Questions on Heaven

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When Jesus died for our sins and rose on Easter morning, all our debts were cancelled and paid in full. Correct? So, through Christ's death/resurrection, belief in Christ, and being baptized, we can be assured we will be in heaven. Correct? A fellow Catholic friend of mine suggests, no, we cannot be assured - how do we know we have paid for the damage of our sins? We need final purification before entrance into heaven and that the Bible states that few get gateway into heaven. Please help me to understand.

You are correct in understanding the significance of Good Friday and Easter.  On the cross Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  He announced that he paid in full the debt of our sins.  His rising to life on Easter Sunday was proof positive of the Father’s acceptance of his redeeming work (Romans 4:25).

You are also correct in understanding that Spirit-worked faith in Jesus brings into a person’s life the blessings of forgiveness, peace and eternal life.  As followers of Christ we can be confident that we will be with God forever in heaven because we have God’s own assurance and promise of that (Mark 16:16; John 3:15-16; 10:28; 14:2; Romans 6:23).

When the debt of sin has been paid in full, there is no more debt to be paid.  When the perfect sacrifice for sin has been paid—and forgiveness of sins has been received in faith—there is no more sacrifice that can be made or needs to be made.  Hebrews 10 makes that very clear.

Finally, 1 John 1:7 tells us that “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  Not some sins or most sins, but all sin.

Because salvation is God’s doing from beginning to end, you and I can be absolutely certain of our status right now as members of God’s family, and we can confidently claim heaven as our eternal home.

When we die and go to heaven will we remember anything from on Earth? like memories? and people?

Scripture says relatively little about what things will be like for us between the time of our death and the day of the Resurrection. That means we should be careful not to say too much. We will still be ourselves (minus sin) with all that that entails. That would suggest we will have certain kinds of consciousness and memories, though none of these will cause us any pain.

We will be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and we will certainly recognize him. There are passages that seem to show that the souls of those in both heaven and hell have other kinds of awareness, including recognition of other people. See Revelation 6:9-10 and Luke 16:19-31.

My understanding is that animals don't have souls, and therefore do not go to heaven as human believers do. My dog died today and I can't help grieving that he is gone. Is there a possibility that even though he doesn't have a soul, I might be able to meet up with him again?

It is natural to grieve the loss of a dear pet, but we have no reason to believe there will be a resurrection for animals as for people. Since our eternal home is a new heavens and a new earth, it is possible that there will be animals there. Is Isaiah 11:6-9 figurative or literal? We will have to wait and see.

However God provides it, you will have the joy you had with your dog without the sorrow sin has brought to all creation. It is part of the tragedy of sin that the animals suffer along with us, and Romans 8:19-22 says the whole creation will be redeemed from bondage. There is, however, nothing in Scripture that leads us to expect a resurrection for specific animals.

My mother passed away and I'm wondering when I die, will I see her and recognize her in heaven?

Please accept our sincere sympathy on the loss of your mother. With you, we are confident that the surpassing joy of knowing that she is now with her Savior in glory will allow you to focus on what she and you have, not on what you have temporarily lost. On the matter of believers recognizing each other in heaven, we admit that there is limited Bible information on this. But there is also ample evidence for us to hold this belief.

In our Savior’s account of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) we note that the rich man, in hell, looked up and saw Lazarus with Abraham. There was recognition, even beyond the citizens of heaven. The account of our Lord’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13) has Peter, James, and John seeing and somehow recognizing Moses and Elijah, although we are not informed how they were enabled to do so. But personal recognition remains real.

Other Bible sections may be cited. Among them is Matthew 8:11, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” The language of our Lord seems to indicate that we will know and recognize the patriarchs by name. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives pointed comfort pertaining to Christ’s second coming and the reunion of believers who had been separated by physical death. “We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” The comforting assurance established by the context of the passage is that we need not worry about fellow believers who die before (or after) we do. Reunion will happen—and the ability to recognize each other seems to fit well with the point being made.

