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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
I’ve already lost both my parents, my wife has had cancer. And she came through it. But I’ve had some really big windows of losing people that really, really, really matter. Early on, one of my sons was in an emergency room and we didn’t know if he would make it.
I want to tell you that the hope that God gives to us in heaven, as Christians is, “This isn’t all there is.” That there really is a place where you will be reunited. And it gives you tremendous perspective and tremendous hope. We do grieve and there is great loss. But our whole lives don’t have to fall apart when you’re a follower of Christ.
And so, bam, the heart attack happens, you’re ushered by angels, immediately you’re in God’s presence, you’re conscious, you participate in this great worship, you see some things that are happening on earth, you don’t know everything. You meet some people, you understand that they see you, you see them, you know one another.
And then seventh, you’ll be joined by all living Christians when Jesus raptures the Church from the earth to be judged for rewards at the Bema Seat or…
2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” And that’s not for your sin, that’s been forgiven. That’s for: “What did you do with your life?” Rewards.
And then, fast forward, I’m giving you a quick overview. There’s a lot that happens between chapter 6 and chapter 19 but let’s go all the way over to chapter 19 because this is something that Jesus talked about with His disciples.
In chapter 19, there’s a thing called, “The marriage supper of the Lamb.” So shortly before, the context is God’s judgment is occurring. We’re up in heaven, the Tribulation is coming to an end, there’s going to be this great battle called Armageddon.
But before that, chapter 19, there’s what’s called, “The marriage supper of the Lamb.” All the New Testament Christians are going to be the bride with the Bridegroom.
So, we pick it up, chapter 19, “After this I heard the sound like the roar of a great multitude in heaven: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments.’” And he’s talking about those judgments.
And then he skips down to verse 6, he says, “Then I heard the great sound like a multitude, like the roar of rushing waters, like loud peals of thunder, and shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) And then the angel said to me, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words.’” And so, we have this experience with God. And, again, we get things so mystical. Jesus said to the disciples, “I’m going to come back. There’s going to be this time, I won’t eat of it again until we’re in My kingdom.”
And what we’re going to find is shortly after this meal and I don’t know what it’s going to be like but it’s got to be great. He’s going to come and He’s going to do something that down deep in your heart and my heart and everyone’s heart we really, really, really, really want to see happen and it’s our greatest frustration and yet when we talk about it, we often have this sort of intellectual thing that pushes back away from it. Because what happens now is that we always talk very rightly about God’s compassion and God’s love, but God is just. The definition of justice is people get what they deserve, retribution.
And all through Revelation, I wish I had time to just go through chapter by chapter by chapter by chapter and God extends and says, “Will you let Me forgive you? Will you let Me forgive you? Will you let Me forgive you? Now, come on, come on, let Me forgive you.” And people stiff-arm, stiff-arm, stiff-arm, stiff-arm, stiff-arm, and not only stiff-arm but they’re evil. And they attack the things of God.
What is happening now, what is it? Twenty-six million kids and people are slaves in our world. I mean…Can you imagine, when we talk about education and technology and how mankind has made progress and yet in the last century, fifty million people in Russia were killed by Stalin?
I was with a friend who went and did some missionary work that was… I mean, you talk about outside the box. There’s a place in Africa where there’s a lake and people, they come silently in the night across this lake and they steal the kids out of these huts and homes, and they go back over the lake and they’re near a border, and then they sell all the kids. You talk about a mission trip, he got with a group of people that goes back over and they steal them back. And it’s gruesome and it’s hard and they’re armed and people die.
Here’s what I want you to get, there is evil. There’s something built into our heart because you’re made in the image of God about justice.
I want you to see that as you’re in heaven talking with family, after you have enjoyed an amazing meal with your Savior, you await God’s judgment of the earth at the end of the Tribulation, you will be bodily resurrected and then you will reign and judge, with Christ, for a thousand years on the earth.
Notice chapter 20, are you still with me? Revelation? It says, “I saw thrones and those who were seated and those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and not received the mark on their foreheads or on their hands.”
And notice this, “They came to life and they reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have a part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will,” you might circle the word, “reign with Him for a thousand years.”
God made promises. And, unlike us, when God makes a promise, whether you read it in the Old or New Testament, He’s going to keep it. He made this outrageous promise to David about, “A descendent of yours will be on the throne forever.” He made this outrageous promise, regardless of the geopolitical issues that happened in the world to Abraham about a piece of land and about a nation and what He would do for that nation and those Jews and those people, not just by ethnic background, but by heart relationship, of what He would do for them.
And Jesus comes back and you can read a little bit before because it’s harsh and there’s judgment and there’s a battle and He makes everything right. And then for a thousand years, on this earth, there are those people who made it through that. There’s us, New Testament saints, there’s Old Testament saints. And for a thousand years, all those promises and all those rewards, it’s lived out.
