1: Introduction: Everything is going to Change!
How many of you have planned to go on a cruise this summer or take a holiday by the sea this year? Well make the most of it because this scripture tells us that when we finally get to heaven it’s going to be very different – there isn’t going to be any sea!
In fact there looks like a lot of job changes are in store. Doctors, Nurses, Undertakers and Counsellors all look like they will be made redundant! Because we are told that there will be no more pain or suffering. There will be no more death or mourning. No more crying or tears. For the old order of things has passed away.
2: Heaven – What’s it like?
What is your picture of Heaven? Paintings of heaven often depict chubby faced cherubim’s or the standard fluffy white clouds and angels with wings playing harps. I see nothing of that in my own mind’s picture. Whatever it is, it appears to be a whole lot different than what we have been used to.
My favourite story is the parable Jesus tells about the wedding banquet in Matthew Chapter 22:1~14 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”
This conjures up all kinds of fun. Jesus makes heaven sound a very different place than perhaps we are anticipating. How many of us asked to describe Heaven would make it sound like a party with Jesus as Host?
3: Heaven – Who will be there?
Tickets Only – the Gospel:
Whatever your picture of Heaven, you have to know it’s a Ticket only do”! Revelation tells us that God himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes (His Children). As Christians, we know that it is only through a personal relationship with Jesus that we can get a free ticket to enter in.
Like all major events today - No ticket, means No entrance, but these tickets are free! All you have to do is apply in advance. In Matthew, Jesus emphasises the Party is a “ticket only” do – it would be rude to turn up with your own handmade one or even no ticket at all.
Think of the Queen of England’s Jubilee Party ~ no invitation meant you would not have been allowed in! Perhaps if you have been chosen to attend you would have been thrilled to have received one of those gilt-edged invitations. There is always much interest in celebrating these special occasions but the King of King’s party is the one not to miss! And by the way, by necessity the numbers invited to the Jubilee parties were limited – Our God has plenty of room!
4: Heaven is a place to die for – literally!
Philip Yancey in answer to claims that the world has lost the sense that we die believes behind the noise of daily life:
“Rumours of another world can still be heard. The whispers of death persist and I have heard them in unlikely places”.
He talks about members in a Health Club he joined striving to preserve only one part of the person i.e. the body ~ the least enduring part of all.
You are probably familiar with people desperately trying to enhance and extend their life here – living as if that’s all there is. Memberships to Gym and Leisure clubs to tone-up what you have, followed by liposuction, cosmetic surgery to make you look even younger! But they don’t offer the hope that we have - of a Resurrection body!
Martin Luther said to his followers, “Even in the best of health we should have death always before our eyes (so that) we will not expect to remain on this earth forever, but will have one foot in the air, so to speak”
If life is painful, difficult, and for those tragically living with incurable illnesses what hope can anything in this world possibly give. Maybe a measure of acceptance thru counselling. Perhaps pain relief and help to make life as palatable as possible.
But we have examples of those in tragic and difficult circumstances who have a hope of something better. Heaven ~ a place that God has prepared for those who love him. Think of Joni. Think of those martyred for Jesus. They had a hope that this world could not take away from them. In fact that they were prepared to die for their faith testified to the world that there is something beyond this life worth dying for.
Philip Yancey also talks about attending a “Make Today Count” support group for people with life-threatening illnesses. These people had to confront death because they had no choice. Donna, a group member talked about a Swiss boy who was dying of an inoperable brain tumour. She said that a picture he had drawn of a large, ugly military tank, with a tiny figure with a red stop sign in his hand in front of the tank captured her feelings precisely. Although Donna knew she was supposed to work toward acceptance she felt like the little boy in front of the tank, she saw death as an enemy.
Sadly the Swiss boy had included his vision of heaven in the background, represented by the grass and trees and the cottage with an open window. That was not discussed. Any feeling like “acceptance” would only be appropriate if he truly was going somewhere, somewhere like home. Someone had brought up religious faith and belief in an afterlife but there was just a long silence, a cleared throat, and a few rolled eyes. The rest of the evening the group focused on how Donna could overcome her fears and grow toward the acceptance stage of grief. Philip left that meeting with a heavy heart. He considered the doctrine of heaven is one of the most neglected doctrines of our time.
