Imagine moving to a new country where there was no anxiety, no concerns about tomorrow, no dread of disease or the eventual loss of those you love. There were no tears, perfect beauty and perpetual peace. No, I am not talking about moving to France or New Zealand or even the perfect town in Vermont. Dream with me for the few minutes about our ultimate destiny as believers: Heaven, the only perfect place in universe… that incredible world He has prepared for you and me.
Revelation 21:4-8 ‘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.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Are you going to heaven one day? Do you want to go? And if you are, are you living like you were heaven bound? What does a true disciple of Jesus or a person headed to heaven live like? Well, they don’t wear a police uniform and kill a man begging to breathe like we saw this past week in Minneapolis. And they don’t live the folks that are rioting and destroying other people’s property in major cities across America, as we’ve seen the past few days—-that’s not heaven. No disciple of Jesus Christ ignores the rules like many people have been over the past few days. No, what we are witnessing are folks that don’t believe in order or fairness. They reject society itself. A disciple of Jesus Christ, a future citizen of the Kingdom of God, uses self control and obeys the laws of the land. We’ve seen the murder, recently, of a black man in Minneapolis. The policeman involved, has been charged with murder—-and he should be. What he did was reprehensible and he deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail. But people like this officer and those that are burning, looting, pillaging and destroying the lives of innocent families, represent the antithesis of the Christian community and the Kingdom of God. “For them, reason and due process and precedent means nothing , and they use violence to get what they want immediately without consideration to who is being harmed. (Disciples of Jesus and heaven’s citizens don’t live that way! Followers of Christ understand that work as a good thing!) But there are many in this country that don’t bother to work and they don’t volunteer or pay taxes to help other people. They live for themselves. They do exactly what they feel like doing. They say exactly what they feel like saying. They spray paint their opinions on some else’s buildings and shout you down if you offer a different opinion” (Tucker Carlson).
Actually, the idea of working on this earth, let alone in heaven, is foreign to many people. Yet scripture clearly teaches it. When God created Adam, he "took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15). Work was part of the original Eden. It was part of a perfect human life. God Himself is still working. He didn't create the world and then retire. Jesus said, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working" (John 5:17). Jesus found great satisfaction in His work and so should we and our children! If we aren’t teaching our kids to work we are failing to live as godly parents. "‘My food,' Jesus said, ‘is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work'" (John 4:34).
One thing about heaven you can be sure of, it will not be a place to retire and watch TV! We’ll have work to do, satisfying and enriching work that we can't wait to get back to; work that'll never be drudgery. God serves as the example to all people, and as His image-bearers, we're made to work. We create, accomplish, set goals and fulfill them—to God's glory and to fulfill our purpose to be creative like our Father is!
But what is heaven? It’s not simply some place “up” in the sky. It is on a different dimension, beyond our comprehension and I believe that when we get there we will realize that heaven is reality and this life was more like a dream or illusion. Some folks deny it, but heaven really is a physical place—but bigger, bolder, brighter than this planet and of indestructible components. No decay or disease or aging. And in describing what our appearance, Jesus said that we would be like angels…and that’s not to say we t become angels.(2 Corinthians 5:8). Our appearance, eternal structure and ability to do profound things will be like the angels, and yet it appears we will be, in the celestial hierarchy, higher than angels, but of a similar, eternal substance. He created us to be dimensional creatures that love form, symmetry, color, balance, beauty—-those things that we can perceive with our eyes. He said on more than once in scripture, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has entered the mind of man the things that God has prepared for those that love Him.”
What will we look like? Well, as we do now—-but perfected and dazzling. Consider the description of God’s messengers—the angels—brilliant, splendid, youthful. Or the resurrected body of Jesus—physical, yet able to pass through doors or vanish and then appear elsewhere.
Why this message about heaven today? Because it’s the kind of a message I never heard as a young person! I needed to know not only what I was being saved from, but also what I was being saved for. No preacher ever gave me an answer! All I ever was able to imagine was that heaven would be a place of harps and bowing down before God and saying “holy, holy, holy”—not a good analogy for a boy. I recall thinking, “Well I wonder what hell is going to be like, because heaven does not sound like much fun.”
So what’s our eternal home like? Well, it will be like mansion custom built for us, and I believe that once we get there we will realize we’ve known about it all along. I have had recurring dreams for years and years about a second home that I’ve been working on. And in each dream the house is getting closer to being finished, but not quite. In the past two dreams I had this second home that was now complete—and it was glorious, but some ladies were asking me about which paintings I wanted on which walls and which books on which shelf,etc. It was all being prepared for me. I did not want to wake up….and one day I won’t.
