Imagine Heaven: Relationships by John Burke

Based on the book by John Burke, we have begun a series called Imagine Heaven at Gateway Church in Austin!

Work through the Next Steps for this message with your family or in a small group.




According to the Scriptures, in heaven relationships do not end, but become what they were always intended to be.

All those having Near Death Experiences affirm this idea. It’s as if they are catching just a glimpse of what’s to come, a peek in the foyer but with a barrier they couldn’t cross.

The Scripture says:

“Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.” – Hebrews 9:27-28

It is important to realize, people who have a NDE are not dead yet since they came back. We should not overgeneralize from a peek into the afterlife and declare what happens when you fully cross the barrier. One thing seems clear to those getting a peek—you’re still you and people who passed on are still themselves, and it’s meant to be a great reunion – a reunion like no other.

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus gather to eat his last meal with his close friends—he told them he was going to die, but said:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” – John 14:1-3

Jesus indicated Heaven is relational where real people are together again, a place where friends and loved ones are reunited.

Not only will we be free of the pains and worries of this earthly body, we will feel young again! Remember what it was like to have endless energy as a child? Recall the strength and stamina of those teen years? Imagine a new body that feels even better than that! The Scripture tells us:

“For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” – Rom. 8:18–19

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Mark 10:14

What if we’re going to feel like kids again with all the energy and excitement of life?

So what kind of body will I have? Will I feel like myself? Will I recognize others?

Think about Jesus—after his resurrection, he appeared to his friends in his resurrected body, Jesus said: 

“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched. – Luke 24:38-43

Jesus could be physically touched, eat fish, walk down the Emmaus road talking with his disciples in his resurrected body. He appeared just as on earth, yet he also could display the spiritual body’s shining brilliance. He had the ability to pass through walls, and move with thought.

Sounds crazy like a science fiction film, right? This is also what NDErs say: they are alive fully with a new body.

God plans on making everything new—including the earth and our bodies—and uniting Heaven and earth as one.

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” – Revelation 21:1 

“What kind of bodies will they have?’” Paul asks and addresses this question:

“There are also bodies in the heavens and bodies on the earth. The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies.” – 1 Corinthians 15:40–41 NLT

Paul explains later in that chapter that one day, our earthly physical bodies will be resurrected just like Jesus’ body was resurrected. This doesn’t happen right when we die. In essence, when we die we get an upgrade from our temporal, earthly bodies (version 1.0) to a spiritual body (version 2.0) that has a far greater “glory” [brilliance]. Yet it’s still not the final version. When God wraps up human history as we know it, Scripture says all original earthly bodies will be resurrected and joined to our spiritual bodies (version 3.0), just like Jesus’s body was (he’s the 3.0 prototype).

We will be ourselves, recognize others, hug, kiss, dance and play again like little children set free from the troubles of this life—a life that resists God’s will and ways.

Jesus said:  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. – Luke 16:9


What you realize is that in Christ, nothing’s lost, there’s nothing to fear, death is not an end but a new, glorious beginning to a very real, relational life with all the creativity, music, fun, celebrations of earth times 100. Jesus told us this his last night on earth. To his friends he said:

“I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again…I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” – Luke 22:15-18

Jesus is going to eat and drink and celebrate life with us—with all who want to be there with him—when the Kingdom of Heaven comes, it’s going to be the biggest party ever.

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come…So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. – Matthew 22:1-3, 10

God by his Grace invites us all to be together forever with him. Don’t reject the invitation! It’s going to be the Life together we’ve always longed for.

The reason relationships will be so different, so much deeper, is nothing will be hidden, communication will be perfect in Heaven, and God-centeredness will replace self-centeredness for all who choose God. Although we will be able to talk and sing with our voices in Heaven, most indicate the preferred way of communicating with God, angels, and people is directly heart to heart. God tells the prophet Isaiah about Heaven’s communication saying:

“Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” – Isaiah 65:24


King David lost his infant son at birth. He had fasted, prayed, wept, and wailed for healing, but when his son died, he stopped. His friends were confused. David knew he would see his son again in Heaven. David explained:

“Why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:22–23 

Imagine all the family hurts and pains, all the little babies, finally redeemed and restored by the love and grace of God! Imagine finally reunited with their families, all the brothers and sisters, moms and dads, grandparents and even distant relatives, joined together as a family inside God’s great Family! That’s what God is doing!

“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God . . . should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” – Hebrews 2:10–11





Jesus said in the book of Revelation, “They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Rev. 3:4–5). John the apostle said of his experience of Heaven, “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [Jesus]. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9)

[i] Ibid., 41.

[ii] Ibid., Kindle locations 1442–1481.

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