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Archive for April, 2014

Will Animals Be in Heaven?

1) There are horses on earth and there are horses in heaven (2 Kings 2:11; Rev. 6:2-8; 19:11-14). If that is the case, can we not also expect all animal life to be in heaven as well (this is admittedly speculation, but it is at least biblical speculation)?

2) If God made all animal life and called it “good” (Gen. 1-2) – but that animal life was destroyed due to man’s sin – why would God not continue animal life in heaven?

3) Since we see clearly from 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-52 that He will make use of our bodies – raising them up as spiritual bodies – then why would He not also continue with animals and raise them as well?

4) A fascinating passage about conditions among animals and between animals and mankind can be found in Is. 11:6-9.

5) While this passage speaks about conditions in the millennium, Isaiah also anticipates an eternal kingdom on the earth (e.g. 65:17-25; 66:22) and as with so many of the OT prophets, the transition from the millennium to the Eternal State is seamless.

6) What will that eternal kingdom be like? For one thing, there will be no more death, no sin and no suffering – all of which affect everything on earth now – including animals (cf. also Rom. 8:18-25).

7) It is instructive that when God destroyed the earth through the Flood, He was quite particular that animals be saved from that Flood to re-populate the renewed earth (Gen. 6:19-20).

8) But after the Flood, notice carefully the kind of covenant the LORD made with Noah – and that includes animals (Gen. 9:9-17). This was His plan of a renewed Earth after the Flood. Alcorn writes of this fact:

Wouldn’t we expect his plan for a renewed Earth after the future judgment to likewise include animals? If the rescue of mankind in the ark is a picture of their redemption, doesn’t the rescue of animals in the ark also anticipate their restoration as part of God’s redemptive purpose?

9) That animals are quite important in God’s plan (of course, creating them was His idea) can also be seen in how He used them to help people (as they still do) in Ex. 20:9-10; Num. 22; 2 Sam. 12:3; 1 Kings 17:4-6; Ps. 8:6-8; Prov. 12:10; Jonah 1:17; 3:7-8; 4:11; Mt. 17:27.

10) God will not allow all that He created – and called “very good” (Gen. 1:31) – to be eternally frustrated by the affects of sin; indeed, that is what redemption is all about: God will redeem the earth, the heavens, our bodies and the entire Creation – including animals (Rom. 8:18-25).

11) Once again, we glean an additional insight into the above from Heb. 2:5-8, where two things are important to observe: first, the writer of Hebrews quotes from Ps. 8 – a psalm that calls man to exercise dominion over the earth – including the animals.

12) The second thing we observe from the above passage is that the category of animals that God describes for us in Ps. 8 is not now fully subject to man – not “yet” (Heb. 2:8). But in the “world to come” (v.5) this will take place.

13) Therefore, it appears biblically correct to expect animals in the world to come, which involves the new heavens and the new earth.

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The Present and Future: Continuity and Discontinuity

1) As we’ll see throughout this study and in so much of the NT, earth is a pattern of what already exists in heaven: there is a sound “like a trumpet” in heaven (1:10); golden lampstands and a robe with a golden sash (v.12). These are things that are on the earth, given to us by God!

2) More significantly, the tree of life that was in the original Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9; 3:22) can also be seen in heaven, which is called the “Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7; 22:2, 14; cf. Luke 23:43).

3) “Paradise” is another word for the dwelling of God in heaven, what Paul called the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2). If the Garden of Eden was stunning, imagine what the Paradise of God will be like?

4) Imagine how vast it will be; how much exploring will take place; the smells, the sights, the beauty, the joy of it all!

5) Moreover, we’ve already seen that believers in Jesus go immediately to be in His presence upon their death; that means that we will be instantly re-united with them and it may be that they will be the ones who give us the grand tour of our new home.

6) Right now, I’m thinking of my older brother Michael, who was still-born. He is with my mom and dad, who’ve spent all the time they’ve been in heaven knowing in a vastly deeper way our glorious Triune God and in getting to know the son they didn’t get to know on earth. These are things I look forward to.

