If you’re going to have a conference on death, and dying, and heaven you have to have an old person, because you need a view from the hearse. Well, I got in on one session last night and it was really wonderful to hear Austin pouring out his heart regarding the Word of God from Luke 13. That was a very intense look at a single passage, which is kind of what we do most of the time – handle a single passage. But I’ve been assigned by Josh to talk to you about heaven, okay, and that’s going to spread me out a lot of places in Scripture. So grab your Bible, have it handy. I know some of you’ve got a pen and paper.
So let’s just talk about heaven, and we’ll kind of get a bird’s eye view. We’ll get a sweeping view of the reality of heaven. It’s one thing to tell people, “You need to know Jesus so you can go to heaven.” But that only makes any sense and that only becomes attractive if heaven is attractive, right? I mean what is the point of saying to someone, “You can go to heaven if you believe in Christ,” if they don’t know what heaven is? The Bible is clear about that.
There is a lot of interest in heaven today, more than I’ve ever seen in my life, and it all started back quite awhile ago, back – I would say – in the 1960s. In fact, when I first came to Grace Church, there was kind of an explosion of interest in life after death way back in the 1960s. People were writing books about near-death experiences and people coming back from the dead and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel when they were on an operating table; and they died theoretically and they came back. And they described this warm, fuzzy feeling, and some kind of ethereal angelic angels they saw in their mind’s eye; and it was all warm and fuzzy and wonderful, and it felt good – which is nothing more than having your senses completely or virtually anesthetized out of any kind of control so that you just sort of wallow in your non-thinking. And all kinds of things can arise in that environment.
People came back and said that they had been to heaven, and this was how they explained it. It was very popular thing. There were lots of people who were talking about that. There were people in cults and occults who were dying and coming back; and there people who wrote books on life after death; and people that were mediums who said that when they died, they talked to angels, and they talked to spirit beings. This went all the way to 1992; and it was always in the kind of mystical, secular, New Age world. But in 1995, before you guys were born – a lot of you, most of you – it leapt out of the secular New Age weird world of imagination into the Christian world. And in 1995, a bizarre thing happened: Christian publishers started publishing books about people who said they were Christians who went to heaven and came back, and they were describing what heaven was.
Well, this has continued for 20 years. We’ve been barraged with these books on people who went to heaven and came back. Let me just clear the air: none of it ever happened. None of them ever went to heaven and came back – none of them. And even if you don’t take my word for it, all you have to do is read all the people who went to heaven and came back, and notice that they all describe it differently. If they all actually went to heaven and came back, they would describe it the same. I mean they are self-cancelling.
The most popular book was written by a father of a four-year-old by the name of Burpo. Supposedly, he went to heaven and came back and said, “Jesus rides a rainbow horse,” and, “The Holy Spirit is a blue fog,” and, “Jesus is kind of short and stocky. He’s shorter than Michael, but He’s a lot stronger,” all kinds of nonsense. That book has sold in the multiple millions to Christians – Christian people.
The book by Burpo was followed up by a book by Malarkey – these are fitting names. It’s the Burpo-Malarkey doctrine. Kevin Malarkey supposedly wrote a book about his son who’s eight years old. He has a car crash, goes to heaven and comes back, tells all about heaven. This book, it’s circulated all over the place, published by a huge Christian publisher. People are reading about this: “Wow, it’s so wonderful.” Millions of people are buying this book about heaven.
And we get a phone call at our office from Mrs. Malarkey, and Mrs. Malarkey said, “I just think I ought to call you and let you know I’m grateful that you have been writing a blog on this and exposing it because it’s all a lie. All of it’s a lie. It is malarkey. None of it’s true. And my son, who is now a quadriplegic from the accident, is mortified and embarrassed that his father is telling lies. He didn’t die; he didn’t go to heaven; he didn’t come back. It’s all a lie.”
