Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

Chapter 5: The Heaven

Ten Reasons to Believe in Heaven

There are solid reasons for reasonable people to believe in the concept of a Heavenly home after this earthly life. Here are some that mean a lot to me. ..

A Longing for Heaven

When Jesus Christ is at the forefront of your life, you can live a life that is rich and full on this earth and know that beyond the grave, there is something better: that wonderful place called heaven. ...

What Is Heaven? An In-Depth Biblical Study

In the Bible, Heaven is the sky, the stars, and the place where God dwells "behind the veil"...Jesus says that in the resurrection we will be like the angels (Matthew 22:30). And Daniel 12:3 indicates that Believers will be like the stars. ...

What is Heaven Like?

Heaven is a real place, it's where Jesus is right now, and it's not far away from us...The best part of heaven will be seeing Jesus himself face to face. We will worship the Son of God and celebrate his great victory over sin while the endless ages of eternity roll on and on. ...

What Will Life in Heaven be Like?

As Christians, when you and I die and enter our eternal home, we'll become more alive at that point than at any point during our time on earth. That's what today's passage is talking about… seeing face-to-face what we now only see dimly! ...

Heaven

Homily on Rev 7:9-17.
Everyone who makes it into heaven is there because they have put their faith in the grace of Jesus. Because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. ...

 Chapter 5: The Heaven

Ten Reasons to Believe in Heaven

by Dr. Joe McKeever

"Heaven is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark." - Stephen Hawking

I'm afraid of the dark.

If we're talking about the endless kind of darkness that offers no light anywhere, no hope ever, and nothing but nothingness, who among us would not panic at the thought of that?

I expect people like Mr. Hawking simply find the idea of Heaven too good to be true, and thus conclude that it must be a product of man's delusional yearning for "pie in the sky by and by."

And yet, there are solid reasons for reasonable people to believe in the concept of a Heavenly home after this earthly life. Here are some that mean a lot to me. By no means is this list exhaustive. It's simply my thinking on the subject.

One. Jesus believed in Heaven. In fact, He claimed to be a native.

The Lord said to Nicodemus, "No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, even the Son of Man." (John 3:13). No one knows a place like a native.

Jesus told the dying thief, "Today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43). So, wherever we go when we die, it's a paradise.

True, He left us a thousand unanswered questions on the subject, but what He told us is pure gold. For instance, when He returns, the dead in Christ accompany Him (I Thessalonians 4:14). It appears that our eventual destination is somewhere different from the initial, intermediate place called "Paradise," but we have no trouble leaving the details to Him. After all, we can trust the One who died for us.

Two. Scripture consistently teaches the existence of Heaven.

We must not let people get by with saying the Old Testament knew nothing of Heaven. "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever," said David in everyone's favorite psalm. Or this one: "As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake" (Psalm 17:15).

Job said, "My Redeemer liveth and at last shall stand upon the earth; yet even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall see and not another" (Job 19:25-27).

Neither must we cave to those who say the only way to understand such verses is to get inside the mind of the one who said those words originally, as if what they said is determinative and authoritative. Peter said the prophets said more than they understood and even angels couldn't fathom some of these things. (I Peter 1:12).

Three. I believe in Heaven because I believe in earth.

It's so wonderful. There is nothing else like it in the universe.

Suppose we lived in some distant world and all we knew was the planets we have seen–the barren, rocky planets that are molten in the day and frigid at night, those covered with acidic clouds or endless hurricanes–and if someone told us about earth, with its steadiness, its atmosphere, its lovely scenery and its plant life and the richness of its minerals and a thousand other delights, we would find it hard to believe.

And yet here it is. We are residents of this amazing planet.

We take the earth in stride because it's all we know. But it is truly the gem of the universe.

Four. There has to be a heaven to even up the earthly hell God's most faithful sometimes endure for Jesus' sake.

Those of us who are "carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease," to use Isaac Watts' unforgettable image, have little idea of the price some have paid for their loyalty to Jesus Christ through the centuries. Many live under oppressive regimes in our day, punished for doing nothing more than meeting in someone's living room to worship or giving a friend a Bible. I'm tempted to say "God owes them, big time," but don't want to be presumptuous or blasphemous.

