Dr. John Hoole – November 23, 2014




I remember the one and only time I went snorkeling.  It was in the Red Sea at the resort city of Sharm el Sheikh, on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.  I saw countless fish of every shape, size, and color.  And just when I thought I’d seen the most beautiful fish, along came another even more striking.  As my eyes were opened to the underwater world, I was silently saying “wow” every time I saw another colorful species.  They are etched in my memory.


I imagine our first glimpse of Heaven will cause us to similarly gasp in amazement and delight.  Our first gasp will be followed by another and many more as we continually encounter new sights in that endlessly wonderful place.


Think of friends or family members who lived for Jesus and are with Him now.  Picture them with you, walking together in that place.  All of you have powerful bodies, stronger than those of an Olympic decathlete.  You are laughing, playing, talking and reminiscing.


You reach up to a tree growing beside a beautiful stream – the River of Life.  You pick an apple or orange and take a bite.  It’s so sweet that it’s startling.  You’ve never tasted anything so good.  Now you see someone coming toward you.  It’s Jesus, with a big smile on his face.  You almost instinctively fall to your knees in worship.  He pulls you to your feet and embraces you.  At last, you are with the Person you were made for, in a place you were made to be.


Everywhere you go there are new people and places to enjoy – new things to discover.  What’s that you smell.  A feast – a party is ahead – and you’ve been invited.  In time – and I do mean time – you have exploration and work to be done, and you can’t wait to get started.  I have a biblical basis for all of these statements, and many more.


How do we know anything about Heaven?  If we had no “inside information,” we could only speculate.  Fortunately, we have some solid data to build on – divine revelation.  I have never been to heaven, but I have a very good Friend who has.  He came here and told us about it and showed it to us.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.




Some time ago, I was talking with some people in our home about Heaven.  One of them said God has not given us much information about Heaven.  They continued by quoting the Scripture that says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”  They continued, “Obviously, we can’t know anything about what He has prepared for us.”


They were more amazed when I told them I had 16 articles about Heaven on our web site.  Then I said, when you quoted Scripture, you didn’t finish the sentence.


1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV


  9        "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him," 

10        but God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.


On our own, we would never imagine what Heaven is like.  But God has sent the Holy Spirit.  What we otherwise could not have known about Heaven, because we were unable to see it, God says He has revealed to us through his Spirit.  That means God has explained to us what Heaven is like.  Not exhaustively – but accurately.  God tells us about Heaven in his Word, because He wants us to understand and anticipate what awaits us.


There are a number of other biblical verses that are sometimes used to shut off discussions about Heaven.  For example, Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.”  And Heaven is regarded as one of those “secret thing.”  But, again, the rest of the verse is rarely quoted.


Deuteronomy 29:29 NKJV


29        "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever….


Now, I accept that many things about Heaven are secret, and that God has countless surprises in store for us.  But He has revealed many things to us about Heaven, and this verse says these things belong to us and to our children.


Therefore, since He has revealed them to us, it is important that we study and understand them.  This is precisely why God revealed them to us.


Another “silencer” of discussions about Heaven is 2 Corinthians 12:2-4,  Paul says that 14 years earlier he was “caught up to paradise,” where he “heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”  Some use this verse to say we should not discuss what Heaven will be like.  But all it says is that God didn’t permit Paul to talk about his visit to Heaven.  In contrast, God commanded us to read and understand what John wrote about Heaven, which he did in great detail in the book of Revelation.  Likewise, Isaiah and Ezekiel wrote about what they saw in Heaven.  While it may be inappropriate for us to speculate on what Paul might have seen in Heaven, it’s certainly  appropriate to discuss what John saw, because God chose to reveal them to us.


It truly is beyond our imagination to know and envisage ALL God has prepared for us in Heaven.  But those things He has revealed can indeed be imagined and anticipated.


I have attended two fine Bible Colleges.  But I learned very little about heaven in the classroom.  In my class on the Book of Revelation, we never made it to chapter 21 & 22, the most definitive passages on the eternal Heaven in the Bible.


Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote an in-depth two-volume set titled The Nature and Destiny of Man.”  But, although the word “destiny” is in his book title, he remarkably had nothing to say about heaven.


William Shedd’s three-volume Dogmatic Theology contains 87 pages on eternal punishment, but only two on Heaven.


In his nine-hundred page theology, Great Doctrines of the Bible, Martyn Lloyd-Jones devotes less than two pages to the eternal state and the New Earth.


