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Beyond The Door of Death: Heaven—Part 8
If you would please, take out your Bibles and turn in them to the gospel of Luke and chapter number 16—Luke, chapter 16. In our series we’ve been doing on “Beyond The Door of Death,” we have made the observation that minds that are focused on the heavenly realms are more rare in our day than they used to be. Now, people do, in our day, pretty readily speak about things as being ‘heavenly.’ For example, someone might say, “Well, you know, that very first kiss…Wow! Was that heavenly!” And I do want you to know, by way of some confession, that’s exactly the way I felt the first time I kissed my wife, Janet. I mean, that was a heavenly kiss, I want to say–if there ever was one, it was one! But, we talk about things being heavenly. Like, we could say, “Oh, that filet mignont…that…it was just so…it was absolutely heavenly…that filet.” Or, how about the triple chocolate, caramel crunch pie served hot with the vanilla ice cream? Now, that is heavenly, right? That is really heavenly.
But what’s interesting is, even though we talk about things being heavenly, by and large the notion of heaven and the heavenly realms suffers from a double syndrome in our culture. The first syndrome is that of dismissed relevance, and the second syndrome is that of distorted perception. It’s true. Heaven suffers from the syndrome of dismissed relevance.
Most people, today, view heaven as having little practical value. Well, talking about heaven, that’s just some sort of fanciful daydream. It’s an intellectual indulgence. It is, virtually—many believe—insignificant and irrelevant and of little practical value. But as we’ve been studying “Beyond The Door of Death” and looking at the Bible on heaven, we have seen, I believe, that heaven is a very, very vital subject. It is a very spiritual subject. It is a very practical subject that has real bearing on our everyday life.
But there’s a second syndrome that heaven suffers from; not only dismissed relevance—and that, by the way, it couldn’t be further from the truth that heaven is irrelevant. We saw, from Colossians 3, that Paul commands the believers to set your minds on the things above. It does suffer from that syndrome, but it also suffers from the syndrome of distorted perception. You know, the idea is, OK, we’re going to be up in heaven, and what are we going to be doing up there? Well, we’re going to be sitting around on a cloud…and sitting around on a cloud…and sitting around on a cloud. And we’re going to be fighting cloud sores because we’re sitting around on clouds all the time. And then, we’re going to just simply spend a little time, you know, adjusting our halo up there—“I don’t know; maybe I ought to tilt it a little bit to the left. What do you think I’d look like with it to the left?” Or, we’re going to just simply be bored to death, you know, wishing we had something to do…maybe strumming on a little harp occasionally. See, that’s the distorted perception that many have of heaven. And what we’re going to see today is that that couldn’t be further from the truth…it couldn’t be further from the truth.
We have seen in our study that heaven is a real place. We’ve seen in our study that the doorknob to heaven is on God’s side. And we’ve seen in our study that in the book of the Revelation God opens the door on His side and the apostle John is called up for a tour of heaven. And we have been on tour with John in heaven for a number of weeks. We’ve looked at Revelation, chapter 4 and 5; we’ve looked at Revelation, chapter 21 and 22. Today, we’re coming to part eight of our series on heaven. And we want to deal, today, with some common questions (or you might call them common issues)—common questions that relate to heaven. And we’re going to look, basically, at six of them.
“How do we actually get to heaven?” is one common question. “What are we going to be doing in heaven?” is another common question. “Are we going to know each other in heaven?” “How old are we going to be in heaven?” “Are we going to be married in heaven?” “What are our bodies going to be like in heaven?” And here’s an interesting common question: “Are we going to be grieving over lost loved ones that didn’t make it?”
Now, what we’re going to do today is really a different type of study than we have been doing in weeks past. We’ve basically been moving through sections of Scripture. Today, we’re just simply going to address these questions and try to give some answers to them.
