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Dooley Noted: What will Heaven be like?

Recently, while sharing messages about heaven with my congregation, I’ve realized how curious we are about the world hereafter. For some, discussions about eternity are no more than wishful thinking. Others imagine our forever abode as unappealing and boring. Mark Twain illustrated our hesitation through his fictional character Huck Finn, who thought heaven was a place where a person would “go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever.”  No wonder one skeptic remarked, “I’d rather be in hell with my friends than in heaven with all the church people.”

But are these characterizations fair? Is eternity just a never-ending church service? Should we really look forward to life after grave? Thankfully, the caricatures of heaven found in popular culture do not align with the biblical vision of eternal life. So, what can we expect in the land beyond the blue?

Heaven is a physical place. The Bible refers to heaven as both a country and a city. The description is appropriate because Romans 8:19-23 indicates that the created cosmos will one day be redeemed along with born again believers. The Apostle John describes the heavenly Jerusalem descending from heaven in order to function as the capital city of God’s kingdom (Rev. 21:2). The dimensions of this central municipality reveal its massive presence. With a length, width, and height of 1500 miles, a city this size would stretch from Canada all the way to Mexico, having the potential for over 600,000 stories rising into the air. Descriptions of heaven’s foundation, streets, and gates also underscore its physicality.

We will have physical bodies in heaven. Since Jesus is preparing a material home for our dwelling (John 14:1-6), it is no surprise that Scripture also teaches that we will have physical bodies once we arrive there. Just as God gives bodies to beasts, planets, the sun, moon, and stars (1 Cor. 15:39-41), we, too, can expect eternal bodies that will never die in the place called heaven (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Still not convinced? The Apostle Paul maintains an inextricable link between the past resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of saints (1 Cor. 15:12). Stated, differently, if there is no future resurrection of the dead, we have no assurance whatsoever that Jesus Christ was physically raised from the dead either (1 Cor. 15:13-17). Praise God that death is swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54)!

There is continuity between this life and the next. Perhaps the greatest insight into our eternal paradise is the Garden of Eden. Though Adam and Eve chose to disobey, God’s plan for them was eternal life where they would oversee and care for all of creation (Gen. 1:28). After the Fall, God drove them out of the Garden, but the rest of the Bible depicts His efforts to reclaim and restore all that was lost due to sin. Like a bookend to the story, the concluding chapters of the Bible (Rev. 21-22) celebrate the victorious redemption God will provide. But can you imagine the kind of world Adam and Eve could have built had they never died? Or if sin never hindered them?

Despite humanity’s fallenness, we currently enjoy technological and sociological advancements. Food, laughter, joy, and entertainment are blessings to our world even though we are not experiencing God’s original design for our existence. If these pleasures are still available now, can you even imagine all that God has planned for eternity? Think of heaven as thriving society where we continue to enjoy parks, theatres, museums, restaurants, concerts, parades, libraries, etc. Seem far-fetched? Just ask yourself what kind of world Adam and Eve could have built had they never died? What contributions will we be able to make to the progress of history if the grim reaper never knocks on our door? How much music could Beethoven create? How many plays could Shakespeare write? How many inventions could Edison create? What if the greatest athletes never retired? What if history’s greatest performers could entertain us forever? What if you never had to say goodbye to your loved ones? Simply put, what could we all accomplish if we lived forever?

The greatest reality of heaven, though, is that God will be there. Just as God walked with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8), He will be among us again in our eternal home (Rev. 21:3). We will see His face (Rev. 22:3-4) and the glory of Christ will illuminate that city. Once again, we will know eternal life and we will enjoy our God forever.

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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