Author: Bruce Cook
If I were to ask you what and where Heaven is what would you tell me? How would you explain or describe it, and would you, or do you long to go there? I think that all of us would respond with a loud yes. But believe it or not there are people who say that they do not want to go there, that it would be boring. Tragically however most people do not find their joy in Christ and Heaven. In fact, many people find no joy at all when they think about Heaven.
A pastor once confessed that whenever he thought about Heaven, it made him depressed. He would rather just cease to exist when he died. He said he couldn't stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp'''' it's all terribly boring. He said Heaven didn't sound much better than hell. He would rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that. I don't know where this bible believing, seminary-educated pastor got such a view of Heaven. However, this pastor was more honest about it than most, yet it's found that many Christians share the same misconceptions about Heaven. In Philippians 1:23 Paul said to depart and be with Christ was far better than staying on a sin cursed earth.
John Eldridge stated that nearly every Christian he had spoken with had some idea that eternity is an unending church service. We have settled on an image of a never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after another forever and forever. And their heart sinks and they think that's it? That's the good news? Then they sigh and feel guilty that they are not more spiritual, they lose heart, and turn once more to the present to find what life they can.
Heaven is a topic that we do not hear many sermons about and the bible keeps it sort of a mystery as to the full content of activity. We are told just enough to let us know that it will be beyond our wildest dreams or imagination. Many Christians under fifty who've gone to church all of their adult lives can't recall having heard a single sermon on Heaven, it's occasionally mentioned, but rarely emphasized or developed as a topic. We're told how to get to heaven, and that it's a better destination than hell. But we are taught very little about Heaven itself.
So how can we expect our children to be excited about Heaven or stay excited about it when they grow up if we talk so little about Heaven? Heaven has fallen off of our radar screens. Can such a vague, negative, and uninspired view of Heaven be the work of Satan? OOPS there I go again, I wasn't going to mention him, but some of satans favorite lies are about Heaven. He wants to convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence.
We need to stop acting as if Heaven were a myth, an impossible dream, a relentlessly dull meeting, or an unimportant distraction from real life. We need to see Heaven for what it is: The realm we're made for. If we do, we'll embrace it with contagious joy, excitement, and anticipation. People who love God could never be bored in His presence.
Scripture presents Heaven in many ways, including it as a garden, a city, and a kingdom. Because gardens, cities and kingdoms are familiar to us, they afford us a bridge to understanding Heaven. Too often we're taught that Heaven is a non physical realm and can not have things such as gardens, cities, kingdoms, buildings, banquets or bodies. We fail to take seriously what scripture tells us about Heaven as a familiar, physical, tangible place.
The bible speaks of three Heavens all of which are up. The first is the atmospheric heaven where the birds and airplanes fly: The second is the solar system where the moon, stars and planets orbit, and the third is the abode of God. 2 Cor. 12:2 In the King James Bible tells us, I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body. I can not tell: or whether out of the body I can not tell: God knows") such as one caught up to the third Heaven.
Theology Professor A.J. Corayers writes that until recently the doctrine of Heaven was enormously important to the church. Belief in Heaven was not just a nice auxiliary sentiment. It was a central, life sustaining conviction. Sadly, even for countless Christians, that is no longer true.
Ecclesiastics 3:11 tells us He hath made everything beautiful in His time. He has also set the world (forever, eternity) in their heart. "All men, lost or saved, have a God given sense of something beyond this life.
So what is Heaven? Heaven is our one true home. It is our eternal destiny in Christ. It is the destiny that our lives here and now are preparing us for. We should long for Heaven.
I decided that I would ask a number of men and women the following question. What comes to mind when I mention the word Heaven, and what do you think it will look or be like? Some of the responses were that there would be no heavenly mansions or palaces. That it would be here on earth in another realm. There would be peace, rest and harmony. One thought that he would only be with God as a spirit. One pictured God as a big powerful cloud and Heaven as a big beautiful garden. Another was concerned whether she would see and know her mother as well as other relatives. Another told me that he hadn't thought much about it, but thought that it will be all white and clean with peace and everyone dressed alike. One said that it would be beautiful, and everyone will be happy, and we will get to see loved ones. The last lady I asked was a Christian and a cancer survivor, her eyes lit up and she quickly said that Jesus will be standing there waiting with His arms wide open, and I'll be singing praises to Him. She said that it will be wonderful.
