"Heaven is My Throne."
Many teach that the Bible gives us dozens of illustrations of what Heaven looks like, and will be like for those who will spend "eternity" there.
Some say heaven is a planet, with pearly gates that welcome you to streets paved in gold with mansions bordering them, with Angels ministering to your every need. They also say there are millions of people in heaven, enjoying all the benefits they deserve for making earthly sacrifices and the decision they made to follow Jesus.
The following is a description I read on a fellow's site of what heaven will be like. It is taken from "eyewitness" accounts. Humans old and young who claim they have had visions from God, or died and gone to heaven, and in most cases hell as well, who were told by Jesus to go back to earth and tell their stories of these two places to all the rest of humankind, so we will understand there are two places (destinies) made ready for us, by God, and there is one choice we have to make that will seal our fate. I condensed it and put it into my own words, every highlight these humans wrote about heaven is there (I will comment on the visions of hell in an upcoming article):
"Much can be determined about heaven from the Bible. Heaven is a place where God lives. The moment you die your eyes will open, you will be in light. Not the kind of light that makes you squint, the kind of light that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Like the feelings you had when you were four years old, before you realized there was a world out there ready to train you in its ways. Heaven is without alarm clocks and dead lines, people pulling you in every direction, bills, sickness, sadness, regret, wars, nightmares and death. On planet heaven there are white pearly gates that lead you into a beautiful city (actually many cities) with beautiful mansions lining streets paved with gold. This new place oozes with life and peace and laughter. The love you feel is like nothing you have ever felt before, you have never felt so alive. Beautiful beings (Angels) with white wings and seamless white robes coming up to you, not speaking, yet you hear their every word. Words that only make this place brighter. "Where am I?" I asked. The white being answers; "On the planet Heaven." Others were there with me, and we were all given seamless white robes like the Angels wore. As we walked around we picked fruit from beautiful trees and put the fruit in our pockets to bring back to earth. After our walk we were given harps and taught to play them. Later we were brought by the Angels to meet Jesus. Meeting Jesus was the highlight. "How long will we be here?" we asked. The answer ... "Eternity." "But for now you are only a visitor, you must return to earth and tell others about this place." Heaven was so real that we envied those who had died. Days after these visions one person told us he saw an Angel who waited by the bed of a dying Christian, waiting for his soul to be released, when it was the Angel escorted him through the heavens, past the demons who were awaiting to hinder the Angel and his charge, when they arrived in heaven they were greeted by more Angels who welcomed the Christian to heaven. We who heard these stories asked ourselves: "When will our time be?"
End of the story.
What a nice story. They seem to have taken the teachings of the Talmud (Angels escorting the dead to paradise) and applied it to teachings (twisted) from the Scriptures (New Jerusalem), as well as a little story telling from Walt Disney.
Do the Scriptures describe heaven in the above descriptions?
The Heaven this article is about, we are told from the scriptures, is the celestial realm. Which make it a vast area of stars, planets and galaxies, not a single location. Not "a" planet. Not "a" city, or cities, that description is earth. We are told a city descends out of the heavens (more on that later).
In the Scriptures Heaven is called the throne of God (Isaiah 66:1, Matthew 5:34, Acts 7:49), not a literal throne, as if God is a human and has a throne that He sits on, (God is Spirit; John 4:24, 1 Timothy 1:17) it is the glory of the celestials that are adorned as His throne, and the earth is said to be His footstool.
At the time of Stephens stoning he is said to have looked up and the heavens opened, and he saw the Glory of God, and Jesus standing next to Him (Acts 7:55-56), no other description is given by him.
There is a literal throne of God, this is not for Him to sit on, it is for Christ. At present Christ is said to be sitting next to the throne of God, on the right-hand side of it (Hebrews 8:1, 12:2). At the time of Christ' coming, Christ will be the One sitting on the throne of God (Matthew 19:28, Revelation 3:21, Hebrews 1:8) ruling and reigning. At the end of the eons, when all is subject to God through Christ, Christ abdicates the throne and hands all over to His God and Father (1 Corinthians 15:22-28). God is nowhere said to be sitting on a literal throne, the celestials are an emblem of His glory throne.
