What’s Up With Heaven?
Epitaph in Indiana:
“Here lies the body of old man Peas,
Buried ‘neath the flowers and trees.
But Peas ain’t here, just the pod.
Peas shelled out and went to God.”
A lady tried to quote this to her women’s missionary group, but accidentally got it wrong…
“Here lies the body of old man Peas,
Buried ‘neath the flowers and trees.
But Peas ain’t here, just the shell...” [she couldn’t finish!]
Well, since it’s true that one day true believers will leave the pod behind…just an empty shell...and go somewhere called heaven, it makes sense to check out the place we’re going to live forever!
Ill.—A teacher asked the children in her Sunday School class, "If I sold my house and my car and gave all my money to the church, would I get into heaven?"
"NO!" the children all answered.
"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into heaven?"
Again, the answer was "NO!"
"Well," she continued, "then how can I get to heaven?"
From the back of the room, a five-year-old boy shouted out, "You gotta be dead!"
Where will you go when you die? The current death rate is still 100%. 3 humans die each second. Over a quarter million people each day go either to heaven or hell.
Where are we to get our information about heaven? From our imagination or a dream we had? From books written by some who have had ‘near death’ experiences? No, the Bible says no one has seen God at any time, and none can return from the dead. Even Paul, who WAS allowed a glimpse into heaven was sent back with instruction not to tell what he saw. But John was given a revelation…a vision, and was given permission to give us a peek into heaven, but with no great detail.
It was this same John who earlier wrote this gospel we study, and was inspired to reveal a bit about the place Jesus would go to prepare for us!
Some say we shouldn’t give too much effort to thinking about heaven, but rather focus on our life on earth. “So heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.” They say that if we focus on the next world we will lose our vision for relieving suffering in this world.
I believe that it is when we lose sight of eternity that we get so wrapped up in this present life. Thinking about hell doesn’t discourage me in this life, it motivates me to preach the truth! And thinking about heaven doesn’t distract me from the here and now, it motivates me to take others there with me!
It has always bothered me that statistics say that by and large, Christians don’t live any different than the world does. Could it be, in part, because of a lack of teaching on eternity?
You see, when you forget that God has prepared a wonderful place for you in eternity, or when it is simply not on your radar screen, you develop a hunger for paradise in your heart and you begin trying to create it here on earth. You will spend a lot of money and go to great extremes to try to build your utopia, complete with all the comforts of heaven.
You’ll need to somehow remove pain, and have a beautiful place, more toys and luxuries, no stress, no commitments…just find a way to escape from this world.
These things may be ok to have to some extent, but let’s remember we could never really come close to approximating what awaits us in heaven. You could be rich, and it will only lead to emptiness. Fame is a pain, and stressful! Pleasure is fleeting, and doesn’t last, and no matter how you try to medicate away the pain, it is real, and never completely goes away.
The richest man who ever lived was also the wisest, and reasoned that it is all vanity! God has placed within the human heart a hunger for heaven, and if we don’t feed that hunger from the truth of the Word of God, we will subconsciously begin to attempt to replace that with the cheap and tawdry allurements of this world, trying to create a paradise of our own.
Question? What if God allowed us to create our own heaven on earth, but we had to trade the true heaven in order to get it?
What’s up with heaven?
It is mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. It means 'lofty,' or 'high up.' It carries the idea of a raised goal, as in, being high on our priority list as something to aspire to.
Yes, heaven is prominent in the Bible, prominent in our language and culture…just not prominent in our thoughts as believers or else we would make some big changes in how we view life on earth. Our perspective would be very different if we really grasped what Jesus said to us in our text today.
The Bible speaks of 3 heavens: the atmosphere, outer space [stellar heaven], and third heaven...the place where God resides. Don’t confuse them in Scripture.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven…
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
2 Corinthians 12:2-4
...caught up to the third heaven.
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
We pray - our Father, which is in…heaven.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
4 The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven:
This is the eternal abode of God, and the one mankind aspires to.
The disciples’ hearts are troubled at the news that Jesus is going to be killed and depart the earth. Jesus gives them the good news that they will be joining Him one day.
The ‘Father’s House’ is home. There’s something very intimate and personal about this place Jesus is describing.
