People are curious about heaven. It’s one of the topics in the Bible that Christians like to ponder and discuss. Questions about heaven are endless: What does it look like? How do people get there? Who will be there? People also wonder how old heaven is.
Heaven’s existence cannot be measured in years. The Bible teaches that heaven is eternal, which means that it doesn’t have a beginning or an end. Though heaven is the destination for believers after death, it has always been God’s dwelling place whose existence defies the concept of age.
What’s the difference between “heaven” and “heavens” as the terms are used in the Bible? Where exactly does the Bible teach that heaven is eternal? What is the difference between heaven and the New Heavens and New Earth? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Has heaven always existed or was it created at a certain time?
The Bible uses the term “heaven” or “heavens” in different ways.
- First, biblical authors use heaven to describe the dwelling place of God. When people who have repented of sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ die, they go to “heaven” to be with God. For example, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:12, ESV)
- Second, the Bible uses the word “heavens” to describe the space above the Earth. “Heavens” implies the sun, moon, and stars. For example, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psa. 19:1, ESV)
Heaven, the dwelling place of God, has no beginning and no end. It is eternal. The “heavens,” in contrast, have a beginning. Bible readers have different views on how old the universe is, ranging from several thousand years to several billion years. Yet, all views agree that the “heavens” aren’t eternal and have a definite origin.
Bible verses that teach that heaven is eternal
Several verses in the Bible refer to heaven’s eternal nature. Some verses teach the reality clearly, while others allude to it because their main point concerns another topic. Nevertheless, when all the verses are read together, a clear picture emerges, revealing that heaven has always existed and will always continue to be.
- 2 Peter 1:11: “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (ESV) Bible readers don’t have to infer heaven’s eternal nature from this verse because Peter states it clearly. In contrast to even the most powerful kingdoms of Earth, Christ’s kingdom has no end.
- 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (ESV) Paul describes heaven in this verse as other-worldly. It’s a place not made with human ingenuity or effort. Morever, it’s eternal, unlike the current heavens (2 Pet. 3:10).
- Hebrews 10:34: “You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.” (NLT) Though this verse doesn’t use the word “heaven,” it refers to an unending future that awaits Christians after death.
- Hebrews 13:14: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (NIV) The implication of this verse is that after death, Christians will reside in a city that endures forever, which is presumably a reference to the New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:2-3).
- 1 Peter 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (ESV) The imperishable inheritance Peter refers to is heaven and the promises of God that will be fulfilled there.
The New Heavens and New Earth
The Bible teaches that people will spend eternity on a New Heavens and New Earth after the Second Coming of Christ. Theologians debate if this means the present universe will be renewed or if God will make an entirely new created order. Either way, the description suggests a physical reality whose spiritual aspects are without the effects of sin.
- Isa 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (ESV)
- Isa 66:22, ““For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.” (ESV)
- 2 Peter 3:13, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (ESV)
- Rev. 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
Some passages about the New Heavens and New Earth have clear descriptions, and even examples, of what life will be like compared to how it is in a fallen world:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.”
(Isaiah 11:6-9, ESV)
“I don’t know about you, but the more I think about the new heaven and the new earth, the more excited I get! It is incredible to think that one day soon we will not only experience the resurrection of our carcasses, but the renewal of the cosmos and the return of the Creator. We will literally have heaven on earth.”Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection, p. 92.
Bible verses on heaven as God’s dwelling place
- Deuteronomy 26:15, “Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (ESV)
- 1 Kings 8:30, “And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” (ESV)
- 1 Chronicles 21:26, “And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering.” (ESV)
- Psalm 2:4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” (ESV)
- Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (ESV)
- Hebrews 8:1, “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” (ESV)
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