“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
Heaven is a wonderful word. It is mentioned 691 times, either in the singular or plural forms in our Bible. Sometimes it is referring to the atmospheric heaven, sometimes to the stellar heaven and sometimes to the abode of God. But it is mentioned in all 691 times.
What was the idea of heaven in the Old Testament? It was the abode of God. If God was fellowshipping with man, he always came from his place of abode to where man was, i.e., on earth. The distance and the thing that separated heaven from earth was not a barrier for God or angels. They could come and so as they pleased.
The idea of heaven is not described as such but taken for granted. There are several passages in the Old Testament that reveal some things about heaven. First of all, Enoch walked with God; Gen. 5:21-24. This story is confirmed in the New Testament; Heb. 11:5-6. There are two important things about this story. First, heaven was accessible by faith to Enoch. He could know God and walk with him even though he could not see him. Second, heaven was a place where one who knew God could go without dying. God took Enoch while he was yet alive and translated him from earth to heaven. He did this same thing to Elijah; 2 Kings 2:11.The ladder that Jacob saw with the angels ascending and descending on it demonstrates accessability between heaven and earth; Gen. 28:12. The transfiguration of Jesus where Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with him in Matthew 17 tells us something of the Old Testament heaven. Abraham looked for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). This happened on Old Testament grounds because it was before the cross.
Another peek of heaven in the Old Testament is in Job 1:6 where the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan came among them. Here God’s sovereignty and rulership over all of his creation is revealed. Angels come before him to account and get orders. Heaven is also seen in the description of Lucifer’s rebellion and fall as recorded in Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:13-18.
What about heaven in the present? In this age we continue to walk by faith in God’s revelation. It is the abode of God and can be accessed by faith. Jesus taught his disciples and us to pray in Matt. 6:9: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Heaven is the abode of God and can be accessed by his children. We are told to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus: Heb. 10:19: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” This is not an imaginary place. It is a real place after which the Old Testament tabernacle and temple were built; Heb. 8:5. Jesus has turned the holy throne of God which was unapproachable (1 Tim. 6:16) into a throne of Grace where believing saints can find help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).
It is the place from which the Lordship of Christ is exercised. When Stephen was martyred Jesus stood to receive him into heaven (Acts 7:55). Jesus appeared to Paul in the storm at sea; Acts 27:23-24 and assured him this was not his time to die!
Heaven is a place where saints go when they depart this life. Paul taught that heaven is the place of the saints of God right now: 2 Cor. 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The verb “we have” is a present active indicative. That means that our heavenly “building” was in existence at the time Paul was writing to Corinth and he was using it to describe the desirability of heaven. He told them in verse 8: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
What about heaven in prophecy? Heaven in prophecy is described in the verses we started out with. Verse 1 describes it as coming into view after the first heaven and first earth are passed away. It is described as the place of no sea. Heaven will have a Capitol city. It will come out of the present heaven to the new earth which will be the eternal heaven and the abode of God, saints and angels. It is a specially prepared place (verse 2). Jesus told his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). It will be a place where God will dwell with his people (verse 3). He will “wipe away all tears from their eyes” (verse 4). The word “wipe” (exaleipho) means “to anoint or wash in every part.” This is a future tense (prophecy) active voice (God will do it himself) indicative (a statement of fact) verb. Heaven in prophecy is a place where God gets personal with his people. You won’t have to make an appointment or stand in line or have him say, “I’ll give you fifteen minutes.” This means at least two things. First, there will be tears in heaven. How could God wipe away tears that did not exist. Now I believe the tears will be wiped away after the Great White Throne Judgment and the beginning of eternity. Second, there will be a time when tears will be done away with by the Lord himself. Tears are a way to express grief, sadness and the presence of pain. There will be no need for tears. God created them for a purpose and there will be none of the things that cause the need for tears in heaven.
Then there is in prophecy the beauty of heaven. The grandest language conceivable and most precious jewels are used to describe the New Jerusalem. The size of the city is beyond anything that man can imagine. I am writing this from the Dallas area of Texas. If you were to start walking down one side of the New Jerusalem from where I am to Los Angeles, when you got there you would have passed three gates, but would have to walk 38 miles further according to my calculation before you turned the corner. And then you would have three sides to go of equal distance before you got around the city! And this is just the Capitol city of heaven. There is also the new earth and space inconceivable and things that we will have to wait to see.
Then there is the prophecy of the service of heaven. This is seen in Revelation 22:3 in the words “and his servants shall serve him...” Heaven is not a place where God’s people are going to float around on some cloud laughing forever. It is a place of service where the fulfillment of accomplishment will forever be a part of our service. It will be a place where saints will reign (22:5) and worship (22:8) and enjoy God’s presence forever (22:5). Where do I quit? For this time here.
May the Lord bless you.