Greg Laurie — Hello from the Other Side
What is heaven? Heaven is the dwelling place of God. One day it can be our home if we believe. Sometimes we ask the question what is heaven like. Why do we ask that question? We have a lot of strange caricatured versions of heaven. We think of ourselves sitting around on fluffy white clouds and plucking harps and fat little baby angels hovering above us with little wings. It sounds strange. Well that is not a biblical version of heaven.
I think instead of asking the question what is heaven like, why don't you ask the question what is earth like. When I say what is earth like, what is earth at its best? Think of the most amazing sunset you have ever seen or the most incredible waterfall or foliage around it. Think about the most amazing architecture you have ever laid your eyes on. The greatest city you have ever visited. Or go back in your life for a moment and remember some of the greatest moments you have had with family and friends. What about the best meal you have ever had. Those are glimpses of heaven. Because heaven is not an imitation of earth. Earth is an imitation of heaven. The best that you have ever experienced on this earth is going to be way, way better in heaven.
Listen to this. Heaven is a real place for real people to do real things. Jesus said, "I have gone to prepare a place for you". I feel like you want to applaud. Just get it out. Let it out. What is it like? The apostle Paul had the unique experience of dying and going to heaven and returning. He didn't write a book about it. He told us a few things about it. So many scholars believe this is when Paul was stoned. No not that kind of stoned. Stoned with rocks and left for dead. Paul writes about it or speaks of it, and this is from a modern translation in 2 Corinthians 12, "I was swept into ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I don't know if this took place in the body or out of it: only God knows". Paul says, "I was hijacked into paradise. I heard the unspeakable spoken". I love that translation. Hijacked into paradise. I heard the unspeakable spoken. That is where he went.
So look when I want to know about a place I try to talk to someone who has been there. If I am going to go visit a city. Maybe it is New York or Chicago or some other place, if I know someone there, I will ask where a good place to stay is. What is the weather like this time of the year? What do you do when you are there? Most importantly. Where are the best places to eat? Right. I want to talk to a person who has been there. There is only one person who is a reliable source on the afterlife who has been there and returned. We celebrate his death and resurrection today. Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus said in John 6:38, "I have come down from heaven to do the will of God". He came down from heaven.
The title of my message is, Hello From the Other Side. You can't really go anywhere without hearing that song by Adele. I don't own that song. I haven't downloaded it but I have heard it so many times. In malls. Here. There. It is a very popular song. She is singing about a breakup. How she misses her old lover. But I want us to look at it for a moment from an eternal perspective and think about what happened when Jesus came back and told us what we need to do. He came down from heaven. Of course this is a day we remember that Jesus died on the cross and he rose again from the dead. He was born in that manger in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life. He declared himself as the Messiah. There was an initial excitement and response culminating with palm Sunday when they laid palm branches at his feet. Things turned ugly. One of his hand chosen disciples and friends Judas Iscariot turned on him. Peter who was really the ringleader of the disciples denied that he ever knew Jesus. Jesus was sent to a kangaroo court of injustice on trumped up false charges. He was beaten. He was scourged. He was nailed to a cross. There he died.
Now we look at this and say how this could be part of any plan. It was a plan. It was God's perfect well-ordered plan. Listen to this. God was the master of ceremonies at the cross. Isaiah 53 said, "It was the will of God to crush him and put him to grief". Isaiah says, "It pleased the Father to bruise him". How could the Father possibly be pleased by the horrible treatment that his Son faced? How could the Father be pleased by the fact that his Son was beaten beyond human recognition? God wasn't pleased by that. God wasn't pleased by the fact that his judgment had to be poured on his Son who was dying in our place. God was pleased with the outcome. God was pleased with what would come as a result. God was pleased by the fact that thousands of us would gather on Easter Sunday and celebrate a risen Lord because of his death and resurrection. Not just here but in churches all around the world.
He is alive. I would have expected him to say something like ta da. What he says is interesting. He says basically hello. Hello from the other side if you will. Verse 9. Hello. It is a common greeting by the way. It wasn't a special greeting. It was the way they normally greeted each other in this time. It is sort of a festive jubilant happy greeting. Hey. Hello. You know we use different greetings depending where we are from. Here in California we will just say hi. If you are from the South you might say hey. If you are from the Bronx you might say yo. If you are from Hawaii you might say aloha. If you are a local you will say howzit bra. If you are from Israel you will say shalom. If you are from Italy you will say ciao.
Different ways we greet one another. My point is it was a common greeting. There are different ways you greet people around the world. Experts tell us we need to know this lest we offend someone by our greeting. Here in the west when we meet someone for the first time we might shake their hand. It might be one of those awkward half hug handshake things. You go in for the handshake and they go in for the hug. It gets very awkward for that moment. In different cultures they express themselves in interesting ways.
For instance in Japan they bow from the waist. It is a sign of showing honor. You bow. The lower you bow the greater honor you are showing. In Polynesia, listen to this, you take your friends hands and use them to stroke your face. If you do that here you might get hit. It will never happen to you sir. In Belize. Listen to this. In Belize you press your fists together. That is an interesting way to greet someone. How are you? Good? Whoa. Are you going to hurt me or something? In Tibet it is very polite to stick out your tongue at someone. I am serious. It shows you have no evil thoughts. Wow.
A lot of ways you could greet one another. Here is Jesus alive and well. He basically says hey. Hi. Hello. Yo. Howzit. Greetings. It is a common greeting. It is an interesting way to say hello to everyone after he has come back again from the dead. Here is the important thing. What take-away truths are there from the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus? We want to make sure we find these out so we can start enjoying them.
