When someone says “heaven”, what do you think of?
Wings, harps and clouds? Doing your favourite thing all day? A bland place with lots of singing?
Many people define heaven by the things that make them feel happy and fulfilled on Earth, but what if I were to tell you that in heaven there is no sex, no marriage, no Wi-fi, no computer games, no Netflix, no sport and probably no sleep. Would you still want to go?
The Bible actually tells us very little about heaven. But when Jesus was told about a woman who had had seven husbands and asked whose she would be in heaven, He made it clear that in the afterlife there is no marriage or sex. “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Mark 12:25)
In the glimpses the Apostle John had of heaven, as recorded in the biblical book of Revelation, it was a place of worship – with crowds standing around the throne of God singing praises and bowing before Him.
So, if heaven is not a place where we get to do whatever we want, or gratify all the desires we have on earth, why is it somewhere we would want to go?
Well, the people who want to go to heaven want to be there for one reason only. One thing makes heaven, heaven and the absence of that one thing makes hell the most awful, fearful place it is. That one thing is Jesus.
The people who want to go to heaven want to be there because Jesus is there. He is the embodiment of love, mercy, kindness, goodness and truth. All our deepest longings are fulfilled in Him and therefore the yearning of those who know Him, who call themselves Christians, is to be where He is.
That is why there is so much worship in heaven. Not because it is forced, like some sort of long boring church service, but because everyone there is so overcome by God’s goodness and so grateful that He has extended that goodness to them, that they cannot but praise Him endlessly.
The Bible makes two other important points about the afterlife that are also relevant.
Firstly, our desires and lusts will not be fulfilled in hell either.
Hell is no endless debauched party. Jesus describes it as a blazing furnace, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:42) It is a place of torment, devoid of any of the goodness, light, purity or happiness that we may know on earth.
Secondly, heaven is not the final destination of those who trust in Jesus for their salvation. John tells us in Revelation 21: “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell 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.” (verses 1-4)
Ultimately, there will be a new Earth, and Revelation gives us only a few clues as to what it will be like but for those who know and love Jesus only one fact is important – He will be there and we will never be apart from Him again.