What is heaven like?
As children of God (Romans 8:16), we are naturally curious about what awaits for us when we arrive in God’s kingdom. While little is known definitively about heaven, we can piece together Jesus’ teachings to get an idea of the kind of happiness and peace we will experience there.
What does heaven look like?
Jesus did not give very much information about the physical appearance of heaven. One might speculate that He did not give information because the way heaven looks is not as important as the way it feels.
However, we do know that heaven is designed to be a place of rest. He taught, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV). Jesus also mentioned that there are mansions prepared for us (John 14:2). Translation of the original Greek word used in ancient texts tells us that “mansion” is equivalent to “resting-place” or “dwelling”. Regardless of the size of the places given to us, we know that they are designed for rest and proximity to God.
What does heaven feel like?
Jesus gave many examples of the way that heaven feels. We will reference only a few in this section to give an idea.
First, we will consider the two great commandments. Jesus was asked by a lawyer what the most important commandment was. Jesus responded that the most important thing is to love God above all else. Then He added the second most important commandment is to love our fellowmen like we love ourselves. “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus stated to emphasize importance (Matthew 22:34-40 NKJV).
If a love of God and love of others are the basis for all of the other commandments, we can safely conclude that heaven will be filled with people who love God and others. The implications of dwelling in a place truly governed by these two laws are overwhelming. No lies, selfishness, manipulation, gossiping… the list continues. These are daily evils that we all face, and sadly, often participate in ourselves to varying degrees.
To continue this picture, we will review a conversation between Jesus and His apostles. The apostles were arguing over who would be the most important in heaven after God and Jesus. There were twelve of them, so it is easy to be empathetic about not wanting to be lost in the group.
Jesus was saddened by their arguing and said these words to the group of well-intentioned but misguided friends:
… Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NKJV)
Jesus showed that part of His life’s mission was to give us an example of what heavenly people act like. Jesus had power over everything, including life and death. Yet, He spent His time living humbly, sharing with others, healing and visiting the sick and lonely, offering forgiveness and hope.
What does Jesus have to do with heaven?
We know that heaven is a wonderful place, designed for rest and filled with people who act in love towards everyone. One cannot help but wonder how we, ordinary people who cannot always act in love, can belong in such a place?
Jesus Christ’s mission was not only to give an example of what heaven is like, but to pave the way for us. He suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins, allowing us to receive forgiveness. Then He was resurrected, breaking the hold of death. Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, and His resurrection, we can all live again in heaven.
Jesus Himself stands at the door, our Shepherd and protector (John 10:7). He is also our advocate, pleading for mercy on our behalf (1 John 2:1). If we can show our commitment to God by keeping His commandments, having faith, and repenting of our sins, we can be confident that the grace of God will qualify us to be one of those accepted into heaven.