So, let’s begin with the first of the basic six questions we’re going to tangle with, today; and that is that “How do we actually get to heaven? And, do we go there immediately?” Well, there’s a very interesting verse that appears in the gospel of Luke and chapter 16 and verses 19 and following, which is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. And we’re going to look at this a little bit more, in weeks ahead but, basically, we have already learned in our study that heaven is described in the Bible as being up and its an unseen dimension. And what we have in verse 22 of Luke 16 that this poor man named Lazarus dies. And then there’s an interesting phrase that often people miss, and it says he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. And, of course, the rich man goes and he ends up in torment. The interesting thing is…that is…when Lazarus dies, there is an angelic escort taking him to paradise. Isn’t that interesting to think about; that when someone dies who knows Jesus Christ personally, it appears, from this passage, that God sends angelic beings to escort us right into the very realm of heaven?
Now, it’s rare that we would ever see physical evidence of that. I don’t know how many of you have been in a room when someone died; and it’s very rare that you can actually see physical evidence of such a thing occurring, where you can see that there are angelic beings and there’s beams of light and so forth. But, you know, I think every once in a while God seems to just pull back the curtain and show us that that really does happen.
Many of you know the story from January of 1956, when Jim Elliott and four other men were attacked by what were then known as the Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador. And they were killed. And what’s really interesting is that Steve Saint, who is one of the sons of those who died, has gone on to develop a relationship with this tribe, many of whom have come to Christ. And it took him years before he would even broach the subject matter, because in their society they have this deep, deep vein of revenge. And he knew that people would be fearful of sharing the story of what happened for fear that revenge might come upon them. But, finally, they told him the story, and it’s a fascinating story. I wish I could relate the whole story to you, because it’s unbelievable how it was never even really supposed to happen—it was almost a…a weird event that occurred. But, anyway, here’s what happened. One lady was hiding in the bushes, watching this ambush on the missionaries. And as several of them had actually already died and a couple of more were in the process of dying, she said—you know—she saw men up above the trees with light all around them. And these men were singing, and she thought it so strange. And it wasn’t till years later she actually heard a recording of a Christian choir music, and she said, “That’s the music I was hearing that day.” And, interestingly enough, this person later on became a Christian, and her personal conviction was that she saw—at the point of death—angels actually appearing to escort these missionaries to heaven. And I think God does that kind of thing, occasionally, just as a divine reminder of what actually happens at death.
And so, we see an indication, here, that when we die…how do we get there? We have an angelic escort. It’s not like, “Well, I’m kind of lost.” You know, you see this occasionally portrayed in movies. It’s like people die, and then it’s like, “I don’t know…where am I supposed to go? I don’t really know…”—you know. It won’t be like that. God’s going to send His messengers who guide us right where we need to go. And a related question to that is, “Do we end up there immediately?”
Well, remember what happened when the Lord Jesus Himself died—in Luke 24 it talks about this. He said, to the Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit. It’s like there’s an immediate connection.
In the book of Acts, in chapter 7, when Stephen was being killed, he looked up into heaven and he said Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. It’s just an immediate transaction that occurs. And most of us know, from 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, it talks about—Paul does there—he says when you’re absent from the body, then you’re present with the Lord. It’s an immediate kind of thing. The angels are there to escort us, and we’re escorted immediately into the presence of heaven.
D. L. Moody said this one day. He said, “Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody of Northfield is dead. Don’t believe one word of it. At that moment, I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that’s all.”
What about a second question that many people often have about heaven, and that is: what are we going to do there? Now, that’s a legitimate question to ask. What are we going to do there? I’m going to give you six words that I think can summarize what we can take from the Scriptures about what we’re going to do. You can just jot them down, and then I’m going to talk about them for a minute. We’re going to worship, we’re going to reign, we’re going to serve, we’re going to fellowship, we’re going to explore, we’re going to enjoy…worship, reign, serve, fellowship, explore, and enjoy. One of the things we’re going to do in heaven is we’re going to worship; and we’ve already seen that in our study, if you’ve been with us in our study from Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, where we see the picture of the Church in heaven and the believers in heaven and we’re worshiping God. Think about how much we like to worship Him now; and yet, when we’re in heaven, we’re going to have a full understanding of the awesomeness of God’s love. We’re going to have a full understanding of the awesomeness of God’s greatness. And it’s going to be just a natural thing for us to worship Him. So, part of what we’re going to be doing in heaven is, we’re going to be worshiping.
