A recent global survey was conducted that asked people about their belief in God and the afterlife. Of the 18,000 people polled across 23 countries, 51 percent were convinced there was an afterlife and a God. In the U.S., belief is even higher, with 76 percent of Americans believing in heaven. Among those, 71 percent think it is an actual place.
Belief in the afterlife is not unique to our time. Almost every culture believes there is something beyond the grave. The Egyptians believed that, of course. Archaeologists have discovered a solar boat at the base of the Great Pyramids, believed to have been placed there for Pharaoh Khufu to use for journeys in the afterlife. American Indians would bury a warrior with a pony, a bow and arrows so that he could ride into the happy hunting ground. In Greenland, Eskimos who died in childhood were traditionally buried with their dog, intended to guide them through the supposed cold wasteland of death.
All of these views are skewed or outright wrong. But the one thing they do have right is there is indeed life beyond this life.
It is interesting to note that in the time of Jesus, many of the Jews had an aberrant view of the afterlife because they didn’t look at what the Scriptures taught. One day, the Sadducees came to Jesus to provoke him with a question. The Sadducees might be described as theological liberals. They did not believe what the Bible said about a judgment or an afterlife. In fact, they only accepted the first five books of Moses as being inspired by God. They did not believe there was any kind of a resurrection.
The Sadducees also were very powerful. They were the aristocrats of Jerusalem, being largely in control of the temple. They also were responsible for the operation of the priesthood, and it was through the temple concessions – selling sacrifices and money changing – that they obtained their wealth.
One two occasions, Jesus had gone into the temple and overturned their tables, saying, “‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Matthew 21:13 NKJV). Needless to say, the Sadducees were not very happy with Jesus.
The question they posed was intended to put Jesus on the spot. They had a bleak worldview, believing there was no life beyond the grave. So they come up with a scenario:
Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’ Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her. (Matthew 22:24–28 NLT)
Now if I were Jesus, the first thing I would have said was, “What is the deal with this woman? What is she cooking for these husbands? Why would the fourth guy still want to marry her? Is this a good thing to do?”
But that is not what Jesus said. Instead, he put them in their place. He said, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven” (verses 29–30 NLT).
Husbands and wives won’t be married to each other in heaven, but they still will be connected to each other. In fact, our relationships in heaven will be even stronger. In his excellent book, “Heaven,” Randy Alcorn says, “Earthly marriage is a shadow, a copy, an echo of the true and ultimate marriage. …”
God is the focus of heaven. We will worship him, and he is sufficient to meet all of our needs. However, God designed us as human beings with a desire for companionship. We are social people. We love to interact (some more than others).
Even after God put Adam in a paradise, Adam knew something was missing. God recognized that Adam needed a companion, and so he created Eve. Our desire for companionship was given to us by God. So in heaven, we will be worshiping God, but we also will interact with each other. We still will have relationships in heaven that we had on earth. Receiving a glorified body and being relocated doesn’t mean that history is erased; it means history culminates. We can’t take material things with us to heaven, but we can take relationships with us.
When you get together with friends you haven’t seen for awhile, you talk about things. You reminisce. You go over the old stories and tell them again and listen to them again. That is how it will be in heaven. We will remember things on earth, and we will remember relationships on earth. We will remember activities on earth. We will have points of reference.
In heaven, I think we will be able to look at things from an eternal perspective, from God’s viewpoint. And with that, we will be able to honor and worship him.
One day before we know it, maybe sooner than we had anticipated, we will be in God’s presence. If you are a Christian, the moment you take your last breath on earth, you will take your first breath in heaven. You will go into the presence of God. It is not something we have to dread or be afraid of. In fact, it is something that we can look forward to with great anticipation.