Myths & Misconceptions About Heaven – What the Bible Really Says
The Bible describes what heaven is like and it’s different than the way many people think it’s going to be. Even as Christians, our view of heaven is often shaped more by popular books, movies, and traditions than the Bible.
The biblical view of heaven is much better and brings more meaning and hope for life on earth now. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions, so let’s look at what the Bible really says.
What is heaven like? Heaven is a place where God has His way completely. It’s an eternal place of great beauty and glory without any evil. The Bible teaches that heaven will come down to earth. Heaven is not one long church service and people will do meaningful work. Everyone’s reward will be different. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all will be who is in heaven and who is not.
Heaven will not be boring and it’s not an eternal vacation or retirement. People will not be floating around with wings like spirits without bodies. Heaven is not an endless musical production where people sing all day long. These things are not true according to the Bible.
These myths and misconceptions are a distraction from the real beauty and power of what the Bible teaches about heaven. These myths cause us to live disconnected from what seems like a completely different world that we will go to after we die.
Heaven will be much better than people think! Let’s look at what the Bible really says and uncover some of the commonly held myths and misconceptions about heaven.
After you read this article, if you still have unanswered questions about heaven, I recommend you check out this book: Heaven (link to Amazon – opens in a new window). It answers just about any question you might have about heaven and it’s recommended by many respected pastors.
Heaven Is a Place Where God Has His Way Completely
Heaven is a place where God’s will is completely done. That’s why Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Matt. 6:10 (ESV).
Right now on earth, we live in brokenness. We’ve left God’s perfect design and choose to go our own way. Our sin has led us into this brokenness. There is sickness, crime, war, and death. But in heaven, there will be no more tears, no death, or any pain (Rev. 21:4).
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”Rev. 21:4 (ESV)
Heaven is where God dwells. (Deut. 26:15). It’s where people who open to God’s love and forgiveness will go. Jesus says in Luke 18:17 that people need to receive God’s love with faith and trust like a child. It’s through what Jesus did on the cross that would open the door for people to enter God’s Kingdom, heaven.
God is the King and His will is done completely in heaven, His Kingdom. And He wants His Kingdom to fully come to earth
Heaven and Earth Will Be Joined Together
This brings us to our first major myth and misconception.
Most people hope to “go to heaven” when they die and pass from this world. Is heaven on earth or is heaven in the clouds?
The Bible’s teaching on heaven is much more rich and meaningful than that.
“Heaven,” as people usually refer to it, is a temporary place that people go to until God makes a New Heaven and a New Earth.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.Rev. 21:3 (ESV)
What Jesus taught us to pray will be fully answered at that time. This has been God’s plan all along, to unite heaven and earth, through Jesus, when the time is fulfilled.
If there was one verse to summarize the entire Bible, Eph. 1:10 would probably be a great choice.
Most people only think of heaven as a place where we go when we die. But heaven and earth will be united under Jesus as the head over all things. We see in Revelation 21-22 that heaven, the New Jerusalem actually comes down to earth.
There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth. It will still be heaven and earth, but it will be completely renewed.
This table shows how God’s plan from the very beginning, in Genesis, will be fulfilled at the end, as shown in Revelation.
|HEAVEN & EARTH (Gen. 1-2)||NEW HEAVEN & NEW EARTH (Rev. 21-22)|
|In the Beginning (Gen. 1:1)||All things New (Rev. 21:5)|
|God’s Kingdom Lost (Gen. 3)||God’s Kingdom Fully Restored (Rev. 22)|
|Mankind Separated from God (Gen. 3:9)||God Dwelling with Man (Rev. 21:3)|
God will dwell with man. We will get to see His face (Rev. 22:4). The tree of life in Genesis 2:9 will be accessible again in Rev. 22:2. Will heaven be like the Garden of Eden? It will be like what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden. But it won’t just be restored, it’ll be fully upgraded and fulfilled.
To be precise, the New Earth will be our eternal home. We will be with the Lord forever as He comes to dwell with man once again. (Rev. 21:1-3; Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Eph. 1:9-10)
The Bible speaks many times of the earth as continuing forever. It will be our inheritance (Matt. 5:5; Ps. 37:29; 78:69; 104:5; 105:10-11; 125:1-2; 1 Chr. 23:25; 28:8; Isa. 60:21; Ezek. 37:25; Joel 3:20). Here are 2 verses from this sampling of verses.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Matt. 5:5 (ESV)
The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.Psa. 37:29 (ESV)
Here’s a diagram from another article that I wrote that gives an overview of the main message of the Bible in a simple way: The Bible Explained for Beginners (Simple Guide & Diagram). It sums up what we’ve been talking about so far.
