Summary: what heaven is, and how it effects us
October 27, 2002 Sermon Series on the End Times - Heaven
Heaven. Oh that we were there, oh that we were there! We sing about it. We talk about it. We look forward to it. If there’s one teaching you would think everyone would be in favor of - it would be the teaching about heaven. But if you look back over time, it hasn’t always been looked upon so favorably. This really isn’t worth repeating, but Mark Twain once wrote about heaven:
I gave my palm branch a wave or two, for luck, and then I tautened up my harp-strings and struck in. Well, Peters, you can’t imagine anything like the row we made. It was grand to listen to, and made a body thrill all over, but there was considerable many tunes going on at once, and that was a drawback to the harmony, you understand; and then there was a lot of Injun tribes, and they kept up such another war-whooping that they kind of took the tuck out of the music. By and by I quit performing, and judged I’d take a rest. There was quite a nice mild old gentleman sitting next me, and I noticed he didn’t take a hand; I encouraged him, but he said he was naturally bashful, and was afraid to try before so many people. By and by the old gentleman said he never could seem to enjoy music somehow. The fact was, I was beginning to feel the same way; but I didn’t say anything. Him and I had a considerable long silence, then, but of course it warn’t noticeable in that place. After about sixteen or seventeen hours, during which I played and sung a little, now and then - always the same tune, because I didn’t know any other - I laid down my harp and begun to fan myself with my palm branch. Then we both got to sighing pretty regular. Finally, says he - "Don’t you know any tune but the one you’ve been pegging at all day?" "Not another blessed one," says I. "Don’t you reckon you could learn another one?" says he. "Never," says I; "I’ve tried to, but I couldn’t manage it." "It’s a long time to hang to the one - eternity, you know." "Don’t break my heart," says I; " I’m getting low-spirited enough already." After another long silence, says he - "Are you glad to be here?" Says I, "Old man, I’ll be frank with you. This AIN’T just as near my idea of bliss as I thought it was going to be, when I used to go to church." Says he, "What do you say to knocking off and calling it half a day?" "That’s me," says I. "I never wanted to get off watch so bad in my life." So we started.
He envisioned heaven as a boring place where you’d only sing on song at a time.
Lenin once wrote this -
Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labor of others are taught by religion to practice charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.
He looked at heaven as restrictive and demeaning to the image of man - a cheap excuse for their existence on earth.
Therefore, maybe it would be good for us, on this last sermon on the End Times, to defend the doctrine of heaven. What is it? Is it a good thing to talk about? How does it affect our lives? This sermon is -
For Heaven’s Sake
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he said, I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. . . . I know that this man . . . was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. (2 Co 12:2-4). Paul first of all called heaven “paradise” - the same thing that Jesus said to the thief on the cross. Such a picture brings to mind the Garden of Eden - where Adam and Eve were able to live without thorns or pain in a wonderful and lustrous land. Paul also said that the things which were heard in heaven were “inexpressible.” It was beyond description in human terms. Therefore, when God describes heaven, he often just says what WON’T be there. For instance, in the book of Revelation God says, Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Re 7:15-17