Have you ever had a desire, with the body that you have right now, to be able to sing really well? Have you ever had a desire to play a particular instrument? I really believe that we’re going to be unleashed from our limitations there. And that’s really going to be cool. I want you to know, right now, I’m going to be on the keyboard…alright? Just in case you’re wondering, that’s where you’re going to be able to find me. In fact, I’m going to be standing right next to Ken, and we’re going to cook side by side together, as we’re worshiping the Lord. That’s part of what we’re going to do in heaven—we’re going to worship.
We’re also going to reign in heaven. And you can turn to these passages, if you want, but I’ll give you the references: Revelation, chapter 22, verse 5, where it says they shall reign forever and ever. And we saw, in that context, that’s not only talking about God and about Jesus, but it’s talking about the redeemed. We’re going to reign forever and ever.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus shares the parable of the minas, which is really a parable about faithfulness. And He talks about how those believers who are faithful to a certain level might be able to have the opportunity to rule and reign over five cities. Those who are more faithful may have the opportunity to rule over ten cities. Now, some people might say, “Well, that’s just talking about the millennial kingdom—the one thousand year kingdom—before eternity starts.” That may be true, but maybe not. I mean, we really don’t know. We don’t know what kind of configuration…we don’t know what all of God’s plans may be. We do know that in heaven we’re going to reign. And we’ve even speculated, in prior weeks, maybe we’re going to end up with our own planet. You know, maybe we’re going to have our own galaxy—there are hundreds of billions of galaxies. But one of the things we’re going to do in the eternal kingdom is, we’re going to reign.
Another thing we’re going to do in the eternal kingdom is, we’re going to serve. Revelation, chapter 22, verse 3 says His bond-servants shall serve Him. We’re going to have jobs. There’s things we’re going to do. Now, I want you to know, right off the top, there are some jobs that are going to be phased out…we’re just not going to need them. We’re not going to need physicians; we’re not going to need dentists; we’re not going to need eye doctors; we’re not going to need policemen, or firemen, or garbage men—don’t need any of those jobs. We’re not going to need lobbyists in heaven…don’t need them. We don’t need to have spies…don’t need to have any spies in heaven. We don’t need to have any funeral directors. None of those jobs are going to be filled, but we’re going to have jobs. And you have to think about some of the ramifications on this. There’s going to be no time limitations. There’s going to be no exhaustion factor. In fact, I believe there’s going to be so much for us to do it’s going to take eternity to do it. And yet, it’s going to be enjoyable, and it’s going to be fulfilling—the serving that we do and the jobs that we do.
You ever had one of those situations, you know, when you were doing something that you enjoyed so very much that you just didn’t even want to go to bed? You know, we’ve all had those kind of…situations and circumstances where we’re enjoying it so much we don’t want to go to bed. We…if we had an opportunity to just skip a whole night of sleep we would do it, just so we could continue doing what we’re doing. Well, that’s the way it’s going to be in heaven, you see, because we’re not going to have to go to bed. There’s not going to be any exhaustion. We’re going to enjoy what God have us…has us doing. If you think about it this way, this is what it’s like. When you…when you think about us serving the Lord, here on the earth, you know really what we are? We’re just skinny saplings that are barely blooming. That’s what we are on earth; just a skinny sapling that’s barely blooming. But you know what happens? You plant that in heavenly soil and when it comes to serving God, we’re going to be redwoods that are in full bloom, you see. It’s going to be a tremendous thing to serve God in heaven.
Another thing we’re going to be doing in heaven is, we’re going to be fellowshipping…we’re going to be fellowshipping. And this is…kind of an amazing thing to think about.
Henry Morris, in his commentary on Revelation, writes this. He said, “No doubt there will be an abundant occasion for fellowship and testimony in heaven. Every redeemed believer will have abundant time to meet and learn to know every other believer. What a thrill it will be to listen to Noah describe his experiences on the Ark, to share the passion and vision of John the Baptist, to hear the testimonies of the martyrs.”
