In the Bible, the word "heaven" occurs 276 times in the New Testament alone. Heaven is an actual place and is described as the beautiful dwelling place of those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Paul said that he was "caught up to the third heaven" but was not allowed to say what he saw there (2 Corinthians 12:1-9). If there is a third heaven, what are the other two? Scholars agree that the first heaven is what is also called the sky, or the firmament, and is the space that contains clouds, the breathable human atmosphere that hangs above the earth. The second heaven refers to what we call "space" or the area where stars, planets and galaxies are found (Genesis 1:14-18).
The third heaven, which Paul was told not to describe, is where God dwells with the angels and the souls of Christians, having had a place prepared for them by Jesus Christ (John 14:2). The saints of the Old Testament also have a home there having died trusting in God's future promise of a Redeemer (Ephesians 4:8). It is true for those before Christ's death and afterward—those who looked forward to His atonement and those who, like us, look back—that whoever believes in Him shall never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The apostle John saw the city of heaven and, unlike Paul, was told to write down what he saw. This is part of the book of Revelation, the spiritual vision of the end times and the coming of Christ. In Revelation 21:10-27, John saw heaven and the new earth, full of the "glory of God" (Revelation 21:11), which is the presence of God. Because God's presence is light, heaven does not need a sun or a moon, because the Lord Himself is its light (Revelation 22:5).
The city in heaven has twelve foundations, each made of a different precious stone, on which are written the names of the twelve apostles. It has streets of gold so pure that it is transparent. It has twelve gates, each one bearing a name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and each gate is made of a single, giant pearl (Revelation 21:12-14). Flowing through the city is the river of life, and lining the river are trees bearing a different type of fruit each month, with leaves that "heal the nations." It is wonderful to imagine the beauty of these things, but the reality is that heaven will be more beautiful and good than we can imagine (Revelation 22:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:9).
Another description John gives of heaven is that there will be no sorrow there, no pain or tears (Revelation 21:4). We will never again suffer separation, because death will be dead and gone and will never steal from us again (Revelation 20:6). There will be no illness, no doubt or fear, and no sin. The most wonderful part of heaven will be the continual presence of God, from whom flow all good things and all blessings (1 John 3:2). He, the Lord our Savior, will be with us always, and we will be able to praise and thank Him perfectly for His sacrifice, for taking our sins on Himself, and for His provision of our eternal home in heaven.
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