Heaven

HEAVEN                                                                                 1

“ However do not rejoice that the spirit’s submit to you but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.

Our Lord had sent His disciples out on a preaching tour. He gave them power over demons and to heal the sick. They returned rejoicing and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name. Jesus replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).

Christians should think about heaven far more than they do. Col. 3:1-4 tells us: “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears then you also will appear with him in glory”.

In the original Greek it has the thought of an ongoing process. “Keep on setting your mind of things above, so that you can anticipate and look forward to and prepare for them. It is an intense and fervent seeking of the things above. We are to diligently pursue an understanding of heaven. Our thoughts should lovingly and longingly dwell on Jesus.

We should rejoice because our names are written there as citizens of that heavenly realm. This short struggling life is incidental compared with eternity. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Cor. 4:17-18).

This world is not the home of the children of God. We are only sojourners here, temporary dwellers in a land not ours. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col. 1:13).

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19).

Heaven is our real home and our treasures should be there as well. Our thoughts should dwell on that sweet home of God, the holy angels and the departed saints: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12: 22-24).

It is tragic that so many of God’s people live in fear of death. How this dishonors our heavenly Father. It is His will that we face death with assurance and confidence.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). If we know Him who conquered death, there need be no fear or dread, for death will only hasten us on to glory. The prophet Hosea recorded God’s promise: “I will redeem them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death” (Hosea 13:14).

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

The resurrection of Christ transformed forever the nature of death for those who place their faith in Him. At last we will be with the One we were created for in the place we were created to be. We were not meant for this present world, we were meant for heaven. God has put within mankind the sense that this life is not all there is. The Bible gives the reason for this, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The reason there is this inner conviction that death is not the end and that heaven exists is because God put this conviction in our hearts when He created us in His image.

One of the reasons there are so many Christians who do not reach others for Christ is because they do not feel secure themselves. If a person is unsure of their own footing they are in poor condition to rescue others who are drowning. They must first be sure of their own footing.

Paul said, “I know whom I have believed and, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day” (II Tim. 1:12). He had assurance.   “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Many Christians cannot understand why they are so lacking in spiritual power. It is because they have their treasures down here. It is not necessary for a person to have many possessions to have their treasure down here. It is not what a person has, but what his heart is set upon.

“It is to our great loss that we fail to live under the influence of eternal things. So many of us are digging in the dirt for worthless things of this world when the crown of gold is above our heads. We are earth-bound. Our minds are set on things below and not on the glorious and enduring treasures above; living as though we are going to be here forever. We seem to forget that our days are numbered and will vanish like a vapor, and that our eternal home lies beyond. We do not rejoice in the old hymn, “Our heart is in heaven, our home is not here”.

A clearer vision of heaven will expose the emptiness of the things of this world, and set our hearts on the heavenly and eternal things above. We will function better here if our hearts are there. We will have a truer perspective and greater sense of values. We will not mistake the artificial treasures that perish for the priceless treasures that will endure forever. Our Lord taught us to “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20).

We are not reaching the world for Christ because believers themselves have been conformed to the world and have become worldly minded. We must be constantly exhorted to live for heaven because so much of our treasures are down here.

Where is your treasure? In Heb. 11:13-14 we are told that the saints of old saw these promises of a heavenly country “from a distance”. It reads: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised: they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own”.

The saints of old refused to settle down in this world, but lived with the heavenly country always in view.

“In Heb. 11:10, speaking of Abraham it says: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”.

From the moment that Abraham, by faith, saw that city, he declared himself a pilgrim and a stranger on this earth. As Abraham journeyed to the Land of Canaan, he knew that it was not the ultimate goal. And when he arrived there he still continued to live in tents, because he knew that the real goal was that heavenly land of promise.

The rich, fertile plains of Sodom had no temptation for him. He declared that he saw another country. He had turned his heart from the fleeting world and all its temptations. He has something better. He had his eyes fixed upon a city that would endure when the things of this world were swept away. He set his heart upon that city and laid his treasures there. How poor a man is, no matter how much he has laid up in this world, if he has no treasures in heaven.

Many of God’s people make the mistake of looking for their rewards down here and become discouraged when there are none. A missionary who had buried his wife and two children in Africa, greatly discouraged was returning home to America with broken health to recover. On the same ship was then president Teddy Roosevelt returning from a hunting trip.

Hundreds were waiting to welcome him home. As the missionary looked upon that scene he whispered, “Lord, I have sacrificed everything and no one is here to welcome me, while this man returns from a mere hunting trip and hundreds are here to welcome him home. When he stepped off the boat he heard the gentle voice of God say, “Ah, but son you are not home yet, you are not home yet”. Let us remember that the reward lies beyond. It is enough to know that we are serving the One who gave His all for us. We are to serve here and the rewards come after.

To Christians who are suffering with great pains and loses in this world, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. Your day is coming when He will transform your suffering into glory. Press on a little longer, doing what you can for His cause, while anticipating being with Him when glory will burst through the dark clouds in a glorious day that will never end.

