Heaven: Questions and Answers with Randy Alcorn
What are some of the misconceptions about heaven?
“I heard a pastor make a startling confession. He said, ‘Whenever I think about heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die.’ I tried not to show my shock as I asked him, ‘Why?’ ‘I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium,’ he said. ‘To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp...it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.’
“Where did this Bible-believing, seminary-educated pastor get such a view of heaven? Certainly not from Scripture, where Paul said to depart and be with Christ was ‘far better’ than staying on earth. Though my friend was more vocal about it, I’ve found many Christians share the same misconceptions about heaven. I’m often told by readers of my books that though they are Christians they’ve never looked forward to heaven, but have thought of it as a distant, boring, and even frightening place.”
Where do we get these misconceptions about heaven?
“The devil labors to give people an inaccurate view of heaven. Some of Satan’s favorite lies are about heaven. Revelation 13:6 tells us the satanic beast ‘opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.’ Paul warned us to be aware of the devil’s schemes and put on God’s armor to stand against them. Well, according to Revelation, one of Satan’s favorite tactics is slandering God’s dwelling place, heaven, feeding us a distorted view of it. He knows this will rob us of joy in anticipating being with our bridegroom. It will make us fall in love with this world, as if it were our home. It will take away our motivation to tell others about Jesus. Why tell someone about how to go to heaven when you think it’s going to be a boring and tedious place to live? For this reason we should pray for God to enlighten our minds and break through the devil’s lies as we look at what God’s Word says about heaven. This is an emphasis not only in my nonfiction book on heaven, In Light of Eternity, but also in all six of my novels, most recently Safely Home.”
Is heaven a real place, a tangible reality?
“Heaven is an actual place, in an actual location, designed by God with people in mind. Beings have traveled to and from heaven, including Christ, angels and humans. Jesus, speaking as the bridegroom to his beloved bride, said to us, ‘I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also.’ Heaven is that place. The New Earth, where the heavenly city will be brought down to and relocated, will be a vastly improved form of the present earth and will have much in common with it—light, water, trees, fruit, people and animals.
“As a new car is a better version of an old car—but with the same essential components that make a car a car (four wheels, engine, transmission, steering wheel, etc.)—the New Earth will be a far better version of the old earth but with the same essential components. Heaven will exist within the realm of the New Earth and will therefore be very earthly in its properties. Since it’s not only the dwelling place of God, but is fashioned by God to be populated by people, the present heaven is also people—friendly, designed with their God-given desires and interests in mind.”
Are we really supposed to think about heaven?
“When Jesus said to us, ‘I’m going [to heaven] to prepare a place for you’ (John 14:2-3), he spoke as a groom to his bride-to-be. These are words of love and romance. How would any bride who loves her husband-to-be respond to them? She’d be thrilled. Not a single day would go by, not a single hour, in which the bride wouldn’t anticipate joining her beloved in that place he prepared for her to live with him forever. Like a bride’s dreams of sharing a home with her groom, our love for heaven should be overflowing and contagious, just like our love for God. Our passion for God and our passion for heaven should be inseparable. The more I learn about God, the more excited I get about heaven. The more I learn about heaven, the more excited I get about God.”
What is heaven like?
“Heaven is both a country and a city. A country is typically a large territory of various geographies, with citizens of diverse cultures and vocations, sometimes even languages, under one government that provides a common identity. A city is a place of many residences in near proximity. A city’s inhabitants are subject to the common government. Cities usually have varied and bustling activity, community events, education, arts, and visitors.
“Heaven is a place of great beauty, both natural created beauty and architecture, including streets of gold and buildings of pearls and emeralds and precious stones. Heaven will have the advantages we associate with earthly cities, without the disadvantages (e.g. crime, pollution, corruption). Heaven’s gates are always open. People will travel in and out, some bringing treasures into the city. Travel outside the city shows that the city is not the whole of heaven, but merely its center. The great city is the capital of an endless empire, called a heavenly country. There’s a universe outside the city’s gates, to which its citizens have free access.”
What will we do in heaven?
“We’ll rest from our labors on earth, but that doesn’t mean constant inactivity. We’re told we’ll be reigning with Christ and serving him—that means we’ll have plenty to do. But heaven’s labor will be refreshing, productive and unthwarted, without futility and frustration. We will eat and drink and celebrate at the table with Christ and the redeemed saints from earth, communicating and fellowshipping and storytelling and rejoicing with them. And we’ll worship God. Multitudes of God’s people, of every nation, tribe, people, and language, will gather to sing praise to God for his greatness, wisdom, power, grace, and mighty work of redemption.”
For more on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.