Did Jesus say much about heaven? If so, what did He teach regarding heaven?
The Frequency of Heaven
Jesus spoke more about heaven than hell and in fact, over twice as much did Jesus speak about heaven as He did hell in the gospels. There are nearly 140 references to heaven in the gospels and nearly every one of them came from Jesus. In the Book of Revelation, we see heavens or heaven mentioned but sometimes this refers to the first and second heaven, with the first being the home where birds fly and clouds reside but the other heaven, the third heaven, is the very presence and throne of God. The Apostle John writes about heaven forty-six times in the Book of Revelation, which is really the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1) so heaven is a subject which is important to God and so it must be for us too. With nearly 700 references of heaven in the Bible, Jesus must have said a lot about heaven, right?
The Kingdom of Heaven
The very first words out of Jesus’ mouth when He started His earthly ministry was “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15) but Matthew tells us to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). The time was fulfilled because John had just been put in prison (Mark 1:14) and he was about to be beheaded. That would mean his ministry of coming into the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord was accomplished. The “wilderness” was a spiritual wilderness of pharisaic legalism, anti-law Sadducees, and Roman barbarianism. John came to prepare the way for Him Who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and now the fullness of time had come for Jesus to proclaim the kingdom of heaven so one of the things Jesus taught about heaven was that it was associated with the kingdom of God but it required repentance and faith (or belief).
Heaven is Real
We know that heaven is real because just after Jesus’ baptism “a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17) and it is known that God is in heaven and so heaven is a specific place where God resides as Jesus warned that “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:33). This must be a real place that exists of which Jesus speaks. Just before Jesus was about to go the cross and return to the Father, He told His disciples “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). The Greek word for “place” is “topos” which means an inhabited city, a village or a district and that’s the way the Greeks used this word so that’s the way Jesus must have intended it. Heaven is real and it’s a real place, but so is hell. Not only is Jesus going to heaven, He’s going to prepare a place for them for a real place in the kingdom of heaven and will come to take them to Himself so that where He is, they will also be.
Who Goes to Heaven?
Who goes to heaven? Jesus once “calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:2-3) but why does one have to be like a child? Jesus answers that for us by saying “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” and “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4-5). For one thing, children are humble, very trusting, and are teachable. These are qualities that God looks for in a person because God resists the proud but gives His grace only to the humble (James 4:6). Far too many believe that they’re a good enough of a person to go to heaven because they’ve done a lot of good things but God says your best works are nothing more than filthy rags to Him. The Bible doesn’t say most of us or at least a few of us are good but “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness’s are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6) and none are good, not even one (Rom 3:10)! Only those who have repented and trusted in Christ go into the kingdom of heaven because Christ, Who never knew any sin, became sin for us “so that we might become the righteousness of Christ” (2nd Cor 5:21b). That’s who goes to heaven.
Obviously, Jesus taught a lot about heaven and one absolute truth is that no one can go to the Father in heaven unless it is through Jesus Christ (John 6:44) because there’s no other way to be saved (Acts 4:12). As I wrote before, heaven is real and it’s a real place, but so is hell. For all who refuse to believe, they presently have the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36b) and whether they know it or not doesn’t matter. God will judge all who do not believe in His Son but all who believe in His Son have passed from judgment to life. We who believe have peace with God (Rom 5:1) because we’re at peace with God and don’t have His condemnation on us anymore (Rom 8:1). For others, you have been warned.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.