Many Christians believe that we can’t know what heaven is like, and we will just have to find out when we get there. They undoubtedly will quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 where it says “No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” However that verse is misused all of the time, and it says exactly the opposite of what people think it says. You see if you keep reading, verse 10 says “But it was to us (believers) God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” So God’s spirit reveals things to us that we otherwise couldn’t know.
Scripture tells us much about heaven. We don’t know about because it isn’t often preached or focused on, and so we end up believing things that are not true. For example did you know that there are two heavens?
Where do we go when we die? Heaven, right? Well, it depends on which heaven you are talking about. Yes, there are two heavens explained in scripture. The present heaven, and the new heaven. You see, the present heaven will one day be no more, and it will be replaced by a new Heaven.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. Revelation 21:1 NLT
When people refer to heaven, they are probably talking about the new heaven; the heaven that hasn’t been created yet. The scriptures that come to mind to most of us, are about the new heaven, and not the present heaven.
The present heaven, also called the intermediate heaven, is the place where believers go right after their physical body dies. It is an intermediate state or place for us, and is not our final destination. This is where we wait until Christ comes back to earth, our bodies are resurrected, the final judgement happens, and for the creation of the new heaven and new earth. The intermediate heaven is temporary, but the new heaven and new earth will be eternal.
What Jesus said to the thief on the cross, lets us know that as soon as your physical body has died, your spirit goes to the intermediate heaven.
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 NLT
The intermediate heaven is a place that we will enjoy far better than the current earth.
Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Cor 5:8 NLT
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. Philippians 1:23 NLT
The intermediate heaven is an angelic realm, separate from the current earth. The future/eternal heaven will be on the new earth, and it will be a human realm. Revelation 21:1-3 tells us that the new city of Jerusalem and God will come down from heaven to live with us there. Jesus in resurrected bodily form, and our spirit reunited with our new physical bodies, will live together forever in a physical place, on the new earth. How exciting! We will live with Jesus in a physical place.
When God first created Adam and Eve, before sin entered the world, God came down to earth to be with them. Similarly, God will come down to the new earth to live with us forever. So God’s original plan, where He comes down to dwell with us, will still be fulfilled. We will be a resurrected people, living on a resurrected earth, living with resurrected Jesus for eternity.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus tells us much about the intermediate heaven.
Finally the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, and he went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ Luke 16:22-26 NLT
After our physical bodies die, there will be an immediate judgement made and our spirit will either go to the current heaven, or the current hell. We will remember people and the things that happened during our time on this current earth. Those in the current hell will be in anguish, and those in the intermediate heaven will be comforted. No one in the current hell can go to the intermediate heaven, and no one from the intermediate heaven can go to the current hell.
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge out blood for what they have done to us?” Revelation 6:9-11 NLT
The people in the intermediate heaven will be conscious, and will remember what happened on earth, even the very bad things.
There will also be another Hell, called the lake of fire.
Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:13 NLT
The present/intermediate heaven and the current hell are unseen. Scientists are now claiming that there are up to 10 unobservable dimensions, so maybe they are in another dimension.
We do know that God can make seen what is unseen. He allowed Steven to see heaven prior to being stoned.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at Gods right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” Acts 7:55-56 NLT
God let Elisha’s servant see the unseen.
“Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. 2 Kings 6:16-17 NLT
As believers, we don’t have to fear physical death or going to the intermediate heaven. If we have accepted Christ’s atoning death for us, we should be excited and look forward to going to the intermediate heaven. We should discuss heaven often with our children, and let them know how incredible it will be when we get there. We should long for the day that we can be there, face-to-face with Jesus Christ.