What Heaven Is Missing

“Ask your average man-on-the-street what he thinks about “heaven,” and he’ll probably describe a place where just about everything people enjoy in this life is completely missing.

In the minds of most, things like vibrant colorgood foodloud musicclose friendships, and physical activity are all absent from heaven. They envision a place where everything is white, sterilized, and generally quiet—like a cosmic hospital or giant library in the sky. Heaven’s inhabitants float around like disembodied spirits with little halos, wearing white choir robes, sitting on clouds of cotton balls, and playing tiny harps for all of eternity. It’s like something out of a Precious Moments catalogue — the very opposite of anything exciting, enthralling, or eternally enjoyable. (No offense to those who collect small, winged, ceramic figurines.)

The sad reality is that too often, we as Christians can allow our own understanding of heaven to be tainted by the culture around us. But Hallmark must not define heaven for us. Hollywood must not define heaven for us. Centuries of monastic tradition must not define heaven for us.

Instead, only God’s Word can rightly inform our understanding of heaven. And when we go to the Scriptures, we find that our future home is anything but bland, boring, or quiet.

In particular, the eternal heaven (which Revelation 21–22 describes as a new earth) will be a place of vibrant color (Rev. 21:19–21; cf. 4:3), good food (22:2; cf. 19:7–9), loud music(cf. Rev. 5:8–13), intimate fellowship [with God Himself] (22:3–4), and joyous physical activity (21:24–26; cf. 1 Cor. 15:35–49).

The best this life has to offer cannot compare to heaven in any respect. The best thrills, the best joys, the best memories in this life are but shadows; our most wondrous, most profound, most heartfelt, most emotional, most fulfilling moments in this world, cannot hold a candle to the brilliant sun of heavenly experience.

Ironically, many of the wonderful things people enjoy in this life and assume will be missing from heaven, will in fact be part of life on the new earth—only in an infinitely better, eternally-perfected form.

So why write a post entitled “What Heaven Is Missing?”

Because there actually are some significant aspects of our current experience that will be absent from heaven. If we are to rightly understand just how wonderful heaven is going to be, we not only need to know what will be there … we also need to know what will be missing.

That’s why, in Revelation 21–22, the Apostle John spends as much time describing the new earth by telling us what will be absent from heaven, as he does telling us what will bepresent.

So what is heaven missing? Here’s a list of 17 items that John states will be absent from the new earth. Each of these represents some aspect of fallenness, rebellion, or divine judgment connected to this present world. And there will be no sign of corruption or judgment in the world to come.

1. No sea (Rev. 21:1) — In Scripture, the sea is often representative of evil, disorder, and chaos. Moreover, the ocean as we know it today is a result of God’s judgment in the Flood (Gen. 6-8). But all signs of evil and judgment will be gone in the new earth.

2. No longer any separation between God and man (vv. 2–3)

3. No tears, mourning, or crying (v. 4)

4. No pain (v. 4)

5. No death (v. 4)

6. Nothing that will not be made new (v. 5)

7. No spiritual thirst (v. 6)

8. No unredeemed sinner — whom John lists as the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, immoral persons, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars (v. 8); no one who practices abomination and lying (v. 27)

9. No temple (v. 22) — because God is the temple

10. No need for the sun or moon (v. 23; 22:5) — because God is the light

11. No need for a lamp (v. 23; 22:5)

12. No night (v. 25; 22:5) — and presumably no need of sleep for resurrected saints

13. No closing of the gates of the New Jerusalem (v. 25)

14. Nothing unclean (v. 27)

15. No one whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life (v. 27)

16. No curse (22:3)

17. No end to the eternal reign of Christ and His redeemed (22:5)

A short blog article does not permit us to go into detail on each of these items. But the point should be clear enough:

In order to underscore the wonder of the new earth, John contrasts the new earth with this one by emphasizing aspects of our fallen world which will be missing from heaven.Because sin and its corrupting consequences are such a normal part of this life, the apostle has to go to great length to emphasize the fact that absolutely none of that will be present in the life to come.

