“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
The truth is, a lot of times, we’re just not too excited about heaven.
We’re much more interested in earth than we are about heaven.
And really that’s too bad!
The fact is, the reason we don’t get excited about heaven is we have a faulty image of it.
We don’t realize how cool, how exciting, how incredible, how so much better than earth it’s going to be.
I like earth.
I love life!
I love sunsets.
I love the sky.
I love the water.
I love the weather.
I love the forests.
Now, nothing is perfect on this planet because sin has broken the planet.
But this is all we know so we can’t understand how cool heaven really is.
And as I said, most of our ideas are warped because they came from Hollywood.
I’ve told you many times when you get to heaven it’s not going to be all white.
You’re not going to have wings.
You’re not going to be an angel.
You’re not going to be a little chubby cherub.
You’re not going to wear a white robe.
You’re not going to float on clouds.
And you’re not going to play a harp.
I can’t think of anything more boring than to be in a colorless place having to play a harp!
That would make me not want to go to heaven.
Let’s look at the real thing from God’s word.
The Bible says, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven,where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.” (Colossians 3:1, NLT)
Please note, the realities of heaven and not what Hollywood gives you.
Now let us answer five important questions about Heaven:
I. What is heaven?
II. Where is it?
III. What is heaven like?
IV. How do we get into it?
V. What should we do if we’re going to heaven?
I. What is heaven?
The Bible tells us three things.
1. It’s where God lives and rules.
Through the Bible it’s called “the dwelling place of God… the house of God.” It’s called “the city of God.”
Thirty one times Jesus calls it “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven” actually. Which could also apply to the body of believers, it is not clear at times.
In any case heaven is where God not only lives but He rules.
The Bible says, “Lord, I look up to You, up to heaven, where You rule.” (Psalm 123:1)
It’s where God lives and rules.
2. It is a real place.
It’s not a state of mind.
It’s not a state of being.
It’s not some disembodied condition where you’re going to float around without a body.
It’s not nirvana.
It’s not nothingness.
It’s not a dream like state.
It’s not something intangible and ghostly.
It’s not a feeling.
It is a real place.
In fact, the Bible says that in heaven there are streets, there are trees, there is water, there are homes.
In all likelihood there’s going to be animals there. There are many scriptures that allude to the fact that animals will be there.
It is a physical place.
And you will have a physical body.
It’s not some kind of floating around in outer space.
Jesus said, ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.’ (John 14:2)
Heaven is a real place.
It’s not a state of mind.
Jesus also said, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths or rust can’t destroy it, and where thieves can’t break in and steal it.” (Matthew 6:20)
If heaven were just a state of mind, of being, consciousness, you couldn’t store anything up there.
3. Heaven was designed for us.
This is such an amazing thing that God not only designed the earth for us so we could live and it could sustain life.
But He also designed heaven for us.
Not for Himself but for us.
“Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34, NIV)
Heaven was prepared for you and it was prepared for you from the foundation or the creation of the world.
When God started thinking up earth, He also started thinking up heaven because we’re not meant to live here.
This is not all there is.
There’s more to life than just this life.
You’re going to spend eighty years on this planet – maybe a little less, maybe a little more.
And really that’s a good thing.
Because you don’t want to live in an imperfect place forever.
You want to live in a perfect place forever.
But we are going to spend trillions and trillions and trillions and gazillions… to infinity and beyond you’re going to live in eternity.
God says I designed it for you.
Friends, this is such an amazing expression of the love of God.
The Bible tells us that God created the entire universe because He wanted a family.
He wanted a family that would live with Him forever.
He wasn’t lonely.
God has never been lonely because God is fulfilled in Himself and He’s in relationship to Himself because God is love – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But He said, “I want to express My love by creating human beings. I’m going to make them in My image.”
Now we are not god, we are never going to be a god.
You’re going to be a human for eternity.
But God said I wanted to make these human beings so that I could adopt them into My family.
“God’s unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ and this gave Him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5)
You were planned for God’s pleasure.
There’s a word for God’s family. Paul says to Timothy that “God’s family is the church.”
The church is the only thing that’s going to last.
One day this earth is going to burn up.
The only thing that’s going to last is people who are part of God’s family who have chosen to be a part of His family in faith and in obedience.
