The church has done a pretty good job of making heaven sound un-ideal and hell sound horrific–or at least, this was my impression as a young kid. I’d envision heaven as clouds and harps and angels, and I’d imagine myself getting so tired having to live forever, that I’d wish it were possible to just die. Only I didn’t want to die, because, what if I went to hell!
As a slightly older kid, someone told me that heaven was different for everyone: we’d all get our unique paradise filled with all the things and people we loved most.
I don’t remember that Jesus was visibly connected with heaven in my mind, though certainly the idea was that when someone who says they’re a Christian (or was nice) dies, they would “go to heaven to be with Jesus.”
The Bible actually says quite a bit about what’s to come in eternity, and it doesn’t line up (at all!) with what Sunday school taught me–hopefully there are Christians who have had a more positive experience.
As it turns out, the next age is actually very exciting and worth looking forward to for those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and are actively cultivating that relationship!
If you have never studied this (by study I mean: prayerful dialog with the Holy Spirit as you read the Bible), it may be an area you want to search the scriptures for. I especially suggest reading through the gospels for what Jesus says, and through the Book of Revelation, which is God’s end time battle plan.
Here’s the gist of it (to be expanded on later, part by part):
Hell is real, but was created for Satan and the other fallen angels and demons. God does not want any of us to go there–in fact, He wants to make us heirs to His kingdom!–but, He’s also just, and so those who don’t want Him as their Lord, will not be able to inherit His promises. Also, Satan doesn’t rule in hell, he’s tormented there; hell won’t be a party for ‘bad’ people.
Heaven will not be about us, but will be centered around God, who is loving and worthy of all praise. The more we read the Bible and begin to understand who God is, the more attractive it is that we would have the privilege of eternally worshiping the Lord.
But there’s more: Jesus is coming back to earth to fulfill the prophecies as the Jewish Messiah. There is ‘heaven’ now with God the Father, but the ultimate goal is that Jesus would reign on the earth and bring heaven with Him (a perfect unity of the spiritual and physical). The heavens and earth will be made new, and there will be plenty of excitement for us, as the saints from history gather to rule with Jesus!