Sunday Sermon: ‘A Placed Called Heaven’

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This past week we were reminded of just how fragile life really is. Two young people were out one early one morning, doing their job, when suddenly and without any type of warning, a man approached them and gunned them. It was so unexpected that it was on live TV. It’s the last thing that anyone expected. There were also many other unexpected deaths this past week. People died in car accidents and of heart attacks. The Bible gives us this warning – “Be careful, you who say, today or tomorrow we will do this or that. For you do not know what will happen to you tomorrow. Your life is like a vapor this is here for a little while and then is gone.” (see James 4) We all know that somewhere and in some way we’re going to die. The big question is not – “Will I die?, but “What will happen to me after I die?”

I. A Place Called Heaven

A poll was conducted a few years ago regarding people’s belief in heaven. 8 out of 10 people surveyed belief in some sort of afterlife. Another 9% said that there may be a heaven and a hell, but they’re just not sure. So 9 out of every 10 people belief that there is something after death.

The desire for heaven can been found in almost every segment of our society. From rock to country, people sing about heaven. Bestselling books are written and sold telling about the experiences people have had on the other side of death. There’s a movie coming out this fall entitled – ’90 Minutes in Heaven.’ People talk about a bright light at the end of the tunnel or a visit from angels. Many of us believe that there’s something more than this life as we now know it; yet many do not know what that something is. Consider what the Bible says-

Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

The Bible teaches us that one day this world and universe as we now know it will no longer exist. At the end of time, God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5) There are two different words in the Bible translated as ‘new.’ One word refers to something that is new in time. The other word refers to something that is a new kind. This new is unprecedented, uncommon, never heard of. That’s the word Jesus used. “Behold, I am going to make a new heaven and new earthy unlike anything anyone has ever known before.”

What will this new heaven and earth be like? The Bible says –

Revelation 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Shortly before Jesus left and returned back to His Father, He said – “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:3) The place Jesus has been preparing is the holy city John saw descending down from the throne of God. What do we know about this city called heaven?

A. A Gigantic City

Scripture actually gives us the dimensions of this new city. If you set this city upon our nation it would reach from Canada to Mexico and from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. To make it even more enormous, the Bible says that it as tall as it is wide. The tallest building in the world is in Dubai which is 163 stories tall. The New Jerusalem is seven times that in height! It’s nearly three billion cubic miles in size. The walls around the city are over two hundred feet thick! It’s enormous. It’s gigantic.

B. A Glorious City

Revelation 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones.

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

It’s a city made of pure gold and garnished with precious jewels. We all know what God can do with a flower or a sunset; imagine what will He do with the construction of our eternal home?

C. A Godly City

But greatest of all is the fact that it’s a godly city.

Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

There will not even be a hint of sin in this city. The Bible says that God Himself will dwell there and therefore He will allow nothing into His presence that offends His holiness.

II. A Presence That Makes it Heaven

A. The Presence of God

What will make heaven – heaven, is the fact that God Almighty will be there with us.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

The word ‘tabernacle’ means dwelling place. The New Living Translation says – “Look, God’s home is now among his people!” This new heaven will be God’s eternal home.

Today God sometimes seems so far away. We pray – “Our Father, which art in heaven…” God is in heaven and we’re here on earth. Paul says that today we see God as though we were looking at His reflection in a fogged-up mirror. (1 Cor 13:12) Even in our best moments we see only a faint outline of God and His glory. But one day, we will see God ‘face to face.’ (1 Cor 13:12)

Revelation 22:4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.

In addition to seeing the face of God, we will experience His glory.

Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

Think about how bright the sun is. Imagine traveling to within a few feet of the sun and then looking straight into it. If the heat didn’t destroy us, the brilliancy of the sun’s light would. Yet the Bible says that when Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus, the light was brighter than the noon day sun. (see Acts 26:13) No doubt some of you are thinking, “But Pastor, how could we see such light and it not blind us?” It’s because we too will have new, glorified bodies. Before we enter into heaven, Christ will change our bodies so that we will be able to experience everything heaven has to offer.

Revelation 22:5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Just imagine being freed from anything that can restrict us in our relationship with God and remaining in that state forever and ever. No in and out of fellowship. No impure thoughts flowing through our minds. No sadness or sorrow to disappoint us. No barriers between us and God; only complete unhindered fellowship with for all eternity. But there’s more. In heaven there will also be the unhindered fellowship with our loved ones.

