Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Heaven is a Real Place

Last week, the scripture lesson was about hell.  We saw that hell is a real place, created by God for a specific purpose; we saw what hell was like, and we saw how we can escape going there.  I know that none of us want to go there; we want to go to heaven, so let’s see what the Bible has to say about what heaven will be like.

But first, I want to make a point; the point is that as Christians, we sometimes do just the opposite of what Jesus would do.  For example, Jesus is hard on the self-righteous and gentle on sinners.  Here’s a case in point.  He encountered a rich young man, who asked Him how he could please God.  Jesus told him that he must keep the commandments.  The young man listed the commands and said that he kept all of them.  But Jesus could see his pride, and He knew the truth, so Jesus said, “You only lack one thing.”  He said, “You must sell all that you have and give it to the poor.”  Now let’s give this young man some credit, because the church would love him.  He is clean-cut, a faithful tither; he appears eager and teachable.  But Jesus knows all men, and He knows this man’s weakness.  He says, “You love money more than God.”  He forces the young man to make a choice.  He doesn’t offer him a program, whereby he might shed his reliance on money.  He doesn’t suggest counseling or any type of recovery program.  What He says, in essence is this, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”  This man walks away, and he is dejected, because he is unable to give up his money. 

Now, let me give you an example of the opposite case; how He is gentle with sinners.  There was a woman, who was caught in the act of adultery.  What an embarrassment!  She is thrown down in front of Jesus, and she is naked and crying; and the law says that she should be put to death. What could this woman possibly have to offer the church, except scandal and ridicule?  In any case, she was caught red-handed; she was “guilty as sin.”  The crowd was calling for her to be stoned.  After all, if we are going to have a civil, religious nation, those who participate in gross immorality must be made an example of.  Today, we would send her to counseling or force her to confess her sins publicly.  But Jesus doesn’t do things that way.  He simply says, “I don’t condemn you.  Go, and sin no more.”  He doesn’t even slap her hands. Jesus is so unlike the church.  We would fuss over the wealthy, self-righteous young man, glossing over his delicate pride and cocky behavior.  We would reprimand, humiliate and most likely excommunicate the obvious sinner, never stopping to offer mercy, grace and forgiveness.

I believe that Christians are sometimes too eager to proclaim the frightening fires of hell, but they hesitate to hold out hope for the golden streets of heaven.  Nevertheless, in our world most people have had a taste of hell, but they have never even dared to imagine the hope of heaven. 

Today, I want you to look at that blessed hope, which awaits those who dare to believe. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”  Jesus wants us to trust Him and the Father.  This is the key to heaven, and that great gospel hymn expresses that thought when we sing, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!”

We have all had tough times, and that’s when Satan will tempt us to be angry with God.  That’s what happened with Job; he lost his wealth, his family and even his health.  Then his friends questioned him about what great sin he must have committed to bring all these problems into his life.  In his frustration and anguish, Job cried out, “Where are you God?”  And God’s answer seems rather tough-minded.  He says, “I am Creator, and you are creation.  What advice do you think you have to offer Me?”  Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that Job did not sin in his conversation with God.  In the end, God doubled all the blessings that He had previously given to him, and then He tells Job’s friends, who had doubted him, to have Job lead them in a worship service.  

Next, think about David.  In some of the Psalms, he asks God why the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer?  But when God appraised David’s life, He called him “A man after His own heart.” 

Do you ever wonder why babies have to be born addicted to crack cocaine?  Why do people we love have to get cancer? Why do good people have to suffer and die? My answer to these questions of seemingly unfair treatment by God is twofold.
• First, I know that God is good.  I have settled that question in my heart.  This is something that everyone must be certain of.  You may need to search the Bible, review your own life, listen to other Christians that you respect, or consider the testimonies of other Christians down through the ages.  Make up your mind once and for all, whether you really believe that God is good.  Once you know for sure that God is good, it will be easier for you to pass through those hard times, because you will know that God is aware of the difficulties, and that He is traveling with you through the darkest moments in your life.
• The first principle is that God is good, and the second is that He is just.  Consider one of the most difficult questions people ask: what will happen to the Christian who commits suicide?  There are some who will state that killing ones self is the ultimate lack of faith; therefore anyone who does so will land in hell.  Then there are those who will argue that you cannot find forgiveness for suicide.  On the other hand, I have heard it said that suicide is an act of insanity, so God will not hold a person responsible.  And some hold the opinion, that since God forgives every sin a Christian commits; past, present or future, God’s love is greater than the sin of suicide.  Here is my answer to the question: God will do what is right.  If the believer who commits suicide lands in hell, when we see this reality, we will know that God has done right. I Corinthians 13 tells us, that now we can only see dimly.  However, on the day when all things are complete, we will see clearly.  We will understand all things.  We will see eye to eye with what God has done.  On the other hand, if we see that a believer who commits suicide lands in heaven, we can rejoice in the mercy and grace of God.  It is not so important for me to discover an absolute answer to the question of what happens after suicide.  I am content, just to know that God will do right.

