A Better Country: Preparing for Heaven Q&A with Dan Schaeffer
Recently, author and pastor Dan Schaeffer’s new release, A Better Country: Preparing for Heaven, was featured in a blog tour where readers posted their questions about heaven, and Dan responded. Here is a sampling of some of the most intriguing questions with Dan’s insightful answers.
Question 1: Dan,
In your research for the book, did you find anything that would indicate how we will appear in heaven? For instance, my sister died when she was 20. Will she look like she did at 20 in heaven? Will people who die in their nineties look like they did when they died? Thanks, Annette
Answer 1: Unfortunately, no Annette, there is nothing in Scripture I am aware of that speaks to what age we shall appear. However, we do have hints. When Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, there were no comments on “and they appeared very old.” It seems that the disciples were not surprised by the age appearance of these two or at least did not remember it as anything out of the ordinary. (Of course, we’re not exactly sure how they learned this was Moses and Elijah unless Jesus spoke to them as such. None of the disciples would have known what Elijah or Moses looked like since Moses died hundreds of years earlier, and Elijah went up into heaven hundreds of years before). It is just an opinion (so please take it only as such) that we shall appear in that age at which our body is healthiest (without reference to conditioning), since age and the deterioration of the body are the results of sin. The human body seems to mature completely at the age of about 19 or 20 years old. After that we learn that our body is heading downhill (sad, isn’t it?) That, of course, leaves the issue of how we might recognize some who we only saw in an older age. This is one of those Deuteronomy 29:29 things (“The secret things belong to the Lord”).
Question 2: I often hear about how wonderful it will be to be in God's presence. And it will be! I wonder what our relationships with others we have known and loved on earth will be like in heaven. What do you think my relationships with my husband, children, parents, etc. will be like? – Judy
Answer 2: Judy, this is a good question that I asked myself as I was doing the research for this book. The more I thought about it the more I realized the main problem was that I would be comparing an imperfect relationship with a perfect one. No matter how much you love your husband, children, parents, etc., it is with an imperfect love, and, therefore, you also are loved imperfectly. If you can imagine what it would be like to have a PERFECT relationship with anyone, then you can begin to imagine what those wonderful meaningful relationships would be like. Sadly, that is the problem. We can’t. I think one of the reasons we ask this question is because we feel such a kinship, such a closeness with certain people, and we are somehow afraid that we might lose that in heaven because “we will love everyone the same.” Yet the fact that there is no marriage in heaven (except for all of us who will be Jesus’ bride) does not mean that we will not have special and closer relationships with some than with others. To love someone dearly because you have so many shared memories or family ties to them does not mean you can’t love others perfectly. Your relationships with others will be different, but not less. To love someone differently is not to love them less; to love someone in a more tender way because you have so many shared memories with them does not preclude you from loving others perfectly.
To sum up: You will love your husband more perfectly than you ever have, and he you. You will finally be able to give your children the PERFECT love you always wanted to give them, but were unable, and vice-versa. How much time will we spend just learning and enjoying the reality of a perfect love in a perfect atmosphere?
I’m not sure I perfectly answered your question, but I’m not sure there is a perfect answer. But thinking about it is fun, isn’t it?
Question 3: Pastor Schaeffer,
I know that because I have put my trust in Christ Jesus, I am going to heaven when I die. But I also read that we are to reign and rule with the King of Kings here on earth. Is heaven a temporary abode until Jesus sets up His kingdom here (kind of a divine training camp), or will those who go to heaven stay in heaven?
Answer 3: Hi Kevin! There is a bit of confusion about what exactly transpires when. Let me try to help. When you or I die and pass from this life into the next, we will enter what the Bible terms “Paradise.” We shall be in the presence of our Lord and probably living in what I believe to be a real heavenly city (Hebrews 12:22). We will remain here for an undetermined amount of time.
Here it gets a little fuzzy. Some believe that when the Millennium occurs (the 1,000 year reign of Christ upon the physical old earth after He conquers the kingdoms of the world—read Revelation 20), the church and saints of old will come to earth to rule and reign with Christ for the 1,000 years. There are some Scriptures which might indicate that, but they do not seem to be conclusive to me. Others believe that the church and saints of the Old Testament will live in the New Jerusalem (the heavenly city spoken of in Revelation chapters 21 and 22) while Christ rules on earth for 1,000 years. Where will this city be? That is the subject of a lot of speculation, and the fact is we just don’t know. There is simply no way to be absolutely true. There is nothing in the Bible which speaks of any kind of divine training camp. We will not need training as we will become like Him. We will finally be perfect (though not divine).
