Today we'll look at some of the amazing things the Bible says about Heaven.
In John 14:2, 3 we read that Jesus said:
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
One thing that doctors agree on is that a healthy attitude to death is essential if we're to live our lives in peace and dignity.
As believers in the Lord Jesus, we can be sure we’re going to Heaven when we die, and this will give us a healthy attitude to death.
You might be hurting because a loved one has died, or because you’re afraid of death.
Today, we’ll look at the Word of God and see that if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus you don’t need to be afraid of death.
What is death?
Death is not the end – it’s just a change from a limited existence to an unlimited existence.
For the Christian, death is when we lose this old body and get a much better new body.
In Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 we read that we should:
Remember your Creator - before ... ... the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Although our physical body returns to dust, our spirit lives on and we will receive a wonderful new body.
Things in Heaven will be so good that the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21, 23:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain....
I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.
Why did Paul say that to die is gain?
Because he knew about Heaven and he knew about his new body!!
For the Christian, death is progress - not the end of the world.
It’s one of the most important events in life - not the ultimate enemy.
Death is a graduation to a new and wonderful existence.
Our destiny in Heaven is to be "like Christ".
Not like Christ as he was on earth, when He limited Himself to the confines of time and flesh, but like the risen Christ, the great free, timeless Christ of Easter morning.
As the apostle John said in 1 John 3:2,
.... we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
The Bible teaches that the soul is immortal and will never die.
The Bible also teaches that there’s a Heaven for those who trust the Lord - and a Hell for those who don't.
Christians have sometimes been accused of preaching "pie in the sky when you die"; but the fact is, that the Christian life is also "steak on the plate while you wait" – because it's the best life on earth as well.
The false ideas that:
- Peter stands at the door of Heaven to welcome people, and …
- We sit on clouds playing harps for millions of years
have made Heaven a joke for some people.
But as we’ll see today, that’s not what the Bible teaches.
In 1 Cor 2:9 we read:
“.... no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"
The problem we have is that our limited minds can't grasp the wonder of it!!
Heaven is not just earth with the bumps taken out - it's a radical improvement.
And in 2 Cor 12:4 when Paul uses the phrase "inexpressible words", he's defining our greatest problem in understanding Heaven.
You just can’t tell about it in our words. It’s inexpressible.
Neither our human language nor our limited minds can take it in something that is so far above our experience.
How would you explain a jet airliner to a 2-year-old who has never seen one
.... and if the child came from the Amazon jungle and didn't know any English?
.... and if the child was also deaf and blind?
Now you know why it's so hard for us to understand Heaven!
It's a bit like trying to explain to a caterpillar what it's like to be a butterfly!
How do we know there is life after death?
The evidence against life after death is simple – it’s the evidence of our own eyes.
We can see when a person dies they seem to have stopped existing and their body decays.
The evidence for survival is not so simply expressed - it has to overcome the apparently overwhelming evidence of our senses.
However, just because a fish in the sea finds it hard to believe that there are creatures that don't live in the sea, doesn't mean that there aren't any.
One day a fisherman will catch it - and then it will experience what it doesn't believe.
It's a bit like that with the next life - one day we'll experience it whether we believe it now or not.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the best-documented survival of all time.
In 1 Cor 15:20-22 we read:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
Within the lifetime of those who were eyewitnesses of the crucial events, a major religion was born and spread with amazing rapidity.
This religion claimed that its Founder had risen from the dead after having been executed by the Roman authorities.
The people who killed Jesus were desperate to prove that He hadn’t risen from the dead - but they couldn’t do it.
And they had direct access to the witnesses and could cross-examine them.
It should have been very easy to demolish such an incredible claim, but they couldn’t do it.
It’s sometimes said that people way back then were easily fooled – not like today!
But that idea doesn’t hold water.
The first century was an age of cynicism and rationalism.
The dominant Greek school of thought, Stoicism, didn’t believe in any kind of life after death - neither did one of the two major Jewish groups, the Sadducees.
There was no shortage of smart and well-educated people to squash out any religion that believed that a man had risen from the dead.
But according to Paul in 1 Cor 15:6:
.... Jesus appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living...
Look, he says in effect, here is the proof that Jesus rose from the dead.
500 people saw him on one occasion - and if you don't believe it, you can ask them yourself - because most of them are still alive today.
Paul was presenting Christianity as it should be presented - a faith that is built on events that actually happened in time and history.
Where is Heaven?
The Bible doesn't tell us where Heaven is except that it is "up" and away from the world we live in.
When the church meets the Lord it will be caught "up" (1 Thess 4:17).
When John was about to be given a tour of Heaven he was invited to come up (Rev 4:1).
Heaven is "up" in the sense that it is away from the world we live in.
Heaven is up above our solar system, up beyond our galaxy and up beyond the millions of galaxies in our universe and up beyond our universe.
Heaven is beyond time and in eternity.
Heaven will never be located even by the most powerful radio telescope – it’s simply not in the dimensions we live in.
Heaven is where God is.
Rev 21:3 describes Heaven saying:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.
What's Heaven like?
Its big! - Jesus said that His Father’s house, Heaven, contains many dwelling places (John 14:2) so there will be room for everyone who follows him.
Just as God is unlimited by time, so the place where God is, Heaven, is unlimited by time.
In 2 Peter 3:8 we read:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
Strangely enough, it’s now much easier to accept the concept of life unlimited by the dimensions of time and space than it used to be.
The idea that space and time and matter are all related to each other is a basic principle of modern physics.
