“Dad, where does God live?” Kids ask the most amazing questions, right? For the heart of a child, heaven is a ‘somewhere out there’ place that can be hard to understand. Even the pages of Scripture give us glimpses into the wonder of heaven for kids and grownups alike. Streets of gold, pearly gates, no day or night, no pain or sadness – all of the amazing splendor of God’s home is waiting for us as followers of Jesus. It’s easy to talk about heaven as a place until our children start to see the effects of brokenness, sin, and death in this life here on earth.
Heaven takes on a whole new meaning when a loved one leaves this life. “Dad, is Grandpa with God now? Will I see Makayla in heaven? How do we know Mom is in heaven?” There’s a good chance you’re reading this because your child is asking questions that are hard to answer from an emotional standpoint. If that’s your situation right now, please know our pastoral staff is here for you and ready to listen.
Saying goodbye to loved ones isn’t supposed to be easy. Talking with your kids about death is a tender conversation where you need the message of Scripture to light the way. At Grace Chapel, we turn to the Bible to start any conversation about life or death. Knowing how to talk with kids about heaven is an important part of discipling their faith for the future.
Start with Scripture
The Apostle John gave us a vivid perspective of heaven during his vision throughout the book of Revelation. John goes into full detail about what heaven looks like in Revelation 21:
- Streets of gold (Rev. 21:21)
- Walls made of precious stones (vv. 18-19)
- Gates made of pearl (v. 21)
- No more sadness or pain (v. 4)
- The nations and kings of the earth will bring their glory to God (vv. 24-26)
- The glory of God lighting the entire place (Rev. 21:23, 22:5)
These descriptions help children visualize this place called heaven, but that’s just the starting point. During His ministry, Jesus regularly spoke about heaven. Who better to learn about heaven from than the Creator of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ?
When speaking to His disciples in John 14, Jesus told them He was going to prepare a place for them. This is one of the first instances where Jesus’ disciples started seeing God’s ultimate plan for redeeming us:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 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.” (John 14:1-3, ESV)
It was always God’s plan to be with us forever. That’s why He sent Jesus to live and die in our place: to bring us back to Him. The words of A.W. Tozer are great reminders of God’s longing for us to be with him in heaven. As Tozer wrote, “Did you ever stop to think that God is going to be as pleased to have you with him in heaven as you are to be there?” (Tozer, The Attributes of God: A Journey Into the Father’s Heart) That feeling of joy and celebration seeing our Creator’s face is what we hold onto today.
Connecting Sin with Death
At the beginning of time, God created for men and women to live in a perfect paradise, much like heaven. When sin entered the world, it created a chasm of death between us and God, separating us from God’s perfect joy and peace. All of the pain, disappointment, fear, anger, and ultimately, the finality of death can be difficult, even scary for a child to understand. The light of heaven is made that much more incredible to a child’s mind, and to our minds as well as adults when we fully understand the darkness of death. Without the depths of death, we can’t fully appreciate the heights of heaven.
When Adam and Eve sinned, it introduced sin and then death into the world. (Roman 5:12) The infection of sin is terminal to our human bodies. A lot of children struggle to understand what death means, so you may consider using terms like, “Their body stopped working here on earth and it was their time to go.” Sometimes death happens and there’s no easy explanation, but it’s important to give your child hope. “It was never supposed to be this way, but God gives us a way to be with Him forever.”
That’s when you can talk about Jesus’ plan to rescue us back for God. Jesus came to live and walk among us so we can know God has a plan to get rid of sin forever and give us a way back to His perfect paradise. We hold onto this hope as followers of Jesus, especially when life doesn’t make sense. We turn to the Gospel and the saving work of Jesus as the hope beyond death, the hope of heaven. Talking about death is often an amazing opportunity to gently show your child the need for our Savior.
Living the Best Life to the Glory of God
Jesus also spoke about the kingdom of heaven, which isn’t just something we will experience in the future but something we can experience right now. Living a God-honoring, Gospel-centered life is the best way to enjoy the fullest life with Jesus. We have an amazing opportunity to model what this life looks like for our kids to see and experience with us.
The writer of Hebrews encouraged their readers with these words longing for heaven: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14, ESV) We live with hope and follow the teachings of Jesus as a way to bring the hope, joy, and light of heaven into everyday conversations. That’s why we use kind words, bravery in sharing our faith, joy in even the darkest times, and we look toward eternal life with God.
Heaven will forever be at least a bit of a mystery here on earth, but for those of us who follow Jesus, we know there’s a greater place waiting for us after this life. This is the hope we hold onto and the hope we share for future generations. How we live today tells the world about what we’re looking forward to tomorrow.