Heaven - A World of Love | John Ankerberg Show

Heaven – A World of Love

By: Dr. John Weldon
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Introduction

“I believe with all my heart that in order to be useful in this world we must fall in love with another world.” – Dr. John Piper, one of the most influential authors and pastors in America[1]

The title of this article is taken from a short book by the famous 18th-century scholar, revivalist and preacher Jonathan Edwards. Edwards is widely considered America’s most original and greatest philosopher-theologian and one of her greatest intellectuals—and rightly so.[2] In his short life, by the grace of God, he alone did much to alter America’s future for the better. His book on Heaven is well worth reading, contrasting as it does the nature of love in this life (even at its best) and the nature of love in eternity, where it is inexpressibly superior.[3]

Having recently read the equivalent of some 20 books on Heaven, and in tribute to Jonathan Edwards’ article—the author of which every true believer in Jesus Christ will shortly have the privilege of meeting in person, not to mention his Lord and Savior—I decided to summarize some of my thoughts and applications relative to a few key ideas gleaned from these books. (In part, this article summarizes or excerpts a forthcoming book by the author on the topic of Heaven.)

Belief in the Afterlife is Universal

The concept of Heaven (or some idea of the afterlife) is universal among mankind, throughout history and in all cultures, having been placed intuitively into the heart of all men by God Himself.[4] As a leading scholarly secular text on Heaven observes, “In the ancient world, belief in life after death was widespread, considered normal, and not generally weakened by skepticism.”[5] This is similar to the fact of God having placed the knowledge of Himself within all men: “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Rom. 1:19, NIV, emphasis added). This divine declaration does not say that humanists, secularists, atheists and other skeptics are to be excluded. Indeed, God has been their personal teacher here, so there is no possibility of failure. Their suppression of their awareness of God’s reality, or their unwillingness to believe, or the loud and useless declarations of a few that “there is no God,” only reveals little more than their individual bias and negligence as to detail (Psa. 14:1; 53:1).

Atheists, skeptics and all men know full well that God exists and, individually, that they are personally responsible for such knowledge (as a result they are “without excuse” before God, Rom. 1:20). They also individually suffer the consequences for suppressing this glorious knowledge of God through their own unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-32).In a similar fashion, God has also “set eternity in their hearts” (Eccl. 3:11), which explains every man’s intuitive sense of immortality and the universal belief in an afterlife, however perverted it may have become. (For example, in the sensual Islamic concept of heaven, or in ancient or modern polytheistic beliefs, or Eastern forms of pantheism per Hinduism and Buddhism which, ironically, destroy the individual forever. This includes various Buddhist lower heavens offering the opportunity to earn the ultimate reality, a so-called [impersonal] nirvana, although not technically a form of pantheism.) Christianity alone in all the world offers men a free and gracious divine gift of eternal life and experiencing a perfected, personal immortality forever simply through personal trust in Jesus Christ who died on Calvary and rose physically from the dead three days later to forgive our sins (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; 1 John 5:13).

The Greatest Disconnect?

Apart from God Himself,[6] Heaven is the most dominant, amazing, wonderful and desirable reality in the whole universe—yet, oddly, Heaven is also the most maligned and ignored reality on earth, whether we are speaking of secularism or Christian belief. One modern authority on Heaven, Randy Alcorn, is correct when he says that lack of concentration on and appreciation for Heaven may be the single greatest weakness of the Western church itself (a reflection of the Church’s disinterest in theology and apologetics generally (cf. Hosea 4:6).[7] Why would disinterest in Heaven be so consequential? Because to the extent we are heavenly-minded, to that precise extent we cannot be earthly-minded. Put another way, to the extent we ignore Heaven, we are by definition to some extent covetous, moral or philosophical friends with the world—and therefore enemies of God (See James 4:4; 1 John 2:15; Matt. 6:24).

Perhaps that’s why God commands us to “set our minds on heaven” (Col. 3:1). The word “set your hearts on” is zēteite (ζητεῖτε), which means to seek or seek after, search for, desire, inquire of, keep trying to obtain or strive for (knowledge of). Alcorn summarizes it as “a diligent, active, single-minded investigation” or pursuit of.[8]

That should be our common attitude toward Heaven. Why? Because, as the late well-known pastor and prolific author Dr. A.W. Tozer observed, “It may be said with certainty that Christians who have lost their enthusiasm about the Savior’s promises of heaven-to-come have also stopped being effective in Christian life and witness in this world.”[9] That’s the last thing on earth any Christian should want, but Dr. Tozer is correct: there is a direct correlation between our interest in Heaven and our effectiveness in living the Christian life. Obviously, knowing about and concentrating upon Heaven is to be one of the major priorities in life.

The reason should be obvious. An impoverished and faulty view of Heaven requires an impoverished and faulty view of God; a boring Heaven requires a boring God. And nothing could be further from the truth, or more dishonoring to God.

Indeed, perhaps this is one reason the apostle Paul prayed to the church at Ephesus “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” another scriptural admonition to knowing about Heaven (Eph. 1:18, NIV, emphasis added).