7) In Rev. 2:26-27 (cf. 5:10; 20:1-6) there is a strong emphasis on ruling and reigning with Jesus throughout eternity (just as we’re called to do right now: Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8), and yet later in Rev. 14:13 we find that this activity can also be described in terms of “rest.”

8) This is not the rest of inactivity, as the entirety of Revelation shows – but the rest of the soul from sin and its effects – including the fallen nature of the surrounding world.

9) It refers to the cessation of trouble, trials and everything associated with this world that was never designed by God.

10) As there are books on earth – the greatest by far being the Bible – so there is “the book of life” in heaven (3:5).

11) As there are physical doors on earth, so there is a door in heaven (4:1). As there is a rainbow on earth, so there is one in heaven, although it is different in appearance, as we would expect (4:3).

12) Thus, as we’ll see throughout this comparison, there is continuity and discontinuity between heaven and earth.

13) As there are “thrones” upon earth, so there are thrones in heaven, also signifying the act of ruling (3:21; 4:2, 4). We continue to see material items in heaven, as there are material items on earth (4:4).

14) As there is lightning and thunder on earth, so it is in heaven (4:5). We have fire on earth; fire exists in heaven as well (4:5)!

15) We’re seeing continuity, but the discontinuity comes with the realization that everything comparable from earth to heaven and the new heaven and the new earth pales in comparison because all things on earth now are tainted with sin’s effects.

16) It is often remarked that the “four living creatures” of 4:6-8 appear grotesque to us, but we must recall how God describes everything that He made at Creation as “good” (Gen. 1-2) and understand with “spiritual eyes” that these creatures – exalted as they are – must actually be breathtakingly beautiful.

17) In my commentary on Revelation (currently being revised), I write concerning these beings that

[W]e are currently limited in our spiritual perception and appreciation; we can rest assured that such beings, since God created them (consider the beauty of His creation here on earth), are full of splendor, glory and beauty, something we will surely appreciate when we see them in heaven.[1]

 18) The point above is once again to see both continuity and discontinuity between the current earth and the new earth.

 19) The writer of Hebrews makes it crystal clear for us that Jesus will restore to and for us our original call from Genesis to rule and reign on the earth (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8:4-6; Heb. 2:6-18).

20) It was because of sin that “all things” are not now subject to us (Heb. 2:8). But where man failed, Jesus succeeds (Heb. 2:9-18) — through His death and resurrection. “All things,” refers to everything on the earth that was created by God.

21) As we find intelligent, passionate worship here on earth, so we find the same in heaven (4:10-11). Thus, we can expect to enjoy infinitely deeper ability to think, to reason and to discuss throughout eternity!

22) We find more books in Revelation (this time in 5:1-2) and once again, we may say that there exists a lively sense of conversation and even drama in heaven (5:2-3). So much for the erroneous concept that heaven will be boring…

23) On a different note, the resurrected Jesus – in His glorified, spiritual body (John 20:26-28) – will always have the wounds of His crucifixion (as seen by John again, in 5:6).

24) In addition, we ought to pause and see the extraordinary value that heaven places on our current prayers, seen in the golden bowls that contain those prayers (5:8). Thus, an infinite sense of value and worth will be seen in heaven.

[1] Brad Matthew Abley, Revelation: Victorious Throughout Eternity (Xulon Press, 2005), 54.

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Twice in the past week I’ve had conversations with very well-educated and successful people in the Silicon Valley who own guns — and who have been intimidated into keeping this fact quiet by people who have chastised them as gun-owners.

This is highly disturbing.  These two people are law-abiding citizens who enjoy their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.  I know it is “easier said than done,” but we who own guns must not be silent about it.

We cannot keep quiet about it; we must not be intimidated by those who disagree with us and who are even worse: Those who would verbally attack us. 

Ask them hard questions; ask them what law you’ve broken.  Ask them why they’re afraid; ask them what will happen one day when only the government and criminals have guns. 

Ask them to get over their emotions and think logically, rationally, for a change.  I write this as a pastor.  I can tell you that somehow, writing this will cost me in some way.

But that’s ok; what I write should be written; it should be spoken.  I am being bold, as I should be.  Do not be ashamed or intimidated; I write this in hopes that you will not be. 