Heaven is s a place of peace, rest, and unimaginable beauty; streets of gold, never before seen colors, and although it’s not indicated in scripture, those with near death experiences talk about seeing animals being in heaven. In heaven we will be who we are—-but free from sin. We will still experience emotions. To be like God means to have and express emotions. We should expect that in heaven emotions will exist for God's glory and our good. We're told of banquets, feasts and singing. People will laugh there (Luke 6:21). And we will recognize one another.
Paul anticipated being with the Thessalonians in heaven, and it never occurred to him he wouldn't know them. In fact, if we wouldn't know our loved ones, the comfort of an afterlife reunion, taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, would be no comfort at all.
It is the garden of Eden before the fall of mankind—but perfect, infinitely more expanded and free from any opportunity or temptation to sin or err again. Think about it:Before Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their lives were carefree and full of nothing but pleasure and basking in God’s good favor. You and I can’t enjoy the life they had. We have temptations all around us, and we have to think before we speak, and carefully consider all that we do in life—there’s danger everywhere. I am not free to live life as He originally intended because I have knowledge of how to do good and how to do evil. But not in heaven! Temptation is gone, and I will remember evil no more. We won't be tempted. What would tempt us? Innocence is the absence of something (sin), while righteousness is the presence of something (God's holiness). God will never withdraw His holiness from us; therefore, in heaven we cannot sin. We'll never be deceived into thinking God is withholding something good from us or that sin is in our best interests. We'll see sin as God does. It will be stripped of its illusions and will be utterly unappealing.
But if someone we love is in hell, won't that bring sadness to our hearts? In heaven we'll see clearly that God revealed Himself to each person and that He gave opportunity for each heart or conscience to seek and respond to Him (Romans 1:18-2:16). In heaven, we'll embrace God's holiness and justice. God will be our source of joy. We will clearly understand just how much God tried to bring the person we loved to heaven and just how stubbornly they rejected Him..
The closer I get to God, and the more I am drawn into the spiritual realm of what He created me to be, and what I want to be. One man once said that “If I find myself with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation for that is that I was made for another world.” (CS. Lewis). You can sure that in heaven we won't miss our old lives. We will finally be at the place we belong—-the place we’ve been “remembering” our entire lives. We never tire, never get bored and never have to “choose” between right and wrong—-there’s no longer that temptation and we will forget the old ways of sin—there’s nothing there to remind us of it. The God who made you and me, our Father, knows the true delights of our hearts—-He wired us to be curious, to appreciate beauty and calm evenings.
What excites me about heaven is what I know, first hand, about God. He knows me, has placed in my heart dreams and hopes. He knows what makes me tick and what delights my soul. If I, wretched and flawed father that I am, am still able to make my children happy on their birthdays, with new pets and with little surprises, imagine what the original and first Father, God Almighty, has prepared for me! There’s nothing noble or kindhearted or celebratory God will not do for those of us who have said, “I trust you, love you, and choose to spend eternity with you.”
The one who created us knows what our hearts desire and He is more than able to give us a good gift and to reward His sons and daughters one day—-so let’s get ready! "If we knew as much about heaven as God does, we would clap our hands every time a Christian dies." (George MacDonald)
That’s why we need to talk about heaven. We’re all going to die and we’re all going to grieve the parting of folks we love before it’s our time to go. But we can get excited about an eternal place of peace and rest, yes, but a place of laughter, joy, a grand reunion, and being in the eternal presence of God. We will never have reason to anxious or have a tear again in our eye again—unless its tears of joy or unbridled laughter.
This is happening right now in America. What’s being seen is not a racial or cultural divide, but spiritual bankruptcy in our larger cities. Sin robs us of fulfillment. Sin doesn't make life interesting; it makes life empty. When there's fulfillment, when there's beauty, when we see God as He truly is—an endless reservoir of fascination—boredom becomes impossible. In heaven we'll be filled—as Psalm 16:11 describes it—with joy and eternal pleasures.
The true followers of Jesus “….wander on earth and live in heaven, and although they are weak, they protect the world; they taste of peace in the midst of turmoil; they are poor, and yet they have all they want. They stand in suffering and remain in joy, they appear dead to all outward sense and lead a life of faith within.” Bonhoeffer
Why does the Christian faith focus so much on the the resurrection? Because it confirms that there is life after death and that there’s a heaven and that we can trust what He said. Knowing this morning that my mom is in heaven, along with my other friends that have passed, gives me hope and courage to go on and hold on. Friends, the best is yet to be come!