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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
My dad died from a very unusual and rare disease called Shy Drager syndrome. It’s sort of a combination of Lou Gehrig’s, MS, and Parkinson’s disease. And so the last few years of his life, you watched him deteriorate and lose mobility, be in a wheelchair, and then into a bed.
My dad came to Christ in his fifties and was, had a thorough relationship with Jesus. But as he was ending the end of his life, you know, when you have a son who is a pastor, you expect him to know some things.
And so I’m sitting next to his bed and it’s a time where he is really getting less and less and less mobile and he can’t get up and he just confides in me, he says, “I’m afraid to die.” And he said, “I know I have a relationship with God, I know my sins are forgiven, but when I think about heaven, it’s just a blank. It’s just odd. It’s just different. It’s just, I don’t get it. And all that unknown, that sort of vague sense of, you go somewhere and, you know, I get Jesus is going to be there and the alternative is not good. But I’m afraid.”
And I remember realizing his son, who is a pastor, couldn’t say, “Oh, Dad, no, this is what heaven is like and this is specifically what will happen and this is what you’ll experience,” and like I probably could on a number of other issues. Because I realized I had never studied heaven.
In fact, I realized that in seminary we didn’t study heaven much. And I gave my dad a book and I’ll tell you a little bit later about the impact of that book, in terms of his life and his heart.
But as we start this study about heaven, I can tell you, in advance, it’s not what you think. In fact, let me ask you this, just a little inventory before we get going. How often do you think about heaven? Have you thought about heaven yet today? This week, how many times did you think, “Oh yeah, heaven, heaven, future.”
If I asked you, what are the three main things that happen in heaven, I mean, other than maybe some singing, what would it be? If you met a little boy that’s ten, eleven years old with Leukemia and was going to die, and he looked you in the eyes and said, “Will you explain to me exactly what heaven is like and what it’s going to be like? Because I really want to be there.” What would you say to him?
And what I can tell you is, for most of us, we don’t know. Archeologists have studied every culture in the world and here is what I can tell you about every culture in all mankind: there’s an absolute conviction of an afterlife.
And whether it’s painting on caves thousands of years ago or whether it’s tombs with treasures or whether it’s some story, in almost every culture about when people are good, after they die, some good things happen to them. And people that are evil, some terrible things happen to them. All across the board, God says, “Eternity has been planted in the heart of mankind.”
And so, what we’re going to do is we’re going to study, “What’s heaven like?” Not what books say, not what movies say, not what we’ve heard, not what we might unconsciously think, but what does God say heaven is like? Are you ready? Open your notes and let’s jump in together.
Why study heaven? I want to give you three compelling reasons. Reason number one is our misconceptions are crippling us. We have some false thinking, some misconceptions about heaven. For example, we have a misconception, we think we can’t know much about heaven. It’s mysterious, it’s all just about, you know, floating clouds.
And people will quote a verse in 1 Corinthians 2 that says, “Eye hasn’t seen or ear heard or entered into the heart of man all the good that God has stored up for those who love Him.” And they say, “See, you can’t know what’s going to happen.” And the name of that song, you can, “Only Imagine.”
Now let me tell you for sure, you can only imagine because it’s way beyond what we could comprehend. But the very next verse in context says, “But we have the mind of Christ.” And actually, the Bible is very clear about what heaven is, but I will tell you, it’s different than most of us think it is.
Another misconception is that it’s an other-worldliness, it’s these disembodied spirits floating around, playing harps in eternity, earning our wings. There are angels. Every movie, you know, you can never see people’s feet, there’s always the fog machines going on and there’s floating clouds and people are in white and it’s ethereal.
And I don’t know about you but part of that sounds attractive for a half hour or maybe forty-five minutes or, I think worship pastors are going to love it. But if heaven, misconception number three, is one very, very, very long church service, it might be really boring.
I actually have read in a book where a pastor, a Bible-believing pastor, actually confided in another pastor, “You know what? If it’s just one really long church service, I want to be with Jesus and I want my sins forgiven but I’m not sure I just want to actually go to heaven.”