In contrast to secular misperceptions about those who are “heavenly-minded” supposedly being no earthly good, this is actually a lie from the devil. The devil, having been hurled out of Heaven for his inexcusable pride and arrogance, hates Heaven almost as much as he hates God and God’s children; hence the deception about Heaven can be expected. Nevertheless, the history of the Christian Church proves beyond doubt that those who have been most heavenly-minded have been the most earthly good, and those who have been most earthly-minded have been those who have been the least earthly good, i.e., those who have most neglected the welfare of humanity created in God’s image. Irenaeus of Lyons (Against Heresies) in the second century; Augustine (City of God; Confessions; Retractions) in the fourth century (although he adopted Neoplatonism[10]); Dante, Luther and Calvin during the Reformation; John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress) and Jonathan Edwards in the 17th century; and Drs. John Piper and Sam Storms today are a few examples, not to mention Jesus Himself and His disciples.[11] In part, the reason is simple; the biblical Heaven demands the biblical God to whom we are fully accountable and will one day give an account for everything done in the body “whether good or bad” (Matt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10; Eph. 6:8).

God, the Greatest Treasure in the Universe

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom” (Psalm 145:3).

The single most amazing feature of Heaven is God Himself, the Greatest Treasure of this and a thousand universes; of endless physical and spiritual universes or dimensions.

I have a good friend, a well-known musical performer currently in a major Hollywood movie production. At one point in his life many years ago, after the horrible death of his daughter at the hands of a drunk driver (putting him into a destructive tailspin), Jesus Christ mercifully (and actually) appeared to him physically, in his personal presence. He relayed the experience to me in the following manner: “If you were to experience the greatest presence of the Holy Spirit in this life, so powerful it made you weep, not from pain but from His love, then multiply it times 10 million…. Take the absolute best of everything you will ever experience in this world and bundle it all up together, it’s not worth even a minute in the presence of Christ.” That was the best way he could describe being in the physical presence of Jesus (again, an experience that occurred this life, not in Heaven). He also said, “I now understand why this body that we live in is incapable of experiencing the actual fullness of the presence of God; we would simply die” (Cf. 1 Tim. 6:16; Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:19-23; Isa. 6:5).

As amazing as Heaven is and will be (far beyond our current comprehension in terms of love, joy, peace, creativity, adventure, and everything good), Heaven itself is nothing compared to God, even if it happens to be infinite. Heaven, after all, is a created place and there is an infinite difference in nature between the Creator and anything created. Only if the infinite love, joy, glory, etc., of God Himself were equally infused and saturated throughout Heaven might this not be true in some particular manner. Even so, because Heaven would still be created and incomparable to the uncreated, immortal Creator, it would still be vastly inferior. In other words, if we were to remove God from Heaven, Heaven, even the most perfectly conceivable one, would suffer immeasurably.

Consider the words of prominent scholar, theologian and pastor Dr. John Piper, author of one of the best books of the modern era: The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God.[12] The statement below can be applied not only to our massive 30 billion light-year expanse physical universe but to the spiritual universe as well; in fact all creation, whatever exists, visible and invisible:

“God’s absolute being means all the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance. As an echo to a thunderclap. As a bubble to the ocean. All that we see, all that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies is, compared to God, as nothing. ‘All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness’ (Isaiah 40:17)…. God’s absolute being means that he is the most important and most valuable reality and the most important and most valuable person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe…. Being the most significant reality there is, nothing is rightly known apart from its relationship to him. He is the source and goal and definer of all beings and all things.”[13]

Yet this infinitely amazing Being is the very One we will explore forever in a relationship of love that Jonathan Edwards’ powerfully moving book, Heaven, A World of Love, can only hint at.

Unfortunately, most people, even most Christians, don’t get very excited about praising and worshiping God forever, because they don’t really understand the infinite Treasure that God is, but such will be our greatest joy; trust me. Try and imagine being in the presence of a personal-triune God of infinite love, joy, pleasure and creativity, just think about it for a few moments. Further, if the cross of Calvary is an expression of the degree of God’s love for us (assuming the reader understands its infinite cost), what should we think all eternity will be like?

No inexpressible glory of the realm of the created Heaven itself will ever come close to the glory of the uncreated God. Plus, the variety of praise and worship will be infinite. To enjoy God and give thanks for what He creates is both to glorify God and worship God, which means whatever we do in Heaven, regardless of the list of items, we will be simultaneously worshiping and glorifying God. As Dr. John Piper’s slight tweak of the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”[14] And God will be infinitely enjoyable forever.

