David Jeremiah - Celebrate: Turn Your Forward Into Forever
You might say that Luke Pittard relished his job at McDonalds in Cardiff, Wales, but he walked away from it after winning the UK national lottery. After all, he was an overnight millionaire. He celebrated his good fortune by marrying his girlfriend Emma, who was also a McDonalds employee, and they bought a house and took a long holiday in the Canary Islands. But after returning to Wales, Luke was bored. "To be honest", he said, "there's only so much relaxing you can do. I'm young, and a bit of hard work never did anyone any harm".
So, he asked for his old job back, and now you can find him flipping hamburgers again at McDonalds. He makes more money from the interest on his winnings than at the restaurant, but he feels a natural need to work, and be with his friends and his coworkers. "They all think I'm a bit mad, but I tell them there's more to life than money", he says. And Emma added, "I can totally understand it. We both really enjoyed working at McDonalds and still have good friends there. So, it was very familiar for him, something for him to look forward to".
When you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you are wealthier than the winner of the richest lottery. Remember, much of our treasure is ahead of us in heaven. But many people are afraid they're going to be bored there. It's remarkable how many people tell me they'd rather not go to heaven because it will be boring. "What if I get to heaven and I'm bored"? they ask me. Well, after all, there's only so much relaxing I can do, so what if I miss my friends? What if I long for the kind of activity that enriched my life on this earth?
And I want to say to them don't worry, you won't be bored, and for one reason. God is not boring. Heaven won't bore you, it will bring fulfillment and celebration. All your dreaming and praying, all your focusing and risk taking and investing, all your forward momentum on earth is a prelude to greater service, happier work, and richer fulfillment in your heavenly home. God's children are always moving forward, even as they depart earth.
Now, the heroes of Scripture thought of heaven constantly, confessing they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth, that they were seeking a homeland, desiring a better country, a heavenly one, and looking forward to the city whose foundations and builder and maker is God. And Jesus longed for heaven as he approached the end of his life too. He told his disciples, "If you loved me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I'm going back to the Father.'"
The Apostle Peter said something important about this. He said, "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him".
Three times in that passage I just read, Peter told us to look forward, to anticipate what God has for us in the future, the return of Christ, the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, and our eternal home in heaven. Our anticipation empowers us to live holy, godly, and purposeful lives in this present age. The Bible says it this way. "Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God".
What kind of celebrations will we discover in God's eternal home? Well, first of all, we can look forward to a rousing welcome. Expect a rousing welcome. Most of us are apprehensive about dying, but the Bible's full of information to alleviate your concern. The Apostle Peter said that if you serve the Lord Jesus faithfully, "You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". A rich welcome. It's easier to underestimate those words.
Recently, a little boy in Ohio named Grady went back to school after having been diagnosed with leukemia. He'd missed a whole year with his classmates because of his treatments, but finally he was able to return for a few hours a day. His first day back, the principal met him and opened the door, and in front of Grady were all the students and teachers lining the hall, holding strands of bright crepe paper. They yelled and cheered as eight-year-old Grady ran between them. And at the end of the hall, there was this big, giant sign that said, "Welcome back, Grady". The children clapped and laughed, and teachers wiped tears from their eyes. Arriving home later that day, Grady said, "This was the best day ever, mom. I had so much fun, I didn't know days could be this good".
Now, I tell you that story because if schoolchildren can pull off a welcome celebration like that, just think of what Almighty God and his angels can do. You are promised a rich welcome into heaven. It'll be your best day ever. You can't imagine that a day could be so good. Your rich welcome actually begins before you arrive in heaven. In our Lord's parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, we're told, "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side in heaven".
I believe that the Lord Jesus sends an angelic escort to accompany his departing saints to heaven. You'll not be forgotten, forsaken, or alone for a single second. And you'll arrive there to find your home at last. If you want to imagine how you'll feel when you see your amazing new home, listen to what the martyr Stephen said. As he died, he looked up to heaven and he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he shouted, "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God". It's the first person to give his life for Christ. Stephen's experience is unique, but to some extent, it surely anticipates the rich welcome that you and I will receive the moment we're transported to heaven. We will enter into the joy of our Lord.
So, as you look forward to celebrate what God has done in your life and is doing in your life, look forward to a rousing welcome. Then look forward to a rich reward. Among the joys of heaven will be the rewards given for faithfulness on this earth. If you live according to biblical principles such as the ones that I've talked about in previous messages, there's this series of rewards for you described in the Bible. Jesus often said things like, "Whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward".