"God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering" is how Hebrews 6:10 puts it. If God were not to reward the faithfulness of the most loyal, it would be sin on His part.

After all, "this momentary light affliction is working for us an exceeding weight of glory far beyond all comparison" says 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Five. Every caterpillar/butterfly testifies to our heavenly future.

Suppose we could inform that caterpillar crawling across a leaf of the glorious future just ahead of him (it?). Would that humble creature believe he (it) would someday have gorgeous wings and flit through the sky? So, why do we have such difficulty believing in the destiny God has planned for and promised to His own?

Six. I believe in Heaven because the alternative is despair.

"I would have despaired had I not believed I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13). This world, by the way, is not the land of the living, but is the land of the dying. The "land of the living" is just over the next ridge, immediately following our final breath here.

Jesus said, "Because I live, you too shall live."

Who among us has not grieved at the thought of never seeing a precious loved one again, as we have left the cemetery. The alternative to faith is despair.

Seven. I believe in Heaven because some of the best people who ever lived believed in Heaven.

Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Corrie ten Boom. Billy Graham. My mama. My grandmother. Marguerite Briscoe. Maybelle Montgomery.

Eight. I believe in Heaven because I believe in hell.

There has to be a hell. Otherwise, the Hitlers and Stalins have pulled a fast one and gotten off scot-free. After slaughtering untold millions, they paid for their misdeeds with their own death? Not hardly. The death of such a pip-squeak could not begin to compensate for the endless multitudes whose deaths they were responsible for. There has to be a hell, otherwise there is no justice in the universe.

And I believe in justice. So I have to believe in Heaven.

Nine. I believe in Heaven because it's a great incentive to responsible living and compassionate everything.

Skeptics will point to the shallow sayings of some believers that for the Heaven-bound this world does not matter, and that improving life on Earth is just so much arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Those who say such are wrong, their thinking unbiblical, their teachings misleading. We have great responsibilities here in this life, and it's not just to get people to (ahem) "pray the sinner's prayer" so they can go to heaven. We were commissioned to make disciples, a far bigger thing.

"The heavens are the heavens of the Lord," says Psalm 115:16, "but the earth He has given to the sons of men." We are stewards of this planet, and thus answerable to Him. I'll go so far as to say those who are working to give the planet clean air and pure water are also doing the work of the Lord in their own way.

Ten. I believe in Heaven because of reasons I'm yet to discover.

There is so much more.

As some have said, we are "hard-wired" to believe in God and likewise in Heaven. I willingly accept that and see it as residue of the creation. The God who made us created us with a longing for Himself and a satisfaction in nothing less.

When we get to Heaven, we will finally be satisfied, but not until then. "I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake" (Psalm 17:15).

"I go to prepare a place for you," said our Lord. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3).

If it were not so, I would have told you.

  • Jesus said that. I believe Him.
  • I choose to believe.

About The Author:

Dr. Joe McKeever says he has written dozens of books, but has published none. That refers to the 1,000+ articles on various subjects (prayer, leadership, church, pastors) that can be found on his website. His articles appear in a number of textbooks and other collections. Retired from "official" ministry since the summer of 2009, Joe stays busy drawing a daily cartoon for Baptist Press, as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, writing for Baptist MenOnline for the North American Mission Board, and preaching/drawing/etc for conventions and churches across America. ...

A Longing for Heaven

by Greg Laurie

I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.
- Philippians 1:23

Have you ever been homesick? Maybe you were in a really beautiful place. But as they say, there's no place like home.

I think I'm becoming more of a homebody as I get older. As you get a little older, you start to like things a certain way. No matter where you are, it's never quite like home.

There's a home waiting for every child of God, a home we all should be homesick for. It's the future destination of all believers, and it's called heaven. And though we have never been to heaven, we still have something God has built within us that gives us this homesickness, this desire to be there.

Have you ever had one of those moments when everything seemed just perfect, as though it came straight out of a movie? Maybe it was an amazing sunset, a perfect star-filled night, or a special moment with someone you love. You thought, "This is so great. I want my entire life to be exactly like this moment."

In a limited sense, you had a glimpse of eternity. You had a taste of what is ahead, something that is perfect, flawless. But you can't experience it on this earth. And until that day, you always will be a little bit homesick for heaven.