I think it is safe to say that when you go to heaven you will stay there; what might change is the make-up of heaven! When you read the Scriptures carefully you will see that God’s plan all along was not that we would live in a heavenly city in the air forever but that He would recreate the heavens and the earth and we would live forever on earth. But it will be a new earth, one with no curse of sin, one perfect in every way. The heavenly city Jerusalem will come and rest upon this new earth. It will be AWESOME!
Suffice it to say, Kevin, that you will be with Jesus forever. Part of that time will definitely be in Paradise (His presence in heaven), but once He recreates the earth, that will be our home forever. Hope this helps!
Question 4: Why does the Bible describe heaven in terms of precious metals and gemstones when elsewhere it tells us to see such things as vanities?
Answer 4: Hi ReformedHenry! Good question--let me attempt to give you the best answer I can. First of all, I’m not sure the Bible does teach us to view precious metals and gemstones as vanities. The temple (designed by God) in the Old Testament was a place where gold was plentiful. The ephod worn by the High Priest was covered in stones. All of these beautiful stones, including gold, were created by God, and they are good. He was the One who designed these precious stones into the ephod and the temple as well as the Ark of the Covenant. We delight in them because they are rare and they are beautiful. Whatever is rare and beautiful in our world becomes desirable. However, their very rarity makes it impossible for every one to enjoy them equally. Those who have more wealth have the ability to acquire them; those who don’t, can’t.
I think what the Bible condemns is coveting; in other words, wanting what someone else has because he has it and you don’t. We are also reminded that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money itself is not sinful, only a love of it which replaces our love of God. Women are warned against indulging in vain apparel and the like, but not because pretty dresses are sinful, but rather because apparently these women were adorning themselves outwardly, but failing to adorn themselves with the fruit of the Spirit and that which becomes a godly woman. They were substituting jewelry and clothing for the things which make a woman attractive to God, a pure heart.
So why are gemstones and precious metals used to describe so much of heaven? I find it ironic that the streets are paved with gold, meaning that the most valuable commodity in our world is what the streets are paved with in heaven. In other words, what is most precious here is common in heaven. Heaven will turn our earthly values upside down. I believe, ultimately, that heaven is described in terms of precious metals and gemstones precisely because that is what it will be made of. I take the descriptions as mostly literal (though recognizing their symbolic value as well). As I point out in my book, something can have symbolic value and still be literal. The temple and the Ark of the Covenant were both literal places and objects, yet they were filled with symbolic decorations. They were both literal and symbolic. Hope this helps!
Question 5: Hi, Dan,
Since it seems that God created us to work and be creative (before the Fall the tending of the garden, the naming of animals, etc.), what do you think we'll be doing in heaven? Will I be editing for eternity, or won't there be any typos? But seriously ... will our work be worship or what? --Judith
Answer 5: Hello Judith! What a great question, because it gets to the heart of so many of our fears about heaven. (Yes, fears. Many of us have fears of the place we will live forever--mainly that we will suffer boredom). I believe heaven will be the place where our gifts and talents, which were never able to reach their greatest potential on earth due to the curse of sin, will do so in heaven. But the idea of work needs desperately to be re-examined. Think of the work you absolutely LOVE to do. In fact, often a hobby is a better example. Many of us can work on a piece of art, or music, or creation of our mind or hands, and enjoy it at a level so deep it is hard to explain. When I try to explain to someone how I feel when I am writing a book or an article, I can’t quite do it. I LOVE writing, I love playing with the words, moving them around, trying different rhythm to sentences. I believe each one of us was designed to glorify God in a unique and phenomenal way with the gifts and abilities that were designed into us. In heaven I believe we will each reach that potential we reached so vainly for here on earth. Our writing gifts will be perfect, our musical gifts will be perfect, our creative or investigative abilities will finally be perfected and complement the world which He will make for us. We spend so much time on earth lamenting those “missed opportunities” to chase and find our fulfillment in the work we love most, or feel that we never quite lived up to our potential, or were forced by circumstances to give up our dreams. It is in heaven that these God-given abilities will be fully realized. Your work will be your worship in the sense that everything we do will honor and glorify God. Remember, we have a whole new world to investigate, write about, explore, and live very real human lives in. I guess the real question is: is editing your passion, or just your job? Whatever your passion is, wherever your gifts lie, in whatever you find the most fulfillment and joy, that will be your work and your joyful task forever!