Luke 6:23, "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for indeed your reward is great in heaven".
Luke 6:35, "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return, and your reward will be great".
Paul picked up the theme, saying, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance". The Bible describes heaven's rewards as crowns. There's the victor's crown described in 1 Corinthians 9, where we're told to run in a way that we may obtain it. And that everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. "Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we do it for an imperishable crown".
This is God's reward for those Christians who live a disciplined, godly life on earth. And then there's the crown of rejoicing. Paul describes this in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2. He says, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming"? This is the joy of seeing those in heaven who were influenced for Christ by our lives and our deeds and our words. And then there's the crown of righteousness. The key to this reward is developing an intense desire for the Lord's return. The Apostle Paul said it this way, "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved his appearing".
Next there is the crown of life given for those who endure temptations and trials. Here we read, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life". And finally, there's the crown of glory. And Peter describes it this way, "When the chief shepherd appears, you shall receive the crown of glory that does not fade away". The greatest reward in heaven will be seeing those who've been influenced by your work. That's when you'll understand that you've achieved something in life far more than you realized, "For your labor in the Lord is never in vain". And the Bible tells us that we're all gonna get a reward for the part we play. I've often wondered how he's going to divide it all up, but if he can create all of us out of the dust of the earth, I figured he can probably figure out the reward system for which we all will be benefitted.
So, when you look forward to celebration, look forward to a resurrected body, oh my goodness, listen to this. It's important to remember that we aren't going to be ghosts or angels or disembodied spirits in heaven. Philippians chapter 3 says that, "The Lord Jesus will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be just like his glorious body". I don't know about you, but for me, that's really good news. Some of you who are listening to this message are battling illnesses, and disabilities, and ravages of aging. Medical science is grappling with all these issues, and some of our advances are amazing.
Sergeant John Peck is an American marine who lost all four limbs to an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010. At first, he thought he'd spend the rest of his life wearing prosthetic arms and legs. But I can hardly believe this, in 2016, he received a double arm transplant. The limbs came from a young man who was declared braindead and whose arms were rushed in ice packs to an operating room in Boston for the 14 hour transplant surgery performed by a team of 60 surgeons, nurses, and technicians. When Peck woke up the next day, he had someone else's arms. Today, John Peck is able to perform many daily tasks with his new arms, including signing copies of his book, "Rebuilding Sergeant Peck". If human medical technology can do so much to help our bodies recover from horrific tragedies, imagine what God can do instantaneously at the moment of the resurrection.
1 Corinthians says it this way, "We will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed". Consider what we know about the resurrection body of Christ. It was his own natural body, recognizable with his unique DNA. His personal essence and his personal qualities were intact. It was the same body he acquired in embryonic form at conception. But in a flash of Easter glory, it was transformed into an imperishable body with new capabilities. It was capable of passing through doors, ascending into the air, eating food, touching his friends. His resurrection body is the way our bodies are going to be when we go to heaven. We're going to have bodies just like the Lord.
Now, you can contemplate that all you want. The next time you're considering cosmetic surgery, just remember if you wait long enough, you won't have to do that 'cause Jesus Christ is gonna change everybody to be just like him. So, when you go to your celebration, you will look forward to a rousing welcome. You will look forward to a rich reward. You will look forward to a resurrected body. But here's one that surprises a lot of people, you will look forward to a renewed assignment. You'll need your resurrection body because you're going to have a lot of work to do when you get to heaven. One of the greatest aspects of heaven involves the prospect of more service.
Revelation 7:15 says, "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night". And Revelation 22:3 says, "And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him". You know, we're not going to go to heaven and sit on a cloud and strum a ukulele or whatever it is that you think we're gonna do when we get there. No, we're gonna go to heaven and we're gonna work. Work won't be difficult, it'll be the greatest joy of heaven, to be able to work without anybody pushing back on you, anybody trying to tell you to do what you don't want to do because God puts within you the desire to do the right thing. You will be able to get up and work every day, and it will be the joy of your life.
When you get to heaven, when you attend the celebration at the end of what happens here on this earth, you will have a rousing welcome. You will get a rich reward. Your body will be resurrected and changed completely. You will get a new assignment, and you will look forward to a royal throne. By far, the greatest energy and enthusiasm in heaven will be around the throne of God, when we cast our crowns at his feet and worship him with full understanding and joy. We have a preview in Revelation 4:5, when the saints and angels of heaven sing in a loud voice, "Blessing and honor and glory and power to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever".
