Heaven is the most inaccurately discussed word in the whole Christendom. People have different notions and ideologies as pertains to Heaven. In general, people have the same notion but of different versions about heaven being a place that Christians ascend to after their lives on earth. In the gospel account of John heaven is described as a house: “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (John 14:13 NIV). The verse goes on to explain how Jesus Christ will go first to prepare a place for each of the Christians. He then gives a warning that no one will be allowed to access Heaven without going through him. Heaven has been depicted through many images that cannot really be confirmed but they reveal a similar feature of mystery. Different churches in the Christendom have different versions of how Heaven looks like and what is required to go there. They all emphasize on it as a place accessed via hope (White, 2005). Therefore, today Heaven represents hope in the Christians’ hearts where we will be free from all earthly miseries.
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Heaven is the place where God Almighty lives and where Christians will be after the Second coming of Christ.
Definitions of Heaven in different contexts
As aforementioned, Heaven is said to be depicted differently by different churches. Each church gives the same reference as pertains to it being a holy place. This is the reason why only the repentant people can access it. According to the Catholic Church, they believe that Heaven is on top of the earth and acts as a roof (Hontheim, 1910). This actually means that to get to heaven one must ascend. Again, the Catholics believe that there is a place called purgatory where the dead sinners go to be punished temporarily as a cleansing rite. They believe that no one can go to heaven unless they repent their sins. Thus, purgatory is a place where the sinners are tested and tried again before they can be allowed to go to heaven.
According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Heaven is a place that will only be accessed by 144,000 people. These will help God to rule over the new Earth referred to as the Millennium. The rest will be left on earth but in an unconscious state as they wait to form the Millennium. Some of them will be destroyed after death because they refused to repent. They refer to Acts 24:15 that suggest that only a few chosen people will ascend to heaven. On the other hand, the protestants believe that Heaven is accessible to all those who repent their sins before they die. These churches have different perceptions about heaven but what is crystal clear is the fact that repentance is a key ingredient to enter heaven.
The characteristics of heaven as given by the Bible are quite paradoxical and Christians interpret its image from the bible verses. Heaven is a beautiful place where there is everlasting joy and God will be seen in his physical form (Luke 15: 7-10 NIV). Again, Heaven is said to be an eternal place that will be timeless and ill never end (Rev 22: 5 NIV). People will never know the difference between night and day; it will be just a place that lasts forever. In heaven there will be perfect cohabitation by people of all cultures and nations (Rev 7:9 NIV). There will be eternal place and no adversity will ever exist. There will be no marriage between people and therefore sex will not be in existence (Matthew 22:30). People will just live like brothers and sisters without marriages. In addition, there will be no sorrow, pain, tears, hunger or thirst (Rev 7: 16-17). It is a perfect place free from worldly problems. Heaven is depicted as a very large house with numerous rooms (John 14: 2). Heaven is illustrated to be up in the sky because the scriptures portray a scenario where a person has to ascend (Acts 7: 55-56) when Stephen looked in the sky before he died and saw Jesus and God on his left side.
There are various misconceptions that exist due to misinformation about the real meaning of the bible verses. According to some unorthodox churches, heaven represents the physical place but we should learn that is a spiritual abode to God and is dictated by our will to accept Christianity. This is one very common misconception because each of the preachers has different understanding. Secondly, people have the notion that heaven is a boring place. All the worldly things will not be there so there will not be any challenge and to make matters worse there will be no element of time. (Lucado, 1995) Some Christians also believe that there will be no destruction, war or aggression in heaven but the bible clearly says that it will only perfect the situation. There may be such externalities but in heaven the condition will be capitalized towards perfection to prevent any adversity. Moreover, there is a misconception that there will be ample time for everyone to present his story before God. This is not quite true since the bible states that on the day of judgement those who are sinners will be thrown in the abyss of fire. There will be no time to announce the second coming of Jesus so everyone should be prepared. Many theology students draw a line between paradise and heaven and they say these places symbolize different things. Christians on the other had referred to heaven using these words interchangeably. Paradise is seen as the perfect place just like the Garden of Eden before sin crept in.
The function of heaven in the Christian life is to bring hope to us of a better life which will have none of the miseries we undergo. It is the place where we dwell forever because the earth is said to be a detour so we are on a journey. Heaven is often referred to in conjunction with death and resurrection (Muga, 1997). It is imperative that Christians repent their sins before they meet their death because after resurrection their faith will determine where their souls go. In Romans 2:6-7, the Apostle Paul warns the Romans about changing their ways to avoid going to hell. The opposite of heaven is hell which is depicted in the Bible as a place of everlasting torture. Hell is illustrated as an abyss in the ground consumed by fiery fire. The characteristics of hell are exactly opposite of those in heaven that is why it is feared by Christians who understand the magnitude of the suffering.
The heavenly symphony is that of a beautiful life that everyone craves for. It is a place with unlimited peace, joy, happiness and love. Therefore, Christians should heed to the word of God and strictly keep faith. The reason is that the Second Coming of Jesus will be the end of the earth and he will come unannounced. Thus, every Christian is accountable to where his or her soul will go after resurrection keeping in mind that only the righteous ones will access heaven.