Summary: What’s heaven like?
*ILL>One Sunday morning a preacher asked the congregation, "How many want to go to heaven?" Hands went up everywhere. However one little boy on the front row didn’t raise his hand. The preacher, thinking maybe the boy hadn’t heard the question, asked again, "How many want to go to heaven?" Again, hands went up everywhere, but the boy didn’t raise his hand. So, the preacher asked the boy, "Johnny, don’t you want to go to heaven?" Johnny responded, "Sure I do." The preacher then asked, "Well, why didn’t you raise a hand?," to which Johnny replied, "Well, I thought you were trying to put together a load to go right right now."
It’s probably an accurate description of many folks, as is also expressed in a country song that declares, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."
Continuing in our sermon series of "Pursuing Answers," I’ve entitled today’s message, "Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door," and I invite you to open a Bible and turn to Revelation, chapter 21.
*ILL>In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, there stands a memorial to him. Perhapds the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards believed they had reached the outer limits of the earth. Thus, their motto was "Ne Plus Ultra," meaning "No More Beyond." However, in the memorial to Columbus the lion was tearing away the word, "Ne," which means "no," making it read "Plus Ultra," because Columbus had proven there was indeed "More Beyond."
In our case, Jesus promised us there is indeed more beyond, so today our focus is on the description of the more beyond. Or, stated more directly, we want to seek the Bible’s answers to the question...
"What is heaven like?"
In order to accomplish that task, we need to ask THREE QUESTIONS:
1) WHICH HEAVEN?
Gen.1:1 - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Notice the "number" of the noun "heaven" in Genesis 1:1 -- I’ts not singular, but plural. In other words, there is more than one heaven discussed in Scripture.
In fact, the Bible uses the word "heaven" in speaking of FOUR DIFFERENT HEAVENS:
a) The earth’s atmosphere.
--Gen.1:20 -- Then God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens."
--Sometimes the Bible uses the word "heaven" to mean where the clouds are, where the birds fly, the air/atmosphere of the earth.
b) Outer space.
-Ps.8:3-4 -- When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?
Oftentimes the Bible refers to "the heavens" as being where the sun and moon and stars are placed...above and beyond the gravitational pull and atmosphere of the earth, hence we refer to it as "outer space."
The Bible declares that these provide enough evidence to convince a true seeker that God exists, because the heavens declare the Lord’s glory.
--Rom1:19-20 -- that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
c) The dwelling place of God’s throne.
-2Cor.12:2-4 -- I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago...was caught up to the third heaven...into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
This is what we normally refer to as "heaven," and what the Jews referred to as "the third heaven," the dwelling place of God’s throne.
This is the Paradise that Jesus assured the thief on the cross he would be in that day and that Jesus Himself would be in on that day.
This is where our believing loved ones abide today, in spirit bodies, worshiping and celebrating around the throne of God.
However, there is a fourth heaven discussed in Scripture...
d) The Eternal home of every believer.
-Rev.21:1-2 -- Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Look around you. Everything you see right now will some day be destroyed by fire. This earth will pass away and exist no more, by the hand of God. It’s part of what Scripture means when it tells us that heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away.