If there are two things everyone on earth always searches for, they are true love and enduring happiness—unfortunately, they are often missed in this life because we are spiritually and morally fallen and we make the wrong choices, especially ignoring most important thing in existence, God Himself. In fact, even though we are talking about our future life in Heaven (assuming we have trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior), God also made this life for our happiness. Given this world’s fallenness, perhaps the reader never quite thought of it this way, but it’s nevertheless true. (See note[15])

Ironically, to their own detriment and destruction of happiness, people in general concentrate almost exclusively upon enjoying what God has made (the gift) rather than the One who has made it (the Giver), who is infinitely greater and more enjoyable. In fact, God is infinitely joyous. This slighting of God is probably the greatest crime in the universe—to ignore Him, to not give Him the time of day, to never thank Him, to treat Him with contempt, worst of all to ignore and blaspheme not just God but His precious and only Son; doing all this while simultaneously enjoying all the good things and wonderful gifts He has given us: life, family, children, joys, a beautiful natural world, culture, creativity, adventure and excitement—the list is almost endless—and not even a speck of the eternal infinite joys He freely offers us with Him in Heaven simply for believing Him about His Son (John 3:16). But we reject this as well. We greedily grab all the gifts we can, while we kick the Giver in the face and out of the room. I suppose that only eternity will reveal the actual cost of such insanity upon ungrateful, avaricious and selfish children. “Therefore, it is a cosmic outrage billions of times over that God is ignored, treated as negligible, questioned, criticized, treated as virtually nothing, and given less thought than the carpet in people’s houses.”[16]

Unfortunately, as Dr. Piper points out, we are all God-ignores and God-demeanors in this life; but thankfully, that will never again be true in Heaven throughout all eternity; just the opposite.

Nothing greater can or ever could be conceived than the biblical God, because infinite perfection can never be perfected upon. God’s infinite perfection is immortal, extending from eternity past throughout eternity future.

Consider God’s glory. If we were to describe God’s infinite glory in Heaven, it would be like comparing a match lit and snuffed out in a moment to the billions of atomic bombs exploding on the surface of the sun every second for millions of years—and even this illustration falls infinitely short, because the glory of God is literally infinitely greater, infinitely brighter, infinitely more powerful and beautiful than all the suns and galaxies in this and millions of universes. In the words of John Piper, God’s glory is “the infinite beauty and greatness of his manifold perfections.”[17]

That’s why we are to reveal God’s glory to a world so spiritually darkened it refuses even to see it or acknowledge it (Rom. 1:18-32). It’s there everywhere but eclipsed by materialistic and deified Nature. As Dr. Piper points out, there may be billions of things we don’t know; but one thing we do know is that everything exists for the glory of God (and everything does glorify God directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously). Further, Piper says, man is created in God’s image and the point of an image is just that—to image, to display, the original. The world is thus filled with images of God—over seven billion statues of God, so to speak, albeit statues in “glorious ruins.”[18] Nothing in this life is about us; everything is about God, just as it should be and must be in that God is infinitely worthy, perfect and deserving of all glory. Ironically, we choose to exalt ourselves at all costs while ignoring Him at all costs.

To be sure, the world’s greatest geniuses and all the glorified saints and billions of the majestic angels could sit for millions of years desperately seeking to only imagine merely the smallest pinpoint of information, some slightest of ways to improve upon God, and they never could; throughout eternity they could only fail. God’s glory, the reflection of His perfection, is the purpose for which we exist, and glorifying God is where we find our greatest pleasure, joy and happiness because when we enjoy Him the most (and He is supremely enjoyable), by definition we glorify Him the most.[19]

By God’s very nature He is infinite love, infinite beauty, infinite joy, infinite intelligence, infinite creativity and so on. Being with Him will be like a child on Christmas morning, but this time we will never stop opening the presents and each one will, in some way, be better than the one before, worlds without end.

The Astounding Increase

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7).

Besides God, perhaps the most amazing reality of Heaven is that our knowledge of God, our experience of joy and our intimacy love will increase forever! Eternity never ends, and yet many or most of its pleasures will actually increase forever. This is the really mind-blowing part about Heaven; I don’t think the words exist in a thousand languages to adequately begin to explain this reality of Heaven (though heavenly language might have them). Remember, we are finite beings and always will be; yet God is infinite and always will be.

With God “all things are possible” and “nothing is impossible” as long as it is consistent with His nature (Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37). For example, God can never lie, be unjust, unloving, or do the inherently impossible such as make a square circle or a numberless number. God will have so constructed our new minds and bodies that, though remaining finite forever, we will nevertheless be able to forever increase our knowledge of God. Always learning more things about a God who is infinitely perfect, loving, exciting, creative and wonderful, can’t help but increase our individual joy and peace. And our increased joy and peace can’t help but increase our love for God and our desire to know more about Him, not to mention our love and appreciation for our personal eternal redemption.[20]

Everything that is capable of increasing in eternity for our good and God’s glory will certainly continue to increase: knowledge (“the Saints will be progressive in knowledge to all eternity….The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity”)[21]; love, joy, glory, our conformity to the likeness of Christ (“there is every indication it will continue forever”)[22] and our abilities: “Just as our minds will grow in knowledge, our resurrection bodies can develop greater skills.”[23]

“There will always be more to see when we look at God, because his infinite character can never be exhausted. We could—and will—spend countless millennia exploring the depth of God’s being and be no closer to seeing it all than when we first started. This is the magnificence of God and the wonder of Heaven.”[24] In the words of Sam Storms, our relationship with God “will deepen and develop, intensify and amplify, unfold and increase, broaden and balloon” forever.[25]

I like the way Dr. Storms puts it:

“Heaven is not simply about the reality or experience of joy, but its eternal increase. The blessedness of the beauty of heaven is progressive, incremental and incessantly expansive.… There will not be in heaven a one-time momentary display of God’s goodness, but an everlasting, ever-increasing infusion and impartation of His kindness that intensifies with every passing moment…. Throughout the ages to come, we will be the recipients of an ever-increasing and more stunning, more fascinating and thus inescapably more enjoyable display of God’s saving grace and kindness in Christ than before. We will see and savor and be increasingly enthralled with fresh displays of His redeeming love. The knowledge we gain when we enter heaven will forever grow and deepen and expand and intensify.
“We will constantly be more amazed by God, more in love with God and thus evermore relishing His presence and our relationship with Him. Our experience of God will never reach a consummation or become stale. It will deepen and develop, intensify and amplify—and will reach a crescendo that will even then be only the beginning of an eternity of new and intriguing insights into the majesty of who God is…. if our ideas and thoughts of God increase in heaven, then so also must the joy and delight which those ideas and thoughts generate. With increased knowledge comes intensified affection and fascination. With each new insight comes more joy, which serves only to stoke the fires of adoration and celebration around the throne of the Lamb.”
[And thus,] “Wherever we turn our eyes in heaven we will behold only glory and grandeur and beauty and brightness and purity and perfection and utter, unending majesty. Why? Because we will be looking at God (Revelation 22:4)…. The physical, emotional and intellectual pleasures of heaven will infinitely exceed the most ecstatic of physical pleasures on earth.”[26]

A World of Love

As Jonathan Edwards points out in his book Heaven, A World of Love, wherever we turn our eyes we will also behold only the most perfect love imaginable, between God, the angels, and the saints. Thus, no matter where the inhabitants of Heaven gaze in rapt wonder, no matter what they behold throughout all eternity, they will see nothing but bounteous and overflowing love and glory and beauty and dignity and joy. “Everyone shall be perfectly pure and perfectly lovely in heaven.” Love will be perfectly given and perfectly received, always and forever.

Even more amazing, every occupant of heaven will experience the eternal influx of love from the Trinity itself. As the immeasurable love of God involves exercising “an eternal, mutual, holy energy” of infinite love between members of the Trinity, inflowing and outflowing forever, it will not then be confined to the members of the Trinity. Once all the redeemed are in Heaven, such love can now be manifested fully and finally forever. “It flows out [from the Trinity] in innumerable streams toward all the created inhabitants of heaven, to all the saints and angels there.” And with infinite love constantly directed toward those in Heaven and within them, knowing the supreme sacrifice God has made to redeem us, their perfect love will be directed back to God with rapt delight, as naturally as breathing, supremely, joyfully and eternally rejoicing in the ability to give and receive such immeasurable love—and the angels loving and rejoicing with us.

Everyone loves everyone, perfectly, eternally. Each person in Heaven is not only constantly and eternally joyous and happy—they are increasingly so, and not only this, everyone rejoices in everyone else’s happiness and pleasure. The desire for love will never fail to be satisfied and every redeemed saint will know with the absolute certainty that God’s love for them will exist and continue forever.

“But the love of God and Christ for us will be immeasurably beyond the love of the greatest of saints for us and we will increasingly learn about that love forever, worlds without end and see it palpably and visibly displayed to us in wonder after wonder. All the love we experience in heaven, whether from God, the saints or the angels will never be interrupted or diminished, or hindered or withdrawn for any reason, or corrupted in any way but only be fully and perfectly expressed, yea, in a manner unfathomable, increased forever.”[27]

Biblical scholar Arthur W. Pink once wrote an article called “The Hell of Hell” in which he pointed out the meaning of his title—that after millions and millions of years of perfectly just punishment for sin upon the unredeemed, Hell won’t even have begun. The opposite is true for Heaven but in a much greater sense; Hell is finite; God and Heaven are infinite. After billions and billions of years in Heaven experiencing pleasures, blessings and wonders beyond current imagination, not only will they increase, but even after trillions and trillions of years Heaven won’t yet have begun—and it will always be so.

Imagine what a God of infinite creativity, wisdom, love and joy, a God who loves to give everything good to His children might have in store throughout the endless ages and millenniums of eternity. Trillions of years can be multiplied times trillions of years and eternity will not even have started yet—and it will always be so.

Nevertheless, one would think that after trillions of years of increased knowledge, joy and love that we would virtually explode from the ecstasy; but no, the increase of blessedness will go on forever, throughout all eternity. Every good thing that is possible to increase forever must be increased forever because it will bring glory to God, and that is the highest good. Despite the difficulty of comprehending such a reality (similar incomprehensible things like immortality—God always existing—infinity, or eternity come to mind), this truth is something accepted and discussed by such men as Jonathan Edwards, Dr. John Piper, Dr. Sam Storms and others.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6-7 NIV).
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV)[28]
“… indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39 NLT).

Derivatives and the Real Thing

Because it is such an important concept, this section expands on a previous one but in a different manner.

“Seeing God will be like seeing everything else for the first time. Our primary joy in Heaven will be knowing and seeing God. Every other joy will be derivative, flowing from the fountain of our relationship with God.”[29] This is a fundamental and crucial thought—that everything originates with and from the absolutely sovereign God, “who alone has immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). Everything is derivative. Everything good we experience in this life was first created by God, and created for our enjoyment and happiness specifically because it makes God happy and brings Him delight and joy. God’s love is the source of all lesser love; His beauty the source of all lesser beauty and so on.

Anything that is good, pleasant, exciting, fun, thrilling; all laughter and fun—sex, love, joy, playfulness, happiness, creativity, adventure; everything that is wonderful, fascinating, delightful, refreshing, enjoyable and so on—are derived ultimately from God. After all, who made all these and much more? It was God Himself. He created them first, for us. He is the source of everything good. But here’s the point; everything else being derivative means that God is the infinitely unique original non-derivative. He comprises the ultimate source of and the best of everything good in this life, to the most supreme degree.

“All secondary joys are derivative in nature. They cannot be separated from God. Flowers are beautiful for one reason—God is beautiful. Rainbows are stunning because God is stunning. Puppies are delightful because God is delightful. Sports are fun because God is fun. Study is rewarding because God is rewarding. Work is fulfilling because God is fulfilling.”[30]

Because everything in Heaven but God is a secondary joy, the ultimate joy will be God Himself. Just as God “is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) it can also be stated He “is joy” and being in His presence will be the ultimate experience of love, joy, pleasure, wonder, adventure, thrills and so on. Would a hundred of the best superlatives adequately described a single day in Heaven? I doubt it; but even if they did, they wouldn’t come close to describing one day in the presence of God. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32, NIV, emphasis added.)

Because everything good is derivative, it is from the presence of God alone that we can experience them in and to their fullest capacity. In other words, to be in the direct presence of God is to experience the fullest measure of love, the greatest amount of joy, to see the greatest beauty, to comprehend the greatest wonder, to experience the most sublime peace and so on. That means that whatever we experience in this life, given the nature of this world’s fallenness, is at best a foretaste of the joy, beauty and love to come, so that whatever we may experience in Heaven physically, emotionally, or spiritually and interdimensionally, it will be the actual substance of those experiences in this life which are but the shadows, rough sketches on paper bags. We will always be experiencing, learning and enjoying things never thought of and there will always be new things God has yet to create. God knows us perfectly, infinitely if you will, and He knows, for each one of us, what will make us the most happy and that is precisely what He will give us forever.

Put another way, we can take everything good here and extend it into the new heavens and earth, multiply it by 100 (or whatever), and make it last forever. But it still derivative. As indescribably glorious and magnificent as Heaven will be forever, Heaven itself will pale to the enjoyment of God as that which is created must always pale in inferiority to the creator. Would it be preferable to look at the magnificent 17-foot marble sculpture of King David—or have Michelangelo himself as our best friend, roommate and mentor? Add up the 100 greatest people throughout history and place them in your closest circle of friends—one second in the presence of God would blow them all away like dust and ashes. That’s the difference between an infinite Person of perfection and everything finite. Anyone who isn’t utterly enchanted, captivated and excited about going to Heaven forever has little conception at all of the God who made it and lives there.

God intends that His children enjoy everything in Heaven as gifts from Him, but only God can be the infinite source of everything Heaven contains. And as a parent delights in his child’s joy, God will delight in our joy as well. As mind-boggling as it is, God Himself will actually sing over us!

“He will take great delight in you; … he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17 NIV).
“The Lord will take delight in you…. as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:4-5 NIV).

Further, the good gifts will never stop coming but will get bigger and brighter forever because the infinite love, goodness, self-sacrificing, giving nature of an infinite God for those He loves is infinite and inexhaustible by definition. Again, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). His infinitely precious Son is the greatest conceivable gift God could ever have given. Nevertheless, “all things” does include, does it not, everything God has created? As our heavenly Father and best Friend forever, God has not only made each of us an eternal home (crafted individually, lovingly and specifically for each one), we have an infinite universe to explore.

Consider the following verses that illustrate God’s giving nature:

“… God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17 NIV).
“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psa. 145:16 NIV).
“Every generous act of giving and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father who made the heavenly lights, in whom there is no inconsistency or shifting shadow” (James 1:17 ISV).
“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psa. 145:9 NIV).
“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5 NIV).
“He fills my life with good things” (Psa. 103:5 NLT).
“They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life” (Psa. 36:8-9 NIV).
“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you” (Psa. 63:5 NIV).

