In the very name of their denomination, Seventh-day Adventists declare their utmost hope in the Second Coming of Christ. How wonderful that will be—our time on this sin-corrupted earth will be done. And we can look forward to being with Jesus forever in Heaven and in the New Earth.
But what exactly does “Heaven” mean? And if there’s a “Heaven,” why do we need a “New Earth?”
It’s understandable to have questions about heaven. It’s a concept we have to stretch our minds just to think about! And even while the Bible offers several vibrant details1, there is still a lot of mystery left to us. So much that we can only begin to comprehend.
But that can also speak to its significance. To how truly spectacular it is.
This post will provide an overview of Heaven, the New Earth, and why Adventists cherish this ultimate hope.
You’ll also find out:
- What is heaven?
- Where is heaven?
- What does heaven look like?
- When do we go to heaven?
- Who goes to heaven?
- How do we get to heaven?
- What will we do in heaven?
- How can this belief affect our lives right now?
Time to dig into the Bible to find these answers.
What is Heaven, really?
Starting from the basics, heaven is a literal place where God resides. It is not just a comforting idea or “state of mind.”
The Bible says God rules the universe from heaven (Psalm 33:13-14). And the light of His glory fills the entire place. Jesus came from Heaven before He took human form on earth, and He returned to Heaven after His earthly ministry was completed (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11).
We also know that Heaven is big enough for all of humanity! God is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-6), and He hopes that “none would perish” but that all would repent and choose eternal life with Him (2 Peter 3:9).
Jesus also describes Heaven as His “Father’s house” (John 14:2). Hebrews 12:22-23 echoes this, calling it the “city of the Living God.”
It is a place where God’s will reigns perfectly (Matthew 6:10). It is the true Paradise, the most wonderful and perfect place in the universe.
This is amazing news! There really is a place so eternally magnificent beyond this earthly, finite existence. God really will restore His believers into eternal beings to live with Him forever.
Where is heaven?
The Bible does not provide us with an exact location for heaven. We are told, however, that heaven is separate from the earth.
As mentioned above, after His death and resurrection, Jesus left earth and had to ascend to heaven (Luke 24:51.)
Acts 1:2 describes Jesus being “taken up to heaven,” so we can be sure it is a physical place and that is in a different location, above us, outward from Earth.
The Bible also says, “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind, from his dwelling place He watches all who live on earth…” (Psalm 33:13-14).
And in Revelation, the New Jerusalem is described to be “descending” out of Heaven from God (21:10).
What does heaven look like?
The Bible says heaven is a stunningly beautiful place with sparkling stones, streets of gold, and gates “made of a single pearl” (Revelation 21:21).
Heaven completely stretches our understanding of reality. The apostle Paul says that Jesus currently “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen nor can see…” (1 Timothy 6:14-16, ESV).
In our current bodies and states as humans, we can’t even take in the kind of splendor heaven represents.
Paul also says that, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV).
Jesus promises his followers, “many mansions…” in John 14:2.
And Revelation 21:21 describes the incredible beauty of the New Jerusalem with “twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.”
There’s breathtaking power as well.
Revelation 4:5 says God’s throne, saying that from it came “flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder” and in front “was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.”
When do we go to heaven?
While we can’t know the actual time, day and year, we know at what point in the world’s “future history” that Heaven will become a reality for the followers of Jesus Christ.
Jesus carries His believers to Heaven at His Second Coming. And only God the Father knows when this will take place.
Matthew 24:36 says “now concerning that day and hour no one knows—neither the angels of heaven nor the Son—except the Father alone.”
When it does happen, the Second Coming is going to be absolutely unprecedented in scale:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, NKJV).
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No one goes to heaven until the Second Coming—with only a few exceptions.
The Bible specifically mentions some people that God brought to heaven. Enoch, Moses, and Elijah were each taken to be in heaven according to the Bible. There is also evidence that some people were taken to heaven after Christ’s crucifixion. Genesis 5:21-24, Mark 9:1, Jude 1:9
However, the overwhelming majority of people do not go straight up to heaven after death.
This is a very important point. In the Bible, death is compared to sleep. This comparison occurs in many places in the Old Testament (1 Kings 1:21; Job 7:21; 14:12; Psalms 13:3; Jeremiah 51:39, 57; Dan 12:2).
Over and over again, the phrase “slept [or rested] with his fathers” is used to talk about the passing of Israel’s and Judah’s kings.
It’s also found in the New Testament:
Jesus compares death to sleep when he resurrects the daughter of Jairus after she succumbed to her illness (Mark 5, Luke 8). He does it again when he brings his friend Lazarus back to life (John 11).
As Christ was resurrected, Matthew tells us that “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:52).
The book of Acts said that the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned by his persecutors and then “fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).
To be clear, this “sleep” implies a total lack of consciousness. Ecclesiastes is especially clear on the matter:
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 ESV).
How do I get to heaven?
Though we can’t “earn” our way to heaven because we are flawed, sinful beings, God sent Jesus to die for us, paying the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) for us, so we could go to heaven (John 3:16).
Because of what Jesus did for us, we are redeemed from our past and do not need to suffer the consequences of our sins.
Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself because He loves us. As we accept His sacrifice and decide to follow Him, He gives us eternal life. This means living with Him in heaven and the New Earth.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). None of us make our own way to heaven. It is impossible.
Heaven is a perfect place, therefore requiring perfection from those who enter it. Nobody in humanity qualifies for heaven on their own merits. Jesus is our only hope.
