Heaven is a real place. Heaven is a good place. The Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man [into your imagination] the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9. Heaven is an indescribable place.
Heaven will be a school. We are going to graduate from the school of Christ down here and then go on to a higher school in which the Lord Himself will be our teacher. The central location of this future school is the New Jerusalem.
Revelation 21 tells us heaven is a place where there is no more death or suffering or pain, no more sorrow or crying. There all tears will be wiped away. There will be no more funerals, and we will never again have to visit a hospital. We are told in Isaiah 60:21 that in heaven everyone will be righteous, and will inherit the land forever. Revelation 21:3 tells us that God Himself will be with us and will live with us. Revelation 22:4 says we will see His face. Revelation 22:1, 2 tell us that there is a river of water in this city called the river of life. On this river there is a tree of life with two trunks—one on each side of the river—coming together at the top as one tree, and it bears fruit every month.
First Corinthians 13 says that we will know as we are known and that we will again see the people we knew who died in Christ. God has a wonderful reunion planned for His children in heaven.
In heaven we will once again live the Eden life, the life in garden and field. “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” Isaiah 65:21. Heaven is a place where we will build homes and plant vineyards.
Paul says that in heaven God will do for us exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think, and forever God’s gifts will be given to His children. What we are in character and holy service here and now is a sure foreshadowing of what we shall be in heaven.
Speaking to the Christians of the Philippian church, Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20. As a baptized member of the body of Christ, your name is written down in the book of life. You are a citizen of heaven and heaven is your future home.
Heaven has a very large population, the great majority of which are angels. Angels all have very important jobs. Most of them, as guardian angels, look after each and every person in the world. It doesn’t matter how much trouble and trial Satan and his host of evil angels may bring into our lives, our guardian angels are always there to protect and help. God will even dispatch an army of angels if that is what is needed to help us at any time. “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7.
Since the day we were born, our guardian angels have been by our sides and they will remain there even after death. Mrs. White tells us that our guardian angel will mark our resting places and protect them until Jesus comes. What loving care God has for His children! “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:10–12
Angels are not the only citizens of heaven actually in heaven today. Enoch, Elijah, Moses and those who were resurrected when Jesus rose from the grave (Mathew 27:52, 53) are all in heaven right now. And, of course, God is there (Ecclesiastes 5:2) and Jesus, too. Remember what Jesus told His troubled disciples before He left, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions [permanent dwellings]; 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.” John 14:1–3. That has been the Christian’s hope ever since Jesus left. Jesus is coming back and when He does, He will take all of His children to heaven where they will live with Him.
Paul was talking about this in Hebrews 12:22, 24, first part, when he said, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, … to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” If you have been baptized, your citizenship is in heaven right now, and if you are saved, then one day you will become a physical inhabitant of heaven.
Let’s look at the characteristics of the heavenly citizen:
- As heavenly citizens, we will associate every day with angels, so it is important that we be like them in character. “Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word.” Psalm 103:20. Angels obey God’s word. They listen to what God says and they do what He says to do. So if we are to be fellow citizens with angels, we will obey God’s word and do whatever He says to do. In heaven, God’s will is always done. Since the expulsion of Satan and his angels, not one angel in heaven ever says, “I don’t think I want to do what the Lord wants me to do today.” So if we are to be citizens of heaven and live with the angels, we, too, must have a character that will always do God’s will.
Many scriptures in the Bible—James 1:22–25, Romans 15:18, Romans 1:5, 1 Peter 1:13–15, Isaiah 1:19 are a few—tell us that we must have this kind of character as we are living here today, if we expect to be ready to live in heaven. People all over the world question what God says. It all started in the Garden of Eden and has continued for 6,000 years. But in heaven, no one questions what God says. The only ones who ever did were cast out.
- If we want to be fellow citizens with the angels of God in heaven, we must make a public confession of Jesus Christ and become His disciples in this world. “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32, 33. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38. “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8, 9. We cannot keep our love for God and obedience to His law a secret. We cannot keep from the world what He has done for us and is waiting to do for them. We accomplish this, in part, by being baptized. Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
But there is more. In The Desire of Ages, 357, Ellen White lists 13 ways in which people deny Jesus Christ in their lives. This number is significant because 13 is the number of rebellion in the Bible. Reading this will be like a punch in the stomach because we will realize just how many times we have actually denied Christ without even knowing it. All 13 of these actions must be overcome and removed from our lives. We must confess all 13 and be forgiven if we have any expectation of being in the kingdom of heaven.
“He who would confess Christ must have Christ abiding in him. He cannot communicate that which he has not received. The disciples might speak fluently on doctrines, they might repeat the words of Christ Himself; but unless they possessed Christlike meekness and love, they were not confessing Him. A spirit contrary to the spirit of Christ would deny Him, whatever the profession. Men may deny Christ by evilspeaking, by foolish talking, by words that are untruthful or unkind. They may deny Him by shunning life’s burdens, by the pursuit of sinful pleasure. They may deny Him by conforming to the world, by uncourteous behavior, by the love of their own opinions, by justifying self, by cherishing doubt, borrowing trouble, and dwelling in darkness. In all these ways they declare that Christ is not in them. And ‘whosoever shall deny Me before men,’ He says, ‘him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.’ ”
My dear friends, I’ve never read that paragraph but that I say, “Lord, help me. I want to be transformed in character so that Christ can confess me before the angels of heaven so that I can be taken to be a fellow citizen of the angels.”
