Peninsula Community Church
February 24, 2019
Revelation 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Well today we come to the end of our grief series. We have covered a lot of territory in a short period of time and yet there is so much more left unspoken in our discussion. Although there is so much more we could share on about this subject, we will leave this discussion for now. Before we do however, I need to share for one more piece in the journey of grief: Heaven awaits us.
As we consider this discussion, we must understand that Heaven is the reward for those who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. Listen to the words of John. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This action presupposes that heaven is reserved for a chosen people. There is only one way to receive the reward of heaven. It is through the shed blood of Christ and our acceptance of Christ as our personal Savior. The truth is we cannot get to Heaven by our works, but we gain entrance by simply asking Christ into our hearts through faith.
Do you remember the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3. Nicodemus had a legitimate question. How do I enter heaven? Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But in the mind of Nicodemus that only posed more questions. Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:4-5). Can imagine Nicodemus’ dilemma? He was puzzled because he did not understand the water and spirit aspect of birth. His honest question was “How I do I enter back into my mothers womb again in order to be born again?” Jesus helped Him with his confusion by clarifying that you are naturally born by the water, but are reborn by the Spirit by God.
Despite some teaching that you will hear today, even in some Christian circles, not everyone will go to heaven. It is not about doing good things or being good enough because there is no way to ever do enough good to be worthy of heaven. There is only one way and that is through the work of Jesus Christ. Let me remind you of the words of Jesus to Martha after Lazarus died and she was worried about seeing him again. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:25-26).
Second, in heaven there will be infinite joy and peace. Joy will never end. Peace will come to those who long for His appearing. God promises us that there will be no more tears or sorrow in heaven. The things that bring us sorrow, pain, grief, and hurt in this life will not exist in heaven. All of the tears of our heart and spirit will be wiped away. Grief will be dissolved. John knew this promise when he penned these words. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Here is the promise we can take to the bank. There will be a day that our tears and pain will be removed not just for a night but forever.
Third, heaven is more about being in the presence of God than about a specific place. Here is what I love about heaven. While it is certainly a place, it is in reality more about being in the presence of the living God. That is why I love the passage where Paul states to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Look at the words of John in our passage that confirms this. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us. Some have suggested the place He is preparing is a mansion but a more correct interpretation of the word is that He is preparing us a dwelling place. The word for mansion comes from the Greek word that means “remain.” Therefore rather than a mansion we will remain in the presence of God. Jesus said this. “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. (John 14:1-4). Therefore, what makes heaven so awesome is not the streets of gold or jewels that are found on the gates. It is not about the sea of glass or the angels that we will experience, but it is all about the presence of God. He will be there and that is what is most powerful and welcoming to us. We will get to enjoy His presence and power for an eternity.
Randy Alcorn the author of the book Heaven references two stories about heaven in his book. The first is the movie What Dreams May Come where Robin Williams plays the role of Chris Nielsen who is unhappy when he arrives in heaven and finds that his wife is not present. The problem with the movie is that God was not found in Chris’ heaven either. The second reference is found in the best selling novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. The story is about a man who feels lonely and unimportant. He dies and goes to heaven where he meets five people who tell him his life really mattered. Through this he discovers forgiveness and acceptance. The problem is that all of this is done without God or Christ as the object of saving faith.
The problem with both of these movies is that God is left out of the picture. It is a portrayal of heaven that leaves out the most important part of Heaven. They omit God and the need for us to have a relationship with Him. It focuses only on human beings and our relationship with each other but heaven without God is not heaven at all. Someone has said that heaven without God would be like a honeymoon without a groom and a palace without a king.
Teresa of Avila stated that Wherever God is, there is heaven. The opposite to this is that Where God is missing there is hell. We must never lose sight of the fact that the best part of heaven will be knowing and enjoying God. Todd Burpo, the author of Heaven is For Real, stated that heaven is “God’s house.” Todd thinks it is easy to get sidetracked by the pearly gates and the streets of gold. “What really makes heaven heaven,” Todd said, “is that God is there.” How true that is.
Fourth, the greatest joy we will receive is that we will be reunited with those we love and who have gone before us. I long for the day that we will see a child that we never met because Michelle had a miscarriage. I will get to hug my brother who was killed when he was 13. I will be able to thank my grannie McElwain for her love and prayers for me. There are those in our church family I long to see again. And with the promise of God we will see them again and that will bring us joy, peace, and hope. I long for the day that I get to see Carter and as I see him in the distance I see his hands raised to welcome me and give that smile that could melt anyone in a moment. I long for the day that I see Jim Koons, Doug Faulls, Ellen Rudolph, Arlene Marvell, Bill, Nancy, and Billy Parramore, Bob and Dale Zabit, Gene and Mary Bunting, and so many more. I have a promise and that brings me hope. And now this week I will get to see my sister-in-law Barbara and one of our best friends Al in heaven.
In the meantime, while we wait for the day that we will enter His presence we can only imagine what heaven will be like. While we can suggest and surmise what heaven will be, the truth is we cannot even begin to imagine the beauty and glory of Heaven. There is no way in our human understanding to comprehend all that heaven means or what it will look like. We can only see it through human eyes. We do catch a glimpse of heaven through the Scripture but even then we are only looking through a glass darkly or dimly. That is why Paul stated “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
That is why the song “I Can Only Imagine” is such a powerful song of praise to God. Heaven will be more than we can imagine because it is beyond our ability to understand and comprehend. Listen to the words of this song.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom