This week’s scripture reading, Matt. 11:11, Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Just the Facts
Did you know heaven is mentioned 582 times in the Bible? That is over twice the number of times the word faith is used in scripture. Compare that also to the fact that hell is only mentioned 54 times in scripture. That tells you something about the importance of heaven in the Bible!
The first time heaven is mentioned is during creation from Gen. 1:1, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The last time heaven is recorded in scripture is in the description of the new Jerusalem in Rev. 21:10, And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. The gospel according to Matthew has references to heaven the most out of any other book in the Bible with an astonishing 68 times followed by the book of Revelation at 54 times. Clearly, heaven is a very prominent subject in the Bible. In fact, it is mentioned more times than words like believe, repent, salvation and almost as many times as holy!
Descriptions of Heaven
It is often asked, what are the three levels of heaven but scripture only mentions this on one occasion in the apostle Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth as noted in 2 Cor. 12:2, I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. It is therefore only prudent to tread carefully in drawing assumptions from just one verse in scripture. Conjecture is never recommended in this case to embellish upon a single verse.
There are also physical and structural descriptions of heaven noted in the Bible but they are perhaps more figurative in nature such as noted about the power of the Lord God in 2 Sam. 22:8, Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth. Similarly, this description was recorded in the book of Job 26:11, The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof. Foundations and pillars in these cases tend to come across as metaphorical in describing heaven.
Mansions in Heaven
But what does Jesus say about heaven in the scriptures? Well, one of the most profound messages he gave was shared in John 14:1-4, 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. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. What an encouraging message for believers from the Lord Jesus; many mansions, he goes to prepare a place for us, he will receive us unto himself, and where he is, there will we be with him. Amen!
Also consider what Jesus said about heaven in the gospel according to Matthew, The first words he spoke were pertaining to heaven as noted in Matt. 4:17, From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Before that, John the Baptist also proclaimed the same message in his ministry as shown in Matt. 3:2, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heaven was indeed the joint message associated with repentance and it was of mutual importance to both Jesus and John the Baptist. Further to this, when Jesus sent out his apostles, he instructed them with the same message noted in Matt. 10:7, And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Great in the Kingdom
According to the words of Jesus, there will also be varying levels of importance and prominence in heaven as he shared in Matt. 5:19, Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them,] the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. In a similar verse, Jesus also shared a parallel message about heaven in Matt. 18:4, Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus also spoke compassionately about the inheritors of heaven during his sermon on the mount in Matt. 5:3, Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. During the same sermon, Jesus reiterated this message in Matt. 5:10, Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Jesus also showed the distinction of false righteousness with true righteousness by highlighting the falsity of the Pharisees in Matt. 5:20, For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Considering how frequently Jesus spoke about heaven was illustrative of its importance.
Jesus pointed out this false pretence in religion as not being the way to get to heaven again in Matt. 7:21, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. As Jesus continued to preach, he also acknowledged Old Testament people who would be in heaven, thus affirming the reality of it as shown in Matt. 8:11, And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
During an occasion with Simon Peter, Jesus again made a rather profound statement about heaven. This took place after Peter made his eternal proclamation first in Matt. 16:16b, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Following this message of profound truth, Jesus said to Peter in Matt. 16:19, And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Indeed, there has been much conjecture drawn from this single verse with certain denominations.
Parables of the Kingdom
Jesus also frequently spoke about the kingdom of heaven in parables and they were intended to convey a moral message about a subject. Let us now look at the parables about heaven that Jesus spoke about just in the book of Matthew. In every case, Jesus prefaced his preaching in parables with the phrase, The kingdom of heaven is like…
- A man which sowed good seed in his field. Is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field.
- Is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
- Is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
- Is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls.
- Is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.
- Is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure [things] new and old.
- Is likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
- Is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
- Is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.
- Be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
- Is as a man travelling into a far country, [who] called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
For reference and further study, these parables are documented in Matt. 13:24, 13 :31, 13:33, 13:38, 13:44, 13:45, 13:47, 13:52, 1 8:23, 20:1, 22:2, 25:1, 25:14. By reading the full message of the parables, it helps to illustrate how Jesus described the kingdom of heaven. As Matt. 13:11 notes, his response to teaching in parables was interestingly intended to cloak the mysteries of the kingdom.
Let us now close this Bible Study on what is heaven all about in the Bible. If you are seeking a life of faith in Christ, ask yourself the question, why would the scriptures and the Lord Jesus speak so much about heaven? Does it not demonstrate the utmost importance of this place of eternal destination? Does it not give incredible evidence about heaven as a real place that refutes any worldly fictional perspective of it? Does it not cause seekers of faith to ponder the eternal consequences of not asking the question, how do I get to heaven? Consider the opposite destination of heaven as described in the Bible which is a place called hell, often described of eternal torments.
There was a person in the Bible who once asked the apostles this same heartfelt question as described in Acts 16:29, Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Think about that simple seven word question for a moment, “what must I do to be saved?” Readers may be thinking, saved from what? Well, that brings us back to the antithesis of heaven and that is eternal damnation in hell.
Hell is as real as heaven in the Bible. Jesus spoke about this in Matt. 10:28, And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Jesus stated that both places, heaven and hell are eternal destinations as shared in Matt. 25:46, And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. This brings us back to the question asked by the Philippians Jailor noted above. The apostles responded to him with the answer for all seekers of faith as shown in Matt. 16:31, And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
What about readers of this study today? Will you believe? Will you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you be saved today? This is why Paul proclaimed the message of eternal words of life in Rom. 10:9-10, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Why not come to the Lord Jesus right now, confess and believe that he is the Lord and know with assurance that heaven awaits you for eternity!
Bible Study Questions
- In this study called what is heaven all about in the Bible, can you name three facts about heaven?
- In John 14:1-4, can you list some of the promises from Jesus in this encouraging message to believers?
- In Matt. 4:17, what is the significance of repentance in the message of the kingdom from Jesus?
- In Matt. 7:21, what does Jesus emphasize over the importance of simply calling him Lord, Lord?
- Why do you think Jesus spoke about heaven so often in parables to the multitudes?
- Pick one parable and read the full scripture to better understand the meaning behind it.
- Have you made the decision to proclaim Romans 10:9-10 to have the assurance of eternal life?