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About this series
The Real Heaven
What the Bible Actually Says
What comes to mind when you think of heaven? Clouds? Harps? Angels? Singing? Now, honestly, does that really sound like a great way to spend eternity? The good news is, that is NOT what heaven is like. And when you discover what really awaits you there, it will radically change your view of your future and of heaven. In this 3 part series from Living on the Edge, Chip Ingram digs into scripture to reveal what our heavenly home will be like, what we’ll do there, what we’ll experience, and how we’re to prepare for eternity today. If you’ve secretly thought that heaven sounded kind of boring, well, think again. In this series, you will discover the amazing truth of what awaits you there.More from this series
First, probably fifteen years I was a Christian, if you said, “What’s heaven like?” It would be, I would open to Revelation chapter 4, Revelation chapter 5, I think they’ve got a really great band, they sing a lot. And there are some really big angels with lots of eyes that fly around. And, by the way, that’s occurring right now and it’s awesome. It’s just not all that there is and we will worship, don’t get me wrong.
But the idea of a tangible, concrete place, made specifically for me, to satisfy the deepest desires in my heart with relationships that aren’t just right, that are perfect, with jobs to do that require the very best of me, where I do exactly what I’m made to do in ways that only I can, that contribute in some sort of relationships in a culture, in a society where God is among us, whoo.
Third truth: this future heaven on earth is not simply a lot like the new you and it’s not simply a lot like the first earth. You ready for this? I love this. It will be a lot different and infinitely better because we will have a number of things that are new.
First, we’re going to have a new kind of relationship with God.
Revelation chapter 21, all the way at the end, and notice it’s going to start with, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth;” why? “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” notice the little change in this one, “and there was no longer any sea.
“I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And then I heard in a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God.”
You have a relationship with God now, you will have a new kind of relationship. You will not talk to a God who is in heaven. You will not talk to a God any longer who – the Holy Spirit dwells in you – and there are times where you’re walking in the Spirit and times where you don’t. You will see Him face to face, we learn in chapter 22.
1 John says, “When you see Him face to face, we will become like Him,” because we will have no sin, He will make a way where you will have intimacy with God, this has been His plan from the beginning. He wants you.
I mean, everyone hates rejection, I got news for you, there is one awesome, eternal, infinite being who created all that there is and for reasons you don’t get and I don’t get, He wants you. And He is going to make a way in this perfect earth environment to be with you.
You will be His son, you will be His daughter, and He will be with you. There’s not going to be any more of, you know, “I really wonder what God’s will is and I got this prompting, I thought maybe I should do this or should we move over to here, should we do that? And I’m not really sure, or…”
No distance, no relational or spatial awareness. You know times in your life where you feel like you’re over here and God is way over there? It’s gone! You’ll have a new kind of relationship with God where there is absolutely nothing between you, no intermediate anything. Face to face, heart to heart, intimacy.
You will be so overwhelmed and enveloped with a sense of acceptance and love and clarity and purpose and peace, infinitely multiplied by any smidgeon of it on this earth you’ve experienced.
So, see, it’s a new heaven and a new earth. And there’s a new kind of relationship with God.
Second, there’s a new kind of relationship with sin. You say, “That’s kind of weird.” Now, you could write in there, you could, don’t do it, but you could write in, “With my past,” because what’s going to get removed is what sin did in your life and in mine, what it did in the culture, what it did in people, how evil was birthed, and all the evil of all time by all people, you’re going to have a new relationship with sin.
Let me read you this new relationship, verse 4 and 5. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain;” well why? “for the old order of things has passed away. He who is seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.’ And then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
So, what have been the past consequences of sin on this fallen earth that will be gone? You ready for this? Here’s your new relationship. No more abuse ever. No more regrets, no more bad memories, no more betrayal, no divorce. You won’t experience failure ever again. You won’t be disappointed. You won’t be rejected.
