by Pastor Reg E. Lewis, Halifax, NS
What we know about Heaven comes from only one source. That source is the Bible, the Word of God.
A. Where is Heaven?
Heaven where God dwells is somewhere beyond the stars where no living person has ever gone.
B. What is Heaven like?
It’s beyond our imagination or description.
“But as it is written:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Perhaps one way to describe it that may be helpful is to think of the most beautiful and amazing place we have ever seen or visited and then multiply that by many times and we might begin to be able to imagine it. In Revelation chapters 21 and 22 we’re told some things about Heaven.
Take note that Heaven is a real place:
John 14:2-4, 6. “2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
6 Jesus said to [Thomas], “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It is a place of beauty, order, peace and contentment. Before we think of what will be in heaven, let’s first of all consider some things that will not be there.
1. There will be no death, God calls death the last enemy to be destroyed. “ The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”(1 Corinthians 15:26.) And what an enemy it is! It robs us of our loved ones, causes much sadness, sorrow and dread. It won’t exist in heaven. There will be no goodbyes there. No funeral homes, no cemeteries, no nursing homes, no caskets, no hospitals. For the believer, however, death will be a departure from this life into life eternal. “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
2. There will be no sin, which caused death in the first place. “Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12.) No crime, no murder, no stealing, no injustice, no rape, no lies, no broken hearts, no more disease – no viruses, cancer, no prisons….
3. There will be no pain. “ There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4b) Here we experience both emotional and physical pain. Some people are in pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A dear friend of ours has been in constant pain for many years, in Heaven she will be pain free. What a wonderful day that will be!
4. There will be no tears. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” (Revelation 21:4) No tears and no crying! No tears in this wonderful place. God will wipe away all tears from our eyes! There will be no more sorrow. As you are reading this, you wouldn’t have to go very far to find people in tears. If you went to the hospital, for example, and went into the waiting rooms, I can almost guarantee you would likely find people in tears. Perhaps they have just received those dreaded words from the doctor regarding a loved one, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.” There are still tears being shed over the tragic loss of loved ones from the senseless shooting two weeks ago. There will be no more loneliness or missing loved ones.
Let’s consider now What Will Be There.
1. The new Jerusalem will be there. The beauty of this city is beyond imagination and comparison. You may read about it in Revelation 21:9-27. The Bible tells us it’s laid out as a square (cube) 2414.016 kilometres or almost 1400 miles long, wide and high. It’s walls are constructed of all kinds of precious stones. It will probably take many years to explore this tremendous city.
2. There will be a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. “Revelation 22:1” Why is it called a river of life?I don’t know, but perhaps it may be because it’s teeming with all types of life, fish, sea creatures, etc. Clear as crystal, I’m speculating, because we’re not told, but maybe we’ll be able to look into it and see to the bottom, see all the activity of the life it contains. Pure – no contaminants, no bacteria, etc., never have to place a sign saying ”high bacteria count.”
3. “On either side of the river, there is the tree of life, which bore [produces], 12 fruits, each tree yielding it’s fruit every month.” (Revelation 22:2) Wonderful, fruit like we’ve never tasted or imagined existed, I suspect!
Who Will Be There?
First of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who loves us and died for us on the cruel cross, will be there. We’ll see Him face to face and see the scars which will still be in His hands, feet and side. But why did He die, anyway? Was it for crimes He had done or for sins he had committed? No, He never committed a sin. “And you know that He appeared to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”(1 John 3:5) The only person who ever walked the earth who did no sin was Jesus.
Why then? Because God, being a just and righteous judge, must punish sin. “The wages of sin [penalty] for sin is death.” (separation) Romans 6:23 At physical death the soul and spirit are separated from the body and for the believer go to be with the Lord. Since we all have sinned we must pay the penalty or have a substitute who will take our place and pay our penalty for us. Jesus Christ was that substitute and paid the penalty in full.
Now God can offer us forgiveness as a free gift when we turn from our sins and receive, accept Jesus Christ and trust Him as our personal Saviour. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:11-13)
Of course the other two members of the triune God will be there, Father and Holy Spirit as well as numerous angels.
4. All those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and have trusted Him as their Saviour will be there. There will be a great and joyful reunion when we recognize our loved ones and friends who have gone on before.
Although millions will be there, yet by comparison, the majority of those who have lived and died will be absent.“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Not because they could not be there, but because they would not. Jesus said, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:40) They wanted to be there on their own terms. Many people say “Well, I believe if I live a good life and do the best I can, I’ll make it to heaven.” Those people will not make it even by their own plan because no one has ever done their best consistently. Others say, “If I keep the 10 commandments, I’ll be there.” However no one has ever been able to keep the 10 commandments. The only person who has ever kept them is the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve all broken many if not all of them by word, thought or deed.“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23.) Still others say “I go to church, was baptized, take communion regularly and I believe that will assure me of heaven.”
These things are all good, after we have trusted Jesus Christ as our Saviour, but will never get us to heaven. They don’t produce salvation or forgiveness, but are the results of a relationship with Jesus Christ. If doing all these different things could get us to heaven, then the most awful tragedy took place over 2000 years ago, that tragedy being that Jesus Christ died for nothing. But the Bible says, He died for our sins. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4.)
Many have devised their own way that they think God will accept. “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12.) But Jesus said, “I am the way” The way, not a way. And because He is the only way, all other ways are excluded. The exclusiveness of the Christian way is what annoys so many. We must however go to Heaven God’s way or we will never get there. There is only 1 way; we must go that way or miss out.
Who then will be there? Only those who have made necessary preparation. We’ve all probably taken a trip at sometime in our life, but who would take a trip without some planning and preparation. We will all be taking the greatest trip ever and yet so many never even think that preparations are a necessity. How do we prepare? Really it’s very simple.
God has a wonderful gift for everyone. The only qualification we need to receive this gift is to recognize and acknowledge ourselves as sinners having broken many of God’s laws. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
It’s a free gift that can’t be earned or merited (deserved). “ For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 6:23) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) It’s God’s love gift of His Son Jesus Christ to everyone who is willing to accept and trust Him as Saviour. “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 )
When we are given a gift by a friend or relative we accept it and thank the one who gave it to us. We do the same thing with God’s gift, only we do it by faith since we can’t see God. Just tell God we accept His Son Jesus Christ and that we’re receiving Him as our Saviour, then thank Him and thank Jesus for dying for us and invite Him into our life. When we do this sincerely and believingly, we get what we might think of as a “Package Deal”, forgiveness of sins, eternal life in heaven, acceptance by God, peace. “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6,7,) “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”(Romans 5:1) and so much more.
5. One more thing that will be in Heaven is rewards. These rewards will be based on our faithfulness to God. All who faithfully serve the Lord Jesus here will receive a reward/rewards. We can all start laying up treasures in Heaven right now.
Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) We can deal with this more fully at another time. But for now I’ll just give one example. We can all use our resources, time, money, etc. to help those in need. And we can seek to further His cause and help populate Heaven by telling others about the wonderful gift God has for them. God will reward us accordingly.
Dr. George W. Truett, longtime pastor in Dallas, Texas, was once talking to a wealthy business man who was showing him his great riches. He pointed in every direction that revealed great oil fields, herds of cattle, grain fields, and forests and then said, “Twenty-five years ago I came to this country, worked hard, saved and all that you see in every direction is mine. I own it all.”
He paused for the expected praise, but to his astonishment it didn’t come. Dr. Truett laid a hand lovingly on his shoulder, pointed upward and said, “My friend, how much do you own in that direction?” The man dropped his head in shame and said, “I never thought of that.’’