The Jews of old recognized three heavens -
- The aerial or atmospheric heaven, where the birds fly, the winds blow, and the showers, mists, vapors and clouds are formed (Acts 1:11).
- The firmament, or the region of the sun, moon, and starry host (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 19:1; Job 38:31-33).
- The heaven of heavens. This is where God dwells, and is the region spoken of as the immediate presence of God, the region of divine glory, also the dwelling place of angels and saints (I Kings 8:30; Psalm 11:4; 15:1; Matthew 6:9). This is the Temple of he divine Majesty, where His excellent glory is revealed in the most conspicuous manner. It is the habitation of His holiness, the place where His honor dwelleth. This sacred mansion of light, joy and glory is the third heaven to which Paul was caught up (II Corinthians 12:2).
Heaven is expressly spoken of as a definite place, as well as a state (John 14:2,3). The existence of the body of Christ, and those of Enoch and Elijah, affords further proof. If heaven is not a place, where can these bodies be? Where are the bodies of believers to exist after their resurrection? Where heaven is definitely located, God alone knows. Evidently it is above, just as hell is beneath, seeing Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven. Heaven must be recognized for the country it is.
A Prepared Abode - Jesus assured His own that He was going to "prepare a place" for them. While all the saints of God from the beginning of time are to be in heaven, it would seem as if within such there is to be a prepared place for the true Church. Writing to the redeemed, Peter speaksof their incorruptible inheritance as being "reserved in heaven" for them (Peter 1:4). Thus, in heaven, there is a prepared place for a prepared people, and to be heaven-bound, we must be heaven-born!
A Peopled Abode - What glorious company can be found in heaven! god has ever lived there (Matthew 6:9). Christ is there as the Center of glory (Hebrews 9:24). Heaven has ever been the heaven of the vast angelic host (Matthew 18:10). The godly of all ages are also there. Of His own, Jesus said: "Where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3).
A Paternal Abode - Jesus referred to heaven as "My Father's house" (John 14:2), and as its Creator, it is His in a real sense. But there as the Father, conveys the meaning that His abody has a warmth, love and joy about it. What kind and tru earthly fathers mean to their homes, our heavenly Father and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ means to His Home, which we are to share.
A Palatial Abode - Heaven must possess a blaze of glory, a radiant, magnificent celestial splendor overwhelming to all who enter it. Once we reach the realm of eternal bliss we shall discover that its glories far outstrip the most magnificent descriptions ever given by man below. Like the Queen of Sheba, who had no more spirit in her after she beheld the glory of Solomon's palace, we shall confess, "Behold, the half was not told me."
The palace of God is transparent, it is adorned with illustrious beams of glory. Hell is a dark dungeon where there is nothing but the blackness of darkness forever, but heaven is bespangled with light (Colossians 1:12). In heavenly palace is the best air, which is perfumed with the odors of Christ's ointments, and a most pleasant prospect for the Bright Morning Star. The palace is rich and sumptuous. It has gates of pearl (Revelation 21:21). It is enriched with white robes and crowns of glory: it never falls to decay and the dwellers in it never die (Revelation 22:5)."
A Pleasurable Abode - By heaven, we understand a state of happiness infinite in degree and endless in duration. The joys of heaven are without example, above experience and beyond imagination: for which the whole creation wants a comparison, we an apprehension, and ever the Word of God a revelation. Hannah Moore wrote of heaven as a place of "Perfect purity, fullness of joy, everlasting freedom, health and fruition, complete secrity and eternal good."
Reunion with loved ones, fellowship with renowned Bible saints, the absence of all sin, sorrow, pain and death, the conscious presence of God and the sight of Christ combine to make heaven the sphere of inexpressible felicity. Christ Himself will ever be the source of our unending joy (Revelation 21:23). How privileged we will be to bask in His radiance!
A Peaceful Abode - Undisturbed calm and tranquility reign in heaven above. God whose home it is, is the God of peace, and can therefore allow nothing to enter His presence alien to His own being. Wars, destroying countries below; wranglings, destroying peace in earthly homes, are excluded from heaven where peace, perfect peace, possesses its chambers.
A Perfect Abode - "My idea of heaven," says Wilberforce, "is perfect love"; "And mine," replied Robert Hall, "is perfect rest." Heaven is entirely separated from the impurities and imperfections, the alterations and changes we are familiar with below. Holy, eternal joy fills the hearts of all because of freedom from all evil, both of soul and body (Revelation 7:17). Nothing that defiles can enter there. There we are to be perfectly holy - as holy as Christ Himself (1 John 3:2). Now we yearn for holiness of life, but sin abides. With our entrance into heaven, however, we shall gain a writ of ease from all our sins and iniquities. Heaven is a state of impeccability!
Think of it - in heaven, the saints never have a sinful thought! Let no one be so vain as to talk of purgatory. A soul purged by Christ's blood needs no fire of purgatory, but goes immediately from a deathbed into a glorified state."
Joyful and perfect service is also to be ours in heaven. There is no idleness there. We are to be like "angels and with the angels sing." God's children serve Him day and night forever. Then we shall labor for Him as we cannot now because of the sinful influence of the flesh.
A Permanent Abode - Heaven, which is likewise referred to as a kingdom with a King (Matthew 18:1), is also mentioned as a city, with its citizens (Hebrews 11:10, 16; Philippians 3:30 R.V.); a country with its dwellers (Hebrews 11:16); a building and mansion of God (II Corinthians 15:1; John 14:2), is eternal in duration. As a "Home" it will never crumble and decay because of the ravages of time, storm or war. It is as eternal as God Himself.
A Prescribed Abode - Only "the godly in Christ" have the right of entrance into heaven. All the wicked and Christ rejectors are disqualified for citizenship in this city without foundations (Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 22:14, 15). To engage in the employments and enjoyments of heaven, one must have a heavenly nature, which is what the Holy Spirit supplies when He makes the believing sinner a partaker of the divine nature.
The Bible pictures all true believers as groaning after heaven, on a stretch for and living for heaven. Is that your attitude? Are our affections set upon things above so that we can feel the tug? Possibly the tug is in the other direction - downward. We are of the earth, however, are growing strangely dim, and earthly cirlces are being depleted, then the heavenly tug grows stronger with the passing of days. May grace be ours to foster homesickness for heaven!
Because the bliss of heaven largely consists in the absence of those things which hinder happiness here below, John cites seven "no mores" -
- "No sickness, nor pain" (Revelation 22:2).
- "No hunger, nor thirst" (Revelation 7:17,17; cf. Psalms 36:8; 46:4).
- "No sorrow, nor crying, nor tears." All cause of these forever removed.
- "No sea" (Ecclesiastes 1:7). The emblem of unrest and dissatisfaction.
- "No death" (Hosea 13:14; I Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:14).
- "No night." All weariness is to vanish.
- "No sin." This is the primary cause of the foregoing (Romans 5:12; 8:20-23; Revelation 7:16,17; 21:1,4,25,27; 22:3,5)
- "Fulness of joy - pleasures forevermore" (Psalms 16:11; 21:6 R.V.; 36:8; Matthew 25:21,23).
- "Rest from weary labor" (Hebrews 4:9; Revelation 14:13).
- "Unceasing service" (Revelation 7:15; 22:3).
- "Perfect knowledge" (I Corinthians 13:9-12).
- "Perfect beauty and safety" (Revelation 21:19-21).
- "Happy reunion with loved ones" (II Samuel 12:23; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
- "The bliss of being with, and being like, Jesus" (Psalm 17:15; John 12:26; 14:3; 17:24; I Thessalonians 4:17; 5:10; I John 3:2; Revelation 22:4).