By Paul Robison

As we begin 2008, our lessons have been encouraging us to begin with THE end in view.  The Bible reveals to us that THE end will involve a final judgment, where each of us must stand before Christ, and two final destinies—hell, which we looked at last Sunday, and heaven, which we’ll look at today.  Since about 80% of Americans still believe in heaven, it is not surprising that Barbara Walters hosted an ABC special on the topic in December of 2005.  Here are some other interesting statistics associated with Americans’ beliefs in heaven: 53% say that good works can earn a person a place in heaven, 45% say that good atheists will go there, and only 30% say that one must believe in Jesus to go there!  Books on heaven these days are making big sales.  So this morning, let’s look at four aspects of heaven: some misconceptions about heaven, some purposes of heaven, some descriptions on heaven, and some activities in heaven.

There are many misconceptions about heaven.  Some people see heaven as a nebulous place where people fly around like the angels.  There are even movies and television commercials where people talk about their wings.  Some people think heaven will be a dull existence filled with boredom.  A cartoonist once pictured a man sitting by himself in heaven and saying, “Sure wish I’d brought a magazine along.”  Some people think that heaven will be just an extended worship service where people will just sing and play their harps all the time.  Like Huckleberry Finn, some people don’t have any hankering to be involved in that activity!  And some believe that heaven will really be just a glorified earth governed by excellent rulers who will maintain a perfect world peace.  With so many misconceptions, let’s see what the Scriptures have to say on this important topic.  Undoubtedly, this lesson will not provide answers to all the questions that could be asked on this subject, and it can only provide something of a glimpse at best as to what heaven will really be like.  Please use the references given in this lesson as only a beginning point for your own further study on this important topic.

Now let’s look at the purposes of heaven.  In Revelation 22:12, Jesus says that He is coming to reward all people according to their works.  In Matthew 25:46, Jesus says that the righteous will go in to eternal life.  Putting these two passages together, we see that heaven will be an eternal reward for all those who have lived righteously.  So first of all, heaven serves as an eternal reward for those who obediently practiced God’s commands.

1 Peter 1:4-5 says that heaven is an incorruptible, undefiled, and permanent inheritance.  As God’s children, we are the heirs of this new existence with which God wishes to bless us (Galatians 4:7).  So heaven serves as an undefiled inheritance.

Lastly, in Matthew 25:34, Jesus says, “Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  Then in 2 Peter 3:13, heaven is described as “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”.  Putting those verses together, we see that heaven serves as a new (in the sense of being totally different) kingdom of righteousness.  This will be a dominion in which only that which is righteous and pure can be found.  Thus, we have seen that heaven serves as an eternal reward to the righteous, an undefiled inheritance to the saved, and a kingdom of righteousness to the godly.

Sometimes we hear people make statements like, “I don’t want to miss the big game” or “I don’t want to miss Sally’s play” or “I don’t want to miss Bob’s graduation.”  And they will do all within their power to make that event—they’ll plan ahead, they save funds, they’ll say, “No!” to other possibilities.  Friends, heaven will be the biggest event of them all!  In fact, it will be the final glorious event forever!  Jesus is our ticket to heaven!  As we read in our reading this morning, “No one comes to the Father but through Me! (John 14:6)”  Galatians 3:27 states, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  My friend, if you haven’t thought about living your life according to Christ’s commands and making Him the Lord of your life, you’re going to miss out on the biggest event of them all! 

About 900 years ago, this poem was written on heaven:

                    “They stand those halls of Zion,
                      Conjubilant with song,
                      And bright with many an angel,
                      And all the martyr throng.
                      The Prince is even in them,
                      The daylight is serene;
                      The pastures of the blessed
                      Are decked in glorious sheen!” 
                                         (Bernard of Morelaix 1100 A.D.)

Let’s do all that we can, friends, not to miss out on heaven!  

Now let’s look at several descriptions on heaven.  First of all, it is called the holy city in Revelation 21:2, “I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  It is called the holy city because nobody who is wicked and nothing that is defiled is allowed entrance into that city.  Revelation 21:8 states that all who practice wickedness will go to hell and verse 27 states that only those who names were written in the book of life will participate in heaven. 


Secondly, heaven is called a better country in Hebrews 11:16: “But now they [those on the honor roll of faith] desire a better, that is a heavenly country.  It will certainly be a much better place for Revelation 21:4 states that in this better existence “God will wipe away all tears, and there will be no death, no sorrow, no crying, and no pain because the former things [the realities that we used to experience while suffering upon the earth] have passed away [the old solar system is no longer in existence].”  Revelation 21:16-17 underscores the vastness of this new country.  “The Apostle John describes the city’s dimensions as around 1,400 miles wide, 1,400 miles long, and 1,400 miles high.  So the base of the New Jerusalem will be 1,960,000 square miles, [which is about 55% of the United States’ surface]!  If each ‘story’ in this gigantic structure is a mile in height, the accumulated surface area of the New Jerusalem will be more than 15 times that of the [earth’s] surface area …  Of course we don’t know how many people will be in the New Jerusalem, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that God welcomes one billion people into the city of all who have ever lived in history, that would mean that each person would inherit 1,756 acres [of space]” (Forseth)!  Yes, indeed, we see here a better country with no evil nor any traces of suffering and with plenty of room for all the redeemed!


Thirdly, heaven is an international dwelling.  In Revelation 21:12-14, we read about 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles.  These two groups of 12 could possibly represent all the saints from both the Old And New Testaments.  Then in verses 24-26 we read of the nations that will be inhabitants in heaven.  Heaven will be filled with peoples from all parts of the former world, and the language barrier will probably no longer exist, just like Babel was reversed on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2!