So what is heaven?
It’s a place He’s preparing for His family.
The Bible also calls the church “the bride of Christ.”
It’s like He’s saying, I’m preparing this place for My bride. I want to give her the best.
He says My family, My bride – this is what I’m preparing for you to spend eternity with Me forever.
“This is God’s purpose: that when the time is ripe he will gather us all together from wherever we are – in heaven or on earth-to be with him in Christ forever.” (Ephesians 1:10, LB)
We were made to last forever.
That’s why you’re made in God’s image.
The implication is you’re going to last forever one of two places – heaven or hell.
“For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14, NLT)
II. Where is heaven?
The answer is we don’t know.
All we know is this.
It’s out of this world!
We definitely know that it is not on earth.
That’s why the Bible says, “God looks down from heaven at people on earth to see if there are any who are wise, and who worship Him.” (Psalm 53:2, TEV)
While we don’t know the location of heaven, but we do know the way.
Jesus said, “I am the way.” “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
III. What is heaven like?
This is the one we really want to know the answer to.
The Bible says that heaven is a mystery.
Truth is we just don’t have the mental capacity to understand other dimensions when we live in a three dimensional world.
We live on a planet that rotates around the sun and has a twenty-four hour rotation and so we have a concept of time.
If we weren’t living on this planet, you wouldn’t have the same concept of time as you do in space.
The Bible says, “Can you understand the mystery surrounding God almighty? They are higher than the heavens and deeper than the grave. So what can you do when you know so little? And these mysteries outreach the earth and the ocean.” (Job 11:7-8)
Thank God for cameras today, when we visit wonders of the world around us the only way we can describe them is by showing the photograph!
There are some experiences in life that are simply indescribable.
At times feelings are indescribable.
There are some things in life you simply have to experience.
In the same way all the art and all of the songs and all of the writing and poetry and everything can’t describe what heaven is really like because the truth is there’s really nothing on earth to compare heaven to.
We are a poor carbon copy.
An imitation of something much, much greater, more fulfilling, more beautiful, more exciting.
The Bible tells us,
“No eye has ever seen, and no ear has heard, and no mind has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 , NLT)
So all I can do is take the five or ten top peek experiences in my life, throw them all together and multiply them by an exponential factor of a billion and go, “That must be what it’s like to be in a perfect place.”
So we don’t really know.
And even the things the Bible shares with us today are but a pale explanation of what heaven’s like.
But the Bible does give us some very important information on heaven.
Let’s look at five things that will not be in heaven and five things that will be in heaven.
THINGS YOU WILL NOT FIND IN HEAVEN:
We will have a perfect body.
The Bible says this “Just as each of us now has a body like Adam’s [that means we have a human body] so someday we shall have a body like Christ’s.”
The Bible says, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
No more sadness. That’s a good thing. No more broken hearts. No more rejection. No more loneliness. No more sorrow. No more grief.
No more heartache. That is heaven.
The Bible says “God will bring you into His glorious presence innocent of all sin and with great joy.”
That’s what Jesus Christ came to do.
To die on the cross and pay for all our sins, to wipe it all out, to forgive us and to make us perfect inside.
So that when we go into heaven He says we will go completely free of all our sin.
One of the things that’s going to happen is when you see Jesus Christ face to face the Bible says your character will be instantly changed to be like Him.
It’s still going to be the same you.
People are going to recognize you.
You’re still going to have your personality.
God would not waste what He’s put into you.
God isn’t going to take what He made you to be and then turn you into a robot when you get to heaven.
God made you to be you and He wants you to be you not only in eternity but here on earth.
But He says your character is going to become like Jesus, perfect!
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the moment that I no longer have any hang-ups.
That I no longer have any fears.
Can you imagine what it’ll be to live no fear, no guilt, no resentment, no worry, no bitterness, no anger, no envy, no jealousy, no loneliness.
But you’re still going to be you.
But we will be a whole lot more fun to live with.
The Bible says this “There shall be no more death. No sorrow, no crying and no pain. All of that will be gone forever.”
I’m glad that I don’t have to live for eternity with my habits and my hurts and my hang-ups.
If it were that would be hell.
But God says, I’m going to make it all perfect and then they’ll be no death.
