Saturday, September 4, 2010

Heaven, Hell & Eternity

Heaven, Hell & Eternity
Part One – Heaven

Have you ever wondered what Heaven, Hell & Eternity will look like? Each one of us is destined to live much longer than the time we spend on this late, great planet earth. In fact, we are designed to live forever, not in this body, but we will each be eternally existent, either comforted or tormented, forever and ever – time without end.

For that reason it behooves us to learn a little more about our options for eternity and what we can expect between now and the final judgment day. So, without further ado let’s get started by turning to:

Revelation 21
1 ¶ Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

This morning we are going to begin looking at what the Bible has to say about heaven, hell and eternity. The passage we just read from Revelation 21 is a good starting place from which we can match other scriptural references to draw a more complete picture of the future of all mankind.

Today we are going limit our study to heaven; next Sunday, September 12th, we’ll look at hell; followed by September 19th’s revelation on, “From Here to Eternity”, how we get there and what we can expect.

The word Heaven is mentioned 691 times in the King James translation of the Bible. Many times it is used to refer to the expanse of space on earth or in the universe above the earth sometimes referred to as the heavenlies. At other times this term is used to describe an umbrella of authority called the Kingdom of Heaven which has no certain physical boundaries.

However for our study this morning we are going to look at the instances when Heaven is spoken of in the Bible as a place to which the souls of the just are welcomed between the time they are taken from the earth and God’s final judgment day. This is the place we often think of when we hear the word Heaven.

We catch a glimpse of the dimensional reality of Heaven from the after death account of a man spoken of by Jesus in Luke 16.

Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

Jesus gave us knowledge that after death, the souls of the just are attended by angels and brought to an identifiable place of comfort and relief from their earthly struggles.

Heaven is a literal place, the destination for the souls of all who are just in the eyes of God. Who are the just you might ask?

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Those who have been justified, not by works but by the blood of The Lamb; Those who have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; Those who have trusted in God and have by faith accepted Messiah.

Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

What does the word justified mean in real terms? I can remember it best when I break it down phonetically: Just If I’d Just if I’d what? Just if I’d never sinned! When I am justified, it is just if I’d never sinned at all.

We are justified by faith – by our trust in and reliance upon God. This faith grants us peace with God, and it only comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If this peace only comes through Jesus and He lived and died 2000 years ago, what about Moses and David and Abraham and those families who lived thousands of years before Jesus? How can they be in heaven if heaven is for the just and we are only justified through Christ? You see …

We in faith look back to Christ, the Anointed, while they in faith looked forward to Messiah. However, whether looking forward to the day when Messiah would come and offer Himself as a ransom Lamb, or looking back to the day on which He paid for our sins with His own blood, we all look unto Jesus, Son of God, Messiah and Savior of the World. Only by faith in Messiah can we be justified and only by a Savior can we be saved. Heaven is for the saved.

From study of the scriptures we know that heaven is only a temporary dwelling place for the souls of the just. Our eternal existence will be lived out and enjoyed on a new earth which will come after the millennial reign of Messiah and the final destruction of this world.

Nonetheless, Heaven is real right now and there are several things in heaven today. In Heaven at present you will find:
• God
• Jesus
• Holy Angels
• Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah)
• Faithful women from Miriam to Mary to Mother Theresa
• The Apostles, minus Judas, plus Paul
• Saints from all nations, kindred, tribes, and tongues of all ages
• No doubt there are some animals, seeing Jesus will return on a white horse leading tens of thousands of His saints turned soldiers
• A City, New Jerusalem, which is being prepared for the saints and angels to live in for eternity (talk about a planned community)

I’d like to say a word right here about that holy city, New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven. Remember we read about it in:

Revelation 21
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

This is a city that God is building, a city which He will choose to live in. Can you imagine a city that is good enough for God to call home?

Not only is God going to live there but He is building mansions, rooms in His tabernacle, for each one of His children, everyone who has been or ever will be justified by faith in Messiah and acceptance of His sacrificial blood, each one of us!

Jesus describes this city to John in Revelation 21.

• The city is 1500 miles wide, 1500 miles deep, & buildings which reach 1500 miles high. If you can imagine a single city whose footprint is large enough to cover all of England, France, Germany, Italy, The East European countries and half of the Soviet Union. New Jerusalem has a surface space of 2 million 250 thousand square miles and every detail is planned out by God.
• The city walls around New Jerusalem are a staggering ½ mile high and are made of Jasper.
• There are 12 gates, which are never closed, because there are no enemies and no night - each gate is made of one solid pearl.
• If streets were laid out on a one mile grid, there would be 4 million, 500 thousand miles of streets, each one 1500 miles long, all paved with gold so pure that it is transparent to the eye.
• The thrones of Almighty God and His Son, Jesus, are in the city along with a river which flows out from those thrones.
• By the river is the tree of life from which everyone may freely eat. (there are no forbidden fruits in this garden)

Revelation 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

This concept of new heavens and new earth are not just New Testament visions.

Isaiah 65:17 ¶ "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 66:22 "For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me," says the LORD, "So shall your descendants and your name remain.

Isaiah spoke about a day when God would create new heavens and a new earth. Some scholars say Isaiah was speaking of the era of the Church, however that could not explain why Peter, during the Church age, was still looking for the appearance of these new heavens and new earth.

2 Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

I want to leave you this morning with an acute awareness that Jesus is coming, and that He may come this week. However, even if He waits another thousand years, you will spend some time in heaven, no doubt getting it ready for its descent to come and set upon a new earth and provide comfort and security for saints from all ages throughout eternity.

Don’t miss the one opportunity you have been given to go to heaven. This opportunity has a name … His name is Jesus … know Him, know peace – without Him, there will be no peace, in this life and especially throughout eternity.

Next Sunday, providing I am still here - Hell! If I am not … it will be heaven!