What Does the Church Teach About Heaven?
Psalm 42-43 sings of the human heart's deepest longing: "As the deer longs for streams of water, / so my soul longs for you, O God. / My being thirsts for God, the living God. / When can l go and see the face of God?" (Ps 42:2-3).
Even those who aren't aware of such a longing- even those who don't believe in God - yearn to see him, because he created them for this very purpose. They may search for ultimate happiness in other places; they may mistake this deep desire as a longing for something else. But in the end, only God himself will satisfy them.
Our desire for God in fact corresponds to his own desire for us. Though we have broken our relationship with him through sin, he woos us to return from our faithlessness, and he delights in our love (see Hos 3:1-5; Zep 3:16-20). If we repent and embrace his offer of reconciliation through his Son, Jesus Christ, we are called to a life of grace that transforms us into Christ's own likeness (see 2 Cor 3:18).
This new life begins in the present world and continues beyond death if we die in God's friendship. Once we are perfected, it culminates in eternal joyous fellowship with the Most Holy Trinity: "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2).
The "beatific vision," as it's called - the unending sight of God's face that grants perfect blessedness - is the full and final union with him we know as "heaven." Such a communion of life and love with God, shared with all his angels and saints, defies description (see 1 Cor 2:9). But Scripture speaks of this mystery in imagery that suggests its perfect goodness and glory: the Father's house (see Jn 14:2-6); a river of life-giving water (see Rv 21 :6; 22:1); the heavenly Jerusalem studded with gold and jewels (see Rv 21 :1-4, 10-21); a crown (see 1 Cor 9:25); radiant light (see Rv 21:23-25; 22:4-5); a wedding feast (see Rv 19:7-9).
The Christian hope of heaven anchors and transforms our lives even now, for "everyone who has this hope based on [God] makes himself pure, as he is pure" (1 Jn 3:3).