Heaven is a subject of both wild speculation and heated controversy. Yet, what the Bible teaches about it is far different from what many have been taught.
What is heaven?
WHAT SOME PEOPLE SAY
There are diverse beliefs about heaven and its purpose. For example:
Many professed Christians would agree with the New Catholic Encyclopedia, which calls heaven “the ultimate home of the blessed who die in the Lord.”
Judaism focuses more on the present life than on the afterlife, says Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz. But he suggests that “in heaven the soul experiences the greatest possible pleasure—a greater perception and feeling of closeness to God than it had previously.” Kravitz acknowledges, however, that “although Judaism believes in heaven, the Torah speaks very little about it.”
Hindus and Buddhists believe that heaven exists on many spiritual levels. It is a temporary stop, after which a person is either reborn on earth or transcends to Nirvana or Buddhahood—a state that is higher than heaven.
Some reject any religious notion of heaven and say that the whole idea is childish nonsense.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
In the Bible, the word “heaven” has more than one meaning. For example:
Genesis 1:20 describes the creation of birds that “fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” In this case, the word “heavens” refers to our atmosphere, the observable sky.
Isaiah 13:10 mentions “the stars of the heavens and their constellations”—what we would call outer space.
The Bible speaks of God’s “dwelling place in the heavens” and says that there are “angels in heaven.” (1 Kings 8:30; Matthew 18:10) Note that the words “heavens” and “heaven” are not simply metaphors, but describe an actual place of residence.*
“Look down from heaven and see from your lofty abode of holiness and glory.”—Isaiah 63:15.
Do all good people go to heaven when they die?
The Bible does not teach that the earth is merely a temporary home where we await death and a subsequent afterlife in heaven. The Bible makes clear that death was never a part of God’s original purpose for humans. Consider:
God told the first human couple: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) Earth was to be man’s permanent home, where he could live forever. Death would come to the first man and woman only if they disobeyed God. Sadly, they chose to disobey.—Genesis 2:17; 3:6.
The disobedience of that first man resulted in death, not only for himself and his wife but also for their offspring. (Romans 5:12) Did that leave the human race without hope?
The Bible says that “there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise.”* (2 Peter 3:13) By means of his Kingdom, God will restore our earth to the condition he intended for it, “and death will be no more.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) Is that speaking of life in heaven or on earth? For something to “be no more,” it had to be there in the first place. But death has never existed in heaven. Logically, then, that verse refers to what will happen on earth, where we were meant to live and where we yearn to be with our loved ones. The Bible also reveals that the dead will be brought back to life and reunited with their loved ones.—John 5:28, 29.
Many people have been thrilled to learn what the Bible really teaches about heaven. For example, a former Catholic named George says: “I found the Bible teaching about living forever on earth to be comforting. It made more sense than going to heaven.”*
“As for the heavens, they belong to Jehovah, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.”—Psalm 115:16.
Of course, God’s nature is spiritual, not physical. (John 4:24) Hence, his dwelling place must be a spiritual realm separate from our physical or tangible universe.
The term “new earth” is not a literal new planet; rather, it is a symbolic term referring to a society of people living on the earth who receive God’s approval.—Psalm 66:4.