Where does the Christian hope that “in the coming ages [God] might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7) come from? How can a Christian have confidence that one day we will dwell with God in a new heaven and a new earth, that God will wipe away every tear, and that death, pain, and sorrow shall be no more in that place (Rev. 21:1-4)? What is our confidence grounded in that “to be absent from this body [by death] is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8)? After all, the thing a Christian longs for most is not mansions, gold streets, crystal seas, or any of the other fringe benefits of heaven, but to see, and to know, and to savor, and to rejoice in God himself forever.
I hope that even my way of asking these questions has you giving the obvious answer. The Bible. God’s Word. Scripture. Our confidence in what is to come flows out of our faith in what God has promised. God tells us this is what awaits all those who trust in him. We take Him at His word, trusting and hoping in what is promised.
If our hope as a Christian rests in the firm foundation of God’s word, what is added to our faith by the many books, stories, and soon to be movies that recount stories of those have had supposed visions or experiences of heaven (or hell) and now wish to tantalize us with details of these places which are not provided to us in Scripture?
Indeed, do not many of these accounts run afoul of Scripture itself when they tell of how a person supposedly came back after death? “It is appointed to men once to die and after this comes the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The few miraculous exceptions to this that we find in Scripture, such as Lazarus (John 11:38-44) and Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42), do not give to us such accounts and details of heaven as some are so bold today to offer.
Supposing their experience to be true, if it is in fact the case that God was allowing these visions and revelations to take place, should not this new revealed truth be on par with God’s already revealed word? Are they not adding to what Christ has fully made known (Heb. 1:1-4) to us, as though the Bible were incomplete or insufficient in some way? But no, God’s word makes it very clear that God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him… by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:3-4). As the old hymn says, “What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?” God gives us everything he wants us to know about heaven (and hell) to us in the Bible.
Yes, we would like more information, more details, more explanations. But God is the all-wise one who has given to us exactly what is needful for us. No more, no less. And we should not presume to add to His word with supposed visions and revelations. We don’t need to base our hope on the questionable reports of men, nor the tantalizing details of a child. Let your hope rest on the solid rock of God and His Word to us.
So where does this leave us? In a very good place. As a Christian, one has no need visions, or supposed miracles to give us a sure confidence in what is hoped for. We don’t need all the details filled in. We don’t need all our questions answered. For one day they will be when we see paradise ourselves. Until then, my hope rests on the Lord and the word He has given. The good news is that it is there, in what God has said to me, that I find the means of obtaining what is hoped for in Jesus Christ. And what a blessed hope it is!