What does the Bible say that heaven looks like? Are there sufficient scriptures to tell us? Are the images of the saints playing harps while lying on the clouds of heaven accurate? Can we know for sure what heaven will be like?
What Heaven Isn’t
The tiny chubby cherub angels playing their harps in heaven are not what heaven will be like or are like at this present time. Heaven exists today but humans who are living on earth cannot yet see it and the pictures that we have seen of it can not describe it accurately in all its splendor, glory, beauty, and majesty. Those who have died in the faith in Jesus Christ are said to be present with the Lord and since the Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father on His throne they are in heaven right now. What this means is that heaven is for real; it does exist, and there are Christians who have died and gone to heaven and are now with Jesus Christ.
The Three Heavens
There are actually three heavens described in the Bible. The first heaven is what is called the firmament or sky that covers the earth. This is the realm of birds and clouds that surrounds the entire earth.
The second heaven is where the stars, the sun, and the moon reside. This is the space beyond the earth and it covers the entire universe. It is as far as the human eye can see with the help of gigantic telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
The third heaven is unseen and is the residence of God, including Jesus Christ. This is where the dead martyrs and saints are today. This is the location of the throne of God and where the holy angels surrounding His throne sing day and night, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord our God.
Biblical Eye Witnesses to Heaven
There are several people in the Bible who have been eye witnesses to the heaven before they died. Elijah was caught up into heaven, taken up in a whirlwind; he never tasted death (II Kings 2:1-12). Like Elijah, Enoch who was said to have walked with God, was taken up into heaven without ever tasting death. The apostle John saw heaven through an open door so that he might see and record in the book of Revelation some of the things he saw in heaven (Rev. 4:1).
While Paul was on the Damascus Road on his way to persecute Christians, He saw heaven open up but whether this was heaven itself or just the first heaven where he saw the light, we cannot be sure. Acts 9:3-4 described what Paul saw, “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” We do not know for sure, according to the scriptures, whether this was the third heaven, where the throne of God was or not, but can assume it was not for Paul only heard a voice from heaven and he saw only a light from heaven. Nonetheless, heaven is for real and it exists today in every sense of the word.
You may have read or heard about many who have died and seen heaven for themselves. They describe such a realm that is beyond description. Some who died and came back to life have said they have seen their lost loved ones in heaven, their family, friends, and some even their pets. This is difficult to prove, yet the sheer number of those who have seen heaven and came back from death is hard to refute; only they themselves know this for certain. But the Bible does describe some of what heaven is like in the scriptures. It is, from the human standpoint, indescribable (I Cor. 2:9).
Biblical Descriptions of Heaven
There is a constant chant of holy angels that are continually proclaiming Holy, Holy, Holy over the throne of God. The Mercy Seat in heaven where God sits is surrounded by magnificent angels full of glory and power that proclaim and bless the holy name of God without ceasing. Some of these are described as beasts, full of eyes, with six wings and neither rest day or night in their proclaiming the holiness of God (Rev. 4:8-11).
Heaven Descends to the Earth
After the Kingdom of Heaven begins on earth, after Christ’s return, the New Jerusalem descends out of heaven and heaven, in the New Jerusalem, will then be on earth. Revelation 21:1-2 describes this: “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.” The very tabernacle of God will be with humans then and heaven is any place where God is (Rev. 21:3). All pain, suffering, and tears will absent there (Rev. 21:4).
John was carried away to heaven in Revelation chapter 21 and this chapter is perhaps the best description of heaven that we know of; at least the heaven that will be seen by those who are Christ’s today. John describes it in Revelation 21:10-27:
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.
14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia [or 1,400 miles!] in length, and as wide and high as it is long [1,400 miles wide and tall!].
17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits [that is 200 feet!] thick.
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.
19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst [these last two stones are unknown or only exist in heaven today].
21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
How You Can See Heaven
There is only one way for you to see heaven and Jesus Christ is the one and only access to it (John 6:44, Acts 4:12, 16:30-31). There is no other way possible to get to heaven but by the Son of God. Getting to heaven is a one-way trip. If you die before Jesus Christ’s Second Advent (return) you will go directly to heaven and be in the presence of God. If you never see heaven, you will most certainly see hell and that is also a one-way trip from which there is no return.
Revelation 21:7-8 shows the fate of those not going to heaven: “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Like the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man who died without Christ is forever denied access to heaven and to God. It is an everlasting location from which no one can depart. My hope and prayer is that no one would ever go there. There is one simple way that you can go to heaven. Jesus died after living a perfect life. He spilled His blood to take the Holy Father’s wrath upon Himself. This bridged the gap from heaven to hell. It is a free gift; to not accept it is to seal your fate forever. To accept it is to be with God in heaven for eternity in joyful bliss. Right now if you ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior, ask for the forgiveness of your sins, admit you are a sinner in need of saving, and place your faith and trust in Him, He promises to never, ever forsake you. He will keep you in His own hand and never caste you away, even when you die (John 6:37, 10:28-29). If you do this right now you will see heaven for yourself. And you will be with the Lord our God forever and ever when you leave this earth.
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The Holy Bible, New International Version
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