Summary: Some common questions about what heaven is like are addressed.
(Adapted from a message by Tom Holladay at Saddleback Church)
There’s a story about a wealthy Christian who somehow got obsessed with the idea of taking some of his wealth to heaven. Now he knew the Bible clearly teaches that you can’t take it with you. But so obsessed was he with this desire that he just prayed & prayed & prayed that God would give him permission to take some of his wealth to heaven with him.
Finally, his persistence in prayer paid off. God spoke to him & said, "Okay, enough all ready! You can take one suitcase with you into heaven."
The story continues with the man deep in thought, "What do I take? What are the most valuable things that I can put into my suitcase?"
Well, he finally decided, & filled his suitcase full. Then one day he died, & when next we see him, he is slowly approaching the pearly gates dragging his suitcase behind him.
St. Peter met him there at the gate & said, "Wait a minute. What do you think you’re doing? You’re not allowed to take anything into heaven." The man answered, "You don’t understand. I have special permission from God Himself to take this suitcase into heaven."
Peter rubbed his beard & said, "Well, that’s very unusual. I can’t imagine God letting you do that. Let me look inside your suitcase & see what’s there." So the man dragged the suitcase over, & Peter opened it to see that it was filled with gold bars & gold bricks & gold ingots.
Peter said, "Well, all right. If God said so, I suppose you can take that in if you want. But why in the world did you go to all this trouble just to bring more pavement into heaven?"
Today I’m starting this series of “Frequently Asked Questions” about Biblical topics. You’ve seen the phrase FAQ’s on products or services you may be thinking about purchasing. That’s what I’m doing during Sunday worship the next 4 Sundays—addressing FAQ’s about God. So today I start with heaven. People in today’s culture don’t think much about heaven. But when we lose a loved one we begin to wonder is there more to life tha what we experience here?
When I say the word “heaven” most of us kind of put that in an “I’ll think about that later” category. In our minds we have three boxes of importance of thinking about things. The first box is Urgent. The second box is Not Urgent. The third box is After I’m Dead. And heaven is in that third box. Because of that we just don’t think about it much.
The Apostle Paul had this to say about this place called heaven. Philippians 3:14 “I strain to reach the end of the race and to receive the prize for which God through Christ Jesus is calling us up to heaven.” The Message paraphrase says it this way, “I’ve got my eye on the goal. God is beckoning us onward to Jesus. I am off and running and I’m not turning back. Let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything that God has for us.” Do you want everything God has for you this next year? The joy that God has for you? All the significance in life that God has for you? Do you want the peace that God has for you? Paul says if you want everything that God has for you, focus on this goal, this place called heaven.
Paul pictures it like a race. The Bible often pictures our life like a race. He says heaven is like the ultimate finish line of life. What if I said, “I want you to run a race. I want you to run it well. I want you to do your best to win that race. I’m not going to tell you where the finish line is.” That would be pretty difficult. Yet that’s the way a lot of us try to run the race of life. We don’t really know where the finish line is. If you don’t know where the finish line is you either run a frantic race or a frustrated race.
If you run a frantic race you get up every morning. You run as hard as you can as fast as you can because maybe the finish line is that day. You just don’t know. Some of you ran your life this way this last year. You’re just worn out. You think, “I don’t know if I can do that again this next year.” You don’t have to. You don’t have to live life that way. That’s what the ultimate finish line of life in heaven does for us. It gives us something to look forward to.