Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Does Heaven Look Like?


Q - Can you tell me what the Bible/Church says heaven looks like and what one should expect to see when they get there? 

A – Thanks for your question! The answer to your question, on the surface, is quite easy to answer for the most part, because we don’t know all that much about what it looks like. Scripture says “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what things God has prepared for those who love him.” -1 Cor 2:9

What we do know is that heaven is a state of being in which the saints will live forever in the presence of God. The Fathers of the Church call it the “beatific vision”, where we will look upon God face-to-face.

Scripture also defines heaven as the dwelling of God. The angels and saints in heaven will live forever with Him. There will be everlasting peace and happiness and no more suffering or death.

Here is what we know for sure:
  • No suffering, hunger or death in heaven – Rev 21:4, 7:16, Luke 20:36
  • No darkness or night in heaven – Rev 21:25
  • We will be “at rest” in heaven - 2 Thes 1:7
  • We will eternally glorify God in heaven – Rev 4:11
  • Only the just enter into heaven – Too many to list all…a few – Rev 21:8, Eph 5:5, Mtt 3:12, 2 Cor 12:2-4
  • We are made for heaven and our hearts will never be fully satisfied in this current life.
Some false understandings:
  • We won't know everything in heaven.  We are still finite and while God will infuse knowledge of him into our intellects in heaven, our ability will never be infinite - thus we will never fully understand God - even in heaven.
  • We will not all experience heaven the same way.  We are unique and our uniqueness is brought to fulfillment in heaven, not taken away.  But, we will all get what we need in heaven - divine everlasting love.
  • We will still be "free" in heaven.  In fact, more free than ever.  True freedom is not the ability to choose anything we desire.  True freedom is choosing what we ought to choose. Thus, every desire we ever wanted to choose will find ultimate fulfillment in heaven and thus we become truly free - never losing our free will.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a section on heaven and in one particular quote from St. Cyprian, the Catechism says:
"How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends." - CCC, 1028
St. Thomas also talks about heaven in the Summa Theologica here and here and here.

The rest is just an educated guess. Heaven will have some kind of physical dimension to it, because we will ultimately be re-united with our bodies, but we don't know exactly how this will play out.

Also, Peter Kreeft has a nice book entitled "Every Thing You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven: But Never Dreamed of Asking!".

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