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Monday, February 10, 2014

Heaven Pt 1: Where and What is Heaven?


{You can click here to listen to the audio file}
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Heaven Pt 1: Where and What is Heaven?
O God, high and lifted up, whose dwelling is in unapproachable light, heaven is your throne and earth is your footstool: raise our sights and give us durable glimpses of heaven beginning with this sermon and throughout this series, that we might become so heavenly minded we finally become some earthly good; through your Son Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Just about everyone under the sun assumes that they’re going to go to heaven. But what does “heaven” mean to them? If you ask folks, some will only say it’s just a better place; others, the great golf course or hunting camp in the sky. That most folks believe in heaven shouldn’t surprise us, for God, we are told, has “put eternity into man's heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Almost every culture and society, throughout the millennia, has believed in a Life after Death. What’s sadly humorous to me, though, is that within 21st Century American Christianity itself there seems to be very little interest in Heaven. Go to any Christian bookstore, and you’ll find tons of books on how to make money, care for children, stay married, speak in tongues, have health and glory here-and-now, find assurance, become more certain that you are a child of the king, overcome demons and territorial spirits, etc. But rarely will you see a book about heaven. Therefore, this evening, we want to answer some questions: Why study about heaven, what it is, and where it is. And we will examine if it really has any meaning for you and me today? When we’ve finished this evening, you should begin to have some clear answers to these questions, with maybe a surprise or three.

Why Studying Heaven is Neglected.
a. We are too terribly preoccupied with the here-and-now, with the present moment. Use the coin and eye illustration. The daily realities may not be really as big or important as we think they are, but they impinge on our sight/perspective.
b. Life is sweet and we’re drugged by well-being and prosperity. Usually death or tragedy shocks us – temporarily – out of our lethargy. But it’s not long, “time heals all wounds” and we’re back to the same old routines...
c. Most folks simply take it for granted that we’ll move into that stage someday. It’s just another, automatic stage of our existence.
d. But also, maybe because it just doesn’t appeal to us: It’s the everlasting Church service; it’s perpetual harp playing; it’s wings and white robes and flitting about from cloud to cloud.
e. It’s beyond our comprehension. 1 Corinthians 2:9 – “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
f. Brainwashed into neglecting heaven: it has no earthly value, we’re told. And so Johnny Cash sang that old song about being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. Our age tells us to drop the “pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye” thing, and make money, feed the impoverished, save the koalas, fight ozone depletion, etc...and we’ve too often swallowed the whole can of worms before we know it.

Why Studying Heaven Matters.
a. Because many folks who think heaven is automatically theirs are gravely mistaken! Matthew 7:21-23!
b. Because many of the notions about heaven are grotesque misrepresentations that need to be corrected.
c. It can be one of our more powerful aspects in evangelism.
d. It’s for our own spiritual growth and effectiveness in Christian Service. The truth is in the Scriptures primarily to comfort us, shore up our strength in perilous times, encourage, inspire, promote holiness, fill us with joy now, etc. The reality is that you’re no earthly good until you get heavenly minded. “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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). You get so heavenly minded you finally become some earthly good.

(1) Atmosphere: 2 Chronicles 6:13 and 26a. (2) Space: 6.14 and Genesis 1:1 and 14. (3) Heaven itself: 2 Chronicles 6.21, 25, 27, 30, 33, 35, 39. And yet God cannot be restricted to any one place-6:18. “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24). “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66.1). // In various places, glory and heaven are used interchangeably – for example: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Ps. 73.24).

Based on all this, we must recover the simple and profound Truth: Heaven exists for the Glory of God. He is what will make heaven, HEAVEN! Unfortunately, when you ask many folks about what they think heaven is, most of their descriptions will be empty of God and his Son Jesus Christ. In almost every case, the thought of the centrality of God in Christ is utterly missing from their heaven – God and Christ have become completely irrelevant. Many folks would be quite happy without God in heaven. But heaven exists for God and Without God, heaven is meaningless! We can never think of heaven separately from God.

But notice in this prayer of Solomon that there seems to be this great distance between Heaven and Earth. Why is that? Because heaven has been ripped away by Sin and Satan. Romans 3:23. And the Story of Holy Scripture, simply put, is the story of God bringing heaven and earth back together; heaven filling earth again! It’s the story of how God is revealing and restoring, even now, His majestic heaven to earth in Jesus Christ. In the words of the hymn (#111) we just sang: “Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.” In Paul’s words: to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1.10). The Story of the Bible is the Story of Heaven and earth - reconciled in Jesus Christ. (The remedy to Romans 3.23 is 5.1-2 Matthew Henry: Grace is Glory begun!).


1st, then, heaven is not located at an address way out there, but is a place that may be for some, too close for comfort. 2nd, Heaven is God-saturated, and Christ-dominated. 3rd, God is - through Jesus Christ - bringing heaven and earth together. So, if you want heaven, you must reject the hell-oriented way, and run to Jesus, where God’s heaven and earth are brought together. 

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