Billy Graham tells the story of a young girl who was taking a walk with her father one evening. Looking up at the stars, she exclaimed, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!
Many years ago, I heard Pat Boone share his early childhood definition of heaven. It suddenly occurred to him while he was sitting (or was it squirming?) in church, agonizing through one of the pastor’s typically long and boring sermons. Heaven, Pat reasoned, was going to be just like church—one thousand years—ten thousand years—forever. It was almost too much to handle. To Pat, such a state of affairs seemed more like purgatory than perfection.
But the little girl was right. No matter how beautiful or wonderful things may appear on earth, Heaven will be more beautiful and more wonderful. Think of all the wonderful and beautiful things we have in this world. The moon and stars reflected across the still water of a lake,…the intricacies of a butterfly,…a field of wild flowers moving gently in the wind, a baby’s fascination with the movement of, well,… anything. I’m not very poetic, but the beauty and majesty that God has placed us in lends itself to waxing poetic.
How do I know? Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). So what we will hear and see is now beyond our current ability to speak of or even imagine.
In John 14:1-3, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us (cf. also 16:5-7). We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” (as we often express it) means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures. So heaven is really closer than we think.
Before we get too wrapped up in making an impossible attempt to physically describe heaven, we need to realize that the most important aspect of heaven is being in the presence of God the Father. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, … (Revelation 21:3). Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
So in a very real sense, we experience a touch of heaven on earth when we get saved and are filled with the Holy Spirit. That sense of God’s presence can be experienced as long as we maintain that spiritual connection to God. So, how important is it to try to picture what heaven will be like? Let me give you an example. Suppose that you were the wife of a prisoner of war, held captive for many years. You knew your husband was alive and hoped to see him soon. Finally, after many false hopes and setbacks, an agreement was negotiated with the enemy and the release of your husband was at hand. The United States government had made arrangements for you to meet your beloved in Hawaii, where you would be with him for two weeks before returning to this country. Now Hawaii is a very beautiful place, I know, and I am sure that most of us would love to go there. But, for you, the place is very secondary to the person. If you were to meet your husband in the Sahara desert it would be no disappointment. While the right side of heaven is beautiful beyond description, the Person will be our greatest joy.
He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).