“I think it is very hard for secular men to die,” said Ernest Becker, as he turned to God in the last months of his life.
But we can have a sure hope of a home where death no longer has the last word. Where these mortal bodies will be transformed. Yes live the life God has given you to the full, treating everyday as special, but hold onto the real hope of heaven in your heart. It’s the only place to want to be forever – with Jesus.
5: The World needs Heaven
It may not be the politically correct thing to say these days but this world desperately needs the hope of Heaven.
A recent Western Daily Press newspaper editorial actually had the headline “A reminder of our mortality”! In referring to a lady killed by a scratch while gardening, by a flesh eating condition the article actually said
“For a bug to seemingly come out of nowhere, infect a body through the smallest of wounds --- is enough to make us all reflect on our mortality”.
They came to the conclusion that life is precious and we must all make the best of it while we can. Concentrating on the positive things in life, enjoying our time on this Earth, and resolve not to lose our cool over minor irritations.
It may fall far short of our prayer that people would turn to Jesus as their only true and dependable hope for this life and the next. But that such a tragic event has led someone to think beyond the here and now and that it had been published in a newspaper for others to read is perhaps an example of Philip Yancey’s statement:
“Rumours of another world can still be heard. The whispers of death persist and I have heard them in unlikely places”
6. What’s Heaven got to do with me now?
Quite a lot actually!
Storing up treasures in Heaven
Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 6:19~21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven ---- For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This world and everything in it is only temporary. We sometimes joke God likes empty pockets! In the light of eternity its good to reflect sometimes on where are we spending our time, our resources. Is it all on the here and now? Where everything is so temporary or are we building with God – investing in something that will last?
We would do well to make sure we are depositing some good things in the Heavenly bank!
Giving out invitations to Heaven
The story of the Great Banquet in Luke (14:23) reveals that God wants His house to be full. We have been given a commission to fulfil our part of the Father Heart of God that wants everyone to be at this party – “make them come in, so that my house may be full”
It’s interesting who Jesus said He wants to be there! God wants us to go out and invite everyone to His party – “good or bad”! We may be surprised about the people Jesus wants us to go to – maybe people we don’t like!
Think of the people Jesus reached out to with love and compassion. A despised Samaritan woman - divorced 5 times and living with someone else. Matthew and Zacchaeus – considered Public Enemies because they were detested Tax collectors. The woman embarrassing caught in adultery and dragged to Him for punishment. The woman “who had led a sinful life” who was allowed to anoint Him with her alabaster jar of perfume and tears; ~ the “common people heard Him gladly” Mark 12:37
Jesus didn’t have any reservations about the kind of people He cared for and spoke to. And He wants them to come to His banquet. You and I have the privilege of inviting the “Whosoever” to come to His party and meet the Friend of Sinners.
7. Heaven – His Place
One thing that has been very hard to think about preparing for this message is to speak about somewhere I have never been, or to describe with any precise details exactly what Heaven is like. Although the Bible gives us some information we can think about and reflect upon, it’s almost like a veil has been pulled across for the time being. Maybe we are like ants trying to understand how and why a Cathedral building is constructed. Or Algebra if you are me. But the one thing that we shouldn’t miss in all of this is that Heaven is where Jesus is ~ it’s His Place. That is enough to make it a place we want to be – it’s about being with Him. So often we can discuss the how’s and where’s --- that we miss the whole point – it’s about Him.
Finally, whatever your situation, however things are for you, you can have a peace that this world can never give, a hope of being at home ~ forever with Jesus.
For Jesus said:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare place for you. And if I go and prepare place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”. John 14: 1-3
Prayer “Father we thank you for a hope of Heaven. We want to be with you in our forever Home. Help us to reach out and invite others to come with us” Amen