Summary: The third in a series adpated from Max Lucado’s book, When Christ Comes. This message focuses on the hope of paradise restored and answers questions about what Heaven will be like. Alliterated.
If this sermon is helpful to you look for my latest book, “The Greatest Commands: Learning To Love Like Jesus.” Each chapter is sermon length, alliterated, and focuses on the life and love of Jesus. You can find it here:
When Christ Comes: The Hope of Redemption!
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church
Have you ever wondered what Heaven will be like? Will we sit around on clouds strumming harps for endless eternity? Will it be like a never-ending church service? There are a lot of misconceptions out there about Heaven, not the least of which is the idea that we can’t possibly know what it will be like. One of the most often quoted verses of the Bible in relation to Heaven is this 1 Corinthians 2:9, which says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” In reality, this wonderful verse actually says exactly the opposite of what it is usually cited to prove.
If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is read the very next verse, which says, “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV). So, while previously no eye had seen nor ear heard what God has in store for us, what we otherwise could not have known, God says he has revealed to us through his Spirit. The context isn’t really talking about Heaven, but even if we apply these words to Heaven, they mean that God has revealed to us what it’s like. Maybe not exhaustively, but accurately.
God tells us about Heaven in his Word, not so that we can shrug our shoulders and remain ignorant, but because he wants us to understand and anticipate what awaits us. While many things about Heaven are secrets and God has countless surprises in store for us, the things God has revealed to us about Heaven belong to us and give us a beautiful picture of our eternal home. So, that being said, what does the Bible tells us Heaven will be like?
The Bible gives us several briefs glimpses into eternity through the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel as well as the apostle John, but the first thing we need to understand is that the place we normally think of as Heaven is actually just a transitional stopping point—what scholars refer to as the intermediate Heaven or sometimes the present Heaven.
• THE PRESENT HEAVEN
Remember that when a person dies their spirit leaves their body and goes Hades, which is simply a generic word that refers to the immaterial spiritual realm. Within this spirit realm exists both Tartarus (the shadowy prison for condemned spirits and fallen angels) and what Jesus calls paradise, or the present Heaven. Life in the present heaven, according to Paul, will be “far better” than living here on Earth away from the direct presence of God, but it isn’t the place we were made for, the eternal home God has promised us. While there we’ll experience the presence of God and of Christ, but this is just an intermediate state, a transitional period while we await and anticipate the return of Christ and the final resurrection—when our spirits will be returned to our new and improved bodies. When that time comes, God will not only return our spirits to our resurrected bodies but he will return Heaven to a resurrected Earth. Listen to what Peter writes: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 NIV).
Peter himself was merely echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, who recorded God’s declaration: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth…As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22 NIV). God’s children are destined for life as physical resurrected beings on a physical resurrected Earth. The present Heaven is a temporary residence where departed saints live until the return of Christ and our bodily resurrection. But the eternal Heaven, the New Earth is our true home, the place where we will live forever with our Lord and one another. All of this, I understand, may come as a surprise to some people. It may be very different than the way you’ve imagined Heaven. Collectively we imagine Heaven as this ethereal wraithlike realm, where people are walking on clouds and disembodied spirit wisp through the air. For some reason we have it in our minds that anything physical couldn’t possibly be spiritual. But the picture the Bible gives us of Heaven is quite the opposite. In fact, the Bible tells us that the future Heaven will be right here on our physical Earth.