These days, after/near-death experience stories are quite in vogue. It’s no small wonder since we will all (one way or another) die, and the questions we ask about what comes next have been asked for centuries. In the first grade Sunday school class that I help teach, many of the children’s questions revolve around what Heaven will be like. “Will we have wings?” “Unicorns will be THERE, right?!”
At a recent event, a woman visited the Picture Book Apologetics table and shared that explaining Heaven rightly to children is something she finds very important. We agree. There is so much junk, so many misconceptions, and so many unsubstantiated opinions about Heaven that diminish the promised glory of it all. Fortunately, I sat in on a class taught by Dr. Clay Jones in which he explored the biblical picture of what Heaven will be like. Below are insights gained from his lectures in a way that parents may find helpful for explaining how the Bible describes Heaven to their kids and combating some of the false ideas that the world offers. We will briefly look at the Bible passages that shed light on what OUR BODIES will be like on the New Earth.
(Note: The descriptions that follow are applicable to Christian believers with a saving faith in Jesus Christ and those whom God has chosen. If you missed our article about who gets to go to Heaven, you can read that here. Additionally, we are extremely grateful for the teaching of Dr. Jones, who has increased our own excitement for the coming Kingdom exponentially.)
Ideas that Decrease our Excitement about Heaven
Let us first address a few of the things that have colored our understanding of Heaven for the worse. Popular books, such as Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, and 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper (or The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, of which Malarkey has bravely recanted), are devoured wholesale, while what the BIBLE says about Heaven is largely unknown by the general populace. I will not be going into detail about why the two books named above are doing us all a major disservice, but Tim Challies does an excellent job of breaking down some of the problems at Challies.com, as does First Evangelical Free Church in Iowa. It would be easy to write for days about the “heaven” experiences that people claim to have had (and I really, really want to! I mean, watch this and see if you can identify a few red flags. What is completely missing? Hint:Jesus), but regardless of whether they believe what they say or not, I will say this; if a book written by man contradicts the books written by God, err on the side of the books written by God. Good rule of thumb. Additionally, the belief that we will all be sitting, bored, atop clouds, with wings is unfortunate. Not only is it unfortunate, it is distinctly unbiblical, and it makes Heaven seem so underwhelming that people wonder if Hell might not be more enjoyable. This confusion is from the devil and it is rather effective.
The Bible and how it Increases our Excitement about Heaven
How does the Bible actually describe Heaven? Does it say we will just be sitting around with wings and heavy sighs of boredom? Does it sound like becoming perfect beings will make existence mundane and bland?
The Bible frequently describes Heaven as a banquet, a feast, a celebration! Does eating, drinking and rejoicing with a whole crowd of sinless, Christ-loving friends and family sound boring? You will be celebrating in the presence of God, able to finally be united with Him, able to finally meet Christ, able to be free of the sickness and pain and sin that you have never known a day without on this earth. You will be partying with the Creator of love and joy and ascribing to Him the appropriate amount of praise, honor and glory that He deserves. God made pleasure, after all, He only despises the abuse and misuse of it, and Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. That doesn’t sound boring to me. That sounds way better than what’s going on on Earth right now.
“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29)
“Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 17:13)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” (Matthew 22:2)
“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines.” (Isaiah 25:6)
“Then he said to me, “Write, `Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9)
“When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15)
Your Glorified Body and Sinless Existence
Let’s talk about your body. On Earth, it gets sick, it gets hungry, and it can be broken and killed. Imperfection abounds as a result of the fall. In Heaven and the new Earth, God has promised to do away with the effects of sin on our body and to clothe us in a new body, imperishable, that will be perfect forever.
God’s Plan of Salvation: Sinful mankind in distress is saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ who slays Satan and death and redeems his brothers and sisters to live with him in holy perfection forever and ever. (Next time you read or watch a fairy tale with your children, help them to make the connection with God’s salvation plan and to see which story sounds best.)
Isn’t it AMAZING that God has done this for us and that by believing in Him we will get to praise Him and celebrate with Him for eternity? The Bible gives us glimpses into what the awesome imperishable bodies that we will be given will be like.
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 21:9-11 …We are the bride!)
“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:43)
“Those who are wise[a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
“If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-49)
Jesus’ resurrected body (a good indication of what ours will be like!):
“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” (Mark 9:2-3)
- Jesus could pass through doors.
- Jesus could hug and eat.
- Jesus was able to travel between Heaven and Earth.
So let’s think about what we’ve just read. It sounds like God has an astounding, gracious, better-than-words-can-really-describe plan for us in Heaven and the new Earth. Let us look forward with excitement to the day that we arrive in Heaven and hear the Lord say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’(Matt. 25:23)
This article was first posted on November 6, 2013. It has been updated, revised and reposted on May 27, 2015.
This article has been updated on March 6, 2017 to reflect that our eternal home is not “in heaven” but rather on the new Earth.