The Surprising Truth about Heaven with Dr. Michael Youssef

8 min read
Jul 1, 2024 10:00:00 AM

Q: What inspired you to explore the study of Heaven and the afterlife?
I find that few Christians spend much time thinking about Heaven or preparing for Heaven. I suppose that’s because thinking about Heaven means thinking about dying—and we tend to avoid thinking about that! We’re busy with our family and church activities and our business life, so we tell ourselves, “I don’t have time to think about Heaven today. Maybe later.”

But Heaven is a core truth of our faith. If you trust in Jesus, why wouldn’t you want to learn everything you can about the beauty and blessings of the place where you will spend eternity?

Heaven is the fulfillment of all our deepest longings. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, God has set eternity in our hearts! I wrote this book to stir a hunger for eternity in the heart of every reader. I pray it will energize believers to live in light of the reality of Heaven.

Q: What biblical teachings do you draw upon to illuminate the nature of Heaven and its significance for believers?
The Bible discloses many exciting truths about Heaven. Here are three:

First, Heaven will be a place of face-to-face communion and fellowship with Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul tells us, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” We will be in a face-to-face relationship with Jesus and with God the Father. We shall experience eternal reality as it truly is.

Second, Heaven will be a place of rest from our spiritual battles. Revelation 14:13 tells us that believers in Heaven “will rest from their labor.” We will have rest from the ceaseless spiritual struggles of this life.

Third, Heaven will be a place of serving Jesus. We will have work to do in eternity—not boring drudgery, but exciting, satisfying work. Revelation 22:3 tells us, “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” In our transformed resurrection bodies, we will serve Him in ways we can’t even imagine now.

Q: In your research, what did you learn about Heaven that surprised you the most?
I think the most surprising fact about Heaven, for most Christians, is that the Bible speaks not just of one Heaven, but of three Heavens—and a fourth Heaven that is yet to come.

People are often shocked when I tell them that the First Heaven is not where God is. The First Heaven is the domain of Satan. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” So, the First Heaven is the invisible spiritual realm that interpenetrates the visible world in which we live. It’s where Satan dwells and has authority.

The Second Heaven is the universe of the celestial heavens. Psalm 19 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” This is the realm of the skies, the stars, the planets, and the far-flung galaxies.

The Third Heaven is the place the Bible calls Paradise. Remember that Jesus, during the crucifixion, told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The apostle Paul wrote that he saw Paradise, the third Heaven, and he witnessed things he was not permitted to speak of. This is where all believers go when they die, and it is where Jesus is right now, interceding for us with God the Father.

Q: Could you share a lesser-known aspect of heaven that you explore in your book and its relevance to contemporary Christian theology?
I find that few Christians really understand that the present Heaven, or Paradise, is not our eternal destination. There is another Heaven that is yet to come. When the new Heaven comes—the eternal home that Jesus has promised us—the old Heaven will be rolled away. Revelation 21:1 tells us, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

In John 14, Jesus describes this new Heaven as a place with “many rooms,” a place that He is preparing for us as our eternal home. How big are those “rooms” in the new Heaven? Revelation 21 actually gives us the measurements of our future home, and the volume of the new Heaven works out to about 2.75 billion cubic miles. If the new Heaven housed 100 billion people, every one of them could have a cube-shaped “room” measuring 75 acres per side.

If you’ve ever wanted to invest in prime real estate, then start investing in Heaven today!

Q: What do you think is the most common misconception about Heaven?
I find that the most common misconception about Heaven is that even very strong believers don’t feel that their place in Heaven is secure. They worry that they haven’t “done it right” or that they might “lose” their salvation. To those who feel insecure about their place in Heaven, I say this:

Have you sincerely asked Jesus to be the Lord of your life? Have you repented of your sins and asked Jesus to empower you to live for Him? Have you accepted the gift of salvation and forgiveness that Jesus purchased for you through His sacrificial death upon the cross? Then your name is written in the Book of Life that the Bible speaks of in Philippians 4:3 and Revelation 3:5. Jesus said that if your name is written in the Book of Life, He will never blot it out, but He will acknowledge your name before God the Father and His angels. Once your name is written there, it cannot be erased, because it is written not merely in pencil nor even in ink, but in the indelible blood of Jesus.

Q: What practical guidance or encouragement would you give Christians seeking to deepen their understanding of Heaven and live in anticipation of its reality?
If you want to see life from the perspective of Heaven, pray the prayer the Lord gave His disciples. He gave us that prayer to transform the way we view our earthly lives. In that prayer, He imparted to us the values and perspective of Heaven.

