Questions on Heaven
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.
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.
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)!
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).
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!
My sister told me that John 3:13 means that the Old Testament believers' souls could not go to heaven before Jesus. So paradise is a place where the souls waited for Jesus to get them when he went to heaven. She told me there are three heavens and paradise is one of the three heavens. This is a little beyond my knowledge. I need some help to explain this one. Thank you.
The first half of John chapter three tells us about a conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and Jesus. In his part of the conversation Nicodemus demonstrated a woeful ignorance of the converting work of the Holy Spirit.
In verse eleven Jesus described what often happened during his ministry when he taught people the truths of God’s word: people stumbled over his words in unbelief and rejected them. In verse twelve Jesus inquired as to how Nicodemus was going to believe the “heavenly things” Jesus might discuss, since Nicodemus had not believed the “earthly things” of which the Lord had spoken. Then follows the verse you cited.
With the context of the preceding verses, it is clear that in verse thirteen Jesus is saying that he alone has firsthand knowledge of “heavenly things.” Other teachers of the word of God, like Nicodemus, do not have that firsthand knowledge. Jesus came from heaven to this earth as a little child to teach people the will of God and to fulfill all the prophecies of the Messiah. He alone can speak truthfully of “heavenly things.” No other person “has ever gone into heaven” (John 3:13) in the way, and with the authority, that Jesus “came from heaven” (John 3:13).
When we keep verse thirteen in its context, we will see the verse speaking of Jesus as an authoritative teacher and not the barring of heaven’s gate until Jesus’ death.
In 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul does speak of being “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2), to “paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:4). This was an experience that baffled even the apostle. He wrote: “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows (2 Corinthians 12:2). “The third heaven” and “paradise” are synonymous with “heaven.” The adjective “third” can denote the glory of heaven, or it can reference the place where God reveals himself in all his glory (with the “first” heaven being the sky and the “second” heaven being the farther regions of the sun, moon and stars). While this particular biblical reference to heaven challenges our understanding, the Bible consistently speaks of one heaven and one hell. Of utmost importance is knowing how one enters heaven and avoids hell. That is through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.
My wife of 24 years passed away from cancer. When I go to heaven, will I still be married to her? Will I recognize her as my wife and what we had on earth?
First, let me express my sympathy to you and remind you that those who die in the Lord are blessed by being in the Lord’s presence (Revelation 14:13). Christians enjoy that blessing of eternal life because Jesus conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
The Bible does teach very clearly that marriage is an earthly institution only (Matthew 22:23-33). There is no marriage between individuals in heaven. The only marriage in heaven is that between the Church and Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:1-4).
There is little information in the Bible on our recognition of others in heaven. Many point to the account of Jesus’ transfiguration where Peter knew who Moses and Elijah were, even though he had never met them before in person (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33). They take that to mean that we too will know who other Christians in heaven are and how we might have interacted with them during our earthly lives. Others point to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 where Paul comforted the Christians in Thessalonica with the assurance that they would see Christians who had died in the past and be with them together forever.
The biblical truth is that Christians will be with the Lord forever. While we may have questions now about that wonderful, perfect life, we will find out for sure one day (1 John 3:2). May Jesus’ victory over death and his promises of sharing in that victory (John 11:25-26) always be your comfort and strength!
This question is an offshoot of another question on this site regarding pets and heaven. It has always been my understanding that we are not to expect pets to be resurrected in heaven with us, but there appears to be a seemingly widespread belief that this is the case. I own animals and I love them dearly, and while the Bible speaks of animals as part of God's creation over which humans have stewardship, it seems that pet keeping as it is in the modern world isn't specifically discussed. Others who support animal resurrection point to passages in the Bible that speak of animals in heaven, but it seems like a big jump to go from "animals in heaven" to "my specific pet will be resurrected." Can you shed any light on this matter?
I’m afraid the matter will remain in the dark, as I won’t be able to shed any light on it. In the Bible God simply does not address specific questions like this about our life in the new heavens and new earth.
If you hear differing beliefs on the question, that is because people are sharing their opinions on a matter on which Scripture is silent. As a dog lover, I too can have my own thoughts about pets—past and present—and eternity, but they remain only my thoughts because Scripture is silent on the matter. I agree that it is a big jump to go from the possibility of having “animals in heaven” to “my specific pet will be resurrected.”
