"Our Final Journey"
6 - A PLACE CALLED HEAVEN
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: II Kings 6:15-17. "And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." Luke 16:22. "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Introduction: There have been times when I have been in the presence of an individual who was a believer and soon to begin life's FINAL JOURNEY, the journey into eternity. At those times, I wished Elisha were around to pray that my vision could be opened, and that I could see as Elisha's servant. It would be great to own a special pair of glasses, something like spiritual 3D glasses, so I could see angels in the room, and the heavenly escort that comes with the death of a saint. What a sight that must be! Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints." It is so easy to observe the painful side of death, it's the precious side I long to see. A man by the name of L. E. Singer once wrote while reflecting on this very scene the following words:
When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night,
O how lonely death can be;
At the end of this long tunnel is a shining light,
For death is swallowed up in victory!
But just think of stepping on shore-and finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand-and finding it God's!
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory-and finding it home!
There are some things that must remain a mystery here below. But can you imagine what is must be like to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, and experience the joy and splendor of Heaven? Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
The Word of God gives the redeemed the promise and prospect of one day dwelling forever in a place called Heaven. Like most other things, the Lord has not told us everything about our future abode, but He has told us enough to excite us, give us hope, and whet our appetites to know more. I Corinthians 13:12 says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." What do we presently know about Heaven?
Heaven is not a state of mind, a fancy, a dream, an idea, or level of consciousness. Heaven is a place as real, if not more real, than any place here on earth. In John 14, Jesus speaks of Heaven as His "Father's House." Twice Jesus uses the world "place" which is in the Greek topos from which we get the word topography. What is topography? It is the study of the lay of the land, of particular places and sites. So, Jesus speaks of Heaven as a house, a home located in a particular place.
In Acts 1:9-11 we read, "And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Jesus wasn't taken up into a state of mind. He returned to a place called Heaven. Heaven is in existence right now. It is a parallel universe, but not bound by time as is the earth.
Some may ask, "Where is this place called Heaven?" There could be many answers to that question. The most simple and obvious answer is "up." Jesus told the unbelieving Jews in John 8:23, "And He said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world." At His ascension, Jesus went up with the clouds into Heaven.
Acts 1:9-11 reads, "And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
The Bible speaks of three heavens all of which are up. The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven where the birds and airplanes fly; the second heaven is the solar system where the moons, stars, and planets orbit; and the third heaven is the abode of God or Heaven.
II Corinthians 12:2 tells us, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven."
Others might ask, "What is this place called Heaven?" The Word of God reveals that Heaven is different things at different times.
Heaven is a beautiful garden with a flowing river. The word "Paradise," is used to describe Heaven. It is a Persian word and speaks of the garden of a King. A place of beauty and fellowship. Praise God, the Paradise that was lost, shall be regained!
Heaven is the Father's House. Jesus said in John 14, "In my Father's House are many mansions." The Lord has prepared and reserved a dwelling place of His children. Can you imagine a mansion prepared by God?
Heaven is a city, the New Jerusalem. Hebrews 11:8-10 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Verse 16 speaks further about the city of God. "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city." In Revelation 21, that city the New Jerusalem is described!
Heaven will be the Millennial Kingdom of God on the earth for 1,000 years. The Old Testament Scriptures prophesy a time when the Messiah, the Lord's anointed King shall rule and reign on the earth with a "rod of iron." Revelation 20:1-4 reads, "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Surely it will be Heaven to experience and share in the righteous reign of Jesus Christ for a thousand years.
Heaven will be the "new Heaven and the new earth." In II Peter 3:9-13 we read, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Praise God, the time will come when He will say, "Behold, I make all things new." Heaven includes all these things because truly Heaven is to be with God. We shall know and serve the Lord throughout eternity experiencing God and His ever new world!
Notice Hebrews 12:22-24. "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Here we gain a view of the occupants of Heaven. Just who is in Heaven?
There are myriads of angels in Heaven. Hebrews 12:22b speaks of "to an innumerable company of angels." The word Heaven occurs 559 times in the Bible, and angels are constantly identified as being there. Here in Hebrews 12:22 are mentioned countless angels occupying Heaven. A glimpse into Heaven in Revelation 5:11 gives the same testimony. "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." Angels are God's created beings serving as His messengers and ministering servants. They are intelligent creatures, varying in rank and responsibilities. Angels have emotions, a moral sense, and volition or free will.
