Summary: All those in Christ will spend eternity living in the new heavens and new earth. The new heaven and new earth is everything that we loved about the old heaven and earth, minus the curse of sin. Creation’s beauties are heightened, its pleasures strengthened, and our limitations removed.
Twenty years old, Matthew decides to begin his sophomore year at Texas State University, by pledging for a fraternity. He feels it’s a good way to make new friends. During initiation, he consumes enough alcohol to make an elephant inebriated. Still, at 20 years of age and two-sport athlete in high school, Matthew thought the hazing incident of “the gauntlet” was just a part of the embarrassingly awkward way of being accepted. His was healthy and could withstand just about anything. Yet, somewhere in the middle of the night, Matthew fell, resulting in a fractured skull among other injuries. He was placed on a near by couch in the fraternity house in order to “sleep it off.” It was only around noon the next day that Matthew refused to respond to anyone no matter how much they tried to wake him.
You find your normal seat next to family and friends. You haven’t felt great as your odometer turned into your 50s. While you felt you fine on your way here, you dropped your children off in the children’s area, and stopped to talk to some friends. But along about the welcome time of the worship service you begin to feel uncomfortable. You sit down while everyone else is singing, thinking whatever you are experiencing will pass. You have taken care of yourself; you’ve eaten the right foods and exercised. But then, the unthinkable happens. The radiating pain in your back increases exponentially and you soon black out. Before you know, your body heads the seat under you and everyone near you turns in your direction. EMT is on their way in minutes but despite the modern miracles of 911 and quick response time, your EKG response is flat-lined. You are gone, you have passed away.
Now at this moment, you will either be enjoying a personal welcome into the greatest joy you’ve ever experience… … or you are catching your first glimpse of gloom and regret. The Bible teaches that at your death you pass through a one-way door into eternity. You don’t pass through it repeatedly as if you try various versions of eternity like you you’re your favorite ice cream at Marble Slab. No, you pass through only once.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27). No, there’s no rewinds or mulligans. You had a lifetime to choose and now you are eternally stuck with the choice of your lifetime. Within in nanoseconds, you are either regretting your life of choices or you are staring at the very face of Jesus.
I know this is a heavy way to begin a sermon much less the new year, but let’s slow down a minute. Let’s pause and let me ask you four questions. How much do you know about what the Bible teaches about heaven? How much time do you think about heaven on any given week? Do you think it’s possible for you to go to heaven? How you ever read a book that summarizes what the Bible teaches about heaven? If God gave you a choice of going to heave this week or waiting another ten years, what would you choose? Opinions vary widely concerning heaven and how you get there.
A death row inmate from several decades ago wrote, “Being at home with God and his angels, that’s a lot to think about.” Mariah Shriver, the niece of former President John F. Kennedy said this about heaven in her children’s book: “[Heaven] is somewhere you believe in … It’s a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk to other people who are there. At night you can sit next to the stars, which are brightest anywhere in the universe … If you’re good throughout your life, then you get to go to heaven... When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels to take you up to Heaven to be with him.”
Would you want to know the truth about God and eternity? What if the truth was different from anything you’d heard at any funeral?
It was reported by official Soviet channels upon their entry into space in 1961 that the Russian Cosmonaut who first traveled into space said these words: “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God.” Fact is, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, never said it. Instead, the quote was part of the Soviet Communist and atheistic campaign. It seems that Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev made it all up – fake news, if you will!
For those who deny heaven and for those endorse heaven, we all long for heaven. We believe what we want to believe we are going to arrive in Heaven. This is called motivated reasoning. Most people’s belief systems are based upon what they desire and not the truth. Yes, every one of us longs from a place we called heaven.