Questions About Heaven
Many people have questions regarding Heaven. How can you be sure that this depiction of heaven is the correct one?
The book is filled with Scripture, and I’ve labored to interpret the Bible accurately, consistently and in context. As I say in the introduction to Heaven, readers should carefully examine God’s Word and evaluate the book’s claims accordingly (Acts 17:11). If they do, I believe they will discover that the great majority of the book is solidly grounded in Scripture. This will come as a surprise to many, since the book’s conclusions about Heaven and the New Earth are dramatically different—as well as much more vivid and exciting—than what most evangelicals believe.
In Chapter 26 of Heaven you discuss space and time. You say, “I can easily envision our inhabiting and governing other resurrected planets.” Does this lend credit to the Mormon belief that you get your own planet when you die?
I’m not familiar with that as a Mormon belief. However, I have had upset people tell me “But Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the New Earth...” Well, yes, and they also believe in the creation, resurrection and final judgment—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t! On the contrary, we should ask what the Bible actually says. The Bible teaches that there will be not only a new earth, but new celestial heavens. It also teaches that the whole universe fell on the coattails of humanity’s sin, and consequently the whole creation (not just the earth) groans, awaiting its redemption, which will come in our resurrection (Romans 8:19-23). Since the whole universe fell under our sin, it implies the whole universe was put under our stewardship. This suggests that God’s design for us to rule the new earth could extend to other planets in the new universe. Furthermore, God promises to the overcomer he will give him authority over the nations. Then he says, “I will give him the morning star,” which was the name for the planet Venus (Revelation 2:28). This opens the door to my speculation—which is certainly not a direct biblical teaching—that we may rule planets in the new universe.
Is it a commonly accepted idea that Heaven will be on the “New Earth?”
Strangely, no. Yet it is clearly taught in Scripture. Heaven is God’s special dwelling place, right? So where are we told God will especially dwell in eternity? Not in some place far off, distant from his people, but on the New Earth where we are told “the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them...and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). Three times we’re told God will be with us. Where? On the New Earth.
This corresponds to God’s ultimate plan is: “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). Think about Christ’s name Immanuel. It means “God with us.” The ultimate Heaven isn’t us going up to live with God in the spirit realm, it’s God coming down to live with us on the New Earth!
What do you want people to gain by reading your book?
I want them to be able to do, in most cases for the first time, exactly what Peter assumes all Christians are doing: “looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). But sadly, I find that few Christians are looking forward to life on the new earth. They do not understand the doctrine of resurrection, and its far-reaching implications. By depriving us of the biblical doctrine of Heaven, and distorting and diminishing our view of where we’ll live and what we’ll do forever, Satan has robbed us of joy. Our impoverished understanding of the New Earth and the resurrection makes us cling to this present earth, under the curse. It deceives us into thinking that these present lives provide our only opportunities for earthly happiness. In fact, Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth. We will rule the New Earth with Christ, and what awaits us there is utter joy and adventure in seeing and knowing and walking with Christ, serving him together in a glorious new universe.
Will each person’s Heaven be different?
No. There will be one great universe in which God makes his dwelling place with us. It will be an objective reality, not one place for you and a different place for me. Of course, we are all different people and will have different gifts, interests and responsibilities.
Will we work in Heaven?
Absolutely. On the New Earth, we’re told “his servants will serve Him,” (Rev. 22:3). Then we’re told “they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). Servants work and rulers work. But it will be work that is restful, work without the curse...work more like that done by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
What are the four most common misconceptions about Heaven?
Misconception 1: That the present Heaven, where Christians go when we die, is the same place we will live forever. In fact, when we die we go to be with Christ, which is wonderful, but we are incomplete, in a pre-resurrected state, anticipating Christ’s return to earth, and our resurrections. The place we’ll live forever will be where God comes down to dwell with us, on the New Earth (Revelation 21:1-3).
Misconception 2: The physical realm is evil, and God’s plan is to permanently destroy it and deliver our spirits to live without bodies. In fact, God created the physical realm and called it “very good.” He has never given up on his original plan for physical human beings to rule the earth for his glory. God sent his Son to permanently become a man and redeem and restore the physical universe—including our bodies and the earth—to become all He desires it to be. That’s why Jesus spoke of the “renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:27-28), and Peter preached that Christ will “remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). Isaiah and other prophets speak in detail about the Earth being returned to the perfection God designed for it. Speaking of an earthly kingdom, an angel reveals, “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). This is not for a thousand years, but forever.
Misconception 3: There will be nothing to do, and it’ll be boring and predictable, without adventure, discovery, process and progress. This is as wrong as it could be, as I develop in the book.
Misconception 4: We’ll be absorbed with God and lose our identities. That is Hinduism, not Christianity, but surprisingly many Christians seem to believe it. In fact, resurrection means we will retain our identities and be forever reestablished as individuals, liberated to see God and worship him as our primary joy and the source of all derivative joys. Job said, “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another” (Job 19:26-27).
In heaven will people be able to see what is happening on earth?
In Revelation 6:9-11 martyrs who have died not only clearly remember what happened to them on earth, but they are aware that God hasn’t yet judged those who persecuted them. Clearly they know some of what’s happening on earth. Jesus said that there is rejoicing in Heaven when sinners on earth are converted, which suggests people in Heaven are aware of people on earth coming to faith (Luke 15:7). Will we be able to know everyone in Heaven? Or will it be like earth, where we know and read about people like C. S. Lewis and Billy Graham, but don’t personally know them? Because we will have unlimited time and opportunity, there’s no reason to believe we won’t eventually meet everyone in Heaven.
For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.