“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. If this fallen world in all of its brokenness can be so wonderful, what must heaven be like?” - T. S. Elliot
A note came home from school with my third grader. It was stapled closed and read, “Mr. and Mrs. Schrock”. You never quite know what to expect when you have a very inquisitive 8-year old son and he brings home a note from school. But I carefully opened it and began to read it’s contents. In the note, my son’s teacher explained how the children were drawing pictures to go along with their story. He was quite perplexed about how to accurately depict an illustration of heaven. He approached her, “Teacher -how do I draw heaven?” She responded, “Well, that’s a tricky one, maybe you could draw streets of gold and tall mansions.” He just gave her a strange look. But his teacher replied, “Haven’t you ever heard of streets of gold in heaven before?” He very innocently and honestly said, “No - we haven’t gotten that far in church yet!”
Some of you may be wondering the exact same thing. What must heaven be like? Although we are quick to answer streets of gold and beautiful mansions, it’s HEAVEN - there MUST BE MORE! There is more! Like my son, if we haven’t gotten that far yet we need to turn to the final book of the bible. The book of Revelation gives us a taste of what heaven must be like, at least through the eyes of John.
John’s view of the Holy City came from the top of a high mountain. He was taken there by an angel. God’s glory shone through out the city “and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” The City has twelve gates, and each gate is guarded by an angel. The wall is made of jasper, the city is of gold, the gates of pearl, and the foundations of twelve precious stones.
Verse 16 of Revelation 21 tells us, “The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He (the angel) measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.” Ok, so let’s put that into the year 2011 terms. Stadia was an old Roman method of measurement. One stadia equaled 607 feet, times 12,000 stadia, equals 7,284,000 feet, OR 1,379 miles. Stick with me here - the city was 1,379 miles long, 1,379 miles high, and 1,379 miles wide. Wow! Try drawing that illustration to go along with your next story!
What must heaven be like? God paints the picture of a river of life as clear as crystal which flows and the tree of life which grows and yields fruit in this holy city. There will be no need for the sun or the moon, for God Almighty himself will provide an abundance of light and there will be no dark night. Gold and precious stones, the very things we hold in high value as humans, will be the very things our feet will trample upon. You see - the values of heaven are certainly not material, but spiritual.
The city is marvelous beyond description. What John experienced within his vision must be symbolic. For it seems as if God has used only terms that we as humans can understand to describe the indescribable. But, it is important that we don’t focus completely on the surroundings. The most important feature of this holy and beautiful city is to be in the very presence of God Himself for eternity. It is written in John 17:3, “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.” Revelation 21:4
What must heaven be like? Heaven is a real place. Heaven is a right place. It is the city in which we will be free from sin’s curse. All of the wrongs of the world will be made right. All evil will cease and be replaced with that which is good. Sadness will be no more, instead only joy will be present. Gone forever are the feelings of hate and despair. For hope and love will prevail. Every sickness will come to an end and our bodies and souls will experience complete wholeness. Every failure, inadequacy, frustration, struggle, and suffering will be over forever. Only complete success, complete adequacy, and complete fulfillment is possible in the presence of Christ.
Isn’t it reassuring to catch just a glimpse of the place that God is preparing for His children? Think about the trials and sufferings of life that will no longer cause us pain! There will be no more need to strive and struggle. But until then, we must make sure we are ready. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:10-13
What does it mean to be ready? Verse 14 goes on to encourage us to be spotless, blameless, and at peace with God. Why does God wait to bring us into this holy city? Because His patience means salvation to those who have not come to know Him as Lord and Savior, (vs. 15). Furthermore, we are to be on our guard - growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ!
What must heaven be like? Set aside all else, if it’s where God is….it’s where I want to be. In the words of the great Buzz Lightyear, for “Infinity and beyond!”