I’ve talked to people when they’re young and we talk about the return of Christ or what would happen if you died? I’ve had people say, “I don’t want Jesus to come back until I get married. I haven’t even had sex yet!” Or I’ve talked to an elderly couple who were two or three years away from this big moment and they’re going to go to Hawaii, “I don’t want Jesus to come back because we haven’t even gone to Hawaii yet!” In other words, “We don’t know what heaven is like, but it can’t be better than marriage, sex, or Hawaii.”
I mean, that’s kind of a limited view, don’t you think? Those misconceptions then lead to some predictable results. One, we have a very temporal perspective instead of an eternal perspective. There’s a reason why the Church, the old word used to be “worldly;” we live for the now.
The first two millennia of the Church, heaven was a central topic. Teaching was paramount about heaven and hell and judgment and clarity and what it would be like. And in the last hundred years, as I’ll share in a minute, there’s been very little teaching on heaven, let alone the new heaven and the new earth.
Second is since we don’t know what heaven is like, we don’t study it much, we don’t think about it much. I mean, when I meet people that have cancer, when I talk to people with debilitating diseases, when I go into Third World countries where situations are very, very difficult, they actually think a lot about heaven. Most of us don’t.
Heaven holds very little hope or peace or that longing for home. You know that sense that, for some of you that travel, travel, travel, travel and you’ve been on planes in different countries and, you know, you finally get home and you lay in your own bed for one night and you get up the next morning, you go, “It is so good to be home.” Multiply that infinitely, that’s what heaven is going to be like.
But most people, it doesn’t create any longing or any hope. I gave this book, probably the most definitive work in recent years, Heaven by Randy Alcorn.
But he literally read a hundred and forty books, all written within the last two hundred years, on heaven, then studied all the Bible, and put it together and came to the conclusion, “I never heard any of this.” That’s the book I gave my dad.
He read it when he could, by himself, for a while and then he got where he really couldn’t sit up and read very well. His wife, that was a pretty thick book, she read it out loud to him. And I’ll never forget, it was a few months later and I came back and the days were getting really close and we knew he wouldn’t live long and my dad went through horrendous times as a young man in World War II and some other issues. And he was paralyzed, most of his life, by fear.
I don’t know if any of you had World War II dads, but I would remember every night my dad would get up and he’d check all the locks in the house. Twenty minutes later, he’d get up and check all the locks in the house. And you’re thinking, “They were locked the last time.”
But he had been through so much, he lived with overwhelming fear. And I remember a nurse came in and, he had read this book on heaven and she was talking to him about what they might do, and could they extend his life and resuscitation and he couldn’t move his legs now.
And he turned to her and said, “Lady, no matter what you do, don’t use any extreme means, don’t resuscitate me, don’t put any feeding tubes down me, here’s what I want you to know, it’s all written down, I’m going to heaven and it’s great.” When you understand what heaven really is, it changes how you live life now.
In fact, that’s why, the second reason we need to study it, are you ready for this? We’re commanded! I mean, this isn’t a suggestion. We’re commanded to think about heaven.
Colossians 3. Follow along as I read. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ,” in other words, you’re a Christian. You have died with Him, you’ve been raised up with Him. “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
Notice this command: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Why? “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
A lot of the issues, a lot of the anxiety, a lot of the lack of peace that we as Christians have, a lot of the temptations that we struggle with, if we had a crystal clear picture of, not this floating around in clouds and maybe playing some harps or some boring forever church service, which is completely different from what the Bible teaches, we would have a longing for heaven and it would allow us this eternal perspective to make wiser priority decisions now.
In fact, the final reason is not just the misconceptions and not simply it’s commanded, but our faulty view of heaven destines us to a wasted life on earth. Ooh, think of that. Now, if that’s true, that’s strong. A faulty view of heaven destines us to a wasted life on earth.
Open your Bibles if you will, gospel of John. Go ahead, just open right there in the middle. I want to give you a little context as you find it. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, right there in the middle of the New Testament.
Now, Jesus has come and selected twelve, one has betrayed Him by now. In John chapter 13 He has washed their feet; they have had the Lord’s Supper. This is His last night on the earth, He’s got eleven committed guys, about a hundred and twenty people that are semi-committed that when He is resurrected they’ll at least get on the team.