1. Because of the resurrection of Jesus if you are a Christian you will have life after death in heaven. Again I want to emphasize this is for believers only. Not for a nonbeliever. Heaven is not the default destination of every person. It is only the destination of the person who has put their faith in Christ. That comes to the question what happens when we die. That all depends. If you are a Christian you go straight to heaven. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00. Straight to heaven. The apostle Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Paul wrote, "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far greater". That is what happens when a Christian dies. Our body goes into the ground, but our spirit goes right into the presence of God. That is a great truth.
We know this because 1 Corinthians 15:21 says, "Since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive". Jesus has overcome death at the cross. Here is one way to think about it. A believer does not have to fear death any more than we have to be afraid of taking a nap. I have to admit something to you. I take a nap almost every day now. I don't know if that is a good thing to publicly disclose, but it is true. I don't take long naps. They are not hour naps. They are not even half hour naps. I don't get in bed. I just maybe will prop my feet up on my desk or just close my eyes. Sometimes it is a five minute nap. I have found it sort of refreshes me. It sort of clears the cobwebs out.
I did a little research on it to justify this behavior. I read that naps restore alertness. Help us avoid burnout. They are described by experts as a system reboot. They heighten sensory perception and even reduce heart disease. I know some of you are going to say, "What did Greg talk about today at church on Easter"? "He talked about naps". You don't fear taking a nap. You know it is a sad thing. You know you are getting old when happy hour is a nap. You don't have to be afraid of that. That is how the Bible often describes death for a Christian. After Lazarus died Jesus said of him, he is asleep. Even when Stephen was dying a violent death at the hands of wicked men we read that he fell asleep. That is a beautiful picture.
Now when I say fall asleep it doesn't mean you are going to take a long eternal nap. Your body goes into the ground. Your spirit goes into the presence of God. One day you are going to wake up. Your body will come alive again. 1 Corinthians 15:51 says, "Let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all sleep or die. We will be transformed. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye when the last trumpet is blown. The trumpet will sound and those who have died will be raised to live forever. We who are living will be transformed for our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die. Our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies". There is going to be a bodily resurrection of your loved ones who have died in faith. There will be a bodily resurrection for you. But the Bible teaches there is a generation, and we could be that generation, that will not see death. They will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. We call it the rapture.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead there will be a final judgment. There will be a final judgment. Acts 17:31 says, "He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained. He has given assurance of this by raising him from the dead". Now this can be good or bad news depending on how you are living. It is good to know that one day God will right every wrong. That brings us great comfort when you think of all of the atrocities and injustices and wrongs and wanton acts of terrorism and murder and much more that one day all wrongs will be righted. There is a final court of arbitration. There will be final justice meted out.
We don't have to be afraid if we are a Christian of this final judgment because the Bible says there is the judgment for Christians. It says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the rewards for the way we have lived. Loose paraphrase there. The idea there is think of it as an awards ceremony. It would be like you ran a great race and now you are going to go get your medal. Are you dreading that? I don't think so because you did well. It is like watching the Oscars or the Emmys. I love on the Oscars how they have those split screens. They have a tight shot of all of the people who are nominated. Then the winner is announced. They jump out of their seat. Everyone else smiles and applauds. Remember they are actors. Right. They are not happy at that moment.
You are all going to win. We are all going to win something for our faithfulness. If you have served the Lord faithfully you will be rewarded in that day. The Bible sums it up this way. "Sow to the spirit and you will reap life everlasting. If you sow to the flesh you will reap corruption". If you have lived a godly life, you will receive the reward for that godly life. But listen. If you have lived an ungodly life you will face the repercussions for that too. The big question on this final day is not going to be how good of a life did you live. Even if you lived the best life possible you still fall short of God's standard. God will not let you into heaven because you have lived a good life. You need to come through Jesus. That is the only way to get into heaven.
In that final day it is not so much a sin question as much as it is a Son question. Son. As in what did you do with Jesus the Son of God? If you have not put your faith in him then you will face a certain judgment. I answered the question what happens to a Christian when they die. They go to heaven. What happens to a non-Christian when they die? According to scripture they will face judgment. Yes there is a hell. Some of you are thinking, oh Greg. Please. Are you kidding me? I finally got my mom to come to church and you are actually talking about hell. Greg we are dressed in pastel colors. We are going to go to Easter brunch. I am going to meet the easter bunny later. The sad thing is I am 40 but still I am excited. Don't talk about hell in church on Easter Sunday. Keep it light and keep it short.
Listen. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead so you can go to heaven. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead so you don't have to go to hell. I want you to take that home with you and have this relationship with God. Do you think if all roads led to God and a good life would get you to heaven that God would have poured his judgment on his own beloved Son? Of course not. Because there was no other way to satisfy his righteous demands. Jesus died in our place. He rose again from the dead.
Now we have the hope of life beyond the grave. We have the hope of reunion. When you know when have loved ones that have preceded you to heaven you know you will see them one day. I know I will see my son Christopher again in heaven. I will see my mom again. I will see my dad again. You will see your loved ones who have died in faith again. But the nonbeliever they don't have this hope. You can have all of your near death experiences and read all of your little books and watch all of your little movies. You might find that you have been taking in a lot of fiction. I would rely on a document that we can trust. That is the Bible. God has told us what happens on the other side. If you want to know that you will go to heaven when you die, you can by believing in Jesus Christ. Listen to this. Jesus died on the cross. He rose again. He is here right now right here with all of us. He is standing at the door of your life and he is knocking. He is saying if you will hear his voice and open the door he will come in.