The word “heaven” remains vague because it is used in many different ways.  The term heaven may represent a number of different things.  For some heaven may mean nothing more than a place where one is eternally with those they have loved on earth.  Others may visualize heaven as the realization of their noblest ambitions and enlightened ideals.  Still others may see heaven as endless enjoyment of beauty and repose.

All the various ideas about heaven have one thing in common.  They all exclude any possible dissatisfaction.  Heaven in other terms would be unthinkable.  What that suggests is that every human being yearns for the Absolute for the ultimate good that will not be taken away.

For the Buddhist heaven is a place or state of oblivion free of all care or pain.  It is attained through the extinction of desire.  For the Moslem heaven is a place of complete fulfillment of sensual pleasure.  For Hinduism, in common with Christianity,   man’s ultimate goal is union with God.  Hindus conceive that union as identity.  For the Christian the union of man with God does not mean loss of individuality.  Rather the closer one approaches to God the more individuality is liberated and strengthened.  Christians describe union with God as “seeing God face to face” and call it the “beatific vision.”

It is strange that after the philosophers, theologians, and preachers have had their say, so much remains still to be explained.  But not strange really, if we recognize the function of faith.

This longing for heaven is not a form of escapism.  It should not result in disdain for the present world or neglect of one’s duties in that world.  Heaven isn’t a place but a state.   Passing from this world to heaven doesn’t entail moving from one location to another, but turning toward God and opening our hearts to the things he continuously wants to do in and for us. Important to remember is the fact that if we haven’t found God on earth, we won’t find him in heaven.

The notion of heaven is intimately connected with the virtue of hope.  One of our most intimate experiences is of ourselves as incomplete, as unfinished.  We seem always to long for something more.  For the Christian it is the longing for heaven, the longing to be definitively united to God in love. Heaven is the primary object of hope.