There are saints, believers, in Heaven. Hebrews 12:23a says, "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." Heaven is the home of the redeemed, those who believe in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Luke 23:43 Jesus told the repentant thief, "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." The Scriptures are clear that believers go straight to Heaven to be with the Lord upon their death. Philippians 1:23 reads, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." II Corinthians 5:8 says, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
Heaven is a prepared place, reserved only for prepared people. It is prepared for its citizens. In Philippians 3:20 the apostle Paul says, "For our conversation (the Greek word is pol-it'-yoo-mah and speaks of a member of a city or state, or the inhabitant of a country or district, can be translated citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." It was the practice of Rome to establish colonies in barbarous areas to tame and civilize them. Though in a foreign land, the colonists still obeyed the laws of Rome, dressed and acted like those living in Rome. We are a colony of heaven. We live on earth but our real citizenship is in heaven. One day we will go there where we who have trusted in Jesus Christ belong.
One morning in the Civil War, North and South armies camped on opposite sides of the Rappahonnack River. North band played their national song and all the North army cheered. South band played Dixie and they cheered. After a little time, one band started playing "Home Sweet Home" and then the other band picked up the tune. At the end both sides joined each other cheering with tears. Common bond, wanting to be at home. No matter what our national allegiance, all God's children call Heaven home. Heaven is our first allegiance.
Someone told of a child with a terminal illness. He asked his mother, "What is it like to die?" She said, "Do you remember when you were healthy. Some times you would play all day and be so tired you would fall asleep in your chair. The next morning you would wake up in your own bed, washed and in your clean pajamas? That's what dying is like, you go to sleep here and wake up where you belong."
Heaven is the abode of God. Hebrews 12:23b-24a says, "and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant." Heaven is where our Savior dwells! Do you remember the promise Jesus made in John 14:3? "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is the true treasure of Heaven! The psalmist celebrates the Lord God in Psalm 73:23-26 and says, "Nevertheless I am continually with Thee: Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
What will we do in Heaven? Someone was asked what he would do when he got to heaven. The man responded, "The first million years I will just walk around with a big grin on my face."
Heaven is a place of rejoicing. In Luke 15:7 Jesus said, "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." There is rejoicing in Heaven in the presence of the angels right now! When we get there, we will share in this joy. Psalm 16:11 says, "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Bro. Rudolf Lemmons went home to be with the Lord a few weeks back. Here was a man who knew how to shout and have a good time in the Lord! Since that time, I have often wondered about the spell he had when he opened his eyes in glory. For sure, once he entered Heaven, everyone knew he was there!
Heaven is a place of different roles and relationships. In Matthew 22:29-30 we read, "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Some say, "If I arrive in Heaven and Billy Watson is not there, I can't be happy." Listen, Billy will be there, but even if he wasn't, the Lord will have us feel about and view others differently. Our present relationships will be changed. This does not mean we will not know each other.
Heaven is a place of rest. Revelation 14:13 says, "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Heaven means the end of our earthly labor and toil. This does not mean it is a place of inactivity, but that we will be able to lay down the burdens and cares of this world."
Heaven is a place of ruling and reigning with Christ. II Timothy 2:11-12a reads, "It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him."
Heaven is a place of beauty and wonder. If God made this world so beautiful, what is Heaven like? The Scriptures speak ultimately of a land where there are no more tears, no more death, no more sorrow, no crying, no more pain, "for the former things are passed away." Heaven will be a place where there is no crime, no hate, no jealousy, for there will be no sin or sinner allowed. It speaks of a city and streets of pure gold clear as crystal, walls of jasper, gates of pearl, each gate made from one pearl. There will be no need of the sun or moon to shine in that place, "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
It is wonderful that we are only given a bare sketch of what it is like. If we had more information about Heaven, we would not want to remain on earth. How do you feel when you drive a new car and then go back to your old one? Heaven is so wonderful that it is beyond our imagination to grasp it all!
A rich man once asked the Lord to let him take some of his possessions to Heaven. The Lord finally allowed him to take one suitcase. The man decided to fill the suitcase with gold. When he got to the gates, Peter told him he couldn't take anything with him. The man protested that the Lord told him he could bring one suitcase. Peter said, "Show me what you brought." The man opened the suitcase and showed Peter the gold. "Well," Peter said, "I guess you can go in but I don't understand why you brought pavement with you."
Why is there a Heaven? Heaven is the reward for those who have chosen the Lord Jesus Christ and those who have labored for Him. Heaven is the place of reception where we shall see our Savior. John wrote in I John 3:1-2. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."
Heaven is about renewal. An old farmer said, "I've never had a horse that I had to force to go back to the barn." There's something about nearing theend of a journey that gives added strength to go on. Today we can take heart and be encouraged as we anticipate the glory and joy that awaits us. As the song says, "It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus."
After reviewing just a portion of what awaits us in Heaven, perhaps it makes the words of the apostle Paul carry a little more weight when he says in Philippians 1:21-24, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." Paul was one man who experienced a taste of Heaven, and here basically he said, "Heaven can wait." Why? He saw a greater need on the earth. The need is the same today. In Luke 10:20, Jesus said, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." Is your name written there in that city so fair?
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