I believe that I will be writing and speaking in heaven about the glories of our God and His amazing creation. Why would my gifts and abilities, which are such an integral part of who I am, suddenly disappear? Unfortunately, I am doubtful we will do quite as much editing there as we do here, Judith. We see through a glass dimly, so I can only speculate, but I believe my speculation has a basis in Biblical teaching. Hope this helps.
Question 6: Being the mother of young children, I wonder what you have found to be the best way to describe heaven to them so that they can get a clear picture of what it will be like without it seeming to be like this church service or something that they cannot even fathom? Melissa
Answer 7: Hi Melissa! The difficulty in answering your question is that so few of these children’s parents have a really good grasp of what heaven is like that it becomes impossible to describe to a child. It is only with the greatest difficulty that we understand it, and we only understand a tiny fraction of what the reality will ultimately be. The good news is that it will be so much better than we can imagine.
Having said that, for a young child I guess I would describe a place where no one ever gets mad, where everyone is always happy, and where it is so beautiful and so big that we are always finding some new beautiful thing. Remind them of the first time they saw a butterfly or a rainbow or a bird soaring gracefully on the wind and tell them that in heaven we will keep finding out new and wonderful things. There are no scary dreams in heaven, and nothing to ever hurt you. Best of all, Jesus will make sure that everything is so wonderful for you that you won’t ever miss anything back on earth. There will be animals, trees, gorgeous colors, wonderful food, singing, laughing, towns, cities, and always a new thing to be excited about and a new place to discover. No one is ever bored or ever wants to leave. Best of all, Jesus will be there making sure we feel loved and happy all the time. This is, of course, simplistic, but still basically accurate. Will they be able to fathom heaven then? Probably not, but then can we fathom it either?
Question 8: Dan,
Does the Bible give us any indication as to where heaven is located? If the earth is to be renewed,will its location be the same as we now know it?
Answer 8: Hi Carol. If you are speaking of heaven as the place where we will spend forever, that will be located on the recreated earth, the one God will make after He destroys the old earth. Is that the place we will go immediately after we die (if, for example, we die before Jesus comes back)? No, that place is called Paradise. Remember the thief on the cross, and Jesus telling him that “this day you shall be with me in Paradise.” That “place” is what I believe Hebrews 12:22 calls the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. Apparently that is where we shall live until all things are made new. Are the new heavens and the new earth a real place? Yes, surely they are. Jesus has a physical glorified body, and that body is in a place. Wherever that body is, in that place we will be as well. I believe the descriptions of that city in Revelation 21 and 22 give an idea of what it might look like.
Now will the new earth be in the same galaxy as the old earth? We can’t know, because it appears that God is going to remake both the heavens and the earth (which would include the entirety of His creation, including those parts we have yet to even discover). The entire universe was affected by sin, not just our little planet. All of His creation awaits its renewal. Paul writes to the Romans, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”(Romans 8:22). To try to fix the location of an entire world is, of course, impossible, especially one that has yet to be created. Hope I didn’t muddy the water too much.
Question 9: Dan,
Are we given any information about whether or not the Lord takes into account the earthly accomplishments of human beings, and, if so, does He allow them to carry over into heaven? In other words, will be hear the music of Mozart, read Dostoyevsky's novels, or plan an amazing game of baseball in heaven?
Answer 9: That is a great question. Does anyone else have a question…? :)
Wow! I’ve never heard that question before. Let’s see. We will certainly live in dwellings, which were created by someone on earth. We will play, sing, and listen to music, which was invented (or discovered) by men and women, some of whom may or may not have known the Lord as their Savior. In other words, we will certainly be using earthly ideas and activities in heaven. But will we remember and revisit old earthly music or novels by particular people? I think probably not. The best of them are tainted and lessened by sin and heaven will be a place of perfection. The old will have passed away, behold new things will have come. If Mozart knew the Lord, however, we may definitely be listening to new and perfect music written by Mozart in heaven, music more beautiful than anything Mozart could have ever envisioned in his earthly limitations.
Will we play competitive sports? I don’t know, but if we do, the element of competition will be different than it currently is. Can a game be played for the sheer joy of playing it, without any thought to winning or losing? I’m not sure. I’ve surely never seen a game played like that on earth! I’m as anxious as you are to know the answer to this one!
Great questions.Thanks for asking them, and thank you, Annette, for inviting me on to your blog! Blessings to you all! ~Dan Schaeffer
RETURN TO A BETTER COUNTRY.