A Quick Illustration

There are times in our own experience, of course, when the best way to describe something is to contrast it with something that is familiar.

When I was in college, for example, I bought a used car.  It was a small four-door compact, and it suited my needs perfectly as a college student. The car was already seven years old when I bought it and it had 80,000 miles on it. But it ran great, and I kept it for another ten years.

By the time I finally got rid of it, it was in (very) bad shape. The engine still ran, but everything else about the car was clearly worn out. The struts were totally shot, so that I could feel every bump in the road. The air conditioning was broken; the paint was peeling; the seats were ripped and scarred. The doors were scratched; one of the side mirrors was broken off and being held on with duct tape.

The car would constantly fail its smog check, and was categorized by the state of California as a “gross polluter.” On multiple occasions, I had to go to the DMV and get a special permit to drive it around. It was too old to have a CD player, and the cassette player was broken too. One of the hubcaps was missing. Both the front and back bumpers were damaged; and at times the power steering wouldn’t work. Needless to say, the car was a mess.

I knew I couldn’t sell it. So I finally took it to a wrecking yard and said goodbye.   Then I went and bought a new car.

Now, if you had asked me to describe my new car, in the days after I bought it, I would probably have done so by describing as much about what it was missing as what it had:

“There is no longer any trouble starting the engine.”

“There are no more strange noises when I drive around.”

“I am no longer embarrassed when I see someone I know.”

Its paint was not peeling; its upholstery was not damaged; its hubcaps had not fallen off. No longer did I have to deal with a faulty suspension, a broken mirror, a damaged power-steering system, or the repeated frustrations of trying to pass a smog check.

Those were all things that characterized my old car. But they did not characterize the newone, because even though both are cars, the new car is exponentially better than the last.

Now that illustration is obviously limited. But it gives a sense of how the Apostle John uses contrast to describe the glories of heaven in Revelation 21–22. In the final two chapters of the Bible, he explains the greatness of the new earth by noting how different it will be than this sin-stained, broken-down, cursed and corrupt world system.

So what is heaven missing? A lot. But not in the way our popular culture thinks.

When we accurately understand the kinds of things that will be absent from our eternal home, it should only get us more excited to go there.”

-Nathan Busentiz, 03-22-12, http://thecripplegate.com/what-heaven-is-missing/

Ready for Christ’s Return

“Wherever you may live, and whatever may be your trials; however great your difficulties, and however small your helps; nothing should prevent your aiming at the highest standard, to behave like one who believes that Christ is coming again! You should resolve, by God’s help, to live so that the day of Christ shall find you needing as little change as possible! You should seek to have . . .

your tastes so heavenly,

your affections so spiritual,

your will so subdued,

your mind so unworldly —

that when the Lord appears, you may be thoroughly in tune for His kingdom!”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Coming Events and Present Duties, Posted at: http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/01/25/behave-like-christ-is-coming-again/

The Gospel in an Abortion Culture

“As the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision approaches, most Christians recognize, and rightly so, the loss of millions of unborn human lives. What we often forget is the second casualty of an abortion culture: the consciences of countless men and women.

Too often, pastors and church leaders assume that, when talking about abortion, their invisible debating partner is the “pro-choice” television commentator or politician. Not so. Many of the people endangered by the abortion culture aren’t even pro-choice.

In your congregation this Sunday, and in the neighborhoods around you right now, there are women vulnerable to abortionist propaganda, not because they reject the church but because they’re afraid they ‘ll lose the church. Pregnant young women are scared they will scandalize church people when they start to show, so they keep it secret. Parents are fearful their pregnant daughter, or their son’s pregnant girlfriend, will prompt the rest of the congregation to see them as bad families.

As they keep all of this secret from the Body of Christ, many of them fall prey to the false gospel of the abortion clinic. “We can take care of this for you,” these people say. “And it will all go away.”

