So much of what is written about the Catholic faith is about what not to do. I am guilty of this myself. Every Catholic that decides to take up their cross on the narrow road is confronted with the question of how to replace the bad with the good. We all have sins as well as imperfections, so the focus is many times directed at what changes to make to remove the sin and improve imperfections. This is one of the primary reasons I started this website, but sometimes it’s good to take a break from all these dark things and look into the light. Last Friday, I wrote about What Hell Will Be Like. Today, I write about What Heaven Will Be Like.
I have always wondered about heaven because it is hard to imagine a place with complete happiness and no suffering. We have the facts about heaven, that it will be eternal (CCC 1023), satisfy all our desires (CCC 1024), and contain God, Jesus, the angels, Mary, and the rest of the saints (CCC 1024). The real questions then are, “what will it look like?” and “how it will it feel?” This is one of the many mysteries in our faith, but I have a theory.
On the day of our final judgment, we know all the dead will be resurrected (CCC 990). We also know a new earth will be created that is merged with heaven (CCC 1023-1024). Based on this, I believe we, with our physical bodies, will experience heaven very much like our current earth. The big difference will be no one will commit any sins. The entire planet (or universe even) will be heaven. Since no more reproduction will happen, we won’t have to worry about overpopulation or climate change. The new earth will have more than enough space for everyone.
Because heaven will include a new earth, we will be able to glorify and praise God through our creative works. That means people will be able to create books, music, movies, and anything else we can imagine, all honoring God. We will have some work to do, but it will not be a burden (CCC 378). The work won’t tire us but be refreshing. We will enjoy it so much that even when we have to follow God’s commands, we will be happy. Part of our duties for God will be worshipping him. Maybe God will command us to worship him a certain number of hours per day, including certain preparations and rituals, much like the Catholic Mass on earth. The rest of the day we will worship God through the tending of his creation on earth, appreciation of his creation, or work with it to create our own new things that reflect our Creator. Everything we do will be an offering to God.
Because God will be everywhere, he will always be with us. Our connection to God will be much better than any connection we have with people on earth. Here on earth God usually feels distant. We can pray to God but we are usually unable to feel his presence. In this new heaven and earth, God will basically always be at our side. Our relationship with God will be stronger than our relationships with anyone else. God will become the love of our eternal life. Everything we do will be with God, much like how a married couple many times does everything together. We will still have our relationships from the “old” earth, but God will always be more important. In other words, some of our free time might be spent with other people, but God will be at our side 100% of the time.
Even though we will interact with other people, God will always be more important. This might seem impossible if you compare it to marriage on earth. No matter how much a married couple loves each other, they still occasionally need time away from each other. That’s because people have to spend time away working or doing errands. They also commit sins, sometimes requiring one person to get away for awhile. One difference in heaven will be that we won’t have anything like work keeping us from God because he is everywhere. Another will be God is perfect, so we won’t ever want to get away from him. We will always be completely satisfied with God’s love for us.
Since God is eternal, we will never completely know God (CCC 356). Our relationship will become deeper and deeper the longer we are in heaven. This will bring its own joy in addition to all the blessings of the new earth. Remember how your relationships with your spouse, children, relatives, or friends have deepened over the years. It will be the same with God, only the relationship will continue to deepen for all eternity. Every day you will learn something new about God, so everyday you will look forward to spending more time with him.
We will be able to ask God any questions we have about the world or God himself. Because we are finite, we won’t have the mental capacity to understand everything (CCC 300), but we will be able to understand little pieces of the complete reality at one time before forgetting it when God enlightens us as to some other part of reality. In addition, God will have knowledge of the entire human history, so we will be able to ask him anything about any point in history on old earth. Maybe he will even tell us the history of the new earth. Unlike God, we can’t be everywhere at once. Things will happen on the new earth that we won’t know about.
Along with the new earth will come a new universe of planets. This will be needed because there will be billions upon billions of souls in heaven over thousands of years of human history on old earth. There will be enough habitable planets for everyone. God will give us the technology or the knowledge to travel through space, so we will be able to visit people on other planets. We will also be able to explore the “hostile” planets to take resources or just tour them.
Another major benefit of heaven will be not having to live with any illness, disease, or suffering (CCC 400). We will still sleep in heaven — that’s how God made our bodies — but we will sleep perfectly every night. We will wake up completely refreshed, never sick. We will have lots of energy. It might be possible to get injured, but God will heal us instantly. Also, God will prevent us from dying via environmental hazards like a large fall. We will have no worry about exploring our planet or the universe. It will just be fun all the time.
Another bonus of heaven will be peace (CCC 715). There will be no conflicts or wars. We won’t have any worries or fears in heaven, only good times after good times. There may be ups and downs in terms of how good it is, but it will always be good. In your own life you might have some really, really good memories like the birth of a child, but also just good memories of family vacations. One memory might be more good than the other, but they are still both good memories.
One of the best things about heaven will be its eternity (CCC 459). We will have all these good things, and it will never end. How amazing is that? Whatever project or idea you have, no matter how ambitious, will be complete eventually. You will have both the resources and the time to complete it. Sure, we might have to dedicate time each day to worship God or do other work he commands, but in the long run there will be an infinite amount of free time to finish that project. Over time, as people explore they will get to see all the amazing works people have created. With infinite time, people will be able to step away from creating to just explore as long as they want. They won’t ever have that conflicted feeling of making progress in their projects or enjoying themselves in God’s creation.
For all these reasons, I am eagerly awaiting heaven. Like many of the saints, I am sometimes impatient and want to be in heaven now. I’ve sort of been “helped” by having a lot of health problems. My life on earth rarely ever approaches anything peaceful because I am always suffering one way or another. There are still some things I’d like to achieve on earth, but I am continually motivated by this theory of heaven. It’s very possible that my theory is completely wrong. My theory makes sense logically to me, but no matter what, we are assured we will be happy for all eternity.
Last week, I wrote about the horrible suffering those in hell will experience. This week, I wrote about the amazing pleasure those in heaven will experience. I hope that in reading about heaven you have come to understand what God has in store for us. I hope it has excited you so much that you don’t want to imagine not going to heaven because this is the reality: We either go to heaven or we go to hell. There is no other option. For me, it’s an easy choice which place I want to be. The journey may be tough, but I want to be in heaven. I hope you want the same thing.
Lent is coming up pretty soon. Take the time to do a good examination of you. During Lent, you will probably go to confession to ask forgiveness for your sins, but this week think about more than just sin. Think about all the good in you plus all the bad. Then think about how you will shine the light of your goodness while cleansing all the bad from your body. Some of those changes will be about reducing sin, but others will be shining your light, the good things about you, on the world.
The peace of the Lord be with you always,