Some Christians imagine that the goal of the Christian life is to die (get out of this world) and go to heaven. Heaven in their imagination is the place where all that is good and perfect in this world will continue forever. Worth noting is that many Church Fathers taught that heaven is not simply going to be this life made perfect lasting for ever and ever, but rather is going to be something so different (a new creation) that we can’t even imagine it yet.
Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (Isaiah 65:17-18)
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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; 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.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
The notion that heaven is just a continuation of life in this world, now perfected, which goes on forever was around in the ancient world as well. Jesus had to confront the common misunderstandings about what heaven is. When his opponents tried to show that the idea of an eternal heaven was illogical based on earthly experience and Jewish law, Jesus criticizes their inability to comprehend God:
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:29-32)
We cannot simply take life on earth and interpolate it into eternity when imagining heaven. We must be ready for something completely new. We may have brief glimpses and experiences of heaven in this world, but they will always only be a foretaste of what is coming. No matter how wonderful these experiences are, they still cannot measure up to what is coming. Keep in mind that in this world we rely on our physical senses to experience the spiritual world and we interpret these experiences through our understanding of the senses (touch, taste, smell, feeling, hearing, sight). In that new creation we will be seeing with the eyes of our heart, experiencing salvation in ways we cannot now imagine. The pure in heart will “see God” – obviously it is not the eyes with which we will be seeing God but with our hearts. We won’t know what that means until we get there.
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2)