stairs heaven light

Everyone likes to think about heaven as the most perfect place imaginable. This is certainly understandable. Heaven is more perfect than any human being is capable of picturing. The Bible makes this much clear. Later scholars also helped to explain that descriptions of heaven were meant to convey to limited human minds the incredible glory of God. His glory is not something that can be comprehended by humans, but that does not mean that people have not tried for centuries to wrap their heads around the greatness of His power, mercy and creation. Christians have always tried to envision what is waiting for them in heaven. Some have relied on biblical descriptions. Of those that do prefer to look to the Bible for descriptions of heaven, there are two subgroups. One of those groups uses the Bible’s depictions as a jumping off point for their own imaginings. They take what Scripture says and run with it. The other group does not use Scripture to form a simple foundation for their mental picture of heaven. Instead, they take the Bible’s explanations of how heaven works and appears as the final image. They see the Bible’s descriptions as completely literal. 

Not everyone who imagines what heaven is like uses the Bible as their basis. Some have never paid close attention to what Scripture says heaven will be like. Instead, they rely on other things to form their mental picture of heaven.

Some of these people base their imaginings of heaven on what those who have survived near death experiences report. This often involves light, love and, oddly enough, open spaces like fields. As such, someone forming a mental picture of heaven based on such reports might think of heaven as being an endless field in the late summer sun. Other people focus on how heaven is commonly depicted in stories and movies. They picture a world above the clouds filled with light. Everyone seems to exist in a state of quiet, peaceful happiness. There are angels everywhere, the Pearly Gates are made of shimmering gold and everyone is dressed in white. Still other people create their own mental image of heaven completely from scratch. They know that heaven is supposedly absolutely perfect. So, they try to envision what paradise and perfection would look like to them. As such, people’s visions of heaven vary wildly when they base it on what they themselves enjoy. A person who does not like lots of noise or to be surrounded by people might assume that heaven is a long beach where there is little sound but the ocean waves. Someone else might believe that heaven is always bustling with people who are laughing and jumping for joy because they prefer to be in rooms where there is more energy, and they are surrounded by friends and family. Still others might picture something totally different. To them, heaven could be a forest filled with birds. It might be a rowboat on a river. It could be the treehouse they played in as a child. It might be filled with people and ringing with music. It might be quiet, peaceful and have long stretches of road, path or beach where there is nothing but blue sky and a cool breeze. Everyone has a different opinion about what makes a perfect day, so everyone would envision something totally different when they are asked to picture an eternity of perfection.

The surroundings of heaven are given far more attention in the collective mindset than anything else. Given that heaven is a place, this is not surprising. When people are asked to visualize a location, they picture its surroundings first. Heaven, however, is far more that just its appearance. There are things and people in heaven as well. There is also, of course, God in heaven. 

When it comes to Bible verses about heaven, one that has earned a decent amount of attention is the statement that there are “many mansions” in heaven. Many people assume this means that each person will be given their own mansion. To some, this is proof that heaven is perfect. They have always wanted a big house, and when they get to heaven, they will be given one. To others, this is not encouraging at all. They have no interest in a massive home. They would prefer somewhere small and cozy to rest their head. The truth is that neither of these mental pictures is what actually awaits people in heaven. 

“Mansions” is not a good translation, but it is the word that is most commonly used. Even if it were correct, however, the image of everyone being given a mansion would be incorrect. It would be more accurate to envision a mammoth home in which everyone was allotted a room or suite. Each person has their own space, but they live together with a number of others. For some, this seems like a more pleasant arrangement than wandering around a mansion all by their lonesome. Others loathe the idea of knowing that they will, essentially, have roommates for all of eternity.

What heaven will look like for certain is impossible to know while we remain on Earth. We can guess at it and try to imagine it, but the reality is that no one will really know what heaven looks like until they are standing at the Pearly Gates. Until then, people will just have to try and imagine it the best they can and do so with the understanding that even their wildest dreams are sure to fall far short of God’s perfection. 

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