The general judgement of man will be a criminal proceeding which will include a sentencing phase. Also unique to the proceeding will be the civil element of reward for pain and suffering, and the probate element of granting of entitlement to inheritance. For the criminal element, the acquitted has his penalty satisfied by a scapegoat. The scapegoat, who is Christ, is rewarded for his obedient pain and suffering, and the acquitted are granted their entitled inheritance. Christ, who is the judge and king, also has authority as the word of God to make the audible proclamation, “Come, you blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”(Matt 25:34) Our imaginations can run wild when we try to picture what this ushering in will be like.
God has revealed little about Heaven, primarily because the supernatural aspect of heaven cannot even be processed by our earthly minds. We literally cannot imagine Heavenly things. Paul confirms this when he counsels, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,”(1Cor. 2:9) a quote from Isaiah. Paul goes on in the same verse, “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” This does not mean that God has given some special revelation to certain people about Heaven. What he is intending is that a regenerated mind and soul can believe in what God has revealed already and an unregenerate spirit cannot believe. Understanding this fact, what is it God has revealed about heaven. The visions and dreams that were had by those whom God did reveal heaven too nearly killed them. God knows that our minds cannot tolerate the glory of his presence. Therefore, he reserves the specific details for himself until, in our resurrected condition, we have the power to endure them. That is why it is counterproductive to God’s providence to speculate beyond scripture. At the same time, we are instructed to think on these heavenly things, because that is where Christ is. A very Godly and zealous man of God once recommended a book to me that was entirely written to explain what heaven would look like, where it is and other details. Although, his intentions were good, I declined his offer for one simple reason. There could be nothing in the book that the author could “reveal” about heaven that could glorify God and be for my good that God has not already revealed.
There are aspects of Heaven that God has seen fit for us to know. Its location is not one of these. Where heaven is has probably been debated since the garden. Humans are limited by time and space and the concept of alternate dimensions falls often in the category of science fiction. Literalists of scripture often try to put Heaven in a specific geographical location on the planet we know now. Others estimate that Heaven will simply be a renewal of the earth. Regardless of your position, all God has confirmed is that it will be a better place.
God speaks of mansions or dwellings. We should be careful when we visualize these habitats, because what man requires for comfortable protection from the elements and what is outside will be quite different in a perfect world. Our houses are constructed to keep in and keep out. What need will we have for keeping anything out? (ex. heat, cold, criminals, unwanted guests) What need would we have of keeping anything in? (ex. heat, cold, horded items, the errant toddler or teenager) There will be no need for individuality in style, no one to impress, and we could go on and on.
There will be no need for church buildings and ornate sanctuaries for worship. We fail to recognize how God desires to be worshipped when we still place so much emphasis on buildings. Remember, God allowed the Jewish temple to be destroyed. The temple was only a shadow of Heaven where Christ dwells. There is no need now for a rebuilding of a temple, whether for worship now, nor for a second coming, nor will there be one in heaven. Only because of convenience, do we need a building now. God will fill Heaven and it will serve as the gathering place eternally. There will be no restriction on the time and length of worship services. Our attention span will be unlimited and our distractions will be removed. In a sense, every day will be Sunday. In fact, the concept of day and night will be erased because time will not exist.
Do you see why God tells us so little about Heaven? We can’t even process what he has told us. We have to take all the good things we know about this world and try to magnify them infinitely to even begin to imagine what Heaven will be.
The inhabitants of Heaven will be the society of the saints, the church, from all of history. From Adam to Abraham to the apostles and martyrs, all will be there. The heavenly creatures, whatever they are, will be our co-inhabitants. This will be a perfectly happy civilization. Complete unity of purpose will allow for fellowship beyond our dreams. We currently are unable to have sinless fellowship. Sometimes going to a church gathering can be daunting. There is always some issue that causes division. Sinful judgment and gossip can be disguised as prayer chains. Bible studies turn into political complaint sessions. Core groups turn into change the church movements. People get mad and leave to go to other churches or stay home and start their own. Not so with this heavenly church.
Most importantly, Christ will be there in all his glory. We will see him as he is. However, we probably will have to take a moment to grasp that he will not look anything like what we have in our minds now. When we make likenesses of Jesus, we are creating images of God. The pictures we have all been exposed to in Sunday school material, stickers on cars, even bearded men hanging on crosses in churchyards, are what we are warned against in the second commandment. These images force us to visibly worship a figment of our imagination. We are to worship the glorified Christ, and we are not to do so with visible images because no man has ever seen him. We are hard pressed to think of Jesus without seeing in our mind’s eye one of the images that we have been polluted by. No, we will only recognize him by the glory that surrounds him there. We will no longer require the filter to protect us from his glory and holiness. His sinless perfection will no longer offend us. Have you ever been offended by someone’s righteousness? Has someone else’s zeal for evangelism or apparent goodness ever made you the least bit put off by them? That is just a small example of how Christ’s holiness would affect us now. Our own sin makes it impossible to look at Christ now for our consciences would kill us. We will be able to see him in Heaven without the need for a conscience, for we will be like him, that is Holy.
I suppose this is enough for you to chew on. This topic of Heaven as an eternal state is meant for us to look forward to. Earthly existence and its faulty perception should make us yearn for the consummation of our eternal state. Boston ends his treatise on the Eternal State with the terrors of Hell. For the believer, we should be confident that this terror is not meant for us. However there is the need for us to occasionally think about it to increase or zeal for evangelism.