures on earth” or “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). In Christ, there is a direct correlation between our activities and our rewards in heaven.

Ultimately, heaven is where God’s people will live with God forever. Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). So heaven is a place of reward and relationship with God. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Heaven is a place where believers are finally home to have fellowship with God.

Heaven Is Like…

It’s hard to imagine the glories of heaven, because there’s nothing on earth compares exactly to what heaven is like. But the Bible gives us a few glimpses into heaven. In Revelation 21:1, we’re told “the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”. This suggests believers will enjoy an ‘enhanced’ heaven for eternity. But the current heaven and the new heaven include…

  • Angels (Mark 13:32)
  • God’s servants (Revelation 22:3)
  • No more mourning, crying, pain, or death (Revelations 21:4)
  • The foundations of the city are made with precious stones (Revelation 21:19-20)
  • A ransomed people from every tribe, people, language, and nation (Revelation 5:9)
  • A river of the water of life, bright as crystal with the tree of life (Revelation 22:1-2)
  • Streets made from pure, transparent gold (Revelation 21:21)
  • The glory of God gives everything light  (Revelation 21:22)
  • Righteous people made perfect (Hebrews 12:23)
  • Worship (Revelation (19:1-5)
  • Paradise (Luke 23:43)
  • Rest (Heb 3:11)

These and many other Scriptures tell us what heaven is like or what it will be like when it is renewed in the future. Some people have even claimed to have visited heaven and have confirmed various aspects we find in Scripture. No doubt many stories of heavenly visitations are true, but we must always weigh experiences with the Word of God.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Q: Who Goes To Heaven? A: Not Everyone

But heaven is not for everyone.

Only those people whose names are enrolled in heaven will be there (Hebrews 12:23). Sadly, the rest of humanity will suffer eternal punishment. As glorious a place as heaven is, only genuine servants of God will be there.

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

Will you be there?

If you don’t know, you can know today. God has appointed a day for you to die – after that judgment will come (Hebrews 9:27). If you are still in your sins when you die, you will not go to heaven.

But God is merciful. He sent his Son to be a sacrifice for the sins of his people (1 John 2:2). He can be the sacrifice for your sins if you repent and believe the gospel. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” like you and me (1 Timothy 1:15).

Turn from your sins against God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness. He is faithful and just to forgive your sins, reconcile you to God, and give you entrance into heaven  (1 John 1:9).

For more information, checkout How To Be Saved?

Todd Clay is a husband, dad, and a Christian (Reformed Baptist). Todd holds a BA in history from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Theological Studies from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

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