Robert Jeffress - How Can I Prepare For My Journey To Heaven?
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. Welcome again to Pathway to Victory. One day followers of Jesus Christ will close their eyes for the last time and open them again in the presence of God. So what steps should we be taking right now in order to be ready for that all-important day of our departure? How do we learn to look forward to heaven with joyful anticipation instead of fear and dread? We're answering the question, "How Can I Prepare For My Journey to Heaven"? On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
When I began this series on heaven, I used an upcoming trip we had planned to a foreign country as an analogy of the trip we're all going to take to a foreign land one day, to that place called heaven. Well, since that time, we actually took that trip. We went to London for a few days and the trip was uneventful, except for one mistake I made. I forgot to pack any extra socks with me. By the fourth day of the trip, I broke down and went to the local department store and purchased some cheap socks. I actually knew it was time to do so when the original pair I brought with me were no longer lined by the bed every night, they were standing by the bed every night, waiting to greet me when I awakened.
Now that was a mistake, but it had no lasting consequences. It was a little uncomfortable for my family members who were standing downwind from me the first three days of the trip, but no permanent harm. However, failing to adequately prepare for the real trip we're all taking, for that trip to the place called heaven, not preparing adequately can have devastating and unending consequences. We've got to be prepared for the trip. And that's why I thought the last subject we ought to talk about as we contemplate heaven is how can I prepare for my journey to heaven? We're going to look at six practical steps every one of us should take, as we prepare for our journey to that place called heaven.
The first step is the most foundational. And that is, make sure you have a valid passport. You know to travel the most countries, you have to have a passport. No passport, no entry into that country. I discovered the hard way, the importance of having a passport a number of years ago when I was youth ministry here. Many years ago, our youth choir, our chapel choir, took a trip to the Soviet Union. Some of you were on that trip with us. It was during the height of the cold war, tensions between the Soviet Union and the US were very, very cold. And I remember that experience of being in the Soviet Union for a little over a week and how oppressive the atmosphere was. And frankly, we couldn't wait to get out of there.
And finally, the day arrived for our departure. We were scheduled to leave Moscow at midnight one night to fly to Rome, and everybody was excited about getting out of there. We were at the Moscow airport, so everybody went through passport control, all the sponsors, all the kids. I was the last one to go through, after all, I felt like I oughta be sure all the kids made it on first. And so it was my turn to go through, Amy was already on the other side waiting for me. And I reached in my pocket to pull out my passport and it wasn't there. I checked in my other pocket, it wasn't there. I checked my pants, it wasn't there. And they started calling the flight getting ready to leave for Rome, and so I went up to the Soviet guard and explained the predicament, that I was a leader and that that was my group over there. Trust me, he could not have cared less. No passport, I wasn't leaving.
Amy and I had been married exactly one year. She was standing on the other side, seeing what was going on. She began to cry as she thought about her new husband being in a Russian gulag for the next 20 years. And finally after frantically searching, one of the sponsors on the trip started to grin. He reached in his pocket and pulled out my passport he had taken as a joke. Trust me when I tell you, after 35 years, Amy still doesn't think it's funny.
But you know the panic I felt that night, although it was very real, it pales in comparison to the panic some people are going to feel when they stand at the entrance of heaven, thinking God is going to welcome them into heaven, and then they hear those words Jesus said in Matthew 7:22, he said, "For many will say to me on that day, that is the Judgment Day, 'Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And in your name, cast out demons, and in your name, perform many miracles?' and then he will answer to them, 'depart from me you who practice lawlessness. I never knew you'".
Why are these people going to be turned away from heaven? They don't have the right spiritual passport. No passport, no entry into heaven. What is the spiritual passport we need to get into heaven? It's not a heart that is stamped Catholic. If your heart is stamped Catholic, you're not going to make it into heaven. It's not a heart that's stamped church of Christ. If your heart is stamped church of Christ, you're not getting into heaven. If your heart is stamped Baptist, you're not going to welcomed into heaven. It's only a heart that is stamped FORGIVEN, that is welcomed into heaven. That's all that matters. Being forgiven of our sins. No other stamp makes a difference in the presence of God.
The Bible has a word for forgiven. It's the New Testament word, justified. Justified is a legal term that refers to what God does for us when we trust in Christ the Savior. He justifies us, he declares us not guilty, based on what Christ did for us on the cross. Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". The only way God will allow you and me into heaven is by being forgiven of our sins. And contrary to many opinions, there are not many ways to heaven. There is only one way to heaven and that is through faith in Christ. I realize that's unpopular to say today. Many people do think there are other routes to heaven.
