Jack Graham - Heaven, Really?
Heaven is awesome! Wonderful. Beyond our imagination! The place that our Lord is preparing for us defies description. And as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, we are on our way to a place that we've never been before. Now I don't know about you, but when I'm heading for vacation or somewhere, I get all the information I can about that place. I pull up on the Internet and the hotel and the certainly information about the flight and where we're going and what entertainment is around in the area, and where we can eat. Pull up YELP and find the best eating places, and so on. I want to make sure that we get the most out of our trip away. And so we need to know more and more. If you're going to a place called heaven than you certainly ought to have a desire to know as much as you can about this wonderful place.
Now the Apostle Paul said that it is so great that 1 Corinthians 2:9, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man all that God has prepared for us". Sometimes we stop right there. It's true that heaven defies description and is beyond our imagination. I can only imagine. But that verse goes on to say that 1 Corinthians 2:10, "He has revealed these things to those of us who know and follow Christ by His Spirit". So in the Word of God there is testimony regarding what heaven is and what heaven is like. So we're going to take two weeks; first, today to talk about what heaven is, and then next week, what heaven is like. Life is a journey, and the longer we walk with Jesus in this life, the longer we follow Christ, the nearer we get to home.
Therefore our mindset, our mentality as Christians, our world view... Everybody has a world view, the way you view the world, the way you view life. Our world view is onward and upward; to the degree that as we think more and more about our heavenly home, heaven becomes the habit of our hearts. We develop a longing, a desire. The Apostle Paul said Philippians 1:23, "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better". Heaven, when you're on your way home, becomes the reference point for everything in life, the pivot point for how we live our lives; to set our affections (Colossians 3:2) "on things above and not on things below". Jesus said Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness". He said Matthew 6:20, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, your heart will be also".
So we have our treasures in heaven. And yet unfortunately too many, even some in the family of God have little aim or ambition regarding heaven. You don't think much about eternity. In fact, you may be thinking right now, don't talk to me about heaven! Tell me how I can get through this next week, not about heaven. Heaven can wait. And the reason that some people think this way is because of so many myths and misconception regarding heaven. I mean who would want to go to a place that is so boring that all you do is sit on a cloud, pluck a harp, shine your halo every now and then, like eternal valium, and just waste eternity away! Boring! But that's not what heaven is like. In fact, the Scripture tells us that in heaven all things are new. Everything is brand new, everything is fresh! In life things waste away, everything gets old, but in heaven every day is a brand new day! That's why in heaven you'd walk up to someone and say, "Have a great day"! What? Are you new here?
Every day's a great day in heaven! It's all new, it's all fresh, it's all exciting. And we, therefore, have an eternal vision for our lives that includes and encompasses this great reward and rejoicing in heaven. Of course, people who don't read their Bibles have all kinds of bizarre and crazy ideas about what heaven is like. This includes our friends and even our family members and otherwise very fine and brilliant people. For example, Maria Shriver talks about what's heaven? And she describes in this book or article what heaven is like in order to help her children understand what happens after death. And this is what Maria Shriver says what happens after death. She says:
"Heaven is somewhere you believe in. It's a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk to other people who are there. At night you can sit next to the stars which are the brightest of anywhere in the universe. (I can hear the music 'When I wish upon a star...') If you're good throughout your life, then you get to go to heaven. When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you up to heaven to be with Him. And grandma is, (she begins talking about grandma now.) alive in me. Most important she taught me to believe in myself. She's in a safe place with the stars. (Pastor hums Twilight Zone theme) with God and the angels. She's watching over us from up there. And I want you to know, (Now she's talking to her great grandma) that even though you are no longer here, your spirit will always be alive in me". Seriously? Come on. Is that heaven? Not at all! God is preparing heaven for us! And because heaven is prepared for us, it is our destination and it is our motivation.