Even pastors may not think it is important to address the subject of Heaven, because the seminary training didn’t have a require course on it – or even an elective.  Similarly, when pastors don’t preach on Heaven, their congregations assume that the Bible doesn’t say much about it.


Colossians 3:1 NIV

    1          Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.


This is a direct command to set our hearts on Heaven.  And to make sure we don’t miss the importance of a heaven-centered life, the next verse says:


Colossians 3:2 NIV


2          Set your minds (not just your heart) on things above, not on earthly things.


                   God commands us to set our hearts and minds on Heaven.


To long for Christ is to long for Heaven, for that is where we will be with Him.  God’s people, according to Hebrews 11:16, are “longing for a better country.”  We cannot set our eyes on Christ without setting our eyes on Heaven, and we cannot set our eyes on Heaven without setting our eyes on Christ.  Still, these verses tell us it is not only Christ, but “things above” that we are to set our minds on.


Thinking of heaven has at least five practical effects on our lives here on earth.


         1.      Focusing on heaven restores our hope during times of suffering  (Romans 8:18)


         2.      Focusing on heaven reassures us that God is on the throne (Revelation 4:1-3)


         3.      Focusing on heaven reminds us that this world is not all there is  (Philippians 3:20).


         4.      Focusing on heaven refocuses us on the nature of true treasures (riches)  (Matthew 6:19-20)


         5.      Focusing on heaven reignites our fervor to serve the Lord  (Isaiah 6:1-8).


Everything connected to our spiritual life and destiny is in heaven.  Our Father is there – our Savior is there – our Comforter is there.  Our fellow believers are there, our name is there, our life is there, our inheritance is there.  Our home is there, our citizenship is there, our reward is there, our treasure is there.  Everything that belongs to us is there.


The command to think about Heaven is under attack in a hundred different ways every day.  Everything mitigates against it.  It is so easy to keep our minds and hearts on the things of earth, not Heaven.  Our minds are so much set on Earth that we are unaccustomed to heavenly thinking.  So we must work at it.


I mentioned in an earlier lesson that Satan hates for us to think about Heaven.  He tries his best to divert our attention to other things, or else he will spread lies about heaven.


Revelation 13:6 tells us of Satan’s man, the antichrist,


6       He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.


Satan blasphemes:


         •  God

         •  God’s Name

         •  God’s dwelling place

         •  God’s people.


On one hand, the devil tries to get us to think Heaven is a really boring place, where we sit on clouds, playing our harps, and singing every hymn we have ever known over and over again for all eternity.


On the other hand, he tries to get people to believe heaven really doesn’t exist.  He gets popular people like John Lennon (Beagles) to sing:


                   “Imagine there’s no Heaven. It’s easy if you try.

                     No Hell below us, Above us only sky.”


C. S. Lewis had it right.


“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.   It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in.”  Aim at earth and you will get neither.”


Heaven is a place where most people want to reside at the conclusion of their present life.  And most folks assume they will be in heaven.  And yet, it is a remarkable fact that so few people know anything about heaven.  And even fewer plan to go there.


When we go on a trip, I always learn as much as possible about the places I will be visiting.  I find out what attractions are near where we will be.  Sometimes I learn something of their history and the people who live there.


And yet, when it comes to going to heaven, few are interested in looking into it.  The Bible is the best travel brochure about eternity.  Yet because people are too busy to read the Scriptures, they remain ignorant of the details they urgently need to know.


When a person really takes the time to look into the subject of heaven, many questions come to mind about that destination.


         Is heaven a real place?

         If it is real, where is it located?

         Who are its inhabitants now? – Who will be its inhabitants later?

         What are its attractions?

         Will we know each other in heaven?

         What will we do in heaven?

         Is present Heaven a physical place?

         Will we desire relationships with anyone but God?

         What will we know and learn?

         What kind of bodies will those who go to heaven have?

         How old will we be in heaven.

         Are there animals in heaven? – What about our pets?

         Will we actually be able to see God when we get there?

         Can I know for sure I am going to heaven?

         Will there be “time” in Heaven?

         Will we still be male and female in Heaven?

         Are we all equal in Heaven?

         Do those in heaven know what is going on down here on earth right now?

         Will sin occur in Heaven?


These and many others questions beg for answers.  And except for the very last question about sin in heaven, any question that is answered “yes” or “no”, the answer is “yes.”


Fortunately, we do not have to die to discover God’s truth about heaven.  The Bible really does tell us a great deal about Heaven.  The words “heaven,” “heavens,” and “heavenly” occur over 700 times in the Bible.  So we really aren’t left in the dark about this place.


First, let’s cover some of the basic questions.




