Heaven: What Will It Be Like?/Program 2

By: Randy Alcorn; ©2013
Children enjoy asking questions about everything—including heaven. Because there are a lot of wrong ideas about Heaven, we must base our answers on what God tells us in the Bible. In this program, Dr. Ankerberg and Randy Alcorn answer children’s questions like: will they see their pets again in Heaven? Is Heaven up? and Will there be sports on the New Earth?

What’s So Exciting About Heaven? Part 2

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.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking with the leading authority in America about heaven, Dr. Randy Alcorn. And we’re going to have a very interesting discussion today, and that is, how do you answer correctly the questions that your children or your grandchildren ask you about heaven? If you’re honest, you will recognize that these questions have already arisen in certain circumstances. And, Randy, describe it. You’ve got these bestselling children’s books about heaven, and I want you to talk about how this topic of heaven seems to come up in many, many different ways.
Alcorn: Children are inquisitive. And Jesus said we’re to be like children. Children ask questions, and they really want answers. And sometimes we tend to give them more than what they were really asking for. But I think it’s just always age-appropriate, and you figure out, how much can I say to explain this to a child? But they have great questions about heaven, and it’s because they believe what we say when we say there’s a heaven. They believe what God says, because the Bible says there’s a heaven, and they want to know what it’s like, what’s going on there, what’s it going to be like for them?
Ankerberg: Yeah, I think of when their pet has died, a grandparent has died, some cases, a mom or dad has died, a brother or sister has died. My cousin, he had twin boys and when one of them got to almost 12 or 13 years of age, one died and the other one was living. And I remember going to the funeral. And I’m saying, when these circumstances come up and people say, “Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, tell me about heaven,” where should they start? How would you describe heaven?
Alcorn: I think the first thing I would do is say, “to be in heaven is to be with Jesus.” And I would probably emphasize that even more than to be with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus became a man. Jesus can be reached out to and touched and felt, and in His resurrection body, He said, “I am not a spirit. A spirit does not have flesh and bones as I have.” And they realized that Jesus loved them; they realize that Jesus went to the cross for them. If they don’t realize that, that’s the gospel, we’ve got to explain that to them. But if they do realize that, and they believe that, then I think we need to make heaven this comforting place that it really is, because it’s to be with Jesus.
We can also encourage them that they will be with people who love Jesus who have gone before them. In many cases they know who those people are. In many other cases it could be a grandparent or a great-grandparent that they’ve never met, people that they are going to meet in heaven. And won’t that be exciting to meet new people who also love Jesus in a place where people won’t do anything to hurt each other?
So I think that’s part of what we need to convey is what there is in heaven: the joy and the happiness and the excitement and the laughter that there is in heaven. And also the fact that there isn’t all the bad stuff that they see in the world, that they know that, even if they’re not allowed to watch the news, they’ll walk into the room and conversations will stop and channels will be changed. And how do we even convey to these kids? These kids are sharp. They know that there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. They know that it’s not safe for them to go out by themselves. And this has been increasingly the case. And so one of the challenges I think for us is to help our children and grandchildren have a positive outlook on the world, not so much derived from the world as it is now the way is, but the world as God is going to make it one day.
Ankerberg: If a child says, “Where is heaven, grandma?” “Where is heaven, mom?” What would you say?
Alcorn: Well, always in Scripture it’s portrayed as being out there, up there, you know, not in our present plane of existence. So it’s here, but we can’t see it. And I have explained to our children and to our grandchildren that heaven actually may be much closer than we think. It’s just maybe separated from us by a thin wall, that we just can’t see what’s on the other side. And certainly in 2 Kings with Elijah and the servant and “open Your servant’s eyes,” and what he is able to see around them, the whole angelic presence. God is with us, so it’s not that God is way out there someplace, and He is not really down here. So we’ve got to be clear with that. Because if we say, “Oh, God is up there in heaven,” that implies God is not down here with them. So we need to say, “He’s up there in heaven in a special way, but if you know Jesus, not only is God around you, He’s literally in you. He’s actually inside you as a person.”
Ankerberg: An actual beautiful little girl asked one of our staff members, her grandpa, okay, “If I die before you guys do, and I go to heaven, who’s going to greet me?”
Alcorn: Second Peter 1 talks about the rich welcome awaiting us in heaven, the people of God. And I think, first and foremost, Jesus Christ Himself; to be welcomed into heaven by Jesus. We see this with the servant entering the presence of the master, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your master’s happiness.” So that welcome, if it was only Jesus, would be fully satisfying. But it will also be many, many other people, some of whom they’ve known and some of whom they haven’t, and they are going to get to know. And then one by one, as the years go by, then others that they know and love that are still down on earth will be coming to heaven, and they’ll get to welcome them.
Tell that to a child. It is like you’re the first one arriving at the party, or one of the first ones from our family. But others are going to follow. We’re going to arrive late. Now, would you rather be at the party first or last? You know, most people would rather be at it first. So no, none of us want to die and leave the world like this, certainly not somebody who is young, but when that happens, they’re going to the party first. And another thing that I have said to my friend Jerry, a childhood friend, who died just after our 20th high school reunion, and I said to Jerry, “Okay, pick out some favorite places for me and show me around when I get there.”
