What is heaven like?

Who has ever seen heaven? heavenA dear lady told me, “I have” in a level matter-of-fact tone of voice. Incredulous, I asked her what it was like. Her experience of heaven came as part of a near death experience when she looked down on her body in the hospital before traveling to heaven. With great difficulty she groped for words to describe what she had seen and experienced. Ascending on something akin to Jacob’s ladder to a very bright city she kept repeating it was indescribable. Did it have a river in it? “Yes,” she said. “The water was the deepest blue I have ever seen”. Did it have streets paved with gold? “Possibly. They were that color, but I couldn’t say for sure.” The awe in her voice as she relived the experience was reminiscent of the awe many have when they first read the description of heaven in the book of Revelation. “A river, clear as crystal, will flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Jesus] down the middle of the city. On each side of the river there will be a tree of life, yielding twelve kinds of fruit every month. The streets will be pure gold, like transparent glass. The walls of the city will be adorned with every kind of jewel, emerald, onyx, amethyst, topaz, etc. There will be no need for a sun or moon, and no need for a temple or church. The presence of the Lord will be its light.”

Heaven is rightfully described as a place. And yet, the real beauty of heaven is this: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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.

More than words of comfort at a funeral, these words can actually make life on this planet better. Researchers from Simon Frasier University looked at how belief in heaven affects lives. Data was analyzed from the Gallup World Poll, the World Values Survey and the European Values survey. These surveys encompassed information from 63 countries with the general finding “that a belief in Heaven is consistently associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction….” If acted upon, a belief in heaven will make this life and the afterlife one of blessing.

Ezekiel 48:35 is instructive. It was written to give the people of Israel hope after their idolatry and bloodshed led to God withdrawing His protective hand and allowing the Babylonians to sack the country, the capital, and the temple. It pointed to a future time when God would be present with those who reflected on their past mistakes, chose to follow Jesus Christ even when it conflicted with their own desires, and thus led them to change their present way of living. The prophet Ezekiel told the Hebrew exiles God would not always be distant. In fact, God was described in Hebrew as Yahweh-Shammah; THE LORD IS THERE. In commenting on this last phrase in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, John Wesley made a connection between the present and the future. Whether the present is happy or miserable, the Rev. Mr. Wesley said in the life of every true believer, “My God is here. And ‘tis best to be where he is ‘till he bring us within the gates of the glorious city, where inconceivable light and love from the immediate presence of God, given every one an eternal demonstration that God is here. . .”.

The decision is mine, and yours. Is heaven the number one goal?

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