Summary: Implications of the Millennial Kingdom and the New Jerusalem.
Back at the first of the year, we started our journey through the book of Joel. Week after week since then, we’ve talked about the nearness of the Day of the Lord. We’ve seen that the Day of the Lord will be a time when the cup of God’s wrath is finally filled. His patience and longsuffering will have reached its end. And at that time, He will pour out His all-powerful pent-up wrath on all of sinful creation. We’ve seen all the ways that our days are inevitably leading up to that great and terrible day. And we’ve also seen how, apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, no one will be able to endure the Day of the Lord. Over the past several months, we’ve also seen how, by all outward evidence, at least 60% of our closest neighbors and billions of people scattered throughout the nations are lost without Christ. That means that if the Rapture was to happen today—each of those billions of people will suffer the unmitigated wrath of God. That ought to break our heart. It breaks our heart because we have seen that the task before us is too big for us. It’s too big for our church. It’s too big for our local associations of churches. It’s too big for our state convention of churches. It’s too big for all the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a matter of fact, it’s too big for all Bible-believing evangelical churches put together. But it’s not too big for God. Because of that, one month ago, I stood right here in this pulpit and called us as a church to a Solemn Assembly of Prayer and Fasting—because we know that it’s too big for us. So out of our broken humility, we as a church have been praying and fasting that God would do 5 things. We’ve been praying and fasting that we would see people saved and baptized. We’ve been praying and fasting that each of us would personally be delivered from any sin that regularly besets and entangles us. We’ve been praying and fasting that God will raise up leaders amongst us—pastors, church planters, missionaries, entrepreneurial business leaders. We’ve been praying and fasting that He would grow our church in supernatural unity. And finally, we’ve been praying and fasting that He would bring another Great Awakening to our nation. Today is the day that we set aside to break that fast. It’s the end of our Solemn Assembly, but it’s not the end of our prayer. Let’s persistently continue to cry out to God day and night for those things. Because the Day of the Lord is great and terrible—who can endure it?
So much of this series has been hard to hear. Let’s face it, it’s more fun to hear about almost anything than it is to hear about God’s wrath. But if you take away God’s wrath, His love doesn’t mean anything. If you take away the promises of God’s justice and righteousness, His mercy and grace is empty and hollow. Unless there’s a real Hell to be shunned, then gaining Heaven doesn’t really mean all that much. So after all this talk about the Day of the Lord, this is a wonderful way for the Holy Spirit to end this book through the prophet Joel. Here’s what you need to understand this morning—most of your concepts about heaven are probably distorted. Heaven isn’t a place of harps and clouds and halos. It isn’t a bright light at the end of a tunnel. And it certainly isn’t fishing or playing baseball with your pawpaw forever. There’s no “man upstairs.” There’s no check-in desk with St. Peter. And no matter what Hank Williams or Bill Monroe used to sing—Jesus isn’t building you a cabin in the corner of gloryland. Heaven is eternal—but it isn’t static. The experience of heaven isn’t clearly and exhaustively laid out in the Bible—mostly because in our flesh, I don’t think we can fully comprehend what it will really be like. But here’s what we do know. When a believer dies, our spirit is immediately in the presence of Jesus. The existence is real. It’s conscious. It’s blissful. But in this current state, our bodies are still in the ground and we haven’t received our new, glorified bodies. Frankly, that’s about all we know about this current state of Heaven from the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us that God allowed him to see it. But even though he was allowed to see it, God didn’t let him tell us about it. By the way—that’s one of the huge problems I have with books and movies like Heaven is for Real. If Paul was allowed to see the current state of Heaven but wasn’t allowed to tell us about it authoritatively in inspired Scripture, why would God allow a 3-year old boy to? He wouldn’t. So don’t fall for it. Stick with what the Bible tells you about the current state of Heaven—which isn’t much. For believers, when we die, our spirit is consciously, blissfully in the presence of Jesus. But as I said—that existence isn’t static. Because at the Rapture, our spirits will be united with new glorified bodies. Think back to what happened when God first created Adam. The Bible says that God formed Adam’s body out of the dust of the ground and breathed life into him and he became a living, material soul. The Hebrew and Greek words for breath is the same word for spirit. When we die, our spirit is torn from our physical bodies. At the Rapture, God will once again breathe our eternal spirits into our resurrected, newly glorified, recreated bodies and we will once again be living material souls. That’s the way we’re going to exist for the rest of eternity—once again as living souls. But this time with perfect, sinless, disease-free and pain-free bodies. Bodies that are holy and pure and not marred with sin and degradation. It’s in that state that we will ride in behind Jesus for the Battle of Armageddon. And it’s in that state that we will rule and reign with Him throughout the Millennial Kingdom that’s described in Revelation 20. And it’s in that state that we will reside in the final, ultimate state of Heaven—the Holy City New Jerusalem that’s described in Revelation 21-22. Like most of the Old Testament prophets, Joel’s description here is very brief. It’s kind of a mashup of the Millennial Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. That shouldn’t be a concern to us, because that’s exactly what we do when we talk about Heaven. Rarely do we distinguish between the three states of Heaven—we just talk about how unimaginably awesome it’s going to be to be with Jesus forever with no more sin or death or pain or sickness. I love to think about heaven—don’t you? But here’s something I’ve noticed lately. Just like you don’t hear a lot of preaching about the end times these days, you don’t hear a lot of preaching about heaven either. I think I know why that is. I think it’s because there’s a perception that when we think too much about heaven, we forget about what we’re supposed to be doing till we get there. I’ve heard people accuse some believers of being so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good. Well here’s the reality—the only way a believer can be any earthly good is if we’re heavenly minded. So since this last passage in Joel has got us thinking about heaven—I want us to talk about four earthly goods that come from being heavenly minded.