Do You Want a Guided Tour of Heaven?April 1, 2020 Save Article
Much has been written about the subject of Heaven. In recent decades a medical doctor here and there has written a book about those among their patients who’ve had near-death experiences. Those who’ve had a near-death experience have written about what they saw or heard when they “died” but were resuscitated. These stories are riveting. Who doesn’t want to know what happens when you die and what Heaven will be like? People are infinitely curious when it comes to what happens at death and then what Heaven will be like. We may not be “paid up, prayed up, packed and ready to go” just yet, but we’re forever eager to take that guided tour and get a sneak peek into Heaven.
John the Apostle, one of Jesus’ inner circle, was blessed to have been given that tour. The apostle Paul also caught a glance.
It’s important at the outset to note that all we can actually know is true about Heaven is what the Bible has chosen to reveal. Heaven’s designer and architect is also the Bible’s author, so we’ll purposefully confine ourselves to solely what Scripture (sola scriptura) says about Heaven—and not go beyond it.
Settle an Important Issue
Our skeptics sometimes say we are “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” but let’s weigh-in. Turn to Colossians 3:1-2, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
God tells us to be heavenly minded. Heaven is where our Lord is this moment, seated at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.
Remember what Jesus also said in Matthew 6:19-21:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- If your heart isn’t focused on Heaven, then where is it likely focused?
Remembering that God doesn’t “need” anything—He already owns it all, including “the cattle on a thousand hills”—what does God want from you? Which is more important to God—your treasure (wealth) or your heart?
Ready for our walking tour?
Turn to Revelation 21:9-10. Our tour guide is an angel. The apostle John tells us,
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.
You could call “The great city,” “the holy Jerusalem,” the capital city of Heaven. When the angel tells John, “I will show you the Lamb’s wife” and then shows him the New Jerusalem, you’re right to ask, “Now wait a minute. Is the Lord married to a city? What’s he talking about here?”
When we speak of a city, we could be talking about the place or the people. I might say, “Paris is a beautiful city,” and it is. But I might say, “Paris is a wicked city,” and it is. You see, the first statement speaks of the place, the second speaks of the people. This is what’s being referred to in Revelation 21.
Prepare for Symbols, Colors, Jewels, and Numbers in Revelation
The book of Revelation is full of symbols. The human mind cannot comprehend the greater glories of Heaven. It would be like trying to teach a child Einstein’s theory of relativity—you’d have to use analogies and illustrations the child could understand. When John describes Heaven, we dwelling here on Earth with the limitations of our human minds can’t intellectually understand it all. One day we will, the Bible promises, but for now, God accommodates our weakness and gives us glorious symbols, so be prepared to see many of these.
The Geography of Heaven
Heaven is a material place. Heaven is real, not mysterious, mystical, or a mirage. What John sees in the new Heaven and earth corresponds to the Heaven and earth you and I see today. We need to understand it is real. John says in Revelation 21:2, "Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
- Look at verse 10 in this same chapter and note how similar verse 2 is to verse 10. Why do you think John says almost the exact thing twice? Why do you think John says, “It is I, John, telling you this?"
The Requirement of Faith
What our human mind cannot fully understand, we can nevertheless believe by faith when God has said it, in this case through His servant, John the Apostle.
Turn to Hebrews 11, the great “Hall of Heroes” chapter naming some of those men and women who show us how to walk by faith, beginning with Abel from the first family who lived on Earth, and who by faith offered the sacrifice God preferred. The Hall of Heroes of faith continues with Enoch who by faith walked with God; Noah, who by faith followed God’s instructions and built the Ark, and on it stretches: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
Speaking of Abraham, Hebrews 11:9-10 says,
By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
- Interestingly, notice this: What was Abraham was looking forward to, by faith? Abraham never built a house out of stone, brick, or mortar. He lived in tents. But what was Abraham anticipating? Was Abraham going to be responsible for building it? How does it affect you when you realize you, like Abraham, don’t have to do anything but live there one day because of your faith?