I love the way the apostle Paul put it when he wrote, "I'm torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live."
(Philippians 1:23–24).

When Jesus Christ is at the forefront of your life, you can live a life that is rich and full on this earth and know that beyond the grave, there is something better: that wonderful place called heaven.

Copyright © 2017 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

What Is Heaven? An In-Depth Biblical Study

by Gary

Some thoughts I've been stringing together over the Labor Day weekend involve Heaven, the New Jerusalem, the Tabernacle, and the Temples.

In the Old and New Testaments, the Hebrew and Greek etymology of the words that translate to atmosphere, space, and what we commonly, in our language, refer to as "Heaven", are the same. In the Bible, Heaven is the sky, the stars, and the place where God dwells "behind the veil".

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter."
 - 2 Corinthians 12:2-4

This concept of three Heavens is important in the original languages of the Bible, because they needed some way to differentiate between sky, space, and God's unveiled presence. In the Bible, they are all "Heaven", but the difference is the type of Heaven: first, second, and third.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and 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.'"
- Revelation 21:1-4

In Revelation 21 we see that the present first and second heavens (sky and space) will pass away and will be replaced with new first and second heavens (a new sky and space). Alternatively, they may not be replaced all-together, but may be restored after having "passed away" as a result of God burning the Creation with fire (2 Peter 3:10).

Also, the "dwelling place of God" becomes "with man". God is already omnipresent, but this may indicate that the "third heaven" (in the Old Testament, possibly referred to as the "highest heavens"), which is the unveiled presence of God, becomes manifest in the physical new Creation, either everywhere, or in a specific place or places (such as the throne of God in the New Jerusalem or wherever the incarnate Christ is).

My first point is that while we may reside in the third heaven after we die (residing with Christ), this is only temporary. We were designed to reside in the first and second heavens, which is the physical universe.

Jesus says that in the resurrection we will be like the angels (Matthew 22:30). And Daniel 12:3 indicates that Believers will be like the stars. With these two verses in mind, consider these:

"And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." - Deuteronomy 4:19

"He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in." - Isaiah 40:22

These verses seem to indicate that the first and second heavens (sky and space) will be accessible to us in the new Creation. This appears to be part of God's plan and part of the purpose for which God created all that "stuff" out "there" (stars, galaxies, planets, etc). The Heaven we typically envision living in for an eternity with harps, clouds, and golden pews, with a perpetually boring church service, is not the Heaven envisioned in the Bible.

God created THIS universe for us, and it was corrupted because of OUR SIN, and because of this, God placed a curse upon it. Presently there is much in the universe that is hostile to life and inaccessible to us, but in the future, God will remove the curse and undo the corruption. Sin will be no more. The Kingdom of God will be the only government, and its King will be the LORD Jesus Christ. His Kingdom will be everywhere, and we will be able to move freely throughout the Kingdom.

Notice Isaiah 9:7:

"Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."

The Hebrew is quite clear in this verse; part of one of the most famous prophecies in the entire Bible. His government (i.e. the government of the Messiah), will be increasing in perpetuity forevermore. This would seem to bolster the verses and points above, that in the new Creation, His redeemed will be expanding out into the heavens (sky and space). We also know from science that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate, which means the physical universe is becoming exponentially larger in perpetuity. God designed it this way because He designed it "like a tent to live in." We will be exploring and expanding into the Creation that God made.

Next, let's take a look at the capital of this universe-wide kingdom... a place where the incarnate God will be physically residing:

"Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass."
- Revelation 21:9-18

The city that John is describing is a giant cube with edges that are each approximately 1380 miles in length. The walls of the city are described as transparent and made of either jasper or gold. The city comes down out of Heaven, but John does not describe it as resting on the earth. For one thing, the city could not physically rest on a curved earth, it is simply too big. It would only touch the earth in a few places, primarily its center point. It would also crush the earth's crust and cause serious seismic problems worldwide if it actually rested on the earth itself. The city is probably close to the earth, but in orbit... like a moon perhaps.

Now notice what John sees a few verses later:

"And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations." - Revelation 21:22-26

We learn several key things here about New Jerusalem and the new earth.

