Summary: What is Heaven Like? This is a question that is not easily answered as there are a large variety of ideas in history/Scripture. First we examine the relationship between heaven and the Kingdom.
The Burning Question
What Is Heaven Like? Part 1 – Kingdom Come
February 10, 2008
Our first question is “What is heaven like?” A pretty tough question and one frankly that has been wrestled with and even debated by Christians and other religions for centuries. We will look at this question over three weeks. Heaven is such a broad scope and there are many facets to the topic that we could probably go for half a year on it but we’ll just take three weeks.
This question as I understand arose in a family discussion where one family member was sharing the beliefs taught by that person’s church regarding heaven and earth. And I guess the concern lies ultimately if someone is being misled. Maybe even if there is a disagreement, “Who is right?”
I am reminded of the guy who shows up at heaven’s gates. Peter asks him, “Did you do anything self-sacrificing or noteworthy to show that you loved God and loved others.”
“Well,” he replied, “There was one thing. I saw an old lady that was being taunted and ridiculed and physically abused by a group of gangbangers. So, without thinking, I ran up to them and yelled, ‘Have you no shame? Leave her alone.’ Then I went right up to the largest guy who looked like Goliath with arms the size of trees and tattoos decorating his entire body and told him that they had better leave her alone or else. And while I was talking the old lady was able to get away.”
Peter said, “Wow, that was pretty amazing and pretty courageous. When did this happen?”
Whenever we talk about burning questions, we need to recognize that we are not God and we do not have all the answers. Humility has the same root as human. God is God and we are not. Therefore our understanding is limited. It is finite not infinite.
So what is heaven like?
We must first begin with looking at how Jesus and how Jewish people would have understood heaven. And the first and most important thing to understand is that for Jesus heaven was the place where God reigned.
Heaven is Tied to the Kingdom
• Heaven is the location of God’s reign. (Matthew 6:9-10)
Matthew 6:9-10, “This, then, is how you should pray: ’Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Jewish Qaddish prayer forms the background to the Lord’s Prayer: “May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time.”
Heaven equals the Kingdom of God. This is huge and huge implications. Heave equals the Kingdom of God. In fact Matthew writing to a Jewish audience does not used Kingdom of God but Kingdom of Heaven.
• Heaven is made up of kingdom people (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10)
1 Peter 2:4-5, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”
In fact Exodus 19:6 calls God’s people a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Heaven is the place where God reigns. It is where those who served God in this life will ultimately find themselves.
1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
These are people who have accepted the kingship of God and the Lordship of Jesus. But we also see this:
• Kingdom people follow the ways of Jesus
We studied the Sermon on the Mount. Here we saw what it means to follow Jesus. Those who follow Jesus follow his Shema of loving God and loving others. Jesus gave us very specific examples of what it means to follow him now. These “kingdom ways” continue on through out eternity. In fact following Jesus now shapes us into the kingdom people that we need to be in order to dwell with God forever. Justice is done. Enemies are loved. Grace and mercy is shown. People are treated fairly with dignity and respect. The poor are taken care of. Kingdom people give generously and show extreme hospitality.
But this of course is in the here and now. It is important because these things will not end but continue for eternity. Why? Because these are the ways of God?. These are the ways of kingdom people. There are three activities (and probably more but three that I want to highlight today) that we find kingdom people doing.