Finally, there are several Bible references to the “book of life” and our names being recorded there by our gracious Lord God. In Revelation 3:5, for example, we are told, “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” While our bodies will be glorified, and we will in some way be changed, our names appear to be unchanged and used for identification. And with regard to our transformed or glorified bodies, they will be patterned after the glorified body of our Lord Jesus following his resurrection (see Philippians 3:21).

Many of the people I know believe that they have been visited by deceased loved ones in the form of birds or other "signs." This seems to bring them comfort. I have told them I believe that while birds or other things can be beautiful reminders of our loved ones, they don't come back for a visit. They tell me they "felt" it and it was real. How can I lovingly let them know this is not true without making them feel their grief for the person all over again. I know we are to "speak the truth in love." I don't want to drive them from Jesus by making them angry at me so they won't hear me.

You are doing well in carefully listening to your friends, tactfully asking them questions and responding in love with Scripture.  You do not specify whether or not your friends claim to embrace Christianity.  If that is the case, it would be fair to ask them where the Bible speaks of reincarnation.  (It does not, of course.)  The Bible does state that “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  The Bible does describe people who have been judged as being in heaven or hell, with no possibility of leaving either place (Luke 16:19-31).   The comfort we have about loved ones who have died in the Christian faith is that they are in the presence of the Lord (Revelation 14:13), not that they have returned to us in some other form.  Statements from God in the Bible override any of our feelings to the contrary.

If the friends you reference are not Christians, then their ideas of death are likely associated with many other wrong ideas.  That requires patient listening and witnessing on your part.  Point them to Jesus who alone gives eternal life (John 3:16; 11:25-26).

In either case, you partially answered your own question in that you want to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to these friends and all whom you meet in life.

Does the Bible state whether or not we have guardian angels? Does it tell us if angels will come to take us to heaven?

Scripture comforts us with the truth that angels are watching over us as Christians, protecting us from harm (Psalm 90:11,12). However, it does not tell us whether or not we each have a personal guardian angel. It could be that God sends a group of angels to protect a group of Christians. Either way, we have the same comfort—not only does the Lord promise to watch over us, but he promises his angels will do the same. God gives us the cake—the comfort that he watches over us. He also puts frosting on the cake—he gives us the comfort that angels are also protecting us.

You also ask whether angels will take a person to heaven at death. Scripture does seem to indicate this. When Lazarus died, Luke 16:22 says, “The angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” The horses of fire and chariot of fire that appeared when Elijah was carried directly to heaven (2 Kings 2) also seem to be angels. That seems to be one of the blessed tasks that God has assigned to his angels. It would also be consistent with their work of protecting us from harm. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to deliver us from evil. We know that the final answer to this prayer will come when God takes us out of this life to himself in heaven.

Someone had mentioned to me how our loved ones become angels after they die and watch over those they left behind. I know this not to be true, as the angels were created by God before man during the Creation week, but I did not have a specific passage to let the person know that the number of angels does not increase or decrease. Could you please provide the solid scriptural references I need to be able to address this person and guide them lovingly in the truth? Thank you!

First, let me commend you for the wonderful attitude in which you are trying to relay the truth of God’s Word to others (“guide them lovingly in the truth”).  Your words illustrate that Christian witnessing is not a matter of debating and arguing; it is presenting the truth and leaving the results in God’s hands.

You are correct in stating that the number of angels is fixed.  Scripture makes it clear that angels are different from human beings.  The Bible describes angels as spirit beings, not having physical bodies (Hebrews 1:14).

We also learn important information about angels when Jesus answered a question about earthly marriage.  He said:  “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels” (Luke 20:34-36).  Angels do not marry or procreate.  Those are activities for human beings—but only in this life.

God’s blessings on your testifying—lovingly—to the truth!

If a soul is not visible when a person dies and goes to heaven, how can the soul then recognize others or even meet the Lord? What does a soul do during that time in heaven until Judgement Day? The Bible notes that upon our death, the soul immediately goes to heaven but, if invisible, how can it rejoice, etc. with the Lord? Is there any scriptural basis that indicates the soul knows what has happened and why he/she is there and be able to recognize others? How can the soul recognize if it is an invisible being? Thank you.