I know it is not the answer people want to hear, but we will to have to wait to see all the good things that God has prepared for us in eternity. We cannot begin to imagine what God has in store for us. Unlike our lives on earth, our happiness in heaven will not be dependent in any way on things or possessions. God will be our source of perfect joy and contentment, and there will not be sorrow of any kind in our future (Revelation 21:3-4).
I would speak to my pastor about this, but he is brand new to our church, and he does not know me (more than a hello here and there), nor my background, and I don't want to come across as sounding weird to him. I have read the other questions submitted about animals or our personal pets in heaven. I recently lost my dog. He was more than that to me. He was a service animal, a therapy dog who visited local hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc. He was my first dog ever, and he was my best friend. He even visited the kids at our church's school on several occasions. I am heartbroken. I am going to work because I have to, and staying busy there to not think about it. But, once I am home, I am a mess. I want to seek God's comfort, but I feel bad, especially if there ends up being no animals or our pets in heaven. I know that none of us will ever know this until we get there. I haven't gone to church in the past few weeks because of this. I know God is my refuge in troubles, but is losing my dog considered one? I don't want God to be angry at me because I haven't gone to church, but I also don't want to be praying to him for unattainable things either.
As one who has had dogs for pets most of my life, I can appreciate your question. As you noted, the Bible is silent on the subject of animals (and our earthly pets) being in the new heaven and the new earth. We do know that God will meet our every need and we will have perfect joy (Revelation 21:1-4).
Scripture does not define or limit “trouble” when it says that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God stands ready to be your refuge and to strengthen you in your loss. He also says to you, “Call on me in the day of trouble” (Psalm 50:15). God does not define or limit “trouble” in that verse either.
With that in mind, I encourage you to return to your church family for worship. God provides strength through his gospel in word and sacrament. God can provide strength through the encouragement of fellow believers—including your pastor. Don’t keep your distance from him thinking that your trouble is strange or unimportant. Do seek his counsel.
I certainly do not want to be insensitive to your loss, so please receive this last suggestion in the caring spirit in which it is given. While our pets are unique and perhaps not replaceable, you can consider filling the void in your life with another dog. If he was your service animal, finding another dog may already be in the works.
Our God shows his kindness and love to us each day in so many ways. Providing companionship through pets is one of those ways. For that we thank him. God bless you.
Could you explain to me about the different levels in heaven? I was told that the people who do the greatest works on earth will get the upper levels in heaven. I have a hard time with this because it sounds like work righteousness. I believe that Jesus did it all, and that the things we do on this earth do not get us to heaven. So why then would there be a special place in heaven for people who did better works? I am confused. Thank you.
Rather than speaking of different levels of heaven (something which Mormons teach), the Bible describes “degrees of glory” that God’s people will experience throughout eternity. 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 in connection with “degrees of glory.” 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.
You are correct in noting that “Jesus did it all” when it comes to our salvation. Our works do not contribute in any way to what Jesus did to save us by living perfectly in our place and suffering the punishment our sins deserved. The works associated with the degrees of glory are not connected to the reason for our salvation. Christians do those works in gratitude for the salvation Jesus won for them. However God blesses those works is up to him. Since sin and its effects will not be present for God’s children in eternity, there will be no jealousy or envy in regard to how God blesses people’s earthly lives of sanctification. God’s children will enjoy equally his gift of salvation (Romans 6:23).
While you're in heaven as a spirit and without a body, will you be able to communicate with other spirits if we have no body? Will our thoughts just travel from one spirit to another without talking?
The Bible provides little specific information regarding what souls in heaven or hell are experiencing prior to the last day. The big picture, of course, is that the souls of Christians are experiencing the joys and perfection of heaven, while the souls of unbelievers are experiencing the horror, pain and punishment of hell.
The account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) describes the soul of the rich man in hell seeing, speaking and feeling pain. One of the apostle John’s visions (Revelation 6:9-11) describes the souls of believers in heaven speaking to the Lord.
The Bible’s emphasis is on judgment day and following—when everyone, body and soul, will experience either eternal joys through Christian faith or eternal sorrows through unbelief (Mark 16:16).
My husband is Catholic and is under the impression that any believer that died before Jesus was waiting in a "holding place" until Jesus rose. Can you give some insight in what WELS teaches regarding Old Testament believers and if they truly did go straight to heaven.
