I drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and take a deep breath. My shoulders loosen and I feel just a bit lighter. The salty air and sea gulls usher me into this familiar, wonderful place.
I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I love the water and the wide-open spaces; I love the farmland and country roads; I love all the sights and tastes and smells.
Heaven is a Place
You probably have your own favorite place like this. Maybe it’s the first house you remember, your college town, or the backyard where you began to raise your family.
As Christians, we read that heaven will be more than cotton-ball clouds, pearly gates, and harps, and it strikes a deep cord within us. Heaven will be tangible, not ethereal. And what’s more, heaven won’t just be our last place, but surely it must be the best place. All our attachment to places on this earth must be shadows of our longings for heaven.
When we learn that heaven is a place, questions are natural. What will it look like? What will we do? What will we eat?
On these matters, God isn’t silent. The last two chapters of Revelation give us some descriptions, and there are heavenly glimpses and images elsewhere in Scripture. But we end up with far more questions than answers, and we wonder: Why doesn’t God give us more information about the place—the city—where we’ll be spending eternity?
It’s Not About the Place
We read this after the very first mention of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)
This is primary—God will dwell with man. He will be our God and we will be his people. In other words: Heaven isn’t about the place, it’s about the Person.
God has given us some information about heaven, but consider how much more he has told us about himself! The Bible is stuffed with truths and stories about God’s character, his demands, and his grace. When we complain that we don’t know much about heaven, we’re missing the point. God has told us gobs about the most important feature of heaven—himself.
The reality of a new earth and a new body is mind-blowing; I don’t want to minimize this. But the most important—indeed, the most glorious, joyous, and rewarding fact about heaven is that God is there. With our new eyes, we will see him face to face. With no more curse, we will enjoy him in new and fulfilling ways we cannot imagine.
Long for heaven. Stretch for it. Gather everyone you can.
Heaven will be breathtaking, because God is there.