First, God Himself will be manifest in the city and the incarnate Christ will be the light source. The sun and moon will provide no needed light to the city.

Second, not only is Christ the light source of the city, but He is apparently the light source for the earth below as well. This indicates that not only are the sun and moon not needed, but since the Lamb is the light source for the earth, the sun and moon are probably either permanently darkened or even removed all-together.

It is no accident that the city's walls are described as being as clear as crystal... Jesus is the city's light source and because the walls are clear, His light shines through and brings light upon the earth below. The orbiting city, which is half the volume of the moon and has edges that are two-thirds the length of the diameter of the moon, will serve as the Sun in the new Creation. You could fit more than a dozen Death Stars inside the city! If it had an orbit just slightly closer than the moon, it would appear in the sky to be as big as either the moon or the sun.

What makes this all the more amazing is the Messianic prophecy in Malachi 4, the last chapter in the Old Testament (Apocrypha excluded):

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall." - Malachi 4:1-2

This describes a time, probably at the final judgment (hence the wicked being destroyed in an "oven"), when afterwards the "sun of righteousness shall rise". I believe that God has such incredible foresight and poetic mastery that He knew that the English words for "Son" and "Sun" sound the same. The English Bible is the most printed version in human history. To top this off, in the new Creation, Christ will be literally serving as the "Sun", because He will literally be "the light of the world".

Another incredible foreshadowing is in the descriptions we are given in the Bible of the Holy of Holies, which was present in the Tabernacle and the stone Temples.

The Holy of Holies is also laid foresquare, also has a length, width, and height that are the same, and also is made of gold. The Holy of Holies was to be inlaid with pure gold. And at the center of the Holy of Holies sat the Ark of the Covenant, and on the Ark sat the Mercy Seat, and on the Mercy Seat dwelt the manifest presence of God, referred to as the "Shekinah Glory." Jewish sources indicate that while God was still manifestly present with the Jewish people, the Shekinah was a visible manifestation and light source that hovered over the Ark... similar to Christ who is the visible image of the invisible God and who will be the light source in the future city.

Lastly, of all the shapes that are used to demonstrate the Trinity, such as a triangle, interlocking circles, or the clover-shape, it is actually the cube that is the closest representation. Such a clever representation, in fact, that this may have been one of the reasons God used the cube shape for the Holy of Holies and will use it in the future for New Jerusalem.

Unlike all other shapes, a cube's length, height, and width are all the same and these three constitute a single, unified, indivisible whole space.

Source: Unsealed.org

What is Heaven Like?

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

"Heaven is a place, just as much a place as is New York or Chicago."
Charles Ferguson Ball

Everyone wants to know about heaven and everyone wants to go there. Recent polls suggest that nearly 80% of all Americans believe there is a place called heaven. I find that statistic encouraging because it tells me that even in this skeptical age there is something deep inside the human heart that cries out, "There's got to be something more. Something more than the pain and suffering of this life. Something more than 70 or 80 years on planet earth. Something more than being born, living, dying, and then being buried in the ground. Sometimes we talk about a "God-shaped vacuum" inside the human heart. I believe there is also a "heaven-shaped vacuum," a sense that we were made for something more than this life. We were made to live forever somewhere. In a real sense we were made for heaven.

There is another fascinating statistic I should mention. Not only do most Americans believe in heaven, most people expect to go there when they die. If you took a microphone to the streets of Chicago and asked, "Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?" the vast majority of people would answer, "I hope so," or "I think so," or perhaps "I think I've got a good chance. Not very many people would say they aren't going to heaven. Perhaps one modest point is in order. Whenever you talk about living forever somewhere, it would help to know for sure where you are going. After all, if you're wrong about heaven, you're going to be wrong for a long, long time.

With that as background, I turn now to consider some of the most frequently-asked questions about heaven. But before I jump in, I should make one preliminary point. The only things we can know for certain about heaven are the things revealed in the Bible. Everything else is just speculation and hearsay. The Bible tells us everything we need to know and I believe it also tells us everything we can know for certain about heaven.

I. Where is heaven?

There are three things I can tell you in answer to this question. The most important fact is that heaven is a real place. Listen to the words of Jesus on the night before he was crucified:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
(John 14:1-3).