How about five guys who gave up their life in the jungles of Ecuador? You know, it was really interesting. I was reading that story, and most of those who came to Christ were…were amazed, because these were men who had guns on their sides who didn’t fight back and shoot and allowed themselves to die. And you know what led many of those young…those, actually, mostly teenagers who killed those guys. They said what drove them crazy was, why would these people give up their life to let us live? And, of course, eventually someone came and told them about Jesus Christ who gave up His life to let them live.
We’re going to be able to hear about all those stories.
He goes on to write: “Each of us will have his own story to tell; his defeats and victories, and finally his overcoming faith, despite all its weaknesses and failures, totally redeemed by the Lamb.”
Now, I want to basically reserve a little time with Paul. I want to discuss a little theology with Paul, up there. We’re going to have a good time knocking some concepts around. You could think of other people you’d just love to spend some time with. How about Joshua? How about Elijah? How about some of the great women of faith like Ruth and Esther? How about Mary Magdalene? Wouldn’t it be cool to hear her whole story laid out? Someone else I’m going to look up, when I get to heaven, is going to be John Calvin—want to talk to John Calvin for a little while. I want to clarify, once and for all, that he believed in unlimited atonement; because I believe he did, from a lot of statements that he made. But I want to clarify this, OK? There seems to be a lot of confusion about that. I want to talk to John about that, when we get up there. And not only do we think of, maybe, celebrity names we’re going to have the opportunity to fellowship with, but there’s going to be more than that. You know, there’s going to be some other individuals we’re going to interact with.
Ray Boltz, a number of years ago, wrote the song “Thank You.” And he talks about this: getting up to heaven and someone calls your name. And you turn and you see this young man, and he was smiling as he came. And he said, “Friend, you may not know me now,” and then he said, “but wait! You used to teach my Sunday school, when I was only eight. And every week you would say a prayer before the class would start. And one day, when you said that prayer, I asked Jesus in my heart. Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord. I’m so glad you gave. And then, another man stood before you and said, ‘Remember the time a missionary came to your church, and his pictures made you cry. You didn’t have much money, but you gave it anyway; and Jesus took the gift you gave, and that’s why I am here today.’ One by one they came, far as the eye could see. Each life somehow touched by your generosity. Little things that you had done; sacrifices made. Unnoticed on the earth, and heaven now proclaims,” you see. We’re going to spend some time fellowshipping. And all the little ways that we interacted with people and the ways we have invested, we’re going to hear the stories. It’s going to be great…it’s going to be great.
Another thing we’re going to do in heaven is explore…we’re going to explore. We’re going to have a lot of time to explore the creator. Can you just imagine what it would be like to be able to begin to be unraveling the mysteries of God and marveling at the mysteries of God? And we’re going to have an eternity to explore our Creator and understand in depth all of what He was doing. We’re not only going to be able to explore the Creator, we’re going to be able to explore the Creator’s handiwork…His handiwork.
You know, my dad began to have medical problems in his late fifties, and he ended up having to take early retirement due to health. My dad always wanted to travel. That was the big plan. You know, he was going to get to retirement and then buy some sort of a travel trailer type thing and travel around. And when my dad did retire they managed to buy a used small camper home. And the idea was they were going to do some traveling around. But my dad’s arthritis was so advanced that they only traveled in the camper a few times, and I remember him telling me, “You know, I can’t even drive the thing. I just don’t really have the body to drive the thing.” Well, you know, I think my dad is going to enjoy the traveling opportunities in heaven—exploring God’s handiwork.
You know, it’s interesting to think about Jesus. In Acts 1, when He goes up to heaven, what’s He doing? He’s flying through space! He’s just flying through space. And all indications would be we’re going to have no kind of limitations anymore. And we’re going to have this vastly re-created universe—the billions of galaxies like we’ve got now—we’re going to be able to just explore all that. It’s going to be great! Think about Jesus, you know. He had no limitations. He could walk through walls. We’re going to be able to travel around and explore the Creator’s handiwork in heaven.
