Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Heaven: What its REALLY like

The Apostle Paul wrote to the people of Philippi  in chapter 3 of Philippians:
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things…. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

I think that if Paul lived among us today he would find that there are many Christians who are the same as the Christians in Philippi so many years ago. Their minds are on earthly things. But Paul encourages us to press on toward the goal. He tells us to forget what is behind and to strain toward the prize before us. What is that prize? That prize is eternal life with Christ in a place called Heaven.

We sing about Heaven and we say that someday we’ll go there but we really don’t know very much about it. Unfortunately we are inundated with so many false messages from TV programs and commercials about what Heaven is like that we have come to believe it.
Heaven is a subject that we don’t hear much about but today we’re going to and I want you to realize that Heaven is a prize worth pressing on for. Maybe I can paint you a picture of what Heaven is really like that will change your mind from what you have always thought or heard.

Philippians 3:20 tells us that our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,”. We don’t belong here, we belong in Heaven. Heaven is our home and we should be homesick for it. Longing for it and looking forward to finally being there.

Everyone wants to go to heaven and in fact most people believe that they will get to go there. Some believe that everyone who dies will go to heaven. Some believe that when we die we become angels and some believe that as long as you try your best and you are a good person you will go to Heaven. According to Scripture every one of these statements is a lie. Not everyone will get to go to Heaven only those who have named Jesus Christ as their Saviour will have their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If your name is not there, you cannot gain admittance to that wonderful place.

With that as background, we are going to look at what the Bible says about heaven. But before I jump in, I should make one important point: The only things we can know for certain about heaven are the things revealed in the Bible. Everything else is just speculation and hearsay. The Bible tells us everything we need to know and I believe it also tells us everything we can know for certain about heaven.

 There have been many books and articles written in recent years about heaven based on dreams, visions and near-death experiences. The majority of these should be rejected because they contain bad theology. Having said that, I do not doubt that some believers have had genuine experiences with angels and have been given a glimpse of heaven. But wonderful as those stories may be, I do not think we should build our theology around them.

What is heaven like? All right, the first good view of heaven comes in the first chapter Ezekiel. People shy away from studying the book of Ezekiel. It can be hard to understand but we are going to look at Ezekiel's vision of heaven.
 Chapter 1 beginning in verse 4, "And as I looked, behold a storm wind was coming from the north. A great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it. And in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. And within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance. They had human form, each of them had four faces and four wings. And their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf's hoof and they gleamed like burnished bronze."
Verse 8, "Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. Their wings touched one another. Their faces did not turn when they moved and each went straight forward. As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man. All four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left and all four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces."
"Their wings were spread out above. Each had two touching another being and two covering their bodies. And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go without turning as they went. In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings." "The fire was bright and lightning was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning."
Many people have looked at what these creatures symbolize and many have guessed what they mean, but for today’s sermon we are simply looking at what Ezekiel, an ordinary man, got to see of Heaven. He is describing what he saw.
Verse 15, "I looked at the living beings. Behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. And the appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form. Their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another. Where whenever they moved they moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved. As for their rims, the rims of the wheels, they were lofty and awesome and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes round about. And whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them. And whenever the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also."

"Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose close beside them for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. Whenever those went, these went." "And whenever those stood still, these stood still. And whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose close beside them for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse like the awesome gleam of crystal extending over their heads. And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other, each one also had two wings covering their bodies on the one side and on the other. I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went like the voice of the Almightiest, sound of tumult, like the sound of an army camp. Whenever they stood still they dropped their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads, whenever they stood still they dropped their wings."
"Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance and on that which resembled a throne, high up was a figure with the appearance of a man. And then I noticed from the appearance of his loins upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it. And from the appearance of his loins and downward, I saw something like fire and there was a radiance around him, as the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the presence, or appearance, of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking..."
You might be sitting here and saying, I thought she was going to tell us what Heaven is like. I don’t understand these creatures with wheels and everything else that Ezekiel is describing. I read these portions of Scripture to challenge what you have been told by our culture about Heaven. Heaven is more wonderful and magnificent than any of us could ever imagine. What we are really looking at in these verses  is the sovereignty of God, His majesty, His glory, the wonderful beauty of His heaven, the order, the symmetry, the perfection of it, all pictured in the wheels that moved perfectly in order, almost in concert with one another, the flashing thunderbolts, the sparkling jewels, the light, all picturing God's glory. That's the picture of heaven. It's beyond our ability to fully understand , it's inconceivable to us...the majesty, the wonder, the symmetry, the order of heaven.
We read in the book of Revelation  in chapter 4  John’s description of Heaven:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow  that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

