Have you ever asked that question? Was it easy to find an answer?
While the doctrine of heaven may be firmly established by using the whole of the revealed will of God, it is interesting to me how little Jesus himself says about heaven–at least in its future aspects.
For the most part, when Jesus talks about heaven, he is not concerned with what it will be like, but rather, (1) How you get yourself ‘in’, and, (2) the fact that it has begun now–and we are called to live in light of that reality.
It’s almost like if you asked Jesus, ‘What is heaven like?’ he’d answer, ‘You’re asking the wrong question.’ He would correct us, ‘Don’t think about heaven as some ethereal future hope–ask whether or not you have reason to believe that it is your hope.’ And then he would add, ‘Heaven isn’t an ethereal future hope–it is a present reality that begins when you live under my kingly reign now and you begin to experience my blessings now.’
All that being said, if we query the text of the gospels, I think we can find some details about the future reality of heaven from Jesus’ teaching.
- Heaven is a place. According to the Sermon on the Mount (in particular, Matthew 6) and John 14, heaven is an actual place–not bodiless beings floating through clouds. It is the place where God is and his presence is made known to bless.
- Heaven is a place of treasures. Again, from Matthew 6 we learn that the treasures and rewards we store up in heaven now will never be taken from us and they will never cease to give joy.
- Heaven is a place prepared for us. In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks of heaven as the kingdom which has been prepared for us from before the creation of the world. Again, then, we see it is a literal place where God is intent on blessing us.
- Heaven is a place of joy and reward. Still in Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable where those who have been faithful with what they were given are commended by their master. The blessed words are this: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
- Heaven is a place of justice. In Luke 16, while teaching an entirely different point altogether, Jesus tells the story of two men who receive a just reversal of fortunes on the other side of judgement.
- Heaven is a place of single community. Luke 20 (cf. Matthew 22) teaches that humans will not be married or given in marriage in heaven. That being said, we are not community-less beings, but rather, we are like the angels, in fellowship with one another and ultimately, with God.
Can you think of any more places where Jesus talks about heaven? Any other details that can be gleaned from various places?