Helping your kids think rightly about heaven


Recently, an adolescent with a somewhat worried look asked me if heaven would prove boring, “you know, with eternity and all.” It occurred to me that if a Christian teen is asking this question, how many more are thinking it? Even worse, how many non-Christian youths entertain gross misconceptions about the place?

In their 2001 work, Heaven: A History, Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang wrote: “While Christians still accept heaven as an article of faith, their vigor in defining the nature of eternal life has much diminished. In spite of the current revival of religious interest in America and Europe, the desire to discuss the details of heavenly existence remains a low priority.”

It isn’t hard to see why such apathy about heaven has emerged in our over-stimulated, pleasure-crazed, immediate-gratification world. What used to be a battleground for Christians in the past has now become a playground for Christians in the present. I’ve come to realize that the only way we can really see the world to come, in its true, biblical sense, is to see the “promises” of our present world for what they really are: a minefield of deception, distortion and distractions that may offer temporal pleasures but do not truly satisfy—and ultimately end in spiritual death.

If you have adolescent children, I encourage you to engage them on this subject. Ask them if they have any questions about it. I’ve been asked by teens at church if there are different levels of heaven based on how you live on earth. In light of the misconceptions and lies young people have been told, and because they often have questions about heaven, it’s a conversation you need to have.

To get that conversation started, here are three things you should tell them regarding the subject of heaven.

1. Misconceptions abound.

I recall a Far Side cartoon that reflects an erroneous sentiment that many have about heaven. It pictures a guy with wings, on a cloud, with a halo over his head, doing nothing, with nobody else around. He has a forlorn look on his face and the caption says, “Wish I’d brought a magazine.” Granted, wearing a robe, strumming a harp, and singing in a worship service that never ends isn’t appealing, especially to the younger generation.

These false perceptions find fertile soil in the biblical illiteracy of our day. The Bible’s teaching on heaven provides more than adequate information about heaven. Unfortunately, in a culture driven by consumerism, most churches neglect the hereafter and focus on the here and now. Let your kids know the Bible reveals all we need to know about heaven. The Bible Project offers helpful primer (but not a substitute) for what the Bible explains about the relationship between heaven and earth here.

2. Eternity is in our hearts.

The Bible says that God has “set eternity in our hearts.” (Eccl 3:11) This refers to the intuitive awareness in every human heart that there is something more than this transient world. All of us, have a longing for the eternal. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observed, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

God has wired the human heart for heaven. We instinctively want to go on. But time relentlessly marches on, and the older one gets the more keenly aware they are of life’s brevity. Whether you die young or live to be a stranger in this world, you’re going to lose everyone. It’s the hope of heaven that brings peace and comfort in times of grief and loss. Your children need to know that God made us for another world where there are no goodbyes or loss.

Ted Dekker, in The Slumber of Christianity, writes, “The fact is, nothing in this life can satisfy unless it is fully bathed in an obsession for eternity. Nothing. We must relieve pleasure of the false expectation we’ve placed on it to fully satisfy. We must see pleasure as simply a foretaste—only then can we be left panting for a far greater bliss.”

3. Heaven is a real place.

Heaven is often depicted as a somewhat nebulous, hazy existence where spirits roam or we float on clouds. Be sure to tell your kids that heaven is a real place. The Christian’s ultimate destiny is the new creation where there’s going to be a new heaven and new earth. The paradise of Eden will be restored, the curse lifted, and nothing will defile or destroy that glorious world.

Assure your children that in that real world all their desires will be perfectly satisfied and their joys will never end. The Psalmist said, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps 16:11) Make sure your kids know that heaven will be anything but boring.

To sum this up, consider how C.S. Lewis ended his famous Chronicles of Narnia. The very last paragraph is something you might want to read with your children.

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Three topics to discuss with your children about heaven