There is a very important question many people spend a lot of time thinking about and many other people try hard to avoid thinking about. What happens when we die? Three score years, and then – what? The only way we can really know the answer to that question would be if somebody came back from the dead to tell us. So the only person in history we can trust for the answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus died on the cross but three days later God raised Him from the dead. And Jesus Christ has revealed to us the truth about life after death, the glorious hope of heaven which Christians share and which everybody can discover for themselves in the Bible. So how do we get to heaven?
A couple of weeks ago we read the shortest verse in the whole Bible, “Jesus wept.” We saw that as the perfect human being, Jesus shows us how to weep and mourn which is just what our reaction to death should be. And as the Son of God, Jesus Christ shows us that God understands our sadness and pain and indeed God mourns with us in our grief. On that morning I decided not to talk about the comfort which our wonderful hope of heaven gives to us, because I was saving that message for this morning. We may be experiencing grief and bereavement. We all face the prospect of death: of losing loved ones. In time we must all come to terms with the reality of our own mortality. And in the first six verses of John 14 we read some wonderful promises Jesus makes which give us comfort in our grief and hope for our future. Hear these words of Jesus this morning.
John 14:1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
Whatever might be worrying or troubling us, we put our trust in God and we can put our trust in Jesus. But especially as we face sadness and grief and weeping and mourning, Jesus says this.
2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
Jesus is preparing a place for us – a special place ready for each one of us. The secondary school I went to organized a number of camping holidays. Each Whitsuntide I went to the Borrowdale Camp where we walked the hills and climbed the mountains of the Lake District. A hundred and twenty of us would jump off the coaches and walk along the valley beside Stonethwaite Beck to find the tents all set up ready for us and a hot meal waiting. Then when I was in the sixth form I discovered how everything was prepared. I was part of the Advance Party and we went up three days earlier. Half a dozen of us put up all the tents. We put up the marquee. We dug the holes in the field for the toilets and set up the cooking tents and the stoves and cooked the meals. The Advance Party got everything ready.
Jesus Himself is the Advance Party of heaven – preparing a very special place for each one of us. Jesus has prepared the way for us. He has gone before us. Hebrews 6:20 describes Jesus as our “forerunner.”
Hebrews 6 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus is the forerunner – the one who prepares the way. The same word is used of the pilot boat which would lead the great merchant ships into safe harbour. It was also the word for the reconnaissance troops who would blaze the trail for the army to follow in their steps. Jesus is our forerunner – who has prepared the way for us into heaven. Jesus goes on,
“My Father’s house has many rooms”, many dwelling places,
The word which the NIV translates as “room” here only appears in one other place in the new Testament, later in John 14:23. And there most Bible versions translate the word as “home.”
John 14 23 Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
My Father’s house has many homes. It is interesting that some work to keep that idea of “home” in John 14:2 as well.
Message There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready,
We have a home in the Father’s house! What does “home” mean to you? Comfort? Peace? Tranquillity? Safety? Security? Home, sweet home. There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is. After a hard day or a long journey there is nothing like the wonderful feeling of arriving home. After setting up and taking down a marquee and thirty tents and digging pits and in between walking between 10 and 20 miles a day and climbing Scafell Pike and Helvellyn and the Langdales and a handful of smaller hills and only having the cold water of Stonethwaite Beck to wash in and a thin plastic groundsheet to sleep on, it was such a marvellous experience just to get back home to a hot shower and a soft comfortable bed again! Somebody has said, “Home is not a place – it’s a feeling.” And we each have a home waiting for us in the Father’s house.
I remember Nell who was the mother of our organist in Borehamwood. When she was 92 Nell was in hospital and in the end I was beside her bed when she died. The nurses told me, “She’s been saying all day, ‘I want to go home.’ Can you explain to her that she needs to stay in hospital? She is too sick to go home.” I explained to the nurses. “When Nell says she wants to go home she doesn’t mean she wants to go back to her house. Nell is saying that she is ready and longing to go to her eternal home in heaven.” Home, sweet home. Comfort. Peace. Tranquillity. Safety. Security. Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a wonderful eternal home for us in heaven. So in some churches when somebody dies, they simply announce “she has been called home.” A home prepared for us.
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.
Message. And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.
