The following is one section from Chapter 5 (“Heaven”) of my book The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible.
When I was on Staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, we used to sing a song at our weekly on-campus meetings. It was a chorus called, “Heaven Is a Wonderful Place.” We’d sing about how wonderful heaven is. Heaven, we’d sing, is filled with glory and grace. “I want to see my Savior’s face! Heaven is a wonderful place. I want to go there.” Students and staff alike loved the song. But, unfortunately, that song presents a flawed view of heaven.
Yes, heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. And, yes, my Savior is there right now. However, the song gives the distinct impression that we will spend eternity in heaven in the presence of Jesus. But neither the Lord Jesus nor believers will spend eternity in the third heaven. Jesus and believers will spend eternity on the new earth. The third heaven wasn’t made for humans. And humans weren’t made for the third heaven.
One simple way we know this is by reading the opening chapters of Genesis. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, then they and all their descendants would have lived on earth at least until they filled it. Think about that for a moment. God’s original design for human beings was not that they live in the third heaven forever. He didn’t design us for the third heaven. He gave us bodies and a planet on which to use those bodies. While angels arguably were designed to spend at least some of their time in the third heaven, humans were not.
What would have happened if Adam and Eve had not fallen and then had fulfilled God’s command to fill the earth? At that point either God would have cut off reproduction (remember, no one would have died, ever), or else He would have allowed humans to go out and colonize the planets, the second heavens.
Quite possibly before the fall of Adam and Eve, all the planets would have been not only capable of sustaining human life but would have been Edenic. But even if the situation before the fall was as it is now in terms of the percentage of inhabitable planets, there would have been millions of planets that could sustain human life. And the universe is ever expanding, so that new planets are coming into existence all the time.
Adam and Eve and their offspring, which includes you and me, were not made for the third heaven. Of course, God knew that one day we would fly in the first and even the second heaven. But He did not create us to live in the third heaven. We were created to be earthly beings.
“Ah,” some would say, “but after they sinned, that meant that humans were no longer destined to live on earth, but in heaven, that is, in the third heaven.” While God certainly could have changed His plans for humans, the Bible does not support this notion. Indeed, the last two chapters of the Bible are very clear that the place where believers will live is not the new heavens, but the new earth.
The Apostle John “saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2, emphasis added). Clearly the holy city, which is where the street of gold will be (Rev 21:9-27), will be on the new earth, not in the new third heaven where God the Father dwells. This is reinforced in the very next verse in which John says he “heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people’” (Rev 21:3). Note that He will dwell with them. John doesn’t say, Men will dwell with Him. Rather, He will dwell with us. He is coming to our place. That is one of the reasons He took a body, so that He could live among us. (Of course, another reason is that He had to be fully human to die on the cross to take away our sins and make it possible for us to have eternal life by faith.)
The first and last chapters of the Bible make it clear that God has come to earth to dwell with us on earth. If your aim has been to spend eternity in heaven, I hope you will give up on that ambition. That isn’t for you.