If you're taking notes, that's the two parts of this message: our destination is heaven and our motivation is heaven. C. S. Lewis said, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who do the most in this present world were those who thought most of the next". So let's think about heaven. Heaven is a place. Jesus said in John 14 and in the first 6 verses, read along with me: "'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many rooms or mansions. And if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am there you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.' And Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"
Heaven is our destination! "I prepare a place for you". Heaven is a real place. "Heaven? Really"? Yes! A place more real than the place that we're living this very day! It is not an ethereal existence in eternity; a wispy, weak, twilight zone! Not a fictional never-never land for lost children. But it is God's ever-ever land, prepared for us! Jesus called this place the Father's house. The reality of it! Today we speak of something as being heavenly. We use the idea of heaven as being an adjective or an attitude. "Oh, that just a heavenly experience"! Or "that was a heavenly piece of pie"! No, heaven is not just an adjective; it's not just an attitude of our minds or a state of mind in eternity somewhere in the universe. Heaven is a real place! And it is a real place where God lives, where God reigns, where His throne exists.
The Bible tells us that Jesus came from heaven. So Jesus left this place called heaven. Not the heavens of the planetary , the solar systems, not the heavens of the atmosphere around us, but the heaven of heavens, that the Apostle Paul called the third heaven. He was elevated into the very presence of God where he said, "I saw things there that I'm not allowed to speak". Jesus, after His death and resurrection, ascended back to heaven where in the place of authority, the right hand of the Father, He is worshiped as Savior and Lord and God and Redeemer every day! "Worthy, worthy! Holy, holy"! This is what makes heaven heaven, the fact that He is there! It will be wonderful to see the sights, to hear the sounds and taste the delights of heaven, but the glory of heaven is Jesus Himself! The presence of Christ! Heaven is glorious because Christ Himself is the glory of heaven! Jesus is what heaven is all about! And the longer you walk with Him, the longer you live for Him, the more you want to see Him! The more precious heaven becomes!
Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you". All of this in the shadow of the cross. He gathered His disciples in the upper room and He spoke to them of these eternal things, this last will and testament of Jesus. It is as though before Jesus left, he said, "Now I want you to look with Me for just a moment beyond the veil, into eternity, and I want you to see what I am doing. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you will be also". You know if Jesus is preparing it, it must be amazing. The book of Colossians tells us that Jesus is the Creator of the Cosmos, the God of the Cosmos who created all things. And if God created the world and it's atmosphere in 6 days, think about how beautiful, how wonderful heaven must be as He's been building a home for you and me, for 2 millennium, for 2000 years! Heaven is real. It is more real than this visible world. Everything around us is dying and decaying. This world is transitory and temporary.
Hold your place there in John's Gospel and go to 2 Corinthians, the fourth chapter, verse 18: "as we look not at the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen (invisible). For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal". Nothing is more obvious than the transitory, temporal nature of this life. Romans 8 tells us that the entire creation groans under the burden and the brokenness of sin. All of creation is groaning. Mother nature is dying. And all life is headed for a destination beyond what we know today! Nothing is permanent! At times we wish that what we had was more permanent. We look at a beautiful sunset, we feel the moment and we think "I wish this could last forever". We look into the face of a beautiful baby, and it's glorious, and we think, "I wish this moment would last forever"!
Your boy friend asks you to marry him and you think, "I wish this would last forever"! And maybe your marriage right now seems like it's taking forever. But our best days and our best moments, those little miracles of life, the greatest days, these are all transitory, they are all temporal. It's foolish to build our lives on things that don't last, that don't ultimately matter, to hold too tightly to this world without any consideration of eternity. The Scripture says later in chapter 5, look at it, that in heaven we will receive immortal, eternal bodies, 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, "For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home (your tent is your physical frame, your body; that's your earthly home) is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house that is not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan". Say, "Amen"!
I groaned when I got out of bed this morning. In this tent, in this earthly tent we groan, longing to come face to face with our mortality. Have you come face to face with your own mortality? I have. When a doctor calls you and says you have cancer, that's a wakeup call to our own mortality. I'm grateful that that cancer is gone, but, I'm still decaying, and so are you. Our bodies are dying; our bodies are groaning. It's really upsetting that I can't do some of the great things I did on the baseball field anymore. (The older I get, the better I was.) Really upsetting. I had Ian out, my 7-year-old, and he's out-playing me cause we're getting old. It all goes away. So how silly, how foolish Jesus said, to build your house, your life on things that don't last.
Verse 3: "indeed by putting we may not be found naked (that is, exposed to judgment). For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened-not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed. (We are longing for this immortality. God has set eternity in our heart) so that this mortal may be swallowed up by life". He goes on to say that God's Spirit has given us the guarantee that one day we will be with him forever! Yes, heaven is a place where we live in real bodies in a real existence in a real place. Not disembodied spirits floating around in the universe somewhere, but in bodies set free from sin and set free from suffering and set free from decay and death, because we have been made alive by the resurrection of Christ!
