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About this series
The Real Heaven
What the Bible Actually Says
What comes to mind when you think of heaven? Clouds? Harps? Angels? Singing? Now, honestly, does that really sound like a great way to spend eternity? The good news is, that is NOT what heaven is like. And when you discover what really awaits you there, it will radically change your view of your future and of heaven. In this 3 part series from Living on the Edge, Chip Ingram digs into scripture to reveal what our heavenly home will be like, what we’ll do there, what we’ll experience, and how we’re to prepare for eternity today. If you’ve secretly thought that heaven sounded kind of boring, well, think again. In this series, you will discover the amazing truth of what awaits you there.More from this series
Perhaps one of the most classic movies of all time, Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz, and there’s a scene that I bet, when I start it, you can join with me. There’s chaos everywhere, Dorothy is going to get to go someplace special. And she is clicking her heels and repeating, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Remember that? And then all this stuff happens with the limited technical graphics they had in those days. But I’ve got to tell you, Dorothy is right. There is no place like home.
I mean, there’s no place like your – home is where you belong. Home is where you thrive. Home is where you can just totally be yourself. Your home is designed with your personality and your taste, the kind of furniture, the kind of drapes, the people you love the most.
And that old hymn writer was really, really correct who said, “This world is not our home.” And that raises a very interesting question, in fact, a series of questions. If this world is not our home and if heaven is our home, what’s it really going to be like? How do you prepare for it? And so, open your notes if you will. Let’s talk about some of the questions we have started to ask and answer. And we are going to really dive deep into these today.
Question number one is: will heaven be an actual place? You hear people talk about, “Well, maybe it’s a state of mind or you kind of float around.” Second question is: what will we look like in heaven? Like, if you die when you’re ten, will you be a ten-year-old forever? Or, like, if you die when you’re ninety-seven it might be like, “Well, that’s a pretty nice place but…” Saint Thomas Aquinas actually believed that everyone will be thirty-three years old, because that’s when Jesus died. He may be right. I don’t know.
Third question is: will heaven be boring? It’s a long time. Or, if it’s not boring, what will we do for all eternity? Forever. Ever. Will there be animals in heaven? Some of you are really concerned about your dogs and your cats, and a couple of horses. I’ve had people say, “Look, I’ve got a couple questions. I’ve got to talk to you about this. And you know what? You actually might be surprised. I’m not sure about your particular dog or cat, but pretty rest assured, animals are going to be where we are.
Where will you live in heaven? I mean, is it mansions? Condos? Apartments? Huts? And then, finally, who gets to go to heaven, and why? And so, what I want to let you know is: this is a really big topic and we have only spent a short amount of time. The two books I would recommend – I hope that this has whet your appetite. Randy Alcorn probably the most exhaustive book on heaven. He read a hundred and forty books in preparation for writing this. And every question you have ever thought about heaven, and probably twenty-five more, at least I thought, Hm, never thought of that. Really good resource.
And there are times where he kind of makes conjectures, but at least he tells you. He says, “I don’t know this for sure, but…” And then on the exegetical, kind of, if you really wanted to dig into a couple of the core passages, The Glory of Heaven by John MacArthur also, good resource.
Here’s what you need to understand about heaven. It’s the abode of God. So, at the heart of everything about heaven, it’s where God is. The second thing you need to understand is that God made us for Himself; He loves us, He wants to be with us. And just like there are different environments for different species, if you will, some only can thrive in the desert. Some can only thrive in a rainforest.
God made mankind and He made us to thrive in a place called the earth. And so, what you see is when you really study heaven and what the Scripture says carefully is there are three eras of mankind in relationship to God and they all have something to do with the earth.
I put a little chart, notice your notes. There is the first earth, or Eden, the garden, the very first perfect world or environment. It says God visits man. Heaven is above but the pre-incarnate Christ, I believe, came and walked in the cool of the day and talked with our original parents.
And it was a perfect environment, there were trees and fruit and animals and there was beauty and it was breathtaking. There was absolutely no sin. No one had made any mistakes. There was complete vulnerability, transparency, and love between God and mankind and people for one another. That’s the first two chapters of the Bible.
