Billy Graham answers questions about heaven and eternity with understanding and reassurance.
God’s Word says heaven awaits all the saints of His kingdom, but how many of us really know what heaven will be like? The Heaven Answer Book is a biblically based book written in Q&A format with answers to commonly asked questions about our future and final home. Topics include what we’ll do, what we’ll be, what we’ll see, our rewards in heaven, and more. Billy Graham’s trustworthy Bible knowledge offers interesting insight and enduring truth about how believers can prepare their hearts for spending eternity with their Maker and Lord.
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The Heaven Answer Book
By Billy Graham
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 William F. Graham, Jr.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDoes Heaven Really Exist?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.
—1 Peter 1:3–4
Does the Bible say very much about Heaven?
Jesus mentions Heaven about seventy times in the book of Matthew alone. It appears from the very first verse in Genesis—"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"—to the last reference found at the end of Revelation—"[He] showed me the great city ... descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10 NKJV). In fact, fifty-four of the sixty-six books in the Bible mention Heaven. Remember: the Bible is our only authoritative source of information about Heaven.
Shortly before Jesus was arrested and crucified on the cross, He told His disciples that after His death they should not be discouraged because He would live again. He then assured them He would return to His Father in Heaven to prepare an eternal home for all who would believe Him. He said, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you." Then He left this promise: "I am going there [to heaven] to prepare a place for you.... that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2–3).
The Old Testament prophets wrote about Heaven; Psalms mentions Heaven more than any other book in the Old Testament; the apostles spoke of Heaven from divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit. The Bible doesn't tell us everything we'd like to know about Heaven, but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know about Heaven while we are here on earth. We should believe what the Bible says about Heaven and take comfort from its promise that we can spend eternity with Jesus Christ in His heavenly dwelling.
If someone asks you about Heaven, you can say with assurance, "We know that if the earthly tent [body] we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1). What a promise! What a destiny!
What is Heaven?
Heaven is the place where God dwells—it is God's holy habitation. He created it, He lives there, and, some day, so shall all believers.
Moses prayed that God would "look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place" (Deuteronomy 26:15). Solomon, the wisest king to ever live, prayed: "O Lord my God.... hear from heaven, your dwelling place" (1 Kings 8:28, 30). Abram said, "God Most High, Creator of heaven" (Genesis 14:22). Nehemiah prayed to "the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 2:4); King Nebuchadnezzar praised the King of Heaven (Daniel 4:37); and Jesus opened our hearts to the reality of Heaven when He lifted His eyes and prayed, "Our Father which art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9 KJV). Heaven is occupied by the presence of Almighty God. This makes Heaven the supreme destination for those who long to worship Him as their Creator, God, Lord, King, Father, and Savior.
This is admittedly hard for us to comprehend; after all, the Bible tells us God is a spirit and is infinite, so how can He be confined to one place? In spite of this mystery, the Bible assures us that His presence fills all of Heaven, and in Heaven we will be safely in His care forever.
The apostle Paul wrote, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Heaven is the Father's house (John 14:2). Heaven is the dwelling place of Jesus Christ His Son (1 Peter 3:21–22). Heaven is the city of the living God and the redeemed (Hebrews 12:22–23). If this does not fill your heart with hope and a desire for that better country, I urge you to examine where you stand before God, and turn from doubt to belief. If you love Jesus Christ, you will want to follow Him all the way to that place called Heaven. "Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction ... Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:18–20). Paul urges others to follow Him.
Listen with your ears to the voice of God (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Answer Christ's knock on your heart's door (Revelation 3:20). Enter into fellowship with the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9).
This is Haven.
What do you say to someone who doesn't believe in Heaven?
Tell them about Jesus Christ and the hope we have because of His death on the cross for our sins. God sent His Son who gave everything—His very life's blood—His last breath—and His lasting promise—to purchase the souls of men, women, and children for the kingdom of Heaven. Then Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God to confirm Heaven's reality. Believing in Christ settles the question about Heaven!
Recently a young man wrote me, "As far as I'm concerned, once you're dead, that's it. The only life we'll ever experience is the one we're living right now. Life after death is just a myth."
I replied that his letter deeply saddened me, because it meant that he was living without hope: "Have you honestly faced how empty and meaningless this will make your life?" I wrote. "Right now this may not bother you because you're young, healthy, and energetic. But what if something goes wrong? What if you have a serious accident or you lose your health, or someone you love abandons you? Or what will happen once old age creeps up on you with all of its problems and disabilities? You'll be facing the future without any hope. What a terrible thought!" Then I urged him to look at Jesus Christ as He is found in the pages of the New Testament and give his life to Him.
The greatest discovery we will ever make is to know the love of God, which was fully demonstrated by His Son's sacrifice on the cross for us. This is the power that transforms man's myth into Christ's truth. Jesus did not die on the cross for people's sin so that we would believe in Heaven—but that we would believe in Him. Heaven does not save souls ... it collects them.
Jesus once told this parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:45–46). The Merchant of Heaven is looking for souls who will love Him and give Him the worship, glory, and honor due Him. Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will ... make our home with him" (John 14:23).
If your hope and faith are not in Christ, then consider what He did for you through His death and resurrection and place your faith in Him today.
Why do most people believe in some kind of life after death, even if they aren't particularly religious or don't think about it very much?