The prayer begins, “Our Father in Heaven.” Jesus wants us to know that God is our Father, and that God has the true, accurate, and heavenly perspective on our lives. Then the prayer says, “Hallowed be your name.” Hallowed means honored and sacred. Is God’s name hallowed in our lives and our actions?

Then the prayer says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” The focus of this prayer is on God, His holiness, and His will. And yes, the focus is on Heaven.

At the same time, it is a very practical prayer: “Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We turn our eyes toward Heaven and we ask our Heavenly Father for our daily bread, for forgiveness, and for deliverance from temptation. These are our most important practical needs, from the perspective of Heaven.

So, let’s bathe our minds in that prayer. Let’s live every day according to Heaven’s values. Let’s set before us a daily goal of letting God’s will be done in our lives as it is in Heaven. Let’s live each day in eager anticipation of Heaven.

Q: How does the hope of Heaven shape Christians' perspectives on life, death, and eternity?
The sure and certain hope of Heaven replaces fear with confidence. The more convinced we are of the reality of Heaven, the more bold and fearless we will be.

I recently heard of a wonderful Christian couple, Davy and Natalie Lloyd, serving as fulltime missionaries among the poor people of Haiti. The Lloyds knew that they were serving in a dangerous land where civilization had completely broken down. But they also knew that their treasures were stored up in Heaven, not on earth.

In May 2024, after Davy and Natalie had been to a weeknight church service in Port-au-Prince, a gang attacked the house where they were staying. The gang members riddled the house with gunfire, then burst in and killed Davy, Natalie, and a fellow missionary.

After hearing that Natalie had been killed, her father, legislator Ben Baker of the Missouri House of Representatives, posted a photo of Davy and Natalie on Facebook. He wrote, “My heart is broken in a thousand pieces. I’ve never felt this kind of pain.” He added that Davy and Natalie “went to Heaven together.”

We can’t begin to imagine this father’s grief and suffering. I pray for him and his family. But I am also grateful that we have the blessed assurance that Heaven is real, and that Davy and Natalie truly did enter Heaven together.

It was the assurance of Heaven that empowered the early apostles and all Christian martyrs to proclaim Christ in the face of persecution. Only the trustworthy hope of Heaven can replace our fears and tears with courage and confidence.

Q: In what ways would you challenge readers to reimagine their earthly priorities and aspirations in light of the eternal realities of Heaven?
Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” This earthly life is quickly passing away. So Jesus urges us to invest in Heaven, where believers will spend all of eternity.

My goal was to write this book as a spiritual investment guide, encouraging believers to store up treasures in our heavenly home. We accumulate treasures in Heaven by living obediently and by sharing our hope with our friends and neighbors. There is no safer or more rewarding investment anyone could make than an eternal, imperishable investment in Heaven.

Q: What would you say to those who may doubt or question the existence of Heaven?
First, I would encourage people to avoid the sensational “Heaven tourism” books that have been published in recent years—books about people who say they died and visited Heaven then returned to earth. I’m not saying these books are all fraudulent. But I do know this: God doesn’t make mistakes. Hebrews 9:27 says, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

Only three people in history have been confirmed as receiving a glimpse of Heaven in this life: The martyr Stephen had a glimpse of Heaven moments before his death. The apostle Paul had a vision of the Third Heaven—but he was forbidden to speak of what he saw. And John saw Heaven in a vision on the Island of Patmos, then he wrote about it in the Book of Revelation. God gave these three men glimpses of Heaven for special reasons at a special time in history.

If you want to know what Heaven is really like, there’s only one bestseller you need—and that’s the Bible. Everything you need to know about Heaven is in that Book.

If you want to know whether Heaven is real or not, immerse yourself in the teachings about Heaven from Jesus and the apostles. As you read, you’ll see that everything the Bible says about Heaven in one place is confirmed in other passages. All of the biblical teaching about Heaven is consistent. Bathe your mind in these truths—and you will be convinced, encouraged, and comforted.

Q: Finally, what message of assurance do you hope readers take away from your exploration of the profound truths surrounding the concept that "Heaven Awaits?”

I want everyone to know that, once you place your trust in Jesus, your future in Heaven is assured. And once your eternal destiny is settled, I encourage you to learn all you can about your eternity in Heaven. As you study the beauty, the benefits, and the blessings of Heaven, your perspective on this earthly life will be transformed.

The apostle Paul had such an intense longing for Heaven that he truly wished he could leave this earthly life and join Jesus in Heaven. He confessed that he only continued his earthly ministry from a sense of duty. “I am torn between the two,” Paul wrote. “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

The reality of Heaven fills us with an eagerness to be with Jesus—and it also motivates us to make the most of our time on earth. The more we know about Heaven, the more joyful our earthly lives will be.

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