I got on the media on that. I was on several television programs – Inside Edition and things like that – talking about the malarkey of the Malarkey book. But, still, you can’t go into an airport without finding those books on the shelf: Heaven is for Real. It’s so bizarre. Lies about heaven are circulating everywhere, and the truth about heaven is ignored.
And the truth about heaven is what you really want to know, right? If we do know anything about heaven, it’s got to come from the one who is there, and that’s God, and He’s the only one. “It is appointed unto men once to die; and after this, the judgment.” You die once; you don’t come back. The only one who’s ever come down from heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. Short visit on the Mount of Transfiguration by Moses and Elijah. But the only person who’s ever come down from heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ, and He has revealed through the Holy Spirit in Scripture what heaven is like. The only place you can turn to to understand heaven is the Bible.
Now I know that heaven doesn’t have a whole lot appeal to us because we live in an affluent culture. We have everything we want. We live in the best environment in the world. I remember one time I flew 35 hours into Southeast Asia – essentially on the backside of Southeast Asia – on the backside of Tibet, to Kazakhstan, to a conference with about 1,600 former Soviet Union pastors and Christian leaders. They asked me to come and teach them for a week.
They were just packed into this place, and it was an amazing event. They had very little. They had been under Communism, now they were freed up from that. But life was extremely hard; there was very little food. In fact, they had massive pots out in the parking lot – sort of a parking lot – massive pots. It rained all week. And they would throw potatoes in the pot and let the rain fill the pot. And so we just had soup all week – the rain provided the soup.
At about the third or fourth day, the leaders of the conference called me in and they said, “We want to ask you a question,” and I said, “Sure.” Speaking to me in Russian through an interpreter, they said, “When are you going to get to the good part?” I said, “Really? I thought what I’ve been giving you is pretty good.” They wanted me to talk about the doctrine of the church. “No,” they said, “we want to get to the good part.” I said, “What is the good part?” They said, “We want you tell us about heaven. Tell us about heaven.”
I was staying with another guy at a little house – tiny little house – sleeping in a tiny little bed. The house belonged to a little widow lady who would stand in line for hours the day before so she could serve two of us a couple of eggs and a tiny little square piece of horse meat to nourish us. And she would go out every day to stand in line to make sure she had it for the next day. Life was very difficult, and heaven was very important. The heart has to have hope. The heart has to have hope.
Heaven doesn’t seem nearly so attractive to you, does it? You live in a world of affluence. You live in a world where you have everything you want. You live in a world where you can even buy what you don’t have money to buy and charge it. You can indebt yourself endlessly into the future to satisfy your longings for the stuff the world offers. So how do you get to the place where all of a sudden, heaven has appeal to you? Not some kind of phony heaven, invented by people who just want to sell books and make money; but how do we get a perspective on heaven that makes heaven attractive enough that we can literally say to somebody, “You need to go there, and not to hell”?
Learning about heaven is really important. I’ll just give a list of reasons why: our Father is there, our Savior is there, our family is there, our name is there, our life is there, our inheritance is there, our room is there, our citizenship is there, our reward is there, our treasure is there laid up in heaven. Everything we have eternally is there. So what is heaven? What is it? Let’s just answer a few questions, okay.
Heaven is mentioned 580 times in the Bible, so we really don’t need to listen to Todd Burpo or Kevin Malarkey; we can get it straight from the Lord. The Old Testament word is shamayim, meaning “the heights” in Hebrew. The New Testament word is ouranos from which you get the planet Uranus, the Greek word for heaven. Heaven in both cases mean “something highly elevated, something way up.”
And the Bible talks about three heavens. Second Corinthians 12:2 says Paul was caught up, in some way, into the third heaven. There are three heavens then being defined. There’s atmospheric heaven, and that’s discussed in Isaiah 55. The atmospheric heaven – that’s the air we breath that’s immediately around us and above us. There’s the stratospheric heaven – that’s where all the planets and all the stars exist. That’s Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The atmospheric heaven, the air we breath; the stratospheric heaven, above that into infinity. And then there’s the divine heaven, the abode of God. That is described for us primarily in the book of Revelation, although there are some pictures of it in other places like the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel.
