Maybe when you think of heaven, images of harps, halos, and people sitting on clouds come to mind. If so, those are cultural images which have nothing to do with the reality of heaven. (OK, maybe the harps!) In truth, prior to my discovery of the book Heaven (2004) by Randy Alcorn, I did not have a good picture of heaven, either.
One thing that used to puzzle me was the concept of the new heaven and the new earth, which John wrote about in Revelation. (For a glorious picture of the current heaven, read Revelation Chapters 4, 5, 7, 11:15-19, 14:1-7, and 19:1-16. This post focuses on the new heaven.) I imagined flitting between heaven and earth, for example. However, once I read Alcorn’s book and took a closer look at the first few verses of Revelation 21, I began to see it in a whole new way. Here is what Rev. 21:1-3 says: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.'” Do you see it? The Holy City “coming down” and God living with us? Alcorn’s thesis is essentially that the new heaven and the new earth will be one and the same; in other words, we will literally have heaven on earth.
Alcorn wrote his enlightening book as answers to a series of questions. For example: What will it mean for God to dwell among us? How will we relate to each other? What will our bodies be like? Will we eat and drink on the new earth? What will the great city be like? (Revelation 21:9 – 22:5 gives lots of details in answer to that question.) Will animals inhabit the new earth? Will heaven ever be boring? Admittedly, some of Alcorn’s answers are speculative, but if you dismiss certain cultural images and presuppositions about heaven that you may have, you can let your imagination soar. If you look at the photo on my home page, you can see Delicate Arch, one of my favorite places on Earth. When I think about the new earth, I think of that. Among other things, I also think of some of my favorite waterfalls, the Pacific Ocean, and the two glorious total solar eclipses I have witnessed. Then I imagine something like these places and events on the new earth, only even better, that the Lord will prepare for us. If you don’t especially enjoy nature now, I think you will on the new earth!
I picture being reunited with my parents and other loved ones who were believers here. I look forward to talking with people like Charles Colson, whose books have contributed so mightily to my growth as a Christian. I imagine talking with Adam and Eve; I have so many questions about the Garden of Eden and other aspects of the time before sin entered the world. Speaking of sin: What will it be like to talk with people without any aspect of sin entering our conversation? And how about the ultimate: fellowshipping with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself?! What will that be like?!
My wife came across this on sayingsforchurchsigns.com (thanks, Jonas, for posting this!): “Will not need in heaven: clock, doc., lock, Glock, H&R Block.” Since “doc.” apparently refers to “documents,” I would like to add “doc,” as in “doctors.” You can have your own fun thinking of things you won’t need in heaven, even if they don’t rhyme!
Joni Eareckson Tada (someone else I look forward to talking with in heaven, especially if I never get the opportunity here!) is a well-known author, radio host, artist, and founder of an organization focused on the disability community. (She has been a quadriplegic since 1967.) She was once asked something like this: “What do you think your first experience of heaven will be like?” She referred to the following, which is the theme music from the movie Cast Away (2000): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMoFmICrISE. It makes me cry–in a good way–almost every time I listen to it.
This reconceptualization of the new heaven (and new earth) has whetted my appetite for it in ways I had never imagined. If you are reading this as someone who has trusted in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, I look forward to seeing you in heaven, too. If not, my prayer is that you will come to saving faith in Him.