Many have taken the words that describe the New Jerusalem and the New Earth, and have applied them to heaven, because heaven's description cannot be found in descriptive terms like those from "eyewitness accounts". It seems faith is not enough; God's promises through the Apostle Paul for us are not enough, so like Israel of old something has to be added to God's word (or made up).
Paul exhorts the believer to learn not to be disposed above what is written
(1 Corinthians 4:6). Good advice.
The descriptions that many believe and teach to be heaven is the New Jerusalem, on the New Earth, (during the fifth eon), that John describes in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. The New Jerusalem is said to descend out of the heavens to the earth. It is never called a place where those who are of the body of Christ (believers) will dwell (the name Jerusalem should be a clue). It is promised to those who are the bride (Israel); those are the people who Jesus came to during his earthly ministry (Matthew 15:24), these are the people He promised a new abode to on a new earth (Isaiah 65:17).
Jesus told His disciples (Israelites) on the evening before His trial about this place of many abodes (not mansions) that were being made ready for "them" in John 14:2;
"In My Father's house are many abodes; yet if not I would have told you, for I am going to make ready a place for you. And if I should be going and making ready a place for you, I am coming again and I will be taking you along to Myself, that where I am, you also may be."
Jesus doesn't say when the disciples die they will be with Him in heaven, in a heaven mansion; He tells them He is preparing a place for them, and when He returns with His Fathers house with many abodes, they will be there with Him.
The Apostles are on this present earth with Christ during the Millennium, after their resurrection (Matthew 19:28, Revelation 20:6) before the New Earth.
This place of many abodes is the New Jerusalem, it takes place on the New Earth, after the Millennium, after the battle with the Adversary who deceives the nations and makes war on the saints, and after The Great White Throne Judgment. This is the coming of Christ to the New Earth with the New Jerusalem (The Fathers House). This is when God dwells with mankind (Revelation 21:3), His presence will be upon all.
You can read about the fulfillment of this promise to them that Jesus spoke about in John 14:2 in Revelation 21:9-27; 22:1-3; (note whose names are inscribed on the city, and where those of the nations are located).
"And one of the seven messengers who have the seven bowls brimming with the last seven calamities came, and he speaks with me, saying, "Hither! I shall be showing you the bride, the wife of the Lambkin." And he carries me away, in spirit, on a mountain, huge and high, and shows me the holy city, Jerusalem, as it is descending out of heaven from God, having the glory from God. Her luminosity is like a stone most precious, as a crystalline jasper gem, having a wall, huge and high, having twelve portals, and at the portals twelve messengers, and their names inscribed, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. From the east are three portals, and from the north three portals, and from the south three portals, and from the west three portals. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lambkin. And he who is speaking with me had a measure, a golden reed, that he should be measuring the city, and its portals, and its wall. And the city is lying four square: and its length is as much as the breadth. And he measures the city with the reed to twelve thousand stadia. Its length and breadth and height are equal. And he measures its wall of a hundred forty-four cubits of a human measure, which is that of the messenger.
And the building material in its wall is jasper, and the city is clear gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every precious stone, the first foundation with jasper, the second lapis lazuli, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh topaz, the eighth beryl, the ninth peridot, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh amethyst, the twelfth garnet. And the twelve portals are twelve pearls. Each one of the portals was respectively of one pearl. And the square of the city is gold, clear as translucent glass. And a temple I did not perceive in it, for the Lord God Almighty is its temple, and the Lambkin. And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon, that they should be appearing in it, for the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lambkin. And the nations shall be walking by means of its light, and the kings of the earth are carrying their glory into it. And its portals should under no circumstances be locked by day; for there shall be no night there. And they shall be carrying the glory and the honor of the nations into it, and under no circumstances may anything contaminating, or one who is making an abomination and a lie be entering into it, except those written in the Lambkin's scroll of life. And he shows me a river of water of life, resplendent as crystal, issuing out of the throne of God and the Lambkin. In the center of its square, and on either side of the river, is the log of life, producing twelve fruits, rendering its fruit in accord with each month. And the leaves of the log are for the cure of the nations. And there shall be no more any doom, and the throne of God and of the Lambkin shall be in it."