Another thing we’re going to do in heaven is, we’re going to enjoy…we’re going to enjoy. Do you know that joy and pleasure are going to be some of the watchwords of heaven? Turn with me to Psalm 16. I want you to see this passage, because this is a special one—Psalm 16. The very last two phrases of the last verse of Psalm 16—verse 11—David says of God, in Your presence is fullness of joy—you could underline that phrase ‘fullness of joy’—in Your right hand there are pleasures forever—you could underline that phrase ‘pleasures forever.’ When we get to heaven, we’re just going to enjoy. There’s going to be joy there; there’s going to be pleasure there. We’re going to be eating and drinking. It’s part of the pleasure. We’re not going to be eating and drinking for sustenance reasons, but purely for pleasure. We had indications that was going to happen. Remember after Jesus had been resurrected from the dead—Luke 24—He broiled some fish and He ate it. Was it because He was hungry? No! He just did it for the pleasure of eating it.
Look in…in the gospel of Matthew at chapter 8. I want you to see another interesting little verse that occurs. And I know these are spread around, because they’re just little…little sheddings of light—little beams of light—that God gives us about heaven. Matthew, chapter 8, verse 11, Jesus speaking. And He says, “…I say to you…”—in the future kingdom; in heaven—“…that many shall come from east and west, and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” We’re just going to hang out and have a good meal together. We’re going to be eating with guys like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Eating is part of the pleasure of being in the enjoyment of heaven.
In Revelation 19:9 it talks about the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is going on in heaven. We’re going to have a feast, and guess what: the food will be heavenly! It’s going to be heavenly stuff! I don’t know; is it going to be just calorie-free chocolate? I don’t know. Are we going to have, you know, fat-free filets that just melt in your mouth? I don’t know. But it’s going to be a whole lot more, I believe, than the tantalizing tastes that we experience now. See, if it’s going to be that joyful and that pleasurable, it’s got to go beyond what we’ve got now. Remember what Paul said; he said being with Jesus is very much better than being here. And I think the joy and the pleasure—even that comes from the food we’re going to eat—is going to be very much better than we have here. It’s going to be infinitely well beyond the best experiences we have on earth.
Now, there’s a third basic question we’re going to address, and that is: are we going to know each other up there? And, just related to that, how old are we going to be…how old are we going to be? Well, we know from Luke, chapter 9, when they have the story of the mount of transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appear, and they are recognizable. There’s no words there about any introduction that maybe happened. Maybe Jesus had to explain who these guys were, but there’s no word about that. So, maybe it’s just simply they were recognizable. I don’t know if they were wearing name tags or not. I have no idea. But we’re going to be recognizable. When you look at the Lord Jesus, as He had His resurrection body, He was very recognizable. And yet, there was something different about it. He was different, and yet He was recognizable. And so, I believe that we’re going to be recognizable in heaven. We’re going to retain our identity, but in a perfected form. So, we’re going to know each other.
And then, we come to this whole question about age. Often times, people go, “What kind of age are we going to be in heaven?” And I want…let me just tell you. Nobody really knows the answer to this question, alright? But let me just give you some observations that are interesting to think about regarding age in heaven. You realize that Adam and Eve were created by God in adult form at an age level where they would have children. And if they had not disobeyed God, if they had not rebelled, if they had not introduced death, they would have lived at a perpetual age. Joseph, when he became ruler over Egypt, was thirty years old. In the Old Testament, you could become a priest at the age of thirty. David became king—2 Samuel 5—at the age of thirty. The Lord Jesus began His ministry at the age of thirty, and He was resurrected in His early thirties. And John, in his first letter says—1 John 3:3—we shall be like Him. Isn’t it interesting that it seems to be in our early thirties when we are fully mature physically. And so, the indication may very well be, this would be the age that we would appear in heaven. Those who have died at an old age—I had several grandparents that did that—will, no doubt, return to their age of greatest vigor. Those who have died in infancy will appear in a mature, full growth-type of a body.
How many here would love to spend eternity looking like they did when they were thirty?…(laughter)….OK…can I see some hands out there? Alright! You’re with me. That’d be a great thing. We don’t really know, but it’s a probably a pretty good guess that could be the age that we’ll be in heaven.
