Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne
I want to start 2024 with a series on Heaven. Heaven is something most of us believe in, but none of us know much about. We know it’s better than hell, but in this series, I want to explore what heaven really is, Biblically, what it isn’t, and why we should be excited about it.
WHAT IS HEAVEN?
John 14:1-3 (ESV)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. 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 will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Jesus gave us a glimpse of heaven so that we would not be troubled. In this life, He said, we would have many troubles, but when we die, we will have peace.
John 16:33 (ESV)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Most human civilisations believe in an afterlife, and most talk about a blissful place, where we RIP, we hope at least to rest in peace. We would call it heaven. They might call it Paradise, or Nirvana.
Early Christians clearly had a preoccupation with heaven. Roman catacombs have wall pictures and inscriptions detailing heavenly landscapes, children playing, feasts and banquets. And they based these thoughts on what Paul said…
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (ESV)
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Talking about and understanding what the Bible teaches about heaven should encourage us in our day to day walk with God. Keith Green, who currently has heaven as his address, wrote a great song that encourages us to believe that heaven is amazingly amazing! He wrote, “I can’t wait to get to heaven, when You (Jesus) wipe away all our tears. In six days, You created everything, but You’ve been working in heaven two thousand years!”
WE ALL HAVE A TERMINAL DISEASE
A Christian man was caring for his wife, who was dying of cancer. He asked her one day “What it’s like to wake up every morning knowing you’re dying?” She replied, “What’s it like to wake up every morning pretending you’re not?”
The fact is that, ever since Adam and Eve fell in the garden of Eden, mankind sinned and has to deal with death.
Romans 6:23 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Everybody sins, and the penalty for this is that everybody deserves to die. But there is a Gospel, the good news, which is that Jesus came to earth and paid the price for us, so that we can face death with hope. The hope of Heaven! King David wrote…
Psalms 39:4-5 (ESV)
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
The encouragement is this…that what we see around us as life is like breathing vapour on a cold day. You see it for a very short time, and then it’s gone. In the scope of eternity, and the Bible teaches that all of us are created for eternity, our current life is a brief blip, like a mere breath.
As Christians, we don’t have to fear death because Jesus came and laid His life down to set us free from death. He destroyed death’s power over us.
Hebrews 2:14-15 (ESV)
(Jesus) through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Have you been to a funeral? Have you seen the look in the eyes of those who don’t know Christ? There is real, genuine fear, and rightly so. What happens when we die?
SO, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE?
Twenty-first century man says it’s all about the science, but there is no scientifically validated data as to what happens when you die. No matter who you are, rich or poor, successful, or not, believer or not, you have to have some degree of faith. In the absence of verifiable data, here’s some ideas people believe about what happen when we die.
Atheists and a few others believe that when you die, that’s it. Nothing. Zip! Atheist Sir Thomas Scott’s last words were, “Until this moment I thought there was neither a God nor a hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgement of the Almighty.” Robert Ingersoll said, “Oh God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul, from hell, if there be a hell!”, Author of the Satanic Bible, Anton Levey’s last words were “Oh my, oh my, what have I done, there is something very wrong.”
Though science cannot measure it, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that there is something after death.
Eastern religions promote an idea that there is a universal Spirit, and that we go through several lives until, ultimately, if we are good enough, we can merge with the great nothingness that’s out there. This puts you in an endless cycle of lives to try and get good enough to become nothing. No evidence for this either. Hindus, Buddhists and a few others believe this, but the Bible expressly speaks against reincarnation.
Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement,
The Bible teaches that we get one life, just one. It’s not a dress rehearsal, you can’t die then come back like in a computer game. One life, and after that, you will be called to account for everything you’ve done…
Romans 14:12 (ESV)
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Some Christians believe that, when we die, we all sleep. The Bible likens death to sleep, but most Christians see this as a figure of speech, and that to form a doctrine of soul sleep you need to disregard other passages. This view holds that we all sleep, we are all resurrected to final judgement, where believers go to heaven and the ungodly go to hell.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (ESV)
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
All of these are theories, based on wild guesses or attempted explanations for strange paranormal events. So, what should we believe about after death? We need a reliable source, a standard. The Bible is God’s Word, and this is a far better standard than, “I feel like this happens after we die.”
WHY BOTHER LEARNING ABOUT HEAVEN?
As Christians, very few of us have a theology of heaven. We kind of know it’s out there, we know it’s better than hell, but we still have no idea or concept. I am convinced that having a firm, Biblical idea of heaven should be a priority, especially given the state of the world and current events. Understanding Heaven, having Heaven in your heart, should encourage you to face this life.
Colossians 3:1-2 (ESV)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
The Word “Seek” in Greek is ZETEO, meaning to seek, or crave, aim for. It is in the Present tense, meaning keep on actively seeking. We must, as believers in Christ, keep on keeping on seeking things above, heaven and our eternal life.
Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
So what advantage is a correct theology of heaven? Randy Alcorn illustrates…
In 1952, Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways, attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the Californian Coast. It was a cold, foggy morning, and Florence swam for fifteen hours before, exhausted, she gave up. Her mother urged her on, but she gave up, less than half a mile from her goal. At a later press conference, she said she could not see the shore because of the fog. She said, if she could have seen the shore, she would have made it.