Twice in three verses Jesus calls heaven a place. He means that heaven ("my Father's house") is a real place, as real as New York, London or Chicago. The place called heaven is just as real as the place you call home. It's a real place filled with real people, which is why the Bible sometimes compares heaven to a mansion with many rooms (John 14:1-3) and sometimes to an enormous city teeming with people (Revelation 21).

The Bible also tells us that heaven is the dwelling place of God. His throne is there, the angels are there, and the Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 says very plainly that "our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." That's why Jesus told the thief on the Cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

Third (and I find this fact fascinating), the Bible hints that heaven is not as far away as we might think. Because heaven is a real place, we sometimes think it must be outside our present universe - which would mean that it is billions and billions of light years away. However, it's very clear that the early Christians understood that they would pass immediately from this life into the presence of Christ in heaven. How can that be possible if heaven is beyond the farthest galaxy? Hebrews 12:22-24 tells us something amazing about what the gospel has done for us:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The writer is here comparing Mt. Sinai with Mt. Zion. Under the old covenant no one could come near God except under very strict conditions. That's why the mountain shook with thunder and lightning. [Note: three times the writer of Hebrews uses a Greek word that means "to come near" or "to approach closely.] But now in Christ we have been brought near to heavenly realities. Think of what he is saying:

We're not that far from heaven.
We're not that far from the angels.
We're not that far from our loved ones in heaven.
We're not that far from God.
We're not that far from Jesus himself.

Heaven is a real place, it's where Jesus is right now, and it's not far away from us.

II. What is heaven like?

This question came from one of our junior high students. I would answer by saying that the Bible doesn't give us a great deal of information. What we have are images and pictures of heaven and comparisons with life on earth.

What is heaven like? Here are some biblical facts about heaven. It is …

God's dwelling place (Psalms 33:13).
Where Christ is today (Acts 1:11).
Where Christians go when they die (Philippians 1:21-23).
The Father's house (John 14:2).
A city designed and built by God (Hebrews 11:10).
A better country (Hebrews 11:16).
Paradise (Luke 23:43).

Most of us have heard that heaven is a place where the streets are paved with gold, the gates are made of pearl, and the walls made of precious jewels. Those images come from Revelation 21, which offers us the most extended picture of heaven in the entire Bible. If you ask me if I believe those things are literally true, the answer is yes and no. Yes, they are literally true but no, heaven won't be anything like we imagine. It will be much greater.

Here's a delightful legend that makes the point very well:

I love the old story of the rich man who, on his death bed, negotiated with God to allow him to bring his earthly treasures with him when he came to heaven. God's reaction was that this was a most unusual request, but since this man had been exceptionally faithful, permission was granted to bring along just one suitcase. The time arrived, the man presented himself at the pearly gates, suitcase in hand- BOTH hands, actually, since he had stuffed it with as many bars of gold bullion as would fit. St. Peter said, "Sorry, you know the rules-you can't take it with you." But the man protested, "God said I could … one suitcase." St. Peter checked, found out that this one would be an exception, prepared to let the man enter, then said, "OK, but I will have to examine the contents before you pass." He took the suitcase, opened it, saw the gold bars and asked quizzically, "You brought PAVEMENT?"
[Note: This story is from the sermon "Heaven" by Dr. David Leininger, March 30, 1997]

When John writes about a street paved with gold, I do not doubt his words. He simply reports what he saw in his vision. Thus his words are literally true. They are also meant to tell us that the things we value so highly in this life will be used to pave the roads in heaven.

III. Who is in heaven right now?

This question is not difficult to answer. God is in heaven because heaven is his dwelling place. The Lord Jesus has been in heaven ever since he ascended from the earth shortly after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). The Bible tells us that angels are in heaven. In fact there are myriads of angels-uncountable numbers of heavenly beings-all of them serving the Lord in various ways.

And the saints of God who died on this earth are in heaven. [Note: I mean by this that heaven includes the Old Testament Saints who by faith trusted in God's Word and looked forward to God's redemption at Calvary (which they did not fully understand). It also includes every true believer from every continent and every denomination. Everyone who has genuinely trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior will be there. I also think that children who died before the "age of accountability go to heaven and I would also include those born with such mental limitations that they cannot understand the gospel.] The Bible teaches that the moment we die we go directly into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 5:7-8 and Philippians 1:21-23.