Fifty times in the book of Revelation, heaven is mentioned. There is a kind of spiritual heaven in the sense that Ephesians 1 says, “We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.” And that’s not talking about the actual heaven, that’s talking about the deposit of spiritual blessings that come down to us through regeneration from God. Heaven is so connected to God that sometimes it’s a synonym for God.
For example, you have in the gospels the statement about the kingdom of heaven; and then other times, it’s the kingdom of God. They both mean the same thing – the realm where God rules as sovereign. God is, in a sense, indistinguishable from heaven. He is heaven; He fills heaven. So we can talk about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven.
It is also the realm of salvation, 1 Corinthians 6:9. The kingdom of heaven is that realm of salvation to which we belong. So we belong to God; therefore, we belong to heaven. And it’s the place where God lives. It’s the place where God lives. It’s called paradise.
Now just where is it? Where is heaven? These people who say they went there and came back, where did they go? It’s a real place, by the way, like Tokyo, or Chile, or Florida, or Point Loma, or Sun Valley. But don’t look for it on a map. There are lots of maps in the back of your Bible. There isn’t a map of heaven. There’s no GPS location. And the reason is, it’s not located in time and space, okay. It is not located in time and space.
When the Bible talks about heaven, where does it say it is? I think this is pretty consistent in the Bible. When Scripture talks about heaven, it always say it’s up, it’s up. Second Corinthians 12:2, Paul was “caught up into the third heaven.” Ephesians 4 tells us “Jesus went up,” or ascended. Angels in Acts 1 said that Jesus had “gone up into heaven and would so come in like manner as you saw Him go.”
When the Lord returns, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, at the rapture of the church, “He comes down from heaven.” When the church is raptured, “it’s taken up to heaven.” So what I’m saying to you is it is a place and it is up, as if to say it is out of our realm. When God contemplates His creatures in Psalm 57, “He looks down on His creatures.” When man contemplates God, “he looks up.”
When John in the book of Revelation was about to be given a vision, Revelation 4:1 says “he was invited,” I love this, “to come up,” to come up. And in the final state, the new heavens and the new earth, heaven comes down into the new heavens and the new earth – the New Jerusalem comes down. So all the language of the Bible is consistent that it’s not here, it’s not here. It’s somewhere else. It’s transcendent; it’s elevated; it’s up.
Now, how far up? Well, they say if you go 20 miles, you’re in the troposphere. If you go 20 to 30 miles up, you’re in the stratosphere. If you go 30 to 50 miles, you’re in the mesosphere. If you go 50 to 300, you’re in the ionosphere. And then if you go 300 to infinity, you’re in the exosphere. That’s infinite space.
How far do you have to go before you find heaven? How far up do you go? Well, let’s think about it. Let’s think about it this way. The moon is 211,463 miles up. Now, if you could walk, you could walk to the moon in 27 years at 24 miles a day. In 27 years, you could walk to the moon, and you wouldn’t find heaven.
A ray of light reaches the moon in 1.5 seconds at 186,000 miles a second. So let’s say we can go at that speed. Let’s go 186,000 miles a second. Going at that speed, we would get to Mercury in 4.5 minutes. We’d get to Venus in 18 seconds. We’d get to Saturn in 1 hour and 11 seconds. We’d get to Uranus, Neptune, Pluto – Pluto, by the way, billions of miles away. And guess what: wouldn’t be in heaven.
Let’s think about it from stars – get out of our solar system a little bit, our planet. Alpha Centauri is 20 billion miles. The North Star is 400 billion miles. Betelgeuse is 880 quadrillion miles. Listen to this: that star, Betelgeuse, is a star with a 200 million mile diameter, 200 million mile diameter.