B. The Presence of Our Loved Ones

Many of us have loved ones who have died and are now with God. Today they are in a place called paradise. Yet as glorious as it is for them at the moment, they have yet to experience this new heaven and new earth. Just like us, they are waiting for the day when they will enter in with us into this eternal home.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

As I studied this I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast between the experience of those in heaven and those in hell. In heaven we will experience everything that is good. In hell men will experience everything that is bad. In heaven everything will radiate with the glory of God. In hell there will only be outer darkness. In heaven, we will continuously be with God and our loved ones. In hell, men will be isolated to suffer all alone. I have read that the average size of a cell block for someone in solitary confinement is 6 ft x 8 ft x 10 ft. The Bible says that hell will be a place of ‘outer darkness.’ These words describe a place that is not only in total darkness, but also in complete isolation. No doubt the overwhelming emotion in hell will be total despair and abandonment.

But heaven, on the other hand, is completely different. First of all, heaven will be a place of complete openness. God is not only going to create this gigantic city for us to dwell it, the Bible also says that He’s going to create a new earth and that there will be no sea. The Bible says that we shall reign upon the earth. Earth will be ours to enjoy, just as much as New Jerusalem. In addition, there will be unbroken fellowship with God and with all of God’s saints. The Bible says that one day we will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and there we will be reunited with our saved loved ones and so shall we ever be with them and the Lord. (see 1 Thess 4:13-18)

III. People Who Are Destined For Heaven

Down through the years I have noticed that regardless of how people live here on earth, everyone wants to go to heaven when they die. But do they?

A. Those Who Will Not Enter Into Heaven

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

It only seems logical that wicked people won’t go to heaven. Surely there will be no murderers or sorcerers in heaven. No, Harry Potter won’t be there. But the Bible also tells us that the sexually immoral won’t be in heaven. That’s what a whoremonger is. Actually it’s the Greek word from which we get the English word ‘pornography.’

In addition, the Bible also says that those who are – ‘fearful and unbelieving’, they won’t be in heaven as well. Who are these individuals? The unbelieving are those who have never accepted Christ as their Savior. They are without saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible also says that the fearful will not be in heaven. Does that mean that anyone who has ever been afraid won’t be in heaven? Warren Wiersbe defines the fearful as those who are – “the cowardly, the people who did not have the courage to stand up for Christ.” The great Greek scholar AT Robertson defined them as – “the cowardly, who recanted under persecution.”

Who then will be in heaven?

Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be in heaven.

B. Those Who Will Enter Into Heaven

We can’t wish people into heaven. A preacher can preach someone into heaven at their funeral. You can’t give money to the church or do a good deed and get someone out of purgatory. The Bible says that only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will go to heaven. Anyone whose name is not in this book of life will be cast into the lake of fire.

What is the Lamb’s book of life? The Bible describes Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.’ (John 1:29) Just like a lamb that was sacrificed in the Jewish Temple, so was Jesus sacrificed on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He was giving His life for you and me. He was taking the punishment that you and I deserve so that God could justly forgive us of our sins and grant us a home in His eternal heaven.

When a person receives Jesus as their Savior, that individual’s name is recorded in heaven in the Lamb’s book of life. The Bible says –

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life…15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Jesus said:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

It is God’s desire that every man, woman, boy and girl, spent eternity with Him in heaven; yet there are many who will not. Only those who receive Jesus as their Savior will go to heaven some day. How do we receive Christ as our Savior?

A – We must acknowledge that we are sinful and in need of forgiveness. The Bible says – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We’ve all sin and therefore our sin disqualifies us from an automatic access to heaven.

B- We must believe that Jesus died for our sins. Who is Jesus? Did He really exist? Did such a man walk upon this earth and if so, why? Why did Jesus live and even more so, why did He die? Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. The Bible tells us that He was wounded for our sinful rebellion, He was bruised for our disobedience to God. The chastisement and punishment that you and I deserve was put upon Him, and by His stripes, you and I can be healed. That healing is more than a physical healing. It is a spiritual healing of the sickness of the soul.

C- We must come to Christ and confess Him as our Lord and Savior. The Bible says – “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 10:10-11) The fearful and unbelieving will not be in heaven. Only those who have unashamedly confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

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