But I do not want to be ambiguous on this point. Not everyone is in heaven now. Some people won't make it. The Bible speaks of the saved and the lost. The saved are those who trust Jesus Christ as their eternal Savior. The lost are those who do not trust Christ as Savior. This is the great dividing line of humanity-you are either saved or you are lost. And there is no middle category. You will either spend eternity in heaven or eternity in hell.

Last night a man I do not know called me to talk about the moral crisis currently engulfing our community. "You're on record," he said, "as saying you don't believe that people who disagree with you will go to hell." "That's right," I replied. "My job is not to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. That's God's job. I'm in sales, not administration."

I simply want you to know what God has said about heaven and who will go there. The saved of all the ages will be there - and that vast throng will no doubt include many people who would surprise us if we knew it now. Certainly heaven will be more wonderful than our imagination and it's population more diverse than we expect.

But I am sure of this one truth. No one will go to heaven except by the grace of God and through the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ. If a man says "No" to Jesus, he has no hope of heaven.

IV. Will we know each other in heaven?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about heaven. I would like to share an answer given by a Bible teacher of another generation - a man named William Pettingill. [Note: see the book 1001 Bible Questions Answered, William Pettingill and R.A. Torrey, Inspirational Press, 1997, p. 157. This is a reprint in one volume of two books first published many years ago. I highly recommend it as a handy reference tool for Bible students and Sunday School teachers.] He said, "We may be sure that we shall not know less in heaven than we know here." In proof he quotes 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." How does God know us? Answer: He knows us completely, intimately, thoroughly, inside and out, with nothing hidden but everything seen as it really is (Psalms 139:1-4; Hebrews 4:12). When we get to heaven we'll know each other as God knows us because all the imperfections of this life will be removed. In this life sin causes us to cover ourselves-not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. But when sin is finally lifted from us, then we can be ourselves with no shame, no pain, no embarrassment, and no covering up. Dr. Pettingill concludes that in heaven we will know every person in heaven and all of them will be friends and loved ones to us.

In his very helpful book on heaven, W.A. Criswell makes the additional point that individual personality survives into eternity. I'll be the same person then that I am now-only with all the imperfections and limitations of sin finally removed. This is a wonderful thought-that the essence of who we are will remain throughout eternity-yet vastly improved by God's grace. [Note: W.A. Criswell and Paige Patterson, Heaven, Tyndale House Publishers, 1991, pp. 33-38. He also says that in heaven we can eat all we want and not get fat. I certainly hope he's right about that.]

That helps me think about a related question that people sometimes ask: How old will we be in heaven? I once heard a preacher say that we will all be 33 years old because that's approximately how old Jesus was when he died. Of course there is no scriptural support for that statement. The truth is, there won't be any age in heaven in the sense we speak of age on the earth. Growing old is a function of the decaying effects of sin. I do not believe that babies who die in infancy will be babies for eternity nor do I believe that people who waste away of cancer will appear emaciated in heaven. It will be something else entirely - which I can barely explain and certainly do not understand.

In heaven we will know each other intimately. That's why Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they had been dead for hundreds of years, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). I don't think they had nametags on. I think there was something about those two men that made Peter, James and John recognize them even though they had never seen them before.

That's why a wife whose husband died when she was young will be able to pick her husband out of a crowd of billions of people, even though she hasn't seen him for 50 years since he died on the earth. In heaven she will say, "Sweetheart! I knew it was you." And he will know her.

How this can be I do not know, but I believe it to be true. In heaven there will be no strangers.

V. What will we do in heaven?

One of our more honest junior highers put the question this way: "Worshipping God forever in heaven sounds boring - is it wrong to feel this? Is heaven going to be fun?" Again, the Bible doesn't tell us everything we would like to know, but of this we can be sure: Heaven won't be boring and it will be more fun than the best party you ever attended.