It means that today the concept of additional dimensions is discussed not only by science fiction writers – but by serious scientists as well.
Also the idea that the universe of space and time that we live in had a beginning is now accepted by most scientists.
But of course, that was taught by the Bible a long time before scientists discovered it.
Heaven is filled with goodness, truth and love. Just as God is goodness, truth and love, so Heaven, the place where God is, is filled with goodness, truth and love.
The Bible uses vivid language to describe Heaven.
In Revelation chapter 21 we read of streets of gold and gates of pearls. It's as though our imperfect human language was inadequate to describe the wonders of Heaven.
I believe that the gold and pearls of Heaven will be much better than the gold and pearls we know today. For one thing they won't wear out or decay.
In Matthew 6:20 we read:
But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy...
The God who made the atom and the tiny quark will have no trouble in making much better materials for Heaven.
Heaven is more real than earth!
Do we go straight to Heaven when we die?
Yes we will go straight to Heaven when we die - or even before we die if the Lord comes for His people first.
There will be no intermediate state, no Purgatory, no Limbo and no Soul-sleep.
Actually the doctrine of Purgatory is completely foreign to the Bible and was only made official by the medieval Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Florence in 1443.
Nowhere is it taught in the Bible.
In Luke 23:43 the Lord said to the dying thief on the cross:
.... today you will be with Me in Paradise.
There was no mention of purgatory then!
What will we be like in Heaven?
Our resurrection bodies are described by Paul in 1 Cor 15, especially verses 42-44:
So also is the resurrection of the dead.
- The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.
- It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory.
- It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
- It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
I believe that our resurrection bodies will be designed for a new dimension, for eternity, they will not be limited by time and space.
Our bodies will never grow old and they will never die (Luke 20:36).
Our bodies might be able to move through space at the speed of thought, and they might even be able to pass through matter like Jesus did in His resurrection body. (John 20:26).
Will we know each other in Heaven?
Yes! We'll know each other even better than we do now:
1 Cor 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Jesus promised that in Heaven many will come from all directions and sit down to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. (Matt 8:11). So we'll know them as well!
It's interesting to note that Jesus in his resurrected body was not immediately recognised on 3 separate occasions.
This happened with Mary Magdalene, on the road to Emmaus, and with the twelve disciples.
However in each case he was recognised when he spoke or acted.
This seems to indicate that we will know people by who they really are, rather than just by what they are like on the outside.
We will recognise our loved ones - but better than that, we will really know them with a depth and insight and love as never before.
Life will be transformed in the presence of its Creator and Sustainer.
Will we be married in Heaven?
In Luke 20:34-35 Jesus said that in Heaven we will neither marry or be given in marriage and that we will no longer die.
If we cannot die, then of course there is no need for reproduction or physical sex.
However that doesn't mean that there won't be special relationships in Heaven, and I believe that those who were married on earth will enjoy a very special - and greatly improved - relationship in Heaven.
Also, I believe that Christian families that love each other on earth will love each other in Heaven – even more than they do now.
Will we be able to see what's happening on earth?
Samuel after his death knew what was happening on earth. (1 Sam 28:16-19).
Moses and Elijah when they met Jesus on the mountain knew about what was happening on earth. (Luke 9:31).
In our wonderful new bodies we to will probably be able to see what is going on earth if we want to.
But because Heaven and the presence of the Lord Jesus – is so much more wonderful than earth – we probably won't want to spend very much time looking at what’s happening on earth!
Do babies and infants who die go to Heaven?
About one quarter of those who are born in the world today die as babies or very young children.
Although babies have inherited the sin infection that is common to fallen humanity, they have never rejected
Christ nor have they been given a chance to accept him.
The Bible nowhere says or implies that they are lost.
But neither does the Bible teach that they are saved by being baptised or christened or dedicated.
What the Bible does teach is found in Matt 18. In verses 2 and 3 we read that Jesus called a little child to him and said:
"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Then in verse 14 the Lord says:
"Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
That's clear enough.
I believe that infants who die will go to Heaven.
I believe that their development will not be arrested, they won’t stay as babies – they will continue to grow and mature in Heaven.
Who else goes to Heaven?
Jesus taught that there's a very real possibility of people being excluded from Heaven.
The reason for this is quite straightforward. Heaven is a community of total goodness – living in the presence of the holy God.
To allow evil into Heaven would be like tossing a bad apple into a barrel of good ones - the place would no longer be totally good and soon might become totally evil.
All impurity and sin is excluded from Heaven, simply so that Heaven can be Heaven.
In Rev 21:27 we read:
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
This means that none of us can qualify for Heaven on our own merits because we've all sinned, Romans 3:23.
For all have sinned (failed to meet God’s standard) and fall short of the glory of God.
However there's a solution to our dilemma found in Romans 5:8:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Faith alone in Christ alone saves us from our sin, John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
We then have eternal life that cannot be taken away, John 10:27-28
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
If eternal life could be taken away it would not be eternal life!
Eternal life in Heaven is ours when we trust in the Lord Jesus.
We can only enter Heaven if we are clothed in His righteousness.
Here’s a verse I wrote for hymn 231 in Redemption Hymns:
And when I reach that country, I'll see her mighty King,
I'll praise Him for His mercy, His grace and suffering;
Upon the cross of Calvary in love for me He died,
So I can have true freedom, forever at His side;
His love will never falter; His love has paid the price,
His love has made undaunted the final sacrifice.
Lindsay Smith, Tawa Gospel Hall 31/8/14