In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of American adults claimed to believe in Heaven. While that number is significantly less than the 94 percent who said they believed in Heaven a couple decades ago, it is still a significant majority of the U.S. population.
Only 62 percent of the same people surveyed believed in Hell. Which means that around 10 percent of the same people who believe in Heaven—the place of eternal joy— do not believe in Hell—the place of eternal judgment.
We know from history that all civilizations have an innate understanding of some sort of afterlife, and that life does not end when we die here on earth. Every anthropological study conducted around the globe, from Native Americans, to Polynesians, to Romans, to African tribes— they all have an eschatological worldview—a theological belief about life after death.
Solomon explains to us that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
The apostle Paul makes clear that those who reject the afterlife are suppressing the truth of their Creator God (Romans 1:18) and will face judgment for their rejection.
The question is not, “Do people believe in the afterlife?” but “Where will people spend eternity after they die?”
Does the thought of eternal life fill you with joy or fear? Do you wait eagerly for life after death, or do you fear your eternal destiny?
The answers to these questions provide the unique distinction of our trust in God’s Word. We have the promises of Jesus Christ, and we know where we will go after we die. According to the Lord’s personal assurances, we can rejoice with confidence that our eternal destination is secured through our faith in Him.
Heaven is real; and if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, Heaven is for you!
WHEN WILL WE EXPERIENCE HEAVEN?
For the believer, Heaven is equal to the Father’s House. It happens to be our eternal destination and we will arrive there either upon our death, or the Lord’s return to rapture the redeemed, prior to the Tribulation.
We know believers go to Heaven when they die because Jesus promised that to one of the two criminals hanging with Him on the cross. When one of the thieves professed faith in Jesus, He replied to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
From that day to this one, every believer who dies goes to be in Paradise (Heaven) with Jesus, communing with Him and awaiting the coming of His final kingdom.
But a day is coming in the future when Jesus will rapture His church to Himself before starting the tribulation. Every believer on earth will be taken out of earth and brought into Heaven and that event will trigger the start of the seven-year Tribulation for those unsaved people remaining on earth.
You may have been erroneously taught that the rapture is not a real event, or that the rapture takes place midway through, or at the end of the 7-year Tribulation period. Both of these interpretations misinterpret God’s plan for His church.
First, the church is not mentioned in any account of the Tribulation period, from chapters 4-19 of Revelation. Because of that, we understand that the church will not be part of the Tribulation—a time of incredible wrath unleashed by God on humanity.
Second, God has clearly promised His church that we will not experience His wrath. The apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). The Apostle John records this promise from the Lord to the believing church, “because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. Behold I am coming soon” (Revelation 3:10).
The believer can rest assured that we will spend these seven years with Him in Heaven, in the Father’s House.
WHAT WILL HEAVEN BE LIKE?
Heaven is also described as a beautiful city, sometimes called, “The New Jerusalem.” This city will be a place of unimaginable wealth, prosperity, and beauty, far surpassing anything we have experienced or seen before.
Keep in mind that when John describes Heaven, he doesn’t focus on streets of gold, luxurious gardens, or towering pillars. He writes about the centerpiece of Heaven—our Savior, seated on His magnificent throne.
“At once, I was in the Sprit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne” (Revelation 4:2). From this point, John actually struggles to describe the glory and majesty he was allowed to witness.
For instance, John attempts to describe the light emanating from the throne, but his comparison to ornate jewels on earth falls short of adequately portraying the brilliant radiance he sees. This is the same radiance that caused Moses’ face to shine, forcing him to wear a veil for some time (Exodus 34:29-33).
Beloved, the highlight of Heaven will not be our glorified body, although that will be a blessing! It will not be our reunion with friends and family, although those will be meaningful! It will not be the absence of sin, although that will be liberating!
The highlight of Heaven will be the presence of our God—a presence we will finally be able to see with our own eyes and worship with our voices from that moment into eternity.