So what will we do for all eternity? The answer is, we're going to help God run the universe. Do you remember the story Jesus told about the man of noble birth who gave his servants money to invest? One servant had doubled his money so the man said, "You will rule over ten cities." The next servant had seen a 50% increase so his master said, "Rule over five cities." And the man who hid his money had even that amount taken from him in punishment (Luke 19:11-27). The story is a picture of what heaven will be like. We will use our gifts to administer the new heaven and the new earth. Bakers will bake, teachers will teach, singers will sing, and I suppose that preachers will preach. For all I know, soldiers may march off to battle and quarterbacks will throw passes. Think of the flowers the botanists will study. Gifted astronomers will go from galaxy to galaxy studying the wonders of God's creation.

I can guarantee you this: No one will be sitting around on a cloud eating grapes and polishing his halo. No, we'll all be too busy for that.

Here are five things that will occupy us in heaven. We will …

Worship without distraction.
Serve without exhaustion.
Fellowship without fear.
Learn without fatigue.
Rest without boredom.

[Note: this is not original with me. I found this list in a sermon by David Burns, Minister at the Homer Church of Christ, called "Heaven is a Wonderful Place," February 25, 1996.]

The best part of heaven will be seeing Jesus himself face to face. We will worship the Son of God and celebrate his great victory over sin while the endless ages of eternity roll on and on. The best music you've ever heard will pale compared to the music of heaven. The most awesome worship you've experienced on earth is but a dim reflection of the praise we will render around the throne of God.

VI. How can I be sure I am going to heaven?

This is the most important question of all. Here is a wonderful truth: God has made it easy for you to go to heaven. He did the hard part when he sent his Son to die on the Cross for you. He paid the price for your sins so that you could one day stand before God in heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). He also said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved" (John 10:9, NASB). Jesus is not only the way to heaven, he is also the door to heaven. If you want to go to heaven, you've got to go through the door marked "Jesus Christ." There is no other entrance.

Several years ago Dr. D. James Kennedy, pastor of the famous Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL, joined other evangelical leaders in a meeting with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. During the meeting Dr. Kennedy asked the president this question, "Suppose you were to die and found yourself standing at the door of heaven. If God were to say, 'Why should I let you into heaven?' what answer would you give?"

Before I tell you how the president answered that question, let me ask how you would respond. Picture the scene. You are standing at the very gates of heaven. It's more beautiful than you ever dreamed possible. This is where you want to spend eternity. This is where you belong. But before you enter, the Lord himself asks what possible reason you have to claim admission. You pause, knowing that all eternity hangs on your answer. What will you say?

Back to the White House. The President paused, thought for a moment, then replied, "Well, I guess I'd have to answer with John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." That is indeed a good answer because your only hope of heaven is through the Lord Jesus Christ. [Note: I have heard this story from several sources and was reminded of it by something Paige Patterson wrote in his introduction to the book he co-authored with Dr. Criswell.]

Let me make this very personal. If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you would go to heaven? I've already said that this is too important to say "I think so" or "I hope so." If you're wrong, you're going to be wrong for a long, long time.

What we need is solid ground on which to stand. And we have it in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our entire hope of heaven is wrapped up in what Jesus did when he died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning. [Note: Charles Ferguson Ball, Heaven, Victor Books, 1980. Dr. Ball served for 30 years as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of River Forest, IL. This little book is a wonderful compilation of truth about heaven. His last chapter - "What is your hope of heaven?" - is a wonderful presentation of the gospel.]

One of our most beloved hymns puts it this way:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

That says it all. If you want to go to heaven, you must base your hope on the solid rock of Jesus' blood and righteousness. Are you standing on the Rock this morning? Are you wholly leaning on Jesus' name?

One final word and I am done. No one goes to heaven by accident. Heaven is God's prepared place for prepared people. We prepare for heaven and then God prepares heaven for us. I've already told you that most people believe in heaven and most people think they are going there. But are they on the right road? Are they building their lives on Jesus Christ-the solid rock? Too many, I fear, are standing on sinking sand and do not know it.

What is your hope for heaven? Mine is Jesus Christ. I've staked everything I have on him. If he can't take me to heaven, then I'm not going there. What about you? When the dark night falls, the lights go out, and the waters of death swirl around you, what will happen to you then? If you know Jesus, you have nothing to fear. Put your trust in Jesus. Run to the Cross. Stand with your full weight on the Solid Rock of our salvation. May God help you to trust in Jesus Christ and him alone for your salvation. And may God grant that we will all meet one day in heaven.