The galaxy is enormous; it is inconceivable. And by the way, the galaxy I’m talking about is only one of an infinite number of galaxies, the nearest being Andromeda, which is 1.5 million light years away going at the speed of 186,000 miles a second. In each of these, thousands of millions of galaxies beyond our own, astronomers believe in each of them, there can’t be less than 100 million stars in each one. You’re going to try to explain that with evolution? Stupid; just idiotic.
So when we go as far as we can go, and we get out of our galaxy and we get out of the next galaxy, and the next, and the next, and we’ve passed 100,000 million stars that are in every galaxy – 100,000 million stars in every galaxy – and we keep going and going and going, we’ll never get to heaven.
How about this; ready for this? Jesus hanging on the cross, thief beside Him. Thief says, “Lord, remember me when you come into your,” what? “kingdom.” What did Jesus say to Him? What’s the next word out of Jesus’ mouth? What is it? “Today. Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Whoa.
If at the extreme end of our capacity to comprehend our universe, we haven’t reached heaven yet, how can you get there today? How can you get there today? In fact, the Bible says you can be there in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. That doesn’t mean a blink, that means the time it takes for light to flash off your eyeball. That’s how fast you get to heaven.
Let me tell you something: Jeremiah 23:24 says – this is God: “Do not I fill the heavens?” Now we’re getting close to understanding this. Heaven and our universe coexist in two completely independent realms.
Are there angels here this morning? Are they? Are there angels here? Of course. Hebrews 1:14, “They’re sent as ministering spirits to minister to the saints.”
Is Christ here this morning? Is He with us? Is God here? Could we die and be with Christ in a split second, in an immeasurable second? Sure, because when we’re talking about heaven, we’re not talking about somehow trying to find some hyper-generated rocket ship to get beyond where we are. Heaven is everywhere in a completely different dimension.
You could think about it another way. Heaven has come down and taken up residence in your life. Is that true if you’re a believer? Who lives in you? The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. You have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.
Guess what? You’re still in your physical body, but you’re living in the heavenly realm spiritually. That’s the realm where God is alive. God has given you life. God has forgiven you. He has planted His Spirit within you. He is teaching you, instructing you, guiding you, leading you, blessing you, convicting you, illuminating you, edifying you, enabling you, empowering you. So when you think about heaven being up, that’s simply a way to explain that it’s outside of our time space world. That’s our world; that’s our citizenship.
And the Bible says this: “It does not appear what we will be.” What does that mean? Well, people can’t tell the difference. To be honest with you, when Jesus was on earth, they obviously couldn’t tell the difference between Him and anybody else. He didn’t have a halo. He didn’t glow with some kind of incandescent light. He didn’t have some kind of green alien eyes. He didn’t float two feet above the ground. They couldn’t tell the difference between Him and anyone else.
Isaiah says in Isaiah 53, “There was nothing about Him that was remarkable.” There was nothing. In fact, from our viewpoint, we hid our faces from Him. But He’s the kind of person that you don’t even want to look at because He’s nothing. We esteemed Him as nothing; and, yet, He was heaven come down.
Paul in Romans 8 says, “The glorious manifestation of the sons of God has yet to come.” So here you are at your high school. You’re milling around in the cafeteria; you’re going to class; you’re walking down the hall. Nobody has any idea that heaven lives in you, but that you are a person literally existing in two realms. “You are in the world, but you are not,” what? “of the world,” because your citizenship is in heaven. You’re just passing through.
So there is a sense in which heaven has come down. The God of heaven has taken up residence in your life. The truth of heaven has been given to you. You not only have it in written form, but you have an internal teacher who explains to you the meaning of these heavenly truths; and all of this is preparation for you to live forever in the glory that awaits.
Another question: “What is heaven like? When we get there, what will it be like?” Well, Ezekiel tried to describe it in chapter 1, and it’s pretty hard to describe – wheels, and wheels, and wheels, and fire, and lights, and spinning things. That is a view of heaven that looks particularly at the war machine, the heavenly war machine gearing up to bring severe judgment.