John is concentrating here on one thing in heaven and that's the throne of God and what is happening around that throne. That is the center of heaven. That's where God dwells. That's the focal point of God's presence. This description is very much like Ezekiel's.
We are going to be around that throne! We are going to see the flashing reflections from the precious stones, the rainbow around the throne and the crystal river which flows in front of the throne of God. We’re going to be there. That is a description of our home!
This is incredible. Does it make you kind of want to go there and see it and be a part of it? Heaven is not a land of shadows and mists. People say, "I died and went to heaven and I came back." Well, how was it? "Well, there was a bright light at the end of a long tunnel." You’ve heard people say that?
 The people who supposedly died, and were revived, and came back again. Heaven is not some light at the end of some dark tunnel. It is magnificent, full of colour, full of action. There’s a lot going on in heaven. It’s not a quiet, boring place. There aren’t people sitting on clouds strumming their harps. It is magnificent beyond description...not a land of shadows and mists and fog.
Heaven is a real place Jesus, Himself, spoke of it
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3,
We know from the Word that Heaven is:
– God’s dwelling place (Psalm 33:13).– Where Christ is today (Acts 1:11).– Where Christians go when they die (Philippians 1:21-23).– The Father’s house (John 14:2).– A city designed and built by God (Hebrews 11:10).– Paradise (Luke 23:43).

John describes what he saw in Revelation 21:
11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles( of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 1500 miles in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 

17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 216 feet thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
John tells us in chapter 22 that he saw a river of pure Water of Life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, coursing down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew Trees of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month; the leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.
That doesn’t sound like a land of fluffy clouds and harps does it? No, God isn’t boring and creating an all-white city would certainly not be very exciting. Heaven is full of colour! Heaven is full of mansions, a street of gold, gates made out of single pearls, angels, heavenly beings like we could never have imagined and a throne surrounded by a rainbow and most importantly of all, God will be there and we shall see Him face to face. 
1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
But what won’t be in Heaven? John says in Revelation 22:
There shall be nothing in the city that is evil; for the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will be their light; and they shall reign forever and ever.

In Heaven, there are no tears, there is no sorrow .Bitterness is gone forever, failure left far behind. There will be no suffering, no pain, no sickness. There won’t be any stiff joints and in fact with a glorified body there won’t be any physical limitations. In heaven no one grows old and feeble.

If you make it to that city, you live forever, never to die again. Either you believe in heaven or you don’t. It’s either a real place or it isn’t.
But I do not want to be ambiguous on this point. Not everyone is in heaven now. Some people won’t make it. The Bible speaks of the saved and the lost. The saved are those who trust Jesus Christ as their eternal Savior. The lost are those who do not trust Christ as Savior. This is the great dividing line of humanity-you are either saved or you are lost. And there is no middle category. You will either spend eternity in heaven or eternity in hell.
How can I be sure I am going to heaven?
This is the most important question of all. Here is a wonderful truth: God has made it easy for you to go to heaven. He did the hard part when he sent his Son to die on the Cross for you. He paid the price for your sins so that you could one day stand before God in heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He also said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved” (John 10:9 NASB). Jesus is not only the way to heaven, he is also the door to heaven. If you want to go to heaven, you’ve got to go through the door marked “Jesus Christ.” There is no other entrance.

Let me make this very personal. If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you would go to heaven?
I hope you have answered yes to that question. If you couldn’t, let me encourage you to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and begin to live your life for him. If you are saved and you know you are going to Heaven but you’ve never had a clear picture of what Heaven is like so you’ve never longed for it. I hope this message has made you realize where your citizenship is and has maybe stirred something up in you to want to be there.
Let’s not be like the Philippians who kept their minds on earthly things, but let’s  press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesu

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