The Bible does not teach a “limbus patrum,” a place where Old Testament believers supposedly went upon death and were then released when Jesus descended into hell. The Bible teaches that, upon life’s end, Old Testament believers went to the presence of God in heaven.
Rather than using those precise words—that Old Testament believers went to heaven—the Bible often stated that a person like Abraham “was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). Still, it is very clear what happened to Old Testament believers like Abraham when they died. The writer to the Hebrews included Abraham when he wrote: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them “ (Hebrews 11:13-16).
The Bible does speak of a believer going to heaven when it comes to Elijah and his fiery exit from this world: “When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal… As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:1, 11).
Old Testament and New Testament believers form that group the apostle John saw in one of the visions God gave him (Revelation 7:1-8). Whether they lived before or after the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the Messiah, the death of believers places their souls immediately in the presence of God in heaven.
Another questioner asked a similar question very recently. Here are excerpts from that answer:
The Bible teaches that, upon life’s end, Old Testament believers went to the presence of God in heaven. Rather than using those precise words—that Old Testament believers went to heaven—the Bible often stated that a person like Abraham “was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). Still, it is very clear what happened to Old Testament believers like Abraham when they died. The writer to the Hebrews included Abraham when he wrote: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them “ (Hebrews 11:13-16).
The Bible does speak of a believer going to heaven when it comes to Elijah and his fiery exit from this world: “When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal… As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:1, 11).
The Bible tells us that judgment takes place at a person’s death (Hebrews 9:27). At death, the body and soul separate. At death, the soul of a Christian enters the presence of God in heaven. That is why Jesus could assure the penitent thief that he would be with him in heaven that very day (Luke 23:43).
The “pearly gates” is a reference to Revelation 21:21. The imagery there is of the lavish love of God as seen in the new heaven and the new earth. The language is symbolic and not meant to be taken literally.
While Bible writers use “heavens” to refer to the sky and the earth’s surrounding atmosphere (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 21:1), the Bible ordinarily speaks of heaven as that place where God reveals himself in all his glory and where his children can see him face-to-face.
If heaven was a place of perfection, with no trace of sin, and Satan lived there with God and the other angels, where did Satan get the idea to rebel? And why did God allow it, knowing that it would cause so many to fall with him?
The Bible does not provide answers to those questions. Because God is all-powerful, he could have certainly prevented the fall of the angels and the subsequent fall of Adam and Eve. God does not explain why he did not prevent those falls—nor is he obligated to do so (Romans 11:33-36).
What we do know from the Bible is that God promised a Savior to crush the devil (Genesis 3:15), and Jesus Christ did exactly that (1 John 3:8).
Through Spirit-worked faith in Jesus Christ, Christians can confidently look forward to an eternal life of perfection with God (Revelation 21:3-4).
Yes, there is a heaven. We know that from God’s revelation of this information in the Bible. While Bible writers use “heavens” to refer to the sky and the earth’s surrounding atmosphere (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 21:1), the Bible ordinarily speaks of heaven as that place where God reveals himself in all his glory and where his children can see him face-to-face.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is preparing for the time when he will meet all his followers in heaven (John 14:1-6), and that Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Is it true that Catholics go to a separate place in heaven and those who are not Catholic will not see them?
All people who trust in Jesus Christ as their only Savior from sin, regardless of which visible church they were a part of during their earthly lives, will be in the presence of God in heaven and will see each other (Mark 16:16).
The Bible teaches that there are only two places where people will spend eternity: heaven or hell. Revelation chapters 20 through 22 describe those places.
There is little information in the Bible on our recognition of others in heaven. Many point to the account of Jesus’ transfiguration where Peter knew who Moses and Elijah were, even though he had never met them before in person (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33). Some have taken that to mean that we too will know who other Christians in heaven are and how we might have interacted with them during our earthly lives. Others point to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 where Paul comforted the Christians in Thessalonica with the assurance that they would see Christians who had died in the past and be with them together forever.
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).
Here are some Bible passages that come to mind. The first one especially speaks of heaven as our home.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
“Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were” (Psalm 39:12).
“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me” (Psalm 119:19).