You may be saying, “Well, those were all people from the Old Testament. Maybe they were just looking for their Messiah to arrive, not some city.”
The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, tells us he visited Heaven once while he was still here on earth. Some theologians have speculated that it happened at one of those times when Paul was beaten and stoned so severely, he died but God revived him. Turn to 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. Paul speaks of himself here in the third person. He was caught up for a time to the third Heaven and later said,
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Twice Paul says, “When this thing happened to me, I don’t know whether I was still in my body or I’d left my body and gone to Heaven.” This tells me you can go to Heaven in your spirit or with a body.
The Material Reality of Heaven
Jesus is there in a resurrected body, not some sort of ghost-like form. When He walked out of the grave, the disciples saw Him, touched Him, felt Him. When He left them, He went to a place, the same place where the resurrected dead (those who were resurrected with Jesus after His resurrection) are. Heaven is real. If you have a loved one there, they are in a real place.
Turn to John 14:1-4:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.
Jesus didn’t say “I go to prepare a state of mind.” We will have resurrected bodies in Heaven. There is a real, literal resurrection of the body. The body is coming out of the grave. Where will it go? There must be a place for that. If we have a resurrected body, we have to have a place for our resurrected feet to stand and walk around in. We’ll be there in resurrected bodies, and we will walk around. Abraham “looked for a city that had foundations whose builder and maker is God.”
The Government of Heaven
God is ruling in majesty there. We’re back to Revelation 21, where much of our study is centered. See verse 3, "And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God."
The Residents of Heaven
God is there. Jesus is present among the blood-bought believers. And these will also be there, "And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it" (Revelation 21:24).
Friend, there’s coming a time when Jew and Gentile are going to be together, one in the Lord Jesus Christ, as we have never been before.
Heaven is different from the Old Testament where God had contact with people on earth by His presence in a temporary dwelling, a tabernacle (tent). Eventually under King Solomon, a lasting temple was built, but still God was separate from His people. His presence was in the Holy of Holies, but only the High Priest could enter there, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. That temple was completely destroyed by the Romans in 72 A.D. But before even that, on the day Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom. God residing with His people in “a temple made with hands” was over.
In Acts 7:44-50, Stephen testified before the high priest and the Jewish council:
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern he had seen…. But Solomon built Him a house. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?’
- How does knowing this increase your sense of security about the place called Heaven?
The Gladness of Heaven
Look at Revelation 21:4-5, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new...”
In Heaven God dwells with us. No longer do we pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven,” for God says, “I’m right here with you.”
- As soon as God sets up residence with us as believers in Heaven, what is the first thing He will do? God dwelling with His people and ruling in majesty means there are some “no mores.” What are some things we’ve been through in this life that in Heaven we’ll never see again?
These things are gone because there will be no more sin. These are all effects of sin. No wonder there will be only gladness there. I’ve been heartbroken many times, as you have, standing by an open grave or watching loved ones suffering. In Heaven God will turn every Calvary to an Easter.
Continue reading verses 5-8 in this wonderful chapter. God gives John the instruction in verse 5 to write these words.
- What do you imagine the impact will be when John’s written account of both Heaven and the future reaches the first-century churches? How does it impact you when you read it? How does God identify himself in verse 6?
These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s the same as if we said, “I am it, A to Z.”
Heaven will be such a majestic, joyful place because of who will be present and because King Jesus rules in majesty. Imagine seeing the Lord Jesus, crowned with glory in the New Jerusalem.
The Godliness of Heaven
Heaven’s gladness will also be in part due to who won’t be present.
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 21:27)
- Who will clearly not be present in Heaven?
John emphasizes in verse 27 that what has messed up planet earth is sin. Wherever you see sorrow, heartbreak, sickness, pain, drought, disease—behind it all ultimately is sin, the fall of man (Genesis 3). We live in a world with sin’s curse on it. Earth was not created this way. However, in Heaven, God says, “No more of that. The King rules in majesty. There is only godliness here.”