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In light of the new movie that is now out – “Heaven Is for Real” — there will no doubt be many questions about heaven: Is it really real?  If so, what is it like?  Is it boring?  Isn’t earth much more exciting?  Does everyone go to heaven automatically when they die?  Is heaven just a “spiritual” place or is it literal?

A few years back, I wrote about heaven in order to teach a class on the subject — primarily because after many years of pastoring and teaching the Bible, I was alarmed at how little Christians knew — or even seemed to really care about this subject.  How pleasantly surprised I was when 120 people showed up for the first class!

For these reasons and more, I offer you my teaching on heaven now, which I will put in this space in excerpts (few people will likely want to read the entire document in one sitting).  My approach to this study is to be faithful to the biblical text; I am NOT interested in speculating; I am only interested in what Scripture teaches on the subject.

Please enjoy and my prayer now for you is that the Holy Spirit will open your heart and mind to have His perspective of heaven!

“Therefore, since you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5).[1]

“He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father” (Rev. 2:26-27).

Heaven Defined

1) What is “heaven?” Chiefly, it is the abode of the triune God, His angels and human beings who by faith through grace belong to Him (Eph. 2:8-9), since the creation of man and especially upon his death (Luke 20:37-38).

2) But Scripture leaves no doubt for us that it is also a very real place – just as real as earth is! Heaven has a city, called the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 3:12; cf. 21:2, 10) – just as earth has an earthly Jerusalem.

3) Hebrews 11:8-16 refers to heaven as both a country and as a city. Cities and countries on earth have beautiful scenery (as heaven does) and they have buildings (as heaven does; cf. Heb. 10:34), roads (as heaven does), activities, gatherings, conversations and work (like in heaven).

4) Are we to take the heavenly country and city in a spiritual or literal sense – or both? Let’s examine the text: the word “foundations” (v.10) is used of physical material that also has a spiritual quality to it (Rev. 21:14, 19).

5) Moreover, the word translated “architect” (v.10) refers to a craftsman or designer and “builder” (v.10) refers to a public workman or constructer. The builder carried out the plans of the architect.

6) The OT prophets expected God’s promises to them to inherit literal land, as God Himself indicated repeatedly throughout (Gen. 12:1; 13:14-15, 17; 17:8, 19; Zech. 14; Joel 3:20; Amos 9:13-15; Micah 4:1-4; Ezek. 37:24-28; cf. Luke 21:24; 24:44; Acts 1:6-7).

7) The New Covenant has to do with Israel’s spiritual blessing and redemption, without abrogating the Old Covenant promises of the inheritance of land (Jer. 31:31-40; Heb. 8:6-13).

8) The Greek word for “country” (v.14) means “fatherland” and it means more than a place of habitation; it’s a place where the nation can find its roots.[1]

9) In addition, “city” (v.16) was a “symbol of man’s creative genius and especially of his social life.”[2]

10) An extensive description of virtually all of the above can be found in Rev. 21-22, which will come later in this study.

11) Through an in-depth examination of Rev. 21-22 we can become more confident that by the time we get to heaven we should not be completely surprised (even though we will be astonished at its splendor, not having been tainted by sin) at its stunning beauty and familiarity.

12) Thus, as will be seen throughout this study, it is a real place; earth is merely a reflection of what heaven truly is. For example there are earthly kingdoms, but there is also the “kingdom of heaven” (e.g. Mt. 3:2; 4:17; cf. Mt. 6:10; 26:36), which is the (current) heavenly reign of God.

13) When does a believer go to heaven when he or she dies? The simple teaching of Scripture is that a believer’s spirit – that which is born-again – goes immediately into heaven in God’s presence (cf. Luke 20:37-38; 23:46; John 11:25-26; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:21-24).

14) Then, when Jesus returns to this earth to rule and reign upon it for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-6), believers in heaven will immediately receive their resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-58).

15) Paul explains exactly what those bodies will be like in 1 Cor. 15:35-50 – but essentially, they will be exactly like our Lord’s body – spiritual bodies. Thus, as we’ll see continually in this study, earth is a mere pattern of what already exists – and will exist – throughout eternity.

