10 Key Bible Verses on Heaven

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. Revelation 21:1–4

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 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 anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The removal of the first heaven and earth eliminates the fatal infection of evil in the cosmic order and gives way to God’s creation of a new cosmic order where sin and suffering and death are forever banished. The old order was in “bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21) and “groaning . . . in pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22), awaiting the day when “the heavens . . . will be dissolved” and “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell” will be established to forever replace the old (2 Pet. 3:12–13). This represents the specific fulfillment of the prophecy given to Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord GOD . . . ‘I create new heavens and a new earth . . . ’” (Isa. 65:13, 17; cf. 66:22).

Scholars differ, however, as to the extent and way in which the “first heaven and the first earth” will pass away and be transformed into something new—especially as to whether this represents an entirely new creation, or whether (and to what extent) this represents a “renewed” creation that retains some degree of continuity with the old order. As seen in the example of 1 Cor. 15:35–44, it is clear, with respect to the believer’s resurrection body, that although there is some kind of continuity between the old and the new order, the new reality will also be qualitatively different—for example, as different as a kernel or a seed is from a full-grown wheat plant (1 Cor. 15:35–39). Thus “new” (Gk. kainos) is best understood here in terms of something that has been qualitatively transformed in a fundamental way, rather than as an outright new creation ex nihilo (Latin, “out of nothing”), as in the case of God’s original creation in Genesis 1.

By comparison to the old order that is coming to an end, the new cosmic order is radically different—a place where “righteousness will dwell” (2 Pet. 3:13), where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4; cf. Isa. 25:8 and Rev. 7:17), where “death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4; cf. Isa. 25:8 and 1 Cor. 15:26), where “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21), and where all that is “perishable” will be raised and transformed into a glorious new “imperishable” reality (1 Cor. 15:42–43), where the redeemed will rejoice in the eternal presence of “God and the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4; cf. 22:1–5).

The sea was no more does not mean there will be no bodies of water in the new earth (cf. 21:6; 22:1–2) but refers to the source of earthly rebellion, chaos, and danger—the sea from which the beast emerged (13:1; Dan. 7:3). This symbolic (or literal) source of rebellion will no longer threaten creation’s perfection.

The holy city, new Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22–24), the church redeemed by Jesus Christ, will no longer be trampled by nations (Rev. 11:2) but rather, will be adorned as a bride.

He will dwell with them. The greatest blessing of heaven will be unhindered fellowship with God himself. The goal of God’s covenant, “God with us” (Isa. 7:14), foreshadowed in the OT tabernacle and temple, will be achieved. his people . . . their God. See Lev. 26:11–12; Ezek. 37:27.

By wiping away every tear and eliminating death, mourning, and pain (Isa. 25:8; Isa. 65:19–20), God will reverse the curse that entered the world through human sin.

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2. John 14:2–4

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. And you know the way to where I am going. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

In light of the context (Jesus going to the Father; John 13:1, John 13: 3; John 14:28), it is best to understand my Father’s house as referring to heaven. In keeping with this image, the many rooms (or “dwelling places,” Gk. monē) are places to live within that large house. The translation “rooms” is not meant to convey the idea of small spaces, but only to keep consistency in the metaphor of heaven as God’s “house.” In a similar passage, Jesus speaks of his followers being received into the “eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9; cf. 1 Cor. 2:9).

3. Matthew 6:19–21

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven implies that people often have a choice between activities that lead to greater earthly reward in the present (cf. Matt. 6:2, Matt. 6:5, Matt 6:16) and those that store up greater future reward in heaven. Elsewhere in the Gospels the consequences of making the wrong choice are shown to be eternally disastrous (see Mark 8:36; Luke 12:20–21).

Throughout Scripture, the heart refers to the center of one’s being, involving one’s emotions, reason, and will.

4. Revelation 21:22–27

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

its temple is the Lord God . . . and the Lamb. Jesus himself is the tent and temple in which God lives among his people (John 1:14; John 2:19–21). Because the Lamb is in her midst, the church is “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22).

Language echoing Isa. 60:19–20 identifies God the Father as the source, and Christ as the mediator, of the bride’s radiant light (her truth and purity).

When the Lamb, who is King of kings (Rev. 17:14; Rev. 19:16), has destroyed rebellious kings and nations, then the kings of the earth and their nations, whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, will enter his city-sanctuary, bringing their glory (cf. Isa. 60:3–5). The city’s gates will never be shut because there will be neither foe nor night to assist hostile invaders.

5. Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Hope of Everlasting Joy. As in Ps. 49:15 and Ps. 73:24–26, here there is a clear affirmation that the human yearning to be near to God and to know the pleasure of his welcome forever, beyond the death of the body, finds its answer in the covenant. Peter cites Ps. 16:8–11 in his Pentecost speech (Acts 2:25–28), applying the verses to the resurrection of Jesus; Paul used Ps. 16:10 in his similar speech (Acts 13:35). If the apostles meant that David’s words were a straight prediction of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is difficult to know what function the psalm could have played in ancient Israel: the congregation would have scratched their heads in puzzlement every time they sang it. This puzzlement goes away if the psalm is seen as cultivating the hope of everlasting glory for the faithful, with the resurrection of Jesus (the holy one par excellence) as the first step in bringing this hope to fruition (cf. Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:23).