You won’t shake your head and look at the news and say, “Greed, murder, addictions, accidents.” No more prejudice, no more racism, no more poverty, no more injustice, no more sex trade, no more kids getting abused. It’ll be gone.
And because sin is gone, no more death. You will never be afraid; you will never feel ashamed. That’s a new kind of relationship with God, but that’s a new kind of relationship with sin. It’s gone. And the evil that went with it. That’s what your personal experience, as heaven comes down on this new earth, is going to be like.
But it’s not just a new relationship with God and with sin. There’s a new kind of experience of complete, write this word in, “satisfaction.” Complete satisfaction.
Follow along as I read verse 6 and following. “He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty,’” circle that word in your Bible if you would, “I will give to drink without cost,” from where? “the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes,” those who, by faith, have trusted Christ, “will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Contrast, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magical arts, and the idolaters and the liars, their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, this is the second death.”
What’s thirst? Metaphorically, thirst has to do with desire. We thirst for life; we thirst for relationships. God made you a human being and all the psychology and all that we have learned is I can tell you that everybody in this room and everyone who has ever lived has thirsted to be significant. I want to be a somebody.
Everyone in this room has thirsted to be secure. I want to feel safe and loved and accepted. Everyone has thirsted for a sense of fulfillment. Or from my old days in graduate school, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Remember that one? Remember what the top one is on the little triangle? Self-actualization.
Actually, what you’re going to have is Christ-actualization. But what Maslow saw was no amount of money, no amount of success, no amount of fame, no amount of looks, celebrity, possessions – what he realized is at the heart of the human being is this desire to become all that you were ever made to become!
And what you’re going to have is complete satisfaction for the first time in your life. You won’t look at someone else and say, “I wish I had their gifts or I wish I lived in their mansion or apartment,” or whatever it’s going to be, the condos there in this big city.
You’ll never feel like, “Oh, I wish I could do this or do that.” You will have complete satisfaction. Satisfaction with God, with yourself, with others, with the environment. Everything that we hoped, “If I just made more money, if I just found the right mate, if we finally had a kid, if we get the second house. You know what? If we finally go public. You know what? If I finally could overcome the grief and the pain of my mate that walked out on me. You know, if my kids just grow up and if I only can get in this school,” right?
Thirst, thirst, thirst, thirst, thirst, desire, because I want to be significant and secure and fulfilled. It drives us. We’re human.
And He’s going to say, whoo, “Come and drink and I’m going to fill you up from the inside out in ways that you have longed for and were made for. But in a fallen world, it’s never going to happen.”
In fact, I love C.S. Lewis. He talks about this issue of thirst, he talks about this idea that, you know, we’ve all had plans, right? You know, “If I could ever get in this college and I get in or if I ever get these grades or, if I could ever find the right person or…”
Isn’t it amazing? The word “new” for us, “Boy, when I get that new car.” And then you get it! And then ninety days later it’s just not new, right? But if we get a house of our own! If I could just be the…
And I don’t care what it is. You know, if I owned so much, if I had this, if people thought that, if I wore that, if I…
Right? We’re human! And no matter what it is, it’s like, “Man, I have been to the gym for five years to get this way. And two surgeries. And it’s still fading. And I still, down deep, don’t love me or feel any more worthy.” You know that something that no matter what you do is still missing?
Lewis says that’s built in by God into the human soul and heart to remind you there’s something more. In fact, more than there’s just something more, there’s someplace more.
No matter what you achieve, what you get, there’s this little window of, “Ah,” and then there’s a…it doesn’t quite deliver what you hoped. That’s going to end in this new heaven that’s on earth.
The next part is maybe the most exciting for me. It talks about a new city. And people to enjoy. And He made it really clear that this is going to be a perfect environment and in passing He said, “You know those people that rejected Me? Those people that didn’t want the free gift? Those people who wanted their own throne? Those people who said, ‘I’ll be in control. Hey, I don’t want God telling me what to do.’ Those people who said, ‘I’ll find my fulfillment and my…’”
What did He say? “You know what? You can have your own way. Heaven is reserved for these kind of people that want to receive and experience My love.” And to those people who say, “No, God,” He says, “Well, your will be done.”
And then He says, “Okay, there’s this city.” Now think of this, there’s this city that is come down from heaven on the earth and now He is going to describe what your experience is going to be like. We pick it up in verse 9.
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came to me and said, ‘Come, and I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb,’” speaking of Jesus.
“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a high, great mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God.” And then he begins to describe it. “It shone with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of very precious jewels, and like jasper and clear as crystal.
“It had a great high wall, with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at each gate; and on the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three on the north and three on the south and three on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, Jesus.
“The angel who had talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.” And so you get this picture of this angel says to John in this vision, “I want you to tell these people the future because life is really hard in a fallen world and there’s a lot of wickedness and a lot of evil and there’s going to be all kind of things. And people need to have a very clear picture of the future so they can endure and overcome.”
And so first of all, he sees it coming down. And then, whoooo, he ends up on this really high mountain and then he sees all of this new Jerusalem, this city coming down, and now this angel is measuring it and you’ve got to get this.
He measured the city with a gold rod, it was twelve thousand stadia in length and it’s as wide and high as it is long.” So, it’s as wide, it’s a square, but it’s as high as it is wide and long. “He measured its walls, and it was a hundred and forty-four cubits thick, by man’s measure, which the angel was using, and the wall was made of jasper; and the city of pure gold, as of pure glass.”
And then he says, “And the foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone,” and he goes through twelve specific precious stones of the day, some of which we still use. It’s just this radiant…
I don’t know about you, but when I first read this when it said “stadia,” how many people think, like, “How big is a stadia?” You know what “stadia” is? It’s about fourteen hundred miles. So, first of all you see it coming down. This would be like Star Trek, the future, future generation, something coming down.
But fourteen hundred miles wide and he’s just overwhelmed with its brilliance. And then he gets up on this mountain, why? So he can see, “Oh my lands!” Whoo, whoo, whoo. Fourteen hundred miles long, three specific gates, angel, angel, angel guarding it, the gates are open, they never close.
And, wow, on these gates, those twelve tribes, all those Old Testament saints and those foundation stones, all the way around and the twelve apostles. All of God’s people, Old Testament and New Testament. And then it’s like fourteen hundred miles high? I mean, how many floors is that? “Um, I’d like to go to the thirty-seventh thousand floor, please?” The angel goes, “You really don’t need an elevator here. Just…” Tchoo. Because you have a resurrected body like Jesus. Now, by the way, I don’t know if that’s really true if you can… but do you just get, like, it’s an amazing city. But it’s to enjoy!
I grew up in the suburbs. So I didn’t know a lot about really big city life. And I grew up in the suburbs of a sort of nice city. Really nice, Midwestern city. So I thought that was a city and it was a good city.
And then my kids went to school in Chicago. I love Chicago. Chicago is a great city. Chicago, as you walk down Michigan Avenue and there’s a lake over here and there’s a band playing over here and you get a meal over here and then you walk by and then some of the most amazing museums and stuff.
And people actually live in Chicago. It’s not like everyone is, I mean, there’s life and culture and food and…! And then, my travels, I ended up, I’ve been lots of times to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an amazing city. I mean, you’re over there and you can look across that bay and you see that huge thing and it’s so safe and wonderful and at two, three in the morning you can walk out and get all kind of food and cultures and people from all around the world.
And if you’ve never been to New York, if you’ve never been to New York, like, at Christmas time, go! It’s just unbelievable! Think of the joy there is and you meet people and there’s new food and you catch a play here and you do something here and you hear some stories.
This is a city that is fourteen hundred miles wide and long and high of all the saints of all time. And thirty-seventh floor, get off, “Moses! How you been? Could you tell us… I brought one of my buddies. Would you give me the Red Sea story one more time? I mean, what were you really feeling? Tell me what was going on.”
And, you know, then, zzzzzz, down to the ten thousandth floor, “Elijah, man, were you scared to death? You know, all those prophets and the fire came down and…”
“Hudson Taylor, what was it like? No one believed you. No one would help you. You’re away from your family, you, I mean, who would know there would be, like, 1.4 billion people in China and you were, like, the first person that crossed through all that and you translated the Bible and, wow! Can you…?” For eternity. Amazing food, amazing people. I mean, if you’re an architect, you say, whoo. Right?
And so, there’s new books to be written and new songs to be sung and new things to explore. I mean this is the brilliance and the glory and the majesty, it’s like, take your best experience in any city and then go, whoo. Infinitely beyond.
This place that God has prepared because He loves you so much means you will have a new kind of relationship with Him, a new kind of relationship with sin, you will have complete satisfaction, you’ll have a new city and people to enjoy. And watch this next aspect. A new earth with new nations, commerce, culture, and capabilities to serve and love your God.
Now, have you thought about that? It’s, see, this isn’t that boring place, hanging around, suspended as some spirit somewhere. This new world has no sea.
Now, if you’re sailing, don’t get uptight, there’s got to be lakes, okay? But sea, especially in Scripture, sea is what separated countries. There’s going to be unity.
And what we’re going to find is there are nations. We’re going to find that there are kings, we’re going to find that the capital is Jerusalem, this magnificent city, and we will come and we will worship. But there are going to be other cities and it’s the earth, it’s not just a place. It’s the whole earth! Come on, look at this with me, this is amazing.
Verse 24, chapter 21, “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it,” speaking to the city. “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night; the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” So I guess there’s glory, I guess there’s honor, I guess there’s other nations doing things, there are people groups, there are, gosh, it sounds like a real earth with real action.
“Nothing impure will ever enter it,” no cheating in business, no competition, “nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” which is why it’s so important to make sure your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. And we’ll talk about how you can know for sure today.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal,” notice, “flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city.” This makes Broadway look like nothing. “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the trees for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse; the throne of God and the Lamb, Jesus Himself, will be in the city, and His servants,” guess what we do, “will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light; and they will reign,” that’s doing something important. How long? “Forever and ever.”
You’re going to be a part of a new earth with nations and commerce and culture and capabilities and you will serve God the way you were originally intended to serve God. And that was not just in a worship service but where who you are, what you’re made to do, what your gifts are, what your passions are, in a perfect environment, serving by what you do.
In fact, just notice some of the implications. If there are nations, there has to be organization. If there are kings, there’s authority, roles, and jobs. If you bring splendor, there has to be commerce, culture, art, music, and manufacturing.
If you bring it to the city, it means there are other cities. And if you serve and reign, it means there’s actually monthly, if fruit comes each month, then there’s not sense of, “We’re in heaven, floating forever…” There’s spatial time and sequence.
And you will reign and where you will reign will be directly proportional according to Jesus by how clearly you take what He has just taught because He has given to every single person in this room and every true follower of Jesus talents, gifts, abilities, time, a season of history, and money and resources.
And according to Jesus, there are only two things that will last forever: The Word of God and people. And He said, “I put you on the earth as my representatives and ambassadors to first and foremost live the life,” that we would call a Romans 12 Christian. And then to be an ambassador or a conduit of God’s love and grace where you verbally tell people about the love of Christ and by your hands and your heart, you actually do acts of service and justice and compassion so that the light of the gospel and the saltiness of true justice and love, people see that and realize Jesus is real.
And to the degree that you do that faithfully, there is reward so that what your role will be on this new heaven down on this new earth is directly proportional to how you live your life with your priorities and values and what you do with your time, your talent, and your treasure.
When Jesus was saying to the twelve disciples, “It’s going to be really tough, you’re going to reign with Me.” Hey, they got their names on the foundation stones! They’re just regular guys. God has an agenda. The eyes of the Lord are going to and fro, that He might seek to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His.