How can you make sure that when you stand at the entrance of heaven, God is going to look at your heart and welcome you into his presence? 1 John was written in order that people might know for sure their eternal destination. In 1 John 5, the apostle writes, verse 11, "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son, has the life. He who does not have the Son, does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know you have eternal life". Who is it that knows they have eternal life? Those who believe in the name of the Son of God.
We've talked about this before, that word believe doesn't mean an intellectual assent or a certain set of facts about Jesus. You can believe all the things about Jesus correctly, that he was the Son of God, that he died on the cross for the sins of the world, that he rose again on the third day. You can believe all those things and go straight to hell when you die. The Bible says even the demons believe those things. No, to believe means to trust in, to cling to, to put your whole weight upon. To trust in Jesus means to come to that place in your life when you realize you cannot save yourself. That it is only through what Christ did for you in dying on the cross and receiving the punishment that God intended for each of us, only by clinging to trusting and putting your whole weight upon Jesus Christ is your heart stamped forgiven and you're welcomed into the presence of God.
And notice what John said. He said, "I've written these things so that you may know that you have eternal life". God doesn't want us to face death uncertain about our future. He wants us to know with absolute certainty that we're going to be welcomed. You don't want any surprises on the other side of the grave. To face eternity without knowing with absolute certainty where you are headed is a risk no sane person would take. And that's why it's important that you know now that you have the spiritual passport you need to be welcomed into heaven. If you wait to try to get your papers in order after you die, you've waited too long.
That's the first step to prepare for our trip to heaven. But it's the foundational step. There are others we need to take as well and that leads to step number two, live with a destination mindset. Live with a destination mindset. The fact is we don't know when our departure to that place called heaven is, do we? We don't know when it's going to be. And so that means we face an unusual responsibility of preparing for our trip to the next world while still living in this world. God calls us to be residents of two worlds. The next world and this world. Now make no mistake about it, our true citizenship is in heaven.
Philippians 3:20 says, "For we are citizens of heaven where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly awaiting for him to return as our Savior". Our real citizenship is in that new country we're headed toward. Nevertheless, God has left us here as well. And he's given us certain real responsibilities. We have responsibilities with the family that God's entrusted to us. We have responsibilities at work. And of course our greatest responsibility, 2 Corinthians 5:20, is to be ambassadors, to be representatives for Christ, to be God's mouthpieces urging people to reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. So we actually have two responsibilities, preparing for the next world, while living in this world. We're to be thinking about there and preparing for there, but we still have work to do here.
The Bible talks about that here, there mentality. Again, the Bible emphasizes over and over again that there is our final destination. In Hebrews 11:13 the writer says, "We are nothing but strangers and exiles on the earth". In Colossians 3:2 Paul says, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth". It means to live every day as if it were your last day, before God calls you home. Because one day it will be that day. How do you prepare for your journey to heaven?
Number three, refuse to allow your departure to paralyze you with fear. There is no reason for us as Christians to fear our journey that we're all going to make to heaven. No, and yet, if we're honest, a lot of Christians do have faith and fear that journey to heaven. Maybe you're one of those. Winston Churchill who, certainly was agnostic if not an atheist, said at one point, "Any man who says he's not afraid of death is a liar". Well, that's certainly true for non-Christians, but it's even true of some Christians. One reason they fear heaven, that journey to heaven, is they don't know much about it. That's one reason I've preached these weeks on heaven, to give you just an idea of what God has planned for you.
Some Christians fear their departure to heaven, but let me share with you today two reasons a Christian never needs to fear his departure to heaven. First of all, death is never premature. If you're a Christian today, you can write it down, bank on it, you will not depart this world one second before God's departure time for you. No Christian leaves this world one second before God's appointed time. In Acts 2:23, Peter at the great sermon at Pentecost said, "This man Jesus was delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God". God had a plan for Jesus' life. It's a plan that included the date of his birth in Bethlehem, and it included the day of his death on Calvary.
And that same God has a plan for your life. God has an immutable unchangeable plan for your life. He has written down the day of your birth, he's written down the day of your death. If you don't believe that, just consider Ephesians 1:11. Paul said, "Also we have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to his purpose who works all things after the counsel of his will". Every part of your life has been planned by God. There are no accidents in your life or the life of somebody you love. Everything, all things, including the day of your death, are following the counsel of his will.