There’s a similar revelation of that in the book of Revelation. But turn to Revelation chapter 4 for a minute and let me just at least introduce you to the centerpiece of heaven. Revelation 4:1, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven,” that’s neat, John was given a vision, “and the first voice which I hear, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.’ I was in the Spirit.” In other words, this was the Spirit. He didn’t leave his body. He didn’t die and go to heaven and then come back. This was a vision that was God doing something with His mind to show Him a vivid picture of heaven.
And what did He see as the centerpiece of heaven? “A throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance, and there was a rainbow around the throne like an emerald in appearance.” A jasper was kind of a various-colored, semi-opaque, greenish stone. Sardius was a red stone. They were precious stones, the idea. They were the stones that were on the breastplate of the high priest.
And, of course, the rainbow would be the symbol of God’s faithfulness. There, the redeemed are all gathered. “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.” This is the new humanity. This is the righteous, the redeemed.
“Out of the throne came flashes and lightening, sounds and peals of thunder. Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which is really the seven-fold Spirit of God. And before the throne, there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures,” those are angelic creatures representing all the angels, full of eyes in front and behind – wisdom, insight – and they are further described. And if you go down to verse 10, you find that all these beings in heaven are “falling down before Him who sat on the throne and worshipping Him who lives forever and ever, and they cast their crowns before the throne and they say, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’”
So the first reality of heaven is the throne of God dominates heaven. Every being that is in heaven – angelic being and human being, redeemed – gathers around the throne and, first of all, worships God as Creator, God as Creator. Very important to understand that. If you diminish God as Creator and buy into evolution, you have just assaulted heaven. You have just stormed the gates of heaven, and you want to put a stop to the worship of Him as Creator.
But then you see the picture expanded in chapter 5, and there’s another element in that worship. All of a sudden, coming out between the throne is the Lamb, verse 6, the Lamb – the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ – and He is worshipped. “Worthy are You to take the book and break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.” Two things are going on in heaven: God is being worshipped as the Creator and Christ is being worshipped as the Savior and Redeemer, and everything centers on that amazing throne.
Go over to chapter 21 and 22. We won’t have time to read all of it. But I would encourage you to read Revelation 21 and 22. You might feel a little bit like the Ethiopian eunuch and say, “How can I understand this unless some man should guide me?” And I’ll just tell you this: I can’t do anything with Revelation 21 and 22 but read it either because I don’t have anymore insight than this. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth passed away.” What’s going to happen to the current universe? The current universe as it is literally is a – you understand this – the universe is a nuclear bomb, right, you understand that? The energy in atoms is massive, is massive.
I was talking to Paul Twiss who works in my office, a seminary student from England. He graduated from Cambridge University as a nuclear engineer, and he ran nuclear reactor on a sub with the British military for years. He said, “If you go back to Nagasaki and Hiroshima and World War II and the bombs that were dropped that killed hundreds of thousands of people, there is no comparison between a nuclear weapon and a nuclear weapon today. Literally,” he says, “one warhead could wipe out half the earth, half the earth.”
Nice to know they’re in the hands of Kim Jong-un – or whatever his name is in North Korea. Terrible to think about the fact that the Iranians are working on getting it. Half the earth! The power in atoms is so massive. And Peter says this in 2 Peter: “Someday the elements will melt with fervent heat.” You know what that’s talking about? The day is coming when the entire atomically, super-charged universe will implode on itself and blow itself out of existence, and God will create a new heaven and a new earth, the eternal state. That’s an amazing thing.
Isaiah wrote about it. The writers of the New Testament talk about it. Heaven is described here in its final form then. It has a capital city: New Jerusalem. God is dwelling with people there, verse 3: “He will dwell among them. They’ll be His people. God Himself will be with them. He’ll wipe away every tear from their eyes. There’ll be no longer any death, there’ll no longer be any mourning or crying or pain.” Imagine the most wonderful moment you’ve ever had in your life, the most wonderful experience you’ve ever had in your life, multiply it times 100,000 and imagine that for every moment forever: that’s heaven – perfection.