God has put within each of us an inner sense that life on earth is not all there is. The Bible answers this so clearly: "[God] has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
People may suppress this truth or deny it, but our conscience still speaks. The "still small voice" of God tells us—down deep—that it is still true (1 Kings 19:12). We must never ignore that inner voice—but rather, check what we believe it is saying alongside Scripture, where He reveals these truths.
The apostle Paul wrote about this danger of denying God's truth: "What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen ... so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:19–20).
The reason we have this inner conviction that death is not the end—and that Heaven exists—is because we were created in the image of God. We aren't simply physical beings; we also have a soul (or spirit), and we bear within us the likeness of our Creator. That likeness has been marred and distorted by sin—but it is still there. And just as God is eternal, so we sense in our hearts that we too must be eternal. The Bible says that God lives forever (Isaiah 57:15). Just as God lives forever, we who are made in His likeness will also live forever.
"There is a time for everything ... under heaven.... a time to search and a time to give up" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6). My prayer is that you will exercise your God-given right to search the Scripture and to seek the One who died for you. Don't give up on God. Instead, give up running from God—He hasn't given up on you.
How do we know there is life after death?
We know there is life after death because God promised it, our souls bear witness to it, and most of all, Jesus Christ confirmed it by His life, death, and resurrection. So just look at Jesus. By His resurrection, the Bible says, Jesus Christ "destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).
Every phase of Jesus' life was miraculous. He set aside His deity, came down to earth, and put on the garment of human suffering. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, quenched the thirsty, and comforted the dispirited with hope for tomorrow. In His compassion for us, He gave up His life to save wandering souls in a confused and dying world. Then He rose again and rejoiced to walk among us as the resurrected Savior, guaranteeing eternal life to all who follow Him.
Look at Jesus. He lived in Heaven and on earth. He died on earth and returned to life again, which was witnessed by more than five hundred people (see 1 Corinthians 15:3–8) before returning to Heaven. He lives in the hearts of those who trust in Him. Our confidence in life after death comes from these very truths.
Someone who visited the Billy Graham Library noticed all the crosses displayed and said to her host, "Where is Jesus? Why isn't He on the cross?" Her host smiled and said, "We do not worship a crucifix. Jesus died on the cross, but He did not stay on the cross.... He lives!"
The reason life does not end with the grave is because eternity is ahead of us. God's Son conquered death and lives to bring newness of life to all who call on His name (Romans 10:9). This is the hope of the ages!
Listen to the words of the highest authority: "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony ... 'Come!' ... Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:16–17). Gaze at the empty cross and you will see the victorious life over death in Jesus Christ, for in Him "death has been swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54). If you do not know Him, will you call on Him today?
What does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with Heaven?
Believing in Heaven has no value if we don't believe in the resurrection of the One who created Heaven and opened its gates to all who will enter. Many people find it easier to believe in Heaven because they've heard about someone's alleged vision, yet they'll doubt that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and lives in Heaven today. God's Word is our true guide, for it alone points us to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man" (John 3:12–13).
Why is Jesus' resurrection so important? Not only does it prove He was the Son of God and that there is life after death, but it assures us that death—our final enemy—has been defeated. The Bible summarizes this great truth in these words: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
A remarkable illustration in Scripture is the resurrection of Jesus' friend Lazarus which took place in Bethany where Jesus was also anointed before His death. The Lord gives evidence of His power over the grave of others—and His own grave as well. After Lazarus had been in the grave four days, Jesus demonstrated His resurrection power by raising Lazarus from the dead. When He arrived at the tomb, He called with a loud voice: "Lazarus, come forth!" and Lazarus emerged from the grave and stood before the crowd (John 11:43 NKJV). This proved Jesus' power over death—and also the truth of His promise to us: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (vv. 25–26).
Heaven comes to life for us because of Christ's resurrection power. If you will sincerely search for Him, you will find new life in Christ. The resurrection is the fulfillment of the Word of God, and that fact authenticates Heaven!
Does God allow some people to have a glimpse of Heaven just before they die or even earlier? Did it happen to anyone in the Bible?
While Scripture does not promise a glimpse into Heaven, it does tell of an account of Stephen, the first person to be martyred for his faith in Christ, who declared as he was being stoned, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56).
Some claim to have died and gone to Heaven and returned to tell what they saw and experienced. Others tell about visiting Heaven, but Heaven is not a retreat or a place to visit—it is a permanent dwelling. Claims about eyewitness accounts of Heaven often say little about Jesus Christ—and this should make us treat them with great caution. Our hope must be built on Christ alone and on the promises God has given us in His Word.
Death is the universal fate of every human being. It is the end of life on earth—but the beginning of eternal life in Heaven with God or everlasting torment in that place apart from God, Hell. I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of the dying, and they say there is often as much difference between the death of a Christian and a non–Christian as there is between Heaven and Hell. Glimpsing Heaven would be a grand vision for those who are certain it is their destination. For those who have never settled eternity in their hearts, Heaven is elusive.
It's important to respond to Christ while we are still living. Have you responded to His call? Jesus' invitation is for you: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Excerpted from The Heaven Answer Book by Billy Graham Copyright © 2012 by William F. Graham, Jr. . Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Does Heaven Really Exist?....................1
What Is Heaven Like?....................27
What Happens When We Die?....................67
What Will We Do in Heaven?....................101
Can We Be Sure We Will Go to Heaven?....................125
What Difference Does Heaven Make?....................155
A Final Word from Billy Graham....................177