And I read this and… I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, so I grew up as a real skeptic. And sometimes as I, early on at least, read the Bible, there were things that puzzled me. Like, “God, obviously, I don’t need to know, but why a thousand years? Why Christ? Why on the earth? Okay, I get: fulfill Your promises. I get that. But just, from a philosophical standpoint…”
And I thought to myself… my parents were schoolteachers and around our table it was education every night. You pushed in the plates and great books, great authors, what was happening in the news? That was just what they did at our house. And so, I grew up with all that.
And a part of the educational system is that if we could just educate everyone in all the world, if we, if people just could think rightly, if we could create an environment that’s healthy and unpolluted, both intellectually and emotionally and the environment, if all of that, see, man is basically good and what we need to do is have enough time, enough technology, and enough education to help people learn to do what is right, then mankind would really end well.
That’s been a core philosophy of why we do what we do. And what we view as basically our technology, in every generation, is to kill more and more and more people, and us try to be on a throne, and be in control.
And it’s interesting, at least from a philosophical standpoint, you have a thousand years and in a perfect environment where Jesus is King and He rules. And people who came out of that, they marry, they have children, Satan is locked up so there is no evil for a thousand years.
And at the end of a thousand years, God releases Satan and demonic activity for one last time to tempt. And it is amazing, a significant population, out of a perfect environment, with the best education, and the great relationships, with a thousand-year track record, turn away from the God who loves them to sit on their own throne and rule their own lives.
And I just thought, “Isn’t it like God just to say, ‘You know what? Let me explain to you the heart of man.’”
Remember Jesus? When people were asking Him some questions and He denied them and He said, “No, no, no, you don’t understand. I understand what’s in the heart of man.”
See, we all basically think we’re a little bit better than we are. In fact, we think we’re a lot better than we are. And yet, you find people that have been in desperate situations and you read of stories. When under the right circumstances and amazing duress, it is almost unthinkable what the human heart can do.
You read the stories of what happened in Nazi Germany and we all think that’s those other, evil people. That’s in the heart of human beings when threatened and control and power and greed. And God says, “I’m going to deal with that.”
In fact, there’s going to be justice. In fact, finally, you will witness the justice of God at the judgment of Satan, angels, and the wicked dead at the Great White Throne and there’s a cataclysmic end to it all.
And this is what He says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from His presence, there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened.
“And another book was opened that was called the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, recorded in the books. And the sea gave up its dead, death and Hades gave up its dead, each person was judged according to what he had done.
“And then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. And if anyone’s name was not found in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
And it’s interesting, we’ve gotten so sophisticated and I hear people talk about, you know, those old days, somewhere, somehow, where people talked about damnation and hell and people don’t talk about that anymore. The Bible does.
But C.S. Lewis, the great Atheist/Agnostic who came to Christ and wrote Narnia and many other things, Mere Christianity, his perspective is so right on. He said, “What people don’t understand is hell, the lock is on the inside of the door.”
Everyone who is in hell wants to be there. God is just. Anyone who longs, seeks for, wants to be with God, oh, He is loving! He sent His Son! Opportunity. He is forgiven.
Hell is a place for people who say, “I don’t want You, God.” And so, God says, “Thy will be done.” And to people who say, “Oh, God, help me, Your will be done.” I don’t know if you’ve ever been around people who have been through, I mean, gnarly, nasty, ugly, violent divorce.
But, I mean, it’s visceral. I mean, there is name calling and there are attorneys and they steal one another’s kids. I mean, it’s ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly.
That’s the way it is between mankind and God. It’s not like there’s a group of people in hell going, “Oh, I want to be there. I want to be there.” They don’t want anything to do with God or light or goodness. And God, in His mercy and grace to you and your dignity and mine, gives us the freedom to choose in love or to reject.
And you’re going to be in heaven and you’re going to realize that the things that bugged you way more than just bugged you, that viscerally it was so wrong, it was so evil. There will come a day when every wrong will be made right and there will be justice. There was forgiveness offered but there’s justice.
Every wrong is made right. Once and for all, everything is now fair. And we all want it fair. Human history, as we know it, has come to a close. It’s taken your breath away. And then there’s this moment where, out of the sky, a new heaven and a new earth.
Look at verse 1 of chapter 21. “Then I saw heaven, a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth and the first heaven had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. And 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 I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God,’” this is his point!
“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.”
Now, okay, let’s stop. What you’ve experienced is what theologians call, “the intermediate state.” What we’re now going to talk about is what your experience will be like forever and ever and ever. Heaven, two words, is a country and a city. They look for a country, they hoped for a city whose architect is God.
Jerusalem comes down. God does this massive thing, where He makes a new earth, new heaven, new galaxies. Last time, all He did is speak and it happened. This is no big deal. And then there will be this city, it’s a huge city, it’s twenty stories high. And then there will be gates that are opened and there will be kings and countries and commerce and art and books to be written and songs to be sung and jobs to be created and nations that come together and treaties and life and work. And you doing what you were designed and made to do, at a level like never before.