A fourth question we want to address is, what about being married in heaven? Which, really, if we were going to be honest, is another question. For most of us it’s not, “Are we going to be married in heaven?” it’s…yeah…is there going to be sex in heaven? That’s really what the question is. So, let’s quit playing around, alright? Isn’t it interesting how sex occupies so much of our thinking? It’s a powerful force…boy, it’s getting hot in here, too. (Laughter)…whew! Too humid…(more laughter). Sex is a powerful force, and interestingly enough, sex is God’s idea; He designed it. He designed it to be powerful and to flourish in the marriage relationship. And so, it’s natural, really, that we would ask questions about that.
Turn to the gospel of Matthew and…and chapter number 22—Matthew 22—and verse 23. Some Sadducees who didn’t believe in resurrection at all, came to Jesus and they threw this question at Him. Now, this was really a question that was designed just to embarrass Jesus, because they believed there was no answer to the question. They didn’t even believe in the resurrection. So, it was a question that they just wanted to embarrass Jesus publicly with. And they said—verse 24—“…Moses said, [that] ‘If a man dies, having no children; his brother as [the] next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up an offspring to [be] his brother.’ ” “Now…”—in this scenario they’re cooking up—“…there were seven brothers…and the first married and died…having no offspring left his wife to his brother…” and then, also, to the second and the third, and down to the seventh. All these guys died. They were married to the same lady. So, here comes the big-time, trick question. “…last of all…”—verse 27—“…the woman died. In the resurrection…whose wife of the seven shall she be? For they all had her as wife.” Well, notice Jesus’ response to them. He says, in verse 29, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
Now, He’s saying in heaven there is no marriage. I mean, in heaven men do not need a helper. We need one real severely down here, but in heaven we don’t need a helper. Women do not need a protector in heaven, but that’s an important thing to have down here now. There’s going to be no marriage in heaven. And then we say, “Well, if there’s no marriage in heaven, does that mean there’s going to be no sex in heaven? And that seems to be giving up a major area of pleasure of our life.
I like the way C. S. Lewis addressed this question. He said, “Imagine you’re talking to a small boy…”—who is being told about the area of sex—“…and he’s told that the sexual act is the highest bodily pleasure. And then, he asks the question: ‘Do you eat chocolates at the same time you do this?’ ” Now, what’s the idea? He’s thinking the highest bodily pleasure that he knows is chocolate. So, this is the highest bodily pleasure; he says do you eat chocolate at the same time? And then, he is told, “No, you don’t.” Well, he goes on to write, “In vain you would tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate; he does not know the positive thing that excludes it.” And here’s what he goes on to say. He says, “We’re in the same position. We know the sexual life. We do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in heaven, will leave no room for it.”
We do know—Psalm 16:11—that in God’s right hand are pleasures forever. And even though sex may not be a part of it, that means there’s something more graduated from there that will be there for us.
But there’s not going to be marriage in heaven. And some of you who are, maybe, less interested in sex and more interested in the relationship are thinking, “I’m going to lose this relationship? I’m going to lose this companionship in heaven?” No. You know what? You’re going to be far closer relationally to your spouse in heaven than you are now. Because, you see, in heaven there’s going to be no misunderstanding. In heaven there’s going to be no selfishness. In heaven there’s going to be no hurtful words or hurtful looks. You will relationally be closer to your spouse in heaven, although not married.
A fifth question we want to look at is the question of what will our bodies be like? We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this, but go to 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, which talks about this—1 Corinthians, chapter 15. And this is a whole chapter on resurrection and the resurrection body. I just want to make a couple of quick notes about it. If you’ll look in 1 Corinthians 15, verse 42, we know our body is going to be an imperishable body. He talks about the resurrection of the dead, verse 42, and he said our body is “…sown a perishable body, [but it’s] raised an imperishable body…”. That means there’s going to be no more deterioration or decay, when it comes to our body. There’s going to be no more wrinkles, no more receding hairlines that we have to deal with, no more allergies, no more unexplained medical syndromes, because we’re going to have an imperishable body.