The city is further described the capital city of heaven in verse 10 and following. It comes down into this new heaven and new earth in some miraculous way. “It has the glory of God. The brilliance is like a costly stone, like a stone of crystal clear jasper. It has a great high wall, twelve gates. At the gates are twelve angels, and names are written on them, the names of the twelve tribes. There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
This is something very interesting. Are you getting the idea that this is a physical place; because I’ve been talking to you about the fact that heaven exists in the spiritual realm now in an alternative universe. But when this universe is completely destroyed, there will be created a new universe, a new heaven and a new earth in which we will live – listen – in physical, glorified, resurrected bodies. It will actually be a place with walls and foundations.
And by the way, down in verse 16, “It’s laid out as a square,” or literally a cube, “its length is as great as its width, and it’s fifteen hundred miles in length, in width, and height.” They’re all equal. This is the capital city of the infinite heaven. It’s the capital city of the infinite heaven. If you do a little bit of calculation, the Holy of Holies in the temple of Solomon was twenty by twenty by twenty. This is fifteen hundred by fifteen hundred by fifteen hundred. If you calculate that, that comes to – the capital city alone – 2.25 million square miles, 2.25 million square miles. Just to help you a little bit, London’s 140 square miles.
Some scientists say that 2.25 million square miles for a city could hold 100 billion people, 100 billion people. Well then, it’s big enough for a few, right, because many are not being saved, but a few are. You’re going to have a lot of space, no traffic. Its beauty is just incredible.
Verse 18: “Jasper. The city is pure gold.” Have you ever – I can’t even imagine pure gold that is transparent. “Foundation of the city wall adorned with every precious stone: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald,” and he goes on to list all these things.
I love this. In verse 21: “The twelve gates were twelve pearls.” It’s not that they were pearly gates, every gate was a massive pearl. You say, “What kind of an oyster?” “And the street was pure gold, like transparent glass. And there was no temple there. Didn’t need a temple because God wasn’t someplace, He’s everywhere. And there’s no sun and there’s no moon because the glory of God has illumined it, and the lamp is the Lamb, and the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there was no night there) its gates will never be closed. They will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. Nothing unclean, no one who practices abomination or lying will ever come into it. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Chapter 22 says, “It has a crystal river coming out of the throne of God, and this flows out. It’s the only river in heaven. And in the middle of its street, it flows on either side of the river is the tree of life bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” That means the well-being. There’s going to be some kind of food there with a completely different bodily process. No night anymore.
What makes heaven heaven is verse 4: “We’ll see His face, and His name will be on our foreheads. And forever and ever and ever and ever, the Lord will fill us with joy and love and peace and satisfaction and fulfillment.” And this is true, this is true. The angel says, “This is true – ” verse 6 “ – it’s true. And I’m coming quickly,” verse 7.
And John who’s taking all this in, when he heard and saw these things. “When I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. And he said to me, ‘Don’t do that. I am a fellow servant of you and your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.’”
So when I talk about heaven, what should be your response? “God, You have prepared this for me?” “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love Him.” It is beyond comprehension.
What will we be like in heaven? What will we be like? Well, perfect – perfect in spirit, soul; perfect in body. That’ll be nice to be perfect. First of all, we will be the spirits of just men made perfect, Hebrews 12. You’ll be perfect. We’re going to have to get reacquainted because we won’t recognize each other when we’re perfect. “You can’t be the same Joe that I used to – is that you?” Perfect.
People used to say to me, “You know, we’re all going to be surprised at who’s not there. We’re going to be looking around saying, ‘Where’s Albert?’” We might be saying, “I knew Alice wouldn’t make it, the way she treated me.” We’re going to be surprised who’s not there.