And He has one final night to talk to a group of people and the God of the universe, who made all that there is, who has taken on human flesh, lived a perfect life, He’s going to die for the sins of all people of all time, three days later He’s going to rise from the dead, and He’s preparing these eleven guys, mostly blue collar workers, to transform the world. What’s He going to tell them? What’s He going to tell them?
He knows they’re going to be rejected, He knows that every single one of them, save one, will be martyred for the message and the mission. And the one that isn’t martyred ends up on a rock writing the book of Revelation. He realizes they’re going to have to have courage and be sustained through the most difficult times.
They’re going to live in a world where there is persecution in Rome, where there is immorality like the world has never known, where there’s a different god on every corner. And so, this is what He says to them, chapter 14. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place,” a specific place, “for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you,” notice, here’s the key, “I will come again, I will receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
What He understood was a crystal clear view, not of floating around, not of playing harps, not of some ethereal experience, but a crystal clear view of what heaven is like, and that new heaven on a new earth with real relationships and specifically what it’s like, would sustain them through the most difficult time in all of human history.
And they persevered because they were waiting and living for, Hebrews says, “A city” that God was building. But they actually had this sense of the future that was clear and tangible and real and attractive.
Now, turn the page, because here’s the question I want to ask and answer. If heaven is so important to Jesus, if we’re commanded to think about heaven, how in the world did we get so misinformed in the last hundred years?
How many people have heard a sermon on heaven before? Wow. Three, four hands. Now think of that. Well, first of all, the Father of Lies wants us to get sucked into a world system that he is behind. So, you know he’s behind this.
Second, somewhere along the line, and it happens, study Church history, you have centuries that bleed this way and they focus on a few things and to the neglect of this. And then the pendulum swings back a couple centuries and you see this.
What I have here is nearly every pastor in America, these are classic theology books. Every pastor that teaches like I teach has these. Here is a six volume by Schaeffer, six volumes, see all these volumes in red? There are two pages on the new heaven and the new earth. This is Berkhof, classic, Systematic Theology, seven hundred and thirty-seven pages, there’s one page on the new heaven, the new earth.
This is called, this is Baxter’s Explore the Book, that’s a thick book, there’s about four pages near the end. Hodge has three volumes; he has three pages on the new heaven and the new earth. And Ryrie, who was one of my professors, who talks very clearly about all the End Times and Tribulation and mid and post and all the issues, you get to the new heaven and the new earth and it’s not included.
We haven’t taught people in seminaries about the new heaven and the new earth and what heaven is really like, so pastors haven’t taught it to the people and so most people… Why in the world does the church so gravitate toward: “now” is all that matters? I’ve got to get it now. I deserve a break today. Right now, is the only thing that counts. Why our priorities, do they get so skewed? Why is temptation so hard to resist?
I’m going to suggest that unlike the early apostles, and unlike the first two millennia of the Church, we really have no idea what heaven is really like.
So, let’s dig in. A theology of heaven, do a little research together. The word “heaven,” if you’re just opening your Bible and you read the word “heaven,” there are three different ways that it’s used.
Sometimes the word “heaven” literally means just the atmosphere or the sky. Okay? I mean, it’s the heaven. Sometimes the word “in heaven” is used as the stars and the galaxies.
The third use of “heaven” is the “abode of God.” In other words, it’s where God is. It’s where God hangs out. It’s a specific place.
If you open up to the book of Revelation and you read chapter 4 and chapter 5 and it has the throne and the elders and literally what theologians call that, the “intermediate heaven.” We’ll talk about that in a minute. But that’s where God is, the abode of God: heaven.
So just to get our terms straight, we’re going to talk about the third phrase.
Notice, I just did a little topical study for you: The Promise of Heaven, and just look up these verses. Heaven seems to be very important to God, even though we don’t know much about it.
Let me just go through. According to the Scripture, here’s some promises related to heaven. It’s a real, tangible place, John 14. The Father is there, Matthew 6. Remember? “Our Father who art in heaven.” Jesus is at His right hand, Hebrews 9. Believing loved ones are there, Hebrews 12. Our names are recorded there, Luke 10. We have an inheritance.
I mean, when you think about an inheritance, I mean, if your dad was a billionaire and he just told you, “I just want you to know, I’m leaving everything to you,” wouldn’t there be a little bit of excitement that when he’s gone there’s something coming your way?