Chapter 3 begins with what’s called “the Fall,” or we rebelled. There’s a coup against God. We want our own way and it’s been passed on so chapter 3 all the way to Revelation 20, sin enters in – and because of sin, death. And then it not only impacts the human being, but it impacts the creation.
Romans 8 says, “The whole creations groans, longing to be restored.” And so, tornados and tsunamis and earthquakes, all the kind of things that were never a part of the perfect environment, with the fall of man and sin entering, impacts not only us and our relationships with God, each other, but the creation.
In this window of time, there’s the intermediate state, as theologians call it, or heaven where God’s abode is, right now. And what we know is during this season, God rescued mankind.
The second person of the Godhead, Jesus, came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, demonstrated what the Father is like, and then He died upon a cross to pay for or cover sin to break the curse, rose from the dead the third day, and then for a period of about forty days, before five hundred varied eyewitnesses, in a resurrected body, told them what the future would be like and He was their hope. “For whosoever would believe, would trust in the free gift.”
So, you have a first earth, you have a fallen earth, and then you actually have a future earth or a new earth and a new heaven, Revelation chapter 21 and 22, it’s what we’re going to look at. We’re going to actually learn that heaven is going to come down on a new earth that God creates so that God can be with us and we will thrive yet again like that first earth.
So, with that as the backdrop, I want to talk about what it’s actually going to be like when heaven will be on earth. And that’s not a misprint in your notes where it says, “What will heaven be like on the new earth?” Circle that real big word “heaven.” I didn’t purposefully write, “What will life be like on the new earth?”
Because we will learn what life is going to be like but what you’re going to learn is the New Jerusalem, heaven, new heaven, is actually going to come down on a new earth and we’re going to see what this new earth is like and what our experience will be.
To answer that question, “What will heaven be like on the new earth?”
There are three, what I’ll call, “truth” statements from Scripture. Truth statement number one is it will be a lot like the new me. Circle “new” if you will.
And what I mean by that is that something happens to you before you make it to this new earth, in the future, and the earth will be a lot like the new you. A resurrected body is what you’re going to experience.
When you die, the very end of time, there will be a full resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked and followers of Christ will have a resurrected body. Open your Bibles, if you will, to 1 Corinthians 15. I just want you to look at a couple verses here. 1 Corinthians 15.
And the apostle Paul is talking about the resurrection. And the issue comes up, is it true? And if so, what’s it going to be like? And if it is true and it is so, then what kind of bodies will we have?
And so, you pick it up in verse 35, and he’s giving a defense of the resurrection. He says, “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised?’” And here’s the question, “With what kind of body will they come?”
And then he goes into this explanation where he looks at nature and he goes, “Look, when seeds go in the ground, something that comes out of the ground isn’t like the seed.” So, in other words, our physical bodies die and his argument will be, just like in nature, you’ll have a different kind of body.
The word “Adam,” in Hebrew, is “Adamah,” for “ground.” The first Adam, our forefather, had a physical body and then the last Adam is Christ and He came and He brought eternal life. And so, what he’s going to, his whole argument about the resurrection is going to be, the first Adam will die, and we all had a physical body. Christ, when we’re united with Him, when we’re resurrected, we will have a resurrection body that is just like Christ’s.
So, you remember when He walked on the earth after His resurrection? He had a meal, He ate fish, He drank. He said, “The next time we’re going to drink this, we’re going to do it in the kingdom.” He had some capabilities that were quite different in terms of He was in this place, then He was in this place.
But it was real, it was physical, it was concrete. He wasn’t floating around, He wasn’t a ghost, He wasn’t a spirit. Here’s all I want you to get: What this new place on this future earth is going to be like is just as your body will be transformed and resurrected into something new, but not completely foreign or different. You will look like you.
Jesus, in His resurrected body, could be recognized. He actually, to this day, in heaven at the right hand of the Father, you can see where His hands are, you can see where He has been pierced. So, it’s not like so different that it’s weird. It’s familiar but it’s new.
Now, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. The Bible says that just as that happens to our physical bodies, the same thing happens, the earth will be restored. The earth will be restored.
