Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions What’s the Difference between the Present Heaven and the Future Heaven?

What’s the Difference between the Present Heaven and the Future Heaven?

People usually think of “Heaven” as the place Christians go when they die. A better definition explains that Heaven is God’s central dwelling place, the location of his throne from which he rules the universe.

Many don’t realize that the present pre-resurrection Heaven and future post-resurrection Heaven are located in different places. The exact location of the present Heaven is unknown, but we’re told the future Heaven will be located on the New Earth. The present Heaven is a place of transition between believers’ past lives on Earth and future resurrection lives on the New Earth.

Life in the present Heaven (which theologians call the “intermediate” Heaven) is “better by far” than living here on Earth under the curse (Phil. 1:23). But it’s not our final destination.

Will We Live in Heaven Forever?

The answer depends on our definition of Heaven. Will we be with the Lord forever? Absolutely. Will we always be with God in the same place Heaven is now? No. In the present Heaven, God’s people are in Christ’s presence, free of sin and suffering and enjoying great happiness: “in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). But they’re still looking forward to their bodily resurrection and permanent relocation to the New Earth. So, yes, after death we’ll always be in Heaven, but not in the same place or the same condition.

To illustrate, imagine you lived in a homeless shelter in Miami. One day you inherit a beautiful house overlooking Santa Barbara, California, and are given a wonderful job doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Many friends and family will live nearby.

As you fly toward Santa Barbara, you stop at the Dallas airport for a layover. Other family members you haven’t seen in years meet you. They will board the plane with you to Santa Barbara. Naturally you look forward to seeing them in Dallas, your first stop.

But if someone asks where you’re going, would you say “Dallas”? No. You would say Santa Barbara, because that’s your final destination. Dallas is just a temporary stop. At most you might say “I’m going to Santa Barbara, with a brief stop in Dallas.”

Similarly, the present Heaven is a temporary dwelling place, a stop along the way to our final destination: the New Earth. (Granted, the Dallas analogy isn’t perfect—being with Jesus and reunited with loved ones will be immeasurably better than a layover in Dallas!)

In the Present Heaven Do People Have Physical Forms?

Unlike angels, who are in essence spirits (John 4:24Heb. 1:14), human beings are by nature both spiritual and physical. We don’t occupy our bodies as a hermit crab occupies a shell. We can’t be fully human without both a spirit and a body.

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Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (www.epm.org), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He is a New York Times best-selling author of over fifty books, including Heaven (over one million sold), The Treasure Principle (over two million sold), If God Is Good, Happiness, and the award-winning novel Safely Home. His books sold exceed ten million copies and have been translated into over seventy languages.