16) For example, just as we have physical bodies on earth, so we will have physical bodies in heaven – albeit without sin and therefore without limitation (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:1-4; Phil. 3:20-21).

17) At the conclusion of the thousand-year reign of Jesus upon the earth, the Lord will destroy the present heavens and earth (Mt. 5:18; 24:35; Rev. 20:11; cf. 2 Pet. 3:7-13) and replace them with the new heavens and the new earth, which we’ll see will be just like what is current – except without sin – and with many different features to it.

18) In effect, the new conditions will have continuity and discontinuity with our current conditions. This will be a major focus of our study.

The Kingdom of Heaven

1) Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount that being in the kingdom of heaven ought to be one’s highest aspiration (Mt. 5:3, 5; 7:21); He speaks with certainty that some will enter heaven and some will not – of their own volition (Mt. 7:21-23; 8:11-12; 10:32-33; 11:23; cf. 19:23-24).

2) While the Bible promises believers rewards on earth, it is in heaven where a believer ought to have the greatest desire for rewards (Mt. 5:10, 12; 6:19-20; 19:21). Thus, there are rewards on earth and there are rewards in heaven. There are earthly kingdoms, and there is a heavenly kingdom.

3) There will be people who, because of their own disobedience to Jesus, will be called “least” in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:19), while He seemingly makes it easy for those who obey Him – and teach others to obey Him – to be called “great” in the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:19).

4) Jesus makes it clear that God the Father — who is real — is “in heaven” (Mt. 5:45, 48; 6:1, 9; 7:11, 21; 16:17; 18:10, 14, 19; 23:9), which also is real.

5) Jesus prayed, looking up into heaven (Mt. 14:19). The angels of God are privileged to “continually see the face of My Father in heaven” (Mt. 18:10) and they come to earth from heaven (Mt. 28:2).

6) Much of Jesus’ teaching was given in parables and those parables explained what the kingdom of heaven is and how it operates (Mt. 13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44-45, 47, 52; 18:23; 20:1; 22:2; 25:1, 14).

7) Heaven’s power will be given to the godly to influence the earthly realm (Mt. 16:19; 18:18) and chiefly to Jesus, who in turn gives this authority to His disciples (Mt. 28:18-20). These are descriptions of heaven just from Matthew alone!

8) It is a place of perfection in every regard known to us; it is in reality the place we were designed to live in, for “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:20-21; cf. Heb. 11:10).

9) This is certainly what David – the man after God’s own heart – looked for (Ps. 27:4-6). It is in heaven that we will finally be complete, without defect – without any of the affects of sin (Heb. 12:23; cf. 1 John 3:2).

10) No wonder Augustine could write, “No happiness can be complete if constantly dogged by the awareness that it might soon end; hence perfect happiness must be eternal happiness.”[3]

11) And Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Here is possession displacing hope’s desire, even as vision displaces faith’s belief…Then is our happiness complete, for the highest delight rises from our being united with what fits us best.”[4]

                           

12) Roman Catholic bishop (in Roman Catholic terms, known as the “pope,” or the “holy father”) Leo the Great (Leo I) wrote, “If a joy could be imagined in which one is completely and permanently delivered from all evil, so as to share fully in the abundant good of the One who is incomparably good, that is the joy of heaven.”[5]

13) However, another early Church father – John Chrysostom — rightly cautions us when thinking about “pleasures”:

14) Though analogies are used that imply that the joys of heaven resemble the pleasures of earthly life, all hedonic analogies are inadequate. For all earthly joys can be enjoyed only for a time, and are followed by satiety and depletion.[6]

15) And yet, as we saw earlier in this study, our Father gives us “good” things to those who ask Him (Mt. 7:11). That word translated “good” means useful; satisfactory for one’s purpose; fitting; beneficial; advantageous.[7]

16) If it is His delight for us to enjoy the good things He’s provided for us on earth (and that is an exceedingly broad category!), then how much more can we expect the same in heaven and in the new heavens and the new earth?