Ankerberg: Let’s add to that. You actually had a little gal that was in a bed and she was dying. Her mom used an illustration of two rooms. Talk about that illustration one more time, and then add this question: If they get there first, won’t they be lonely without the others, without their parents, their brothers and sisters, and the friends that they knew? And will they be able to see what’s happening to them on earth?
Alcorn: What this family did, they took little Emily into the room next to her hospital room where there was a door between them. And they said, “Okay, you’re going to go into this room first, but Jesus is going to be there with you, okay.” Well, if you’re with Jesus you’re not going to be alone. I mean, you can say, do I look forward to being reunited with my parents? Sure. But I’m with the lover of my soul. I’m with my Creator. I’m with someone who is more to me even than my parents, and who loved me enough to give me the gift of my parents. So, no, not lonely until they get there. But then one by one they walked into the room. One would walk in and close the door, you know, representing the fact that one by one, likely, unless it was at the return of Christ and they all got together at the same time, but that they would be joining her in heaven.
Now, as far as whether she has, someone in heaven now, has knowledge of what’s going on down on earth, there are several indications that people do have at least some knowledge. In Revelation 6 you have the martyrs who say, “How long, O Lord before You bring judgment on those people down on earth who murdered us?” They don’t say, “Lord, have You yet brought judgment.” They say, “How long before You will bring judgment,” meaning they know He hasn’t done it yet. How do they know that? Because they can see what’s going on down on earth, at least to that degree. We’re also told in Luke 15, with the lost coin, and the lost sheep and the prodigal son, the lost son, we’re told twice in that passage that whenever a sinner repents there is rejoicing in heaven in the presence of the angels. It’s interesting the way that it’s worded. It would be easy for Jesus to say, “and every time a sinner repents, the angels in heaven rejoice.” But that is not what it says. It says there is rejoicing “in the presence of the angels.” Well, who lives in the presence of the angels? Well, God, so God is rejoicing, true. Do the angels rejoice? No doubt they do. But who else lives in the presence of the angels? It’s the people of God. It’s family members who have died, family members who have prayed that that individual would come to faith in Christ. So that’s a powerful suggestion. They can’t possibly be rejoicing unless they are able to see this spiritual transformation that’s happened in the lives of their loved one.
Ankerberg: We’re going to take a break. When we come back, kids ask, “Will we be ghosts?” “Will we be angels?” “What kind of body will we have?” And “why is heaven going to be exciting, dad?” Alright? And Randy is going to answer those questions when we come right back. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Randy Alcorn, the leading expert on heaven in our country. And, Randy, we’re answering the questions that children give to their parents, to their grandparents. And you’re helping all of us be able to answer those questions. And one of the questions, or two of the questions that come up, “Are we going to be ghosts, grandma, grandpa?” “Are we going to be angels, mom and dad?” What are we going to be like? What kind of bodies are we going to have?
Alcorn: First of all, we know we’re not going to be ghosts. Even in the present heaven it’s portrayed in very tangible ways, people portrayed as having clothes; and there are actually musical instruments that are referred to, harps, trumpets and that sort of thing. There are palm leaves that are referred to. There is the tree of life which is now in the paradise of God. But certainly in the resurrection, where we’re going to live forever, in that, the ultimate heaven, we will be fully embodied, resurrected. It’s very important to emphasize that to a child. Don’t try to get a child excited about the idea of being a disembodied spirit. That’s not what they were made for. No child’s dream is to grow up and be a ghost. What they want is to be able to run and jump and eat and drink and play and do sports. And, sure enough, the resurrection, the new earth, that’s what that is about. So they’re not ghosts. They’re not angels. Angels and people are two very different things.
Ankerberg: Why is heaven not going to be boring?
Alcorn: There will be no end of things to do in heaven. Boredom is a product of life under the curse. It’s where I feel like there’s nothing to do or nothing that I want to do. Because of what? Because of some dissatisfaction in me, some unhappiness, some craving to do something that’s going to fulfill me. Whereas in heaven, we know who will fulfill us; it’s God. Jesus Christ will meet our every need. He is the fountainhead of all happiness, all delight, and all activity, no end to the number of meaningful activities. His servants will serve Him, things to do, places to go, people to see, always a delight. Meeting somebody new at the dinner table. Are you kidding me? Feasts for ages to come. And not only all the people who are in heaven that we will meet; I mean, that is a lot of people to ultimately be seated next to, from other cultures, and to hear their stories. What a fascinating place it’s going to be. For all we know, God may create new beings and other places that we’ll explore and come to know and have relationships with. And maybe new animals that have never existed, and certainly animals that we’ve never been close to. Boredom will be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind in heaven.
Ankerberg: In some movies we’ve seen where somebody that’s a loved one dies, okay, and you see the parent or you see a child going out to the grave, and then they talk to that one that’s passed away, alright. And people, even Christians want to know, can I talk to my loved ones that have died. If I ask Jesus to pass a message on to them, would He do that?
