HEAVEN IS NO JOKE EITHER
Dear Friends in Christ,
Pastors get asked all kinds of interesting questions. One time a little girl, held by her mother, came to shake my hand after the service. The little girl asked, “Pastor, is there dirt in heaven?” You just have to wonder what made her think of that. I am sure some of you are wondering what I said. “Hey, Erica! Your dad is a smart man, he can tell you.”
Christians wonder a lot about heaven. There are all kinds of questions we have. Will there be pets? I’d like to think that there will be dogs in heaven, but I am not so sure about cats. You know that I am saying that tongue in cheek because we really don’t know. The same answer applies to questions like: Will we be able to fish or golf or have a beer? Those are man questions. A woman would say, “There isn’t going to be any ESPN there, will there?” The answer remains the same. The Bible doesn’t give answers to questions like that.
Last Sunday, in this season of End Times we talked about the certainty of Judgment Day - It is no joke. Today we turn our attention to what happens after Judgment. Heaven is No Joke Either. 1) It is our real destiny; 2) It is out of this world.
Steve Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist is a very gifted man. Yet he doesn’t believe in the one who gifted him. He is now in his early seventies and suffering from a disease similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This past September he signed a document that says that he agrees with assisted suicide. He says that the human brain is a like a computer that will inevitably stop working when its components fail. He says: "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark." Nasty man for someone who seems so close to death!
Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” Mr. Hawking believes it is foolish to believe in the Lord. But you know something, Mr. Hawking? You can call us fools but we know where we are going when we die and we know why we are going there. We don’t mean to pile on you when you are so frail, but you really ought to reconsider you position in the light of your weakness. Our “weak” God is a lot stronger than you. In fact, he is strong to save. You said that heaven is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the dark? It is interesting that our God calls another place darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mr. Hawking, if you are going to live without Jesus, I would be vewy, vewy afwaid!
For a Bible believing Christian, heaven is no joke but very real. If you believe in Jesus, you have to believe in heaven. His whole purpose for coming here was to get us there.
The Bible uses all kinds of names for heaven –Paradise, the marriage banquet, sitting on the thrones, our Father’s house with many rooms, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth and more. When Paul went from city to city, he said he preached Christ and him crucified. Why? Because Christ came to get us to heaven through his death and resurrection! As a preacher, I gave some thought to the thousands of sermons I have preached over the years. I am positive that most spoke of heaven as our goal and its certainty through Jesus. Someone recently wrote me and asked me what she and her husband should see inOrlando. This was the first time they were going there. I am no expert onOrlandoeven though we lived there for thirteen years. We went toOrlandoto do the Lord’s work, not to vacation. But anyone who goes toOrlandoreally does need to go to Disney. Universal Studios is good too if like to have the feeling of having your stomach near the top of your esophagus. My favorite place was Sea World. And if you have time, take a trip to the coast; it’s only thirty five miles east to seeKennedySpaceCenter. By the way, just go north of there toTitusvilleand find a restaurant called Dixie Crossroads for some really good seafood. Long waits but worth it! Oh yeah, take a lot of money along. This is not coming from someone who is an expert but someone who lived there for thirteen years.
If you want to know about heaven you go to the expert. You go to the one who came from there. He is the ultimate expert and heaven is far better than Disney. Besides, it’s absolutely free. Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Directions? How do you get there? “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus said. It’s real because Jesus says it is; it’s certain because Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made it certain.
And it’s out of this world. After my vicar (intern) year in a congregation, one of the pastors under whom I worked had a heart attack at O’Hare Field inChicagoas they were leaving for vacation. The EMT’s who worked on him couldn’t raise a heart beat for twenty minutes. Finally it got back to beating again. In their words they said he was dead for twenty minutes what they witnessed was quite miraculous. When I got to see Pastor, I asked him if the Lord had given him a twenty minute tour of heaven. He smiled and said that he didn’t have any remembrance of that at all. We hear stories of out of body experiences. Don’t put a lot of stock in them. The Bible is the heaven manual on that subject.
The first thing that needs to be clarified is the fact that no language in the world can totally describe what heaven is like. There is a reason. The apostle Paul was referring to himself when he said, “And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows (he doesn’t know if he was actually transported there or whether it was a vision) — was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” The earth has no words to describe heaven. For Paul it wasn’t just a matter of being speechless, Paul’s vocabulary didn’t have words to describe what he saw.
Isaiah says, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” A new experience has not been experienced before. A new car has not been driven before. A new home has not been lived in before. A new heaven and a new earth will be new to us all, a new experience.
In what ways? In big ways! We won’t have any bad memories. “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” Courtney doesn’t remember about three weeks of her life back in October and November of 2005 when she was in a severe accident because of a brain injury. Her family does. In heaven that won’t be remembered any more. There are a lot of things that I – or maybe better said – we would like to forget: the sins, the bad news, the bad experiences, the bad mistakes, the bad decisions, the bad grades, the bad temper, the bad times. They will be gone – in heaven!
Someone wrote this that I know from years past. He said, “Very disappointed right now in the world! I'm not just referring to the government that we are forced to deal with, I am referring to us, not excluding myself. What makes life difficult and gives us a reason to be depressed and just have bad days is the way we treat each other. A simple thank you, an apology, some positive motivation amongst each other can make us all have much better days. We may not be able to change the way the world is moving on a daily basis but we have the opportunity to touch each other in a much better fashion and help each other have much better lives. In the end, how our lives will be determined will be based upon on how we treat each other!” Someone might say this is pessimism. I believe it is realism. Someone and something really got him down.
But heaven awaits! What a contrast! “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” That’s hard to imagine to live in heaven where there is joy upon joy. But there is nothing to make us sad. No sin, no typhoons or disasters or tragedies will no longer exist! The news industry would only be able to report happy stories. That’s hard to fathom but it’s true.
There is more. Time will be different. There won’t be any. God explains this in a most unusual way. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” He is using human experience with time to explain eternity. No end of life. No death to tear our hearts out because no one will be subject to time ending. Nothing is on a timer.
Everything will prosper. Again it is evident that human language fails when attempting to view life in heaven. The following poses an interesting perspective. “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.” A lot of times people have the picture that heaven is aland ofLazy Boys and big screens with movies and ESPN. Adam and Eve, in their perfection, did not sit around. They were given work to do. They were to take care of the Garden of Eden. They enjoyed work. They had purpose doing it. Unfortunately it lasted just a short time. Just as God gave human beings the opportunity to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air somehow God is going to allow us to reign in heaven with him. We will have things to do. But God will reverse the curse of sin. No toil. No sweating. No achy and tired bodies. That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” One of the problems that we have is wondering if we are praying for things that God really wants us to have. We wonder if he is saying ‘no,’ or ‘yes’ or ‘not yet,’ or ‘I will give you something else.’ We pray and wait. No need to do that in heaven. We will see the good Lord face to face and be able to engage him in a conversation as a child to his father.
Finally we will live in peace with the Lord and all the saints forever. He describes natural enemies, a wolf and a lamb, feeding together. A lion will be eating straw and not people. Perfect and everlasting peace! And that time is coming to receive it in its fullness.
A doctor many years ago made a house call on a dying man. The man asked his doctor about heaven. The doctor fumbled around for a reply. He heard some scratching at the door and asked the patient, “Do you hear that?" "That’s my dog,” the patient said. “I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient. Even though he doesn’t know what is behind the door, he has come up here because he heard my voice.”
The doctor smiled and replied, “Isn't that same with you? You don't know everything that lies beyond the Door, but you know that your Master is on the other side. That’s no joke.