God says you have an eternal inheritance. Those aren’t just kind of bubbly, gobbly, biblical words. There’s something real that you get. Our citizenship is there, Philippians 3. Specific eternal rewards are given.
It’s the best of earth, better. It’s very tangible. It’s very real.
There’s an old earth that’s fallen. We’re going to learn there’s a new earth. Sin, death, and sorrow are absent, Revelation 22. And then something that most of us don’t think about: Adventure, work, discovery, and ruler-ship await us when the new heaven comes down on this new earth that really will be heaven.
So, I don’t know about you, that’s a pretty important list of things that are coming my way that I ought to know about. Those major issues and core themes in Scripture, the confusion comes when we lump how we think about heaven, “the abode of God,” and the intermediate heaven and the new heaven and the new earth. We tend to lump all those things together; they’ve never been separated and explained.
And so, because it’s not clear, it provides very little real, tangible sense of, “This is what heaven is like.” So, let me give you next heaven in historical context. And when I use the word “heaven,” don’t think just of this intermediate heaven where people go right now.
I want you to think of heaven as the abode of God. I want you to think of, the key with heaven, every time when you read “heaven,” it’s where God is. Where God is. And so there’s three major themes, historically, of heaven.
You have Eden; God has created a perfect world. And He takes mankind in this perfect world, He creates a garden, it’s pleasing to the eyes, there’s a perfect place, and God from heaven visits mankind.
In all likelihood, the pre-incarnate Christ, or what theologians call a theophany. And He walks with men and He talks with men and they have relationship and you have Adam and Eve in this perfect environment and they name animals and they are told to rule and multiply and have this amazing experience. And God created mankind in this perfect environment with the stipulation, “Don’t eat from this one tree.”
So, God comes and visits mankind on an earth that’s perfect. There are no hurricanes, there’s no tsunamis, there’s no earthquakes – it’s perfect.
Then we’ll move to chapter 3 and sin enters the world. Romans 8 says sin not only impacted the separation from man and God, but it impacted all of creation. Creation groans. And so now we have these dysfunctional things that happen in the creation as it’s groaning.
We have man is separated from God, and so now God sends His Son, He becomes fully God but he’s already God, fully man and He comes to live among us, to rescue us, lives a perfect life, dies upon a cross, pays for our sin so that we can have relationship.
The moment a person dies during this window of time between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, you immediately go into the presence of God and it’s called “the intermediate heaven.”
You might jot in your notes, “Philippians chapter 1 verses 20 and 21.” Paul says, “I don’t know what to do.” He thinks he’s going to be executed. “If I die, I’ll be immediately with Christ, who is much better. But maybe I should stay to minister to you.”
You might jot down, “2 Corinthians 5:6.” It says, “To be absent from the body is to be home with the Lord.” So, there’s no soul sleep; there’s no delay. But when you die in the present, you’re immediately in the presence of God, but you don’t have a resurrected body. The resurrection comes later.
The future, what we have, beginning in chapters 21 and 22 is there is a new heaven and a new earth. And in resurrected bodies, we will live on this new heaven and this new earth.
And sometimes, if I told you that you have an old car but I’m going to give you a new car, and your old car is fifteen years old and it breaks down and it has problems. And I said, “But I’m going to give you a new car,” I don’t think you would say, “I have no idea what a car is.”
Now, what you know, it’s going to drive better, it’s going to be more comfortable, but it’s going to have a lot of the same characteristics as the old car. Here’s what I want you to see, the heaven that God has planned for you is very akin to the heaven that was when He came down and created a place where He wanted to be with men that He visited.
And in this old, perfect environment, God longed for relationship.
But there was life, there was focus, there was beauty, there was work, there was a discovery, there was learning, there was naming, there was ruling, it was real life with real people on a real earth. God promises in the future heaven, literally, we’ll look at it in a minute, will come down and there will be actually heaven on earth, the New Jerusalem, and there is a new earth with none of the problems of the fallen earth.
Let me show this to you. Now, if you’re looking at me with that weird look, it’s okay because this is foreign to most Christians. Right? I mean, most of us have not been taught that so what I don’t want you to think is, “I think Ingram just went off the deep end.”
Will you open your Bible to Genesis? The past is Eden, Genesis 1 and 2, God visits the earth with man. The present, this intermediate heaven, the moment you die, you go to be with Jesus, but you don’t have a resurrected body.
So in this arena, God becomes man to rescue man from a fallen earth. There’s going to be a window of time, where God is going to set up and fulfill all of His promises on this earth, and then finally there is, heaven comes down to earth and there’s a new heaven on a new earth in an absolutely perfect environment.
Follow along, Genesis chapter 1, you got it? Look at verse 26, just to highlight. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the sky and over the cattle and over the earth, and every creeping thing that’s on the earth.’ And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female.”
And then notice, “To be fruitful and to multiply, and to fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule it.” And then He talks about the specifics of how that looks. And then notice the giving and the heart and the blessing. God says, “Behold, I have given you every plant of yielding seed that is on the surface of the earth, and every tree with fruit yielding for your food.” And then He talks about the beasts and, “I have created food for all of them.”
“And God saw everything that He had made,” there at the end of chapter 1, “and it was very good. And thus, the heavens and the earth were completed,” chapter 2 verse 1. Verse 4 it says, “This is the account of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the heaven and the earth.”
And so, chapter 1 of Genesis is just this wide-angle lens, the big picture of seven days, all that God did, man in His image. But here’s what I want you to get. There is this Creator God that spoke all the world into existence and on this planet, He created it special and then He made us and then He put us in it and then He created an environment to have deep, intimate fellowship with us and one another. And then He gave us purpose. “Rule, multiply, work, write, sing, create culture, literature, live with Me intimately.”
Now chapter 2, the author says, “Okay, there’s the wide-angle lens, let me zoom in and tell you a little bit about how it actually happened. Pick it up at verse 7. “Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and he placed the man there that He had formed.”
Do you see this Fatherly: “I want to create this wonderful environment”? “And out of the ground the Lord caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Look at verse 10. “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden.” Now, I want you to get this: the trees, the pleasing, the tree of life, a river. Because what I’m going to show you, we’re going to go all the way to the very end of the Bible. We’re going to skip everything that happens from about Genesis chapter 3 all the way through all the time and chronology of the Bible, when God is going to make everything right. And you’re going to find that there are some trees and that there is a river and then everything He started here that gets destroyed, He’s going to bring back on a new heaven and the new earth.
Notice it goes on, “The Lord took the man and He put him into the garden of Eden,” and notice there’s a job, “to cultivate it and keep it.” On this new earth, you’ll have jobs.
The kind of jobs that you’ll have is directly proportional to our faithfulness in our time on this earth. And then notice the compassion and relationships.
It said, “The Lord said, ‘It’s not good for man to be alone; I’ll make a helper suitable for him.’” And then we get the story and then I love this. “And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man,” and sometimes we miss, “and He brought her to the man.”
This is a benevolent, loving, Father, Creator who is creating an environment and a world for the greatest joy of His creation and their relationships with one another, in the environment that they live in. He has given them jobs and work and cultivation and purpose, meaningful relationships.
And then in this first world, notice, “And they were naked and unashamed.” There’s no sin, there’s no self-consciousness, there’s no mixed motives, there’s no using of people.
And then we pick up the story and that was the perfect plan. Flip the page to chapter 3 verse 6 and we find that sin enters in. And verse 6 says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave it to her husband, and he ate also.
“And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of God among the trees of the garden. And the Lord called to the man, and said, ‘Where are you?’
“And he said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’” And so we have now, instead of a perfect environment, sin enters in. We have separation from God, we’re going to find in this story, separation from man. He blames her, she blames the serpent, and God then says, “There’s a judgment. There’s a judgment that happens for the woman in childbirth, there’s a judgment for the man that we struggle with futility in our work. There’s a judgment on the serpent.”
But then there’s this great mercy toward the end, verse 21, “And the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and Eve, his wife, and clothed them. Then the Lord said, ‘Behold, the man has become like Us,’” speaking of the tri-unity of God here, “knowing good from evil; lest he stretch out his hand, and also take from the tree of life.”
