Summary: The third in a series of three, this sermon highlights three wonderful characteristics of our future home in Heaven. It will be real, righteous, and relational.
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 5/31/15
A Sunday School teacher just finished a lesson all about Heaven, then asked her students, “How many of you want to go to Heaven?” Of course, everyone in the class raised their hands… except for one little boy. “William,” she asked, “don’t you want to go to Heaven someday?” Suddenly lighting-up, the boy replied, “Oh yes ma’am. Someday. I just thought you were taking up a load right now!”
We all want to go to Heaven… someday, don’t we?
We’re also very curious about what’s like up there. Someone once posed the question “What is Heaven like?” to a group of Sunday School students. Scott, age eight, replied, “Heaven is up in the sky, and you can look down at circuses for free if you want to, except you have to ask God for permission first.” David, age seven, said, “Heaven is kind of big and they sit around playing harps. I don’t know how to play a harp, but I guess I should learn to play that dumb old thing pretty soon.”
In one of his Far Side cartoons, Gary Larson depicts a winged man seated in heaven on a cloud. No one near. Nothing to do. Marooned on his celestial post. The caption witnesses his despair: “Wish I’d brought a magazine.”
That’s how many of us imagine heaven. Clouds in our midst, harps on our laps, and time on our hands, unending time. A nonstop sing-along. A hymn, then a chorus, then still more verses. Is that really what awaits us in the Afterlife?
The last couple of week’s we’ve explored what lies beyond death’s door. The Bible describes three distinct realms in the hereafter. First is Hades, the place of dead where disembodied souls await the resurrection and the Day of Judgment. Second is Hell—and by the way, it seems that my sermon on Hell stirred quite a bit of conversations, questions, and maybe even a little controversy.
And finally the Bible offers the promise of Heaven.
According to a Gallup Poll conducted for U.S. News and World report. As many as 81% of Americans believe that Heaven exists (and as many as 78% believe they have a good or excellent chance of getting in), but few know what to expect when they get there.
It think the success of books about near-death experiences such as Heaven is for Real and 90 Minutes in Heaven reveals an innate longing to know what lies beyond Heaven’s door. But rather than rely on the notoriously unreliable experiences of others; Christians ought to find our answers in Scripture.
One of the most vivid, expressive descriptions of Heaven is found in Revelation 21—the second to last chapter of the Bible:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5 NLT)
As with the rest of this apocalyptic book, this passage is replete with fantasy imagery and symbolism, so we should be careful not to take it too literally. But I believe the picture it paints gives us glimpse of Heaven’s glory and highlights three important features that will make Heaven so very heavenly.
First, this passage reminds us that Heaven will be real.
• HEAVEN IS REAL
The movies have told you wrong. Those images of knee-high fog banks, disembodied friends, and floating spirits? Forget them. Unlike the immaterial realm of Hades, Heaven will be as real as the soil in your garden, as tangible as pew beneath your bottom. When Christ comes, the present heavens and earth will disappear. We read Peter’s description of that day last week. But that’s not the end of the story. God said it himself, “Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5 NLT). He will purge, cleanse, and then reconstruct His cosmos.
Centuries before John’s vision, God told Isaiah, “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!” (Isaiah 65:17-18 NLT).
John’s description of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, descending from Heaven to Earth symbolizes the merging of these two realms. At that time Heaven and Earth will be joined together. It shouldn’t be difficult for Christians to imagine a world where Heaven and Earth are one; after all, we have the perfect parallel in Jesus Christ. Just as God and man will be forever united in Jesus, so Heaven and Earth will be forever united in the new universe. God’s plan is to abolish the gulf between the spiritual and physical worlds. There will be no divided loyalties or divided realms. There will be one cosmos; one universe united under one Lord—forever.