Summary: The Bible teaches that before we can really begin to talk about Heaven…before we can really begin to prepare for Heaven…we need to understand the Resurrection.
The No. 1 Best Seller of books on Amazon.com in the category of Christian Living (and now made into a movie) is a book called Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.
It is the story written by the 3-year-old’s father, Todd Burpo, a Wesleyan pastor living in rural Nebraska. Todd recounts the story of his son Colton’s mystic vision of heaven while the boy nearly died from a rupturing appendix in the spring of 2003.
Not too long afterward, he told his parents that he saw them praying for him outside the operating room. When they asked how he knew what they had been doing he said, "Cause I could see you....I went up out of my body and I was looking down and I could see the doctor working on my body…And I saw you and Mommy. You were in a little room by yourself, praying; and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone."
Colton, who is now 14 years old had other revelations which included:
angels singing "Jesus Loves Me" to him;
his sitting on Jesus' lap;
meeting John the Baptist and the angel Gabriel;
petting Jesus' rainbow-colored horse;
his descriptions of Jesus' wounds and attire, including a crown with a pink diamond that Jesus wore;
the many kids that were in Heaven;
his description of everyone there having wings like the angels--all except Jesus, that is;
his being recognized by his great grandfather, who died decades before Colton was born;
and the description of God as "really, really big."
Colton claims that he had met his other sister in Heaven…the baby that his mother miscarried and was never told about. He says, "In heaven, this little girl ran up to me, and she wouldn't stop hugging me....She said she just can't wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven" (p. 96).
So you have people today buying books and flocking to movies on the subject of “life after death” and most of these people will tell you that they believe in a place called Heaven. Even the unbeliever will say when a loved one dies that “He is going to a better place.”
But what most people don’t agree on or don’t know altogether is how people get there. And, if they do get there, what form will they take.
The Bible teaches that before we can really begin to talk about Heaven…before we can really begin to prepare for Heaven…we need to understand the Resurrection. Our entrance into Heaven is based on our understanding and acceptance of what the Bible teaches concerning the Resurrection.
We take our text from 1 Corinthians chapter 15. In this letter, Paul is writing to a group of people that had come out of a Greek and Roman culture that did not believe in a resurrection. Most of the Greek philosophers (Epicureans, Stoics, Sinica, Celsius) denied resurrection.
The Stoics believed that man contained a divine spark that originated from Deity. Stoics longed for death because it would shed them from the body, which was nothing more than a prison and corpse. Death would liberate their divine spark and return it to God.
When Celsius was told that Christians believed their bodies would be raised from the dead, he responded by saying, “The bodily resurrection of Christians is the hope of worms, for what soul of a man would any longer wish for a body that had rotted in the ground?”
So the believers in the city of Corinth were saved out of this kind of culture and thinking and wrestled with the concept of a bodily resurrection as they tried to live for Christ. So Paul writes this section in 1 Corinthians to help them.
Today we have people who say they believe in Heaven, but if you asked them, would deny that Jesus was miraculously raised from the dead. So the Word of God is speaking to them too.
If there is no resurrection, Christ has not been raised from the dead
(1 Cor 15:13 NKJV) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
This is a very important hurdle to get over because Jesus was a man, albeit, a sinless man. But in order to pay for our sin, He had to die our death as a human being, not an ephemeral spirit, as the Greek philosophers might say.
Paul uses a conditional clause called a contrafactual or contrary to fact statement to tell the Corinthian believers that if they accepted as true that there is no physical, bodily, resurrection, then Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead.
If there is no resurrection, you don’t have a testimony
(1 Cor 15:14 NKJV) And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.