Just as my body will be resurrected, so the earth will be restored.
The apostle Paul says, “We have natural or earthly bodies,” okay, they fit for this earth in a fallen situation. We’re going to have spiritual bodies that will fit the new heaven and the new earth. So, this earth is going to be, just like you’re going to be resurrected, well, we’ll still be able to recognize you, you still have your personality, you’ll have your memories. So will the earth.
My new body… well, what’s it going to be like? It’s going to be like Christ’s. 1 John 3, it says, “We do not know what we will be like, but this is what we know: When we see Him, we will be like Him.”
Now, we don’t become God but we’re going to have the same kind of spiritual body that He had. Well, what was His like? Jesus’ resurrected body ate and drank, it had flesh and bone, it had new capabilities.
This is a different view of heaven. I mean, this is like, you have meals together, Jesus said, “Could I have another piece of fish?” And He says, “Does a spirit have flesh and bones?” This is not some floating around. This is a new earth, a perfect earth, a perfect environment, you have a supernatural body, you’ll eat, you’ll drink, you’ll talk, you’ll have activities, you’ll run, you’ll walk. But there are some new capabilities.
Jesus went through walls and He was this place and then He was this place. This will be like Star Trek on spiritual steroids. Do I know exactly what it’s like? I don’t!
But here’s the deal, God gives us hints and inklings. Everything that you love most about the earth has been just a tiny little hint of what God is like. He wants to meet the deepest longings of your heart.
The best relationship, the best marriage, the best moment with a kid, the best moment on a walk, the most amazing sunrise, the best hike you’ve ever had, the best deal you’ve closed, the best shot you’ve made – all those are tiny little tastes of a creature made in the image of God and God wants you to now get to experience, what’s that like in a perfect environment? No sin, no false motives, no comparison. Well, it’s going to be a lot like the new you.
Second, it’s going to be a lot like the old earth. The new heaven and the new earth is familiar. Now, follow along. Genesis chapters 1 and 2, God visits the earth. Jesus came to the earth. There’s a new heaven and a new earth. You know, like, at Wimbledon? There’s center court? In the Bible, center court, even in all of Revelation, they keep talking about what? What’s happening on the earth!
God made mankind in a perfect environment and the perfect environment was the earth, it’s now a tainted, corrupted, fallen earth. And there’s going to be a new earth where you thrive. The old earth passed away, not annihilated. He’s going to cleanse it. But the things that you loved most about this earth will be there exponentially better, improved.
Like the old me passed away, so the old earth passes away. The Scripture says, “If any man, if any woman is in Christ,” right? “the old things pass away, behold, all things become new.” Well, my old Chip passed away but there’s a lot that looks a lot like the old Chip, right? It’s the same with the earth. The best.
The new earth is going to be new, better, different, but with continuity from the old earth. And here’s a little phrase, as I’ve studied this, has helped me the most. I was thinking about a heaven that’s where I want to be, where I want to do, in my life now, what positions me for the greatest possible experience.
As man was, so was the earth, right? Innocence. As man went, disobedience and sin, so went the earth. It groans for that day of redemption. As man will be, so will be the earth.
There are two really big questions you should be asking yourself. Question number one is, “Do I know for absolute certain, if I had a massive heart attack the moment I open my car door in the parking lot, do I know for certain that I have trusted what Christ’s work has done for me, by faith in His grace, received forgiveness, so that I would instantaneously be ushered by angels to heaven?”
Because there is an alternative that the Bible talks about. And it would break God’s heart. He has gone to extraordinary lengths.
Second question you ought to be asking yourself, us as believers, is, there’s only one throne in heaven, there’s only one throne in the universe. And there are two things that are pictured on that throne: The majesty, the glory, the holiness, and the power of God and the work of the Lamb, Christ. And the question all of us ought to ask ourselves, since we’re going to be worshipping around that and our priorities and time and energy and dreams will be aligned around who God really is then, how are we doing now?
Because your reigning, your reward, your experience is directly related to how you live that today. And the byproduct, by the way, is, since God created life to work that way, when that’s true, those relationships with other people, those relationships with things, the peace in your life, the longings that you want now, all that is aligned when He is not just a God you believe in, but He’s the personal Lord of your life. He really cares about you!
I mean, it’s like someone created and made things, imagine if you would, like a maze. And He says, “Here’s an open book test. Here’s all the ways. Here’s where to go. And by the way, you can stop here, it’s awesome, when you get here it’s even more awesome. And by the way, the end is beyond your wildest dreams. I don’t want anyone to miss it. So, here’s the test, here’s the Book, here’s the map.”
And a lot of people just say, [Chip covers his eyes with his hands] “I’d rather do it like this.” And then we can’t figure out why, when we hit walls and go over cliffs, and relationships break down, and money evaporates, and depression comes up, and life seems just out of control, we just say, “God, where are You?” And He’s saying, “It’s open book! Do it My way. Let Me help you. Let Me love you.”