Sometimes when you think this thought of a new heaven or a new earth, if you’re like me at least, it sounds kind of foreign because it’s not been taught much in the Church. In fact, one of the things about Randy Alcorn’s book, he read a hundred and forty books and he said, “We’ve gone, like, a hundred years and not talked a lot about certain parts of what the Bible is really clear about.” We’ve sort of got this idea that people float around and they sing with angels and they play harps all the time.”
And he said, “Really the Bible, all the way back, seven hundred years before the time of Christ, a prophet named Isaiah prophesied in advance that God, in the final day, would make a new heaven and a new earth. Isaiah 65:17, follow along as I read.
He says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” So, seven hundred years before Jesus is even born, there’s this prediction that at the very end of time, this will occur.
Well then, the question during Jesus’ time, He dies, He’s resurrected, and the disciples are out preaching and teaching of this heaven and this hope and it’s a very difficult world and they begin to say, “Well, when is He going to come?” And Peter says, “He is not slow, He’s patient because He wants everyone to be there.”
And then people are arguing and saying, “Oh, you know, I don’t know if He’s ever really going to come,” and so in the context Peter says, “That’s the way they thought in the time of Noah.” And there was a flood and there was a destruction.
And then Peter explains, “This is what is going to happen and how it’s going to happen before there is a new heaven and a new earth. Follow along, 2 Peter chapter 3 verses 9 through 13.
He says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Can you just hear something? That is God’s heart.
God’s heart is that every person that has life and breath on the face of the earth, would understand there is a free gift available and would repent or have a change of mind and receive that gift.
And then he goes on to say, “That’s why it’s slow.” “But the day of the Lord,” that final day, “will come like a thief,” so you don’t know when it’s going to happen, “in which the heavens will pass away,” how? “with a roar, with the elements, it will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”
And then the application, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” In other words, if you really got and understood that this world and the stuff of this world and some of the agenda of this world is going to be gone, you might think about how you would live differently every day.
And then he says, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking forward,” notice again, “to new heavens and a new earth,” and notice the characteristic, “where righteousness dwells.”
One Bible dictionary describes, if you just looked up, in the Bible dictionary, “New heaven, new earth.” I mean, that phrase is in Isaiah, it’s in Peter, and it’s also in Revelation. And they summarize. “The new heaven and new earth is a way to refer to the new creation that will come about at the end of time. The theme of the restoration and the re-creation of the world is a central aspect of Christian hope.”
So, this isn’t some little thing. This is a thread that goes from the beginning all the way through. Finally, they say, “The concept of restoration means something or someone is returned to its original state through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, His birth, His humanity, eventually, and then His resurrection. All things will be restored.”
So, here is all I want you to get: There’s a coming day, there’s a new heaven, there’s a new earth, it’s going to be a lot like the new you. You’re going to be a new person, resurrected in a resurrection body, and this earth is going to be restored.
The second truth statement is that it will be a lot like the first earth. In other words, if it was perfect, the future earth, it’s going to be a lot like the first earth. Can you let your mind go back and think of, “What would it be like to live here?” I mean, this is heaven, this is for real. This is where every follower of Christ is going to end up forever and ever and ever.
And I don’t know about you, I want to sing, I want to worship, I do not want to play the harp, I do not want to float around, I do not want to sip iced tea, and I do not want to be bored.
And the Bible doesn’t teach any of that! But what it teaches is, what our first parents experienced is in a perfect environment, there’s a tree of life, there are rivers, there’s fruit, there’s food, there are animals, there’s harmony, there’s peace, there’s beauty that is breathtaking! There’s no death, there’s no shame, there’s no curse, no sin, no sorrow, no pain, no divorce, no betrayal, no struggle, meaningful work to accomplish.
Adam wasn’t created and said, “Okay, you know, I think I’ll just… the next few thousand years ought to be a lot of fun.” “Adam, rule! Eve…”
He had an agenda, “Be creative, be a co-creator!” God has plans for us! Meaningful work to accomplish and intimacy with God. God’s creation of man on the earth, before there was sin, was a real place. It was tangible. It was concrete. He ate, he worked, he talked, he played, he made love with his wife, he had walks with the God of the universe, he saw beauty, he felt absolutely encompassed and loved, he had no concept of sin, he had this environment before him that was pristine and beautiful and he was in charge of making and creating and expanding his territory and his reign and rule with the mind and the heart that, I would imagine before sin, was a lot smarter than all of us and a lot more creative.