History is going to make its tracks with or without you. God’s purposes for the Church will get accomplished with or without you. But He wants you to know, “This is an open book test.” I mean, He’s saying, “Look, this is how it’s going to end, this is how you’ll be graded, and this is what I’d like you to do.”
And by the way, those people who, by faith, you can’t see right now, then guess what, in heaven, there’s no such thing as faith. Faith and sight merge because it won’t be a God you can’t see, it won’t be promises that you need to cling onto. It will be the very reality and substance of those things.
Why? Why all this? Because He loves you. Because it’s God’s character. Because He is good. All those commands in Scripture have nothing to do with, when He says, “Don’t have sex before marriage.” It’s because He knows what great sex is and what He wants to protect you from. When He says, “Give the first portion of your time and your energy and your money,” it’s to keep you from going down paths where lust and fulfillment and significance and all the junk that we find ourselves caught up in, it’s just to keep your heart in the right spot so you get the best.
And what He’s saying is, “Look, look at this city I made for you. I’ve been busy since I left. I love you. I want to be with you. And I want it to be great.”
Oh, God, let’s stop, God Almighty, will You please help the information that we have just heard to supernaturally go from our head and our understanding into our hearts in conviction. Lord, my life and my priorities and my passion and my joy would be far different if I could remember and believe and live with an awareness of a new heaven on a new earth, doing what I was made to do, completely satisfied with the greatest people to deeply enjoy because You made everything new. Amen.
And that’s my heart. I have been deeply impacted by this series. I hope it helps you but it’s transforming me. See, the summary of all this is, “Behold, I will make all things new.”
There are three implications of this that I want to touch on because we’ve got to ask ourselves, “If this is in fact true, I believe it is, the Bible is true, it’s clear, there are three questions we need to ask and answer.”
Question number one is: Are you certain you are going to heaven? And if so, why? I mean, this is God saying, “Look, I have prepared this for you at great expense.” It cost the Second Person of the Trinity to come and be embarrassed and humiliated and then crucified to pay for your sin and then rise from the dead.
So, He doesn’t want anyone to miss it. And so, let me briefly tell you how you can make sure you don’t miss it.
1 John chapter 5 verses 11 through 13, I’ve put it in your notes, and you might want to look at it later more carefully. But there were some issues happening and some Gnostics and people shooting a lot of stuff at people and John says, “Wait a minute! I’m going to be clear how you can know for sure you have eternal life. This is the testimony,” or literally he’s saying, “This is the record, that God has given us eternal life.” That means it’s a gift.
“And this life is in His Son, Jesus.” Axiomatic principle. “He or she who has the Son has life; he or she that does not have the Son does not have life. These things I have written to you in order that you might know,” you can know, “I’ve written this to you who believe that you can know,” without a shadow of a doubt, “that you have eternal life.”
So, the question isn’t, “Are you sincere?” The question isn’t, “Do you go to Church? Do you give to the United Way? Are you trying harder? You want to be a good person. Isn’t it better to make it a nicer world?” Na, na, na. It’s not, “Are you religious?” It’s not what this philosophy or that philosophy or their opinion or your opinion.
Here’s the deal: If you have the Son living in you, you have life, everything I described is yours. If you don’t have the Son, I don’t care what anything else is true of you, you do not have life. It’s about relationship. God did not send His Son to make little nice, moral people who tried hard to make the world a better place.
He came for you to love you. And the only way you have life is when you recognize you have sinned against a holy God; repentance, I have a change of mind; and I put my faith and receive eternal life, turning from my old life, receiving the gift of His salvation covering of my sins and I follow Him.
Now, I’m going to pray a very simple prayer that if you’re sitting here thinking, “I want that.” Or if you’re sitting here thinking, “Well I’m not sure.” Don’t leave unsure.
And then I want to tell you in advance what we’re going to do because I really think the whole church thing has gotten like we’re trying to be so cool and so hip and so politically correct and…
You know what Jesus said? Jesus said, “If you are ashamed of Me before men, I, when I come, will be ashamed of you when I come in the glory of My Father and the holy angels.” And I think we’ve kind of gotten into this deal where, “Yeah, you know, I don’t know and I just…”
If you’re embarrassed to say you’re a follower of the One that created this heaven for you and died for you, then guess what, you probably don’t have it. Because at some point in time you’re going to realize you’re going to care what people think or what God thinks. And the moment you die, you will really wish you had cared what God thinks.
In fact, I’ll tell you this, the moment you live when you really live, all those people that you care what they think, they don’t even think about you. We just live with this, “Well, what will they think? What will they think? What will they think? Does this look okay?” And you know what? I got news, they don’t even think about you. And we live with this crazy stuff.
But this is so clear, God loves you. So I want to tell you in advance so there’s no sense of manipulation because I’m telling you there are some of you that have a war going on in your heart. Because you want this but, ooh, what does it mean? What about this? What about that? And you ought to have that.
Second question is for those of us that know for sure you’re in Christ: Do your present priorities and passions demonstrate a focus on eternity or on what’s temporal? I mean, when I talk about treasure, when I talked about time, when I talk about your talent.
If the truth were known, I mean, if we were super good friends and I would say, “Hey, give me your taxes. Let me see your PDA and all your schedule for the last year, I’ll show you mine, your time has gone here, your money has gone here, this is the pressure you’re living with, this is what wakes you up at night.” Is it the things of God or is it doing the deal, got to do this, got to do that, got to…
Because what the apostle Paul says is our citizenship is in heaven. And he talked of some in that church in Philippians, he said, “Some of them, little by little by little, they got consumed so much with the right now,” he says, “with tears I see their life eaten up with their own appetites,” trying to find that significance, security, success, and stuff that’s temporal and that’s going to burn.
Last question is very simply this: Do you know of someone that the thought of this amazing city forever and ever, doing what you were made to do, that’s perfect with no sin, where you see God face to face, where you think, “I want them to be there. Oh, I want them to be there. This is real.”
And could I then ask you: who do you think is going to tell them? Because see the other thing that has happened is we get kind of sheepish about… I mean, here’s the deal. If you just married the most handsome man in the world or you married the most beautiful woman in the world and I said, “Hey, I’d like to meet her,” and you said, “No, don’t, please. I’m kind of embarrassed. You know, down deep I think she’s ugly.”
If you’re embarrassed about the people you love, you don’t really love them. You see, I think, we got all kind of people that are so open, they have never heard about heaven, all they’ve heard about is religion. They’ve never heard that there is a real God who came and died and rose and loves them.
And you know what? They’re not going to be in heaven if those of us who say we love our friends and relatives and neighbors and co-workers, if we don’t just simply, we don’t bombard them, we just let them know, “Are you aware how loved you are?”
Why don’t you think of maybe two names? Just etch them on your mind, two names that this week it’s a phone call, it’s a lunch, it’s a coffee. And maybe the simplest way you even say to them, you say, “You know something? I never thought much about heaven but I was, you know, this guy was talking about heaven. Have you thought much about it?” “No, I really haven’t.” “I’ll tell you what, could you listen to this? Let’s get coffee next week and let’s kick it around.”
I got news for you! God has appointed many. He is drawing many. They just need to hear. Ready to pray that prayer?
Father, thank You right now for Your presence that woos and pulls us and just makes real inside of us, this is right, this is what I need to do. If you need to have the Son, to have life, then right now say, “Dear God, will You please forgive me for my sin? Would You come into my life right now and be my Savior? I believe You died for me, I believe You rose from the dead, I want to be in the heaven You made for me, forever. Thank You for loving me. Dear Jesus, give me strength to follow You. Help me be bold. Use me to tell other people about the heaven that is real. And the forgiveness that I have just received from You.”