We need a clear sight of heaven because it will help us keep going in life and make it. It will help us to keep going, no matter what we face, because we can see the goal…Heaven!
HOW DO YOU SEE HEAVEN?
So, what do you think heaven is like? Do we become angels? Do we sit around bored for all eternity playing a harp in a cloud? Is heaven an endless church service, forever singing endless renditions of old hymns? If that’s our view of heaven, little wonder we unenthusiastically avoid the topic all together.
For most of us our view of heaven is a collage of opinions we cut and paste from a variety of sources, some Christian, very few Biblical, but mostly movies, TV programs and social media opinions. The only definitive thing we know about heaven is that it is better than hell as a destination. As Christians we should know enough to shoot down the common misconception that dead people grow wings and become angels. There is no evidence, Biblical, or otherwise, for that! But we need to have a balanced, Biblical view of what happens when we die.
Charles Spurgeon expressed this about his death: “To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.”
If you plan a trip to, somewhere far way, like Europe, or America or Asia, do you not research the destinations to which you are going? Don’t you plan out your route, where you will stay, and what you can do when You get there? Doesn’t this heighten the excitement and desire for what is going to happen?
If we are planning to go to heaven, should we not research and understand where we are going? Won’t this heighten our expectations?
BEWARE THE HEAVENLY LIES!
Satan loves lying, and especially about heaven, because it discourages us. Once we are saved, Satan cannot unsaved us, but he can neutralise our effectiveness for Christ by discouraging us. He always dresses up his lies, so they look like truth. The skin of truth stuffed with a lie. Jesus said this about Satan…
John 8:44 (ESV)
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
In the book of Revelation, the satanic beast is described like this…
Revelation 13:6 (ESV)
It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
Randy Alcorn said, “Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we’ll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our minds on this life and not the next, and we won’t be motivated to share our faith. Why should we share the “good news” that people can spend eternity in a boring, ghostly place that even we are not looking forward to?”
LET’S EXPLORE HEAVEN
Satan wants to suck you dry of any desire to be with your Lord in the place He has told you He is preparing for you. He wants to sap your hope. He wants to defuse anything you could become for the Kingdom. But I want to diffuse him. I want to explore the truth about our eternal destination.
He is going to feed you what’s called Naturalism…the belief that the world can be understood only in scientific terms, without recourse to spiritual or supernatural explanations. So, what we see is real and what we don’t see is not real. Satan will tell you seeing is believing, but God says believing is seeing!
God made human beings both physical and spiritual, so it makes sense that heaven is not merely spiritual but also physical. If we imagine heaven as dull or boring, there is no incentive to live with heaven in our hearts. But if we can imagine a true and Biblical version of heaven, we can live with that in our hearts every day. And here’s a hint about what is to come after death…
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (ESV)
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
A PECULIAR PHASE
In my quiet time this week I noticed a peculiar phrase…
Mark 6:52 (ESV)
for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
The disciples, having just seen the feeding of the five thousand plus, didn’t expect Jesus walking on water and calming the storm. Why? Because their hearts were hardened, Greek – POROO, it means calloused, petrified, covered in a hardened skin.
And it occurred to me that we who live and serve God, who’ve been saved for a long time, we are prone to get calloused, like my fingers playing guitar. Hardened. Not soft and supple, but a kind of “familiarity breeds contempt.”
Church, we must never lose the wonder, the awe, being overwhelmed by the blessings of God. Don’t become hardened, heaven is what God is preparing for us, and it’s going to be off the charts, mind bogglingly amazing!
LET’S TOGETHER DIVE INTO HEAVEN
The devil will sell you the lie that heaven is boring. It’s an endless church service, each boring, old hymn has with 58,000 verses. Or it is sitting on a cloud playing a harp till your fingers bleed.
Don’t believe those satanic lies. Heaven is going to be exciting, glorious, wonderful, and endlessly interesting.
I reckon it will be like diving. When I first dived, I thought it was a bit like being in heaven. I see loads of colourful, fascinating fish and coral. Things that you never see on the surface. And just when you think you’ve seen everything, suddenly there’s a new creature, even more fascinating. Heaven will be like that. Constantly exciting, new, fascinating, interesting. It won’t be playing harps on clouds, and it won’t be boring. Heaven will be beyond the greatest journey you can possibly imagine.
But in this series, I won’t have all the answers…no one has. Some things will rightly remain hidden from our limited, humanistic view…
Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Some things are secret, but nevertheless, God looks forward to blowing our minds and senses in heaven one day. He has revealed enough about heaven to encourage us to trust Him, and to get us excited! And we will discover that heaven is not the end point, it gets even better for those who trust Jesus!
THE NEXT FEW WEEKS
Come back over the next few weeks because we are about to embark on an incredible and awe-inspiring journey to find the truth about heaven, hell, what comes after death and what our eternal destination is. This will encourage us and give us hope to face the new year and give us courage to share our faith with others.
Here’s the prologue from a TV show in the 1960s that was very popular…
“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”
We might call such a place heaven, for some it’s a twilight zone. We don’t get it, we can’t understand it, we are not even sure of much of it, but over the next few weeks we will explore what the Bible tells us about heaven.
But for today, I need to ask, are you sure that you’re going to heaven?