See, he eats from the tree of life in this fallen state, you stay separated forever. And so, as you read on, He puts a cherubim, which is those big, powerful angel with a flaming sword, to guard it. And so that’s the story. And the whole rest, what we have, the whole rest of the Bible is the story of God’s grace and prophets and Old Testament and offerings and revelation of God and the promise of a Messiah, and the Messiah comes and then He lives a perfect life and He declares who God really is, the Father, and His love for people, full of truth and grace.
And then He’s crucified, and He rises again, and He pays for the sins of all people of all time. And the Church is born, and the Church takes the message. And then Jesus comes back and He takes His Church from the earth and God brings about final judgment and justice and He fulfills all those promises that He made in this thousand-year reign where Jesus is Judge and King. And then there’s a final, final judgment. And then there’s a new heaven and a new earth. Now, I don’t know about you, but all my life growing up, I never heard about a new heaven on a new earth. And now some of you, you understand that on this old earth there are times where you’ve seen a sunset that just moved your heart.
I had an experience with one of my grandsons this week and they stayed overnight with us and I dropped him off at school and I left and he ran down the hall and grabbed my leg and he pulled me down. And he hugged me really tight and he looked at me eyeball to eyeball. And he said, “I love you paw-paw.” And I thought, Wow. He just, he can’t get anything out of this. This is just like innocent, real. And then he went a few more steps and I started to walk away and he called my name again. And he went like this. And then I almost got to the end and he got to the very end, “Paw-paw!” And he… That’s a taste of the new earth.
Some of you have held a brand-new baby in your arms and with tears streaming down your face, and there’s a sense of awe. That’s a taste of what the real new earth is going to be like. Some of you have had some of the deepest friendships and great relationships and people have known things about you that you didn’t want to share and they expressed acceptance and love and commitment and there has been a bond where you have been in relationships that you would literally die for one another. That’s a taste of heaven.
Some of you have built companies or dreamed dreams for your kids and worked and worked and worked and you’re seeing the fruit of it. And there’s these little moments where they maybe walk across a stage or accomplish something and there’s something that swells up inside of you that says, “It can’t get any better than this.”
There’s some of us that have been married for many, many years and find ourselves, after all the ups and downs and potentially counseling and struggles and kids.
And you feel like, “I love this person more than I thought I could ever love anyone,” and you hold them close to you in your bed and you think, “Oh God, I can’t imagine what heaven is like but I can’t imagine life without this person.” That’s the old car. The new car is that on spiritual infinite steroids and that’s what heaven is like.
Turn in the back, I want you to see this, okay? Turn all the way back, Revelation chapter 21. “I saw a new heaven,” chapter 21, verse 1, Revelation, it’s the last book, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, made as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,” or in their midst.
“And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; no longer any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Circle that word. “And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”
You know, we talk a lot when a person puts their faith in Christ, we said, “If any man or any woman is in Christ, the old things pass away, behold, all things become new.” Same Greek word.
And the “new” is a different kind, a different kind, a better and different kind. It’s not new as in completely different, you’re a new, but it’s a new person. He’s going to make a new earth.
And for the first time, heaven comes down and what you see there dwells on earth. And that’s not just the only city. And there are nations, and there’s life, and there’s community, and there’s art, and there are books to be written, and songs to be written, and jobs to accomplish, and a world like the best that you’ve ever, ever, ever tasted on the old earth, in this new earth, and He doesn’t visit and He doesn’t come and just save us, but He’s with us forever and ever and ever.
On the next page, I tried to picture this for you, because I know it’s a bit odd. But I wanted you to see it first in Scripture. We have a faulty, skewed, unbiblical view of heaven and therefore we’re not motivated accurately because it’s false. I mean, to be honest, most of us, down in our gut, and some of you are different and we thank God for you. But most people, if I said, “You could go to heaven right now, this instant, or ten years from now after A, B, C, D, and E and these goals you accomplish,” most of us, if we’re honest, I want to go, but like, ten years later. I want to see this… Because we don’t get it.
A lady emailed me, a good friend, she’s in Columbus and her mom passed away yesterday and she said, “Chip, my mom just passed into the presence of the Lord and dealing with the loss and the hurting,” and I had a very quick email, “Kitty, heaven is for,” all caps, “REAL. It’s real. And there’s great comfort. It is real. And you will see her again.”
