The Left Behind
When you think about heaven, what do you visualize? Is it a hazy realm of clouds and bright light? Or is it something more concrete than that?
I think one reason we struggle to comprehend heaven is because our culture has painted it in such intangible terms. But that’s not what the Bible says about heaven.
According to Scripture, heaven is a real, physical place—the ultimate paradise. We will be able to touch and feel it. Our senses will be heightened in our new bodies, and we will experience heaven with every one of our senses.
Yes, this place will be beyond description and far outside our current ability to comprehend. But it will be real and it will be physical. It’s far more than just the soft, pastel-colored cloud landscape of popular culture.
Let’s look at how the Bible describes heaven. The apostle John records this description. I hope you’ll read it in full:
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.” 10 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, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 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: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the [e]names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 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. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 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. 24 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. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27 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.
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
In this passage, when John writes about the “bride” and the “wife,” he means believers. We are the bride of Christ, and we will become His wife. He gives us specific details:
Our new city will be almost 1,400 miles long, wide, and tall, like a cube. (An architect could design a lot of mansions to fit in that amount of space.)
There will be twelve gates, three on each side, and they will be made of pearl.
On each gate will be inscribed the name of one of Israel’s patriarchs.
The city will also contain twelve foundations with the names of the twelve disciples written on them.
There are two possible ways to explain these foundations. One is that there will be twelve foundations underneath the 1,380-mile-high wall. Another possibility is there are twelve stories with a foundation at each level. Honestly, I don’t know which interpretation is correct. If there were twelve stories in that structure, each one would be more than 100 miles above the next.
So if the city is twelve levels high and you lived on one of them, you might live on the Peter level near the Judah gate. Or you might live on the Andrew level by the Ruben gate.
No matter where you live in this city, it will be beautiful, beyond human description, and eternal. You will move in but never have to move out. (Currently, the average American moves every four years, even though most people hate moving.) In the heavenly city, you will never have to move again.
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In today’s real estate market, builders have certain set plans to build houses in new subdivisions. If you are shopping for a home in one of these areas, you probably have limited choices of models. Sometimes these are called “cookie cutter” homes or “McMansions.”
I do not believe this is the way Jesus is preparing our mansions. God didn’t use a cookie cutter to make people, and He’s not going to use one to make our mansions either. You won’t have to worry that your house will look exactly like your neighbors’ house. It is going to be a house that looks like you, designed for you.
In fact, I believe you are going to walk into your house in heaven, and your jaw will drop. You will look around and think: This is me! It won’t be your “dream home.” No, it will be a “beyond-your-wildest-dreams home.” Every detail of your new house will fit your personality exactly.
This mansion is only part of the reward for giving yourself to Jesus and living for Him. Every believer will have one.
Here on earth, many people struggle with the financial cost of a house, but in heaven there’s no struggle. There will be no payments, no upkeep, no insurance, no taxes, no need for a security system or pest control, and no utilities. You won’t need to mow the yard or repair the fence. Everything in your house will be composed of precious stones, gold, and pearls. It will be stunningly gorgeous with colors and textures no one on earth has ever seen before.
You won’t have utilities to worry about, either, because your power source is Jesus Himself:
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.—Revelation 21:23
How much would you have to love someone to buy them a house, pay all the bills, and expect nothing in return? Most of us would only do it for our spouses. Jesus will do it for us because we are His Bride.
It took God six days to create the earth, but Jesus has been in heaven for more than 2,000 years preparing a place for you. Imagine how amazing it must be. He explicitly told the disciples, “I’m leaving and going to My Father’s house. There are many mansions there. I’m going to prepare a place for you. As surely as I leave, I’ll come back and get you so you can be with Me forever.” (See John 14:2-3.)
I don’t know how nice your house is here on earth, though I do hope it is a comfortable one. But I can tell you it’s going to feel like a rubbish heap compared to what the Lord is preparing for you.
Remember, Jesus said to lift up our heads and look up. In other words, don’t become so focused on earthly things that you forget about your Lord and the place He is preparing for you. Enjoy the blessings of earth, but don’t marry them. Save the wedding for Jesus. He is building your home in the Father’s house, and it is a real place.