Dr. Vernon Whaley has been training worship leaders for decades. His passion for worship stems from the small Alaska church he attended as a child. His parents were missionaries there, and they had a deep concern for people with disabilities. When they met for the services, it was a remarkable crowd, an alcoholic turned deacon, a prostitute transformed into a Sunday school teacher, a blind man who played the piano, a former fugitive who kept the church grounds, a young woman lame from birth, a young man with Down syndrome who helped take the offering. But they all sang praises to God.
Vernon Whaley says, "My father was a great one for having extended times of singing during the Sunday night services". I know about that. My father was a pastor, and we used to have Sunday night sings. Sometimes, they lasted for the whole service. Mr. Whaley said, "My father entered the ministry during the 1940s, when Youth for Christ rallies were held all over the country. He never lost the excitement of those rallies and their impact on his life", so he said, "almost every Sunday, our congregation sang hymn after hymn after hymn". And if you know those days, you know you sang all the verses, all four verses or five sometimes.
Dr. Whaley recalls one Sunday night, when there was a puzzling stir from the middle of the congregation. He turned around to see a significantly disabled girl slowly steering her wheelchair to the front of the church. The converted alcoholic got up and helped her roll to the front of the pulpit. Reverent Whaley came down near her. Using her alphabet slate, she told him she wanted to sing a solo. She wanted to sing "Amazing Grace". The blind pianist struck up the tune for amazing grace, and the girl began making groans and moanings in time with the music. "I was not able to clearly understand a word she sang", Dr. Whaley said. "But somehow, the musicianship and the articulation of words did not matter. All of us understood intuitively what she was doing, and more important why she was doing it. There was no doubt. We all knew she was singing from her heart to the living God. There was not a dry eye in the audience. Even the children were captured and stilled by that moment".
Can you imagine the moment tens of millions of us join tens of millions of angels, all of our disabilities gone, all of our problems solved, all of our burdens lifted? And we lift our voices in a choir of billions, and we sing of God's amazing grace. Yes, we look forward to a rousing welcome, and a rich reward, and a resurrected body, a renewed assignment, a royal throne, and a rapturous reunion. Here's something else. As you gather around the throne, you'll look over and you'll see your dearest loved ones in Christ. You'll instantly know each other, and you'll begin to fellowship in heaven where you left off on earth.
All the saints of all the ages will be there, plus all the angels. No more separation, no more sorrow. I'll see my dad and my mom again, and the dearest ones who have preceded me to glory. Our lives are ordered by the Lord, and he brings us together on earth in friendships, and marriages, and family units, and relationships, and fellowship. And the same God who brought us together the first time will reunite us again, and we'll pick up where we left off, minus all the disagreements and all the personality conflicts. Shortly before he passed away from complications from pulmonary fibrosis in 2003, evangelist Bill Bright contemplated the nature of our heavenly experience.
Here's what he wrote. "No reunion in history can even foreshadow what joy we will experience when we see loved ones and friends who went on before us. Brought together in the all surrounding presence of the Lord, our faces will beam. What full-throated, glad-hearted welcomes these blood-washed sinners will give each other. How we will adore the Lord Jesus together. How we will love each other".
Oh my friends, the celebration that awaits us if we continue to go forward is beyond description. It includes a rousing welcome, a rich reward, a resurrected body. It includes a royal throne, a rapturous reunion, and a risen Savior. Oh yes, all of the things that happen to us in heaven are peripheral because the main thing in heaven is we get to see Jesus. That's the greatest anticipation about heaven, our risen Savior. The Bible says you will see Jesus face to face. There is no more glorious verse in the Bible than Revelation 22:4, "They shall see his face". One day in the future, if your heart is right with God and you are a Christian, and you die and you go to heaven, the Bible says you will meet Jesus personally, face to face.
This is your ultimate goal. This will be your single most phenomenal moment of your entire life. This is what you're living for, what you're waiting for, and what you're anticipating with all your heart. You can be excited about heaven. You can turn your forward into forever. Don't miss the celebration and eternal joys of heaven. Jesus died and rose again to take you to heaven, and he's gone ahead of you to get everything ready. And the only way you can go forward is with him.
The whole human race is poisoned by sin, but the blood of Jesus Christ is the cure. He died on the cross, and the Bible says, "If you declare with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved". So, hear me carefully. In this last message in this ten message series, there's no going forward without Jesus. And when you have Jesus, there's no turning back, amen.