Understanding heaven requires a macroscopic view of Scripture and a microscopic view of God’s purposes for His people. This is kind of what I want you to get.
Okay, I’ve kind of given you this picture of the past. There’s Eden and how God works and there’s this time now between Genesis 3 and when the Lord finally comes back and sets up a new kingdom and the moment you die you go to this intermediate heaven like you see in Revelation 4 and 5.
And what I want you to see is to get this, to really grasp this, you need a macroscopic view of Scripture. You need to see the whole thing. But you need to see a microscopic view of God’s purposes.
So, what is God doing? What is the role of Jesus, our Savior, in the midst of all this? And so, I’ve put three different charts here, I just made these up. But they all tell the same story. But I want you to see it.
So, the macroscopic view of Scripture is this. You’ll notice, Genesis 1 and 2 on the left side. And why don’t you put a little line in there in between two and three, and just write, “The Fall,” or “Sin.” Because everything changes.
And then underneath that, you could just put, “OT” for anything on the left side of the cross. And then on the right side put, “NT.” That’s all the history of the Old and New Testament.
And then what we know is Jesus promised that He’s going, the word “Rapture” just means “to be caught up” or “catch.” People can debate a lot of things but He’s going to come back for His Church.
There’s a judgment for believers, not for your sin but for rewards. And then there’s this thousand-year reign where Jesus will fulfill all those promises He made to David about the throne and Abraham about the land and there’s this environment that occurs and people that go into that.
And then at the end of that time, there’s a final, final judgment of Satan after he is released and there’s what’s called The Great White Throne and the sheep and the goats. And there are people who say, “Look, God’s mercy, God’s love, this intent, You love me, You care for me, You want to be in control, You want me with You forever and ever and ever, but I need to recognize Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings. After all You’ve done,” some people say, “You know what? My will be done, not Yours.”
And so, God has created a place for those people that want nothing to do with Him, they can be separated from Him forever. It’s called hell. And all those who put their faith in Him will say, “I can’t imagine a Creator that would create a world like this and then come and die, rise from the dead, prove it’s true, demonstrate it over two thousand years, all for eternal life.”
And the basis of their relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ, He says, “Enter in to eternal dwellings with Me.” There’s a final judgment. And then there’s this new heaven and new earth that we read about.
Notice on your notes, right below it, is so that in Genesis 1 and 2, it’s God with man in a perfect earth; Jesus is a theophany, He visits the earth, He walks with man. In Genesis 3 through Revelation 20, you’ve got God separated from man on a cursed earth and Jesus is the incarnate Savior and Redeemer.
And then in chapter 20 you have God with man on a temporary earth, the Millennial Kingdom, He’s the King of kings and it ends as His being the Judge. Jesus said, “I’m going to judge. The Father has entrusted to Me judgment.” And then finally you have God with man in a perfect earth forever and Jesus is the Emmanuel. He’s with us forever.
A simple overview of all of those are, I just tried to say, “Okay, the original and the ending.” So, God’s original intent for mankind on earth? And you might jot some of these words down under this, I put, “Life, rule, growth, beauty, fellowship; a planet made for us to enjoy, explore, and to live with God.” That’s the old earth! Joy, beauty, explore, adventure, grow!
And then you have this interim period where sin, death, and a cursed earth and you have Christ, by His grace, brings redemption, the promise of resurrection to make all things new. And then we will be resurrected, in fact, all people will be resurrected – the wicked and the righteous – at the final judgment.
And then at that final judgment, the righteous, it’s God’s new heaven comes down on a new earth and just like a lot better version of an old car, the new earth will be like the old one in purpose. Life, rule, growth, beauty, fellowship; a place made for us to enjoy, explore, live with God forever. Better than the best old earth and infinitely better than the best you’ve ever hinted at in every accomplishment, in every relationship, in any sense of peace.
But it’s a real place with real people with nations and relationships and jobs and culture and music. It’s the old earth as God intended. But you know the difference? We will have remembered what it cost. We will understand grace like angels don’t ever understand grace. We will see the mercy and the grace and the power of God and we will be in a place where sin never happens again. That’s the promise of Scripture.
