Written by Markus Boone, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
Markus Boone has been involved in church ministry for 10 years, which includes serving as a youth pastor, head of his church’s teaching department, as well as a Christian school director. He has a Bachelor of Theology degree and is currently pursuing his Master of Theology while serving part-time in a church in Jakarta. He is married with two boys, Lyonel (6 years old) and Ethan (3 years old).
All of us want to go to heaven don’t we? But let’s be honest: not everything about heaven seems that enticing, does it? For example, if all we do in heaven is sing to the Lord—sure, it’s a good thing—won’t it get a bit boring, especially for those of us who aren’t that great at singing?
But what if we’ve misinterpreted what heaven is really like? After doing a little investigation to find out what the Bible actually says about heaven, here are five myths I’ve uncovered.
1. There will be no sea in heaven.
The Apostle John tells us that when he saw the new heavens and the new earth, there was “no longer any sea” (Revelation 21:1). For fans of swimming, fishing, snorkeling, or even diving, this sounds like bad news.
In Genesis, we read that God created the heavens and earth, as well as the seas (Genesis 1:1-10). Why then is He leaving out the sea in His new creation? Could it be that the word “sea” in Revelation refers to something else other than the expanse of water? To the ancient people, the sea symbolizes evil and the unpredictable world (Isaiah 57:20). So the elimination of the sea might basically mean there will be no more chaos or evil in the new heavens and earth.
But even if the passage actually refers to the literal sea, many have contended that there will still be large bodies of water in heaven. American Protestant author Randy Alcorn noted in his book Touchpoints: Heaven that “Scripture tells us a great river flows right through the capital city . . . The new earth could have even larger lakes, especially if they have no oceans to flow into. Huge lakes could, in effect, be freshwater oceans.” (Revelation 22:1)
Envision a large body of water with magnificent wonders to enjoy without any threatening wave or deadly tsunami. Imagine a world without chaos and evil—that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?
2. We will stop work and rest forever in heaven.
Hebrews 4:9-10 tells us that “anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works”. Heaven, God’s dwelling place, is a place of rest. Rest is great. In the midst of our busy schedule, we may wish for more time to rest. We hope our five working days and two days-off every week could become two working days and five days-off instead.
But can you imagine if every day is a day off, say, for 50 years? As it is, going without a job for a year may depress some of us. Now, what about resting from our works forever? Wouldn’t we die of boredom? Oh yes, we won’t die in heaven—but won’t it be an awfully boring existence?
The problem with this conclusion is that it assumes that work is part of God’s punishment for mankind’s sin and it will therefore no longer exist in heaven. But this assumption is not biblical because Genesis tells us that humans are created to work. Humanity was given the task to rule over and manage the earth that God created before man sinned (Genesis 1:26, 2:15). Work is not the result of sin. However, sin caused work to become a “painful toil” (Genesis 3:17) and no longer joyful nor satisfying.
Remember what Jesus said in John 5:17? “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Doesn’t that tell us that God himself values work? So while we can be assured of God’s dwelling place as a restful place, that doesn’t mean we’re about to live a boring and inane existence. Instead, we should see heaven as the ideal environment to work in, where we carry out the will of God. Work will be a joy; it will no longer be a burden or painful toil.
3. All we do every day is sing to the Lord.
Let’s go back to the first example I raised—singing. In Revelation, we read that everyone in heaven will be worshipping and singing to the Lord (4:9; 5:9-14). Musicians and choir members may be excited by this prospect, but many of us may be frustrated if singing is the only activity we do in heaven. Does it mean that other kinds of work are less meaningful and we will not have them anymore in eternity?
Let’s examine what the Bible says. It tells us that we will not only live with God in heaven, but also with other redeemed people from all tribes, nations, and languages (Revelation 7:9). We will experience a vibrant and wonderful community in the city of God (Revelation 21:24-27). And together, we will worship God (Revelation 5:13), feast with Him (Isaiah 25:6) and reign with Christ (Revelation 22:5). How about that? Clearly singing won’t be the only thing we’ll be doing—we’ll be part of an exciting community doing different things together.
4. Heaven is among the clouds.
Many of us may picture heaven as a place somewhere in the sky, among the clouds. After all, many movies and tales tell us that when people die, their spirits go to the sky.
Interestingly, even though 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us that followers of Jesus who are still on this earth in the last days will meet the Lord in the clouds when He comes, the Bible does not tell us that we will stay in the sky forever. Revelation 21:1-3 on the other hand, clearly tells us that God’s dwelling place will be on earth. The Holy City will come down out of heaven from God to the new heaven and earth, and the redeemed people will stay there with God forever.
The concept of heaven being in the sky is not the view of the Jews. In fact, it is closer to Plato’s school of thought that considers the physical world as evil, and that one day our spirits will be freed from this evil physical world.
On the contrary, the Bible tells us that when God created the world, He saw all that He had made and called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But this “very good” world was ruined by sin. Eventually however, we read that the world will be restored in God’s glory. Not only will we have new bodies (1 Corinthians 15), heaven and earth will also be renewed (Revelation 21-22) and God will dwell with us there.
Today, we can still catch a glimpse of the beauty of God’s original creation through certain aspects of creation. Imagine how much more beautiful it will be in the glorious renewed world!
5. We will become perfect and not have any new things to explore.
Passages like 1 Corinthians 13:12 and Hebrews 12:23 tell us that we will eventually be made perfect and “know fully”. Does that mean we won’t have anything new to learn? Wouldn’t this spell bad news for life-long learners and risk takers who relish knowledge and adventure?
Perhaps our understanding of the phrases “know fully” or “made perfect” needs to be clarified. Firstly, we cannot equate either of these phrases with the fullness or perfection of God. At the end of the day, we are still humans—we are God’s creation, not the creator. What this means is that we will know many things in a better, deeper way, but we will not become all-knowing. We will fully reflect the image of God—that is, we will not stray or succumb to sin—but we will never be God.
Secondly, God’s works are endless. Even if God granted the wish of Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar—whose oft-quoted line is “I want to live another thousand years—I trust that he too will not find it enough. Even a thousand years is still too short to explore “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). We definitely need eternity to explore all of His greatness!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Have you uncovered any other myth about heaven? Share with us in the comments section below.