Is Heaven Coming to Earth?
Posted on Sep 08, 2015 by Gary Petty Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
It may come as a shock, but people don’t go to heaven as disembodied souls when they die. In fact, what the Bible shows us about our ultimate future is so much more amazing than most of us have ever dreamed!
The first and second heavens are places we can see and explore. The third heaven is the realm where God exists in all his majesty and great power.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like in heaven?
People ask questions about heaven all the time. Will I know my loved ones when I get there? Will my dog go to heaven? Why can’t my relatives who are in heaven communicate with me?
If you ask a child where heaven is, the answer will probably be, “That’s where God lives.”
And most people assume that the Bible says that when you die your immortal soul goes to heaven. Compare that belief with this truth of the Bible: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven” (John 3:13, emphasis added throughout)—this referring to Jesus Christ alone.
Sound surprising? Shocking maybe? It gets even more surprising: Did you know that the book of Revelation says that heaven is coming to earth?
What exactly does that mean? Keep reading!
The promise of resurrection
Most likely, you’ve been taught all your life that when you die, you as a conscious soul will go directly to heaven.
So what’s it like to go to heaven?
Well I suppose one of the first things you would expect to find in heaven are all the great men and women of the Bible, like Abraham—the father of the faithful—or Moses, or John the Baptist, or Mary the mother of Jesus.
So what happened to him and all the great men and women of faith throughout history? When they died where did they go?
In one sense, nowhere. They went into death—a state of unconsciousness, having no awareness or understanding (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Ecclesiastes 9:10). The Bible compares death to sleep (Job 14:12; Daniel 12:2; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 2 Peter 3:4).
On the other hand, there is a spirit in man that imparts intellect to the human brain (Job 32:8; 1 Corinthians 2:11). And this spirit does return to God in heaven at death (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 12:22-23). But as the previously cited scriptures show, the human spirit does not have consciousness apart from the body. The spirits of the dead must be placed into renewed, enlivened bodies for consciousness to be restored.
Again and again the Bible refers to future resurrection from the grave as the hope of the dead.
Look at what Jesus said: “For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day”(John 6:38-40).
Now what does Jesus mean when He says that He will raise someone up at the last day?
Jesus’ resurrection foundational to the resurrection of others
The resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God is absolutely essential to the Christian faith. A central point of the Christian religion is the belief that Jesus rose from the grave, was seen by His disciples and ascended back to heaven to the throne of God. In fact, Scripture demands that Christians accept that Jesus died and then experienced a bodily resurrection after three days and three nights.
Jesus promises to return to earth for His disciples both living and dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of God’s promise to resurrect His followers from the dead. As the apostle Paul writes: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
The resurrection of God’s followers occurs during the “last days,” when Jesus will return to earth to establish God’s Kingdom over all of humanity.
This resurrection won’t be to a formless existence as a disembodied spirit. It’s a promise of a bodily resurrection to a life of eternal energy, creativity and goodness as a child of God. This future is more spectacular than the view of heaven as a place of eternal repose without meaning or personal purpose.
Three “heavens” in the Bible
The heaven we’re talking about here is what the Bible calls the “third heaven.” What does that mean?
A word study of “heaven” in the Bible reveals that some uses of the word are actually plural—“heavens.” That’s because in the Bible the term heaven can refer to different places.
In Scripture, heaven can refer to our planet’s atmosphere where we see the “birds of heaven” or where the “windows of heaven” open to bring rain (Genesis 7:11). Nearest in proximity to us, this is the first heaven.
It can also refer to what we call outer space—the realm of the moon, the planets, the galaxies—the physical universe (Exodus 32:13). This is the second heaven.
There are also references to heaven as the throne of God. The apostle Paul wrote about a vision of paradise that he calls the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). This “third heaven” is a reference to the incredible realm where God exists in all of His majesty and power.
The third heaven is where most Christians believe they will go consciously to immediately after they die. Again, however, the Bible says no one has ascended into heaven except Jesus. Yet as mentioned at the outset, heaven is coming to earth.
Third heaven the home of spirit exclusively
Before exploring that further, let’s try to get a little bit of an idea of what the third heaven is like. The apostle John recorded visions he received of heaven and the future in the book of Revelation.
He writes, “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:2). This is that third heaven Paul was also given a vision of. It’s the place where God lives in awesome majesty and glory.
John further writes, “And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance” (Revelation 4:3).
What does this mean? Think about precious stones when light shines through them and reflects off of their many facets. John was looking at a shining Being he could only describe as shining the way that light reflects off the facets of precious stones!
He continues: “And there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (Revelation 4:3-4). John saw God surrounded by 24 powerful spirit beings.
“And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices … Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around His throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back” (Revelation 4:5-6).
The third heaven. Paradise. The throne of God. It’s a spirit dimension so magnificent, so majestic, that it is beyond human comprehension! I can’t imagine what John actually saw. It’s a place reserved for spirit beings only.
