Summary: Heaven and hell are rare sermon subjects for me. This is an introduction to the Biblical ideas of heaven and hell
God is love. We hear that fairly often if we come to church much. God is love. It’s a simple statement. It’s a simple statement but it’s really profound when you think about it. Not the least because most of us think of love as the highest good.
And sometimes when we think about God, when we think about that statement, “God is love” we think about heaven… because heaven is God’s home.
What do you think of when you think of heaven?
So we’re pretty pumped about the thought of heaven. The thought of God’s home, and the faith that we have that rightly tells us that one day, a day yet to come in eternity, God’s home will be our home.
We will dwell with God forever in an unending relationship of love. Why? Because God has made this possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So we’re good…with thinking about heaven. We kind of get heaven. We know that what we understand is just a little really. Just a small part. We see as through a glass darkly. Sometimes very darkly, but nevertheless, we might say that we see, we at least appreciate heaven.
But what about hell? Now that’s not quite as comfortable a topic. Hell is not a happy thing to think about. We may have an idea of hell…either one that we’ve seen in a movie or one that we’ve kind of pieced together in our minds from the Bible passages that we’ve read about hell.
What are some words that come to mind when you think of that word…hell? What are some feelings you have about that word?
So…here we have a word, ‘heaven’ that we think about, some of us a lot, some of us not so much, but it’s there. And we have another word, ‘hell’, that most of us would prefer not to think about at all.
As we continue our series today on “Recovering the Meaning of Our Sacred Words”, we are looking at the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, my purpose today…I’ll be up front about it…my purpose is really to help us grow in our understanding of God, and perhaps to grasp something of the love of God in the reality of Heaven… and even the love of God in the reality of Hell.
This is, of course, a huge topic and no one sermon can cover it all. So today we’ll perhaps turn the knob on the door to this topic a bit, and then open the door just a crack.
First we’ll look at heaven. Now the OT doesn’t say a great deal, compared to the NT, about heaven, but what it DOES say is pretty powerful. Here are a few passages that
1 Ki 22:19 "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left.
This speaks of God revealing Himself in prophetic revelation, as a king enthroned in heaven and surrounded by angels who do His bidding.
Psa 14:2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Psa 14:3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
This speaks of God who is Other, who observes humanity from some distance and who laments our waywardness.
Psa 85:11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.
Here God embodies the qualities of faithfulness and righteousness, and He observes the activities on earth from a place of some distance.
So even in these few verses we get a glimpse of a God who wants to be known by His creation, who dwells in heaven, in perfection, Who is perfection.
Who seems to be in a relationship of some distance from his creation…not so much distance best understood in terms of geography, although there is some suggestion of that…but rather distance best understood as based on holiness. God is righteous.
God is holy. God wants nearness of relationship, but that nearness is challenged by a pretty drastic difference between God and us. Again the scripture says, in a blunt evaluation that we might find ourselves agreeing with or disagreeing with: “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one”. [Ps 14:3]
So the picture of heaven that seems, to my ear, to be emphasized in the OT, is that it is the dwelling place of God. And we see, through the eyes of the OT writers, that God is watching.
He is looking to see if there is anyone interested in Him. Anyone who seeks God. Anyone who understands God’s holiness. Anyone interested, perhaps, to find a way to God.