Summary: Heaven is the hope of believers. It is a place promised and revealed.
D.L. Moody described our hope of heaven this way. “What has been, and is now, one of the strongest feelings in the human heart? Is it not to find some better place, some lovelier spot, than we have now? It is for this that men are seeking everywhere; and they can have it if they will; but instead of looking down, they must look up to find it. As men grow in knowledge, they vie with each other more and more in making their homes attractive, but the brightest home on earth is but an empty barn, compared with the mansions in the skies.”
We all have an internal longing for the eternal. It seems to have been built right into the fabric of our conscience. We all equally have a longing for something greater than what we experience in this broken sin-sickened world.
I’m convinced that the stain of sin and the echo of the curse that it brought upon the world resonate in every heart. We all seem naturally to have a sense that this world isn’t what it should be; that there is something better waiting; that somewhere someday we will find a more pleasant existence on a distant shore.
A hope for Heaven, it seems, has been written, etched, onto every heart.
CIT / CIS: Heaven is the hope and home of every believer.
Who Heaven is For: Heaven is reserved for the elect. It is for those whose faith, who hope, whose life, is hidden with God in Christ. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3 ESV) Heaven is a promise to the saints of God. It is the reward of believers.
I like the way C.S. Lewis put it, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” Heaven is the future home for believers.
Where, What, and When Heaven Is: I’ve lumped these three ideas (where, what, and when) into one idea and then divided that into two parts. I assure you it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. In the English Bible the word “Heaven” is a translation of just two words, in almost every occurrence; the Hebrew word shamayim and the Greek word ouranos. Both of which have very similar meanings; literally the heights or that which is lifted up; that which is above.
In the Bible Heaven can describe the atmospheric heavens, the celestial heavens, Heaven as the abode of God, the possibility of a heavenly life now (heaven indwelling earth), and the resting place of the saints and apocalyptic home.
When the Scripture speaks of Heaven, of our eternal hope, of the glory to come, there are basically two places and times that we will focus upon.
(1) There is first the temporary or intermediate state for all believers who leave this life in physical death. (2) Then there is the life after the resurrection of the dead upon the return of Christ to enter into the millennial reign (1,000 year reign of Christ and the restoration of earth) which shall usher in eternity.
What we are here distinguishing between is what Heaven is like and what Heaven will be like. I think this is a point lost on many believers. The end or aim of the Christian life is not the present Heaven but the eternal state or Heaven to come.
I. Temporal Heaven (Intermediate State): The present state of believers who have left this life is glorious. We don’t have nearly the description of the present Heaven as we do of the glory of what is to come after the return of Christ.
But that’s not to say we know nothing. In the Scripture we find out much.
A. Abraham’s Bosom. Luke 16:19-31. In the account of the rich man and Lazarus we find out that Heaven, paradise, is a place of perfect rest and comfort. The poor man suffered much in this life but in paradise, the bosom of Abraham, he is comforted and at peace. By sharp contrast, those like the rich man who are in hades or sheol, awaiting the final judgment are in torment, apart from God; separated by a vast chasm that cannot be crossed.
It is far better to live in paradise with God than to wallow in riches in the world.
B. Heaven, paradise, the present home for saints departed, is the place of perfect peace for believers awaiting the resurrection. It’s not the end but a joyous place of union with God and communion among the saints of God.