See, if you want a little parallel think about those three categories. First earth. As man was, so was the earth. Innocent, innocent, pure, pure. As man is, currently fallen, so is the earth. It’s fallen. It’s messed up. It’s polluted. As man will be, so will be the earth. It’s what the Bible teaches. That’s the summary.
Now, I want to get to the fun part. Okay. It’s kind of foreign to my ears, right? First, probably fifteen years I was a Christian, if you said, “What’s heaven like?” It would be, I would open to Revelation chapter 4, Revelation chapter 5, I think they’ve got a really great band, they sing a lot. And there are some really big angels with lots of eyes that fly around. And, by the way, that’s occurring right now and it’s awesome. It’s just not all that there is and we will worship, don’t get me wrong.
But the idea of a tangible, concrete place, made specifically for me, to satisfy the deepest desires in my heart with relationships that aren’t just right, that are perfect, with jobs to do that require the very best of me, where I do exactly what I’m made to do in ways that only I can, that contribute in some sort of relationships in a culture, in a society where God is among us, whoo.
Third truth: this future heaven on earth is not simply a lot like the new you and it’s not simply a lot like the first earth. You ready for this? I love this. It will be a lot different and infinitely better because we will have a number of things that are new.
First, we’re going to have a new kind of relationship with God.
Revelation chapter 21, all the way at the end, and notice it’s going to start with, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth;” why? “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” notice the little change in this one, “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. And then I heard in a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God.”
You have a relationship with God now, you will have a new kind of relationship. You will not talk to a God who is in heaven. You will not talk to a God any longer who – the Holy Spirit dwells in you – and there are times where you’re walking in the Spirit and times where you don’t. You will see Him face to face, we learn in chapter 22.
1 John says, “When you see Him face to face, we will become like Him,” because we will have no sin, He will make a way where you will have intimacy with God, this has been His plan from the beginning. He wants you.
I mean, everyone hates rejection, I got news for you, there is one awesome, eternal, infinite being who created all that there is and for reasons you don’t get and I don’t get, He wants you. And He is going to make a way in this perfect earth environment to be with you.
You will be His son, you will be His daughter, and He will be with you. There’s not going to be any more of, you know, “I really wonder what God’s will is and I got this prompting, I thought maybe I should do this or should we move over to here, should we do that? And I’m not really sure, or…”
No distance, no relational or spatial awareness. You know times in your life where you feel like you’re over here and God is way over there? It’s gone! You’ll have a new kind of relationship with God where there is absolutely nothing between you, no intermediate anything. Face to face, heart to heart, intimacy.
You will be so overwhelmed and enveloped with a sense of acceptance and love and clarity and purpose and peace, infinitely multiplied by any smidgeon of it on this earth you’ve experienced.
So, see, it’s a new heaven and a new earth. And there’s a new kind of relationship with God.
Second, there’s a new kind of relationship with sin. You say, “That’s kind of weird.” Now, you could write in there, you could, don’t do it, but you could write in, “With my past,” because what’s going to get removed is what sin did in your life and in mine, what it did in the culture, what it did in people, how evil was birthed, and all the evil of all time by all people, you’re going to have a new relationship with sin.
Let me read you this new relationship, verse 4 and 5. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain;” well why? “for the old order of things has passed away. He who is seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.’ And then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
So, what have been the past consequences of sin on this fallen earth that will be gone? You ready for this? Here’s your new relationship. No more abuse ever. No more regrets, no more bad memories, no more betrayal, no divorce. You won’t experience failure ever again. You won’t be disappointed. You won’t be rejected.
You won’t shake your head and look at the news and say, “Greed, murder, addictions, accidents.” No more prejudice, no more racism, no more poverty, no more injustice, no more sex trade, no more kids getting abused. It’ll be gone.
And because sin is gone, no more death. You will never be afraid; you will never feel ashamed. That’s a new kind of relationship with God, but that’s a new kind of relationship with sin. It’s gone. And the evil that went with it. That’s what your personal experience, as heaven comes down on this new earth, is going to be like.
