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Christians often say that "some day we will all be together in heaven." I'm wondering if this idea comes from scripture.

The closest I can think of is the end of Revelation, which discusses a "new earth" on which the "new Jerusalem" descends. If you take this apocalyptic vision as having a symbolic city (representing the complete Church) coming down from a literal heaven, I suppose you could argue logically that the completed church must have been together in heaven prior to descending. But I really doubt if the saying comes from an interpretation as complex as that!

Am I overlooking something simple? Does the Bible teach elsewhere that all Christians will be together in heaven some day?

I'm looking for "orthodox", protestant perspectives argued from the standard (66 book) canon.

  • To clarify, are you looking for scripture evidence that says ALL Christians will be together? Is the emphasis on all? – Beestocks Dec 15 '14 at 15:34
  • @Beestocks The "all" is indeed important to my question, yes. – Jas 3.1 Dec 15 '14 at 17:02
  • N.T. Wright has some good essays on the subject. His perspective is very different than the one you are looking for, though. – Ryan Dec 16 '14 at 3:21
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What is heaven?

Within Christianity, it's generally accepted that 1) first comes death, 2) then the intermediate state, 3) then the universal (bodily) resurrection. The exact nature of each of these is (mildly) disputed, but in general, it's said within Protestantism that the body "sleeps" after death until the resurrection. Whether the soul sleeps or not is disputed but often Paul's words, "absent from the body, present with the Lord," (2 Cor 5:8) are taken to mean that we will be conscious before the resurrection; this is referred to as being in heaven, since it is "with the Lord" and God is said to dwell in heaven.

I'd also like to note that I think you were on the right track in discussing the new Jerusalem. The end of Revelation is all about the new heavens and earth. At the resurrection, some will go to everlasting destruction and others to everlasting life (Dan 12:2). The eschatological hope of a Christian culminates in heaven and earth being remade and heaven coming to earth, and it is in that new heaven and earth that he will spend eternity.

Very often, in colloquial language, the intermediate state and the resurrected state are folded into one concept, which is given the name "heaven." I don't think that does any terrible injustice to either concept. So, when people speak of being together "in heaven," they mean being together "after death."

Thus far, I believe I have described the orthodox Protestant position. There is little disagreement in these areas. You can read such ideas of heaven in Randy Alcorn's book Heaven, John MacArthur's book The Glory of Heaven, and N.T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope.

Will we see our loved ones in heaven?

I don't think I can do any better than to quote what John MacArthur says:

Will we recognize and be reunited with our loved ones in heaven?

Yes! In the Old Testament, when a person died, the biblical writers said he was "gathered to his people" (cf. Gen. 25:8; 35:29; 49:29; Num. 20:24; Judg. 2:10). In 2 Samuel 12, when David's infant child died, David confidently said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (v. 23). David evidently expected to see the child again. ...

While sharing the Passover meal with His disciples, Christ said, "Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:17-18). Christ was promising that He and His disciples would drink the fruit of the vine together again--in heaven. Elsewhere Jesus makes a similar, but even more definite, promise: "Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11).

...

Describing the Lord's appearing and the resurrection of the saints who have died, Paul writes, "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17).

Paul's purpose in writing was to comfort some of the Thessalonians who evidently thought their dying loved ones would miss the return of Christ. He says in verse 18, "Comfort one another with these words." The comfort comes from the prospect of reunion. ... Paul's promise that we will all be "together" forever implies that we shall renew fellowship with all whom we have known.

I've asked a question on BH about what it means to be "gathered to his people."

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What's the Biblical basis for “all Christians will be together in heaven some day”?

One verse that comes to mind is one that is often used with rapture theory, but does talk about both those who have died in Christ and those who are alive being joined together at his return and remain with him.

1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

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  • Hmmm... still seems like a bit of a stretch. I mean, the verse doesn't say they go to "heaven". – Jas 3.1 Dec 15 '14 at 17:03

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