By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
In recent years, there seems to have been an increase in near-death experiences and the afterlife. As believers in Jesus Christ, what exactly can we look forward to after death? We wonder, what is heaven really like? In the past ten years, there have been great books about heaven written by some very well-respected Christian authors. These books, while not Scripture, are founded in Scripture and theologically sound. But before we get to those books, let's open the Bible and see what Scripture has to say about heaven.
What Does the Bible Tell Us About Heaven?
In the last days before going to the cross, Jesus spoke these words about the promise of heaven, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). From Jesus’s words, we understand that heaven is a place He has prepared for us. Though some think of heaven as an ethereal place up in the clouds, most theologians feel it is best to see heaven in two phases. The present heaven, called ‘paradise’ is where Jesus told the thief on the cross he would join Him that day (Luke 23:42-43). When we die, we will be instantly present with the Lord. This is what Stephen experienced when he was stoned to death he saw literally the glory of the risen Christ before him in heaven (Acts 7:55).
The Apostle Paul, wrote in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” What an amazing promise! We can be sure, Jesus will come again, take us to heaven, and there our bodies will be transformed into a body like His! While we live out our lives on earth, we are to wait with exuberant hope for heaven.
In his letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). From these verses, we understand that there will be a rapture, a time when Christ will come for those who are His. He will take us to heaven, and there we will be with Him for all eternity. The Bible clearly teaches that heaven is eternal. It is not bound by time, rather we who are in Christ will live forever there with the Lord.
The book of Revelation gives us many glimpses of the new heaven and the new earth. John gives us a vivid picture of the throne and the One seated there who had the appearance of jasper and ruby. Surrounding the throne were 24 elders who were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads (Revelation 4:2-3). In another vision, John, describes people from every nation, tongue, and tribe worshipping God around the throne (Revelation 7:9). We know from this verse that in heaven, there will be a diversity of ethnic groups. What a colorful and beautiful picture John paints for us! In the New Heaven, there will be no more crying or sorrow there, for “the old order” had passed away. There will be only joy and gladness in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-5). Finally, John gives us a glimpse of the river of life, which flows freely from the throne of God. He also describes heaven as being filled with light because the Lord God Himself will fill heaven with bright light (Revelation 22:1-5). It is a picture of the perfection of the original garden where God set Adam and even after their creation. Eden will be restored in heaven, and we will live with God in perfect harmony and peace.
3 Great Christian Books about Heaven
Heaven by Randy Alcorn is brilliant! Randy weaves Scripture with vivid descriptions so that the reader walks away with a beautiful picture of heaven. This is likely the most comprehensive book about heaven written to date. Alcorn answers questions like; What will heaven be like? What will it look like? What will we do there? He paints a detailed picture of the new earth free from sin, suffering, and sorrow and overflowing with the illuminating presence of God. This book has over 7,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and is well worth your money. If you want a truly Biblical picture of heaven, this is your book! I highly recommend this book!
Imagine Heaven by John Burke. This New York Times bestseller is filled with accounts of those who have had near-death experiences and been given exhilarating pictures of heaven. John Burke interviewed more than one hundred stories of near-death experiences. He compares those stories with what Scripture teaches us about heaven. In the process, he answers questions like, “Will I see friends and people I know in heaven? Will I be bored in heaven? Will my children be in heaven?” This book is remarkable and reads like a novel. Yet, it is profoundly rooted in Scripture and will forever change how you view death. If you wrestle fearing death, this is your book! The book has sold over 500,000 copies and is an amazing read!
The Case for Heaven by Lee Strobel. A former atheist turned Christian, Lee Strobel writes about heaven from the perspective of apologetics. An investigative journalist, Strobel, talks with scientists and theologians alike to present a case for the existence of heaven. He writes compellingly, helping us to understand the difference between paradise and the new heaven and the new earth. In the end, Strobel quiets our misunderstandings about heaven and shows us how understanding the afterlife renews our purpose for the life we live now. If you’ve had doubts about the reality of heaven, this is your book! If you have a skeptic in your life, buy a copy for them!
Should We Fear Heaven?
In reading these great Christian books about heaven, if there is one truth we draw from all three, it is this: You don’t need to fear heaven. You won’t be bored. You will know people from your current life. You will feel the inexpressible, incomprehensible love of Christ. There will be no sorrow in heaven. Only joy and gladness. You will see the Lord, Jesus Christ, face to face, and every anxious thought will be instantly calmed in His presence. You can relax about the afterlife but live today like it’s true, because it is. Heaven is as sure as your next breath.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Vichien Petchmai
Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books, including Our Father, Psalms for the Anxious Heart, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling