Heaven: What Will It Be Like?/Program 1

By: Randy Alcorn; ©2013
The city at the center of our future heaven is called the New Jerusalem. In this program, Dr. Ankerberg and Randy Alcorn take a biblical look at what the Bible says about our eternal home as believers. As we do, you’ll find yourself more excited about heaven and motivated to share your faith with others.


Today on the John Ankerberg Show, what will heaven be like? What has God told us about the magnificent world to come? If you’ve ever planned a trip to Disneyland, skiing in Aspen, or a trip to Europe, you usually look at the brochures and websites to find out in advance what it’ll be like. Such guidebooks excite us about going there. But the guidebook to heaven is the Bible, and it says we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth which God has promised. But if heaven, or as the verse calls it the “new heaven and new earth,” will be your home some day, what do you know about heaven? What are you looking forward to doing, to experiencing, to seeing in the place you will spend for all eternity?
My guest today is bestselling author of Heaven, Dr. Randy Alcorn. He will describe the wonderful things God has promised Christians will enjoy in our future home in heaven. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

Future Glories of Heaven

Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking with the leading authority on heaven in the United States, and that’s Dr. Randy Alcorn. And today we’re going to talk about the new Jerusalem, the city that we’re all going to. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” and in His beautiful city. How big is this city? What are the things we’re going to find in this city? And let’s start, Randy, with a Bible verse here. Revelation 21:15 says, “The angel who spoke to me had a golden measuring rod with which to measure the city and its foundation stones and wall. Now, the city is laid out as a square, its length and width the same. He measured the city with the measuring rod at 1400 miles, its length and width and height are equal.” Now, Randy, help us get our mind around what these words are saying.
Dr. Randy Alcorn: Well, some people say they’re symbolic, and they say, well, it’s a cube. It’s like the holy of holies. And it represents God’s perfection, the three dimensions, the threefold Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Well, all of that could be true. But then we’re told it was actually man’s measurement that was being used. So certainly we should see this as a vast place. And it should remind us of the fact that what God has in store for us in eternity is something bigger, far, far bigger even than what we’ve experienced in this life. If we understood that this life is just the beginning for the people of God; if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you don’t have to worry about, gee, have I passed my peak? Do I need to have a bunch of things on my bucket list, because this is my one chance; this is my one shot at experiencing happiness here in a world of beauty and abundance.
Which tells us something about what we think of heaven: We don’t have a biblical picture of heaven, because the biblical picture is, as in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, so, we’re told in Revelation 21:1, God does the same thing again. Except this time He creates new heavens and a new earth. He restores the old. There’s continuity between them. So that the new universe that we will live in will be greater, through the redemptive blood of Christ, it will be greater than anything we ever experienced in this life. So the wonders of the world will be greater than anything we’ve ever experienced.
We know there’s going to be a new Jerusalem. Could there be a new Los Angeles, a new London? Could there be a new Chattanooga? I mean, why not? If one city is made new, why not the other cities made new? God’s redemptive work to redeem culture and to reach out and to do all of these things, so that we have redeemed music, and we have redeemed art, and we have redeemed drama, and redeemed sports, and the full human experience. I think we will be able to go to places—if you’ve never been to Niagara Falls; I’ve been, but there are many places I haven’t been. But why not a new Niagara Falls, and why not other waterfalls much bigger and far greater that will cause our hearts to worship God?
Ankerberg: Yeah, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to bring the gospel to different countries. And I can remember the first time I went through Switzerland and rolled through those mountains on the trains. And I just loved seeing the mountains go by. I was to Ethiopia when I was 19 years of age, and I stool on huge mountains and looked over areas where Life magazine said it was one of the 10 places where civilization had not yet come to the earth. And I could listen to the sound and you couldn’t hear anything but nature. I’ve been out in the wilds of Kenya where you’ve seen the animals, and you realize their beauty; or the oceans of different parts of the world; and you say, “You know, if we didn’t have that in heaven, I would miss that.” But tell us what God is actually saying through these verses and other passages of scripture about this new heaven and new earth that we’re going to experience.
Alcorn: We’re told that even in this life “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Astronomy has been a hobby of mine since I was a child. And I grew up in a non-Christian home, and I would go out and I would look through the telescope. And I would see the wonders of heaven. I still remember the night that I first saw the great galaxy of Andromeda. And I would read about how many light-years away it was, and how many hundreds of millions of stars. And I remember as a sixth grader weeping, just weeping, because of the vastness of the universe. But I felt like I was on the outside. I didn’t know what it was all about. I’d never heard the gospel. Later on, fast forward, I’m a high-schooler, I’m a teenager, I come to faith in Christ. And one day I noticed my telescope, which I hadn’t looked through for years, over in a corner. I take it out; it’s a clear night. I look up in the sky, I go to that same great galaxy of Andromeda, and I weep again, but this time for a different reason. The reason I wept was that, yes, it is so great and so vast, but now I know the God who created it. Now I’m in a relationship with that God of wonders who created all the galaxies and the nebula and the black holes and the quasars and the wonders of the universe. And now I know Him.
Ankerberg: Talk about the fact that God loves us so much that He’s already designed us with certain desires and likes. He’s going to destroy all the bad stuff in us. He’s going to enhance the good stuff in us. That means, the things that we like, He’s not going to destroy that either. He’s going to enhance that. Everything is going to be enhanced because He’s a loving God, alright.
Alcorn: That’s right.
Ankerberg: And therefore this new earth that He is preparing for us, He already knows what we like. He already knows the things that we have desires for. Why? Because He gave them to us and He’s going to fulfill those. And then He says it’s going be beyond anything that we can even dream about.
Alcorn: Pascal, the great mathematician and scientist, said all men seek happiness. That is built into our nature, to seek happiness. It is something that comes from God. The problem is not that we seek happiness; the problem is we seek happiness in the wrong places; broken cisterns that can hold no water. Instead we need to be seeking happiness where it can be found—in Jesus Christ; in God, the Creator of the universe. He is the fountainhead of all happiness. And then there are the lower streams of happiness that C.S. Lewis spoke of, that we experience down here. And what we need to do to really enjoy those in the way that we’re intended to enjoy them, to not turn them into idols, is to trace them back to where they came from, so that we look from them to Him. God is the source of all that is good. God is the source of all that makes us happy. He is the fulfiller of our dreams. To see His face will be to be in relationship with the Creator of the universe. Scripture talks about the master who welcomes his servant and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s happiness,” a happiness that predated the creation of the world itself; a happiness that has existed always in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And God says not just go find your happiness somewhere, but enter into My happiness, My delight in My creation; My delight in Myself, My delight in you as My children.
Ankerberg: Will it be crowded in heaven?
Alcorn: I don’t think it will be crowded at all. There’s going to be so much room. Though Spurgeon said he thinks we’ll be surprised at how many people will actually be there. And part of the reason for that is believing that children are covered by the blood of Christ, and how many miscarriages and how many children dying in childbirth and infancy over the ages who will be able to ripen into maturity and enjoy with us the world to come.
Ankerberg: Apart from the new earth, just talk about the city, and how many stories this city could have, and how big it is. Give us an example of the dimensions.
Alcorn: Well, with this 1400 miles, if you had layers, stories, that were 12 feet high, something like 600,000 stories. I mean, I don’t necessarily think that it’s going to be built just that way. And some people say, well, maybe at the top it actually comes up so that it’s more of a pyramid. Maybe it looks this way, it looks that way. But this we know: the amount of square footage is beyond comprehension, and that’s just there in the new Jerusalem. We’ve got the whole new earth.
But that’s not all; we’ve got the whole new solar system, the whole new galaxy. If there is a new Jerusalem and there is a new earth, why not a new solar system and a new galaxy and many new galaxies? Because we’re told God creates a new heavens and a new earth. Well, the heavens are the celestial heavens. Not just the sky, but the whole universe is remade. Will we explore those galaxies in the ages to come? I think it’s very likely we will. Think of what we could do right now if all human beings, instead of using 10% of their brains, used 100% of their brains, and got together and collaborated scientifically. We’ve already been to the moon; we could already land on Mars if we chose to; what could we do if we weren’t subject to sin and suffering and death, and could together work toward glorifying God and exploring this universe?
Ankerberg: Alright, this is great stuff, folks. We’re going to take a break. When we come back we’re going to talk more about the new city of Jerusalem, the new earth, and we’re going to even talk a little bit more about how we’re going to travel. How are we going to get together for gatherings? And how are we going to worship God? Stick with us. We’ll be right back.



Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking about heaven with Dr. Randy Alcorn. He’s one of the leading authorities in our country on this. And, Randy, I want to talk about the topic of the streets of gold in heaven. Are there really streets of gold in the new Jerusalem?
Alcorn: We’re told that there are, and some people say, “well, that’s just a figure of speech. It just means that, hey, gold is the most valuable thing, and there it is on the streets and people are actually walking on it.” And it’s sort of maybe a demeaning reference to don’t put your hope on what you are going to walk on, you know, in eternity. And maybe there’s some truth to that. But I think it’s just saying there’s no end to the value of what God is going to put into that place, the precious stones, 12 precious stones, that we’re told are inlaid into the walls of the new Jerusalem. And I think we’ll just be surrounded by the beauty of those things.
Gold is beautiful. Just even apart from, will we need it for its financial value? No. Will it have financial value? Probably not. The point is, it’s beautiful; and God made it. And I think this is what we see in the new Jerusalem. We have the mineral wonders; we have the natural wonders of vegetation and trees and fruit; we’ve got mountains; we’ve got animals; the joy and pleasure of that. I think with animals, for instance, of otters, you know. Even here in this life under the curse, I have watched otters play, and they will just go on for hours and hours. Pretty much all they do is eat and play, which sounds like a pretty good life, I guess. But, you know, just the idea of all that fun they have.
Now, Romans 1 tells us that God has revealed His attributes in His creation. That means when we look at an otter having fun, playing, then we need to say God is a playful God. This did not come from Satan. Do we think that Satan created otters? Of course he didn’t. I mean, in other words, we should see God in this. And so, there are delightful things. With my golden retriever, when she just wants me to rub her ears, and she is so delighted, and I look into her eyes, I see a wonder and I see the God that created that wonder. And it’s not that the world is full of all these minor important things, and “who really even cares about that; God only cares about the spiritual stuff.” No! God is the maker of all these things, physical and spiritual, and we will be able to enjoy them without suffering, without death, for all eternity—to His glory.
Ankerberg: Right along that line, let’s talk about the relationship of worship to the other things that we do. We’ve got this idea that worship is over here at the church, and the fact is, when we’re actually working or playing baseball or going golfing or something else, some other activity, that that’s not worship. So the fun part of life is not worship, okay. You say that’s not biblical. Join this together.
Alcorn: First Corinthians 10:31 tells us “whether we eat or drink or whatever we do” we’re to “do all to the glory of God.” That means I don’t just go to church to the glory of God. I don’t just study the Bible to the glory of God. I don’t just sing a hymn to the glory of God, or pray to the glory of God. What’s more ordinary than eating and drinking? And when I walk, when you get up, when you rise up, when you lay down at night. Life is full, and all that is in our life is to be to the worship and honor and praise of God, even in this life. A theology professor challenged me on something where I had said on the new earth, who knows, maybe we’ll ride bicycles to the glory of God. He said, “Randy, if we can see God, why would we care about bicycles?” And I said, “Well, it’s not that we’re making bicycles idols that we’re worshipping instead of God. On the contrary, we are worshipping God as we enjoy the bicycle.” Right now I go on the Spring Water Corridor Trail in Portland, and I ride for miles and miles, and I worship God. Even me, in the world under a curse, even me as a sinner right now, I worship God as I ride my bike. Well, if we can’t worship God riding bikes, we shouldn’t be riding them now.
In eternity I think we’ll worship God in all that we do. Will there be times where we simply gaze at Him and fall on our knees? Absolutely. But we’re also told His servants will serve Him. That means we’ll be doing other things, and going other places. But we’ll never be separated from God. We’ll never lose our sense of the presence of God the way we do sometimes in this life. He is everywhere present even now, but we lose sight of that. We’ll never lose sight of that. We will see the giver behind every gift all the time.
Ankerberg: Will God give us the ability to travel back in time and to actually look at His providence, to look at how He guarded us, to look at how He led us? How do you see that happening?
Alcorn: We know that God is not limited by space and time. He exists outside of space and time. Space and time are actual creations of His for finite creatures to live within. But God, the God of the supernatural and miraculous, can certainly, if He chooses, take us out of where we are in the future, living on the new earth. And He could either allow us to see and study, almost in a video sort of way, what happened back then, to study history and to see His providence in history. Or if He wanted to He could transport us invisibly to show up and actually behold Jesus speaking to His disciples. Have you ever wished—I have—that I could have been there when Jesus was giving the Sermon on the Mount? Maybe one day I will be there as He was giving the Sermon on the Mount, because God could take us back. And I also think that that verse in Ephesians 2:7 suggest that this sort of thing could happen; because it says in the ages to come God will be revealing to us “the riches of His kindness and His grace to us in Christ Jesus.” Yes, the grace and kindness that will come in the ages to come, but I also think that were manifest to us in ages past. So He could take us back to our lives.
We might be able to go back and witness something that was a terrible car accident, whatever the trauma might have been, and be able to now see it through His eyes and say, “Lord, so that is what You were doing. When You promised You would ‘cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,’ that’s what You were doing in my life.” Right now we have to take that by faith. One day our faith will become sight. In retrospect, I think we’ll be able to look back and see the grace and kindness of God in our lives, and His purpose.
Ankerberg: If we have a loved one that dies without Christ and goes to hell, will we be sad in heaven because we know they went to hell?
Alcorn: Well, this is a question that people ask a lot, and I grew up in a non-Christian home and I know what it’s like to be in that context; I still have a loved one who doesn’t know the Lord, and I have numbers of friends that don’t know the Lord. So I understand the reasoning behind that, and it’s a little hard for us to comprehend. But we do see this; we see in the book of Revelation angels and people in heaven who are rejoicing over God’s judgment on the wickedness of the earth; and when He brings death and destruction, people actually rejoicing because of the manifestation of God’s holiness. Now, when it comes to people that we have loved, I think we need to understand that God loves them so much He went to the cross for them. But certainly heaven will never be trumped by hell. Hell will have no power over heaven. The joys of heaven will never be diminished by the reality of hell. And I actually think, in the ages to come, hell will be but a footnote to the unfolding drama of redemption in terms of what God has done in His people and what He will do in the ages to come. We will not be obsessed by that; and, no, I don’t think it will rob us of our joy.
Ankerberg: For people that want to know Christ, in 30 seconds, how can they come to know Christ personally so they can know for sure they’re going to heaven?
Alcorn: You need to see Jesus for who He is, and yourself for who you are. The fact that you are separated from God, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” To come into a relationship with God, you must accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, realizing He has paid the price for your sin. That’s the only way you can come into a relationship with God.
Ankerberg: Next week, folks, Randy is a bestselling author of how you explain heaven to your children. And we’re going to do a program where we’re going to help you to answer the questions of your children or your grandchildren. What are the questions they ask about heaven? The topic of heaven comes up many, many times, and there are a lot of bad answers that adults, even Christian adults, give to their kids. We’re going to talk about the big questions that kids ask, and we’re going to ask Randy to explain how you can tell them what God is saying. I hope that you’ll join us then.

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