17) We have an assurance from the lips of Jesus Himself that nothing in heaven will fade – and He has chiefly in mind the things that belong to and have been prepared for us (Mt. 6:19-20; Luke 12:32-34; cf. 1 Pet. 5:4)!

18) Hence, we’re about to find later in this study that the God who designed beauty, sensation, pleasure and enjoyment will provide these things in real, tangible and eternal abundance – heightened all the more due to being in His immediate, unhindered presence – and again, without sin’s limiting effects.

19) Thus, Timothy Keller is quite helpful when he writes,

 

The Biblical view of things is resurrection – not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.[8]

 

20) Is Keller speculating with some sentimental, wishful thinking? Hardly; Jesus Himself tells us in Mt. 19:28 that we should expect such a restoration with the word translated “regeneration” (from the Greek word palingenesis).

21) The Greek word palin means “again,” or “return,” and genesis is “beginning.” Thus, God will bring about a new beginning.

22) One of the standard Greek language scholarly works, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, notes that it is essentially a “return to existence,” or a “renewal to a higher existence.”[9]

23) Quite similarly, Peter declares this restoration as well in Acts 3:21, where the Greek word translated “restoration” means to re-establish; cure; make well; send or bring back.[10]

24) F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on the Book of Acts, also defines the word as “restitution” and equates Acts 3:21 with Jesus’ word in Mt. 19:28.[11] This is in line with Jewish OT hopes, which awaited a renewal both of the land and of the entire world.[12] 

25) Thus, the OT prophecies from Is. 65:17; 66:22 will be fulfilled, according to Acts 3:21. This very likely refers to the millennial reign of Jesus (Rev. 20:1-6), which will be joined together with His followers (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10).

26) While Jesus tells us that eternal life is both a present reality (John 17:3) and a future event (e.g. John 14:1-3), it is only in heaven that we will finally see God’s face, which has the idea of perfect communion, with pure and perfect love, joy and peace (Rev. 22:4).

27) If David could say – on this earth and in this life — that “in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11), how infinitely more so when we’re with our heavenly Father, our Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, and our Comforter, the Holy Spirit – and the entire Church triumphant – plus God’s holy angels?

28) Another of the early Church fathers – Clement of Alexandria – wrote, “To see God is to be infinitely happy. The essential beatitude of the blessed consists in the vision of God and full contemplation of God’s attributes.”[13]

29) Think for a moment of seeing and experiencing all of God’s attributes all at once: His omnipotence, His omniscience, His omnipresence; all of His grace, love, mercy; His friendship and joy; His holiness, righteousness and justice – at the same time!

30) From 1 Cor. 2:9 we may say that God is saving His best for the consummation of human history (cf. also 2 Cor. 4:16-18). Thus, one commentator writes, “Earth is supposed to speak of heaven because it came from the Creator’s hand.”[14]

31) When I ponder some of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen in Carmel or in Hawaii – and I want the moment to last forever – but I know it won’t – this is what gives me such great desire to live in God’s Eternal State!

32) Thomas C. Oden articulates this well: “The blessed behold in heaven what they believed by faith on earth.”[15]

33) For example, I believe and know God’s love for me and His friendship toward me – but I feel like the weight of these things is equivalent to an ounce compared to the multiplied tons of these realities for eternity.

Stay tuned for part three!

 

[1] Donald Guthrie, The Letter to the Hebrews, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 234.

[2] Guthrie, op. cit., 235.

[3] Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit: Systematic Theology, Volume Three (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 463.

[4] Oden, op. cit., 463

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. Hedonism is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life. But it is chiefly pleasure that is selfish, or what pertains to that which is sensual and is ultimately rooted in the sinful nature.

[7] The Greek New Testament, ed. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger and Allen Wikgren, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart, Germany: United Bible Societies, 1983), 1. Hereafter, GNT.

[8] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 32.

[9] F. Buchsel, “Palingenesia,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged in One Volume), ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 117.

[10] GNT, op. cit, 21.

[11] F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 84-85. Cf. also footnote 41.

[12] LKGNT, 58.

[13] Oden, 460.

