WHAT IS HEAVEN? (2 or 2)
Prophecy Series ❧ Part 18
This morning we’re going to wrap our series on prophecy. We’ve spent eighteen mornings together unlocking what the Bible says about the future. We’ve covered a wide range prophetic topics such as the rapture, the judgement seat of Christ, the antichrist, the tribulation, the millennium, and hell.
Today, we’re going to look at the final destination of everyone who has place their trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Now, you’d think if every believe is going to spend their eternity in Heaven you’d hear a lot it. Not so. Strangely, there is little to no talk at all about Heaven in most churches. The only time Heaven is talked about is when someone has died. David Wells, a theology professor of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary observed: We would expect to hear of it in the Evangelical churches, but I don’t hear it at all. I don’t think Heaven is even a blip on the Christian screen, from one end of the denominational spectrum to the other. Like it or not, he’s right. We don’t hear much if anything about Heaven today.
I think good part of the reason for this due to the fact that many are living better longer lives than generations before us. We’re too busy living a life of convenience, wealth, health, and opportunity former generations could only dream of. We’re on a crescendo toward a utopia. For many Heaven can wait.
But the Bible paints a very different picture. Believers in the Bible longed for Heaven. Hebrews 11, the great hall of faith chapter reminds us the giants of faith desired a better country, that is a Heavenly one (Heb. 11:16). The Apostle Paul, who lived with a constant hunger for Heaven shared that he desired to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better (Phil. 1:21). David Jeremiah writes, Heaven plays such a prominent role in Scripture that if you delete all the references to Heaven to it from the Word of God, the text of the Bible would fall apart in key places and turn to mishmash (D. Jeremiah, The Book of Signs, p.183). Paul and the believers of the Bible understood that no matter how good or how bad this life is, it is only our temporary dwelling. You were made for eternity and this earth is not your eternal home. G.K. Chesterton wrote, When I heard that I was in the wrong place… my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. I knew now…why I could feel homesick at home.
Think of it this way. When you know you’re going to move to another state or city what do you do? You research what it is like. You want to know as much as you can find out about it. What’s weather like? What are the schools and neighborhoods like? Are there mountains to hike? Rivers to fish? Lakes to swim? What are the people like? You want to know as much as you’re able about this new place. Why? Because it is going to be your new home.
With this final message on Heaven, I want to help prepare us for our new home by answering four questions: 1) What will Heaven be like? 2) What kind of bodies will we have in Heaven? 3) What will we do in Heaven? 4) How can we be prepared to go to Heaven?
I. What will Heaven be like? There is a story about a television producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation who was preparing a documentary about Christianity in England. In the course of his research, he sent a memo to a minister who served as an adviser to the BBC on church affairs. The memo read: How might I ascertain the official church view of heaven and hell? The minister replied with a memo consisting of one word: Die.
The good news is, we don’t have to die to find out what Heaven is going to be like. God tells us in His Word what it will be like. The word Heaven is mentioned about 700 times in the Bible. Thirty-three of thirty-nine books of the OT talk about Heaven and twenty-one of the twenty-seven books in the NT do. The word itself means Heaven is high and lofty. Heaven refers to the lofty dwelling place of God. Revelation 21-22 provide a vivid and captivating description of what Heaven will one day be like. Other places as well describe Heaven. All of them say Heaven an actual place and it is up. In Mark 6:41 it says before Jesus fed the five thousand, He looked up toward Heaven and blessed the food. When Jesus returned to Heaven it says He was carried up to Heaven (Lk. 24:51). Heaven is the dwelling place of God and it is above the earth.
The Bible describes God’s dwelling place in different ways. Sometimes Heaven is seen as a country pointing to its vast territory. Sometimes it is seen as a kingdom pointing to a place of wide-reaching organized rule. Sometimes it is seen as a celestial city pointing to streets, neighborhoods, buildings, people busy going from one place to another. While all of these descriptions are true, there is one other description that speaks to our hearts more than any other.
Shortly before Jesus death He told them He would die on the cross. He told them He would be buried and on the third day He would be resurrected and that He would return to Heaven. They were struck with grief by Jesus words. But He assured them telling them not to be troubled. He told them He would go to Heaven and prepare a place for them. In My Father’s house, Jesus said, are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2). Jesus describes Heaven as His Father’s house. What is Jesus saying here? He is saying Heaven is far more than an expansive country, a powerful kingdom, or a magnificent city; Heaven is our home. It is more than a home, it is the perfect home. A place of perfect love, acceptance, joy, and fulfillment. It has been said that when we get to Heaven we will be home for the first time. You may have grown up in a home you could not wait to get away from. Home was a far cry from a place of love, acceptance, joy, and fulfillment. Yet, deep in our hearts we long for a home, the perfect home. That home is the one Jesus promises us when we put our trust in Him. C.S. Lewis said: If I find in myself a desire which on experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that was made for another world. All of us are in the words of one author a displaced people, longing for our home.
Many people wonder what happens when a believer dies? Where do they go? Soul sleep? The Bible says we go to be home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). The truth be known, all of us have a homesickness for Heaven, we just don’t realize it. Randy Alcorn writes in a powerful devotional on Heaven: Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large screen television, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us.