But there’s more than just houses there. In the middle of our eternal home is the Tree of Life:
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.—Revelation 22:2
Remember, the original home for humanity was the Garden of Eden. Humanity was kicked out of that home because Adam and Eve chose to eat from the wrong tree (see Genesis 3). They could have chosen the right tree. They could have chosen eternal life.
The good news is God still has that tree, and He has planted it in the new Eden, our eternal home. We will eat of the Tree of Life, and death will be no more!
I hope this article gives you a little more to imagine when you think of your eternal future in the presence of Jesus. It’s far more than clouds and sunlight. In involves custom homes, foundations and gates. It includes a gorgeous tree. It involves a place prepared just for you. And it will be filled with the shining glory of God.
Look up, because this incredible future is drawing near.
I have in my library only two books about heaven, both written by reputable evangelicals. Both books are so dull I would not want to visit their version of heaven. On top of this big turn-off from a previous generation concerning the next life, most of the churches I know about today represent Jesus as a dull and boring dude from a forgotten page of irrelevant history. This fake Jesus is not someone I would want to know--even casually!
But my experience in knowing the real Jesus for 60+ years now convinces me that the real Jesus is worth forsaking everything in this mortal life, to follow.
On top of all this insult, newsletter after newsletter often from prophecy experts and other soothsayers--every day--reminds me daily of the terrible days soon to come on our doomed planet. I know all this dark stuff and I have read the entire Bible more than once.
I thought the message of Jesus was supposed to be Good News, not bad?
Here are some very incomplete notes drawn from my "sanctified imagination," on what I think heaven might really be like. I have tried not to be dogmatic in these notes. I endeavor not to say anything I can't support from the Bible. They are all topics I've been writing about constantly for two years. At age 91, I expect to be called home to heaven any day now.
I believe the promised consummation of all of history is about to unfold in history--affecting everyone and everything radically, ready or not. All who know Jesus WILL be included in the Rapture--ready or not. The Return of Jesus for His church won't happen until all the Elect of the Church have been brought in. If the Rapture had happened sooner, say in 1910, you and I would have missed out. When Jesus does come for His Bride, that event will be irresistible for all the chosen. (See The Book of Life, and please read the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17).
"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)
I find in daily experience that the real Jesus was not lying when He said He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10). I answer most of my email personally and I always learn from my fellow pilgrims who see things differently.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
All residents of New Jerusalem must personally know the King. Each citizen-candidate must enter through the narrow gate which leads to the Judgment Seat of Christ reviewing antechamber. Those entering must be wearing a new body. (Forsaking all they have all fled to Jesus.)
No briefcases, smart phones, computers, suitcases, purses are allowed in heaven. Each citizen's bank account and legacy was sent on ahead. All records from earth have, in fact, been sent on ahead and are in file. Not to worry, though there are no telephones in heaven, communication there is way better than the best technology downstairs. Wise applicants will have been laying all treasures ahead as Jesus suggested.
“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.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Present-day Compromised Christians may experience loss at the Pearly Gates. This is clear from the teachings of Jesus:
“For we are God’s fellow workers (synergos); you are God’s field, you are God’s building (oikodomē) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear (phaneros); for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed (apokalyptō)by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:9ff)
Obviously if anyone got into heaven carrying bitterness, arrogance, pride, lust, jealousy, selfish ambition--the pristine Gardens of Paradise would quickly be defiled! Everyone who will be living in heaven will find his fellow citizens honest, trustworthy, winsome and worth knowing. No boring people will feel at home there.
“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.” (John 14:1-4)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7)
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life,
which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. |
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall be no more curse,
but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
A Psalm of David.
The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
2 For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah
“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
“And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:1-10)
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 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... And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.“ (Hebrews 11:8-10, 39-40)
Jesus Plain and Simple
A Wedding Invitation from Jesus
The Wedding Psalm 45
Entering God's Rest
The Connected People
Software not Hardware
If the Rapture Happened Today
A City in Space
New Bodies for Old?
A Joint in Time and History
The Management of the Universe
The Left Hand of God
The Revirginized Bride
The Seven Churches in New Jerusalem
The Wife of Jehovah, The Bride of Christ
The Left Behind
The Eightfold Way to Knowing God Little Children
A Glorious Church
City Living in New Jerusalem
The 144k (The one hundred forty four thousand) Near Death Experiences
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
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