[14] Dennis F. Kinlaw in “Song of Songs,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 1209.

[15] Oden, 461.

 

[1] The Greek word translated “gentle” (prautes) has far more substance to it than the English word can possibly translate; it means the meekness which is strength under control; it is the fruit of the Spirit which enables the believer to place the will of God before personal rights. It is also the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself in a patient submissiveness to offense, free from malice or revenge. Jesus used this very same word to describe Himself (Mt. 11:29) and He was hardly weak!

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In light of the new movie that is now out — “Heaven Is for Real” — there will no doubt be many questions about heaven: Is it really real?  If so, what is it like?  Is it boring?  Isn’t earth much more exciting?  Does everyone go to heaven automatically when they die?  Is heaven just a “spiritual” place or is it literal?

A few years back, I wrote about heaven in order to teach a class on the subject — primarily because after many years of pastoring and teaching the Bible, I was alarmed at how little Christians knew — or even seemed to really care about this subject.  How pleasantly surprised I was when 120 people showed up for the first class!

For these reasons and more, I offer you my teaching on heaven now, which I will put in this space in excerpts (few people will likely want to read the entire document in one sitting).  My approach to this study is to be faithful to the biblical text; I am NOT interested in speculating; I am only interested in what Scripture teaches on the subject.

Please enjoy and my prayer now for you is that the Holy Spirit will open your heart and mind to have His perspective of heaven!

Introduction 

1) One year after the national tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, PBS did a special called “Faith and Doubt” about the religious responses of people as a result of this radical Islamic attack on our country.

2) A Christian firefighter who miraculously survived the collapse of one of the Twin Towers was interviewed in this piece. This man was visibly upset that some Christians said he was spared by the grace of God – because he wanted to know why God didn’t also spare other Christian firefighters.

3) I do not question or argue with this man’s pain, but his response is symptomatic to me of a profound misunderstanding or ignorance among God’s people of how incredible heaven really is – and that it is an infinitely better, more exciting, fulfilling place to be than the very best that this life and earth have to offer.

4) That was certainly the Apostle Paul’s perspective (Phil. 1:21-24), who had been to heaven in some manner (2 Cor. 12:1-4) and therefore could speak from experience and with authority. Paul also understood – seen in Phil. 1:24 – that God has assignments for His people and that those assignments are according to His will and His timing.

5) Why, then, do Christians so desperately attempt to hold on to this life instead of being eager – like Paul – to be in heaven with Jesus? Do we not practically behave as secularists or atheists when we do – people who fear death (generally) because of what to them is the great unknown?

6) Have we completely missed the vast wisdom Scripture has for us about the organic, holistic nature of our lives on earth and in heaven as we so severely separate the two?

7) Before we immerse ourselves in one of the most rewarding studies in Scripture (and one of the least understood studies in Scripture), let’s get involved in some moments of sheer honesty: what are your presuppositions of what heaven is like?

8) Is it merely a spiritual place? Is it boring (not much to do)? Does it mean having to leave some or many of your favorite things to do on this earth? Does it seem highly foreign to you?

9) Do you believe it’s obviously the best place possible because you know God dwells there and that you will no longer experience any suffering – but you simply take this by faith and don’t think much beyond this?

10) And why have I purposely listed two passages that seem to relate to the “earth” (above) and juxtaposed them with one that relates strictly to heaven? What do these mean and how do they relate – or do they?                                       

The Purpose of This Study

1) The purpose of this study is to dig deeply into what Scripture says about heaven – and there is a lot more about this critical topic in Scripture than people think – so that it is no longer a mystery to us.

2) Moreover, God doesn’t want us to be completely surprised when we get there – as if it were some alien place: indeed He wants us to be properly prepared to live in this place that the Bible calls our true home (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:1-9).

3) All of us are less than a split second from entering heaven; I sure want to be ready: don’t you? When I travel on vacation, I’ve already figured out ahead of time where to go, what to do and see, where to stay, how I’ll travel, etc.

4) That’s just for a week or two; but preparation has always greatly helped me to get the most out of my travels.