When my wife Laura Lee was a young girl, she went to stay with her grandmother for a while. And she said that on her grandmother's wall there hung a picture of a beautiful garden that had a fountain with a pretty little girl standing beside it. She told me that as a young girl this is what she thought Heaven would look like.
So again, I ask each of you what do you think about when you hear the word Heaven, and what do you think it will be like? Randy Alcorn in his book about Heaven says that he believes that Heaven will be a new earth that will be perfect in every way. He encourages everyone to use their imagination to think about all the beauty and blessing of Heaven when reading or hearing the scriptures.
In Revelation 21: 1 it says: And I saw a new Heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no sea. And I John saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying, behold the tabernacle of God is with us, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears form their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be no more pain. For the former things are passed away, and he that sat upon the throne said: Behold I make all things new.
C.S Lewis says that most of us find it very difficult to want Heaven at all - except in so far as "Heaven" means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: Our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.
1 Cor. 2:9 tells us to long for, understand and anticipate what awaits us. We should except that many things about Heaven are secret and that God has countless surprises in store for us. Isaiah 55:9 says that as the Heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. But when He reduces His thoughts into words and reveals them in scripture, He expects us to study them, meditate on them, and understand them, not exhaustively but accurately.
Col. 3:1 tells you to set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. The next verse says, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, God commands us to set our hearts and minds on Heaven. Don't just have a conversation, read a book, or listen to a sermon and feel as if you've fulfilled the command. Since you'll spend the next lifetime in Heaven or Hell, why not spend a lifetime seeking Heaven, so you can eagerly anticipate and prepare for it. For one hundred years of earthly life is but a second of eternity
Jesus tells us in Math. 6: 19-20 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also. So let's all start a savings account in Heaven today. But how do we do this? We can do it by doing good deeds to others and by telling others about Jesus. If we are kind to others, God will reward us in Heaven. If we tell someone all about Jesus and they accept Him as their Savior, that person will go to Heaven. Love the unlovable. Treat enemies as we want to be treated.
To Quote Thomas Hughs: Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of Gods best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going outside of ones self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.
I imagine our first glimpse of heaven will cause us to similarly gasp in amazement and delight. And will likely be followed by many more as we continually encounter new sights in the endlessly wonderful place. And that will be just the beginning, after the resurrection it will be far better than anything we've seen.
We all want to know what Heaven is like don't we? But a better question to ask ourselves is will we be ready for what Heaven is like? If we are a Christian, we are at best a resident alien. We are a sojourner. We need to remember that this world is not all there is. We are just passing through and this is not our home.
I believe that the bible doesn't tell us many details of Heaven because there is just no way that human language can capture the majesty and the grandeur of Heaven. I think that maybe the bible doesn't give us many of the details, because if it did, you and I would quickly make an idol of Heaven.
There is a story told about a man who questioned as to what some of the things he would find in Heaven. The Lord told the man to take six months to design and make a list of everything he loved and wanted to see in Heaven. The Lord came back at the end of the six months and said to the man before I read your list, take a look at mine. When the man read the Lords list he quickly tore his list up.
To quote F.W,Robertson: One thing, and only one in this world has eternity stamped on it. Feelings pass, resolves and thoughts pass. Opinions change. What you have done lasts - it lasts in you. But through ages, through eternity, what you have done for Christ, that, and only that, you are.
The reflection of least importance respecting that world, is that it is a pleasant place in what ever part of the universe it is situated, there is a local heaven, where the body of Jesus is, where the bodies of Enoch, and Elijah, and those who arose with Christ are.
We may then reasonably conclude that Heaven is a world of more resplendent and varied beauty than mortal eye has ever seen, and contains the most delightful society.
Some Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. Then the opposite can be true for folks whose minds are totally focused on this world. They have forgotten or lost that vision of a Godly, Christ centered life. Why are we as Christians, so clutching when it comes to this world?
The other night I couldn't sleep and I was thinking about the question I had asked a number of people. And I thought after all my studying how would I answer this question? Things just started racing through my mind as if to go on and on. I tried to list some that I can now remember.
First and foremost I'll be with the Lord.
I'll have a resurrected, glorified body and I expect to have emotions.
That we will know and recognize family, relatives and friends.
That parents will meet their children, and husbands will know wives, as well as brothers meeting sisters, all as Gods children.
