WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE?
What is heaven like? The Bible gives us some insights in various passages, especially in the book of Revelation, but even that is looking through a glass darkly. The world we live in now is an aberration, completely designed for decay and death. Everything and everyone around us is in some state of deterioration. If you truly understood what Heaven is like, and what it would be like to be there, you would change all your negative lifestyle habits and attitudes. Think of the happiest moment you've ever experienced, think of the best you've ever felt, think of the most incredibly beautiful sight you've ever seen: then magnify it billions of times, and understand there is no end to this joy, no aging, no pain, no disease, no loneliness, no fear, no doubt, no discomfort, no death -- and you only scratch the surface of what it's like in the Paradise of God. Majesty beyond conception, brightness and light of such beauty, it's beyond description.
Let's imagine we're standing on a vast plain, with the heavenly city towering above us in resplendent beauty. Our eyes behold a brilliant, shining city, with light streaming through its jasper walls and pearly gates, and a full spectrum of color gleaming from its jeweled foundation. As we gaze in awe on the city, the first thing to attract our attention is its massive jasper wall. The apostle John described it as: "The light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." (Re 21:11). We know that these semi-precious stones are translucent in composition, so that light is able to pass through them. From these jasper walls, therefore, radiate brilliant rays of dazzling color for all to see. The glory of the city will thus be visible from afar, and even the dwellers in the area outside the walls will share in its brightness.
Although the wall around the city is real, it is also symbolic. The purpose of the wall is not to preserve the city against invaders, for God will have no enemies in the new earth. Being 216 feet high, it signifies that no one will enter the city without God's grace. The wall is too high to be scaled by human effort, and the only entrances are the 12 guarded gates. The requirement for admittance is salvation, and no one who has rejected God's plan will be able to go in. Salvation is the gift of God's grace to those who humbly acknowledge their need of forgiveness and who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.
As we look at the city, the next thing that stands out is its jeweled foundation. These jewels reflect all the colors of the rainbow. Beginning at ground level, these were probably the colors seen by the apostle John:
The radiating light of the city, shining out through the jasper wall and blazing through the open gates, reflects from these precious stones in splendorous color.
- the jasper stone may have been light green or yellow; the sapphire, sky-blue or azure;
- the chalcedony, containing a combination of colors, was mostly green and blue;
- the emerald, bright green; the sardonyx, red and white;
- the sardius, reddish in color; chrysolite, golden yellow;
- beryl, sea-green; topaz, yellow-green and transparent;
- chrysoprasus, golden-green; jacinth, violet;
- and amethyst, rose-red or purple.
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And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: each gate was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Rev. 21:21).
These gates of pearl suggest salvation by grace. Even as a wound to an oyster results in the formation of a valuable pearl, the gates of heaven can be entered only because the Lord Jesus was "wounded for our transgressions" (Is. 53:5). Although men wickedly rejected Him and crucified Him, it was through this death that salvation was made possible. Now, all who believe on Him can look forward to entering the pearled gates of the heavenly city. Jesus Himself said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved" (John 10:9).
The gates are open at all times and in every direction, for salvation is still offered freely to everyone. The angels who stand watch at the open gates are a wonderful contrast to those cherubim who guarded the closed gate of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. These angels keep the way of access open, while the cherubim kept the Garden closed to fallen humanity.
One of the characteristics of the heavenly city is the abundance of gold. A precious commodity throughout man's history, gold has been used in works of art and as a standard of value, and has been the means of a great amount of both good and evil in society.
It served the purposes of God in the tabernacle and temple, for much gold was in evidence there; it was also used by idolaters in the making of images. On earth, men have fought, suffered, and died for it. But in the New Jerusalem, gold will be so plentiful that it will be used for cobblestones and building blocks. And it will be like glass, possessing transparent qualities, so that the glorious light of the holy city will both shine through it and be reflected by it. Here is John's description:
The city was pure gold, like clear glass. . . . and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:18, 21).Traditionally, gold has symbolized purity. In the wedding band, for example, the circle speaks of endlessness and the gold stands for purity. The golden street of the New Jerusalem, therefore, suggests the pure and holy walk of God's redeemed in eternal paradise. And the brightness of the city, reflecting from the gold that abounds everywhere, will correspond to the uncorrupted light within the heart of every citizen of Heaven. Purity pervades the eternal Paradise of God.
A river clear as crystal will flow through the New Jerusalem. The apostle John declared:
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1).Just as in Eden there was a river to water the garden, so also in the New Jerusalem there will be a river of life. It will begin at the throne of God, the very uppermost part of the city, and it will flow downward through the entire area.
In the New Jerusalem, a river of crystal will flow forever, reminding us for all eternity that God has graciously and abundantly provided for our every need.
Remember, life in eternity will not be a nebulous existence in some nameless place. Not by a long shot! We will lead rich and full lives in glorified bodies. We'll dwell on a renewed earth in a real city of gold, and our lives will be filled with significance and meaning as we give praise to our Redeemer and gladly do His bidding.
This crystal river flowing through our eternal home will be of sparkling beauty and of clarity beyond the purest water man has ever seen. Think of it! All who believe in the Anointed Jesus will walk the banks of this glorious crystal river. What a joy will then be ours!
It's difficult to envision just how the trees, the crystal river, and the street of gold will be related. Some Believers feel that a river will flow through the middle of a broad street, and that alongside the river on each bank will be the trees. Others believe that a grove of trees is centered between the avenue of gold on one side and the river on the other. Either way, the idea that Heaven is a place where the redeemed will do nothing but sit on golden stairs playing harps is grossly mistaken. Life in heaven will be active, filled with beauty and variety.
We've been concerned with what the Bible tells us about our eternal home. We have seen its beauty from outside: its gleaming jasper walls, its jeweled foundations, and its gates of pearl. We have also seen its glory within as we have envisioned the street of gold, the crystal river, and the tree of life.
This glimpse of our eternal home should bring two responses to the heart of the true believer in the Anointed Jesus. First, there should be a renewed determination to place top priority on spiritual and eternal things rather than on the physical and temporal. Therefore, in anticipation of the glory and beauty of our eternal home, begin right now to "lay up . . . treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:20) by putting God first, and by a constant willingness to serve Him.
Second, the thought of Heaven should cheer us when we become discontented with life and discouraged about the future. No matter how bad things may be going or how difficult the struggles, the prospect of that wonderful abode awaiting us should be a source of encouragement and hope.
We will know a purity, bliss, and love such as could never be experienced here. Writing in Revelation 21 and 22, the apostle John recorded his vision of an immense city of shimmering beauty, descending slowly from heaven to become the capital city of our eternal home. It will be radiant with the light of God's glory shining through its jasper walls, its jeweled foundation, and its pearly gates. And this city, the New Jerusalem, will be the eternal abode of all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. All who have been saved will walk the street of gold in transformed, eternal, glorified bodies. We'll enjoy heaven's beautiful crystal river and have ready access to its tree of life. We'll be eternally delivered from every evil and burden that plagues our world today. And we'll finally have become what God intended us to be.
In that perfect society we'll realize our full spiritual potential as individuals. Having entered an eternal fellowship with God, we'll be engaged in an endless variety of meaningful activities. We'll join with the saints of all the ages in a spirit of communion, fellowship, and love never ending. We'll see that the imperfections of this life will be missing and that positive blessings will be there in abundance. All you have to do is stop clinging -- through sentimentality and emotion -- to the miserable, hopeless, death-centered way of life the world has deceived you into living, and cut your emotional bondage to it. Become a new person inside and out, and find a destiny of never ending hope!
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