We Will Do Meaningful Work in Heaven
This brings us to a 2nd common misconception about heaven:
It’s often thought that work is only for this earth. Heaven is often portrayed in movies and books as a place of eternal retirement and relaxation.
The Bible teaches that there will be work “in heaven” and it will be entirely effective and fulfilling. As we looked at in the previous section, our eternal home is the New Earth, where the New Heaven will come to be joined with.
The Bible says that we will have resurrected bodies like Jesus had after He rose from the dead. Jesus is called the first fruit (Col. 1:15, 18) and we will be like Him. We won’t be floating around like spirits without a body.
Also, the Bible never says that people have wings, nor do most angels for that matter. There are several spiritual beings in the Bible like the Seraphim and Cherubim that do have wings, but they are the exception.
Won’t we get bored in heaven? Wouldn’t heaven be boring without anything to do?
We will have a lot of work to do in the New Heaven and New Earth. The difference between now and eternity is that on the New Earth, the curse will no longer be in effect (Rev. 22:3-5; Gen. 317-19). That means work will be entirely fulfilling and meaningful.
Imagine how fulfilling work can be if there is no insecurity, injustice, jealousy, or deception. We will be able to work and cooperate with God and with each other. Work is frustrating on earth right now because we are under the curse of sin (Gen. 3:17). That curse will be completely removed in the New Earth.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.Rev. 22:3-5 (ESV)
We will serve God (Rev. 1:6) and we will reign as God’s representatives in His Kingdom (Rev. 1:6; Luke 19:17; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26; Matt. 19:28; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 20:6)
We will rule and reign over God’s creation (Rev. 22:5). It won’t be to take advantage of others, but to serve and bring creation to its fullest potential (Matt. 20:25-26)
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.1 Cor. 15:58 (ESV)
Your life on this earth is an internship for the real work “in heaven.” Your work now, whether it’s caring for family, working in an office, or serving others, all matters to God.
One surprise in heaven will be that the strong and powerful in this age will not be the ones who are great in the age to come. It’s those who are meek who will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5) “So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matt. 20:16).
Heaven Is Not One Long, Never-Ending Church Service
This brings us to our third myth or misconception about heaven.
Some people mistakenly think it’ll be better to party in hell than to be stuck in a boring church service forever. But this is not the view that the Bible presents. Heaven will not be one never-ending musical where we sing in a choir all day long. Rinse. Repeat… Forever.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that God is worthy of worship day and night, forever. There are angelic beings that worship around His throne day and night (Rev. 4). But this does not mean that it’s the only thing going on in heaven forever.
Our worship of God will be more meaningful in heaven than ever before. We won’t be hindered by any doubt or shame, or the limits of our mind. We’ll be able to fully and freely receive from God and give our hearts fully to Him without any sin. We’ll be able to fully and completely love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
As we stand on the sea of glass before God’s throne (Rev. 15:2), the gathering place of heaven, our hearts will be fully alive and experience God fully (Rev. 22:4)
There is constant worship in heaven, but we’ll also be doing a lot of other things (Acts 3:21; Rev. 20:1-6; Isa. 2:1-4; 9:6-9; 11:1-16; 51:1-8; 60-62; 65:17-25; Ps. 2:6-12; 110:1-7; Deut. 8; 28; Mt. 5:5; 6:10; 17:11; 19:28; 28:19; Acts 1:6; 3:21).
God doesn’t just create the entire universe and then throw it all away, never to be seen again. God redeems all of creation through Jesus Christ. Even the earth is groaning until that day (Rom. 8:19-23). Right now, there are sickness, earthquakes, famines, and natural disasters. There won’t be any of those in the New Heaven and New Earth.
There is a lot more continuity in the New Heaven and New Earth that we might imagine. The Bible doesn’t give a lot of details, but enough for us to know that it’ll be completely fulfilling and exciting.
Everyone Will Be Rewarded Differently
Another myth or misconception about heaven is about our eternal rewards.
It’s sometimes assumed that being in heaven and being with God Himself are the rewards and there won’t be any need for anything else. That is true, but God Himself chooses to give rewards.
The Bible teaches that the only way anyone can get into heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the way to open to God’s love (John 14:6).