That I will attend banquets and eat of God's wonderful food as Christ ate in his resurrected body.
To drink of His clear cool water.
I expect to see mansions or rooms that have been prepared for us, John 14:2.
To walk on streets of gold and see walls of jasper and gates of pearl.
There will be no more temptations from Satan and no more sin.
I will be busy but never tire, for my strength will continually be renewed.
I expect to attain a higher and higher level of intellect to live on a higher plain in Heaven.
I'll have no more tears or sorrow for Jesus will bind up the broken heart and wipe away all tears.
I expect that we will have and use talents we didn't dream we had to serve, honor and praise the Lord.
To run His errands.
I think about sitting down and having the most intimate friendship with the holy angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and the group that have been collecting through time. In conversing with these brothers and sisters on high and exhaustless themes.
I'll have no more pain, perfect vision and hearing.
I won't have to worry about weight, blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and medications.
I'll be with a most perfect and delightful society.
I'll be delivered from all the wicked and disgusting conversations.
I'll experience no more crime, hate or jealousy.
I'll enjoy the most perfect friendship, with every distrust and rival interest banished, each loving the other as his own soul.
Heaven will be delightful; we will be delivered from all the cares and toils of this life, to praise God and study into His mystery of His nature and wonders of his works.
My every faculty will attain its full employment to understand and grasp the great truths of God, and declaring the glories of his nature. The memory in going over his past dispensation to collect material for an everlasting monument of praise, love, thanksgiving and in choosing him and his service.
I will attain an unerring wisdom, that can hold my attention perpetually fixed with out weariness.
I believe that I will hear beautiful music in Heaven and perhaps sing new songs.
I have written about the beauty of earth and things on it, but nothing will compare with the beauty, sights, sounds and smells of Heaven.
I expect to see things so beautiful that it will be beyond my earthly comprehension.
A Pastor tells this true story about a woman that was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors told her that she had three months to live. She called her pastor and said: Please come over; I want to put things in order. He came over, and they sat down and they planned her funeral. She tidied up the loose ends. He promised her that he would make sure that all of her wishes were carried out. Everything was now in order, and he got up to leave. She stopped him before he walked out the door and she said, I forgot, two more things are very important. When I am buried, I want to be buried with my favorite bible in my casket with me. The pastor said no problem.
And then she said the second thing, is also important. I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand. The pastor was kind of stunned. He didn't know what to say. And she said all my life I have gone to so many pot luck suppers, and when the main course was over and they come to clear the table, inevitably someone would lean over and say to me, keep your fork, She said that was my favorite part of the meal. I knew there was something better coming. It might be a velvety chocolate cake; it might be a deep-dish apple pie. I knew it would be wonderful, and that it would be of substance. And she said, I want to be laid out in the casket with a fork in my right hand because I want people to come by and look and wonder. What is with the fork? And pastor you will have the opportunity to tell them, keep your fork because the best is yet to come.
And sure enough she was laid out in the casket with her best dress, her favorite bible, and a fork in her right hand. As the viewing people come by, the pastor overheard countless of them asking the question, What's with the fork? And then at the funeral he was able to preach, keep your fork. The best is yet to come.
At meal time when you pick up your fork, let it be an oh so gentle reminder to you, that in Christ, with Christ, like Christ the best is yet to come. That is what Heaven is all about. For our lives here on earth are to be lived in preparation for life in Heaven.
During my study of Heaven I found it to be exciting and to quote Brother Fidler, "At times my goose bumps got goose bumps." During this study I read, listened, and made many pages of notes. My problem was condensing it down. Its a subject we could study for weeks about. So I decided to use the KISS approach and keep it simple stupid.
The study of Heaven has changed me in such a way that I now think about it many times each day and it causes me to continually ask the Lord for forgiveness of any sin I may have unknowingly committed. I now long for Heaven more than ever before. I want to be found worthy, because Math. 7:13-14 tells us to enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. I want to hear him say, Bruce well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy that I have prepared for you. For every American who believes he is going to hell, there are 120 who believe they're going to Heaven. This optimism stands in contrast to Christ's words in Math. 7:13-14.
I want you to remember this. The most important thing about Heaven is that you and I will be with Christ forever.
There is going to be a most lavish supper or banquet of all time, and everyone is invited, but it's RSVP. You must reply and your reservation made in the Lambs Book of Life.
Please don't miss it.
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