Here is our Christian hope, our happy certainty of heaven. The Bible gives us different pictures of heaven. It will be like a city, a place of community. It will be like a party, a celebration. It will be a place of continual glorious worship. But the most important thing and the biggest difference between life in this world is that we will be in the very presence of Jesus. You will be where I am!
1 Corinthians 13:12 says, 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.
Seeing Jesus face to face. Jim Packer wrote, “We know very little about heaven, but a theologian once described it as ‘an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant.’”
I’ve quoted these words of Richard Baxter before.
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.
We will be with the Lord forever more. We will be with Jesus! Last week I was talking with another minister about the joys of being grandparents. He sees his toddler granddaughter most days and he was telling me how she comes to the door of his study. Knock knock. “Grandad, let me in.” “Grandad’s working.” Knock knock knock knock. “Grandad, let me in.” “Grandad’s working.” Knock knock knock knock. You can guess how the story ends.
Grandchildren love to be with their grandparents. Even more children love to be with their parents. To talk. To cuddle. To do jobs together. Just to be together. How much more wonderful still will it be for us to be in the presence of God, to spend eternity with God our glorious heavenly Father and Jesus our wonderful Saviour.
Revelation 22:3-5 gives us this marvellous picture of heaven.
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.
Being forever with the Lord and seeing God face to face. This is our glorious Christian hope – our happy certainty, our inheritance.
Jesus has prepared a wonderful home for us with Him in Heaven. And He has also promised to take us there to be with Him.
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.
Jesus had already said this in John 12 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Just before the words we are looking at today, at the end of John 13 Jesus made an amazing promise to Peter and to all His disciples. “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (John 13:36) Jesus will take us to where He has gone, to be with Him forever!
Where I am, my servant will also be. Jesus will make where He is going even clearer in John 16:5 “Now I am going to him who sent me.”
So Jesus is going to the Father and He will return to take us to be with the Father too. But how can we get there? This is the question human beings have asked for millennia. How can we reach God? How can we get to heaven? As we look beyond this mortal life into eternity we all face prospect of death. Death is the ultimate statistic – 1 out of 1 die. But what will come after death? Three score years and THEN – WHAT?
4 You know the way to the place where I am going.’
5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Here is the answer Jesus gave.
6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
What Jesus was saying is this. “The Father is where I am going, and I am how you will get there.”
I am the way, Jesus said. To find our way around our land and our world we had signposts and then we had maps. Nowadays we also have satellite navigation systems. But there are still parts of the world where the only way to find your way through the jungle and the dead ends is to have a guide who knows the way. Somebody at home in the neighbourhood who has been that way before. Jesus knows the way to the place he has prepared for us because He has been there. Jesus is the way. We live in a world which has lost its way. A world which says that all ways lead to God – you pays your money and you takes your choice. But Jesus Christ says “I am the way” THE way, the one and only way. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
I am the truth. Jesus said, You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus reveals the truth about heaven because He is the man from heaven. At the same time Jesus reveals the truth about God because He Himself is God. Jesus is the truth. We live in a world which has abandoned the idea of absolute truth. We each have our own truth, people say, it’s all relative and one person’s truth is as good as any other! But Jesus Christ says “I am the truth” THE Truth, the one and only ultimate truth!. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
I am the life, Jesus said. Jesus the creator is the source of all life. Jesus the Saviour is the source of new birth and new life, abundant life, life in all its fulness, eternal life which not even death can take away. Jesus is the life, the resurrection and the life. We live in a world where people are looking for the meaning of life in all the wrong places. And Jesus Christ says “I am the life” – THE life – the one and only way to find life in all its fullness.
And Jesus said this. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the only way to God. This is what the first Christians believed and this is what they preached. Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the way and the truth and the life – the only way to God. He has opened the way to heaven. He has prepared a place for us – our eternal home. This is not wishful thinking. This is not just pie in the sky when you die. This reality is the happy certainty of our Christian hope. And this promise is for every person who puts their trust in Jesus Christ who died and rose again; Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
So we should be looking forward to heaven and setting our hearts on heaven.
Colossians 3: 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 put is this way. “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 place prepared for us. A home in heaven where we will be with the Lord forever. Let us all “bathe ourselves in heaven’s delights!”
2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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.