Now, when I say that there are probably a lot of things that rush into your mind. Maybe the first thing that comes to mind are the angels, strumming their harps and singing songs. Maybe the first thing you think of are the streets of gold and the giant mansions. Maybe the first thing that pops into your brain are clouds and bright lights.
None of those are Heaven. In the American church, we, unfortunately, have some pretty warped views on what heaven is, where it is, how it works, its purpose, etc. Heaven has been such a part of pop culture that many have forgotten what the Bible says about heaven. I want to address these issues head on and give you some concrete, biblical, and hopefully helpful answers to some of the biggest misconceptions about heaven.
#1: Heaven is going to be boring.
Randy Alcorn in an article entitled “Questions and Answers about Heaven” records a conversation with a pastor that went like this:
“I heard a pastor make a startling confession: ‘Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die.’
I tried not to show my shock as I asked him, ‘Why?’
‘I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp…it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.’”
What? This pastor obviously had a wrong understanding of heaven. Heaven is going to be far from boring.
First off, if you think harps and clouds are all that Heaven is about, think again! Heaven is the place that Jesus was talking about when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus is right now, prepping a place for us, the church, as his bride. If Heaven is boring, then that means Jesus did an inadequate job at preparing a place for us. Jesus obviously, because He is God and knows His creation inside and out, is undoubtedly the master at preparing for our reunion with Him.
Second, if you think you’ll be bored in Heaven because there’s nothing to do, you’re dead wrong. You’re going to see God Almighty and be able to praise Him indefinitely! If that doesn’t appeal to you, then it might be time to get a heart check. Heaven is for praising our Creator, our Master, our Savior, and our Redeemer. That won’t get boring anytime fast.
#2: Heaven is where we get to see all of our loved ones.
Oh. My. Word. This is one I hear all the time. We have completely forgotten what Heaven is about. If you think heaven is about a reunion with loved ones, you’re thinking too small. As the American church, we’ve forgotten the purpose of Heaven (myself included sometimes).
Let me put Heaven in context. We always talk about the church being the bride of Christ, but what does that mean? In Jewish culture, there were two main parts to the betrothal process. The first step was to pay a dowry. This is essentially what Christ did for us on the cross. He paid the bride’s price. The second step is for the man to go and build a home for his bride. This could take days, weeks, months, years…who knows how long. As soon as the house was built the man came to get his bride. The man could, in theory, come to get her in the middle of the night! She had no clue when he was coming, but lived every day with the hope that he was building a home for them and would come and get her soon.
That’s what Heaven is: home. The place where we, the bride, can finally be united with the groom, Christ. Heaven is not about our fellow brothers and sisters that are going to be there. It’s about being finally wed with Christ and praising Him and dwelling with Him. It’s a return to the fellowship that we had in the Garden of Eden, the fellowship we messed up. I touched on this earlier, but now I’ll say it plainly: Heaven is for praising God. (In fact, that’s what all of human history is about: praising God.) Heaven is not about you; it’s all about Him.
#3: People can go to heaven and come back.
And here’s where I’m going to get myself into trouble. There are going to be lots of people that will disagree with me on this one. In recent times, there have been several books written about people who have gone to Heaven in “out of body” experiences. Some of my “favorite” books include 90 Minutes in Heaven, My Time in Heaven, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, and the book that’s been given the most media attention recently Heaven is For Real. If you’ve not read any of these books, let me give you a rundown of this last one, Heaven is For Real. Boy gets sick. Boy is in coma. Boy wakes up. Boy has been to Heaven and knows stuff he shouldn’t know. Most of the books written about this topic follow a similar storyline. But are there any biblical examples of this? Are there any accounts of people going to Heaven and coming back? One. Let’s look at it:
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 says, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”
The temptation is to look at verses 2 and 3 and skip verse 4. Paul clearly says that this man went to Heaven and came back, but that the things he saw and heard could not be told and that no man could utter them. Paul then moves away from this topic and we don’t hear about it again. Paul didn’t speak about it. He didn’t write any books. He didn’t publicize it. Going to Heaven and coming back shut Paul up like a clam.
Some of the only other people to have been to Heaven in some other form (and even then we’re talking about visions) were the Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation, and Isaiah, the writer of Isaiah. Isaiah fell flat on his face and assumed that he was going to die. John said that there were some things he couldn’t write. They didn’t see God as a “cuddle buddy” or some big “sugar daddy in the sky”; coming face to face with God blew their minds and rocked their worlds. These men understood the gravity of what they witnessed and their writings are a part of the Bible, not a New York Times Bestseller.
I think you can see where I’m going with this. Paul, the only man to have done this, didn’t talk about his experience and John and Isaiah understood that this wasn’t something to mess around with. Here’s my point: People can’t go to Heaven and come back. That’s a bunch of heresy (which is theologian speak for Bologna). The people we see that came in contact with heaven had radically different responses than the writers of these books.
Well, there you have it. Three major misconceptions about heaven debunked. So to recap:
1. Heaven is going to be a blast.
2. Heaven is for worshipping and abiding with God.
3. Heaven is not for vacationing.
There are dozens of other misconceptions that I didn’t write on, but here are some resources that talk about some of them.
Truth in Grace,