Your six-year-old sees an angel figurine and asks, “Mommy, will I go to heaven and have wings like an angel?” What do you say?
At that moment, we parents face a real temptation to affirm our children rather than take the time to give more thorough answer. However, we don’t want to affirm an inaccurate view of heaven, and the Bible doesn’t say anything about wings.
What if your child asks if an unbelieving loved one who recently died is in heaven? Again, we parents can be reluctant to give an honest answer. But the answer we give can frame their understanding of heaven and salvation for the rest of their lives. Avoiding the subject of judgment may feel more comfortable, but it removes a critical component of the gospel. It’s in understanding our sinful state in contrast to God’s holy righteous judgment that our need for God’s rescue plan through Jesus becomes clear. Forgiveness helps us appreciate heaven.
So, what should we teach our children about heaven? Here are a few tips to help you explain heaven to a six-year-old:
1. Heaven Is Where God Lives
Teach your children that heaven is the place where God lives. Jesus left heaven with his Father to come to earth to die for our sin (Phil. 2:7-8). After he rose from the dead, he ascended from the earth into the sky and passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14) to a spiritual place beyond the physical realm where he sits upon God’s throne once again (Heb. 10:12).
2. Heaven Is the Most Wonderful Place of All
Isaiah described heaven as a place of joy, saying, “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10). Tell your kids that heaven is the most wonderful place of all.
One day, when Jesus returns, he will destroy evil and death and our fallen world (2 Pet. 3:10-13). Jesus will make a new heaven and earth where he will live with us (Rev. 21:1-5). John describes this new heaven in the book of Revelation, saying, “God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3–4). The tree of life will grow by the river of life (Rev. 22:2) and those who believe in Jesus will eat its fruit (Rev. 22:14) and live forever with God (John 3:16).
3. Heaven Is a Spiritual Place
Heaven doesn’t have an address like your home does. You can’t reach heaven by spaceship because heaven is a spiritual place. So, where is heaven? The Bible describes both the created sky and outer space as “the heavens” (Gen. 1:1, 8, 14). But the Bible also introduces a “third heaven,” a spiritual realm the apostle Paul says God allowed him to see (2 Cor. 12:1-4). God also allowed the apostle John to look into this spiritual realm. He saw it and described what he saw in Revelation 4. The best way to answer a child who asks, “Where is heaven?” is to tell them it’s the place in the spiritual realm where God lives. Then read John’s vision from Revelation to them.
4. Only Those Who Believe Go to Heaven
It’s important to teach our children that only people who believe in God go to heaven. Jesus said, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13–14).
God made heaven for his children—all people who turn from their sin and believe in Jesus. Jesus said that he’s preparing a place for everyone who believes. He said, “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).
But those who don’t believe in Jesus and reject his death on the cross will go to a terrible place of eternal punishment called hell (Mark 9:43). Jesus taught, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (Matt. 13:41–43).
Today, many folks think they will go to heaven because they “tried their best” or “never hurt anyone.” The Bible tells us that a healthy fear of the Lord is the pathway to wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Jesus told the disciples to fear God, who, after taking their life, could send them to hell (Matt. 10:28). As parents, we should look to strike a balance between the one extreme of uncompassionate descriptions of judgment that scare our children, and avoiding the subject altogether on the other.
The truth about heaven and our rescue from sin is not too complicated for a six-year-old. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). So, let’s give our children an accurate view of heaven. Let’s point them to Jesus as the only way to be saved from judgment, and to the joyful hope of getting to live with Jesus in heaven forever. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).