Alcorn: I think that’s a great way to put it, is, I said this to my daughter when her grandma died, “You feel free to pass any message on to grandma through Jesus.” We don’t want to encourage kids to be praying to and talking to departed loved ones. But you can always talk to Jesus, the “one mediator between God and man, the man, Jesus Christ.” And, by all means, He can do that. And I’m sure when she said, “Would You give my grandma a hug for me,” I have no doubt that Jesus answered that prayer. Why would He not answer that prayer? But at the graveside, one thing to remind children of, and this is very important, your loved one is not there, okay. The body that used to be part of their being, and one day will be joined to them again in the resurrection, is there; but the living person that you miss and that you loved and that died, is not in that grave. He or she is with Jesus, safely in His arms. And we need to emphasize that. That is not something that goes without saying, because when people come and they talk to a gravestone, and they talk to a grave and they leave little gifts on the grave, which you see in some cultures, it can be a very unhealthy thing that acts as if that being is physically present there, which they are not.
Ankerberg: Randy, some kids say, you know, will there be some great spots in the new heaven and the new earth that are like Disneyland, or like going to the mountains, or like going to the beach, or going to Six Flags? I mean, will there be fun exciting places that we can really enjoy?
Alcorn: Absolutely. We know for sure God is a God of infinite creativity. The beauty of this present world is just really a fallen shambles of what it once was. And I think just, at its best, it’s just a hint of what it one day will be; more things to be excited about, more things to enjoy. You talk about water slides; and suppose you’re in a body where you’re not in physical danger of injury and being able to go off a waterfall. Who knows what we’re going to be able to do? But I think better stuff in God’s new creation than any amusement park ride that can be invented. But why not amusement park rides? I mean, people are still going to be created in God’s image. People are still going to make things and fashion things with their hands. So I would not be at all surprised to experience those things on the new earth.
Ankerberg: Will we fly like Jesus?
Alcorn: Well, we don’t know that for sure. Certainly God could do that in us, or we could invent things and invent our own little flying machines or take one that someone else has invented. I used to do hang-gliding until I crashed once and, boy, that was fun. And, hang-gliding, just going off a top of a cliff, a mountain and going down over a lake, or by a waterfall. I mean, there could be any number of things.
Ankerberg: Will we be able to explore the universe and all of the stars in the galaxies that are out there if God creates a new heavens and a new earth?
Alcorn: God says “the heavens declare the glory of God.” And God has made His creation in such a way as to manifest His attributes, we’re told in Romans 1. So I think that, whatever God creates in the new creation, He will want us to explore. The spirit of science is a spirit that’s from God. Historically the great scientists, the original scientists, were all people who loved God and were seeking to learn more about Him that’s been revealed in His creation. So I think we’ll all be naturalists; we’ll all be explorers. And I think there will be this thing, this longing in us. You know, science fiction, where did that idea come from? Why does that appeal to people? Did Satan put something in us to make us long to travel, to explore the stars and the planets and other galaxies? I think that yearning actually comes from the Lord. He’s made us curious. He’s made us to want to explore and discover and to learn more about Him. And I think we’ll do that in the ages to come.
Ankerberg: A child says, “Mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa, do I need to invite Jesus into my life? How do I do that?” What do you say?
Alcorn: Well, certainly we need to help our children and grandchildren, understand, “You need Jesus more than anything or any person in the world. If you think you wouldn’t want to be without your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, your friends,” and certainly they would not want to be without them, “Jesus is the person who knows you best, who loves you most, yes, even more than we do. We love you with all our hearts, but we’re limited; He’s not. He loves you. And He paid the price for you on the cross. So you need to know Him and here is how you get to know Him.” And I think a child, as soon as a child is able to understand that they’ve done anything wrong, that’s sin, and they’ve got a problem. And that sin separates them from God. And there’s the opportunity to say, “You need to confess your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you. And once you come into a relationship with Him, when you do other sins, you’ll confess again, and ask His forgiveness. But you need to do the one where you come into a relationship with Jesus for the first time. And once you do that, you’re not going to have to repeat it again and again.” Though sometimes when they feel like doing it, it’s okay, just to make sure that they’re really saved. But we just need to say, “What’s true for you is exactly what’s true for all of us. We need Jesus more than anything.”
Ankerberg: How can,…Let’s say that say that prayer and they say, “Momma, am I really going to heaven? How can I know for sure?”
Alcorn: I think that’s where we say, “God has promised.” First John 5, “these things are written that you may know that you have eternal life.” You have it by believing in His Son. This is God’s promise. Take it to the bank. You can absolutely count on it. It’s a blood-bought promise. It is not, sometimes the word “hope” is used in Scripture, but it’s not the way;… we think of hope more as wishful thinking, whereas in Scripture that hope is bought by the blood of God Himself. It’s a certainty.
Ankerberg: Next week, folks, we’re going to end this series by talking about, what can you say to your mom, to your dad, to your grandparents, to your friends at work, to people you come in contact with, who just assume that they’re going to heaven, and they’ve never invited Jesus into their life? They just assume they are going. What can you tell them? This is one of the most dangerous situations that a person can be in, and Jesus talks exactly to that situation. I’m going to ask Randy to take this slowly next week, and I hope that you’ll join us then.

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