I'm assured that my salvation and place in heaven comes by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, through Christ's blood alone, and that I can offer nothing to God that will impact my salvation in the tiniest bit. That said, I'm curious as to how other Scripture such as the parable of the talents, and Matthew 6:19-20 fit into that. Put another way, if two people both have saving faith and have their place in heaven secured, are the rewards in heaven different for each of them depending on the fruits of the Spirit each has borne in their period of grace? When Jesus says to store "treasures in heaven," Jesus is so infinitely precise with his Word that He can't be merely saying secure your place in heaven, right? Or is He? He also said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last," implying it is possible to be "first" or high up in heaven. I very much understand that to be last in heaven is still infinitely better than being first on earth, but I'd like to know more since Jesus spoke several times regarding apparent difference of rewards in heaven. I am guessing this is an enormous topic, so if you can point me to a good resource or Bible study, please do so. Thank you for all of your work for the Kingdom!
As you noted, people enjoy salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot contribute to the salvation that Jesus has won for us (Titus 3:4-6). The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) teaches that the gift of salvation is the same for all Christians, regardless of what stage of life they entered God’s kingdom through conversion.
While Christians enjoy salvation equally, there are Bible passages like 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 that speak of God graciously blessing his followers 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).
To read more about the Christian life, you might consider Sanctification: Alive in Christ. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Jesus’ words about storing up treasures in heaven direct us to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
— And thank you for your kind words.
I was taught growing up that we had to really enjoy life, because heaven would be not be as good as this life on earth. Is this true? Will heaven be better than this life on earth?
The teaching you received was not accurate. The Bible makes it clear that our present life as Christians cannot begin to be compared with the glorious life that awaits us (Romans 8:18).
Even though we presently enjoy God’s forgiving love and have the status of his sons and daughters (1 John 3:1), we struggle against sin and temptation. We live in a world that is affected by sin.
The life that awaits Christians is one that is entirely free of sin and its effects (Revelation 7:16; 21:4).
Yes, heaven will be better than this life on earth—infinitely better. That is why the Christian Church longs for that life and prays in regard to the Lord’s visible return on the Last Day: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
The Bible definitely uses the imagery of feasting as part of the description of our eternal joys in the presence of God in heaven (Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 8:11; 22:1-4; and, Revelation 19:9).
Then there are passages—in literal contexts—that speak of eating and drinking in heaven (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:29-30). What that might consist of, we will have to wait and see. (But it will be worth the wait!)
We do know that there will not be problems like hunger or thirst in heaven (Revelation 7:16). Those are problems caused by sin. Life with God in heaven will be an eternal existence in which Christians are free from sin and all its consequences.
My girlfriend’s grandma just passed away, and she is having a tough time. She is especially worried about whether or not she’ll be able to recognize her grandma in heaven. Will we be able to recognize friends and family in heaven?
Allow me to extend my sympathy to you, your girlfriend and her family. Jesus’ words provide comfort and strength at a time like this: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
The Bible does not specifically address a question like yours. Some people note that Peter knew who Moses and Elijah were at Jesus’ transfiguration, even though he had never met them before in person (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33). They take that to mean that we too will know who other Christians in heaven are and how we might, or might not, have interacted with them during our earthly lives. Others point to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 where Paul comforted the Christians in Thessalonica with the assurance that they would see Christians who had died in the past and be with them together forever.
What is crystal clear from Scripture is that when Jesus returns visibly to this world on the Last Day, Christians “will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord said, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (John 3:13).
In the immediate context of that statement, Jesus explained his uniqueness to Nicodemus. Only Jesus came from heaven to earth to explain spiritual matters to people. No human being has gone from earth to heaven to acquire that information and then returned to earth to share it.
Jesus is not saying that Christians do not enter heaven when their lives on earth come to an end. He is speaking about the source of divine revelation. That source is heaven, and Jesus came from heaven to tell people what they need to know and believe.
The Bible tells us that Enoch (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) entered God’s presence in heaven without experiencing physical death.
My dear friend is very excited about Colton Burpo's story, "Heaven Is For Real." What is an appropriate, scriptural response to those who believe his account, and the accounts of others, of having visited heaven and returning to tell the story? Am I wrong to be skeptical because Colton and his father have sold millions of books and produced a movie, no doubt for great monetary gain?
In light of a well-publicized near death experience hoax by the person featured in “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” there is wisdom in approaching the subject of near death experiences with cautious examination of what people report.
God, of course, can do anything. In both the Old and New Testaments (examples include 1 Kings 17:21-22 and Mark 5:41-42), we find accounts of people who went beyond near death experiences; they were dead and God raised them from the dead. Yet, God chose not to include in the inspired narratives any information on the experiences of the resurrected individuals.
