The dwelling place of God

In the Old Testament God’s chosen people, the Israelites, view heaven as God’s home Deuteronomy 26:15, where he is enthroned in power. He is not alone there – both the Old and New Testaments refer to the presence of angels as well (see Nehemiah 9:6 and Mark 13:32).

God’s throne room

Within Revelation, which is full of pictorial language, there is a very lavish description of God’s throne room in heaven:
behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.                  Revelation 4:2-6 ESVUK     
The Bible says that it is from here that God will wrap up the current earth and judge both the living and the dead (see Revelation 11:16-18; Revelation 20:11-12). Once this has taken place, the throne of God will remain as a feature in the description of the new heaven and earth [6Revelation 22:1-5], accessible to all believers.

Eternal rest and comfort

The Bible refers to heaven as a place for the righteous to live forever in the presence of God (see Daniel 12:2-3 and Matthew 25:46). Jesus referred to heaven as ‘paradise’ when he spoke to the man being crucified next to him Luke 23:43 and it is depicted as a place of comfort. This idea of heaven was particularly focused upon by those suffering persecution for their Christian faith (see Revelation 7:13-17; Revelation 14:13) or suffering as slaves for example.


Christians believe that, after Jesus died, he was resurrected and seated next to God in heaven (see Ephesians 1:20). Christians assert that, through faith, they too are given access to heaven Ephesians 2:1-7.
There is a warm invitation to everyone to believe in Christ and enjoy the chance of heaven. In John, Jesus spoke of heaven as his Father’s house, and said that he was preparing a place for his followers there:
Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  John 14:1-3 ESVUK     
New Testament passages use the phrases ‘with Christ’ or ‘with the Lord’ to refer to the place those who believe will go to after death (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17). 


According to the New Testament, heaven is the destination only of those who have put their faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 4:12). Jesus warned that while some may believe they have the right to get into heaven, it is only those who live out the will of God who will be allowed to enter Matthew 7:21

St Peter by Peter Paul RubensThe ‘pearly gates’

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus entrusts his disciple Peter with ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 16:19). From this arose the idea that Peter was the ‘gatekeeper’ of heaven, allowing or denying access. According to Christian iconography he is often depicted guarding the ‘pearly gates’ of heaven, an allusion to Revelation 21:21 which depicted each of the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem as being made out of a single pearl.

New heaven and earth 

Revelation speaks of God building a new heaven and earth after the last judgement. This, Christians believe, will be the final dwelling place of his people in his presence. It will last forever, unlike the decay experienced in current earthly life (2 Corinthians 5:1):
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’  Revelation 21:3–4 ESVUK     

Other cultural references

  • Texts: Paradiso by Dante, Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Last Battle, part of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, 
  • Art: The New Jerusalem by Gustav Dore, The Ancient of Days by William Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgement and The River of Life by William Blake, The Last Judgement by Hieronymus Bosch, The Last Judgement by Michaelangelo 
  • Films: Made in Heaven, Field of Dreams, What Dreams May Come, Heaven

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