So what does it mean that God is bringing His dwelling place to earth?
The return of Christ in power and glory
God’s plan to bring His throne—the “third heaven”—to earth is in two stages. These stages are revealed in the last chapters of the book of Revelation.
Revelation 19 describes Christ’s second coming when He returns in power and glory.
John writes: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war” (Revelation 19:11). This is Jesus Christ, and He is not coming back in a weak, limited human form. He is coming back in all the glory of God. He is coming to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. It’s a great irony that the Prince of Peace, in order to bring happiness and peace to the world, has to fight the very beings He created—because they don’t want to submit to His rule!
John writes, “His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns” (Revelation 19:12). This is the description of Jesus Christ in glory in the third heaven—and how He will be when He returns to earth.
“He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:12-15).
Jesus Christ is coming back to a rebellious humanity. But He is also coming back tosave humanity. It’s at this time when Jesus fulfills His promise to His followers that they will be “raised up” or resurrected.
A resurrection here on earth
It’s shocking to most people to find out that a person doesn’t immediately go consciously to heaven when he or she dies. As we’ve seen, those who die are unconscious and unaware of the passing of time. When a Christian dies, his or her next conscious moment is the resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus returns, where will He be?
Revelation 20 explains how Christ will set up His Kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. Then what will Jesus’ followers be doing on earth for the 1,000 years that they’ll be with Him?
How about occupying thrones? John wrote about those who are resurrected at Christ’s return: “And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
To be a Christian today is to anticipate being with Christ in the future on earth, serving Him in saving humanity. Incredible, isn’t it? Christ will establish a new one-world government and one-world religion of worshipping the one true God. That may not be a popular idea, but that’s what the Bible says Jesus is going to do. And He is going to change everything. He is going to heal the environment, erase poverty, create a new educational system, institute an economy that is fair for everyone, and offer salvation to a broken and decimated humanity.
God is calling those who want to participate in this future! To receive that future you must accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. But more than that you must also accept Him as your Lord, Master and coming King. That must happen in your lifenow. And you must be daily living by the values and teachings of His Kingdom!
What will keep you from this future? Your desire for money and status? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? Your anxieties? How about your unwillingness to repent and give your life totally to your Creator?
I wrote at the beginning that heaven is coming to earth. Christ is going to rule on earth for 1,000 years. But that doesn’t mean that the third heaven— God’s dwelling place—will be on earth yet. So when does God’s throne come to earth?
God’s dwelling place with man
The end of the book of Revelation gives us a remarkable vision of the time after the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ.
John states: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-2). This includes the throne of God the Father.
John says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men’” (Revelation 21:3). God will live with His children!
“And He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Heaven is coming to earth. A new heaven and a new earth. And this happens after the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and the time of judgment of all mankind—you can read more about all of this amazing future in Revelation 19, 20 and 21.
Choose this amazing future today
If you want this future to be your future, then there are three things that you have to begin to do right now. And this is just the beginning, but this is where you start.
First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. You must accept that you have been living a life filled with ideas, actions and religious beliefs that are opposed to God’s future. You have to accept the death of Jesus Christ as the substitute for what you deserve before the holy law of God—which is the law of His Kingdom.
Second, you must accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Master of your life right now.There are lots of people who claim that they have accepted Jesus as Savior, but they still live by the values of Satan’s kingdom—the world right now. We are called to live by the values and laws of the Kingdom of God. This means that the Bible must become the foundation of your decisions, of your behavior every day. Christianity isn’t just about accepting Jesus as Savior. It’s also about living by His teachings and living as He did.
And third, you must accept Jesus Christ as your coming King. This has to be more important than all your political ideas, all the ideas of whatever nation you live in, and all human philosophies.
Sometimes people ask me about my political affiliation. You know what I tell them? I tell them I’m a monarchist.
People are taken aback by that. The truth is that all human political parties and governments will someday collapse. They will fail, and they will submit to Christ as King. We have to live our lives as monarchists looking for that return—looking for and living for our King.
We are to live our lives every day in anticipation of and preparation for the coming of our King.
Your future can be eternity in the family of God, enjoying an entire universe God wants to give to His children. God’s future that He wants for you and for me is greater than anything we can imagine. It is a future when heaven comes to earth.
God’s purpose in calling us and bringing us to salvation is a preparation for a greater work that He will do through those who are part of that Kingdom. And it really does help us understand what we have to do today and to retain focus, purpose, and mission in our lives.
For now, God is changing the world one person at a time. I need to let it begin with me. You need to let it begin with you.
It may be a bit shocking to find out that the Bible doesn’t teach that we go consciously to heaven immediately upon death. But what it does teach is astounding!
Heaven on earth? Yes! God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth and bring His very throne and presence to earth. He created humanity, you and me, to be His children in His family forever!