This can be comforting news. You don’t have to focus on yourself and your weaknesses. That won’t do any good. The key is to accept Jesus, who lived a perfect, sinless life. When we accept His sacrifice on our behalf, His perfect record is considered instead of ours and we are granted eternal life in heaven.
Paul, writing in I Thessalonians 4:13-18, clearly was looking forward to being with fellow believers in heaven. He cheered up the Thessalonians, with words of hope about God bringing us to heaven. This kind of encouragement would not make a lot of sense if believers wouldn’t actually be able to personally, and as a community of believers, “be with the Lord forever.”
It’s safe to deduce from all this that relationships in heaven with family, friends and all those we get to know, will be far more fulfilling than even the best relationships we currently enjoy on earth. This is because of the most important relationship of all: the one we have with God who promises to wipe the tears from our eyes and live with us forever (Revelation 21:4, I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Can I be sure I will go to heaven if I believe in Jesus?
God knows your heart, and if you accept Jesus and what He did for you (Ephesians 2:8-9)
As we accept his sacrifice and choose to live a life in harmony and friendship with Him, He invites us into a life of certainty in salvation, heaven, and eternal life with Him.
This is assurance God wants us to have! Otherwise, it wouldn’t be said in the Bible quite so many times:
“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, CSB).
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, CSB).
“For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13, CSB).
“They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, CSB).
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God” (1 John 4:15, CSB).
Who Will Be In Heaven?
Will Hitler be in heaven? How about Elvis? Why don’t we extend the list? How about Shakespeare? Or Billy Graham? Mother Theresa should be a pretty sure bet.
While this sort of speculating might make for an interesting discussion, it’s pointless. We just don’t know. But the biggest point to make is we don’t decide who goes to heaven, or who “should.” Only God does (James 4:11-12).
Those who truly want to be there will be there. Those who don’t want to be with God for eternity will not. Those who choose to be in a loving relationship with God will enjoy this friendship with Him forever because He freely offers it.
Ephesians 2:8 says:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”
This gift is available to all. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us how God wants every single human He created to choose eternal life with Him. That definitely includes you and your loved ones.
My loved ones who have passed away were not Christians. Does that mean they won’t go to heaven?
God is the only judge. Anyone who tries to tell you that someone is headed to heaven or hell is speculating at best.
What we do know is that, in addition to being judge, God is the most loving and merciful Being in the universe. Let’s leave any and all judgment to Him (Exodus 34:6-7, Ephesians 2:4-5).
What will we do in heaven?
Just imagine the infinite possibilities for spending forever with God. This experience will surpass our wildest dreams (1 Corinthians 2:9).
One thing we do know is that Revelation 20:1-6 says God’s people will reign with Him for a thousand years. This is what’s called the Millennium.
The Millennium is a time in which we will gain understanding about God’s judgment of the earth and its inhabitants.
It’s also a time to learn more from the Creator about…well, anything! Get your list of questions ready.
“…until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. …” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
God will help us understand why some people are in heaven and others aren’t (Daniel 7:22,1 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Corinthians 6:2).
This extends as far as learning why certain angels aren’t in heaven: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:3.
But even aside from this, from learning about the whole of the Great Controversy and why everything happened the way it did…we have eternity to spend in God’s unending universe with infinite possibilities.
How can learning about heaven affect our lives today? What does heaven tell us about God?
Heaven is a reality. And because God values freedom of choice, He leaves it ultimately up to us if we want to be part of that reality or not.
Jesus gives us hope for the future. This hope in heaven that comes through a relationship with Him not only provides eternal life but makes a huge difference for life right now.
Jesus is calling all of us into a life of joy and peace as His friends. He is offering eternal life as well a life of meaning and peace in the here and now. (John 3:16)
Psalm 16:11 says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.”
Suffering is a hard reality of life here on earth. None of us are exempt. We all go through extremely tough times in one way or another.
Here’s the good news: The hope Jesus gives us in heaven helps frame suffering in a different way. We can know with 100% certainty that by choosing Jesus, we are going to a place where God will wipe every tear from our eyes. God is calling us to Heaven where there will be no sin and no suffering. (Revelation 21:4).
So even though we have a lot to deal with in this life, God gives us hope for the future that helps us deal with the present in a positive, faith-filled way. The perfection of heaven speaks to the perfect nature of God and the beauty of life with Him that is available to us all.
We can have hope that although life here on earth can be very difficult, a better future waits for us in heaven as we accept the sacrifice of Jesus (John 3:16).
But wait, there’s more! The New Earth and the New Jerusalem
After the thousand-year Millennium in which those that have accepted Christ spend with God in Heaven, God will destroy Satan and his followers for good, and we will come down from heaven back to a cleansed, remade earth—the New Earth—where we will live in the New Jerusalem. It will be Garden of Eden 2.0—earth as it was originally intended.
The apostle John described this new earth in Revelation 21 as “a bride adorned for her husband.” It will be a place where God will live with us (Revelation 21:22).
The New Jerusalem will be clear as crystal and will be “adorned with every kind of jewel” (Revelation 21:15-20, CSB).
Living with God in the New Jerusalem will literally be Heaven on Earth.
Ready to choose Jesus Christ?
Want to learn more of what the Bible says about heaven and humanity’s destiny? Sign up for our free online Bible Studies to find out today!
- 1 Corinthians 2:9; John 14:2; Hebrews 11:16; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 4:1-11; Revelation 21:1-27; Revelation 22:1-5;[↩]