But it’s not just a new relationship with God and with sin. There’s a new kind of experience of complete, write this word in, “satisfaction.” Complete satisfaction.
Follow along as I read verse 6 and following. “He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty,’” circle that word in your Bible if you would, “I will give to drink without cost,” from where? “the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes,” those who, by faith, have trusted Christ, “will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Contrast, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magical arts, and the idolaters and the liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, this is the second death.”
What’s thirst? Metaphorically, thirst has to do with desire. We thirst for life; we thirst for relationships. God made you a human being and all the psychology and all that we have learned is I can tell you that everybody in this room and everyone who has ever lived has thirsted to be significant. I want to be a somebody.
Everyone in this room has thirsted to be secure. I want to feel safe and loved and accepted. Everyone has thirsted for a sense of fulfillment. Or from my old days in graduate school, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Remember that one? Remember what the top one is on the little triangle? Self-actualization.
Actually, what you’re going to have is Christ-actualization. But what Maslow saw was no amount of money, no amount of success, no amount of fame, no amount of looks, celebrity, possessions – what he realized is at the heart of the human being is this desire to become all that you were ever made to become!
And what you’re going to have is complete satisfaction for the first time in your life. You won’t look at someone else and say, “I wish I had their gifts or I wish I lived in their mansion or apartment,” or whatever it’s going to be, the condos there in this big city.
You’ll never feel like, “Oh, I wish I could do this or do that.” You will have complete satisfaction. Satisfaction with God, with yourself, with others, with the environment. Everything that we hoped, “If I just made more money, if I just found the right mate, if we finally had a kid, if we get the second house. You know what? If we finally go public. You know what? If I finally could overcome the grief and the pain of my mate that walked out on me. You know, if my kids just grow up and if I only can get in this school,” right?
Thirst, thirst, thirst, thirst, thirst, desire, because I want to be significant and secure and fulfilled. It drives us. We’re human.
And He’s going to say, whoo, “Come and drink and I’m going to fill you up from the inside out in ways that you have longed for and were made for. But in a fallen world, it’s never going to happen.”
In fact, I love C.S. Lewis. He talks about this issue of thirst, he talks about this idea that, you know, we’ve all had plans, right? You know, “If I could ever get in this college and I get in or if I ever get these grades or, if I could ever find the right person or…”
Isn’t it amazing? The word “new” for us, “Boy, when I get that new car.” And then you get it! And then ninety days later it’s just not new, right? But if we get a house of our own! If I could just be the…
And I don’t care what it is. You know, if I owned so much, if I had this, if people thought that, if I wore that, if I…
Right? We’re human! And no matter what it is, it’s like, “Man, I have been to the gym for five years to get this way. And two surgeries. And it’s still fading. And I still, down deep, don’t love me or feel any more worthy.” You know that something that no matter what you do is still missing?
Lewis says that’s built in by God into the human soul and heart to remind you there’s something more. In fact, more than there’s just something more, there’s someplace more.
No matter what you achieve, what you get, there’s this little window of, “Ah,” and then there’s a…it doesn’t quite deliver what you hoped. That’s going to end in this new heaven that’s on earth.
The next part is maybe the most exciting for me. It talks about a new city. And people to enjoy. And He made it really clear that this is going to be a perfect environment and in passing He said, “You know those people that rejected Me? Those people that didn’t want the free gift? Those people who wanted their own throne? Those people who said, ‘I’ll be in control. Hey, I don’t want God telling me what to do.’ Those people who said, ‘I’ll find my fulfillment and my…’”
What did He say? “You know what? You can have your own way. Heaven is reserved for these kind of people that want to receive and experience My love.” And to those people who say, “No, God,” He says, “Well, your will be done.”
It’s an amazing city. But it’s to enjoy! Amazing food, amazing people. I mean, if you’re an architect, you say, whoo. Right?
And so, there’s new books to be written and new songs to be sung and new things to explore. I mean this is the brilliance and the glory and the majesty, it’s like, take your best experience in any city and then go, whoo. Infinitely beyond.