Randy Alcorn is a Christian author with many books to his credit and one of the topics he has covered a lot is heaven, in fact, he’s become rather an expert on the subject. In his book entitled, “Heaven,” he attempts to bring to light all the Biblical descriptions within Scripture to mold a picture of what Heaven will be. As you can imagine, it will be glorious.
The Bible uses the word heaven 532 times. The Hebrew word for “heaven” is shamayim and is plural meaning “heights,” “elevations.” It is found in the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” and in Genesis 2:1 “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.” The phrase “heavens and earth” refers to the whole universe. Jeremiah 23:23-24 describes God’s place among it saying, “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see Him? Declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.”
According to Jewish belief and the OT, there were three heavens, all created by God. The first is our atmosphere and sky. The Scriptures speak of God opening the doors of heaven to provide food or rain. From Genesis 7:11-12, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
The second is outer space, the Bible calls it firmament, and includes the sun, moon, and stars. From Genesis 1:16-17, “And God made the two great lights – the greater to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light to the earth.”
The third heaven is where God dwells and is located beyond space and stars. Jesus called it the “Father’s house” but he also called it paradise when he promised it to the thief hanging on the cross next to him. Paul also uses the word paradise to refer to the third heaven. From 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”
This is where God’s throne is located. Jesus Christ is also there, as are the angels. In fact, there are myriads of angels and heavenly beings serving the Lord in various ways.
Is heaven real? Jesus calls heaven a place and so it is a real place, just as real as the place you call home. It is a place Jesus has gone to, to prepare for us when our time has come to join Him in paradise.
But what makes heaven real to us is not its physical presence as much as it is a place we will one day call home. It is a place unlike earth in that it is free from the hardships and heart aches brought on by sin. It is a place where love lives in such majesty that hate has no place among it. It is a place where the glory of God has overcome sickness and death and has quieted each soul to live in harmony.
We don’t live for the heavens that bring the rain or the heavens that hold the stars, we live for the heaven that has been promised to all the faithful, a place where rejoicing in God is the norm and sadness has no foothold, a place where God “Will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The fear of the unknown is real, but Scripture has described heaven in such a way that we may prepare for it in hope and eager anticipation. God has told us through His Word that heaven is a place to focus on, not on our world full of false promises and unfulfilled expectations. Jesus says is Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Heaven is a place we can all look forward to because God has promised it to all His faithful. A great gift is waiting for us when our time here on earth has finished. Until then, we have much to do so that others might achieve the same reward. Heaven has more than enough room for all believers. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank You for preparing a place for Your children when we pass from this life. Help us to wait with happy hearts an lead us to tell others of You so that, they to, might be with You forever. Amen.