Think again about how much pleasure we derive as parents when we give good things to our friends, children, parents, or our spouses? Giving brings great joy; it’s part of how God created the nature of giving. That’s why “the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35 NIV). Being created in God’s image we have some idea of the joy of giving. But with God we have to expand the giving to infinite dimensions and make it last forever.

One reason God decided to create in the first place was so that He could express the entirety of His infinitely perfect and glorious character, including expressing His love in giving gifts, the greatest being His Son. Given what we know about God, He must receive great pleasure from loving and giving, which explains one reason why He will do it forever. In other words, the redeemed will forever be the objects of God’s lavish and extravagant giving. The fact that God is infinite means that those in Heaven will always be on the receiving end of God’s love and joy and be given good and wonderful gifts forever; His giving will never end because eternity will never end, nor will our astonishment and gratefulness.

Because God is infinite in creativity, what He gives will be infinitely creative, forever; that’s one of a thousand reasons we will never have to worry about boredom because the variety of God’s gifts will forever be exciting and new, even as learning more about the infinite perfections of God Himself will forever be exciting and new.

God is infinitely lavish and even after millions and billions of years of receiving His wonders we still haven’t yet opened the presents. It’s Christmas morning, every day, forever.

The New Jerusalem

This will be only one of God’s gifts to His children, but it will be the crown jewel so to speak of the universe, the “new heaven and earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Heb. 12:26-27; Rev. 21:1).

At the beginning of eternity, the New Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21, comes down from Heaven and lands upon the earth, a massive city of pure gold—except pure as glass—shining with the very glory of God. It is stunning and beautiful beyond comparison. The city comprises a perfect cube, perhaps suggestive of the Trinity, 1400 miles each in height, width and depth, slightly smaller than the size of our moon. If it replaces the then current capital city of Israel, Jerusalem, proportionately, we could expect the size of the “new earth” to be probably be a million times larger (to hazard a guess), something on the order of the size of our sun.

Regardless, the surface area of the New Jerusalem is 2.25 million square miles. For comparison, the entire county of Los Angeles is only 4,000 square miles. All of Texas covers 268,000 square miles and Alaska encompasses 663,000 square miles. The New Jerusalem is far bigger than India, and as large as England 40 times over. If placed in the middle of the United States, it would stretch from Canada to Mexico and from California to Eastern Tennessee. But remember, that’s only the ground floor of the New Jerusalem—2.2 million square miles. The New Jerusalem extends 1,400 miles into space—that’s 7.4 million feet high with a total of almost 3.4 billion cubic miles. If we leave one mile per story that would comprise 1,400 stories and allow for at least 12 trillion people to live more than comfortably within the city. If each story were 70 feet high it would have 100,000 stories. Maybe the angels will live there with us, or perhaps they have their own dwelling, I don’t know; the angels are a subject we don’t have time to discuss—but we will get to know each and every one of these dazzling creatures as best of friends.

The New Jerusalem will be a city of incredibly glorious light illuminated in a special way (I believe) by the infinite glory and light of God Himself. Color comprises reflected, dissected light. Because the color makeup of light can change, in Heaven, illuminated with infinite divine light, the new colors we see and experience will for all practical purposes be infinitely greater in number than those we now experience. The beautiful colors and shades of color we now see in the visible spectrum of light are nothing compared to the invisible spectrum we cannot see. Although we are aware of only the minutest aspect, “true color” usually means 256 separate shades of red, green and blue (the primary colors of light) comprising ultimately 17 million different shades of color. But, there are billions of shades of color potentially available in this life alone; in Heaven I can only expect the number will be infinite. Since “God is light” (1 John 1:5), which I (Weldon) take in its fullest meaning (cf. Psa. 104:2; 1 Tim. 6:16; 1 John 1:7), there must be an infinite number of colors in God’s spectrum of light and we will enjoy each one of them. God “is light” and “lives in unapproachable light” (1 John 1:5; 1 Tim. 6:16; cf. Dan. 2:27), therefore the New Jerusalem and the entire universe it will be a place of endless colors, but the New Jerusalem will be special and in more ways than its dazzling, always new colors.

We can expect this magnificent, unparalleled city to have the most extravagant wealth, beautiful rivers and waterfalls, trees, mountains, lakes, canyons, plants and animals, architecture and a culture like none experienced in the history of the earth or throughout the new universe. Every level could be something completely different. Everything about it will be stunning, most of all God Himself and His Son who will dwell there personally with us.

Ponder, if you will, actually living within this massive city, the New Jerusalem, in terms of a single surface area. It would be like having most of America to live in. But if we consider its cubed nature, even allowing four miles between each level (so that the highest mountain ranges in America could remain, including Mount Whitney), there are still 350 additional stories greater than most of America that remain to live in. Every second the city will pour forth such stunning glory, love, joy and beauty it can’t even be imagined.

Our new minds and bodies will be made to fully experience everything the New Jerusalem can offer, including our innate need for love, joy, glory, happiness, laughter, adventure, excitement and everything else that God has placed within us, everything it means to be in His image, but now perfected forever.