You know what I think the real surprise of heaven is? It’s not who’s not there. The real surprise of heaven is that you’re there, I’m there. “What am I doing there? What kind of transformation has taken place in my life to suit me for this? And why is God spending eternity pouring out His love on me, giving me a joyous existence?”
And listen to this: it is a joyous existence – very important – that has no sense of time. So you’re not going to be saying, “You know, I’ve been in heaven now for about four weeks and it’s really going well.” It’s one eternal moment. There’s nothing to plan for because there’s no future; it’s just an eternal, glorious, blissful, joyful moment. No sin, no suffering, no sorrow, no pain, no doubts, no fear of God’s displeasure, no temptation, no persecution, no abuse, no division, no hatred, no quarrels, no disappointment, no anger, no effort, no class, because you’ll know everything.
No teachers. I’m going to have to learn to play a harp. But just maybe there’s golf in heaven. No more prayer, no more fasting, no repentance, no confession of sin, no weeping, no watchfulness, no preaching, no learning, no evangelism, no witnessing. Perfect pleasure, perfect knowledge, perfect comfort, perfect love, in one eternal moment without any concept of time. Perfect love, perfect joy.
I think joy is, in my mind, the dominant word to describe heaven. That’s why in Matthew 25 when Jesus told that story, He ended it up by saying to the servant, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Unmixed joy, unmixed joy. Eternal life of satisfaction. Think about it. It isn’t that you earned it, it was given to you as a gift because you – because you – struggled to enter the narrow door in the power of Christ.
What will your body be like? Did you hear about that in Philippians 3? You’ll have a body like unto His glorious body. Did somebody take you there this week? You’ll have a body like His glorious body. He could be in Jerusalem, and instantaneously show up in Galilee without traversing the space in-between. Whoa, that’s what known in science as quantum theory, a quantum leap. That’s why Einstein died in utter confusion. He understood a lot of things, but he couldn’t explain how an element of an atom could go out of existence here, come into existence here, and never traverse the space in-between.
Quantum theory has no explanation for that, and that’s why Einstein and all the rest of the scientists, including Stephen Hawking, are still messing around, trying to find out what’s going on in the middle; and what’s going on in the middle is God. You’ll be here, you’ll be there. You’ll be there, you’ll be here, you’ll be there without ever traversing the space in-between.
Jesus walked through a wall and ate a meal in His glorified form. It’s not going to be the body that you have now. There are terrestrial bodies, right, 1 Corinthians 15, and there are celestial bodies. But you will be you because Jesus said to Thomas, “Look here.” And what did He tell him to look for? “See, the prints of the nails in my hand and the spear thrust in my side,” after the resurrection. You’ll be, “Will you have your scars?” No, probably not. But you will be you.
The question came up in 1 Corinthians 15:35, “How are the dead raised? And what kind of body?” And Paul’s answer, starting at verse 35 of 1 Corinthians 15, is to say, “It’s a heavenly body,” and that’s all he’ll say. He doesn’t define it.
There’s really no scientific explanation for that body. There’s no way to describe it. There’s no physiology to that body. There’s no point in trying to define what the bones are like, and what the tissues are like, and what the muscles are like, and what the skin is like, and what the functions of the body are like, because it’s a heavenly body.
First John 3:2 says, “We’ll be like Him, for we’ll see Him as He is.” Paul told the Corinthians, “We will be clothed with our house from heaven,” and that body will be suited for eternal praise, eternal joy, eternal service, eternal usefulness, in one eternal moment.
So what will be our relationship to others? Well, just very briefly: we’ll fellowship with angels, share joy with angels, worship alongside angels. And, by the way, they will serve us. First Corinthians 6, “We’ll reign over the angels.”
What about family? What about family? Well, Jesus said, “There’s no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven.” There won’t be any marriage there.
Well, when I go to heaven, will I know my wife? Yeah. I’ll be able to say, “Nice to see you, Patricia.” But she’ll be like every other believer to me, with the exception that I will love her more perfectly there than I have ever been able to love her here. I’ll love everybody that way. There’s no need for marriage because there’s no incompleteness. There’s no need for marriage because there’s no appropriation.