Actually, there are several uses of the word “heaven” in the Bible.  2 Corinthians 12:2 speaks of Paul’s visit to the 3rd heaven.  I suppose that one could conclude from this short simple statement that there are at least two other heavens.




This is the place where God resides.  How do we know that?


2 Corinthians 12:2-4   (NIV)


2       I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows.

3       And I know that this man-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-

4       was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.


It is important to add verses 3 & 4, because, in verse 4, Paul reiterates his being caught up to the 3rd heaven, but, in verse 4, he uses the word “paradise” to represent the 3rd heaven.  This statement helps us verify the thought that the 3rd heaven is where God resides.




The Greek word used here and translated “paradise” is the word “Paradeisoo” (par-AD-ee-soo).  There is only one other place where this word is used following the resurrection of Christ.  That is found in Revelation 2, in Christ’s message to the church at Ephesus.


Revelation 2:7 NKJV


7       "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."' 


There should be no doubt as to where this paradise is.  It is called the “paradise of God.”  This is the place where God is.


Also associated with this Paradise is the “tree of life.”  The tree of life has always been the symbol of eternal life, and was originally located in the Garden of Eden, a different paradise.  When Adam and Eve sinned, God sent them out of that paradise and guarded its entrance so that they would not partake of the tree of life.


In Revelation 22:2, we find the tree of life mentioned again.  This time it is a prominent feature in the heavenly city.  And it continues to stand as the symbol of eternal life.  The Garden of Eden was merely a symbol of the real paradise of heaven.


I think we have fairly solidly established that the 3rd heaven is the residence of God.




In the Scripture, the term “heaven” is interpreted in 3 ways.  And I believe from this we will see that not only are there at least three heavens, but, most probably there are only three heavens.  One must study the context in the Bible to know which meaning of heaven is implied.


1. The Atmospheric Heaven


This is the atmosphere that immediately surrounds the planet earth.  From it comes the air we breathe.  In it the birds and clouds fly, and from it comes the rain.  It is the area in which our weather forms and functions.


Isaiah 55:9-11   NIV


9       As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10     As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11     so is my word that goes out from my mouth:


2. The Celestial Heaven


Heaven may be known in the Bible to refer to seemingly endless planets, stars, and galaxies.  This is known as outer spaced which men, in the last 40 years, have begun to penetrate.  This is the heavens you can see more easily at night.  It includes the stars and moon and sun.


This canopy of countless stars caused the shepherd David to say, in Psalm 19:1-2


         1.      The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

         2       Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.


Psalm 8:3  (NIV)


3       When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,


It is into this heaven that man-made objects have been sent, to explore the far reaches of the universe.


3.      The Sanctified Heaven


We discussed this heaven earlier, and have established it as the dwelling place of God.  Today, the 3rd heaven can only be seen through the eyes of faith.  God describes this heaven for us in His Word.


The 3rd heaven is where the Father manifests His presence.  Psalms 103:19 (NKJV) The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.


It is from this 3rd heaven that Jesus descended to earth to take on Himself the form of a man.  And it was to this heaven that Jesus ascended 40 days after his resurrection.  This is the place where believers go when they die.  And it is the place where believers that are alive at the Rapture will also go.


Contrary to popular belief, there is no 7th heaven.  I believe there are only 3 heavens.

         •  The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven – the sky.

         •  The second is the stellar or celestial heaven – outer space.

         •  The third is the divine heaven, where God resides.


When we talk about heaven, we are usually referring to the divine heaven, or 3rd heaven.  That will be the focus of the rest of our lesson.


Earlier, I mentioned more than a dozen questions that arise when seriously considering the subject of “heaven.”  I would like to answer one of them now.




Let me show you one additional chart to bring our lesson to a close.  We each have a choice to make concerning where each of us will spend eternity - Heaven or Hell: 

In HEAVEN, right choices will be forever celebrated.  In HELL, wrong choices are endlessly reviewed.


The best of earth is a but glimpse of HEAVEN.   The worst of earth is but a glimpse of HELL.


God’s presence makes HEAVEN HEAVEN.  God’s absence make HELL HELL.


The most basic truth is there are only two possible eternal destination – heaven and hell.  One is just as real as the other.  The great problem is, while making up one’s mind, they are already on the road to one of these places.


The default destination is Hell.  Unless and until we bow our knees to Jesus Christ, that is where we are headed.  Satan has deluded mankind into thinking the default destiny is Heaven, and you have to do something very evil not to go there.


The good news is that none need go to Hell.  Jesus Christ paid the price of the ticket to Heaven.