What do Christians know about Heaven?

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.—John 14:1-3

We have in this passage a very comfortable account of heaven, or the future abode of saints. It is but little that we understand about heaven while we are here in the body, and that little is generally taught us in the Bible by negatives much more than positives. But here, at any rate, there are some plain things.

Heaven is a “Father’s house”—the house of that God of Whom Jesus says, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father” (Joh 20:17). It is, in a word, home: the home of Christ and Christians. This is a sweet and touching expression. Home, as we all know, is the place where we are generally loved for our own sakes and not for our gifts or possessions; the place where we are loved to the end, never forgotten, and always welcome. This is one idea of heaven. Believers are in a strange land and at school in this life. In the life to come, they will be at home.

Heaven is a place of “mansions”—of lasting, permanent, and eternal dwellings. Here in the body we are in lodgings, tents, and tabernacles, and must submit to many changes. In heaven, we shall be settled at last and go out no more. “Here have we no continuing city” (Heb 13:14). Our house not made with hands shall never be taken down.

Heaven is a place of “many mansions.” There will be room for all believers and room for all sorts, for little saints as well as great ones, for the weakest believer as well as for the strongest. The feeblest child of God need not fear there will be no place for him. None will be shut out but impenitent sinners and obstinate unbelievers.

Heaven is a place where Christ Himself shall be present. He will not be content to dwell without His people: “Where I am, there ye may be also.” We need not think that we shall be alone and neglected. Our Savior—our elder Brother, our Redeemer, Who loved us and gave Himself for us—shall be in the midst of us forever. What we shall see, and whom we shall see in heaven, we cannot fully conceive yet, while we are in the body. But one thing is certain: we shall see Christ.

Let these things sink down into our minds. To the worldly and careless they may seem nothing at all. To all who feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of God, they are full of unspeakable comfort. If we hope to be in heaven, it is pleasant to know what heaven is like.

We have, lastly, in this passage a solid ground for expecting good things to come. [Our sinful flesh] is apt to rob us of our comfort about heaven. “We wish we could think it was all true.” “We fear we shall never be admitted into heaven.” Let us hear what Jesus says to encourage us.

One cheering word is this: “I go to prepare a place for you.” Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people: a place that we shall find Christ Himself has made ready for true Christians. He has prepared it by procuring a right for every sinner who believes to enter in. None can stop us and say we have no business there. He has prepared it by going before us as our Head and Representative and taking possession of it for all the members of His mystical body. As our Forerunner, He has marched in, leading captivity captive, and has planted His banner in the land of glory. He has prepared it by carrying our names with Him as our High Priest into the holy of holies and making angels ready to receive us. They that enter heaven will find they are neither unknown nor unexpected.

Another cheering word is this: “I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” Christ will not wait for believers to come up to Him, but will come down to them, to raise them from their graves and escort them to their heavenly home. As Joseph came to meet Jacob, so will Jesus come to call His people together and guide them to their inheritance. The second advent ought never to be forgotten. Great is the blessedness of looking back to Christ coming the first time to suffer for us, but no less great is the comfort of looking forward to Christ coming the second time, to raise and reward His saints.

Let us leave the whole passage with solemnised feelings and serious self-examination. How much they miss who live in a dying world and yet know nothing of God as their Father and Christ as their Saviour!

From Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1880), 51-53; in the public domain.


J. C. Ryle (1816-1900): Bishop of the Anglican Church; born at Macclesfield, Cheshire County, England, UK.

Categories: Theology

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