Secondly, we’re going to have an empowered body. Verse 43, the second part, our body “…is sown in weakness, [but it’s] raised in power…”. This is exciting to think about. There’s going to be no lack of energy, there’s going to be no limitations, there’s going to be no handicaps in heaven. And if you’re not particularly a handicapped individual, maybe you don’t understand the full ramification of what that means to somebody. Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a paraplegic as a teen in a diving accident, writes these words in her book on heaven. She says, “Can you see, now, why I enjoy dreaming about heaven? Somewhere in my broken, paralyzed body is the seed of what I shall become. The paralysis makes what I am to become all the more grand.” She writes, “I can still hardly believe it! I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down will one day have a new body; light, bright, and clothed in righteousness, powerful and dazzling?” She says, “Can you imagine the hope this gives someone who is spinal-chord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral-palsied? Or someone who is brain-injured? Or someone who has multiple sclerosis?”
It’s an exciting thing…an exciting thing to think about having an empowered body.
You know, I’ve known Bill Fix for twenty-one years. Bill’s paralyzed from the waist down; many of you see him in the wheelchair around here. For twenty-one years I’ve never seen Bill walk. I don’t really know how tall he is. We’ve had discussions about this. I said, “How tall are you?…we’ve never been eyeball to eyeball.” You know, I just want to have the first game of tennis with Bill. I want to have the first game of one-on-one; we’re going to go one-on-one…be fun to do. Something to look forward to, having an empowered body.
Fourth—or next—we’re going to have a spiritual body—verse 44 of 1 Corinthians 15: “it is sown a natural body, [but it’s] raised a spiritual body.” A re-engineered, adapted body to the heavenly environment. You know, it’s just kind of cool to think about it. I remember, Jesus, He walked through walls!—John 20, verse 19. Jesus could just appear and disappear—Luke 24, verse 31 tells us that. And as we’ve already noted, from Acts 1, He could just fly through space. Now, that’s pretty cool! That’s a re-engineered body, a re-adapted body. Very little limitation that we have in our new body.
There’s a sixth question I want to look at that I think is an important one to ask and address, and that is, when we’re in heaven, are we going to grieve over lost loved ones…maybe a parent….maybe a child…maybe a spouse? Are we going to grieve over lost loved ones? You might remember Revelation, chapter 21, verse 4 tells us rather clearly that in heaven there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain. That is the fact. Now, how is all this going to work out? Well, you know, I don’t know that we really know. There are two theories that I’ve heard about. One theory would say this: that in heaven God is going to supernaturally disconnect unpleasant memories from us…supernaturally disconnect unpleasant memories.
Turn to the book of Isaiah…the book of Isaiah and…chapter number 65. Just want you to see this verse. We know there’s no longer going to be any mourning, crying, or pain; well, how does that work? Well, maybe God will supernaturally disconnect unpleasant memories from us. Isaiah 65, verse 17; God says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” And some people would indicate that this verse seems to imply that God will supernaturally disconnect unpleasant memories from us. And so, that’s one theory of how there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain in heaven.
There’s a second theory and that is this: not that God will supernaturally disconnect unpleasant memories from us, but that a full knowledge of God’s purposes and plan will give us settled confidence. I’ll say that again. The full knowledge of God’s purposes and plan will give us settled confidence.
Erwin Lutzer, pastor and writer, has written this. He says, “We will look at heaven and hell from His viewpoint and say that He did all things well. If God can be content knowing that unbelievers are in hell, so will we.” He writes, “I expect that all who are in heaven will live with the knowledge that justice was fully served and that God’s plan was right. And with such an explanation and perspective, our emotions will mirror those of our heavenly Father. We will see everything in conformity with God’s love, justice, and glory. Thus, with both head and heart we will worship the Lord without regret, sorrow, or misgivings about our Father’s plan.”
Either way…either way we know that there will no longer be any mourning, crying, or pain. Now, again, you look at all these things, and you just say, you know, “Awesome!”…it’s “Wowza!” again. I mean, this is as far…isn’t it?…from being insignificant and irrelevant and impractical as you can get? This is very, very practical truth.
Now, I want to talk about some life response that we can have to these questions that we’ve addressed today. And I’d like to suggest two of them…two of them. Life response number one: heaven is really a call to a sense of priority. One life response I think we ought to have from what we looked at today is a call to a sense of priority.