6. Luke 23:42–43

*And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

These verses are unique to Luke. Hanged is a synonym for “crucified” (cf. Acts 5:30; 10:39; Gal. 3:13; also Deut. 21:22–23). Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom is both a plea and a confession of faith. Paradise is another name for heaven, the dwelling place of God and the eternal home of the righteous (cf. 2 Cor. 12:3; Rev. 2:7). The Septuagint uses the same Greek word to refer to the “garden of Eden”. Jesus’ words therefore may hint at a restoration of the intimate, personal fellowship with God that existed in Eden before the fall.

7. Revelation 22:1–5

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The river of the water of life and the tree of life recall Eden before the fall into sin (Gen. 2:8–10) and Ezekiel’s vision of a future glorious temple (Ezek. 47:1–12; see Zech. 14:8). Refreshment and life flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, carried by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised (John 4:10–14; John 7:38–39; see also Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 36:25–27). Living believers and martyrs taste this life-giving water even now in this present age (Rev. 7:17; 22:17), but its fullness awaits the new heaven and earth. This ever-flowing river gives a picture of an unending stream of abundant blessings and joy. The tree of life, once banned to guilty humanity (Gen. 3:22–24), will satisfy the city’s residents year-round (Rev. 2:7). The healing of the nations will have been completed in the destruction of death (20:14; see Ezek. 47:12).

anything accursed. Earth was cursed for Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:17). Guilt, strife, struggle for survival, sickness, sorrow, and death resulted. In the consummated new creation no such woes will remain (Rev. 21:4). God’s throne will make the entire city a temple (Rev. 21:22) in which his servants will worship him as his priests.

Moses could not see the Lord’s face and live (Ex. 33:20–23; Ex. 34:29–35), but when the Spirit has completed their sanctification, God’s redeemed people will see his face. It will be the greatest blessing of the age to come, as God looks upon his people with favor and delight. His name . . . on their foreheads had sealed them as his protected property through history’s turmoil and trials (Rev. 3:11–12; Rev. 7:2–8; Rev. 14:1).

Since night has been banished (cf. Rev. 21:25), God’s servants will bask in light from the God of radiant glory and truth, who dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16; Rev. 21:23–24). In union with Jesus their king, believers will not only worship as priests but also reign as kings over the new earth forever and ever (Rev. 5:10).

8. Hebrews 11:14–16

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The author says that the people he has mentioned in Heb. 11:1–13 were seeking a better (heavenly) country, which would be their true homeland. First, if Abraham (for example) were looking for an earthly “homeland” (Gk. patris refers to a place of one’s fathers), he could have returned to Haran; but he persisted in following God’s leading and focusing on his promise (Heb. 11:15). Second, the Psalms’ spiritual application of exile terminology to this whole mortal life indicates the expectation of a life to come (Ps. 39:12; Ps. 119:19; cf. Heb. 11:13–14). prepared for them a city. See Heb. 11:10; Heb. 12:22–24; Heb. 13:13–14.

9. 2 Corinthians 5:1–8

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The New Covenant Motivation for the Life of Faith. In spite of the fact that Paul longs to be “at home” with the Lord, he does not lose heart while he is away from the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6, 2 Cor. 5:8). His confidence in the future resurrection and in the reality of the judgment to come keeps him faithful in the present as he pursues his goal of pleasing Christ.

The tent that is our earthly home refers to present human bodies that will die. Have refers to the future resurrection, and the building from God . . . eternal in the heavens refers to the resurrection body believers will receive on the last day (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13–18; Rev. 21:1–22:5). The tent analogy was quite apt since Paul made tents while living in Corinth (Acts 18:3), and the Corinthians likely sold tents to sailors or used them for housing visitors attending the Isthmian Games.

the Spirit as a guarantee. The presence of the Spirit in Christians’ lives now is the down payment or guarantee that they will receive resurrection bodies when Jesus returns.

by faith, not by sight. This is not a reference to believing the unbelievable but to living all of one’s life based on confident trust in God’s promises for the future, even when one cannot yet see the fullness of the coming glory (2 Cor. 4:18–5:1).

Away from the body and at home with the Lord refers to the “intermediate state” between a Christian’s death and the resurrection of all believers’ bodies on the day Christ returns. Paul means that when he dies, though his physical body will be buried here on earth, he expects that he (as a “spirit” or “soul” without a body) will go immediately into the presence of Christ, and will be present with Christ in that condition until the day of resurrection (cf. Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23; Heb. 12:23).

10. Isaiah 65:17–25

“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 forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Isaiah uses images from his age to paint a magnificent poetic picture to describe the joys of the world to come. Christians differ over whether to read this as (1) an idealized description of restored Jerusalem (leading into eternal joys), (2) an intermediate “millennial” state, or (3) the eternal state itself. Certainly the expression new heavens and a new earth would seem to suggest the eternal state (because of Rev. 21:1). On the other hand, the mention of people dying, even at an advanced age, as well as the presence of the sinner (Isa. 65:20), seem to suggest this is not the eternal state. To argue for a millennial state (which is not explicit here), one would have to understand the millennial state to include both death and unbelief among unbelievers during the millennial period. However, the mention of the animals (Isa. 65:25) evokes Isa. 11:6–9, which is part of an oracle describing the messianic era. Hence (and in view of the larger context of chs. 40–66) some interpreters read these verses as describing an idealized future for Jerusalem—not simply as a restored city but as the center of the world, in which all manner of people know and delight in God and live at peace with each other (as Isa. 2:2–4; Isa. 9:6–7; Isa. 11:1–10). Under such circumstances, human community and piety flourish. At the same time, the description goes far beyond anything that the world has ever seen, inviting the believing reader to yearn for more and to play his or her role as the story unfolds to its glorious end (cf. Isa. 2:5).

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