Moreover, there are thousands of men and women in our churches who have aborted their children, or urged the abortion of their grandchildren. Bearing the shame of this, they keep it secret. And in the concealment, the satanic powers accuse them: “We know who you are; you’re a murderer, like us.”

Every time pastors and church leaders speak, they are speaking, at least potentially, to these men and women, the aborting and the abortionists. Many of these people don’t argue that the “fetus” is a “person.” Their consciences testify to that, and they’re either tortured by this or violently trying to sear over that persistent internal message.

The answer, for the church, is to preach the gospel to the conscience.

For many evangelicals, to “preach the gospel” seems to be obvious and ineffective because they think this means to, by rote, prompt people to accept Jesus and go to heaven. But the gospel speaks right where the abortion culture is in slavery, to the conscience.

For one thing, those guilty of this silent atrocity often don’t think we’re talking to them. For some, the demonic structures have helped them to conceal this secret, and to convince them the safest thing to do is to try to forget it altogether. Others are so burdened down by guilt, they really don’t believe they are included in the “whosoever will” of our gospel invitations.

Speak directly to these people. To the woman who has had the abortion. To the man who has paid for an abortion. To the health care worker who has profited off of tearing apart the bodies of the young and the consciences of their parents.

Speak clearly of the horror of judgement to come. Confirm what every accusing conscience already knows: clinic privacy laws cannot keep all this from being exposed at the tribunal of Christ. When the Light shines, there’s not enough darkness in which to hide and cringe.

But don’t stop there.

Proclaim just as openly that judgment has fallen on the quivering body of a crucified Jesus—accused by Satan, indicted by the Law, enveloped by the curse.

An abortion culture knows that hell exists, and they know judgment waits (Rom 2:14-16). Agree with them, but point them to the truth that God is not simply willing to forgive them. Show them how in Christ God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26).

The woman who has had the abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had the abortion.” He hasn’t been subverted from sending her to hell because she found a gospel “loophole.” In Christ, she’s already been to hell.

And, in the resurrected Christ, God has already told her what he thinks of her: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well-pleased.”

The consciences around us don’t believe what they’re telling themselves. They’re scared and accused. Shine the light in the eyes of their consciences. Prophetically. All for justice, legally and culturally, for the unborn. But don’t stop there.

After all, the spirit of murder doesn’t start or end in the abortion clinic (Matt. 5:21, 15:19; Jn. 8:44; Acts 9:1; Rom. 1:29; Jn. 3:15). And the blood of Christ has cleansed the consciences of rebels like all of us.

Warn of hell, but offer mercy. Offer that mercy not only at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but in the small groups and hallways of your church.”

-Russell D. Moore, January 19, 2012, Complements of:  http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/01/19/the-gospel-in-an-abortion-culture/

My Eternal King

My God, I love Thee; not because
I hope for Heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself; and all for man
Who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning Heaven,
Nor of escaping hell.

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Nor seeking a reward,
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O everlasting Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

-17th century Latin text, Attributed to Fran­cis Xavier, Translated by Edward Caswall 

My God, I love Thee;

Do All Those Who Die in the Womb Go to Heaven?

I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say.  It is certainly possible that they do. It is also possible that they don’t. It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not. Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him. While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin. Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin. The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers. The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect. Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions. In the end I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them. Thus my bold response- I don’t know. What I am persuaded of is this. All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God. Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them. That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved.  Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe? Not by themselves, just like you and me. It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.  Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen? II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might. I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might. Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb. It could include none of them. Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly. This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue. It is not, in my own life, merely abstract. My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14 year old with the capacities of a one year old.  Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith. Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone. We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ. But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.

-R.C. Sproul Jr., http://www.ligonier.org/blog/do-all-those-who-die-womb-go-heaven/

Earth has Many a Noble City

Earth has many a noble city;
Bethlehem, thou dost all excel;
Out of thee the Lord from Heaven
Came to rule His Israel.

Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told His birth,
To the world its God announcing
Seen in fleshly form on earth.