And the sight of color is only one small aspect of one sense; in Heaven our senses will be amplified greatly and perhaps we will have dozens of new ones, even cross-pollinated so we can do such things like taste or see fine music, seeing colors in sounds; smelling or tasting music or taste or spelling colors or hearing flowers — perhaps even sense a type of “personality” in inanimate objects or having the ability to concentrate all five (or however many) senses upon the same object. (Some people today have similar experiences known as synesthesia or sensory blending, with over 60 different types being reported.) Thus,

“…it seems reasonable to suggest all of our resurrected senses will function at levels we’ve never known. On the New Earth, we will continually be discovering, to our delight, what we never knew existed, what we’ve been missing all our lives…. The God who always surpasses our expectations will forever give us more of Himself and that creation to discover.”[31]

Few joys are greater than the joy of discovery. And to the extent that no good joy will be withheld from us, whatever we desire and imagine as perfected beings could, sooner or later, become reality, simply because God is infinitely good and giving.

In fact, given that we will judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3), beings greatly superior to us in ability and power), and perhaps even rule over them, for all practical purposes we will become supernatural beings on a new order of existence, much like the difference between an ugly duckling and a stunning peacock or the lowly and slowly crawling worm of an insect which becomes a glorious and beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly—or the ugly helpless and hairless newly hatched chick which transforms into the beautiful seven-colored Gouldian Finch.

Our lives in the New Jerusalem will constitute our home within the universe, the capital city of the new earth and the capital “country,” if you will, of the universe, the most stunningly beautiful jewel anywhere. The further we experience the joy and serenity or “homeyness” of this glorious dwelling, the more it will gain an additional quality of that “there’s no place like home” charm. We will share it with those we love, enjoy great fun and laughter, family times, comfort, beyond gourmet food, amazing conversations, personal space and reflection, a place to give and receive gifts and all of it with “unprecedented freedom and adventure.”[32]

Exploration & Adventures

Just as God made us curious and to love being happy, He also made us explorers, to love adventure. There’s nothing quite like hiking a beautiful mountain trail, surfing the perfect wave, scuba diving into another world with underground caverns and exquisitely colored fish, skiing beautiful slopes, parasailing or skydiving, not to mention hundreds of other adventures. But this time there’s no risk, none at all, only enjoyment, pure thrill and enjoyment.

Most of us take pleasure in traveling to exotic and stunningly beautiful places on this earth. Some examples include Maui, Hawaii, consistently voted “the best island in the world;” Lucerne, Switzerland; Venice, Italy; Niagara Falls; the Grand Bahama Island; the Serengeti, Africa; New Zealand’s Bay of Islands; the Amazon River or China’s Yangtze River; Europe’s Mediterranean coast; Tuscany, Italy; or the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Incredibly, stunningly beautiful places—but virtual trash bins compared to eternity. What about perfectly exotic places in a new universe that is infinite and never ends reflecting infinite beauty, infinite wisdom, infinite love and infinite creativity?

“The universe will be our backyard, a playground and university always beckoning us to come explore the wealth of our Lord.”
“God is a creator. He’ll ever stop being what he is. We should expect new and wondrous creations that declare his glory. God hasn’t exhausted his creative resources. He never will.”
“… should it surprise us if God creates the substance of which science fiction, fantasy, and mythology are but shadows?… God has given us a longing for new worlds.… Considering that his higher glory and praise comes not from inanimate objects such as stars and planets but from intelligent being such as people and angels, it’s no great stretch to suppose he might create other intelligent beings…. I anticipate an eternity of delight in watching and discovering what he creates to reveal more of himself to us.”[33]

And don’t forget; God’s personal name is, “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex. 3:14) because He always exists fully, perfectly everywhere, at every time. God exists in the eternal present, never bound by space or time or the past or the future. He inhabits both eternity and infinity. If it pleased Him, He could show us any part of Earth’s past history in detail or even glimpses of the future, whenever He chooses for His glory and purposes. Potentially, He could do so with a thousand different worlds. Imagine getting a peek here and there of what God has in store for us in a thousand years or a million years. Part of the joy of knowing something good is coming is the knowledge and anticipation itself. If God “can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20 ISV), where are the limits?

And because everything God does will be for and to display God’s eternal, infinite glory, whatever He does will be the best He can do and give. Yet every wonderful adventure, exploration, advancement and project in Heaven—everything we do forever—will still pale in comparison to the wonder of God’s actual presence. Imagine sitting down and having a conversation with God, your best friend in the universe, the one who always has and always will love you, in person, anytime you want, on any subject you can think of after accumulating the knowledge of 500 trillion years of learning. Imagine Him creating a world the size of the sun just for you, perfectly fitting your interests, tastes, and personality. And for no other reason than to enjoy it, have fun in it and rejoice over it.