Fourthly, heaven will be a place of great value.  In Revelation 21:18-21, we read that the walls were jasper, the city was gold, the foundations were made of all kinds of precious stones, and each gate was made of a single pearl.  Perhaps this next idea is not all that important, but let’s just take those 12 gates for a moment.  “With our billion people guessed at earlier going in and out of the gates, the gate will need to be rather sizeable.  But let’s be conservative and say that the gates (and their pearls) are only 30 feet wide.  If using a pound for pound comparison to the value of the world’s largest pearl (10 inches across), one of the gates carved from a pearl would be valued in U.S. dollars at $2.8 trillion.  Multiplied by 12 gates, this value would calculate to $33.6 trillion.  That’s about three times the combined annual productivity of every person in the United States” (Forseth)!  Now get this, we’ve only talked about just the gates.  We haven’t even touched the walls, the city, or the foundations.  The point: Heaven is going to be exquisite, beyond our wildest imagination, of far greater value both financially and emotionally than anything we’ve know here!  If God created our tremendous solar system, can we even begin to imagine what kind of a value heaven will be worth and what kind of splendor it will display?


Fifthly, heaven will be an entirely new dimension.  Revelation 21:22-23 states that God’s glory and Christ’s radiance will provide its light!  Revelation 21:25 states that there is no night there for time shall be no more.  Revelation 22:1-2 state that the river and the tree of life (both reminiscent of the Garden of Eden) will be there.  Revelation 22: 3 notes that there will be no more curse there.  The curse God put on the world and mankind in Genesis 3 has now been completely lifted!  According to Philippians 3:21 and 1 Corinthians 15:44, we will have transformed, spiritual bodies.  We are no longer in a three dimensional world; we will then live in something more like a fifth dimensional existence!  As I mentioned earlier, all these descriptions, a holy city, a better country, an international dwelling, a place of great value, and a new dimension can only give us just a glimpse, an appetizer if you will, of what the grand reality, the full banquet, will be like!

About 400 years hundred years ago, this poem was written about heaven:

                     “O City beautiful!  Your light appears--
                       The gates by grace set wide--
                                  The Home for which through long … exile years,
                       My weary spirit sighed--
                       The false and empty shadows,
                       [And] the life of sin are past--
                       God gives me mine inheritance,
                       The land of life at last.” (J. M. Meyfart c. 1620)

Let’s do all that we can, friends, not to miss out on heaven!


Let’s look quickly now at some of the activities in heaven.  First of all, we’ll be with good company.  All the good angels and all the righteous saints will be there (Revelation 21:12; Matthew 8:11).  Just visiting with all the redeemed would be an amazing thing within itself.  But it doesn’t stop there.


Next, we will live with Christ.  Jesus told us in John 14:1-3 that He was going back to His Father to prepare a place for us so there where He is, we also may dwell.  After a Jewish boy became engaged to a Jewish young lady, he would return to his father house and begin building a room on to it, so that he and his bride to be could live there.  Jesus told us that in His father’s house, there will be many rooms.  The church is His bride, and heaven will be our everlasting dwelling with our Savior.  Won’t it be wonderful getting to know Him better! 


Thirdly, we’ll be busy serving God.  Revelation 22:3 affirms: “And His servants shall serve Him.  No, it will not be a boring place.  To the contrary, God will have work for us there, and we’ll work together to do His bidding. 


Fourthly, we’ll know God in a close and personal way.  Revelation 21:3 states that God will dwell with us, and Rev 22:4 states that we will actually see Him face to face!  Knowing God in this way will certainly be one of the greatest blessing of heaven!


Finally, Revelation 22:5 states that we will reign forever with God.  In a sense, Adam and Eve reigned with God in the Garden of Eden.  How we’ll reign in heaven may or may not be similar, but again, this shows us that we’ll not be involved in an eternal worship service.  Surely, we’ll worship some, but there will be other activities that we’ll do to carry out His orders. 


Being with good company, living with Christ, serving God, knowing God, and reigning forever are five activities that show us that heaven is not going to be place where people just idly float around with nothing to do.  If God gave Adam a job in paradise, certainly He will provide us with responsibilities in heaven as well!

About 70 years ago, this poem was written on heaven:

 “Earth holds no treasure but perish with using, however precious they be.

  Yet there's a country to which I am going, heaven holds all to me.
  Why should I long for this world with its sorrows when in that home or' the sea

  Millions are singing that wonderful story?  Heaven holds all to me.” 
                                                                      (T. S. Teddie, 1932)

Let’s do all that we can, friends, not to miss out on heaven!


There’s a true story about a Christian who was dying and was scared to death because he feared the unknown.  One night his Christian doctor visited him at home, and he felt somewhat helpless as to how to comfort this dying brother.  All of a sudden, the doctor heard a scratching and a whining at the door.  He opened it, and in bounded the doctor's dog, who had accompanied him on that house-call.  And then the doctor thought, 'Yes, now I know what to say!'  He went to the bedside and said, ‘Brother, that was my dog scratching at your door, so I let him in.  My dog has never been in your house before.  He did not know what it was like in here at all, but he knew that I was here, and so he wanted to come in.  I can tell you that I am looking forward to heaven, not because I know a lot about it, but because our Savior will be there, and that is really all that we need to know.’"  Perhaps this lesson has not proved adequate for you.  Maybe the picture presented still leaves you with doubts.  Then please remember this one thing—Jesus will be in heaven, and that will make heaven worthwhile.  If we were told no more in the Scriptures than that, that alone should make us want to go there!  Let’s do all that we can, friends, not to miss out on heaven!  Jesus is the ticket to what will be history’s greatest and most glorious final event!  Submit to Him, make Him the Lord of your life, live obediently, and heaven will be your eternal reward, your undefiled inheritance, and your righteous kingdom!

                                                                                                        Last updated on 3.7.08