The summary is very, very simple and maybe you’ve never received it, from your head to your heart. Here’s the summary, you look at all those charts, they all say one thing: God wants to be with His people. Is this amazing?
He creates us, He wants to be with us, He walks with us, He wants to be with us, so He comes and dies for us. He wants to be with us, so He creates a new heaven and a new earth. He wants to be with us but He’s fair so there is judgment and there’s justice. And no matter what we experience during this interim time, God’s going to make everything right. Nobody gets a raw deal.
And this does three very important things and it’s why I think heaven matters. Back page. An accurate view of heaven provides three powerful things. Number one, perspective in times of trouble. Perspective. The apostle Paul had been left for dead, he had been beaten up a number of times, he went through a world and a life almost unimaginable. And his perspective is this. By the way, he got to go to that third heaven and get a little snapshot and God brought him back.
And he says this, “Therefore we don’t lose heart, though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Heaven, by Randy Alcorn says, it will change your life when you get a clear, specific picture of things that aren’t seen in the future. It gives you perspective.
And he says, “Your life is a little dot.” In fact, inside that tiny, little pencil dot, it would take a powerful microscope, that dot is all of time. And inside that, maybe there’s seventy, maybe there’s eighty years, a shade more for some, and a lot less for others.
And He says, “What you do inside that tiny, little dot impacts all of eternity.” Many, many, many, many people unconsciously live for the dot instead of the line. It gives you perspective. What matters?
People on their last days, they regret working too much; they regret not investing in relationships; they regret not developing the spiritual relationship with God earlier; they regret misplaced priorities. Tell you what, when you get clear on heaven, you get smart.
Second thing is perseverance in times of temptation. And I mean that in the biblical word. Temptation not only to sin but trials. Things that, temptation to give up, temptation to give up in your marriage, temptation to give up on one of your kids, temptation to give up because you’re so overwhelmed by financial pressures. Notice what the Scripture says in John 14. He says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” I want you to know there is a specific place, you can endure. Some people will go through all of this life and never receive what God wants, end of Hebrews. He said the world wasn’t worthy of them. God is fair. But He doesn’t bring all the fairness in this life.
I will tell you, you talk about endurance, when I learned my wife had cancer, I can tell you where I was, where we sat on the couch, where we cried, praise God we’re done with it, it’s good, she’s okay. But I remember thinking, “I don’t know if I’m going to have her or not.” And then I remember thinking, “Well, how am I going to deal with this?” And then I realized, “Okay, my theology tells me and I know in my heart, God is good. And she is His. He has every right to have her go to heaven before I go to heaven.”
And I remember sitting there, through my tears, and deciding, “Okay, how do I respond to this?” And I responded by one clear statement, “Heaven is real. No matter what happens. And God is good. And, honey, that’s how we’re going to go through this.” It will sustain you in your temptations and your trials. But if it’s floating around in a long, boring church service, trying to get some wings and playing a harp and floating around on clouds sipping iced tea, it will not sustain you.
The final thing the Scripture says is that it gives us our priorities. When under pressure, especially, you want this now and there are time orientations. Jesus said for our benefit, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy.” In other words, it’s a bad ROI. You’ll lose it. But notice the motivation, “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” You mean you actually have an account? There’s actually a real place on a new earth that you might want some resources and that what we do here actually impacts that? Yes! That’s not spiritual, biblical gobbledygook. That’s how we think of it. “Oh, store up, this is what people say when they try to get your money.”
Giving generously of your time and your treasure and your talent is about helping people now with a view to say, “God, I’m going to do this for an audience of one and I want my reward not to be what people think of me. I realize I’m going to be on a new earth and I’d like to have an account that’s well funded when I get there to do things that I would long and dream to do.”
God is not a socialist and he’s not a communist and heaven will be wonderful for everyone but it will not be equal. What I do and what you do with your time, your talent, your treasure will determine the quality of part of your new earth experience. It’s just what the Bible teaches.
He gave five talents to one, two talents to one, one talent to another and they used it in different ways. And they were rewarded in different ways. Isn’t it amazing to think that heaven is a real place with real opportunity to use your gifts, to have amazing relationships, to live in what we’ve tasted here, better, forever?