THINGS YOU WILL FIND IN HEAVEN:
– Reunion with every other believer
The Bible says this, we looked at this verse earlier “This is God’s purpose that when the time is right He will gather us all together. [There’s going to be a reunion. He will gather us all together…] from wherever we are to be with Him in Christ forever.”
Who’s going to be in heaven?
God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are going to be in heaven. Angels are going to be in heaven. The church is going to be in heaven – everybody who’s put their trust in Christ.
And all the believers who were believers in God before Jesus came – in the Old Testament.
We look back to the Messiah. They looked forward to the Messiah.
‘…you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect.’ (Hebrews 12:22-23)
One of the most common questions I hear is:
What about babies who die?
Friend, they’re all going to be in heaven.
Forty-five million babies have been aborted in America since the abortion law was passed!
Every one of them are going to be in heaven.
Every single one of them.
Because we are not responsible for what we cannot understand.
The same is true of a child who grows up, but until a certain age he/she does not have the mental capacity to understand the love of Jesus Christ.
They can understand some.
It’s interesting that when they first communicated to Helen Keller who was blind and deaf, they communicated to her the concept of God she said, “I’ve always known Him. I just didn’t know His name.”
Isn’t that interesting?
Often children are more in contact with God than we are.
They’re much more sensitive.
That’s why the Bible says,
“Unless you become as children you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”
Kids are humble.
They’re open to God.
We close off with our pride and we say no.
God says they’re going to be in heaven.
You may have grown up in a religion that taught that unless a child is baptized before they die they’ll go to hell.
It is not in the Bible.
It is unscriptural and it is just wrong.
If you’ve had a miscarriage, that baby is in heaven.
If you’ve lost a young little one, that child is in heaven.
If you have a mentally retarded child that cannot understand the difference, that child will be in heaven. So the first thing we’re going to have in heaven is we’re going to have a reunion with these that we love in the family of God.
– We’re going to have rewards
You say, “What are we going to be rewarded for?”
Everything! Literally everything.
The Bible makes it very clear that God is watching everything in your life.
You will be rewarded for your actions that were good.
You will be rewarded for your words that were good.
You will be rewarded for your thoughts that were good.
You will be rewarded for your character and your decisions that were good.
You will be rewarded for your prayers.
You will be rewarded for your generosity.
You will be rewarded for your service, you will be rewarded for your sacrifices.
You will be rewarded for your persistence in not giving up when you felt like giving up doing the right thing.
You will be rewarded for bringing other people to Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that you will be rewarded for putting up with criticism for being a Christian.
That you will be rewarded for being persecuted as a believer.
That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
God says I’m watching it all and I’m going to reward it all.
This has nothing to do with your salvation.
The only way you get into heaven is by faith in what Jesus Christ has already done for you.
You can’t get into heaven by your good works.
But the Bible says that when you’re there you will be rewarded according to your good works.
Let me show you a couple verses – I could give you five hundred on this.
The Bible says, “If you even give a cup of cold water to one of the least of My followers you will surely be rewarded.”
I think about all the rewards that all the volunteers in our children’s ministry are going to get.
Every time they change a diaper, every time they give a cup of cold water, wipe a snotty nose or whatever, God says, “I’m writing that one down.”
The Bible says this “Love your enemies. Do good to them. Lend to them and don’t be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward in heaven will be very great.”
Here’s the thing.
You’ve got to decide where you want your rewards in life.
Do you want them in this life or do you want them in the next.
If you get your rewards in this life: the popularity, the wealth, the fame and all that kind of stuff and that’s what you live for, how long do you get to use it?
You build up treasure in heaven, rewards in heaven, how long do you get to enjoy those rewards?
It’s just a matter of perspective here.
There’s more to life than here and now.
You’ve got to decide whether you’re going to live for here and now and pleasure and popularity and principles and possessions here on earth, power, or are you going to live in light of rewards that you get to live with forever and ever?
There will be rewards in heaven.
– There are responsibilities.
You’re not going to sit around on a cloud doing nothing in heaven.
That’s one of the reasons why people don’t like heaven.
They think, “I’m going to be so bored in heaven.
There will be nothing to do!”
Are you kidding?
