Will We Learn in Heaven?

By Randy Alcorn April 24, 2019

I heard a pastor say, “There will be no more learning in Heaven.” One writer says that in Heaven, “Activities such as investigation, comprehending and probing will never be necessary. Our understanding will be complete.” [1] In a Gallup poll of people’s perspectives about Heaven, only 18 percent thought people would grow intellectually in Heaven. [2]

Does Scripture indicate that we will learn in Heaven? Yes. Consider Ephesians 2:6-7: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” The word show means “to reveal.” The phrase in the coming ages clearly indicates this will be a progressive, ongoing revelation, in which we learn more and more about God’s grace.

I frequently learn new things about my wife, daughters, and closest friends, even though I’ve known them for many years. If I can always be learning something new about finite, limited human beings, surely I’ll learn far more about Jesus. None of us will ever begin to exhaust His depths.

Jesus said to His disciples, “Learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). On the New Earth, we’ll have the privilege of sitting at Jesus’ feet as Mary did, walking with Him over the countryside as His disciples did, always learning from Him. In Heaven we’ll continually learn new things about God, going ever deeper in our understanding.

Consider the Greek words ginosko and epiginosko, translated “know” in 1 Corinthians 13:12, used of our present knowledge on Earth and our future knowledge in Heaven: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Ginosko often means “to come to know,” and therefore “to learn” (Matthew 10:26; John 12:9; Acts 17:19; Philippians 2:19). Epiginosko also means “to learn” (Luke 7:37; 23:7; Acts 9:30; 22:29). [3] That we will one day “know fully” could well be understood as “we will always keep on learning.”

It was God—not Satan—who made us learners. God doesn’t want us to stop learning. What He wants to stop is what prevents us from learning.

Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, who intensely studied Heaven, believed “the saints will be progressive in knowledge to all eternity.” [4] He added, “The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity.” [5]

Will our knowledge and skills vary? Will some people in Heaven have greater knowledge and specialized abilities than others? Why not? Scripture never teaches sameness in Heaven. We will be individuals, each with our own memories and God-given gifts. Some of our knowledge will overlap, but not all. I’m not a mechanic or gardener, as you may be. I may or may not learn those skills on the New Earth. But even if I do, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be as skilled a gardener or mechanic as you will be. After all, you had a head start on learning. The doctrine of continuity means that what we learn here carries over after death.

Don’t you love to discover something new? On the New Earth, some of our greatest discoveries may relate to the lives we’re living right now. Columnist and commentator Paul Harvey made a career of telling “the rest of the story.” That’s exactly what we’ll discover in Heaven again and again—the rest of the story. We’ll be stunned to learn how God orchestrated the events of our lives to influence people we may have forgotten about.

Occasionally we hear stories that provide us a small taste of what we’ll learn in eternity. One morning after I spoke at a church, a young woman came up to me and asked, “Do you remember a young man sitting next to you on a plane headed to college? You gave him your novel Deadline.” I give away a lot of my books on planes, but after some prompting, I remembered him. He was an unbeliever. We talked about Jesus, and I gave him the book and prayed for him as we got off the plane.

I was amazed when the young woman said to me, “He told me he never contacted you, so you wouldn’t know what happened. He got to college, checked into the dorm, sat down, and read your book. When he was done, he confessed his sins and gave his life to Jesus. And I can honestly tell you, he’s the most dynamic Christian I’ve ever met.”

All I did was talk a little, give him a book, and pray for him. But if the young woman hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have had a clue what had happened. That story reminded me how many great stories await us in Heaven and how many we may not hear until we’ve been there a long time. We won’t ever know everything, and even what we will know, we won’t know all at once. We’ll be learners, forever. Few things excite me more than that.

Browse more resources on the topic of Heaven, and see Randy’s related books, including Heaven.

 


[1] Dave Hunt, Whatever Happened to Heaven? (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1988), 238.

[2] Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), 307.

[3] Kittel et al., Theological Dictionary, 1:703.

[4] Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Perry Miller, vol. 13, The Miscellanies, ed. Thomas A. Schafer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), 483.

[5] Ibid., 275; I’m indebted to Andrew McClellan for several citations from his seminary paper “Jonathan Edwards’s View of Heaven,”August 15, 2003.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of fifty-some books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries