Beyond the Door of Death: The Bible on Heaven and Hell – Intro

Beyond The Door Of Death:

The Bible On Heaven And Hell—Introduction

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If you would please, now take out your Bibles, and turn in them the book of Colossians and the third chapter of Colossians.  You know, in our day there are two particularly unpopular terms that are out there—terms that people really don’t like to hear or to say—and those two terms are ‘death’ and ‘grave.’  People really don’t like to talk about those things. 

They like to avoid the word ‘death’ and ‘grave’ in everyday conversation, and some people will help us do that, from time to time like, for example, with the word ‘grave,’ people come up with a phrase like ‘perpetual family plot.’  You know, we don’t want to say the word ‘grave,’ so we talk about a perpetual family plot.  And what is fascinating to me is just the human propensity that we all have to attempt to ignore and avoid the reality of death.  And yet, you can’t do it.  You know, interestingly enough, two members of our leadership team here at Wildwood had to go face-to-face with death this week—Mark Robinson lost his grandmother, and was involved in doing the memorial service for her, and Phil Kemp lost his father this week.  And yet, we try to avoid these things; it’s so fascinating to me.  And, you know, some way people have a way with words and they’re able to describe things in just a very crisp, very graphic way.  And Tom Howard has done that when he talks about how we face death.  He says, “When we have to face death, it’s like a hen before a cobra.”  He says this is what it’s like.  “We’re incapable anything at all in the presence of the very thing that seems to call for the most drastic and decisive action.  Just like a hen before a cobra there is, in fact, nothing we can do.  Say what we will, dance how we will, we will soon enough be a heap of ruined feathers and bones indistinguishable from the rest of the ruins that lie about.  It will not appear to matter in the slightest whether we met the enemy with shrieks or trumped-up gaiety; there we will be.”

So, two very popular unpopular terms, in our day, are the terms ‘death’ and ‘grave,’ but you know I was thinking about that and I thought, you know, there’s some other unaddressed terms in our culture.  Two of the most unaddressed terms, in our culture, are the terms ‘heaven’ and ‘hell.’  And I don’t know if you’ve thought about it for a while, but when you look at history, you’ll find out that what we see today, in that people not really addressing the issues of heaven and hell, is very different than much of history.  If you go back through history, you’ll find out that heaven and hell have been depicted for decades and decades—even centuries—by artists and poets and authors.  Augustine, and Dante, and John Milton, and C. S. Lewis have addressed these subjects in writing.  You look at the term of ‘heaven,’ and you’ll find that it has been sung about for years in hymns and in spirituals and even in country-western music—a lot of singing about heaven in years past.  When you talk about hell and look at the past, it was frequently a subject matter of jokes and stories and cartoons, and you’d see that depicted a lot; but not very much so, comparatively, today.

You see, what I believe has happened is that heaven and hell are now seen as old-fashioned, fanciful, rather inappropriate notions—“heaven and hell??”  Basically, heaven and hell have been banished from most of our everyday focus, because they are seen to be rather irrelevant to everyday life.  I mean, “Heaven and hell; what difference does that make in everyday life?”  And what is interesting to me is, even in the church and the spiritual community, this is true.

I was thinking back…I don’t recall, myself, ever hearing a message that was given where the whole subject of the message was on heaven, or the whole subject of the message was on hell.  I’ve heard those subjects mentioned from time to time.  And I don’t know about you.  You might think of your own experience.  How often have you heard a sermon that was just on heaven or a sermon that was just on hell?  It’s pretty rare in our day.  And yet, it’s interesting is that the Bible gives considerable attention to those subjects—the subjects of heaven and hell.

I have entitled the message, today, “Beyond The Door Of Death: The Bible On Heaven And Hell.”  And what we’re really doing today is introducing a series of messages; a series of messages on the subject of heaven and hell, and I want you to know that I have been praying about this series for about two years, just interacting with the Lord about doing it.  And I really believe it’s very important for us to take a closer look at these things; these unexpressed, and unexplained, and un-really talked about terms in our day of heaven and hell

What we’re going to do, today, is introduce this subject—we’re going to do an introduction to “Beyond The Door Of Death: The Bible On Heaven And Hell”—and then we’re going to take, in the weeks ahead, a closer look at heaven, and then a closer at hell.  But as we do an introduction to all of this, what I want to start with, today, are three foundational observations that I think they’re very important to set a context, as we look at these things—the idea of heaven and hell.  So, we’re going to look at three foundational observations.  Let me give them to you, and then we’ll go through them one by one.

The first foundational observation I have to make is that heaven and hell are the lost truths of the current day—they are the lost truths of the current day.  And I think I’m going to show you, as we work through, how true that really is.  The second foundational observation I have to make is that heaven and hell are real places—they are real places.  They’re not some sort of a remote, mystical concept; they are real places.  And then, the third foundational observation I have to make is that heaven and hell are part of an unseen dimension—part of an unseen dimension. 

So, by way of introduction to heaven and hell, let’s look first at this immediate, initial foundational observation and that is that heaven and hell are the lost truths of the current day.  As I look around, here is what I see.  I see that hell is largely culturally unacceptable in our day; and as I look around, I see that heaven is largely functionally unimportant.  Hell is culturally unacceptable, and heaven is functionally unimportant.  We might talk about it somewhere, or it’s way out there, but in terms of having any functional difference that it makes, it’s functionally unimportant to most of us today. 

So, let’s look more closely at those ideas, as we see how these are the lost truths of the current day—first of all, that hell is culturally unacceptable.  That’s just where we are.  And I believe there are three reasons why we’ve come to that point in our society—that hell is culturally unacceptable.  Reason number one is a self-absorbed, feel good orientation—a self-absorbed, feel good orientation.  See, the prevailing attitude that we have today is, “Don’t bother me with unpleasant thoughts.  I don’t want to think about unpleasant things.  I don’t want to think about negative things.  I only want to hear about positive things.”  That’s why the attitude of many is, “Don’t talk to me about the consequences of running up a lot of charges on my credit card.  I don’t want to hear about it.  I just want stuff; give me stuff!”  You have this self-absorbed, feel good orientation.  “I don’t want to hear about negative things.  I don’t want to say the word ‘grave;’ I want to talk about a ‘perpetual family plot,’ ” you see.  There just is this self-absorbed, feel good orientation that really rules our culture. 

And I want you to know that that influences the church; that influences church leaders; that influences preachers, and some of those who are on television in America have even made statements about this.  You see, what they want to do is, they want to avoid certain subjects.  They don’t want to talk about sin; they don’t want to talk about hell.  Why is that?  Those are negative topics, and we don’t want to talk about negative topics because we fear if we talk about negative topics…well, people won’t tune in, or people won’t come to hear what we have to say—as if the bottom line would be that we just want people to tune in, or we just want people to come and hear what we have to say.  Largely today, hell has become culturally unacceptable, and the first reason is a self-absorbed, feel good orientation that exists in our culture.

But there’s a second reason why I believe that hell has become culturally unacceptable, and that second reason is this: an inflated sense of sophistication that we have in our culture—an inflated sense of sophistication.  See, the idea among us now seems to be that heaven and hell…well, those are fanciful myths; those…those are for the uneducated; those are for the primitive people.  But for us?…No!  You see, we’re too cosmopolitan; we’re too refined; we’re too cultured for that sort of thing.  And this whole inflated sense of sophistication has infiltrated even the religious circles.  It’s true.  If you do reading and you pay attention, you’ll know that it’s the case.

Listen to what Harvard Divinity School theologian Gordon Kaufman says, after he traced four centuries of what he called ‘decline in the concepts of heaven and hell.’  In other words, he’s been studying this in the religious community, and he says, “Heaven and hell, they’ve been on the decline for four centuries.”  And he says, “What we have left today is intellectually empty baggage.”  And then, this is what he said in a recent Newsweek article: “Today, hell is theology’s ‘H’ word; a subject too trite for serious scholarship.”  It’s just too trite for serious scholarship.  You see, we’re just too sophisticated today.  We’ve moved well beyond that.  And then he goes on to say—and I like this little statement; this is interesting—“I don’t think there can be any future for heaven and hell.”  Think he’s going to be in for a little bit of a surprise, there, but that’s where we seem to be; we’re just too sophisticated, you see, for these things.

And so, hell is now culturally unacceptable.  First of all because of a self-absorbed, feel good orientation that exists in our culture.  Secondly, it is culturally unacceptable because of an inflated sense of sophistication—we’ve just gone beyond that; now we’ve just gone beyond that.  And I believe, though, there’s a third reason why hell has become culturally unacceptable in our situation today, and that is the recent surge of cults and Eastern religions.  If you look over church history, you’ll find that much of this is very, very recent. 

For example—speaking of cults—Christian Science was founded by spiritist Mary Baker Eddy, and Christian Science teaches that heaven and hell are states of thought, not places; and that people experience their own heaven or their own hell right here on earth.  Unitarian Universalism, for example, would confess the following: “It seems safe to say that no Unitarian Universalist believes in a resurrection of the body; a literal heaven or hell, or any kind of eternal punishment.”  And this kind of thing is reproducing itself.

There are a number of groups that were started by Alice Bailey.  Many of you may have heard of her; she is a New Age spiritist, and she started groups like the Lucis Trust and the Arcane School.  And this is what they have to say.  They say, “The fear of death is based upon old, erroneous teaching as to heaven and hell.”  And these groups are growing in popularity in our culture.  And, therefore, we have hell being now culturally unacceptable.  And then, we could add in things like Buddhism and Hinduism, which are exploding on the scene and, you know, in those religious systems reincarnation is the preferred alternative to heaven and hell.

And so, we have hell that is culturally unacceptable for at least those three reasons.  Now, you know, if you step back from it for a moment, you can almost understand why hell would become a lost truth.  You know, you can almost understand that; that at least makes some kind of sense why people would want to steer clear of that.  But what I find amazing to me is how much heaven is out of vogue…really.  What’s interesting is, even in the Christian community we sort of have this concept of heaven out here, somewhere, but it has no everyday bearing on our life.  When we go off to school, during the week, or when we go off to work; it’s just some…something that’s way out there.  You see, heaven is functionally unimportant today, I believe, even in the Christian community.

Now, there could be a lot of reasons for that.  I think part of the reason why is a little phrase that we’ve heard going around for many, many years; a little popular truism, supposedly, that’s out there.  And that is, well, what you want to be if you’re someone who names the name of Christ—if you’re a Christian—what you don’t want to be is, you don’t want to be so heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.  I mean, we don’t want to be so heavenly minded we’re of no earthly good.  And I hear that phrase and it reminds me of another one I’ve heard over the years around the church, and that is that God helps those who help themselves.  You’ve heard that one; that goes around all the time—God helps those who help themselves.  But there’s a problem with that phrase is, it doesn’t come from the Bible, nor does the concept of being so heavenly-minded that you’re no earthly good come from the Bible.  You know, little phrases that just seem to fly around the Christian community, and they’re these little truisms that you hear; but are they really true?  Is it really true you can be so heavenly-minded that you’re no earthly good?  You know really what the New Testament teaches?  The New Testament teaches that if you want to be of earthly good, you better be heavenly-minded.  That’s what the Bible teaches.

Look at Colossians, chapter 3.  Not too long ago we were involved in a study of Colossians.  And he’s writing to the believers who are in the trenches of life—they’re having to live life.  And he’s basically going to say to them, “If you want to be of earthly good, you’ve got to be heavenly-minded.”  If you’re going to be of any earthly good, while you’re here on the planet, you must be heavenly-minded.  Notice what he says to them, in chapter 3 and verse 1.  He says, “If then you have been raised up with Christ…”.  When we trust in Christ, we are really raised up where He is; that is really where our official residence is.  And notice what he says in verse 1; he says if it’s true—and it is—“…keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”  Verse 2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are [here] on earth.”  Now, he doesn’t say, you don’t have to think through some issues, and you’ve got to get food, and you have to do certain things, and you have to go to work, and you have to go to school, and so forth.  But he’s saying where your focus needs to be is on the things above, you see, not on the things that are here on the earth, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  What’s he really saying?  If you want to be of earthly good, you’ve got to be heavenly-minded, you see.  You’ve got to be heavenly-minded.

Turn with me to the book of 2 Corinthians—to your left—and chapter 4.  2 Corinthians, chapter 4.  In fact, we were just here, recently, in a study that we did; and he’s talking about facing difficulties and trials and affliction in life, but notice what he says in verse 18.  He says, “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…”.  What is he saying, here?  He’s saying we want to be heavenly-minded.  We don’t want to be staring at the things which are seen, but we want to be staring at the things which are not seen, “…for the things which are seen…”—the things that we have all around us, here—“…are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  What is he really saying?  If you want to be of earthly good, then you have to be heavenly-minded; you’ve got to be heavenly-minded. 

You know what I believe is true?  See, I believe the battle is not that we’re going to be so heavenly-minded we’re of no earthly good; that’s not really the battle.  Do you know what the battle is for me?  The battle for me is that I’m so earthly-minded I’m no heavenly good.  See, that’s really where we struggle; that we’re become so earthly-minded that we’re really of no heavenly good at all.  And that’s why Jesus comes along in Matthew, chapter 6, and He says to the disciples: look, here’s what I want you to do; don’t be laying up treasures on earth, but lay up treasures in heaven.  See, don’t be so earthly-minded that you’re no…of no heavenly good.  And when he writes to the believers—Paul—in 1Timothy, chapter 6, he writes to them and says, don’t fix your hope on riches in this world—don’t become riveted on them—but rather be generous and be ready to share, so that you may store up treasure for the future.  What is he really saying?  You’ve got to be heavenly-minded, you see.  You have to be heavenly-minded.

So, the first foundational observation I have to make is that, to a large degree, heaven and hell are lost truths in our current day.  But there’s a second foundational observation I want to be making that’s very, very important and that is that heaven and hell are real places…heaven and hell are real places.  We have religious systems that teach otherwise; we have people who have their own notions about these concepts, but heaven and hell—the Bible tells us—are real places.  Let’s just look at some clarification on that regard.

First, let’s take hell.  Turn to the book of Revelation and chapter number 14—Revelation, chapter number 14.  The book of Revelation, to a large degree, is looking at future events, and I want you to see how hell is really portrayed, here, as a real place.  Verse 9 of chapter 14 says there was another angel—a third one—that followed the first two angels, and this angel was announcing with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the wrath of God…”.  This is talking about future events when the Anti-Christ, who is going to be a world ruler, comes upon the planet, and he’s going to require those who sell out to him, and really sell out from God, to put a mark on their forehead or on their hand; in essence, to be worshiping him.  And it says that if you do that—someone does that—they will drink of the wine of the wrath of God.  Notice, “…which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image…whoever receives the mark of his name.”  See, hell’s a real place.  It’s…it’s a real place, and real people are going to be there.

Turn with me to the book of Matthew—the gospel of Matthew—and chapter number 10.  We see another illustration of how hell is a real place.  And there’s a verse that is buried in the middle of this chapter—Matthew, chapter 10—that I think is often under-noticed, and it’s verse 28 of Matthew 10.  Jesus is speaking, here, and He says, “…do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul…”.  Now, you know, sometimes we lose track of the fact, in the safety of the culture in which we live, that this very day there are believers in Jesus Christ who are assembling around this world and they’re risking their very physical life by doing that.  They’re actually taking their physical life into their hands.  And sometimes we think, “Well, that’s something, you know, from way back in church history.”  No, it’s happening today, this same day in the world.  And what Jesus is really saying is don’t fear those who kill the body, but they’re unable to kill the soul.  “But…”—He says—“…rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  He says that’s what you’ve got to be concerned about; this place called hell, it’s a real place, you see.

Turn with me to the gospel of Luke, another passage that will show us that hell is a real place—the gospel of Luke, chapter 16; Luke 16, and along about verse 19, where we have the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  I remember, years ago, I heard a tape of Donald Gray Barnhouse, the great expositor. There are many who would say of this account that we have here in Luke 16, verses 19 and following, “Well, that’s just some kind of a parable; everything’s symbolic, it doesn’t really…it’s not really talking about anything real, it’s just a bunch of symbolism.  And, when Barnhouse would come to this, he would say, “Alright, we…now we want to look the story—not parable; story—not parable; story—not parable; story—not parable; story—not parable;”—just make a little point that he wanted to emphasize, there, that this is a real story; this is not some weird parable, OK?  Not a symbolic thing, because we have actual persons named here.  This is not, you know, sometime, such and such might have happened if such and such…and I’m going to illustrate something.  No, He’s telling a real story about real people.  And there was a rich man who was…habitually dressing in purple and fine linen and gaily living in splendor every day, and then there was a poor man who was named Lazarus.  And he was having a very difficult time physically; wasn’t getting food, and so forth.  Verse 22: “…it came about that the poor man died…”—Lazarus—“…and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.”  Now, I want you to see what you find next, regarding the rich man.  Verse 23: “And in Hades…”—a real place—“…he lifted up his eyes, being in torment…”.  And he saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.  “And he cried out and [he] said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me…send Lazarus [over], that he may dip the tip of his finger in [the] water and cool off my tongue; for I am…agony in this flame.’ ”  And Abraham said to him, “Child, remember that during your life you [got a lot of ] good things, and likewise Lazarus [had] bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.”  And then, besides that, there is “…between us…a great chasm fixed…”—kind of a wall—“…in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”  In other words, where you are is where you are.  And then he said, “…I beg you, Father, that you send [Lazarus] to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—[and I want him to] warn them, lest they [come also] to…”—notice what it says—“…this place of torment.”  And Abraham said, Well, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”  The Bible talks about these issues; they need to listen to what it has to say.  But you see here, how hell is a real place.  That word in verse 28, “…to this place of torment,” is the Greek word ‘topos.’  It means a place; it means a location, it’s not just some weird concept.  It is a real place—hell is a real place.  And heaven…heaven is a real place.

I got out my concordance this week, and I just looked at the gospel of Matthew and noticed that the word ‘heaven’ occurs in the gospel of Matthew 71 times, if I counted it correctly—71 times.  Sixteen of those times, Jesus says…He talks about “My Father who is in heaven”—My Father who is in heaven.  Sixteen times He says heaven is a place—it is a place; it’s not some kind of a dream or some kind of a notion, it is a place—a very real place.  It’s not a mystical notion; it’s not a state of mind; it’s not an imaginary dream.  Heaven is a place.

Turn with me to the gospel of John and chapter number 14.  This is the beginning of what’s called the farewell discourse of Jesus—His farewell teaching to the disciples—in John 14 through John 17.  He’s basically told them what’s going to happen to Him, and that He’s going to be going away.  And so, in chapter 14, He says, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, [and] believe also in Me.”  Then He says something very interesting.  Notice, He says in verse 2, “In My Father’s house…”—where is His Father?…in heaven, OK—“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”—a ‘topos’ for you.  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself, that where I am…”—where is He going?…heaven—“…there you may be also.”  Heaven is a real place, you see.  It’s a place.

Turn a few pages to your right to Acts, chapter 1—Acts, chapter 1.  We really have the final statements of Jesus to the disciples in Acts 1, before He goes up into heaven.  And, in fact, in verse 8 He says that you’re going to–his final thing He says to them–is you’re going to be My witnesses; you’re going to be My representatives, both in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.  That’s My commissioning I’m giving to you, and we inherited that commission.  We are to be His witnesses; those who testify about Him.  And then, after—verse 9—this is really kind of fun; it’s almost a little comical, when you look at it.  “…after He had said these things…”—you can kind of picture this; they’re all gathered around, He says here’s the last deal, guys, you’re going to be My witnesses in all…all these areas, alright?  And then, after He said these things, it says, “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” And then, I come to verse 10, and it makes me laugh.  And they were gazing intently into the sky, while He was departing.  I just picture them all kind of doing the…you know, looking up with their mouth dropped, you know—“Aaah!”  And it must have been going on for a while, where they’re all standing there going, “Aaah!”  You know, and He’s gone up, and He’s gone, and they’re still going, “Aaah!”—still looking.  And it must have gone on for a little while because you notice what happens is that two men in white clothing, which are angels, stand beside them and they said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand

looking [up] into the sky?”  I mean, I don’t know how long this went on, but they’re all doing that “Aaah!” thing.  Why are you all standing there going “Aaah!”—looking up?  Well, notice what they go on to say: “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you…”—where?—“…into heaven…”—a real place—“…will come in just the same way as you…watched Him into heaven.”—a real place.  Heaven is a real place.

I like the way Stephen Lawson put it in his excellent book, Heaven Help Us.  He said, “Make no mistake about it, heaven is a real place.  It is not a state of mind, it is not a figment of man’s imagination, it is not a philosophical concept, it is not a religious abstraction, it is not a sentimental dream, not the medieval fancy of an ancient scientist, not the worn-out superstition of a liberal theologian; it’s an actual place.”  And then, he writes, “…a location far more real than where you presently live.”—a location far more real than where you and I presently live.  You see, heaven is a real place where God lives.  Heaven is a real place from which Christ came into the world.  Heaven is a real place to which He returned at His ascension.  Heaven is a real place from which He will come back again, as He returns in glory and power in His second coming.  Heaven is a real place with real dwelling places, where real people populate it.

See, heaven and hell have become the lost truths of our current day; that’s the first foundational observation.  The second one is that heaven and hell are real places.  The third foundational observation I want to make is that heaven and hell are part of an unseen dimension—an unseen dimension.  One of the reasons why it’s a lost truth is we can’t go visit there.  You know, if…if we could, wouldn’t it be different?  You know, where we might say, “OK, how many people want to go on the bus trip to heaven?  We’re going to be taking a little bus trip there, and we’ll take as many people as we can get; you know, the first fifty that sign up can go.” Or, you know, we might say, “Well, what we’re going to do is…we think we need to teach the young people a little something, so we’re going to do that little three-hour tour of hell.  How many people want to go on the three-hour tour…nobody wants to stay there very long, but we’ll take a three-hour tour.” 

We can’t do it, because it’s part of an unseen dimension.  And isn’t it interesting because we can’t see it, we think it must really be far away; but it’s really not.  Do you remember Jesus on the cross—two thieves; one of whom begins to realize his own sin and guilt and has a real sense of his responsibility, and begins to get a glimpse of who Jesus really was and what He was really doing?  And he says to Jesus, “Will You remember me when You come into Your kingdom?”  And Jesus said to him, “If I can recall…put it into my palm pilot, you know, and remember–like it could be a couple hundred thousand centuries away…Yeah, you know, I’ll try to remember that.”  No, He said to him what?  “Today, you’re going to be with Me in Paradise.” Today, you’ll be with Me in the unseen dimension.  And not very long after that, you had three men die; two entered one aspect of the unseen dimension, and one entered another.  But it doesn’t mean it’s far off—doesn’t mean it’s far off.  In fact, what happens in that passage, in the gospel of Luke; you have the rich man who dies, and his body ends up being put into the ground, but where is he?  He’s in the unseen dimension; he’s in a place called ‘torments,’ and he’s undergoing suffering.  It’s an unseen dimension.  It’s fascinating to think about.  It’s there—these are real places—but we can’t take tours; we can’t go and visit.

In fact, you know what’s kind of interesting?  It’s almost like when…when you look at heaven, in the Bible, it’s almost like there’s an unseen door to heaven.  And what’s interesting is that the doorknob is on God’s side.  You see, we don’t get a chance to open the door, but He can take the doorknob, which is on His side, and He can open the door.

Turn with me to the book of Revelation, chapter 4.  I want you to see this.  In fact, we’re going to look at this more closely next week.  But this unseen dimension for…particularly as we look at heaven; it’s almost like there’s this unseen door, but the doorknob is on God’s side.  Look at chapter 4 of Revelation.  By the way, in this book—in the first chapter of Revelation—John has…sees a picture of Jesus Christ.  You see Christ described in some glory.  And then, in chapters 2 and 3, Jesus writes some letters to seven churches, and they’re letters that describe certain types of churches that would exist throughout history.  And so, they each get a little letter with a different evaluation to it, and there’s lessons we can all learn from those letters.  But, beginning in chapter 4, things change; things are different.  Notice it says, “After these things…”—the apostle John speaking; he said—“…I looked, and behold…”—this is interesting to me—“…a door standing open in heaven…”.  See, God turned the doorknob on His side of the door.  And I heard a voice, which was sort of like the sound of a trumpet, and the voice said to me, “Come up here…”—come up here is where?…heaven—“Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”  And notice: “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.”  Do you see?  There’s an unseen dimension there; it’s almost like God opened the door and said, “I want you right in here.”

—he’s there.  It’s that fast.  We can’t see it, we can’t touch it, we can’t smell it, but it’s there.  It’s an unseen dimension, and every once in a while God will open up the door.

See, if we really want to know about heaven, we need God to open up the door.  We need God to pull back the curtain.  If we’re going to know about hell, we need God to reveal something to us. And when we talk about opening the door and pulling back the curtain and revealing things, what we’re really talking about is the revelation of this Book that we study, because this is where the veil is pulled back; this is where we see the door opened and we learn something about heaven and hell.

We want to do a little trip beyond the door of death and look at the Bible and hell, and the first thing we’re going to examine, in the next couple of weeks, is heaven.  And I just want to share something with you that I believe deep in my heart, as I’ve pondered this subject matter.  And that is I believe in our culture, and in our churches, and in this fellowship we have a great need for renewed perspective about heaven—we have a great need for…renewed perspective.  We need to reclaim some perspective about heaven.

I think Joseph Stowell who has served as the president of Moody summarizes this best.  He says, “Today, most of the emphasis in Christianity is on becoming happier here, healed here, more blessed here, more fulfilled here.  Therefore worship must excite our spirits, sermons must entertain and enthrall our minds, music must penetrate and propel us, and our counseling must make us feel better about our selves and strengthen our human bond of friendship and family.”  And he says, “While these things may be nice and necessary, without heaven in clear view our Christianity fails to have a heavenward compulsion, pulling us closer to God, closer to eternity, and closer to home.”  See, this place isn’t our home!  We’re aliens here; we’re assigned here for a while.  But notice, without heaven in clear view we fail to have this heavenward compulsion that pulls us closer to God, closer to eternity, closer to home—“A heaven-less church…”—he writes—“…seeks to satisfy longings and needs here, rather than serving and sacrificing here with a view to satisfaction there.”  So the reason why, if you’re wondering, Why would we even tackle such subjects as this?, is I believe we have a great need to reclaim some perspective about heaven.  And when we do that, there will be a heavenward compulsion that will pull us closer to God, and closer to eternity, and closer to our home—to our home.

Now, I want to share with you some life response we can all take from our message today.  And I want to share with you, by way of some life response, two questions for reflection—two questions for reflection.  Question number one is this: are you ready to face death?…are you ready to face death?  Remember Tom Howard’s description: like a hen before a cobra is what it’s like when we face death.  “We’re incapable of doing anything at all in the presence of the very thing that seems to call for the most drastic and decisive action.  There is, in fact, nothing we can do.  Say what we will, dance how we will, we will soon enough be a heap of ruined feathers and bones, indistinguishable from the rest of the ruins that lie about.  It will really not matter, in the slightest, whether we met the enemy with shrieks or with trumped-up gaiety.  There we will be.”  Are you ready to face death?

You know, Martin Luther said, “As far as I’m concerned, there are only two days—only two days I’m concerned about—today and that day.”  Those are the only two days—today and that day.  And regarding that day, are you ready to face death?  If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would go for eternity?  There are two places and two destinations, and the determining difference between them is talked about in Acts, chapter 4 and verse 12.  It all points to the person of Jesus Christ, and it says there is salvation in no one else—no other religious system but the Son of God who came and died for your sins and for mine and rose again.  There’s salvation in no one else; there’s no other name given among all of heaven by which we must be delivered from hell but the person of Jesus Christ.  And so, we all have a choice to make about Christ.  Are we going to trust in Him or trust in my own things to make me…somehow acceptable to God.  Am I going to be…try to be…good enough, go to church enough, avoid evil enough…none of that’s enough.  We must turn to Christ, and when we trust in Him, then we’re ready to face death, even though we might just be a heap of bones left there.  We’re going to find ourselves in a different place with a different destiny.

So, that’s the first question for reflection: are you ready to face death?  Second question for reflection—for those of us who’ve trusted in Christ—would be this: how heavenly-minded are you?…how heavenly-minded are you?  How heavenly-minded am I?  If we’re going to be heavenly-minded, do you know what that means?  That means that we live for the world to come; not the present world.  We have to live in the present world, but we live for the world to come; not the present world.  If we’re heavenly-minded, that means we begin to view life from an eternal perspective.  If we’re going to be heavenly-minded, that means that we make life decisions in light of eternity.  And many of you are younger, and you’ve got to make some life decisions.  If you’re heavenly-minded, you make them in light of eternity.  And if we’re heavenly-minded, that means that we live for the invisible; not for the visible. 

Now, I want you to know something.  That’s a hard thing to do for at least two reasons.  One of the reasons why is, when something’s invisible, it’s hard to live for that, because you have to do that by faith, because you can’t reach out and touch it, and smell it, and see it, and handle it.  But it’s also another difficult issue…there’s another reason why it’s difficult, and that is we’re living in a culture where everyone is living for the visible.  You have people surrounding you, at work and at school, who are living for the visible.  And yet, if we’re going to be heavenly-minded, we live for the invisible; not for the visible.  How heavenly-minded are you?

Let’s pray together.  Father, we just really thank You for some time to get re-oriented by the Scriptures and by Your word.  And we would pray, beginning today and maybe even over these next weeks, that You would turn us into men and women who are far more heavenly-minded than we’ve ever been before.  And Father, we thank You for Jesus Christ.  We thank You for the tremendous concept of the free gift of eternal life to send us to a place—as we’re going to see—is a wonderful, incredible place.  May everyone who hears my voice have made the decision to turn to Jesus Christ and to trust in Him for their eternal destiny.  And we thank You in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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