Heaven: Imagining the Unimaginable

February 14, 2020

The Pastor's Page

A stained glass depiction of the paradise garden of Heaven. St. John’s Catholic Church, St. Pete’s Beach, Florida

Saint Paul wrote a beautiful encouragement to the Corinthians: “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard … what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). Heaven is the place that God has prepared for those who love him.

In Jesus’ conversation with the disciples at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday evening, he told them that he is the one who is making the preparations: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:2-3).

Heaven is indescribable. It is beyond our wildest imagination. No eye has ever seen it. No ear has ever heard a witness give a report about it. Mere words cannot adequately convey it. Yet the Bible offers a variety of metaphors or images to give us a glimpse of what heaven is like: paradise (Gn 2:15); green pastures (Ps 23:2); the eternal banquet (Is 25:6; Lk 14:15-24); a wedding feast (Mt 22:1-14; Rv 19:9); the Father’s house or the heavenly mansion (Jn 14:2); our heavenly homeland (Heb 11:16); and the Holy City, the new and eternal Jerusalem (Rv 3:12; 21:2-3,10). Heaven is where the great multitude is gathered around God’s throne, so numerous that it cannot be counted, with those from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rv 7:9). It is the abode of the angels and saints, and it is a place of light, peace, rest, and joy.

Jesus wants us to go to heaven. So does his Father. Jesus told the crowd, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (Jn 6:37). “This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day” (Jn 6:39).

Heaven is our eternal destiny. Even though no eye has seen it and no ear has heard a report on it, it is worthwhile to meditate about it. What is heaven like? Imagine. Recall a moment when you were captivated by beauty, a snowcapped mountain peak, the wind purring through the pines, or a golden sunset. These were passing moments. Heaven is pure beauty, better than all of our beautiful moments combined, continuing endlessly. Remember a time when you were in tremendous health, pain free, rested, energetic, and enthusiastic. Heaven is perfect health forever. Bring to mind an occasion when you were overcome with joy and time seemed to stand still, caught up in a glorious piece of music, mesmerized on the seashore by the crashing of the waves, riveted by a fascinating movie. The joy of heaven exceeds them all and goes on indefinitely. Think back to a truly happy moment with a dear friend, a time when all was well between both of you, all kindness, no tension, mutually beneficial, deep trust, genuine love, and hearts dancing. Heaven is pure love, not with a single person but with everyone, all of the saints and angels, and not for a passing moment but constantly and without end. Recollect your most prayerful moment, a moment of bliss or elation when you felt truly close to God, a mystical union. Heaven is being intimately connected to God for ages unending. Heaven is better than all of our best experiences on earth combined, and it is eternal. It will never end.

It is beneficial for us to contemplate heaven. The more we ponder heaven’s grandeur and glory, and the more we attempt to grasp the meaning of eternity, the more we desire to go to heaven, and the pathway to heaven is to love God and neighbor and to live a good and holy life.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

View all posts by Father Michael Van Sloun