With claims of near death experiences today, it is good to compare what people say about heaven with what the Bible teaches. You can do this kind of comparison by going to the Frequently Asked Questions page on the website of Heaven is For Real Ministries.
Our mother recently passed away. She believed in Jesus as her Savior, so we know her soul is in heaven with Him. We miss her terribly but rejoice for the end of her earthly suffering and the beginning of her eternal joy. Is it inappropriate or otherwise questionable for us to pray to Jesus to let our mom know how much we love her, miss her, and look forward to seeing her again in heaven?
I sympathize with you at the death of your mother. As Christians, we do deal with the sorrow of temporary separation from our loved ones. At the same time, we praise God for bringing them into his presence in heaven.
The Bible calls those who die in the Christian faith “blessed” (Revelation 14:13). Christians who die and enter the presence of God in heaven are blessed in that they are forever free from sin and its effects (Revelation 7:16-17). Christians in the presence of God in heaven are enjoying perfect peace and joy.
For those reasons, there is no need to try to get messages to Christians in heaven. They do not need encouragement or reassurance of any kind.
On the other hand, we—the survivors on earth—need encouragement as we continue to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). Thankfully, in the gospel God provides the encouragement and the strength we need.
In the Bible God also informs us that on the Last Day he will bring together all his followers (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17), and they will never be separated. Then he tells us: “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Let’s continue to do just that.
When we die, do believers go to Paradise to wait for Christ's second coming in which we will be judged before entering Heaven?
Paradise is heaven. Think of what Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). When Jesus and the thief died on Good Friday, their bodies and souls separated, their bodies remained on earth and their souls went to heaven.
What the repentant thief experienced was not unique to him. Whenever Christians die, they experience judgment from God and their souls go to heaven (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 9:27; Luke 16:22).
On the Last Day, those Christians will accompany Jesus as he returns visibly to this world (1 Thessalonians 4:14). The judgment they received at death will be made public, and all those who are alive on the earth at Jesus’ return—and who will not experience death—will be judged at that time (Matthew 25:31-46). And then all Christians will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
At death, body and soul separate (Ecclesiastes 12:7). On the Last Day, the Lord will raise the bodies of all who died and reunite bodies and souls (John 5:28-29). In the case of Christians, God will glorify their bodies and remove any deficiencies caused by the existence of sin in the world (Philippians 3:21). We will certainly be recognizable to one another.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 speaks of the Lord gathering together his followers, never to be separated again.
I've read that Scripture indicates we will know our loved ones in heaven. This is a great comfort to me. Then I read where someone said they saw verses that indicated we will not know our loved ones in heaven. Do you know what verses they could be referring to?
I do not know which Bible verses those people may be referencing. The section of Scripture that people often cite to indicate that we will know our loved ones in heaven is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. That part of the Bible describes Jesus returning to this world visibly on the Last Day with those who died in the faith and Christians on earth meeting them in the air.
Others point to the account of Jesus’ transfiguration, where Peter, James and John knew Moses and Elijah.
In heaven, is the soul of the believer who dies before Judgment Day conscious of the joys of heaven or is the soul asleep in heaven, protected by God, but unconscious of the joys of heaven that we will eventually enjoy when our souls are reunited with our body (glorified body) after Judgment Day?
The Bible provides little specific information regarding what souls in heaven or hell are experiencing prior to the Last Day.
The information we do have points to the souls of believers enjoying the perfection and glory of heaven, while the souls of unbelievers are experiencing the horror and torments of hell (Luke 16:19-31).
Matthew 22:32 speaks of believers living with God in heaven. Luke 23:43 states that the penitent thief would be with Jesus in Paradise when he died. 1 Peter 3:19-20 describes unbelievers in hell who witnessed Jesus’ descent into hell. Revelation 6:9-10 provides an account of believers in heaven conversing with the Lord.
All this says that people who have died—and their souls have gone to heaven or hell—are very much aware of their existence.
When death takes place, body and soul separate. Any biblical references to sleep pertain to the body, which is motionless.
If I die after my husband and when we are reunited in heaven, will we know each other as not only God's children, but as husband and wife? I have been a WELS member all my life and have received conflicting answers. As we mourn the loss of a loved one, we find comfort in being reunited with them in heaven. For some, part of the comfort here on earth is knowing I will see my "husband" again. Would appreciate guidance on this issue. Thank you.
