Summary: Heaven is a real place and we need to understand what lies within our future. Our perspective or vision of Heaven should influence our daily lives and choices.
Series: Breath of Heaven 2011
Sermon: Heaven? pt1
Subject: What is Heaven Like?
Open With Video Clip: Heaven and Hell
The video reveals how diverse the views of Heaven are but what does the Bible say about Heaven?
Thesis: Heaven is a real place and we need to understand what lies within our future. Our perspective or vision of Heaven should influence our daily lives and choices.
Dwight L. Moody said the following about the subject of Heaven:
"Surely it is not wrong for us to think and talk about Heaven. I like to find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity. If I were going to dwell in any place in this country, if I were going to make it my home, I would inquire about its climate, about the neighbors I would have -- about everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it. If soon you were going to emigrate, that is the way you would feel. Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while. We are going to spend eternity in another world. … Is it not natural that we should look and listen and try to find out who is already there and what is the route to take?”
The topic of Heaven has been around for 1,000 of years:
Throughout the centuries many people have come up with what they think Heaven will be like? One thing that seems consistent across every culture and time frame is everyone believes in an innate sense of something beyond this world, a place which is eternal, and that this world is not all there is to life.
There have been many portraits of Heaven promoted over time: Let’s reflect and summarize a few:
Following summaries from Heaven by Alcorn and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven
Ancient Egyptian faith: Their belief in an afterlife is much more stressed than in ancient Judaism. Heaven was a physical place far above the Earth in a "dark area" of space where there were no stars, basically beyond the Universe.
Babylonian belief: The Gilgamesh epic, an ancient Babylonia legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life.
Hittite myths: Believed Heaven is the abode of the gods.
Romans: Believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian fields while their horses grazed nearby forever.
Bahá’í Faith: Regards the conventional description of heaven (and hell) as a specific place as symbolic. The Bahá’í writings describe heaven as a "spiritual condition" where closeness to God is defined as heaven; conversely hell is seen as a state of remoteness from God. Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane.
Buddhism: They believe there are several heavens, all of which are still part of samsara (illusionary reality). Those who accumulate good karma may be reborn in one of them. However, their stay in the heaven is not eternal—eventually they will use up their good karma and will undergo a different rebirth into another realm, as humans, animals or other beings. Because heaven is temporary and part of samsara, Buddhists focus more on escaping the cycle of rebirth and reaching enlightenment (Nirvana).
Chinese Confucian: Traditions teach that Heaven (Tian) is an important concept, where the ancestors reside and from which emperors drew their mandate to rule in their dynasty’s. Heaven is a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophies and religions, and is on one end of the spectrum a synonym of Shangdi ("Supreme Deity") and on the other naturalistic end, a synonym for nature and the sky. Heaven is said to see, hear and watch over all men. Heaven is affected by man’s doings, and has a personality, it can be happy and angry with them. Heaven blesses those who please it and sends calamities upon those who offend it.
Hindu: Depending on good and bad activities (karma) on an earthly plane, a soul either ascends up to enjoy heavenly delights or goes down to fiery hellish planes depending on sins performed which are judged by the god of death & justice, Yama, who presides along the 28 hells. After the results of good and bad deeds (karma) are delivered, souls return to the earthly plane again as human or animal depending on desires and karma. Thus the cycle of birth and death.
Islam: The Qur’an contains many references to an afterlife in Eden for those who do good deeds. Regarding the concept of heaven (Jannah) in the Qu’ran, verse 35 of Surah Al-Ra’d says, "The parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised! Beneath it flow rivers. Perpetual is the fruits thereof and the shade therein. Such is the End of the Righteous; and the end of the unbelievers is the Fire."[Qur’an 13:35] Islam rejects the concept of original sin, and Muslims believe that all human beings are born pure. Children automatically go to heaven when they die, regardless of the religion of their parents. The highest level of heaven is Firdaus (فردوس)- Paradise (پردیس), to which the prophets, martyrs and other pious people will go at the time of their death. The concept of heaven in Islam differs in many respects to the concept in Judaism and Christianity. Heaven is described primarily in physical terms as a place where every wish is immediately fulfilled when asked. Islamic texts describe immortal life in heaven as happy, without negative emotions. In Islam if one’s good deeds weigh out one’s sins then one may gain entrance to heaven. Conversely, if one’s sins outweigh their good deeds they are sent to hell. The more good deeds one has performed the higher the level of heaven one is directed to. It has been said that the lowest level of heaven is one-hundred times better than the greatest life on earth. The highest level is the seventh heaven, in which God can be seen and where anything is possible. Palaces are built by angels for the occupants using solid gold.