God is the one who wired you.
He shaped you. He knows what you’re interested in.
Where do you think you got your interests?
Where do you think you got your hobbies?
Where do you think you got your skills and talents?
Where do you think your spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences came from?
They came from God.
And do you think He’s only going to use all that you are only on earth?
He’s going to use all that you are in eternity. You will have work in eternity.
Here’s the difference: you’re going to enjoy it.
Here’s the difference: there aren’t going to be any heartaches with it.
Here’s the difference: you’re going to be fulfilled one hundred percent.
Your role and your responsibility the Bible says in heaven will be meaningful, it will be fulfilling, it will be enjoyable, and you’re going to enjoy doing it in eternity.
What is my responsibility?
What are my roles going to be in heaven?
I don’t know.
But I do know this.
It’s based on how faithful you are with roles and responsibilities He gives you on earth.
God is watching you and He’s testing you.
Life is a test.
And life is a trust.
And life is a temporary assignment.
God put you on this earth for eighty years to see how responsible, how dependable, how faithful, how trustworthy you are.
What are you doing with what you’ve been given?
I’m saying be smart.
You need to decide, “Where am I going to invest my time?
Where am I going to invest my life?
Where am I going to invest my money?
Because I’m either going to get rewarded here on earth.
Or I’m going to get rewarded in heaven.”
It’s your choice.
– Heaven is Rest
Sometimes that one sounds really good.
– There will be rejoicing
What does that mean, “rejoicing”?
We’re going to worship in heaven. We’re going to fellowship in heaven. We’re going to celebrate in heaven. We’re going to enjoy each other in heaven. We’re going to love each other in heaven. We’re going to party in heaven.
The bottom line is here on earth, we’re put here to practice all the things we’re going to do in heaven.
IV. How do I get to heaven?
This is real important because Jesus said the door to heaven is narrow.
It’s not a wide door, it’s a narrow door.
“The Good News tells us that God makes us ready for heaven—makes us right in God’s sight-when we put our faith and trust in Christ to save us. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scripture says it, ‘The man who finds life will find it through trusting God.’ (Romans 1:17, LB)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not Perish but have Everlasting Life.” (John 3:16, KJV)
It is only by humbly trusting God that I have any chance of getting to heaven.
Heaven’s perfect – I’m not.
So I come to God’s A, B, C,D:
A – I admit I need a savior.
B – I believe in Jesus dying for me.
C – I confess my sin to God.
D – I depend on His promises.
V. How should I live if I’m going to heaven?
I’m going to talk to you about three things and we’ll wrap it up.
If I’m going to heaven this is how I should be living my life.
1. Don’t be distracted by temptation.
“You are only visitors here on earth. Since your real home is in heaven, keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls.” (1 Peter 2:11, LB)
Friends, the mark of maturity is the ability to delay gratification.
Have you noticed that little kids don’t know the difference between “no” and “not yet”?
I want it now!
Anybody who’s going to make anything of themselves on this planet has to learn delayed gratification.
An Olympic athlete delays gratification.
They don’t eat certain things.
They spend hours in the pool.
They do all these disciplined things. Successful people are just normal people who are willing to discipline themselves in ways that unsuccessful people are not willing to delay gratification.
Instead of sitting down and watching television, they go and they study that book.
Or they go and make that sale.
Or whatever they do.
There’s the ability to delay gratification.
Yet everything in society tries to get you to not do that.
It’s not just sins that can distract you, that keep you away from storing up treasure and rewards in heaven.
A lot of good things can distract you.
They don’t have to be bad.
You can be tempted by good things.
“If they had wanted to, they could have gone back to the good things of this world. But they didn’t want to. They were living for heaven. And now God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has made a heavenly city for them.” (Hebrew 11:15-16, LB)
2. Don’t be discouraged by trouble.
When you live in light of eternity, when you live in light of heaven, trouble just doesn’t bother you as much any more.
You just don’t give up.
“This is why we never give up…. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all round us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, LB)
Three things about problems:
– They do not last forever.
– They build your character.
– They bring rewards in eternity.
3. Focus my energy on what will last.
“Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here.” (Colossians 3:2, LB)
“I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Jesus Christ has done.” (Philippians 3:14, CEV)