And by the way, may I remind you young people, get married. You’re incomplete without a partner; that’s God’s design. And then when you get married, have babies; that’s God’s design. We live in a really bizarre world where people postpone marriage and have babies without a marriage. This is the grace of this life. Peter says, “Marriage is the grace of life.”
But in heaven, we’re just one big family. We all in the Father’s house. There doesn’t need to be any physical aspect to our relationships. We’ll be like the angels, Jesus said. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be eternal mules. It just means that procreation and incompleteness that’s completed in marriage for the sake of replenishing life in the earth, and passing righteousness from generation to generation so God can fulfill His redemptive plan is over. That’s over and done.
And I know there are people who’ll say, “You know, I’d like for Jesus to come. But, please, I don’t want Him to come until I get married.” I understand that. But heaven will have something infinitely better than that, infinitely better than that. You will be who you are. The Bible talks about people who die being gathered to His people. David says when his little baby son died, he said, “I will go to him.”
You will worship with the saints. You will sit down – you heard that last night – at a table with Abraham, and Moses, and Elijah; and I’m going to find the apostle Paul. There’ll be reunions. That’s part of the comfort of the rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians. Don’t worry about those who’ve died, you’ll see them there.
Paul even said this to the Thessalonian Christians, “You are my joy and crown of rejoicing.” In other words, “When I get to heaven and see you there, that’s going to be my joy.” Tomorrow we’re going to talk a little bit about purchasing friends for eternity so that when you arrive they’ll welcome you.
Well, finally, what is our relationship to God in heaven? Fellowship with Him. “In My Father’s house there are many rooms.” The old English said, “In My Father’s house, there are many mansions.” That’s a bad translation. You’re not going to live four blocks from God’s throne, eight blocks to the left, down below the heavenly tracks in a small hut because you goofed up; and some other guy like Austin, who’s a great preacher, gets a big, big palace close to the throne. There’s only one house in heaven.
There’s nowhere to sleep. Why? We don’t sleep. There’s only one house in heaven, it’s the Father’s house, and it has many rooms. Paul said, “I’ll stay in this world if the Lord wants me to. But far better to depart and be with Christ, depart and be with Christ.” You’ll be with God, you’ll be with Christ, you’ll be with the saints in intimate fellowship. You will see the Lord Jesus Christ in all His beauty. You will see the shining glory of God.
In this life, the Bible says in Exodus that, “No man can see Me and live.” God literally is so blazingly holy that if anybody saw Him, it’d incinerate them. But when we are holy and perfected, we will see the fullness of God’s glory.
Matthew 5:8, “The pure in heart shall see God.” The psalmist asks, “When shall I come and appear before God?” Revelation 22 says, “They shall see His face.” Moses couldn’t see His face, he could only see His back part. We will see the full blaze of God, Christ.
So what are we going to do in heaven? Adore God: praise Him, worship Him, reign with Him, serve Him, be continually refreshed by Him. I love Luke 12, it pictures Jesus putting on a servant’s clothes and serving us. Think of this: when you get to heaven, the Lord – you can read it yourself, Luke 12 – will serve you. Whoa. If that isn’t the ultimate end of grace: He will serve you. “Sit down at the table, the Lord will serve you.”
Do we deserve heaven? No. You cannot question the love of God who promises all of this to us. The big question is: “How do I make sure I get there?” We’ll talk about that tonight.
Father, we’re grateful this morning that we’ve been able to look at Your Word and just get a broad view of the glory of heaven. We just are in awe of all of it, and our grasp is so small. But we thank You for what You have shown us. We haven’t even talked about the alternative, the horrors of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in hell. May heaven become attractive because it’s where our Father is, it’s where our Savior is, it’s where our family is, it’s where our citizenship is. May we look not on things on the earth, but give us the upward look, setting our affections on things above. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
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