Is Heaven Real – What Will It Be Like

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2003
Dr. Ankerberg interviews Dr. Lutzer on the subject of heaven. How can we know if it is a real place? What will it look like?

Is Heaven Real? What Will It Be Like?

Dr. John Ankerberg: A lot of people have grown up in church and Sunday School. They have heard the pastor or teacher talk about heaven. But, Erwin, is there any evidence that will help us to know if heaven is a real place?

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: You know, John, there’s a story that I came across that I love to tell because it talks to us about how real death is and how real heaven is.

In Iowa there was a little girl who was dying. The pastor came to visit her one Saturday morning and she looked up and she said, “I want to go to heaven but they’re letting Mamie in ahead of me.” And then a little while later she said, “And now they’re letting Gramps go in ahead of me.” As the time continued the pastor had to leave. He discovered a few hours later that the little girl died.

So the pastor decided that he would check on who these people were. Who was Mamie? Who was Gramps? He discovered that Mamie was a little girl who used to live in the neighborhood but had moved to New York State. Gramps was a friend of the family who had moved to the Southwest. He tracked them down and would you believe that both of them died that Saturday morning?

I want you to know that death is real but heaven is very real. And that little girl, bless her, actually saw the entrance to heaven and saw those people go in.

Now, of course we don’t build our theology on this. We build it upon the Scriptures. But an experience like that is consistent with what the Bible teaches. It makes sense that there are those who die who, during that period of transition, can already see the spirit world. The experience of seeing the other side is a very, very real one.

You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, how then do I integrate all this with my own grief?” be­cause I speak today to those who grieve. When Peter Marshall died, I remember the story of how his wife Catherine said that as he was being taken to the hospital, she realized something: that the value of a life is not dependent upon duration—it’s not how long it is— it’s dependent upon donation. It’s what you give.

And those loved ones who have died; they have given a lot to us. They’ve reminded us of heaven. They’ve reminded us of love. They’ve made us anticipate the life to come. They’ve made a reunion in heaven something that we look forward to. Accept your grief. Weep. Be comforted in your weeping and know that some day all is going to be different. You will be reunited if you’re a believer in Jesus.

John, one day a little girl was looking at pictures of Jesus. Her parents were reading her stories of Jesus. You know that we’ve all used these picture books to communicate scrip­tural truth to our children, and this little girl saw in the book pictures of Jesus. That night she dreamt about Jesus. And in the morning she said to her mommy and daddy, “I dreamed about Jesus and He’s a hundred times better than the pictures.” Well, I think that the time is going to come when you and I are going to agree that He’s a hundred times better than anything that we could possibly say about Him. And even eye is not able to grasp and ear is not able to hear and tongue is not able to speak all of the wonders that God has prepared for those who love Him.

Ankerberg: What will heaven be like? What will it look like?

Lutzer: What we’d like to do is to help us to understand heaven a little better by looking at what the Bible calls “the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” the text says in Revelation 21. Just this past Saturday I attended a wedding. Beautiful bride, beautifully adorned. We all know what goes into that dress, don’t we? We know how much it costs, those of us who have had daughters who have been married. But the whole emphasis is on the bride. And God makes them beauti­ful, even more beautiful on the day of their wedding.

Now, what can we say about the New Jerusalem? First of all, I want to say a word about its size. Listen to the words of Scripture: “And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, 1500 miles; its length and width and height are equal.” (Rev. 21:16) Now, when you stop to think about it, you realize that the New Jerusalem could either be a cube 1500 miles square, or it could also be a pyramid, because it talks about its height and then its base being 1500 miles. Whatever. Let’s suppose that it is a cube. Do you know that the New Jerusalem would have 396,000 stories, each one-half the size of the United States? Each story 20 feet high, if you take it literally, 1500 miles by 1500 miles–I’ll tell you, that’s lots of room. It’s enough for the Re­deemed of the Old Testament. It’s enough for the Redeemed of the New Testament. And it’s enough for you.

And you know, I believe that there’s a crown that only you can wear. There may be a condominium—and of course, I’m putting this into language that we can understand—there may be a condominium with your name on it. The Bible says that there’s a place reserved in heaven for you. I like that. I’ve been to restaurants, you know, and you have this long line and then if you have a reservation, though, you can walk past the line and you can immedi­ately be served, because it’s reserved. And there is a place reserved in heaven for you. Heaven has enough room for you. It has enough room for the saints of all the ages.

You say, “Well now, what if I am stuck on the thousandth floor or the ten thousandth floor and all of the activity is on the downstairs lounge? Well, I want you to know that’s no prob­lem because, remember this: when we have our resurrected bodies we will be like Christ. Do you remember how effortlessly He traveled? How He could be in Jerusalem and then be in Galilee or be in Galilee and then be in Jerusalem? How He went through doors be­cause He had a body whose molecular structure was different and therefore was not lim­ited by matter? And you know that in heaven the thought is going to be the movement. If you say, “I want to be where the action is” and you want to travel in a certain direction or to a certain place, you simply desire to do that, you choose to do that, and so far as we know, the travel is effortless and you will arrive there.

So we have all of that to look forward to in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is indeed a place. You know, Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you,” and this is the place that He went to prepare. And He spoke and it was created.

John, I’d like to say a word also about the materials of the city. It is so beautiful as de­scribed here and, of course, I’m reading from Revelation Chapters 21 and 22. But do you remember in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress where Hopeful and Christian were not able to look at the city directly? It is because it was so beautiful that they needed a special instru­ment by which they could see it. Well, someday we’re going to see it directly with our new eyes and our new body and our new minds. We’re going to be there. But let’s listen to the description and to see how beautiful it really is. For example, we read, “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal clear jasper. And it had great walls with twelve gates and at the gates were twelve angels and the names were written on them which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” So what we have here are twelve gates and they represent the Old Testament saints. But notice also, “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” So you have the New Testament saints. And, of course, it goes on to tell us that “the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each one of the gates was a single pearl, and the streets of the city were pure gold like transparent glass.”

All that we can do is to try to visualize it, to try to enter into it, and to realize that we’re not making this up. This is real! This is what heaven is going to be like. What a wonderful time we are going to have there.

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