This post is one in a series of posts on a Bible study I am doing titled Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Dave McCleskey. The focus of this study is to get a Biblical view of what heaven is really like.
Continuing on in my study of what heaven is really like, today I read about what life will most likely be like in the present Heaven. If you haven’t read my earlier posts on this, the present Heaven is where our spirits will go after our physical death. It is not where we will spend eternity – Revelation 21:1 explains that a New Heaven and New Earth will be formed, and the present Heaven and earth will pass away. This future Heaven/Earth combo is where we will live forever. In the mean time, if we die before Christ returns to earth, our dead bodies will be buried and our spirits will go to dwell in the present Heaven with Christ.
So, what will it be like to live in the present Heaven while we await our bodily resurrection? Randy Alcorn discussed one key passage that he said gave him the most clues about what things will like in the present Heaven – Revelation 6:9-11:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
Alcorn lists these ideas about life in the present Heaven based off this passage (this is a shortened list – his list is much longer in the actual study).
- These people (the martyrs) who are in Heaven were the same ones killed for Christ on earth (during their life). This passage speaks as if there is a continuation of who we are on earth when we get to Heaven. Our identity stays the same.
- They appear to be “rational, communicative, and emotional” beings. Verse 10 says they raised their voices to call out – this shows that they wanted to get their point across with passion. (More on this later).
- They have a consciousness and understanding of what is going on, and they desire to understand more (they ask God a question in v. 10). They seem to know what is happening on earth even though they are not there.
- They still have “a deep concern for justice” – they know that their death was unjust, and they want God to bring retribution on their killers.
- They are possibly physical beings – they speak out like a physical being, and they are given white robes to wear, which would suggest that they have physical bodies (I still think it is possible that these “white robes” could be more than just pieces of clothing, and therefore it is possible that these people were still spirits and the robes were spiritual, too. But that’s just a counter-point I thought about…there’s no evidence one way or the other on this).
- There is still time in the present Heaven. The martyrs ask God “How long…?” showing that they understand that time has passed, and they are anxious for less time to pass between then and when God brings justice to their killers.
The 2 things that stood out to me from all this were that, while residing in the present Heaven, we will most likely still have memories of what our lives were like on earth, and that we will still have a full range of emotions (including sadness).
Memories of What Happened/Knowledge of What Is Happening On Earth
In the passage above from Revelation 6, the martyrs “clearly remember at least some of what happened on earth. If they remember their martyrdom, there’s no reason to assume they would forget other aspects of their earthly lives.” Alcorn goes on to say that “…we’ll all likely remember much more in Heaven than we do on Earth, and we will probably be able to see how God and His angels intervened on our behalf when we didn’t realize it.” And in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, Abraham tells the rich man that Lazarus is being comforted in Heaven because of the hard times he had while on earth. Alcorn wonders, “if we retain no memory of the bad things [that happen to us during our life], why would we need such comfort?”
In Luke 15:7 Jesus says “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” This suggests that people in heaven have knowledge about what happens on earth while they are in heaven. I don’t think it is undeniable proof – it’s possible that those rejoicing are God and the angels, but I tend to believe that everyone there will rejoice in this circumstance, and therefore everyone will know what’s going on.
Experiencing Emotions in Heaven
If we remember the bad things that happen to us while on Earth, if we are able to see what is still happening on earth (including possibly bad things happening to our loved ones), and if we still retain our identities while in Heaven, wouldn’t we be saddened when we saw these things or if we noticed that some of our loved ones were not in heaven with us? Of course we would! But doesn’t the Bible say that there won’t be any sadness in Heaven? Yes it does – but not in the present Heaven. In Revelation 21:1-4 it says
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (emphasis added)
So as you can see, this promise of no more pain and sadness is actually referring to the future Heaven – the one in which we will live for eternity with God. But in the present Heaven, where we will stay until Christ returns to earth, there most likely is much sadness. I personally believe that God shares our emotions over the things that happen to us on earth – He shares in our joy when a baby is born or we fall in love, and He grieves with us when a loved one dies or we lose everything we have to some natural disaster. If God can experience happiness and sorrow in Heaven, then I don’t see why we won’t as well. In Acts 9 it tells of when Jesus speaks to Saul (Paul) while he is traveling to Damascus. In verse 4 Jesus asks “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asks Him “Who are you, Lord?”, which He replies by saying “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” We can see here that Jesus is grieved by the persecution that is happening to the Church, all while He is in Heaven. So if Christ experiences grief in Heaven, I think it is totally possible that we will too.
I’ll conclude today by quoting Alcorn: “People in Heaven are not frail beings whose joy can only be preserved by shielding them from truth. Happiness in Heaven is not based on ignorance but on perspective.” This is perhaps the best line I have read all week in my study. When we get to heaven, we will be much happier that we were on earth – how could we not be? For the first time in our lives, so much of what we have had to deal with will be history, and nothing but good things await us! And we will be in the presence of Christ! But this happiness will not be based on ignorance of what is really going on – it will be based on knowing that, compared to what we’ve been through in our lives, compared to the pain and suffering we’ve endured and watched others go through, and compared to the alternative (hell), getting to be in Heaven is pure joy. Perhaps for the first time, we’ll actually see things in the right perspective, and that will make us very happy.
Click HERE to see the next post in this series.