- We must be holy if we are to be citizens of heaven. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” Matthew 25:31. “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ ” 1Peter 1:13–16. Paul says in Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue … holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” We must become holy for God has chosen us “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Ephesians 1:4
Holiness involves body, mind, and spirit, your soul, everything. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” “God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7. Quoting Leviticus, 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” But how can anyone as wretched as we human beings are, become holy?
God allows trials and troubles to come to His children and in this way, they become partakers of His holiness. “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:4–11.
Most people feel that the process of being made holy is too hard. They’d rather just be taken to heaven the way they are and changed when they get there. But God wants us to be in heaven and He knows the only way we can be is if we become partakers of His holiness. Only in this way will we ever be able to understand what holiness really is. Our troubles will differ from person to person, but the Lord is there to provide the help necessary to become overcomers.
A holy person will always be in harmony with and obedient to God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 7:12 that God’s law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. If the law is holy and we are holy people, then we will be in harmony with the law.
- If we are going to be a citizen of heaven, we must have the Enoch experience. “No unpleasant words are spoken in heaven. There no unkind thoughts are cherished; envy, evil surmising, hatred, and strife find no place there. Perfect harmony pervades the heavenly courts.
“Well does Satan know what heaven is, and what the influence of the angels is. His work is to bring into every family the cruel elements of self-will, harshness, selfishness. Thus he seeks to destroy the happiness of the family. He knows that the spirit governing in the home will be brought into the church.” The Upward Look, 163. Not one unpleasant word, throughout all eternity, will be spoken in heaven. To be ready to live forever in a place where nothing unpleasant is spoken, do you think we should be preparing how we speak now in our homes, at work, in church? The here and now is our practice ground where we learn either how to go to heaven or how to go to hell. How we act, what we say, how we think when no one is watching will tell the whole universe what our real character is like.
- In heaven everyone seeks the happiness of those around them. “In heaven none will think of self, nor seek their own pleasure; but all, from pure, genuine love, will seek the happiness of the heavenly beings around them. If we wish to enjoy heavenly society in the earth made new, we must be governed by heavenly principles here.” Counsels for the Church, 80
“Everything in heaven is noble and elevated. All seek the interest and happiness of others. No one devotes himself to looking out and caring for self. It is the chief joy of all holy beings to witness the joy and happiness of those around them.” Heaven, 143
“Angels are ever engaged in working for the happiness of others. This is their joy. That which selfish hearts would regard as humiliating service, ministering to those who are wretched and in every way inferior in character and rank, is the work of sinless angels. The spirit of Christ’s self-sacrificing love is the spirit that pervades heaven and is the very essence of its bliss. This is the spirit that Christ’s followers will possess.” Steps to Christ, 77
The spirit of self-sacrificing love—the spirit of Jesus—will be the essence of heaven. It was this spirit of self-sacrifice that led Jesus to say, “I cannot stay here. I cannot enjoy myself as the Majesty of heaven, as Ruler of the universe while My children are lost.” So He laid it all down and left it behind to become a man so that He could show us how to live, and then He sacrificed His life so that the penalty for sin was paid and we would have a way to become citizens of heaven.
We must study the life of Christ daily if we are to learn how to obtain this self-sacrificing spirit. And make no mistake, we must learn it and possess it if we are to share the home of the redeemed.
- In heaven everyone will keep the Sabbath. “ ‘It shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord.” Isaiah 66:23.
Every citizen of heaven will come together on God’s Sabbath day and worship Him who made heaven and earth, and who gave His life for us. As Seventh-day Adventists, every single part of our worship service is derived from Bible study so that we can know what God expects when we gather to worship Him. We sing as part of our worship service because the angels sing praises to God in heaven. If we are seeking to be citizens of heaven we, too, must be singing praises from the heart to our God. We must come with thanksgiving when we worship for all the things He has done for us and given to us—the very roof over our head, the food on the table, our job, our family. When was the last time you really took the time to thank Him for everything He has done?
Here on earth, we ask the Holy Spirit to come and speak to us, to lead and guide us in the way we must go if we are to be citizens of heaven. We say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:9), and if our hearts have been made holy, if we have the character of angels, if we have removed from our lives anything, everything, that would keep us from confessing Christ, then the Holy Spirit will speak to us.
But think of it, once we are in heaven, we will be able to hear for ourselves, directly from God Himself, what He has to say to us. We will be able to sit at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to tell us again the story of our redemption. The redeemed will never come to a worship service without being blessed. God loves to bless His people, and He wants to make us fellow citizens with the angels. He is trying to get us ready.
Here in this world when something good happens a man might say, “I’m in heaven.” This is a descriptive response to a delightful or blissful feeling that comes to him, but does not indicate that he has gone to a physical place.
In fact, once Satan, sinners, and sin have all been wiped away in this world and God has established His kingdom once and for all time on the purified new earth, earth will become heaven because heaven is where God is. It is a place where all is new and fresh, with an atmosphere that is glorious and perfect, where all the citizens of heaven, angel and saint alike, will raise their voices in eternal praise and thanksgiving to God. And the best thing we can know is that we can have heaven here, because we can have Jesus in our hearts while we look forward to living forever in this heavenly place with Him.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.