The same answer can be given to the question: “What will happen to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?”  There are strong arguments to suggest that those who have never heard still have been given enough revelation that they should submit to God.  Therefore, all those who reject Christ wind up in hell, no matter what level of knowledge they might have had. Then, I have heard it said that God knows everyone’s heart; He knows how they would have responded, had they known.  My conclusion is that I should be motivated to share the Gospel as if everyone who has not heard it will be doomed to hell.  However, as to what God will actually do, I simply say that God will do right.  We will either get justice or mercy from Him.

Listen.  We are not on trial before God.  We have been condemned because of our sin.  What we need is a pardon.  That’s what the Gospel is, a pardon; but we must be willing to accept our pardon.

At this point, I want to get a little personal and say, “God’s perfect justice leads me to believe that in heaven everything will be made right.”  There have been many injustices committed in this world, and it’s always been that way.  However, in heaven every lie will be exposed, every truth revealed.  Every suffering I have endured will be rewarded.  I will be totally blameless.

We must learn to trust God, and when we do, we look forward to a better place, which Jesus spoke of, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me, that you also will be where I am.” (Jn. 14: 2-3). Jesus says here, that He is preparing a place for us.  God took six days to create all things, and He said, “It is good,” at the end of each day.  Consider some beautiful scene that you may have seen in nature.  Perhaps it was a mountain, an ocean shore or some rolling hills covered with flowers.  Maybe you were just in the midst of a flower garden in a park.  You stopped and took in a breath and gazed long at the scene and said, “God’s creation is more beautiful than any human architecture.” 

Listen.  Jesus has been working on our new place in heaven for over two thousand years.  How wonderful it will be! There is one thing better than the place that Jesus will prepare for us, and that is the simple fact that He will be there with us.  He loves us!  It is His pleasure to spend all eternity with us.  It will certainly be our pleasure also.

This wonderful place that we are calling heaven is given another name in the book of Revelation; it’s called the New Jerusalem.  Listen to this description of the New Jerusalem given in revelation 21:1-4:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and there was no sea anymore.
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride dressed for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God.
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.”

Jesus is giving us a preview of what it will be like to be a citizen of the New Jerusalem:
• All injustices are gone.
• All the pain is gone.
• Broken relationships are gone.
• All our mistakes are gone.
• All the sadness is gone.
• There will be no death.

I have thought some things, and said some things, and done some things that I regret.  What a day that will be when those things are gone for good, never to return.  They will not only be forgiven, but they will be forgotten. And the temptation to repeat those errors will never return!  That’s true freedom.

Our position with God will be changed, for it says that we will be prepared as a bride.  That will be our new relationship with Christ.  Compare this assessment with how God spoke of creation.  Throughout Genesis 1, God simply calls it “good.”  Now think again about those beautiful scenes of nature you have experienced.  They were indeed good.  But here God calls the New Jerusalem a bride.  That comparison is like saying, “I like ice cream” and “I love my wife.” 

Heaven will be immeasurably beyond anything we have experienced or can imagine. This picture of heaven is fascinating, but even more impressive is the reality that God will be there with us.  There will be no more separation.  But wait a minute, isn’t God with us now, and all the time?  Yes, He is.  But how often have you asked, “Where is God when I need Him?”  How often have you prayed, but felt that you were not getting through?  How often have your pride, selfishness and unrepentant sin made you feel disconnected from God?  There will be no more of that in heaven.  Our communion with God will be constant, consistent and loving.  There will be no more loneliness.  Researchers have found that the number one complaint by Americans is that they are lonely.  Can you imagine having uninterrupted fellowship with God and with His people? 

Another advantage that we will have in heaven is that there will be no more desperate searching and waiting.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “I am waiting on God for an answer?”  For the Christian, patience is a necessary discipline.  However, in heaven there will be no more seeking God, asking God to reveal Himself, or waiting on God’s answers.  We will live in His presence, and we will be truly free from doubts, fears and uncertainty. 

There is another beautiful promise found in John’s Revelation, and that is that there will be no more hardships.  The reason is because the curse that was placed on humanity at the Fall is broken!  When God pronouncement judgment on Adam and Eve for their sin, He made them a promise in Genesis 3:15.  He said that one would come from the seed of Eve who would crush the serpent’s (Satan’s) head.  The fulfillment of this prediction is found in Jesus.  He conquered death for us by His death.  If we believe in Him, John 3:16 says that we will be born again. 
1 John 1:9 says that if we will confess our sins, God will forgive us.  This is simple and easy, but Jesus paid a terrible price to bring us this new life.  He endured rejection, betrayal, ridicule, and physical torture.  Then He experienced the worst form of human death-that of slow execution. The result of Jesus’ sacrifice is that we have been reconciled to God. 