It’s a real place...a prepared place for a prepared people.
The Greek topos topos = place [in the sense of a location…a point that you can locate]
So where is it? Write this down!
I don’t know.
The Bible refers to heaven as being ‘up.’ [slide]
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
But, which way is up? If we say it is directly above where you stand, then since the world is a sphere it would be in a different direction from every point on the earth. It would be everywhere in general and nowhere in particular!
A better answer...
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
No matter where you are on the earth, ‘north’ is always up. Perhaps heaven is somewhere in the northern heavens. Astronomers say there is such a place in space that seems to be vacant of stars and galaxies in the northern heavens, beyond Polaris the north star. This is serious speculation...heaven may be another dimension entirely.
I must say sorry to all our subscribers in the south, but heaven may be in the north!
Everything that is near and dear to us Christ followers is in heaven:
24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands...but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Streets of gold and gates of pearl and a sea of glass will fade by comparison to the Savior, Jesus. Do you want to touch gold...or touch the nail scarred hand?
One way to know you are getting old is when you have more loved ones in heaven than you have on earth!
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
Ladies Home Journal did a poll [nice of them to do this for my sermon]
“Whom would you like to see first in heaven?”
31% said mother, 16% said father, and 10% said spouse!
1 Peter 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us...4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
When God is your Father, you become an heir, and you have an inheritance in heaven, preserved for you!
20 For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
I’m not a citizen of earth, I’m on a visa from heaven…I’m an ambassador, sent by my king to represent Him for a time! “This world is not my home…”
No wonder Paul said to set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.
If we forget about heaven and never look up, all we can do is look around, and that can be very depressing. Remember, one day we are going home!
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
There are 5 crowns we can earn by our service for the Lord. God is into motivation by reward, and since He is the worthy one, we will lay those crowns at His feet.
...lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The only way to send treasures to heaven – is to invest in things going there, like the souls of mankind.
27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Is your name in the registry? Have you made a reservation?
...rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
What if you got to the gate of heaven and God asked you why He should let you in…what would you say?
Ill.— Ruthanna Metzger, a professional singer, tells a story of being asked to sing at the wedding of a very wealthy man. According to the invitation, the reception was to be held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper. She and her husband, Roy, were excited about attending.
At the reception, waiters in tuxedos offered luscious hors d’oeuvres and exotic beverages. The bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor. Someone ceremoniously cut a satin ribbon draped across the bottom of the stairs. They announced the wedding feast was about to begin. Bride and groom ascended the stairs, followed by their guests.
At the top of the stairs, a maitre d’ with a bound book greeted the guests outside the doors.
“May I have your name please?”
“I am Ruthanna Metzger and this is my husband, Roy.”
He searched the M’s. “I’m not finding it. Would you spell it please?”
Ruthanna spelled her name slowly. After searching the book, the maitre d’ looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but your name isn’t here.”
“There must be some mistake,” Ruthanna replied. “I’m the singer. I sang for this wedding!”
The gentleman answered, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did. Without your name in the book you cannot attend the banquet.”
He motioned to a waiter and said, “Show these people to the service elevator, please.”
… The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator, ushered them in, and pushed G for the parking garage.
After locating their car and driving several miles in silence, Roy reached over and put his hand on Ruthanna’s arm. “Sweetheart, what happened?”
“When the invitation arrived, I was busy,” Ruthanna replied. “I never bothered to RSVP. Besides, I was the singer. Surely I could go to the reception without returning the RSVP!”
Ruthanna started to weep–not only because she had missed the most lavish banquet she’d ever been invited to, but also because she suddenly had a small taste of what it will be like someday for people as they stand before Christ and find their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Throughout the ages, countless people have been too busy to respond to Christ’s invitation to His wedding banquet. Many assume that the good they’ve done–perhaps attending church, being baptized, singing in the choir, or helping in a soup-kitchen–will be enough to gain entry to heaven. But people who do not respond to Christ’s invitation to forgive their sins are people whose names aren’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. To be denied entrance into heaven’s wedding banquet means the elevator they will be put on will go much lower than the garage.
v. 6 tells the one way to heaven!
God is still taking reservations for heaven. Is your name on the list?
[based in part on outline from David Jeremiah]
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