The video above was created by The Bible Project. Used here by permission with thanks.
Heaven is beyond our understanding, which is limited to space and time as we know them. We know that heaven is where God is, 1 Peter 3:22 and that those who belong to Jesus will be with him when they die. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 However, the Bible talks more about heaven coming to earth than us going to heaven. It talks of the world restored to his good design and authority.
The world has been corrupted by our sin and its effects, but that doesn’t change the perfection of God’s original design. God’s rescue plan is not to save us from his creation, but from the evil that grips it. Romans 8:19-23 What is good, perfect and wonderful will be restored. We will delight in creation as it should be. Heaven and earth will become one as God superimposes his perfect, eternal life over his original good creation – restoring and reconciling heaven to earth, himself to humanity.
In this marriage of heaven and earth, we will be restored to wonderful relationship with God. Everything will be made right, whole, and under God’s perfect rule. Ephesians 1:10 | Ephesians 1:21 The results of our rebellion – like sickness, shame, oppression, fear, conflict and poverty – will be banished. Sin and evil will be excluded, and all of their effects removed. Descriptions of this life found in the Bible show us that it will be a place of lavish abundance, blessing, harmony and joy. Isaiah 65:1-25
Although there is a lot we don’t know about the destiny of people who refuse to accept God’s offer of love, we do know that in the end, they will be eternally separated from God. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 And to be completely cut off from the source of life and everything good can only lead to more of the results of rejecting God’s goodness, like pain, fear, suffering and emptiness.
For God to fulfil his promises to give us a wonderful, safe, eternal life, he must exclude and destroy all that would threaten that life. Anybody who demands to dictate their own way of living instead of God’s way is in opposition to the good life God is preparing for us. No matter how good we think we are, he is God – we aren’t. God is perfect, and all of his ways are right. In his kingdom, it will be his way or no way. And while that may sound harsh, that is what makes the hope of God’s kingdom so good. The horror we’ve seen resulting from the human way throughout our history shows us that it’s not our own ways we need, but God’s.
The Bible’s hints at the suffering caused by rejecting God are hard to read. Sometimes it is referred to as eternal punishment, Matthew 25:31-46 everlasting destruction, 2 Thessalonians 1:9 a fiery furnace, a place where there is grinding or striking together of teeth, Matthew 13:41-42 gloom or blackest darkness, 2 Peter 2:17 a lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death, Revelation 21:8 being shut out from the presence of the Lord 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and being excluded. Revelation 22:14-15
The Bible doesn’t include a travel guide to hell. Most people interpret the Bible's words poetically, because calling something a 'fiery furnace' as well as 'blackest gloom' makes more sense symbolically. We can’t know exactly what it’s like, but the fierce imagery we’re given shows us that we don’t want to find out. Hell was never meant to be the destination for humans. It was created for the devil and his demons. Matthew 25:41 Sin, suffering and separation are not what God wants for us.
God loves us. He’s paid a high price to buy our freedom from that fate. He’s patiently waited to take his kingdom because he wanted to give us time to choose to be part of his world, rather than be part of the rebellion that will be abolished. 2 Peter 3:15
Think about how you would describe the concept of vision to someone who has never been able to see. Maybe you would say that it’s like something else. But no matter how good your description is, the person you’re telling will only understand in a limited sense. They would have no frame of reference. That might be what it’s like for us trying to understand what’s beyond the limits of space and time. We have vague ideas, but really with our current ability to comprehend, it’s a complete mystery.
Maybe God hasn’t given us travel guides to heaven and hell or whatever else is beyond this world because they are not what he wants us to focus on. He wants us to choose him because we love him, not just to mitigate risk.
The question is, do you want to move in the direction of life, love, abundance, and everything that is good? Or do you want to stay in the trajectory of death, exclusion, pain and loss? Jesus stands at the door of your heart, waiting and hoping for you to choose him.
As it says in the Bible, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 We know that this future is so wonderful that God longs for us to join him – so much that he paid for it with the life of Jesus.
We also know that there will be a final judgement in which those people who have rejected God (and in doing so, all that is good) will find themselves separated from him – and whatever way it plays out, it will be a painfully bitter loss of the joy they could have had, the life that Jesus invited them into. Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus left his throne in heaven and lived among us to preach and demonstrate the message that the kingdom of heaven (the reign of God) is near. In fact, it is already partly here in every person who surrenders to the rule of God in their lives. As we give ourselves to him, he transforms us to be like him, and Jesus’ kingship is given a place on earth.
When Jesus healed people, made dead people live again, released people from demonic bondage and did great miracles, he gave us a glimpse into the kind of future we will have in God’s kingdom. He showed that we will be free: not limited by sickness and death or the insurmountable obstacles we face now. And he told us to welcome his kingdom on earth, giving us the authority to do what he did – right here and now, as we are, by the power of his Spirit living in us. Matthew 6:10 | John 14:12-17 | Matthew 10:8
But the fullness of the kingdom of heaven is yet to come. Romans 8:19-25 | 2 Peter 3:13 Everything Jesus did and everything the Holy Spirit has done through his followers since points forward to the time when the kingdom of heaven will reign on earth – when Jesus takes his place as king over all, forever. We have been promised that one day Jesus will be revealed and will appear to us so awesomely that no one could deny that he is God. Matthew 24:30-31 | Revelation 1:7 In that moment, all of humanity – living and dead – will be transformed, given new immortal bodies. 1 Corinthians 15:42-57
And Jesus, having taken absolute rule over his kingdom, will judge us all with infinite love: in perfect justice and perfect mercy. 2 Corinthians 5:10 | 2 Timothy 4:1 | John 5:21-30 Those who belong to Jesus, who give themselves to his good rule and have received his payment for their sin, will become part of God’s kingdom of heaven. Those who reject Jesus and refuse to submit to God’s way will have no place in his kingdom. Romans 2:3-16
As well as being given a new body, those who enter his kingdom will be given a new purpose and role. They will reign and rule with him forever. Revelation 22:3-5 You can read more about the kingdom of heaven below.