Thanks for joining us to briefly explore what the New Testament says about Heaven. Last week (Vol. 95), we examined the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and its focus on God as the Almighty and glorious Creator of Heaven(s). Today, in the New Testament gospels, Jesus confirms His Father’s Heavenly presence and how to gain admittance. Then, the New Testament writers expound upon Heaven through their belief in Jesus. And, in Revelation, we read about the “New Heaven” with its apocalyptic and symbolic future visions.
While researching this popular destination, I found a helpful commentary by Pastor David Jeremiah titled “What Does The Bible Say About Heaven? 65 Passages To Get You Started,” categorizing Heaven-related verses under eight sub-heads:
“God’s Dwelling Place; Our Inheritance; Christ’s Presence; Longing for Heaven; The Hope of Heaven; Resurrection Bodies; The New Heaven and New Earth; Living With a Heavenly Perspective.”
Those subheads exemplify Heaven as a complicated, multi-dimensional place beyond human comprehension. Nonetheless, Americans’ views of Heaven are remarkedly similar. For example, last week’s study mentioned the recent Pew Research Center survey that found 73% of U.S. adults believe in Heaven. (Finding 73% of Americans to agree on anything is itself astounding.) And, of those who believe in Heaven, here are their top three expectations:
Are free from suffering: 69%
Are reunited with loved ones who died previously: 65%
Can meet God: 62%
Do New Testament verses support those beliefs? Let’s find out starting with what Jesus said about “Father in Heaven,” the “Kingdom of Heaven,” or “His Father’s house”:
“‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven ’” (Matthew 5:16).
“‘This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’ ” (Matthew 6:9).
“‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’”(John 14:2-3).
“‘I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’ ” (Matthew 8:11).
Jesus said Heaven is where you receive rewards:
“‘Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,’” (Matthew 5:12).
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
For those who believe in Jesus and are attacked for your faith, take comfort knowing that you can look to Heaven for your rewards:
“‘Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man [Jesus]. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in Heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets’” (Luke 6:22-23).
Jesus teaches about the challenging requirements to enter Heaven:
“‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven’” (Matthew 7:21).
“‘Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven’” (Matthew 10:32-33).
Furthermore, I am fascinated by the following bold, definitive statement and prompted to ask non-believers, “What part of ‘no one’ don’t you understand?”:
“"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
For believers, St. Paul writes about living our life looking toward Heaven:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-7).
“But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
Now for the future of Heaven, the opening verses of Revelation’s famous chapter 21:
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away, 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 I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away ’ ” (Revelation 21 1-4).
Just imagine, a “new Jerusalem” touches down to Earth from Heaven so all believers can eternally dwell with God. Quite the vision, and let’s pray it happens.
Unfortunately — according to Pew’s survey (except for meeting God) — Americans’ expectations of Heaven are not explicitly addressed (like being reunited with your loved ones or pet). Perhaps they are grouped into the general “rewards” category?
But, ultimately, people might want to focus less on what happens in Heaven and more on obtaining what Jesus repeatedly calls “eternal life.” And, to achieve that, Jesus said in his no-nonsense teaching style:
“‘The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them’” (John 3:35-36).
Always remember that heavenly lesson and say, “Amen.”
Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. NEWS FLASH: SignFromGod is a proud sponsor of Museum of the Bible’s two opening events for its six-month, high-tech exhibition about the Shroud of Turin. Preview is February 23, and the grand opening event on February 26. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.