And notice that word will is singular. God doesn't have multiple wills. He doesn't have multiple plans for your life. He doesn't have plan a, "I hope this is what happens," God says, "But if that doesn't work out then I've got plan the plan B, plan C". No, he has one secret plan that governs everything that happens in the universe and everything that happens in your life. Doesn't that gives you confidence, to know there are no mistakes in God's plan? That your life is in his hands. And that's why no Christian needs to fear his departure from this world. As one person said, "Every person is immortal until his work on earth is done". We don't need to fear death. First of all, death is never premature, but there's a second reason not to fear death. And that is death is a necessary transition to heaven. It's a necessary transition from this world to the next world.
Let me go back to my passport analogy for a moment. When my so-called friend finally gave me my passport, and I presented it to that Soviet guard, I had to go through this little metal gate to go from one place to the next place. As I went through that little metal gate and it opened up at passport control, did I dread going through that gate? No, I almost ran through that gate. I was elated to be escaping the tyranny of the Soviet Union and head toward freedom. Well, you know, the Bible says death is like that gate. It's a little narrow passageway we must go from, to leave the tyranny of this world and experience the freedom God has planned for us.
Why would we fear going through that gate? It's what leads us to everything God has planned for us. The apostle Paul said it this way, in 1 Corinthians 15:50, "Now I say this brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable". Paul was explaining why death is necessary for the Christian. One reason is, we need a change of clothes in order to live in and exist in the new world.
I was reading what some futurist said a few weeks ago. He's predicting that, and in not that many years, many citizens of Earth are going to be living on Mars. How does that strike you, living on Mars? That's what they're predicting, that's what they say is going to happen. I don't know if that's going to happen or not but what I do know is this. If I'm going to live on Mars, the suit I'm wearing right here right now, it's fine for Dallas, Texas. It's fine for planet Earth. But this suit isn't going to work on Mars. I might put on a new suit, a spacesuit, in order to exist in that other world. And the same thing is true for us spiritually. This body that we're wearing right now, that we're clothed in, it's perfectly designed for this world, Paul says it's totally unsuitable for the next world. And that's why we have to have a change of clothes if we're going to go to heaven. And that's what death is.
Death is a change of clothes. The word thanatos, death, means separation. At death, our spirits are separated from our human bodies. These bodies are left behind so that we can put on a new body that is designed for the new world. Why should we dread that? We ought to look forward to it. I mean, do you know any man who would mind exchanging his old ripped-up pajamas for a new Brioni suit? Do you know any woman who would give up exchanging her bathrobe for a Chanel dress? That's exactly the exchange we make at death. What person in his right mind would fear that kind of exchange?
Randy Alcorn, in his book on heaven, uses another analogy to explain why Christians don't need to fear death. It's not the analogy of clothes, it's the analogy of an unexpected party. Randy writes, "Suppose a friend invites you to a party where you know some people, but not many. The food is adequate, but nothing extraordinary. You enjoy meeting some new people and visiting with a few familiar people you know. Suddenly your friend announces it's time to leave. Although you're not quite ready to leave, you acquiesce because he's your ride home. When your friend drops you off at your house, you place your key in the lock and you turn the knob. Just as you open the door, the lights suddenly come on and everyone yells, 'surprise!' your family and your closest friends are there. They've brought gifts and have covered your table with your favorite delicacies. The first party was simply a ruse to get you out of the house so that the second party could be organized. Had you stayed at the first party, you would have missed the real party, the one at your home".
Life on Earth is like the first party, pleasant enough, but at death, you open the doors to your true home and discover that the real party is taking place there. Isn't that good? You know, I wish I could tell you as a pastor that every Christian I've talked to who've faced death, knew his or her death was eminent, that they faced their death with great courage and great anticipation and great joy. That wouldn't be honest.
Not every Christian faces death that way. I've talked to Christians who were about to die who expressed regret. Regret over leaving the party too early, leaving family and friends behind. That's an honest emotion. But you know what? Any regret they may have felt here on Earth is temporary and will be more than compensated when they start experiencing the hilarity of heaven. It's that hilarity of heaven that Jesus had in mind I think when he said in Luke 6:21, "Blessed," literally happy, "Are those who weep now, for you shall laugh". That's why no Christian needs to fear death as he makes his way toward that place called heaven.