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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
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.”
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. But all of a sudden, it’s like C.S. Lewis’ point about all of life is like eternity as a line.
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?