The Bible provides little information on the state of souls after death and before Judgment Day.  At death, body and soul separate, and judgment takes place (Hebrews 9:27).  Souls are in heaven or hell based on the presence or absence of Christian faith (Mark 16:16).  While it is difficult for us to imagine an existence without a body, the souls of believers (Revelation 6:9-10) and unbelievers (Luke 16:19-31; 1 Peter 3:18-20) are very much aware of their surroundings.  Believers are enjoying the perfect peace of heaven (Revelation 14:13), while unbelievers are suffering the torments of hell (Luke 16:23).  Any more specific information is beyond our reach—and probably our understanding.

What we can do, as Christians, is look forward to being with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17)!

Why does the Bible give so limited information on heaven where believers are now and the new heaven in the life to come? I understand we are limited in understanding it. But, the Lord created us with such curiosity and a love to learn!

The apostle John wrote toward the end of his gospel:  “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

What was said about Jesus’ works could also be said about his words:  the evangelists did not write down everything Jesus said—about heaven or other topics—during his ministry.  But they wrote down what they did, at the impulse of the Holy Spirit, so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

In his word God has given us the amount of information he, in his wisdom, has deemed sufficient and necessary for our faith and life.  Suggesting why God has not provided more information would just be speculation on my part.  You and I acknowledge that God’s ways and thoughts are far different from ours.  (Isaiah 55:8)

Bible writers do acknowledge the limited information we have about our future life with God.  “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).  “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  In spite of not having more information on heaven, we can be certain that we will be with the Lord forever:  “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Like you, I have my questions about heaven.  The questions that are unanswered at this point make me “long for his appearing.”  Thankfully, the most important question has been answered:  “Will I be in heaven?”  God has answered that question in the affirmative (John 5:24; Mark 16:16)!

Are there different rewards in heaven?

Scripture passages such as Daniel 12:3; Matthew 25:23, 28-29; Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 9:6; and, Revelation 14:13 are often cited to speak of “degrees of glory” in heaven.  That expression describes God’s gracious blessing of Christians’ lives of service to him—blessings that are graciously given in proportion to their lives of sanctification.  This action on God’s part is due entirely to his gracious love; Christians do not earn or merit any blessings from God.

While there are differences in these blessings, all Christians enjoy equally God’s gift of salvation (Romans 6:23).

Can souls in heaven see what happens on earth?

The Bible does not reveal much information about the existence of individuals between the time of death and the last day. We do know from the Bible that when people die, body and soul separate from one another, and they either enjoy the glories of heaven or experience the horrors of hell based on faith in Jesus Christ or unbelief.

As the Bible describes heaven as a place of perfect joy and peace (Psalm 16:11; Revelation 21:4), one wonders how souls in heaven could have that perfect joy and peace if they were able to see the sinful things that happen on earth. Some point to passages like Psalm 88:10-12; Ecclesiastes 9:10; and, Isaiah 63:16 for support that souls are not aware of what happens on earth.

What souls in heaven do see is their Savior God (Philippians 1:23). They will see him face-to-face forever (1 John 3:1-2). That is something Christians eagerly anticipate!

I understand that when God brings us to heaven solely through Jesus' merit we will experience perfect joy and happiness basking in the glory of the Lord. I also realize that marriage is an earthly institution only. However, I am troubled by the concept that my wife and children will be no more special to me than some other believer that I never met. What am I missing?

You are correct in understanding that the Bible speaks of marriage as “an earthly institution only” (Matthew 22:30). What the Bible does not do is provide many details on the eternal life we will enjoy with God and fellow believers.

Some point to the account of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36), where Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah for who they were on earth, as an indication that in heaven we will appreciate greatly those fellow believers who were earthly family members. Others refer to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 to demonstrate that God will bring together his believers of all time. And that certainly includes family members. Passages like these can suggest that earthly family members will indeed be “special” to us in heaven. But of course, our God will be our number one love (Revelation 5).

Any specific questions about our eternal life that the Bible does not answer now are addressed in general by these words: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). How we long for that day!

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