The Bible clearly teaches that marriage is an earthly institution only (Matthew 22:23-33). There is no Bible passage that states specifically that a Christian in heaven will recognize another person as having been his or her spouse on earth.
What is clear is that on the Last Day Jesus will gather together his followers, and they will be together forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This means that we will be together with Christians who were our earthly relatives, including our spouses. What specific knowledge we might have about them awaits us.
I know that when you go to heaven you are no longer married. However, once you are in heaven, does that mean that you will no longer have the desire for a relationship with someone that you might have had feelings for while on earth?
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes Jesus returning visibly to this world with those who died in the faith and then gathering them together with his followers who are alive on the earth. From that moment on, Christians “will be with the Lord forever” (verse 17). Other parts of Scripture provide general information about the unending life we will share with God and other Christians, but specifics are lacking.
What can be said with certainty is that in eternity our love for others will be perfect and God will be the object of our greatest love (as is to be the case now, according to the First Commandment). We will enjoy perfect relationships with one another. We will not fully comprehend what this amounts to until the Lord gathers the Church to himself.
Anticipating these relationships is another reason why the Church responds to Jesus’ declaration that he is “coming soon” with “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
Allow me to pass along excerpts of an article I worked up a few years ago for Forward in Christ. The article addressed your question.
“Your question provides the opportunity to marvel at the gracious love of God Christians enjoy in equal measure and in unique ways.
“…Our works do not contribute in any way to our salvation (Titus 3:5,6). The salvation we enjoy is God’s doing.
“More than that, the salvation you and I enjoy is what all Christians possess. The book of Revelation illustrates that well. In one vision, the apostle John describes Christians who had been killed for their faith being given ‘a white robe’ (6:11). The garment represents the robe of righteousness Jesus won and which people “wear” through faith in him. Each of those martyrs received a white robe. Some did not receive half a robe; others, two robes. All enjoyed salvation equally. Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) also teaches that God’s children equally enjoy his salvation.
“While all Christians enjoy the same gift of salvation, Scripture speaks of God customizing his gracious blessings.
“Rather than speaking of levels of heaven (as the Mormons do), we understand Bible passages like 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 to address the subject of ‘degrees of glory.’ That expression describes the individual blessings God will graciously bestow on his followers in connection with their faithful earthly lives. We will have to wait to see what that specifically means.
“What it means now is that we do not serve the Lord with the idea of getting something from him in the future…Such an attitude can easily plague Christians.
“I once had a number of conversations with a person who was interested in joining the church I served. The person’s profession of faith and our church’s statement of belief matched until she brought up ‘once saved, always saved.’ In spite of citing Bible passages that speak of people falling from faith (for example, Matthew 13:20,21; 1 Timothy 1:19), she regarded apostasy as an impossibility. Hypothetically conceding to her position, I asked what reason she had to attend worship services in church. Her answer made everything clear: ‘To get more jewels in my crown.’
“Now I got it. Her stated motive for doing God’s will was to get something in return. That is an attitude we need to reject. Any way that God chooses to bless our Spirit-driven lives of love (Philippians 2:13) is grace. Pure grace.”
My husband died about 16 months ago at the age of 82. He had a twin sister who only lived two days. She was baptized. When his soul got to heaven, could he meet the soul of his twin sister? Would she still be a baby? At the time of the resurrection, will she be resurrected as a two-day-old baby? In answer to a similar question a number of years ago in a Bible class, the WELS pastor indicated the possibility of a baby who dies being in heaven as a healthy young adult and a person who dies at an advanced age being in heaven as in their prime of life years. Thank you.
Such a reunion that you asked about will certainly take place. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes the Lord gathering together those Christians who died and those Christians who are alive on the earth at the time of his visible return on the Last Day. When the Lord gathers together his Church, this truth remains: “And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The Bible does not address the subject of resurrected bodies of Christians as to their appearance in earthly age. The Bible does teach this: “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). What was said in that Bible class is certainly possible with a God who can do all things.
While we may presently lack answers to some of our specific questions about heaven, the Bible gives us enough information that we can “encourage one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). And so, receive my encouragement to continue looking forward to the time when God’s people will enjoy a perfect and glorious life with God—forever.