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus promises that if anyone will open the door of their heart to Him, that He will commune with him.  That means that He will enter into them.  They will be changed.  They will be a new creature in Christ.  We are reconciled.  The sin and rebellion that tore us from God is gone, and we are free to enjoy intimate fellowship with our Maker.

We have seen how good the preparation and appearance of heaven will be, and our communion with God will be wonderful, but John’s Revelation offers us even more insight into the kingdom of God. 

Let me read Revelation 21:22-27 to you.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
24 By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it,
25 and its gates shall never be shut by day—and there shall be no night there;
26 they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
27 But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

I love church; the singing, the prayers, the preaching, the worship and the fellowship, so I am fascinated by the knowledge that we will no longer go to church to worship.  The entire kingdom of God will be the church, and the splendor of our worship will be greater than the most powerful, inspirational meetings God’s people have ever got together.

In John’s report, the next thing that he describes seems almost supernatural.  God says that we will no longer depend on nature, or any other creation of God, for what we need.  God, Himself will be our source.  For example, our light comes from the sun; however, we are told that there will be no sun or moon in heaven.  God’s glory will be the only light we need.  In other words, what allows us to see will no longer be a creation of God-but God Himself. 

Perhaps our very breath will no longer depend upon the oxygen He creates.  We will advance from being God’s creation to being beyond God’s creation.  This aspect of heaven is beyond description and beyond explanation.  But from it, we can catch a tiny glimpse of the wondrous existence that awaits us.  No wonder John promised a blessing to those who will read his Revelation.

Now here is a blessed truth for us today, which should give us great comfort.  We live in the midst of the threat of war, natural disasters, and criminal violence.  Today on the news I heard that government officials are discussing sending troops into Mexico to help in the fight against the drug cartel, and the next story was about a little girl who was kidnapped and murdered.  But in heaven we will no longer worry about our safety.  There will be no evil or danger in heaven.  No more gated communities.  No more alarm systems.  No more prisons, courts, lawyers, police or soldiers.  We will be with God and His people.  Our friendships and relationships will be based on liberty and trust.  We will not have to second guess people, wonder about their motives, or worry about being misunderstood.  It will be natural for us to love our neighbors as ourselves.   Likewise, we will be free to receive the love of others without hesitation or conditions.  We will no longer struggle with sin and temptation; there is no evil intent in heaven. 

Let’s make this personal.  Recall your worst fantasies, addictions, grudges, and envies; all these are bondages that you have asked God to deliver you from-often for years and years.  Listen again for the most hateful, hurtful words you have spoken thoughtlessly; or maybe even on purpose.  In spite of what you would think, some of the most hurtful words which I have spoken were meant as “Innocent humor.”  Then replay some of the actions that you regret the most.  Next, give thanks to God!  These have not only been forgiven, not only forgotten, they have been vanquished eternally.  They will not return as temptation or guilty feelings.  You will not face them again.  Is this true freedom, or not!

The last heaven related passage that I would like you to consider is Revelation 22:3-5:

3 Nothing that God judges guilty will be in that city. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and God’s servants will worship him.
4 They will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads.
5 There will never be night again. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will rule as kings forever and ever.

The curse of sin is gone.  Sickness is gone.  No more cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, or blindness.  Today, you have the freedom and power to pray for healing, but in heaven the sickness, itself will be gone.  Corruption will also be no more.  All will be justice, fairness, and truth. 

Finally, death will become a foreign concept.  Once again, this calls for a whole new way of living, thinking and being.  We will be released from the restraints of time and debilitation, to serve God purely, simply, directly, innocently and completely.  There will be no hindrances of any kind.  Won’t that be wonderful and glorious? We will know God personally, and we will clearly belong to Him.  Nothing will exist to stand between the Creator and His creation.

John tells us that we will rule with God.  This means that no matter how much God provides, we will still have meaningful work to do.  Have you ever been a leader?  Before you say “No”, consider that you have been a parent.  Recall the time your child was sick, and you did not know whether to take him to the doctor, have him drink liquids, or simply to let him rest.  You found the answer, and followed through, and became the hero.  In the end, you felt good, but oh the anguish of those moments before you found the answer.

Our rulership with God will not be hard, because the answers will always be instantaneously there for us.  Nevertheless, we will be engaged in the important and challenging work of rulers.

I believe that I have been very inadequate in my attempt to construct a picture of heaven.  But do you get a glimpse of how marvelous it will be?  We can say simply and confidently that heaven will be so wonderful.  I want to be there.  So I must follow Jesus, who is the only way to heaven. 

And I want my loved ones there.  So I must tell them about Jesus.  Finally, I want everyone there, so I must tell them about Jesus.

We call the Second Coming of Jesus “the Blessed Hope.”  God’s hope is, that this hope will be broadcast throughout the whole world, to every tribe and nation.  Let’s seek the Acts 1:8 power from the Holy Spirit; the one who will empower us to be witnesses to the uttermost parts of the world.

     But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)

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