Summary: Heaven as it is now is not Heaven as it is yet going to be This is an instructional message regarding the developing nature of Heaven as it is right now

Ephesians 4:8-10; Hebrews 11:39-40

Intro: What would a series on Heaven be without a few “Gates of Heaven” stories? 3 men died – a doctor, a school teacher, and the head of a large HMO. Each was called forward. The Doctor first.

“What did you do on earth?”

I healed the sick, and if they couldn’t pay I would do it for free.

“You may go in.”

Next was the teacher.

“What did you do on earth?”

“I taught educationally challenged children.”

“You may go in.”

Next was the HMO chairman.

“What did you do on earth?”

He hung his head and said, “I ran a large HMO.”

He was told, “You may go in, but you can stay only 3 days.”

The OT calls it Sheol, the NT Hades. It’s a word that likely means “place of the unseen dead.” It’s usually spoken of as being down or in the heart of the earth. After all, that’s generally where we place the body of someone who has died. It’s where the Rich Man and Lazarus went when they died. It was also visited by Jesus when He died. As Peter preached about Jesus in Acts 2:27, He quoted from the 16th Psalm, a Messianic Psalm about Jesus’ resurrection:

Acts 2:27

…you will not abandon me to the grave (Hades), nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

Acts 2:31

Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave (Hades), nor did his body see decay.

Jesus told the thief on the cross, today, you will be with Me in Paradise.

In Lk 16, we looked at Hades, a holding place with 2 parts: a place of great comfort, and a place of great suffering, with a big chasm between the 2. This is before Jesus died and rose.

We’ve talked about Heaven as it will be: there’s going to be a New Heaven, a New Earth, New Jerusalem. There in Revelation 20 and 21 we can read about what Heaven is going to be like! That’s for eternity. That’s the end of the book.

Here’s something we haven’t really looked into yet: today, right now, what is Heaven like? If I were to die in Christ today, where would I go? I step outside and get run down by a car in the parking lot, what can I expect? And what about people I know who have died in Christ? What’s life like for them right now?

Today, we’re going to look into what the Bible tells us about Heaven as it is right now – let’s call it “intermediate Heaven.” “Wait!” you say, “How can there be a temporary Heaven? Isn’t God eternal?”

Yes, God is eternal and unchanging. But God changes what’s around Him, including Heaven, His dwelling place.

We know that because, in John 14, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to Heaven to “prepare a place for them.” We know that because in Rev 21 God says He is making everything new. We know that, because people are going to be added to Heaven. Heaven, as it is right now, is not Heaven as it will one day be.

Just like it’s going to change, there was a day in human history when Heaven underwent a change. I want us to understand that change and what it means for our lives right now.

I. Separation before the Cross

Hebrews 11 lists the great heroes of the faith – all of the things they accomplished by faith, and how God was blessing their faith. At the end of the chapter, it says,

Hebrews 11:39-40

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

All these great heroes – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses – are commended for their faith, yet they didn’t receive what God had promised. They died. So what happened to them when they died? Well, they went to Sheol, to Hades, to the Paradise part of it, to wait for something better. They were in a place of comfort, but it wasn’t as good as it was going to become. God had something better planned.

All these OT heroes were living under the Old Covenant. They were living under the Old Covenant Law – one that God said He would one day replace. It was a system of works, of animal sacrifices that never took sin away.

Hebrews 10:1-4

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

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