Anyone who has a measure of belief in the hereafter wonders at some time or other just what it will be like to be in heaven. Without some kind of messenger from heaven to tell us, we can’t know, but we can only speculate and be at the mercy of those who want to impose their confusing views and opinions on us. However, for the Christian there have been several such messengers. The Bible claims to be the inspired Word of God: God’s message to us. Jesus himself quoted the Old Testament frequently and believed it to be true, as did all the apostles. Jesus claimed to have come down from heaven. The gospels and letters of the New Testament were all treated at the time of their writing as the word of God to men. If Scripture is not our guide, and if it’s not a message from God, then on what do we base the authority of our faith?
The Bible is rich with clues to the understanding of our future form, feelings and activities. Therefore, I want to first briefly cover some scriptural references on the subject, then offer a few of my own personal feelings and expectations. If I were a Christian celebrity you would have to buy my book to get the info that you can read for nothing in this post.
“…we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2).
Similarly, Paul told the Corinthians:
“…just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15: 49).
To the Philippians he said that Christ will:
“transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
In some way we are going to be like the resurrected Christ. This gives us an enormous start at perceiving our future likeness, because we are given descriptions of the risen Christ in the gospels and throughout the Bible. I’m not saying that we will be equal to him: that’s not Biblical, but “we will share his likeness.”
WE WILL BE RECOGNISABLE
Jesus was recognizable, and was not “reincarnated” as someone or something else. On one occasion after his resurrection when he appeared to his disciples, and said “Peace be with you”, they were overjoyed to see him (John 20: 19, 20). There were similar meetings on other occasion (see below). We are told that the “same Jesus” who ascended to heaven will return in the same way (Acts 1: 10-11). He is, and will remain to be, Jesus.
Other Biblical persons were seen to be themselves after they had died:
Samuel appeared to Saul (1 Samuel 28:8-15).
Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and the disciples during the “Transfiguration” (Matthew 17:1-3).
The rich man in Hades, even if a parable character only (my personal feeling is that they were true characters) was the same person he had been on earth, and remembered his family who were still there. He also remembered Lazarus, the poor man who he had failed to help while on earth. Lazarus, also after his passing from earthly life, was also still the same person he had been on earth (Luke 16:19-31).
There would be no point in a resurrection or a judgment if we become different persons after this life. God could instead simply create new people/ creatures.
WE WILL BE PHYSICAL, YET PAN-DIMENSIONAL
The resurrected Jesus entered a locked room with ease. As best we can understand it, he passed through the wall in order to appear to his disciples (John 20:26-28). He invited them to touch him, saying “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). He cooked their breakfast one day (John chapter 21). He ate some fish to show them that he was not a spirit only (Luke 24: 41 and 42). He broke their bread (Luke 24: 30), then he vanished (verse 31).
Again, the Transfiguration shows Moses and Elijah, having once been human as you and I are now, suddenly appearing from out of nowhere among the disciples (Matthew 17:1-3).
Jesus said that people will be “like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22: 31). There are numerous accounts in the Bible of angels appearing to humans out of nowhere. Angels are able to move between earth and heaven, and it’s not a case of them flying at warp speeds until they get to some remote part of the universe, because Jesus said that a child’s angel can see God at all times (Matthew 18:10). Heaven and earth are not separated.
There’s also some good incentive for us to “entertain strangers”, because people have entertained them thinking that they were humans (Hebrews 13:2). This shows that angels have the ability to materialize into physical beings. Angels in the Bible retain their identities. As examples, you can track the appearances of Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer.
THE RESURRECTED BODY IS ONE OF POWER
Paul said that the body is “sown in weakness” (ageing, sick mortality) but “it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15: 43). The immortality of our being means that we will not look at all old or weak or sick or spotty or deformed, but amazingly vibrant, young and healthy. Some will “shine like stars” (Daniel 12:3), or “like the sun” (Matthew 13: 43).
There will be no marriage, said Jesus (Matthew 22:30), but we will be reunited with our loved ones: this is the reason that Paul told the Thessalonians not to be as mournful over those who have died as unbelievers are (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
LOVE, JOY AND PEACE
There are plenty of clues to the character of those in heaven, and so to the relationships between us all. To me the most obvious one is Paul’s list of the fruits of the spirit: the characteristics of those who live in close step with Christ now. He said:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control” (Galatians 5: 22-23).
If those are the characteristics of people who truly walk with Jesus now, and who walk “In the Spirit”, then they will be even more pronounced in heaven where Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be in close communion with us , and knowing that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we can know that heaven will be filled with love.
God cannot and will not live with sin, and you can be sure that heaven is totally sinless (Revelation 21:7-8 and 27). Some people imagine that this means no fun. On the contrary, God is the creator of fun. What it really means to be free of sin is that there will be no one trying to use you, abuse you, steal from you, lie to you or wound you, and no one to oppose God or his people, or to try to convince you that there is no God. It will not occur to you to do any of these things either. You will be free in your spirit to truly love God and others without reservation, and they will love you.
God will “wipe away every tear…There will be no more mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
NO SICKNESS OR DEATH
There will be no more death (Revelation 21:4). Our immortal bodies will be free of disease.
I’ve heard Christian ministers say that they think we will like thirty-year-olds in heaven, but I’ve noticed it’s only those who are well over thirty who say this. I personally suspect that we will be a lot more like children than adults. I’m not at all speaking of “obnoxious little brats” as increasing numbers of people now see children (I don’t). If we ignore all the unpleasant characteristics we sometimes see in children, and just consider the part of them that God originally created, I believe we can get a good glimpse of our nature in heaven.
My own view and hope of heaven is suggested by the words of Jesus. When he told the disciples to allow children to come to him, he also said:
“…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19: 14).
On one occasion the disciples asked Jesus who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. His answer is illuminating:
“He called a little child and had him stand among them….and he said…whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).
Our world teaches children to be confident, arrogant, materialistic and vain, but those in heaven will be very different.
If you observe some reasonably “well-adjusted” children who are healthy and loved and secure, before our present-day culture gets a hold of them (and there are fewer of these all the time), you will see in them playfulness, happiness, joy, fun, innocence, friendliness, meekness. They are free of guilt and sin. They are not self- conscious. They are free of vanity. They have uncluttered minds. They are full of energy. They have humility and don’t think too much of themselves.
Yes, in heaven we may have the bodies of healthy, vibrant twenty year-olds, but we will have the playfulness, innocence and energy of a five-year old.
Please note that I am not saying we will be children, but that we will be child-like in many of our characteristics. Adults get so weighed down with prejudices, opinions, inhibitions, pride, arrogance, boredom, spite, grudges, fear, guilt and sin that they (we) are far from being as humans were created to be. Heaven will restore what should have been.
There will be no noses in the air. By that, I mean that there will not be one little group of people in one corner ignoring the other little groups of people and thinking that they are somehow superior to everyone else. Everyone will love everyone else and treat each other as equals. There will be no prejudices, pride or selfishness, because these things are sinful.
There will be no corrupt government ordering our lives for us and making us pay for their pet projects, because the Lord will be King, and He is righteous in all his dealings. There will be no police force or military, because there will be no need for them. There will be no “No Trespassing” signs around the areas of natural beauty or around any lands or space. There will be no lawyers or politicians. There will be no schools to sap the energy and vitality of our children. There will be no “no-go” areas, slums or graveyards.
Paul said that “where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). In heaven we will be free to love each other, to love God, to play, to sing, to shout, to run, to laugh, and not to feel bad about anything.