Even more wonderful, God will have designed everything throughout eternity to help us see and know Him better and better, to understand Him in ever superior ways, to glorify Him more and more in all we do and see, the totality of which will bring us ever increasing happiness and joy. Every adventure and exploration will tell us more about God, revealing something special; some new intriguing facet of His infinitely perfect nature and glory; some incredible insight into His infinitely complex personality; some new wonder of His infinite love; some awesome spectacle of His infinite beauty. And thus everything we do and see throughout time without end will only motivate and excite us even further to explore yet more and more of all that He is and to love Him more and more for the unending, infinite wonder and immeasurable Treasure that He always remains.

And yet, it gets better. We don’t just have one infinite Person to explore and love and worship and wonder on forever; we actually have three infinite Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit: Infinite diversity. And so the reservoir of things to do will never run dry but be replenished daily and expanded on to all of eternity in ever new and astonishing ways. We will be utterly fascinated with God forever, even as the angels have already been for millennia. And yet, vast and magnificent though they be, with supernatural abilities hard to conceive (consider their judgments in the book of Revelation), probably having IQs of 10,000 (Einstein’s was estimated at 160), how much do they really know about God? How much of Him have they so far explored?

Of course, the new earth will have similarities to this earth, but the differences will be much greater. As to an infinite heaven, they can hardly be expressed. To be able to explore an infinite universe saturated with the glory of God would make this one pale by comparison. Imagine being sinlessly perfect forever, without imperfection of any kind. Envision knowing and giving only perfect love forever. But then, think about learning forever about an infinitely perfect God and the indescribable pleasure of worship in His presence which is infinite love, infinite joy, infinite beauty, infinite glory, infinite delight, infinite wonder. God has an infinite degree of knowledge, wisdom, creativity, goodness and surprises, in-store. We will be wholly enthralled and fascinated with God. As the apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, when the Lord is revealed it will be “the day [when] he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thess. 1:10).

“Like Jesus”

Here’s one of the greatest things about Heaven. We won’t just be resurrected from the dead—we will be “like Jesus.” We currently have little idea of what this means: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 NIV). Our resurrection bodies will be unlike anything we can imagine—there will be continuity with who we are now but for all intents and purposes we will be supernatural beings.

Currently, “God doesn’t want us to know what he has planned for us. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear such a God say something like, ‘If I told you, I’d have to take you’.”[34]

For example, we will probably be able to travel at the speed of thought, infinitely faster than the speed of light. Or we could fly through the air like an eagle and just observe the beauty. We could have dozens of new senses that are cross-pollinated, and because our bodies will be made specifically for experiencing and worshiping God (which will give us the greatest pleasure possible) and for experiencing the new heavens and the new earth, we will always be discovering something new and always surprised and delighted at what we discover, whether it be from God or something in His infinite Heaven. As noted earlier, the more we learn about Heaven the more we will learn about God because everything in Heaven will reflect something about Him to some degree just as is true on this earth—but in Heaven it will be understood and enjoyed to the fullest. We will also be incapable of sinning which will provide a freedom that is currently unimaginable. It will also heighten our joy. Freedom from sin will equal finding a far greater joy in everything because sooner or later, all sin ever does is dull the joy. “God promises that we’ll laugh, rejoice, and experience endless pleasures in heaven.”[35]

The above portrayal doesn’t exactly represent a slice, let alone a speck of the reality that is the eternal Heaven because “no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV). For those who desire more information (and I hope you do), I would recommend additional resources.[36]

But the most important thing of all is to make certain that you are going to heaven, that you have truly trusted Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and believed on Him for eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Notes

  1. Citation is given on the back cover of Jonathan Edwards, Heaven, A World of Love, Pocket Puritan Series, 2008, available at Amazon.com; http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-World-Pocket-Puritan-Series/dp/0851519784. See www.DesiringGod.org. “Piper has become one of the most popular and respected preachers and authors around…. World magazine recently listed his The Pleasures of God as one of the century’s top 100 books.” (Tim Ellsworth, “John Piper: God’s Glory His Passion,” The Southern Seminary Magazine, December 1999.(This book had a significant influence on my life and, after Scripture, I would place it is one of the top three books I have read—and I h
Dr. John Weldon

Dr. John Weldon

Dr. John Weldon (born February 6, 1948) went to be with the Lord on August 30, 2014 following a long-time battle with cancer. John served for more than 20 years as a researcher for The John Ankerberg Show. During his tenure, he authored or coauthored more than 100 books, including the best-selling Facts On Series of books that has sold more than 2.5 million copies in 16 languages. His final book, published in July 2014 with Harvest House Publishers (coauthored with John Ankerberg), is especially fitting. How to Know You’re Going to Heaven offers a biblical and personal look at the way God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and the confidence the believer can have of eternity with Him in heaven (1 John 5:13). John’s life and work have touched countless others seeking to grow spiritually and better understand the Bible. His friends describe him as genuine, humble, and passionate to share the hope of eternal life with everyone he met. His work will continue through his many books, his online writings at The John Ankerberg Show website (JAshow.org), as well as through the many people John has personally influenced through his ministry.
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