As you have read this all takes place on earth, not heaven. Its origin is heavenly, its Architect is God, but its location is the earth. Not to be confused with the Millennium temple in Ezekiel 40-43, that one is built by human hands. The New Jerusalem has no temple in it, God and the Christ are said to be the temple (Revelation 21:22), and this city (The New Jerusalem) is prepared by Christ (John 14:2).
There are the twelve tribes of Israel as well as the twelve Apostle's names inscribed on the portals and foundation of the New Jerusalem. All are Israelites, because their allotment is the earth (Isaiah 61:6, Matthew 19:28, Revelation 2:26-27).
There are also those of the nations there as well. They are those whose names were found written in the book of life at the Great White Throne, as well as those who were not deceived by the Adversary at the end of the Millennium. They are not immortal, they are mortal. This is understood when we see the tree of life that is on the New Earth. Its leaves are for the curing of the nations. The immortals will have no need of healing.
The twelve Apostles and many other Old Testament saints who have died in the ages past will be immortal. There bodies will be similar to the body Jesus had right after His resurrection (Luke 24:39-43), not the body Christ had when Paul saw Him when He accosted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6), that body is for those who are called His body, whose allotment is in the celestials, there is a difference. Paul tells us the differences in 1 Corinthians 15:40:
"There are bodies celestial as well as bodies terrestrial. But a different glory, indeed, is that of the celestial, yet a different that of the terrestrial."
The glory of Jesus' resurrected terrestrial body was only seen by those whose allotment is earthly, Israelites (Revelation 5:10; "Thou dost also make them a kingdom and a priesthood for our God, and they shall be reigning on the earth"). In spirit the Apostle John also saw Christ's celestial body (Revelation 4:2), only because that is where the source of judgment comes from that is to come upon the earth. Christ's resurrected celestial body was seen by Paul (evangelist to the nations, with the evangel of the nations Galatians 2:7-9) who would later write of the heavenly allotment that all who believed "his" evangel would be granted (Philippians 3:20; "For our realm is inherent in the heavens").
Paul's name is not mentioned in the names of those inscribed on the foundation and pillars of the New Jerusalem.
Why is that?
Paul's destiny and those who are Christ's body is celestial (heavenly), those who have been saved out of the nations and Israel (Jew and Gentile; 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13) according to Paul's evangel. They have no part in the allotment for Israel and those of the nations who are said to occupy the New Earth, with its New Jerusalem.
Paul saw what the believer's heavenly allotment will be, but he said it was so marvelous he couldn't speak of it (2 Corinthians 12:4). I don't think there were words he could use that would do it justice (unlike those humans who have claimed they have been there). He had seen things that the mortal mind could never grasp, unlike those described by John in Revelation 21 and 22, which are earthly things that earth dwellers can comprehend; although marvelous and heavenly in source it is still within our ability to understand.
Many speculate and embellish on what Paul saw.
Paul does give us a glimpse of what he did see.
Us! The believers. He tells us:
We will be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
He assures us we will always be together with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
He tells us that Christ seats us together with Him among the celestials, that in the oncoming eons He should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us who are in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6-7).
He says we will be reigning with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).
He also tells us that the celestials will be our realm of operation (Philippians 3:20).
We are told we will judge messengers (Angels), (1 Corinthians 6:3).
Other than that, we are not given too many other details of what Heaven will be like.
Paul does tell us we now live (walk, believe, expect) by faith (not sight, or stories)
(2 Corinthians 5:7).
He also says that in the oncoming eons all will be brought to a realization of Christ (Ephesians 3:8-11).
And at the consummation God will be All in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).
In Paul's last letter, as he awaited execution, he gave us one last glimpse:
"For I am already a libation, and the period of my dissolution is imminent. I have contended the ideal contest. I have finished my career. I have kept the faith.
Furthermore, there is reserved for me the wreath of righteousness, which the Lord, the just Judge, will be paying to me in that day; yet not to me only, but also to all who love His advent."
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians a word of praise:
"And therefore we also are thanking God unintermittingly that, in accepting the word heard from us, from God you receive, not the word of men, but, according as it truly is, the word of God, which is operating also in you who are believing."
There should be no need to go beyond what the scriptures "DO" tell us, as they are the words of God.
So what will Heaven be like?
Look to the inspired words that were revealed to Paul in his letters, only they give us a glimpse
And for now!
The realization that the promise of all creation will be with God should be heaven enough for the believer now.