Here are Opening and Take it Deeper Questions to use before or after the study guide:
1. What has your tradition of faith or experience growing up told you heaven is?
2. Do you believe in heaven?
3. Does heaven start and end? When do you believe it starts?
4. What is one thing about heaven you want to understand?
5. Do you think it’s possible to know if you are going to heaven or not?
Ten Questions You Might Have About Heaven:
- Can we know each other in heaven? How will our family be related in heaven? Yes, by what we read in the Bible, we will know one another in heaven. In fact, indications are that we will have a far greater knowledge in heaven and will know people we didn’t know on earth. We will know each other and treasure that knowledge, but our past will not drive us in heaven (ref Jesus and Saduccees arguing about marriage in Luke 20:34-39) Will we be related? Yes, but not just to our families. We will be all related as His, that is God’s family (ref. Eph. 3:15)
- Can we know our lost friends and relatives in heaven? Most scholars take the Rich Man and Lazarus as a glimpse into the working of eternity though it is told in parable style. Though the rich man could see there with rest and paradise around him, Lazarus couldn’t see hell’s residents. There is not a strong Bible reference to heaven’s residents being aware of those whom we lost to hell. (ref. Rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19ff)
- Do we have the same needs – hunger, thirst, etc. in heaven? Revelation tells us that hunger and thirst will be no more. Though this passage is a direct reference to the treatment of the martyrs during the Tribulation, another reference to similar treatment of heaven’s residents occurs later, saying “the old order of things has passed away.” (ref. Rev. 7:16-17, Rev. 21:4) This doesn’t mean that we won’t enjoy food and drink. In fact, Rev. 22:2 points to fruit trees bearing different kinds of fruit each month – the assumption is that it would be edible and enjoyable.
- Are we in heaven the second we die? This is one of those tough questions that Christians have simply agreed to disagree on. Whether it is heaven and all heaven offers, it is agreed upon by most Bible scholars that Christians go somewhere that is far better and in the presence of Jesus. And that sounds like heaven to me (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, and Luke 23:43 – Thief on the cross)
- Are there tears or suffering in heaven? One very clear promise is that God will wipe away the tears and pain and mourning and suffering from the lives of the residents of heaven. (ref. Lk 20:36, Rev 21:4, Rev 7:17)
- Is heaven a physical place? Some would make heaven into a metaphor and certainly the descriptions and attempts to wrap our frail words around what heaven is really like seems to fall short. But it is always portrayed as a place with physical properties populated by residents reunited with perfected physical bodies. The word “heaven” occurs more frequently in Revelation than in any other New Testament book. The most popular passage dealing with heaven is Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5. In this passage, heaven is portrayed in three different images: (1) the tabernacle (Revelation 21:1-8), (2) the city (Revelation 21:9-27), and (3) the garden (Revelation 22:1-5). The image of the tabernacle portrays heavenly life as perfect fellowship with God. The symbolism of the city portrays heavenly life as perfect protection. The image of the garden shows heavenly life as perfect provision. (Holman Bible Dictionary) It’s physical, but the bonds of earth will be done away with.
- What does it mean when Paul was caught up to the third heaven? This is a mysterious, brief passage that Paul hesitates to even talk about. God apparently gave Paul a glimpse of the paradise of heaven and heard what heaven is like. (ref. 2 Cor. 12:1-4)
- What will we do in heaven? The following is a compilation of what the passages seem to say and a small attempt to describe what we will be active in doing. We will be perfect and free from sin, but we will mature. We will be eternal, but experience time in some fashion. We will be in relationship with our friends, our family, and far beyond since our depth and breadth of knowledge will be greater than on earth. Our relationships will be right, not bound by the selfishness, the hurts, hangups, habits, etc. of earth’s relationships. Our family relationships (and all others) will fade into the light of our new relationships within the family of God and in the light of our rich relationship with Jesus unhindered by what we are on earth. We will be busy – in worship (we will see Jesus as He fully is), in service (using what God has equipped us with), in resting (some parents of pre-schoolers pray for the Second Coming just for this part), in maturing in our perfection (learning, discovering, appreciating, etc.), in enjoying what we are given as inheritance (home, and more), and in having some responsibilities of leadership under Christ’s authority (somehow we will have some kind of authority even as we are under authority.)
- Where is heaven? UP? Always spoken of as up, as in above and beyond the known heavens of our universe (no, heaven is probably not behind that black hole discovered years ago.) For the writers of the Bible, way up meant beyond our reach, or unattainable without God’s help.
- Who is heaven created for? This is the hardest answer. Heaven is created only for those who are entirely perfect, righteous and holy. No one else can enter heaven.
- Bonus Question: Are pets in heaven? The Bible doesn’t specifically address pets in relation to heaven; however, when the discussion of the Bible turns to eternity, eternal life, and the eternal soul, it always is in relation to humans. The assurance we have is that whatever grief we experience from loss, whether friends, family, or furry friends, God will wipe the tears and make all things right. You may find comfort in the fact that there are animals in heaven however. After all, the Bible says Jesus shows up riding a white horse!
Definition of Heaven:
Old Testament Words translated “heaven:”
Galgal – whirlwind, swirling area – what Ezekiel experienced as whirling wheels within wheels
Ma`al – upward, over, greater than – usually as in someone is over or greater than, but translated four times as heaven
Marowm – the high places, translated once as heaven
Raqiya` – the firmaments or expanse of heaven above
Shachaq – the clouds of heaven
Shamayim & Shamayin – 436 times translated the heavens, highest heavens, etc. As the place from which God rules and involves Himself in the lives of His people
New Testament Words translated “heaven:”
Diopetes – as in “something fell from heaven” from the physical up there heaven – 1 time in Acts 19:35
Mesouranema – the midpoint in heaven, when sun is brightest, and actions can be seen by all- 3 times in Revelation
Epouranios – things that happen in heaven or come from heaven (20 times in NT)
Ouranos (and two other variations of “ouranos”) – Can be translated sky or upper regions of the universe; also translated as region above the upper regions where all that’s perfect dwells and God and His angels live – 295 times in the NT
The biggest question left unasked and unanswered is:
How do I make it to heaven if only completely holy, righteous and perfect beings can enter heaven?
The answer is, you can’t… by your own efforts, desires, hopes and passions get there. The only way you can be allowed the gift of eternity in heaven is by asking Jesus to forgive your sins, turn from a life apart from Him and toward a life that He leads, and allowing Him to exchange your sins for His righteousness. Let Jesus be your Forgiver, your Leader, and your God.
(A sample outline of a Tough Questions Small Group might be: 1) Reinforce why you are here – talk about the group purpose, covenant, etc.; 2) Open with a couple of questions (save the “out loud” prayer for the end); 3) Talk through the “Ten Questions List” – ask the each time to read the question “Have you ever wondered this?” to keep them on your page. 4) Briefly talk about the Bible words and what they mean; 5) Ask two more questions from the list of Group Questions; 6) Read through “The Biggest Question;” Ask has this ever happened to you? If not, would you like to pray and ask God for this gift for you;” 7) Close in prayer; 8) Refreshments. Remember: many you have in the group are pre-Christians with questions. Have fun with the study. Pause for responses, questions, comments, etc. Make sure you and the leaders are prayed up.)
Heaven: My Father’s House, Anne Graham Lotz
From Heaven’s View, T.W. Hunt
Heaven: Your Real Home, Joni Earekson Tada
Heaven, Randy Alcorn