Summary: Here we explore what it means to "go to heaven." What does this mean and what implications does it have in this life? What happens when we die?
The Burning Question
What Is Heaven Like? Part 3 – The Way to Life
February 24, 2008
Let’s quickly review what we have seen about heaven. Heaven is multi-facted. It has many different aspects. We have seen the heaven is the place where God reigns and it is comprised of the subjects of that reign: kingdom people. We also have seen that the kingdom is not strictly spiritual. There is more to the kingdom that breaks into this world. The earth is part of the domain of God and one day at the end of time, a new heaven and a new earth will be brought into existence. There are spiritual aspects but there is also a physical resurrection.
This week we are going to explore the relationship of the subjects. In other words, what is entailed “when we go to heaven?” Last week we saw that eternity will probably entail a return to care of this new creation in such as a way that existed before Adam and Eve transgressed God. So what does this mean, “to go to heaven?” How do we get there? What is involved?
Exploring the Way
The first thing that most of us equate with heaven is eternal what? Eternal life. But we do a disservice to the gospel, to God, to Jesus, and to others when over-simplify these matters.
• More than living forever
Often our usual “gospels” are simply way to omit God from our daily life. I pray a prayer. I acknowledge that Jesus died for me intellectually (we call this believing) and one day because Jesus already paid the price for me I will go to a spiritual realm called heaven and those who don’t acknowledge Jesus will go to another place called hell. (By the way, next week we will address the question, “Is there really a hell?”) I live my life and Jesus only makes a real difference one day when I die. An excuse to omit God. Does Jesus only enable me “to make the cut” when I die? Is there any good news in this life? In a way this is like having a car with great insurance but the car doesn’t run. I rather have a car that ran and great insurance, wouldn’t you?
I was reminded of two young ministry students down south who stopped at a rickety old shack to “share the gospel.” There must have been a dozen kids running around apparently doing whatever they wanted. It was chaos. The house was falling apart.
A woman completely and totally disheveled answered the door. She looked totally exasperated. “Can I help you?” she asked obviously not meaning it because the last thing she needed was something else to do or someone else to take care of.
“M’am,” one young man nervously began, “I have some good news. Jesus died for your sins and if you receive him as your savior, you can live forever.”
She stared at them for a long moment and said, “Sonny, do you see where you are at? I can’t control these kids. My husband left me. I can’t pay the bills. The house is falling apart. I am at my wit’s end. Why in the world want to live this way forever?”
• The Way to Life (John 15:21)
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When Jesus said this phrase, he was using a term translated as “I am” but would have been clearly understood by his Jewish disciples as a reference to the name that God gave Moses: I Am that I Am. Jesus was saying that as the great I Am there is no way to God except through my ways which is God’s ways. Thus Jesus could also tell his disciples that whoever has seen him has seen the Father. All life comes through Jesus. Jesus was claiming to be God.
But this way for Jesus was the way of the Kingdom. It was living as a subject of the Kingdom now. Those who were subjects of the Kingdom and therefore subjects of heaven would live out his teachings specifically his Shema of loving God and loving others. Jesus healed people. Jesus declared that a new era of justice, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love had come not just spiritually but was breaking into this world and its corruption. Jesus was declaring the fulfillment of the anawim hope that the Davidic kingdom was near. It was so near in fact that its present was already being seen and felt. This occurs whenever the kingdom people live out the ways of God. These ways lead to life. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came so that we would have life in its fullness or as another translation says abundant life.