5) How much more should we prepare to travel to our permanent destination and home and what I hope to show will be like being on “permanent vacation” (I’m using this phrase loosely and as an analogy) to be in the most exhilarating, astonishing place that is described in Scripture to us and yet still is beyond imagination?

6) If I had my own jet, time was not an issue and I had no lack of finances to visit every single place on earth that is most beautiful and desirable, I would look back on all of that after just one moment in heaven and think, “How familiar things are here – and how vastly better!”

7) The apostle Paul models for us in Col. 3:1-4 the godly desire to live with the Lord in heaven – our true, eternal home – as we’ll see shortly.   But why is it that so many Christians do not share that desire?

8) And why is it that so many Christians have very little idea – or the wrong idea – of what heaven is really all about?

9) Didn’t God create within us desire? And as we’re continually sanctified to become more like Jesus, will not our desires be His desires? Let us think, then, of the things He’s done in creating all that exists and all the good that He’s put in our hearts.

10) Will our desire to know Him and others cease when we get to heaven? Will our desire to grow, to accomplish, to be fulfilled, to explore, to experience adventure, to enjoy Creation – and so much more that you can think of right now – simply cease in heaven?

11) If God tells us that He “richly provides us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17) and that “everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:3-5), how much more so will this be the case for us throughout eternity?

12) The purpose of this study is also to show you that the best that this fallen earth and corruptible body has to offer – the very bestwill be as nothing compared to what God has for us throughout eternity (1 Cor. 2:9-10; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-25)!

13) The context of 1 Cor. 2:9-10 should be kept in mind; it refers to the impossibility of an unbeliever understanding the things of God unless he or she is born-again. Paul explains this further in v.14.

14) However, we must ask the question regarding not only present revelation from God but of ongoing, future revelation from Him regarding this passage; one commentator writes of the broader context (specifically, v. 12 and the words “freely given”) that “The aorist tense indicates that Paul is not speaking only of the future but also of the present life of Christians.”[1]

15) Heaven: Our glorious Triune God; all fellow believers in Jesus Christ; all that this infinite God has created in heaven for His glory and for our enjoyment — is just as real and tangible as anything on this earth is real and tangible – yet without any corruption or limitation!

16) By the end of this study, we’ll be able to say with the great 19th century American evangelist D.L. Moody, “soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. Don’t you believe it for a moment; I will be more alive than ever before.”

Right and Wrong Thinking about Heaven 

1) John Eldridge, in his book The Journey of Desire writes,

Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an un-ending church service…We have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after another, forever and ever, amen.   And our heart sinks. Forever and ever? That’s the good news? And then we sigh and feel guilty that we are not more ‘spiritual.’ We lose heart, and we turn once more to the present to find what life we can.[2]

2) In contrast to this we read critical thoughts on heaven from two of the greatest Christian thinkers ever: Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian and philosopher, who wrote in his early 20’s, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can.”[3]

3) Clearly, Edwards gave much thought in this life about how to prepare himself for eternity; put another way, heaven was real enough for Edwards that the desire of it gave him the kind of biblical focus for this life that we earlier read about in Col. 3:1-4.

4) And perhaps England’s greatest preacher – Charles Haddon Spurgeon – wrote this about his own impending death: “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.”[4]

5) Randy Alcorn, in his outstanding tome on heaven, writes, “I pity the man who never thinks accurately about Heaven…It’s our inaccurate thinking, I believe, that causes us to choose to think so little about Heaven.”[5]

6) As we’ll discover throughout this study (especially from Scripture), a lifetime of meditation on heaven will be one of the highest and deepest sources for us to truly live the healthiest, godliest lives possible, as C.S. Lewis writes,

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.[6]

[1] Fritz Reinecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, ed. Cleon L. Rogers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 392. Hereafter, LKGNT.

[2] John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We’ve Only Dreamed Of (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 111.

[3] Jonathan Edwards, “The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-23),” JonathanEdwards.com, http://www.jonathanedwards.com/text/Personal/resolut.htm

[4]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, http://www.spurgeon.org/daily.htm.

[5] Randy C. Alcorn, Heaven (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004), 8.

[6] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1979), 118.

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