Eastern sages at His cradle
Make oblations rich and rare;
See them give, in deep devotion,
Gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Sacred gifts of mystic meaning:
Incense doth their God disclose,
Gold the King of kings proclaimeth,
Myrrh His sepulcher foreshows.

Jesu, whom the Gentiles worshipped
At Thy glad Epiphany,
Unto Thee, with God the Father
And the Spirit, glory be.

-Aurelius Prudentius (348-413), O sola magnarum urbium.
Translated by Edward Caswall

The Glory of Heaven

“What is … amazing is that our Lord and Saviour will himself be thrilled as he looks at us in heaven. Gazing upon his people, he will be filled with affection and delight. ‘He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied’ (Isa. 53:11).

That will be true of his redemptive work in general. Christ will see all his sheep safely gathered in, everyone of the elect in glory. There will be no empty spaces, no one missing or lost. He will feel no sense of incompleteness or regret. He will be satisfied with the results of the labor of his soul.

But the Lord Jesus will also be satisfied with each of us individually. We may find that hard to believe, because we are far from satisfied with ourselves. All too aware of our weaknesses and limitations, we are often discouraged with ourselves, ashamed of what we are. We do not see ourselves as loveable, so how could Christ love us? A nagging fear enters our minds that, although he will be gracious and kind as he welcomes us into heaven, he will at the same time feel a distinct sense of disappointment. We may not be what he hoped for.

We need not be afraid, for we will by then be changed, conformed to his likeness. God’s work of grace in each and all of us will have been brought to such a pitch of perfection that the Lord will be ravished with love for his bride, ‘a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing’ (Eph. 5:27). We will be all he wants, everything he desires. We will be the people he chooses to be with him for ever. ‘Behold, you are fair, my love!’ he will exclaim (Song of Sol. 1:15). We will then be able to say with joyful assurance, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’ That will be heaven.

It is himself that Christ will see in us, himself that he will love in us. That is why we are promised that ‘we shall be like Him’ (1 John 3:2). For it is nothing other than his own holy beauty that he will admire.”

– Edward Donnelly, Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell, Banner of Truth, 2002
Complements of: http://www.challies.com/quotes/we-need-not-be-afraid

Boredom in Heaven

“If heaven were heaven because of streets of gold and gates of pearl, if that were all, you would attempt suicide within 10,000 years from boredom” -Paul Washer

“Everyone wants to go to heaven, they just don’t want God to be there too.” -Paul Washer

“The critical question for our generation – and for every generation is this: if you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasure you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied in heaven if Jesus wasn’t there? -John Piper


I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living Way.
I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.
-Palmer Hartsough, 1896

Words From One Under the Altar

“Therefore our Saviour, desirous to set out the pains of hell unto us, and to make us afraid thereof, calls it fire, yea, a burning and unquenchable fire. For as there is no pain so grievous to a man as fire  is, so the pains of hell pass all the pains that may be imagined by any man. There shall be sobbing and sighing, weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, which are the tokens of unspeakable pains and griefs that shall come upon those that die in the state of damnation. For you must understand that there are but two places appointed by Almighty God, for all mankind, that is, heaven and hell.

And in what state soever a man dieth, in the same he shall rise again, for there shall be no alteration or change. Those who die repentant and are sorry for their sins—who cry to God for mercy, are ashamed of their wickedness, and believe with all their hearts that God will be merciful unto them through the passion of our Saviour Christ; those who die in such a faith, shall come into everlasting life and felicity, and shall rise in the last day in a state of salvation. For look—as you die, so shall you arise. Whosoever departeth out of this world without a repentant heart, and has been a malicious and envious man, and a hater of the word of God, and so continues, and will not repent and be sorry, and call upon God with a good faith, or has no faith at all; that man shall come to everlasting damnation; and so he shall arise again at the last day.

For there is nothing that can help a soul when departed out of its damnation, or hinder it of its salvation.”

—Bishop Hugh Latimer, (1485-1555) , martyred for the Name of Christ. From Pulpit of the Reformation

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” – Revelation 6:9-11 NASB