II. What kind of bodies will we have in Heaven? I don’t know about you, but the older I get the more important this question is! I’ve discovered most people don’t like their bodies. They feel their too something or other or they want to be more something or other. This is especially true for those who suffer from the “five B’s of old age”: baldness, bifocals, bridges, bulges, and bunions. What we’re really acknowledging is our bodies are not perfect. But someday they will be.
What will our bodies be like? The Bible says, Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He sees us (1 John 3:2). He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own (Philippians 3:21, NLT). What will our bodies be like? They will be like Jesus resurrection body. What was His body like? He ate food. He still had scars. He was recognizable. He walked through walls and locked doors. Elsewhere the Bible tell us in 1 Cor. 15 our bodies will be real; they wont’ be phantoms. Jesus challenged the disciples to touch Him to prove He was real. They will be incorruptible; they’ll never be succumbed to the adversities of age, ill health, headaches, backaches, and other aches. They will be strong and glorious (v.43). That is, we won’t be disappointed.
III. What will we do in Heaven? Sometime ago a group of children were asked to give an answer for what they thought for what you do in Heaven. Here are some of their answers: You can do anything you want, silly! – You water-skate all day long! Declared one squirmy first grader. When asked what “water skating” was she smiled shyly and replied, You’ll find out. – You play the harp all day, whether you like it or not. – Most of the time you try to get dry because it seems like it’s always raining in Heaven.
Somehow, many people have bought into a lie that has turned Heaven into Hell and Hell into Heaven. A lot of people think Heaven will be boring and Hell will be exciting. But this idea is completely foreign in the Bible. The Psalmist said, In Your presence is fullness of joy, in Your right hand are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11). Why would God give us new glorified bodies that are strong and eternal and not provide a perfect home suited for them? Longtime quadra paraplegic Joni Erickson Tada understands this well writing: I haven’t been cheated out of being a complete person – I’m just going through a forty-year delay, and God is with me even though that. Being “glorified” – I know the meaning of that now. It’s the time, after my death here, when I’ll be on my feet dancing. Far from being boring or incomplete, I believe the Bible reveals Heaven will be a place of fulfilled dreams, long lost opportunities regained, new opportunities, new friendships, broken relationships healed. We will have work to do that will be fully satisfying and never tiring. It has been estimated that there are at least 40,000 occupations in the United States. Many studies say most people are not satisfied with their jobs. It won’t be that way in Heaven. We’ll enjoy food like we’ve never before. We’ll laugh like we’ve never laughed before. We’ll sing praises like we’ve never sung before (I’ll sound good for the firs time!). We’ll marvel at God’s Heaven with increasing unbroken and eternal wonder. The broken will be healed. The blind will see. The lame will walk. The deaf will hear. The brokenhearted will rejoice. The object of our joy in all of this will be Christ who made Heaven possible. Jesus points to this when He says, Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh… Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in Heaven (Lk. 6:21,23). He is saying Heaven’s reward will more than make up for whatever we lost in serving Christ this side of eternity. Revelation 22:3 sums up Heaven well. There will no longer be a curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him (Revelation 22:3). We will fully be and do and enjoy what God intended for us but without sin. With our new bodies we will have new opportunities to serve God. All of our this, I believe, can be summed up in one word: Worship.
IV. How can we be prepared to go to Heaven? Once when Jesus disciples were sharing the great successes of their ministries, He said to them, Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). How do you prepare for Heaven? By having your name written in Heaven, in the Lamb’s Book of Life. How do you do that? You make a reservation there by coming to Christ asking Him for the forgiveness of your sins and trusting Him as your Savior.
Sometime ago I read a story about a professional singer whose name is Ruthanna Metzger. She was asked to sing at a wedding in Seattle for a very wealthy man. The wedding reception was to be held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper. Ruthanna and her husband Roy were excited to attend. It was very exclusive and Ruthanna felt it a great honor to go there with her husband.
At the start of the reception, the bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor. Someone ceremoniously cut a satin ribbon draped across the bottom of the stairs and the bride and groom made their way up the stairs followed by their guests.
At the top of the stairs outside the great banquet room, the maître d’ stood holding a bound book. “May I have your name please?” “I’m Ruthanna Metzger and this is my husband Roy.” He searched the M’s. “I’m not finding it. Would you spell it, please?” Ruth spelled her name slowly. After searching the book, the maître d’ looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but your name isn’t here.” “There must be some mistake,” Ruthanna replied. “I’m the singer!” The gentleman answered, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did. Without your name in the book you cannot attend the banquet.” He motioned to a waiter and said, “Show these people to the service elevator, please.” The Metzgers followed the waiter past beautifully decorated tables laden with shrimp, whole smoke salmon, and magnificent carved ice sculptures. Close by, the orchestra was preparing to perform, the musicians all dressed up in their tuxedos.
The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator, ushered them in, and pressed “G” for the parking garage. After driving several minutes in silence, Roy reached down and put his hand on Ruthanna’s arm. “Sweetheart, what happened?” “When the invitation arrived, I was busy,” Ruthanna