What is heaven?

Heaven part 1 Abraham's Bosom & Paradise

Heaven part 2 Millennium Kingdom

The Atlantic wrote an article about the spate of Christian movies lately. They focused on the most recent release on September 11 of the movie based on Don Piper's book, 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Only think about it, Piper didn't spend 90 minutes in (alleged) heaven, he was "there" only a minute. According to his story, he spent most of the time outside the 'gate' hobnobbing with his welcoming committee. But I digress.

The Atlantic article was interestingly titled. "How Heaven Became a Secular Word". More on that in a moment. In the article, the writer said something about the movie 90 Minutes in Heaven that I thought was funny. She had spent some time in her opening describing the lead actress and relating quotes from the interview with her. The author had asked the actress if working on the movie made her think about heaven more. Then the article goes into the meat of the point it wants to make. The movie is:

"at least somewhat based on those described in the Christian scriptures, but they’re light on concrete details—Jesus, for example, is nowhere to be found."
Any "heaven" that is absent Jesus is not heaven. Scriptures make that very clear. (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). The point was, the movie is SO light on details that:
The heaven of 90 Minutes is more than a metaphor, but just barely.
LOL, the movie was so light on details, so ephemeral, so insubstantial in detailing this very real place most of humanity aspires to, that it is barely more than a metaphor. Sadly though, in addition to being funny phrasing, recognizing that the movie is barely more than a metaphor is an actual tragedy. Why? Heaven is a concrete place, described in real terms in the bible. And despite the fact that most of humanity aspires to a restful and happy place after death, few will find it. (Matthew 7:14).

The lead actress worked on the movie for months, delving into the subject matter at hand, as actors and actresses do, but came away with not one whit more of an understanding of what heaven is, than she had before. When asked what she thought heaven would be like, she responded:
“I would love to have either Mike waiting for me or me waiting for Mike with our dogs running around—I mean, that’s heaven, you know?” she said. “Whatever heaven is for each individual, that would certainly be it for me.” This sense of a vague, happy afterlife, filled with romping animals and loving relationships, is the one embraced by 90 Minutes in Heaven.
What a shame. A man-centered, felt needs kind of heaven. She will be occupied with her Lord, her Groom, not longing for her husband, because there is no marriage in heaven. (Matthew 22:30). As for the felt-needs aspects, Billy Graham also happens to believe this kind of heaven is heaven. Marshall Frady wrote of him in his book Billy Graham: A Parable of American Righteousness:
Even during his crusades, according to Frady, Graham would return from playing nine holes to dictate that evening’s sermon. Graham even exclaimed about Heaven, “Boy, I sure hope they have a golf course up there!”
Worse, is this quote from Ken Garfield’s biography of Graham, Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures, where Graham said that "Somebody once asked me, ‘Will there be golf courses in heaven?’ I said, ‘If they’re necessary for our happiness, they’ll be there.’"

Is THAT what heaven is, a personal, felt-needs kind of heaven where if you love dogs, you get dogs, and if you love golf, you get golf? No. Most assuredly no.

The subsequent parts of this essay will examine two concepts.
1. What is the purpose of heaven?
2. What is heaven like?

Heaven is a place where all our needs are met in One Person: Jesus. HE is what he had needed all along. Heaven is the place where our chief end of even having been born will come to perfect fruition. Puritan Thomas Watson describes the chief end of man, which is fulfilled in the eternal state, commonly (but incorrectly) stated as "heaven."
Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Here are two ends of life specified.
1. The glorifying of God.
First. The glorifying of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. "That God in all things may be glorified." The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. l Cor. 10:31.
"Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. The great truth asserted is that the end of every man's living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.
2. The enjoying of God.
This brings us to the second thing: 2nd. The enjoyment of God in the life to come. Man's chief end is to enjoy God forever. Before the plenary fruition of God in heaven, there must be something previous and antecedent; and that is our being in a state of grace. We must have conformity to him in grace, before we can have communion with him in glory. Grace and glory are linked and chained together. Grace precedes glory, as the morning star ushers in the sun. God will have us qualified and fitted for a state of blessedness. Drunkards and swearers are not fit to enjoy God in glory; the Lord will not lay such vipers in his bosom.
Only "the pure in heart shall see God." We must first be, as the king's daughter, glorious within, before we are clothed with the robes of glory. As King Ahasuerus first caused the virgins to be purified and anointed, and they had their sweet odours to perfume them, and then went to stand before the king, Esth. 2:12, so must we have the anointing of God, and be perfumed with the graces of the Spirit, those sweet odours, and then we shall stand before the king of heaven. Being thus divinely qualified by grace, we shall be taken up to the mount of vision, and enjoy God for ever; and what is enjoying God for ever but to be put in a state of happiness?
As the body cannot have life but by having communion with the soul, so the soul cannot have blessedness but by having immediate communion with God. God is the summum bonum, the chief good; therefore the enjoyment of him is the highest felicity.
Do you see anything in Watson's explanation, and you can be assured it is but a minute part (the entire sermon is 16 full pages) about having your own personal golf course? About romping around outside with your husband, when we all know from scripture there is no marriage in heaven? (Matthew 22:30). Watson had said:
The great truth asserted is that the end of every man's living should be to glorify God.
And by His grace we are given an eternal living, then that means our entire eternal life will be one where He receives His due worship. It means we have the privilege of glorifying Him in perfected body (Philippians 3:21) and proclaiming His majesty from pure lips. (Zephaniah 3:9).

So...what is heaven like? Is there anything concrete about this future swelling place we can read about? Yes.

Just as the word hell has come to mean a catch-all for the place where the wicked dwell, heaven has come to mean a catch-all for the place where the righteous dwell. But there is hell, Hades, Sheol, the abyss, Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire. Some of these existed for different reasons and at different times and at different locations. Some are nicknames. Alternately, there is Abraham's Bosom, Paradise, present heaven, the Millennial Kingdom, future heaven, New Jerusalem, and the eternal state. These exist for different reasons and at different times. Some are nicknames.

However! Heaven is not a secular word. It is a real place with real redeemed people and it is where we are headed if we are one of His. This week, I'll look at one of these biblical terms per day and explore what they mean and what the bible says about them.

  • Paradise/Abraham's Bosom
  • Millennial kingdom
  • Heaven
  • New Jerusalem
  • The Eternal State

Be encouraged now, however. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and this means our citizenship is in heaven! No matter what you call it, when we depart this earth, we will be glorifying God, and enjoying Him for ever!


Heaven part 1 Abraham's Bosom & Paradise

Heaven part 2 Millennium Kingdom