"The Kingdom Of Heaven.... God's Home"
Heaven, which in both Hebrew and Greek is a word meaning
“sky,” is the Bible term for God’s home (Psalms 33:13-14;
Matthew 6:9) where his throne is (Psalms 2:4); the place of his
presence to which the glorified Christ has returned (Acts 1:11); where
the church militant and triumphant now unites for worship (Hebrews
12:22-25); and where one day Christ’s people will be with their Savior
forever (John 17:5, 24; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
It is pictured as a place of rest (John 14:2), a city (Hebrews
11:10), and a country (Hebrews 11:16).
At some future point, at the time of Christ’s return for judgment, it will
take the form of a reconstructed cosmos (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation
To think of heaven as a place is more right than wrong, though the word could
mislead. Heaven appears in Scripture as a spatial reality that touches and
interpenetrates all created space. In Ephesians, Paul locates in
heaven both the throne of Christ at the Father’s right hand (Ephesians
1:20) and the spiritual blessings and risen life in Christ of Christians
(Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).
“The heavenly realms” in Ephesians 1:3,
20; 2:6; 3:10; and 6:12 is a literary variant for
Paul alludes to an experience in the “third heaven”
or “paradise” (2 Cor. 12:2, 4). No
doubt the heaven of God’s throne is to be distinguished from the heavenly
realms occupied by hostile spiritual powers (Eph. 6:12).
A resurrection body adapted to heaven’s life awaits us (2 Cor. 5:1-8),
and in that body we shall see the Father and the Son (Matt. 5:8; 1
John 3:2). But while we are in our present bodies, the realities of
heaven are invisible and ordinarily imperceptible to us, and we know them
only by faith (2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7).
Yet the closeness to us of heaven and of its inhabitants, the Father, the
Son, the Spirit, the holy angels, and the demonic spirits, must never be
forgotten: for it is a matter of solid spiritual fact.
Scripture teaches us to form our notion of the life of heaven by
extrapolating from the less-than-perfect relationship that we now have with
God the Father, the
Son, and the Spirit, with other
Christians, and with created things to the thought of a perfect relationship,
free from all limitation, frustration, and failure; eliminating
from our idea of a life lived for God all forms of pain, evil,
conflict, and distress, such as we experience here on earth;
and enriching our imaginings of that happy future by adding in every
conception of excellence and God-given enjoyment that we know.
The visions of heaven’s life in Revelation 7:13-17 and
21:1–22:5 draw on all three of these ways of conceiving it.
According to Scripture, the constant joy of heaven’s life for the redeemed
will stem from their vision of God in the face of Jesus Christ (Revelation
22:4); their ongoing experience of Christ’s love as he ministers to them
(Revelation 7:17); their fellowship with loved ones and the whole body
of the redeemed; the continued growth, maturing, learning, enrichment of
abilities, and enlargement of powers that God has in store for them.
The redeemed desire all these things, and without them their happiness could
not be complete. But in heaven there will be no unfulfilled desires. There
will be different degrees of blessedness and reward in heaven. All will be
blessed up to the limit of what they can receive, but capacities will vary
just as they do in this world.
As for rewards (an area in which present irresponsibility can bring permanent
future loss: 1 Cor. 3:10-19), two points must be grasped. The first is
that when God rewards our works he is crowning his own gifts, for it was only
by grace that those works were done.
The second is that essence of the reward in each case will be more of what
the Christian desires most, namely, a deepening of his or her
love-relationship with the Savior, which is the reality to which all the
biblical imagery of honorific crowns and robes and feasts is pointing.
The reward is parallel to the reward of courtship, which is the enriching of
the love-relationship itself through marriage. So the life of heavenly glory
is a compound of seeing God in and through Christ and being loved by the
Father and the Son, of rest (Revelation 14:13) and work (Revelation
7:15), of praise and worship (Revelation 7:9-10; 19:1-5),
and of fellowship with the Lamb and the saints (Revelation 19:6-9).
Nor will it end (Revelation 22:5).
Its eternity is part of its glory; endlessness, one might say, is the glory
of glory. Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience,
“I don’t want this ever to end.” But it invariably
The hearts of those in heaven say, “I want
this to go on forever.” And it will. There can be no better news than