You can only get into heaven based on your faith in Christ, but your rewards are according to your works. This means that everyone’s reward will be different (1 Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12; Matt. 16:27).
Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.1 Cor. 3:13-15 (ESV)
What can these rewards be? One of the rewards in heaven, or on the New Earth, is strategic work assignments (Matt. 25:21; 19:28; 20:21-23; 25:23; Lk. 19:17-19; 22:29-30; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rom 8:17; Matt. 19:30). In ruling and reigning with God, people will have different assignments.
Another reward is heavenly praise or honor from God (1 Pet. 1:7; 1 Cor. 4:5; Luke 19:17).
You can ask yourself: Am I living for the praise that only Jesus can give? Am I being faithful with the resources, opportunities, relationships that God has entrusted into my life and that are in my sphere of influence?
You Can’t Go to Heaven by Being a Good Person
This brings us to our last myth or misconception about heaven.
Will I go to heaven or hell? Many people hope that their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds and they will somehow make it into heaven.
The Bible teaches that people don’t go to heaven automatically. Heaven is actually not our default destination. No can can go to heaven based on their good works (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) because no one can be “good enough.”
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodRom. 3:23 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Rom. 6:23 (ESV)
No one can be good and righteous enough to enter heaven on their own merit (Isa. 59:2; John 14:6)
The Good News that the Bible offers is that Jesus died on the cross to pay for the penalty of your sin. You don’t have to wait until you die to know if you’re going to heaven or not. You can know today and open your heart to God’s love. Is there anything that’s keeping you from opening to God’s love right now?
Here’s an article where I explain how you can know for sure if you’re going to heaven rather than leaving it to chance.: How to Get to Heaven According to the Bible: It’s NOT by Being Good.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”John 14:6 (ESV)
Here on Earth as It Is in Heaven
Heaven is an amazing and beautiful place, full of God’s glory. It’s going to be everything you love about this world without any of the things that make it terrible.
What difference does the Biblical teaching on heaven make in your life right now on earth? How does setting your mind on things above give you a sense of purpose here on earth?
A wrong view of heaven makes people live disconnected with life as it is today. Some people look forward to an endless existence as spirits floating around in the clouds. Because of these misconceptions about heaven, people live disconnected with the beautiful eternal reality that the Bible presents.
You will get to see God’s face, there won’t be a need for the sun or any light because God Himself will be the light. If you believe what the Bible says about heaven, it will help you connect that eternal reality with whatever you’re going through now.
You don’t have to wait until you die. You can live for God today. You don’t have to live life bored or without hope. You can live life with full hope and purpose.
Things on earth can be good, but they’re not meant to satisfy the deepest longings in your heart. You are a person made in God’s image, with a spirit that can only be fully alive if you encounter God’s love.
Faith is more than just about praying and reading the Bible. Your entire life matters to God. Your family, your work, your studies, and your recreation all matter. It can be more meaningful now and in heaven, on the New Earth, where heaven and earth will be joined together, you’ll find your deepest fulfillment in God.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”Rev. 21:5 (ESV)
Here are a few questions that I didn’t touch on in this article, but in case you were wondering:
Will we eat in heaven? The resurrected Jesus ate with His disciples. He prepared them a meal and ate bread and fish with them. (John 21:4-14). The Bible speaks of food in God’s Kingdom (Luke 22:29-30; Rev. 2:7; 21:5-6; 22:2).
Will there be animals in heaven? Isa. 11:6-9 describes the New Earth, where there will no longer be any hurt nor destruction. God saved animals from the flood (Gen. 6:19-20) and He established the Covenant with “every living creature” (Gen. 9:9-17).
Will we be reunited with our pets? Will I see my dog in heaven? The Bible doesn’t say specifically that we will or not. It’s something we “leave on the shelf” until God reveals more. But based on what we know about God, it would not be inconsistent with the Bible for God to reunite us with our pets.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Col. 3:1-3 (ESV)
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If you enjoyed reading this article, here are a few that I think you’ll also enjoy:
What Does God Look Like – Why It Matters in the Bible. In it, I look at the throne-room scene in heaven. Heaven is a reflection of who God is and what He looks like.
How to Get to Heaven According to the Bible: It’s NOT by Being Good. I share a couple of videos in it that describe how you can be sure you get into heaven and not leave it to chance.
What Is the Meaning of Life According to the Bible? In it, I explore the question of the meaning of life. The point is not to get to heaven but to know the beautiful God who has made a way for us to be with Him.