MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #285.)
TEXT: Revelation 21; Psalms 90:10
A. Have you ever tried to picture what it will be like right after you die? After you breathe your last breath? After you heart beats its last beat? What do you think it'll be like for you?
As you try to picture that, are the images that flash across your mind frightening, or exciting? Are you looking forward to that moment, or are you facing it with uncertainty & dread?
ILL. As some of you know, I recently read an interesting book entitled "Imagine Heaven" by John Burke, a former atheist who is now a Christian minister in Austin, TX. In his book he tells about his investigation into the reports of over 1,000 "near-death" experiences.
We've all heard of "near-death" or "out-of-body" experiences, of people dying on the operating table or in an accident, but who, within a relatively short period of time, were brought back to life.
Some of them relate that during that time they were floating out of their body, watching what was going on around them, & then they were moving through a tunnel of light towards a place of almost indescribable beauty. Some of them even tell of seeing & being greeted by loved ones who had passed on before.
Now I don't doubt their stories. But what we need to be careful about is the meaning that some have given to these experiences, & to realize that Satan has a lot of ways of getting to us. And one of his tactics is to deceive us about what life after this life is like.
B. What does the Bible have to say on that subject? Well, Psalm 90:10 tells us, "The length of our days is 70 years - or 80, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble & sorrow, for they quickly pass, & we fly away."
Job asks the question, "If a man dies, will he live again?" (Job 14:14). The writer of Hebrews answers by saying, "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)
C. Now I realize that whenever the subject of death comes up, many people try to avoid discussing it, reluctant even to think about it. But not all people are that way.
ILL. For example, just last Tuesday the New York Post published a news story under this headline: "Dead gambler embalmed, propped up at poker table"
It stated that Henry Martinez, a 31-year-old avid gambler, died earlier this month from booze & an overdose of prescription pills in his hometown of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.
Before Martinez was buried, his dad had undertakers embalm him, dress him in sunglasses & casual clothes & prop him up at a poker table so loved ones could see him one more time, doing what he enjoyed.
CEN reported that a full house of friends gathered around Martinez’s corpse, shared their memories & snapped pictures of him at the poker table, with a full stack of chips in front of him. (New York Post - January 26, 2016)
Now if that seems rather strange to you, how about this true story:
ILL. Jeremy Benson was a very successful English businessman, & for a number of years served as Chairman of the Board of a London hospital. When he died, he left a large part of his fortune to that hospital.
But his Will stipulated that every year for ten years after his death, when the hospital board held its annual meeting, his earthly remains were to be put in a wheel chair & brought into the board room & placed at the head of the table.
And the minutes of the meeting were to state that Jeremy Benson was present as the Chairman of the Board. Now that is weird!
D. Those of us who are Christians should be able to face death with faith & confidence & excitement about the future. After all, it was Jesus who told us that in His Father's house were many rooms, & He said, "I am going there to prepare a place for you."
That's why the Apostle Paul could cry out, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54-55)
With that in mind, listen to Revelation 21:1-4. The apostle John writes, "Then I saw a new heaven & a new earth, for the first heaven & the first earth had passed away, & there was no longer any sea.
"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, & He will live with them. They will be His people, & God Himself will be with them & be their God.
'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.'
PROP. Now including this passage, there are 25 different illustrations or word pictures in the book of Revelation that describe what life in heaven will be like.
I. SOME THINGS WHICH WILL NOT BE THERE
First of all, heaven's beauty is seen in some things which will not be there.
A. For example, Revelation 21:23 tells us, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, & the Lamb is its lamp."
Earthly seasons will be no more but we shall revel in "seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." We will have no need of clocks or calendars when we have all eternity to dwell with Him.
B. Vs. 25 says, "On no day will its gates ever be shut..." The gates of ancient cities had to be guarded with vigilance against sneak attacks of enemies. But in heaven no enemy will ever appear. God's people shall dwell eternally secure.
C. Vs. 25 also says, "There will be no night there." Now that doesn't mean much to us because we live in a world of light. We have street lights & flashlights & spot lights. We can walk into any building & flip the switch & dispel darkness instantly.
But if you lived in the First Century world when the only source of light at night was a little wick in a bowl of oil, this was a wonderful promise. For it is under the cover of darkness that evil things seem to occur.
It is often under the shroud of darkness that crimes are committed & horrendous things happen, even in our modern world today.
D. Vs. 27 tells us that nothing unclean will enter that heavenly city. "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful..."