Joni Eareckson Tada says, you know, heaven has daily significance. This is what she writes. She says, “When a Christian realizes…”—listen to these words—“When a Christian realizes his citizenship is in heaven, he begins acting as a responsible citizen of earth. He invests wisely in relationships because he knows they’re eternal. His conversation, goals, motives become pure and honest because he realizes they will have a bearing on his everlasting reward. He gives generously of time, money, and talent because he’s laying up treasure for eternity. He spreads the good news of Christ because he longs to fill heaven’s ranks with his friends and neighbors.”
In John, chapter 9, verse 4, Jesus said we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day. Night is coming when no man can work. See, we have an opportunity, now. When we look at these things, it ought to be a call to a sense of priority. The night of eternity is coming soon, and we need to work while the day of opportunity is burning brightly before us; because heaven and eternity await us a whole lot sooner than we realize. See, it ought to be a call to a sense of priority.
Jim Elliott, who died that day in that little sand bar in Ecuador, often said this: “One life to live will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” See, one life response we ought to have is a call to a sense of priority in how we’re living our life.
A second life response I think can have to what we looked at today is, not only can we see it as a call to a sense of priority, we can see it as a call to encouragement. Do you know why? Because your happiest day is still ahead.
Dr. Robert G. Lee, who used to pastor the Belleview Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, told the story from his childhood. One day he found himself at home on the farm with his mother, and she was rocking on the front porch, knitting as young Robert sat at her feet. So, he cupped his chin in his hands and stuck his heels up in the air, and he looked up at his mama. “Mama,” he asked, “what was the happiest day in your life?” Well, his mother rocked and thought for a while. And, would she answer, the day when his father proposed to her out by the gate on a moonlit night? Or, would it be the time when they stood in the corner of their farmhouse and were married? But that wasn’t what she said. “Son,” she said, “there was a horrible war between the States—the North against the South; brother against brother. Your granddaddy, my daddy, went to war. There were no men around. My mother worked alongside the other women in the field. We didn’t have the things we have today. The only salt we had was what we could scrape off the smokehouse floor. The only coffee we had was dried corn. It was a really hard time. The news came that my daddy had been killed in the war. I cannot tell you how dark that day was. When they told my mother, she wept. We didn’t see her weep openly very much, during the day, but all night long I could hear her sobbing…all night long. We did the best we could to get along without Daddy, but it was tough to do so alone. Then, one day, we were sitting on the porch, and my mother looked down the old river road and she said to me, ‘Elizabeth, that man walking down the road so far away, he looks a little bit like your daddy.’ She was snapping beans as she stared across the horizon. After a while, the figure got closer, and she said, ‘I do declare. That man sure does remind me of your daddy.’ I said to her, ‘Now, Mama, you know Daddy’s dead. Don’t get thoughts like that in your head and in your heart.’ But then, the man turned and cut across the cotton patch and started toward our house. My mother suddenly threw the beans in the air and gathered up her skirt and began to run. She flew across the front yard as fast as she could. She recognized that the man was my daddy. He had one arm missing, a sleeve pinned up. He embraced my mother with the other arm, and they wept, and they laughed, and they danced. And I ran as fast as my legs would let me; and when I got to them, I put my arms around my daddy’s knees, and I hugged him and rejoiced that my daddy was home. And she said, ‘Son, I do believe that was the happiest day of my life.’ ”
But I want you to know something. As happy as that day was, it will pale in insignificance to the glorious moment when we walk into heaven; when we are freed from infirm bodies, when we are reunited with loved ones, when we are face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ. We have loved Him all these years, and we have never seen Him. We have been separated all these years, we have longed to see the One who died for us, and there’s going to come a day when He’s going to be standing there with open arms to receive us. And that, men and women, is going to be the happiest day of our life. And the happiest day is still ahead…still ahead.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You so much for this opportunity to have a glimpse into heaven. And, Father, would it be—we would ask—a true call to a sense of priority in our life? And may it be a call to encouragement, as we have to face difficult times? Father, we would pray that You would make heaven a difference…a difference-making thing in our life for Your glory. And we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.