The word “heaven” appears some 50 times in the book of Revelation, in the original language. It is fitting that the last book of the Bible contains the second highest count of the New Testament. Yes, sometimes it refers to the sky or physical space above us, but even then our attention is directed upwards.
The Great Revealing shows “God in heaven” directing all events as the Sovereign King, Revelation 16.11, and to whom people give glory, Revelation 11.13. The great throne is in heaven, Revelation 4.2.
The events, signs, angels, and causes that matter occur in heaven or come from heaven, so the saints must not focus on what is happening on earth alone. The Great Warrior is seen in heaven, along with all his armies following him, Revelation 19.11, 14. The great word for Christians is this:
Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water! Revelation 14.7.
All the voices and words from heaven comfort the suffering people of God, none more so than the sight of the new heavens and earth, Revelation 21.1-2.
The highest count of the word “heaven” belongs to the Gospel of Matthew, with 72 times. This number is also fitting, since it opens the New Covenant documents, turning as it does from the promise of God to Israel, focused on the land, to concentrate on the Kingdom of Heaven and the spiritual promises of eternal life. The Lord Jesus said, “And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” Matthew 25.46.
It is true that Jesus taught more on hell than anyone, but oh! how much he talks about heaven, the heavenly Father, the heavenly reward, and the heavenly life.
Jesus talks of our great reward in heaven and how to get it, Matthew 5.12. He wants us to shine our Kingdom lights so that people will glorify our “Father in heaven” and be converted, Matthew 5.16. On earth we ought to love like our “Father in heaven” Matthew 5.45, 48. We pray to “our Father in heaven” Matthew 6.9.
That’s just for starters. Matthew ends his gospel with Jesus’ astounding statement, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” Matthew 28.18. His blanket authority serves as the basis of our earth-blanketing mission. So we bind on earth what has been bound in heaven, and we loose on earth what has been loosed in heaven — nothing more, nothing less, Matthew 18.18.
The word “heaven” by no means exhausts the teaching of the New Testament on the subject. The subject is one of the richest of all the Bible. Like a diamond one studies at length, Scripture reveals to us more and more of the spiritual, celestial realm the more we ponder its teachings.
Prayers are saturated with desire for heaven. Christians evangelize in the shadow of Christ’s second coming. Faithfulness of the saints gets powerful motivation from considering eternal life with God. Disciples eat the Lord’s Supper with thoughts of the Lord’s coming, which will usher them into heaven.
A new Christian spoke often and accurately of the hope offered by Christ when he affirmed, “I just want to go to heaven.” Would that everyone had this focused and intense goal!
Those who are older in years often seem to think more about heaven than young people. Everyone, however, ought to be occupying their minds with motivating thoughts of heaven. If both rich and poor ought to consider their temporary situation on earth (see James 1.9-12), then old and young both ought to look to the fulfillment of their hope.
If the first book and the last of the New Testament are soaked in thoughts of heaven, we also do well to immerse our minds in heavenly aspirations.
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. Colossians 3.1-4.