The Glory of Heaven
John describes the New Jerusalem, Heaven’s capital city in verses 10-11 and 18-21. God uses indescribably beautiful symbols for the greater glories of Heaven. Read these verses. Wherever you see “jasper,” Bible scholars believe the closest word for it in our vocabulary is “diamond.”
Its walls and gates, diamond-like, are breathtaking in beauty. The city itself is a city of gold so pure it’s clear as glass. Can you imagine the brilliance, the glow of the glory of God, the colored jewels, the verdant greens, the sky blue, the red, the violet?
The City’s Sights
Read Revelation 21:12-18:
Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
Gates are usually there either to protect what’s inside, to keep it in, or to keep thieves and wrong-doers out. But in Heaven the city’s gates are open. The walls are not to keep us in, because the gates are open. They are not to keep the wicked out; they are in Hell. These shimmering walls are there for the glory of God.
They serve another purpose as well: they are monuments, commemorative walls, because of what is written on them and their foundations.
- How many foundations does the city have? What does that number remind you of?
The City’s Sanctuary
Let’s go back and pick up verse 22, "And I [the apostle John] saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple."
- This is the sanctuary of the city. It had a gate. Jesus said, “I am the door.”
- It had an altar. On the cross, Jesus shed His blood for us.
- It had a laver, a washbasin filled with clean water. We’re now cleansed by His Word.
- It had a table with bread on it. Jesus is the Bread of Life.
- It had a golden candelabra. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
- Incense was burned. Jesus said, “I am your High Priest.”
- What did the Old Testament tabernacle and temple prophetically foretell?
The City’s Light Source
The New Jerusalem is not dependent on a utility company.
The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). (Revelation 21:23-25)
- What are its two sources of light?
The City’s Sounds
What will we hear? See chapter 5:11-13
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
What will we be singing? The songs of redemption. Music in Heaven will be indescribable. Dr. R. G. Lee once said, “Our best music here on earth will sound like a bumblebee in a bottle compared to the music there.”
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne… (Revelation 14:2-3a)
They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. (Revelation 15:3)
The City’s Size
The angel who led John on this guided tour showed John how large this city is. Back to Revelation 21:17, "Then he [the angel] measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel."
The city is laid out in the shape of a square, but not just a square, for its height is identical, making it a perfect cube. In our measurements, it is 1,500 miles in each direction, 1500 miles four-square. That’s about the same distance as halfway across the United States, yet it is one city.
Another structure comes to mind when we think of “foursquare”—the Holy of Holies in the temple, a small, square room representing God's presence with His people.
This is the new Holy of Holies where God dwells eternally with the redeemed. We don’t know how many stories or strata it contains, but there will be room enough and to spare.
The City’s Savior
Lastly and far more important, Heaven is where for the first time we will look upon Jesus’ face. When you’ve been away from home for a long time and you return, what do you want to see first? The one you love and have missed so much. Turn one chapter ahead to Revelation 22:4, "And they shall see face, and His name shall be on their foreheads."
Remember that while the Lord Jesus was here on earth, He had prayed, "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24)
God is going to answer that prayer. We will behold Jesus’ face and His glory.
I’m grateful for Heaven’s streets of gold and walls of jasper and all of that, but it’s Jesus I want to see. It’s Jesus who makes it Heaven for us.
- Will you be there? No one above the age of accountability is going to be there who hasn’t received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. How unspeakably tragic it would be for you to have taken this study and yet not be in Heaven with the redeemed!
Have you ever really, honestly, trusted Jesus? Not trusting your charity work, your gifts, religion or church membership, but trusting in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you come to the cross? Go to Discover Jesus to learn more.
Learn more about how to study the Bible with the LWF Bible Study Guide.