Safe at home. In heaven at last. I'll be there. What about you?

Source: Keep Believing Ministries

What Will Life in Heaven be Like?

by Dr. Jack Graham

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12

I'm often asked, "Pastor, will we know one another in heaven?" And my answer is always the same… certainly, we'll know one another in heaven! Do you think you'll have less sense in heaven than you have here on earth? We know one another here; and there we'll know fully and be fully known!

D.L. Moody, the great evangelist, was once quoted as saying, "One day they're going to put in my obituary that D. L. Moody is dead." He said, "Don't you believe it… for I will be more alive than ever before!"

As Christians, when you and I die and enter our eternal home, we'll become more alive at that point than at any point during our time on earth. That's what today's passage is talking about… seeing face-to-face what we now only see dimly!

The Scripture promises you and I that in this world, there will be trouble (John 16:33). Yet because Jesus has overcome the world, we cling to the hope of a better life to come. So as you go about your life, take heart that an abundant life is to come if you're in Christ. And if you haven't placed your faith in Him, trust Him as your way to heaven and discover what it really means to live fully!

HEAVEN WILL BE THE PLACE WHERE YOU'LL DISCOVER WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO FULLY LIVE. SO AS YOU LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR HEAVENLY HOME, TAKE HEART THAT A BETTER LIFE IS YET TO COME!

Source: Powerpoint Devotional

Heaven

by Sigurd Grindheim

Homily on Rev 7:9-17

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 'Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,' nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center before the throne will be their shepherd; 'he will lead them to springs of living water.' 'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'"
- Rev 7:9-17

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is where it describes heaven and the joy in the presence of the Lord. Where nothing separates us from the love of our heavenly father.

We probably all know what it is like to be a little kid that is hurt for some reason and that comes crying to Mom or Dad, jumps up on their lap, only to have Mom or Dad wipe the tears away. The reason for crying is soon forgotten in the presence of the love and care of Mom or Dad.

This is the image that is painted for us about heaven. God himself, the almighty, loving father picks us up and sets us on his lap and wipes away our tears. He smiles at us and our sorrows no longer exist.

Who are these people that belong to this great crowd that stand before God and that are being taking care of by our heavenly father himself and that enjoy his loving care day and night?

It is said that they are the ones that have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. This is the image that inspired the Norwegian hymn writer to sing about the host arrayed in white, like thousand snow clad mountains bright. Those that make it to heaven are those in white robes. White robes is a symbol of purity and of a pure heart. There is no impurity in these people.

But notice that the Bible does not say that these people have kept their clothes white all the time. It does not say that they never had gotten dirty. Rather, they have had their robes washed. That is why they are white. That means that they have not been clean and white all the time. They had gotten dirty. The people that make it into heaven are not the ones that have kept themselves from messing up. They are the ones that have been washed. That is why they are white.

Personally, I have to say that this is my only hope. Because I mess up a lot, and I am getting dirty all the time. But in Jesus Christ I am washed clean all the time. No one who makes it into heaven is good enough to be there.

Consider what kind of people they were, the great persons that we read about in the Bible. There is David, the great king of Israel. He was an adulterer. And later, when his adultery was about to be disclosed, he became a murderer, to cover it up. Consider the great apostle Paul. He was an accessory to murder. When the mob stoned the deacon Stephen to death, Paul stood by and watched and gave his assent to what they did. Consider the apostle Peter. He was a traitor. At the most crucial moment in Jesus' life, Peter denied that he had ever known him. These are the kinds of people that are giants in heaven. Adulterers, murderers, and traitors.

Why is that? Because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of Jesus. Their robes are not white because they had kept them clean. They had gotten dirty. Very dirty. But they were washed in the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb in the Book of Revelation is Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins. In everyday language we use the term scapegoat. That means someone who has to take the blame, usually someone who really has done nothing or very little wrong, but who is made to take the blame for others. Jesus Christ is the perfect scapegoat. He never did anything wrong. But he took the blame for all of us. And he died for all of our sins. This way he takes our guilt upon himself and washes our guilt away, so that our robes can be pure and white.

Everyone who makes it into heaven is there because they have put their faith in the grace of Jesus. Because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

© Sigurd Grindheim

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