Summary: Heaven is so much more than something to think about when we're old. The mission Christ calls his body to has a reason, an end and a destination. We're working for something and toward something. That something we call heaven.
This 85 year old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to her interest in health food, and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen, master bath suite and Jacuzzi. As they “oohed and ahhed” the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost.
“It's free,” Peter replied, “this is Heaven.”
Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth.
The old man asked, “What are the green fees?”
Peter’s reply, “This is heaven, you play for free.”
Next they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out.
“How much to eat?” asked the old man.
“Don't you understand yet? This is heaven, it is free!” Peter replied with some exasperation.
“Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly.
Peter lectured, “That's the best part. You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.”
With that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly.
Peter and the old man’s wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault. If it weren't for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”
Heaven. We only seem to talk about, or think about heaven when someone dies. Heaven, to us, often seems surreal, something left for the hereafter, in the by and by. Not necessarily something for the here and now, but for the later on, something to think about when we get old. Heaven is so much more than that, though. The mission Christ calls his body to has a reason, an end and a destination. We're working for something and toward something. That something we call heaven. Thoughts about heaven aren't designed to satisfy our curiosity about the future, but to comfort us through this life.
We can’t talk about heaven without reading the Revelation of John the Apostle. There are 400 ladies who show up here every Wednesday to study the Revelation as part of the Bible Study Fellowship group. There are 400 because they are studying the Revelation. Usually there are 200 – 300 ladies. I know that if we want to generate a crowd for After Hours, all we have to do is announce a study on the Revelation. Everybody wants in on that one because we’re all concerned about the future, and we believe the Revelation can give us a glimpse into the future. Yes, we think heaven gives us a glimpse into the future, but like the Revelation, it’s as much about the here and now as it is about the by and by.
We read today only seven verses from Revelation 21, but I must let you know we can’t talk about heaven without keeping the final three chapters of the Revelation in mind. Chapters 20 – 22 are the Apostle John’s glimpse behind the veil of eternity. I’ll reference all three chapters this morning, but I don’t think you’d sit still for me to read all of them. Because heaven is as much for the here and now as the by and by, there are three truths I want to point out this morning that should make a difference in our lives today. First, heaven is real. Second, heaven is relational, and third, heaven is redemptive.
The first truth we should grasp is that heaven in real. Unfortunately, through bad theology and terrible cultural representations, heaven has met with bad press. We’ve come to see heaven as sitting on a cloud wearing a halo, while little angels play harps as they float through the heavens. Others see it as an unending church service, or singing hymns for all eternity. Like the opening story, some think of it as a celestial retirement city. It all seems so unreal. No wonder so many people see heaven as a place of numbing boredom, or secretly say to themselves, “Is that all there is?”
Heaven is not some ethereal existence where we float about as spirits without bodies. Why would God take the trouble to create a new earth if there was not going to be anyone to live on it? Why would we be given new bodies if we were not going to live in a material world? Heaven is a real world, real place that is coming down to us. God is heaven’s source. John said he saw a holy city coming down from God. Heaven is a real place with real, meaningful and rewarding work for us to do. Heaven is the fulfillment of what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The old earth will pass away and God will create a new earth. Dallas Willard assures us “The life we now have as the persons we now are will continue in the universe in which we now exist.” It will not be a strange apparition, but the real world we have known, only new and better. T. S. Elliot wrote: