Summary: This is the first in a 3-part series about heaven and hell. The first two sermons are on Heaven, the last is on Hell.
INTRO: In Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen tells a parable of faith and hope. He imagines twins–a brother and a sister–talking to each other in their mother’s womb:
The sister said to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth."
Her brother protested vehemently, "No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us."
The little girl insisted, "There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move." Still, she could not convince her twin brother.
After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, "I have something else to say, and I’m afraid you won’t believe that, either, but I think there is a mother."
Her brother became furious. "A mother!" he shouted. "What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let’s be content."
The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother’s response and for a while didn’t dare say anything more. But she couldn’t let go of her thoughts, and since she had only her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, "Don’t you feel these squeezes every once in a while? They’re quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful."
"Yes," he answered. "What’s special about that?"
"Well," the sister said, "I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don’t you think that’s exciting?"
The brother didn’t answer. He was fed up with the foolish talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him alone.
Percentage of Americans who believe that religion can answer all or most of today’s problems: 67
Percentage who believe religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date: 20
Percentage who agree with the statement "There will be a day when God judges whether you go to heaven or hell": 79
Citation: CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted December 9-12, 1999, based on randomly selected national sample of 1,037 adults, 18 years and older; source: Emerging Trends (January 2000)
PROP: Heaven is a very real place and the Bible gives us some very clear information about this paradise.
#1. What’s it for?
Why is heaven even necessary? Does it have an impact on our life here on Earth?
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Romans 8:14-17; 22-25
14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.