E. Rev. 22:3 adds, "No longer will there be any curse." The ground is no longer cursed because of man's sin. Thorns are done away, & the last enemy of man, death, is abolished. Tears & sorrow & crying & pain are done away. All that can hurt is gone. All that can bless & thrill & beautify has been added.
SUM. God gives us a beautiful picture of what Heaven will be like just from some of the things which we know will not be there.
II. THREE ILLUSTRATIONS FROM REVELATION 21
But to get back to the first of the 21st chapter of Revelation, we find at least three illustrations that give us an idea of what life after this life will be like.
A. Look at vs. 5. John writes, "He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new.'" Heaven will be a place where everything is new.
Now I don't know about you. But I have sometimes lived in old houses that constantly needed repairs. But the promise of God is that in heaven I will have a new dwelling place custom made just for me.
Through the apostle Paul God also tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 that "We will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye... For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality."
I'm going to get a new body! That promise sounds better to me every day! As this body gets tireder & tireder & it seems to respond less & less to the things I want it to do, the thought of a new body really appeals to me.
ILL. I guess that's the reason I've never gotten too concerned about what will be done with my body after it's dead because I don't really care what will be done with my body.
I think it should to be treated with respect. It was made by God & it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. But once I die it'll be a vacated temple of the Holy Spirit. I'm not going to be in there any longer. I'm going to get a brand new body & it's never going to grow old. Everything will be new.
B. Going back to Revelation 21:2, "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband."
Revelation 19:7 says, "Let us rejoice and be glad & give Him glory! For the wedding of the lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready."
1. All the way through the New Testament the church is called the "bride of Christ," & when we become Christians we become a part of it.
So here in Revelation is a picture of the church on its wedding day, ready for the bridegroom to come & take her home. And this passage of Scripture says that our life together in heaven will be like a perfect marriage.
Everything in heaven is going to be perfect: a perfect bridegroom, a perfect bride, a perfect marriage.
2. A perfect marriage involves trust. My wife & I started building a marriage almost 60 years ago on the basis of trust. And through the years we have learned that we can trust each other. So now if I'm not home at the appointed time, she is not suspicious.
And if she is not home at the appointed time, well, I may be concerned about her, but I'm not worried about her being unfaithful, because we've learned that we can trust each other. And heaven is going to be a place of perfect trust, because we can trust God to keep all of His promises.
C. Now listen to vs. 7. "He who overcomes will inherit all this, & I will be his God & he will be my son." That is such a tremendous verse.
ILL. Psychologists tell us that one of the greatest psychological needs in life is to please our parents. Most of us try all our lives to please them. Even when we're 50 or 60 years old we're still striving to please our parents.
But this passage says that when my heart beats for the last time & I fly away, I'm going to stand before the Lord & look into my heavenly Father's eyes & He's going to say, "Well done."
And for the first time I'm going to know that I did it right & my Heavenly Father approves, not because of anything I've done, but because of what Christ did on the cross & He made it right between us.
III. NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO HEAVEN
But not everyone is going to heaven. Vs. 8 points out some who will not. You don't have to follow God. You don't have to be a part of His church. You don't have to be a bride waiting for the bridegroom to return.
Vs. 8 says, "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, & all liars their place will be in a fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
I think if we looked at that list for a while we'd probably find ourselves, maybe in more than one category. Certainly all of us have told a few lies. Maybe we have sometimes become disbelieving doubters.
We're all in the list, you see. That's the point. Because all of us have sinned & all have fallen short of the glory of God.
So thank God we have a Savior. Thank God that Jesus Christ shed His blood to cleanse us from all our sin & unrighteousness.
And because of that when this life has passed, I'm going to sprout wings, figuratively speaking. So will you. And we're going to fly away. We will stand before a father who understands us better than anyone on this earth ever has.
And we'll hear those words, "Well done, good & faithful servant," & we will enter into a place that's always new with everything we have ever needed, & more than we have ever dreamed about before.
CONCL. That's what life after this life will be like. If Jesus is your savior that is your promise. That's your hope. But if you're here this morning & Jesus is not your savior then vs. 8 is your verse - where the fire keeps burning, a place without God & without hope.
It is so urgent, so important that you realize that the hours of your life are flying by. Even as the clock is ticking right now we are determining where we are going to spend eternity.
If you are not right with God right now, I pray you will make it right before you leave. Please don't think you have tomorrow. There is no promise of that. But you have now. You have this moment. If you have a decision you need to make we hope you will make it today.
If you have any decision we invite you to come forward, join with us here in the front. We just humbly pray that you will respond to His love as we stand & as we sing.