Summary: Heaven need not be an obsession, yet our relationship with God should be. It is this relationship which drives everything good in our lives. It is motivation for love for each other, gives us strength for today, and fills with hope for an eternity with Gd
• The Bible is NOT obsessed with heaven. When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God, in general, He is not talking about a future housing for God and His people-He is talking about a way of living here and now. The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven must be the servant of all (Matthew 18), Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5), “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven . . .” Most of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven has everything to do with the here and the now. What we think of as heaven, however, the future dwelling place for God and His people for eternity, is the focus of very little of the Bible. Aside from a few chapters at the end of Ezekiel and two chapters in Revelation, the Bible actually has very little to say about heaven as a place or a reward.
• Secular Culture, however, IS obsessed with heaven.
• Cartoons about Heaven [slide of cat & dog heaven cartoons]
• (will there be animals in heaven?) –aside from a horse Jesus rides on his return to earth there is no mention of animals in heaven. C.S. Lewis seems to have thought there would be animals in heaven. I will simply confess, I don’t know. There are certainly a few pets I’d like to see there
• (back to secular culture)
• Movies about heaven-many of them have something about someone who died, and isn’t quite ready for heaven, or has to do some kind of good deed to earn the passage to the real resting place. [slides of several film advertisements]
• TV The Simpsons is just one program which seems obsessed with it’s own version of heaven. [slide]
• Songs about heaven like Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” written as one means to deal with the grief of the death of Clapton's 4 year old son, who fell from a 53rd story apartment to his death.
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong here in heaven
• People who claim to have died and gone to heaven: If you search for it you’ll find too many stories about people either dying and going to heaven, or having some kind of vision of heaven. Years ago a group visited our campus & spoke in chapel and a man told about a vision he had had of heaven-he described many strange things. When he started talking about flowers talking to him I decided I had heard enough and left the chapel to do more valuable things with my time. People who claim to have gone to heaven are not authorities on anything and we should only listen to them if they match what the Bible teaches-and, especially, if they have the sense to say what Paul said about his near-death experience. He said human speech simply doesn’t have the capacity to convey the glories he had seen (2 Corinthians 12)
• Different definitions of Heaven: There are many different concepts of heaven-other religions, and popular culture, have various concepts of what heaven is like. I’m interested in what the Bible teaches about heaven, and that is the focus of our investigation today.
• Where is heaven? Not past the last star (somewhere past 13.7 billion light years away). Physicists suggest the possibility of entire universes passing through each other without being aware of one another’s existence. I think heaven is something like that. When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, and Zech questions Gabriel about the validity of his promise, Gabriel says “I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God.” The angel did not say “I was standing” or “I will stand”, but, literally, he said “I am standing in the presence of God”. Gabriel may have been merely proclaiming his status, but I think he was also describing his location. While the angel spoke to Zechariah, he was also beholding God’s face, standing in His throne room. I believe this is what heaven is like. It is so distant, you could travel to the end of the visible universe and yet not reach it, yet so close, for those who are open to God’s presence, He is “closer than a heartbeat or the air we breathe”.
• Why should I want to go there? It’s hard to imagine a description of a more beautiful place-but more than that because of those who will be there.
• Should I be praying to anyone there? Yes! Absolutely, as long as it’s God (John 16-even Jesus said he would not ask the Father on our behalf, but God Himself loves us & would answer our prayers as we ask Him directly in Jesus’ name. Why would ANYONE want to ask someone to talk to God on his behalf when his is invited by God to speak directly to Him?).