David, the great king. He was a shepherd, he was a soldier, he was a sovereign king. He experienced most everything, most every pleasure this world could give him, and yet he said in Psalm 17 and verse 15, a verse you ought to know and mark, "As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied with Your likeness". We are not made for this world; we will ultimately and only be satisfied when we rise in the resurrection in the likeness of our Lord. Therefore, we don't hold tightly to the things of this world. We hold loosely because as the Scripture says Philippians 1:21, "to live is Christ and to die is gain". 2 Corinthians 5:8, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". And those words that Paul chose given by the Holy Spirit, "To be absent from the body, to be present with the Lord" means to be at home with the Lord.
This place called heaven is not only a destination, but it is a motivation today. The upward call of God. How so? How is heaven a motivation for us today? Heaven is not just about your future, but it is about today as well. The reality of heaven enables us to endure life's tests and life's tragedies, encourages us to enjoy the pleasures of life to the fullest. Heaven motivates us, elevates our desire to live holy lives! To live pure and godly lives for He who has this hope in himself purifies himself. Heaven motivates us to tell as many people as possible how to get there, how to go there! Because we don't want to go to heaven by ourselves! Mothers would stand by their children and say, "I'll not go to heaven without my children"! We're motivated by heaven. The fact is we're all nearing home.
When I was playing baseball, I loved the moment of rounding third and heading home. Sprinting to score. Isn't that what the game is about? Scoring? Getting home? And for the Christian that is what life is about! Getting home! The world says you can't go home again, but Jesus said, to the contrary, "Follow Me, I'll take you there". And when we arrive in our heavenly home we will immediately feel at home. Jesus said, "It's my Father's house. In my Father's house there's plenty of room, there's plenty of mansions, plenty of places, plenty of compartments, plenty of everything for you to enjoy". And in heaven there will be no introductions needed. You will know your loved ones.
1 Corinthians 13:12 "Now we know in part, but then we shall know even as we are known". People ask, "Will we know our loved ones in heaven"? Certainly. Do you think you'll have less sense in heaven than you have here on earth? Certainly, you'll know. You'll know everyone without introduction. It won't be those crazy parties where everybody wears a nametag. There'll be no need for directions. You can put away your i-phone and the little maps thing. Nor is there going to be somebody... you know, Peter in a golf cart showing you your heavenly real estate. No directions necessary! We will spend eternity in His presence, and yes, we will engage in conversations that are beautiful and brilliant. We will converse with our ancestors.
I look forward to meeting some of my old granddaddies and grandmamas. But it occurred to me this week something that I'd never really thought much about. We will converse with our descendants, our children's children's children. What a day it's going to be. Home is a place where you're comfortable, where you're always welcome. They have to take you in at home, right? Where you're accepted and loved and prayed for. Home is a place where you can be yourself, where you can get comfortable. I'll tell you what I'm going to do as soon I get home this afternoon. I'm taking this suit off and I'm going to put on what Ian calls my comfy clothes. They're not fit for public consumption but for home they're good! And we're going, in heaven like home, we're going to talk and laugh.
You want to make your house a home, make sure your house is filled with laughter and joy. The place where your kids want to bring their friends over. Heaven is going to be filled with laughter, echoing through the hallways of heaven. Heaven is place where you're loved perfectly. No homelessness there. We were made with a homing instinct. He has set eternity in our hearts. We have a desire to go home to be with the Lord. We know instinctively this isn't it. There's more, so much more. I look at the faces of homeless people. People living on the streets. It's one of the saddest things you can see, isn't it? The emptiness, the gaze in people's eyes who are homeless.
But you not only see it on the streets, people living there under bridges, but you see that homelessness in the face of your friends and your family members at times. People you work with, people you go to school with them. An emptiness in their eyes. Because we were made for home. But look, as long as you tell people that they are just a product of DNA or slime, that we're higher evolved animals, that life is really a dead-end. As long as you tell people that, no wonder people are living without hope! Homeless, without Christ and a future. But the focus of our heart is our heavenly home. We are to live on tip-toe with expectation and anticipation of seeing Jesus. I will run to Him!