Put your hand up if you are looking forward to going to heaven.
Keep you hand up if you are ready to go to heaven tonight!
Philippians 1:21 ¶ For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Life is too easy for us if we do not agree with Paul that going to heaven to be with Christ will be better by far. Heaven will be more wonderful than we can begin to imagine!
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Pictures of Heaven
“Where God is” – heaven is being WITH the Lord!
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 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.
We know very little about heaven, somebody once described it as “an unknown region with a well-know inhabitant,” Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:
Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet, Thy blessed face to see;
For if thy work on earth be sweet, What will thy glory be!
My knowledge of that life is small, The eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all, And I shall be with him.
2 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. 3 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.
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
I don’t know what it is about heaven that YOU are most looking forward to. But it should be the fact that we will be WITH Jesus in his glory.
Heaven is a Community – the celestial city
1 ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new
Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
We will be with God, God will be with us, AND we will be with each other.
“Heaven is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God”. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430)
1 ¶ Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great
street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the
Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They
will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
A Celebration – a great banquet
15 ¶ When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:9 – the best party you’ve ever been to!
6 ¶ On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
Heaven will be filled with Worship
9 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. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing round the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
1 ¶ After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments. … 4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” 5 ¶ Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Becoming like Christ – In our Resurrection Life we will become like Christ
1 Corinthians 15:35-57
45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
This is our glorious Christian hope
1 Peter 1:3-5
3 ¶ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
but this hope is only for Christians
Revelation 21:6 (and Paul says the same in Galatians 5:19f;)
7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars- their place will be in
the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:26 The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out
demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
A few questions people have asked about heaven:-
What happens before we get there?
Resurrection or Immortality? The Intermediate State?
Is the soul of man naturally and of itself immortal, or is there life after death only through resurrection which depends on a specific act by God? Our bodies will be raised to life when Christ returns (1 Cor 15). But do our spirits live on with God until then? The idea of an immortal soul as a “something” separate from our mortal bodies is not necessarily a Hebrew idea. The emphasis in the Bible is on resurrection of the whole person, not souls waiting around for resurrection bodies. This leads to another question.
Do believers go straight to heaven when they die, or must they wait for the resurrection of the dead at the Return of Christ? We must remember that life “after” death is not simply some chronological continuation of this life. Heaven is life in the presence of God and in His eternal Kingdom. Like God Himself, “eternal” life is not only everlasting but also more importantly outside all time as we know it. From the perspective of people who are still alive, it might appear that the body of a dead person is “asleep” and awaiting Christ’s Return (John 11:11; 1 Thess 4:18). But Jesus promised the repentant thief on the next cross “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. So the believer can be said to enter the presence of Christ immediately at death (Luke 23:43). We will not need to wait around “in limbo”. Christians who have died are already with Him.
What about families?
We will recognise each other in heaven, and family identity may continue, but the exclusive (and sexual) aspect of marriage will be a thing of the past in God’s new world where all relationships will be much deeper and more satisfying. (See Mark 12:24-27, “The dead will rise like angels”.) Those who long for heaven simply in order to be reunited with a loved one are really missing the point. Heaven will be the fulfilment of our relationship with Christ, not with other men and women.
What about children?
As Baptists we believe that baptism is only meaningful for believers who personally repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ as Saviour. We reject any idea of “baptismal regeneration”, that a tiny baby can move from death to life and become a member of the church just through infant baptism. But what then happens to babies and little children who die before they are old enough to believe for themselves?
The Bible teaches us that God knows us completely from the womb (Psalm 139:14-16). Jesus unconditionally welcomed little children (Mark 10:13-16). These passages give us great hope that God in his mercy will accept little ones until they are old enough to know Christ as Saviour personally.
So how should we live? “Set your hearts on things above …” (Colossians 3:1-4)
1 ¶ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote:
“Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant contemplation?…Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself in heaven’s delights.”
A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. CSLewis