Our heavenly Father has assured us that, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). And that the believer can say “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” and that to “Depart, and be with Christ . . .is far better” (Phil. 1:21, 23). He tells us that “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come” (I Cor. 3:21). Here we are told, that among other things, death belongs to His saints. It is our servant, conquered by Christ. Death is the terrible enemy of the unbeliever for it ushers him into the realm of eternal woe. But the believer is ushered into the presence of Jesus Christ.

Safe in Christ the believer can cry out: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”(I Cor.15: 55). The assurance to the believer is that “To be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Heaven is the Father’s house. It is the glorious place toward which the dying saint lifts his eyes with joy. The Lord Himself is with the believer in the hour of death in a special way. He said: “I am with you always” (Matt. 28: 20). And “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb.13: 5). Although we know that He is with us always, there is a special sense in which the Lord is very close to the believer when he or she faces death. It is not really death at all, it is life.

As john Newton lay dying someone said to him, “Well, you are still in the land of the living”. “No”, he said, “I am in the land of the dying yet, but I will soon be in the land of the living”. This is the land of sin and death and tears, but there they never die. It is perpetual life. It is never ending joy.

The English scientist Sir Michael Faraday, the discoverer of electro-magnetism, was asked on his death bed, “What speculations do you have on life after death?” He replied, “Speculations? I have no speculations, I am resting on certainties”.

Mary Slessor, the missionary, on her death bed said, “do not talk of the cold hand of death, it is the hand of Christ”.

The missionary, Joseph Neesima’s last words were, “Peace . . . Joy . . . Heaven”.

When Adoniram Judson, the great missionary to Burma, came to his dying hour, he said, “I fell like a schoolboy bounding for home”.

When death was imminent for Richard Baxter, someone asked him how he felt, he whispered “I am almost well”.

When Thomas Fuller came to his last moments he said to his nephew, James Cuthbert, “Good night James . . . but it will soon be morning”.

Catherine Booth’s last words were, “the waters are rising, but I am rising higher”.

Samuel Rutherford said, “Oh, how sweet and glorious our case will be when that fairest among the sons of men will lay His fair hand to our sinful eyes and wipe away all tears. O time, run swiftly, and hasten that day”.

As his life ebbed away, the great evangelist D. L. Moody said, “If this is death, it is sweet, it is beautiful. This is my coronation day, earth recedes, heaven opens, God is calling and I must go”.

As a man and his son went over a long, narrow bridge over a broad river in the dark, the boy cried out “Daddy, I am afraid. His father took him in his arms. The boy fell asleep, to wake up the next morning in his own bed. That is what death is like for the believer. He falls asleep and wakes up at home.

We do not need to know any more about heaven than that God is waiting there to welcome us. It is His express desire that we share heaven with Him. The Lord Jesus said, “That where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

The Scriptures give us added information about heaven. First of all, Heaven is a real literal place prepared by God. Concerning Abraham, we read: “For he was looking forward to the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city” (Heb.11: 16). Who can conceive of a city built by God? It is beyond all human comprehension! Nor can we grasp the concept of a continuing city. Every- thing on earth decays and fades away.

I Pet, 1:4 refers to Heaven as “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you. In the Scriptures earth is described as a place that is unstable and fleeting, Heaven is a place that is stable and eternal, “Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Heaven is spoken of as the believer’s home, “At home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). “In My Father’s house are many rooms”(John 14:2). Here the Lord does not tell us that we will each have a mansion in Heaven. No, what He says is far better than that.

There is only one mansion—the Father’s house. Believers will have rooms in the Father’s house. As His children our permanent dwelling place will be in our heavenly Father’s house! Home is the dearest place on earth to the human heart, a place of acceptance, love and security.

Multiply all the best things of home to the last degree and you will have a faint idea of what it will be like when we are forever “at home with the Lord”. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23:6). At last we will be dwelling with God—a communion that will never be interrupted for all eternity! In the Book of Revelation, describing heaven, John says: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

There will be no need for a temple to have access to God, for we will be forever in the direct presence of God. In Romans 8:18 we read: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us”. All the suffering of a lifetime cannot be compared to one minute in heaven. On the other hand it can also be said that a lifetime filled with happiness cannot be compared to one minute in hell. No truer statement was ever made than “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”.

There will be the absence of all bad things and the possession of everything good. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be there God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev.21: 3-4).

There will be no taint of sin there. No death, no growing old and infirm. All these things will be banished forever.

It is a place of peace and beauty, of joy and glory. We will be free from any hindrances to perfectly love Him in return. We will then honor Him and worship Him without any flaws; no hindrances from the old, fallen Adamic nature.

We shall serve Him. Heaven will not be a place of “plenty of time but nothing to do”. There will be much activity in Heaven. “His servants will serve Him” (Rev. 22: 3). Many get a false idea of lying around on clouds. It is true that “They will rest from their labor” (Rev. 22: 13).

But the word for “labor” here means “a painful strain” something that is never experienced in heaven where eternal, untiring youth and strength will be ours in carrying out service for God. We will enjoy our work. We will accomplish more in one hour than we did in our lifetime here. Weariness and boredom will never be experienced.

The sum of heavens glory is to be with Jesus. “So we will be with the Lord forever” (I Thess. 4:17). Jesus and heaven are bound up together. To love Him and serve Him here is the beginning of heaven in the soul; to see Him face to face will be heaven complete and everlasting.

What a day that will be when we gather in the Father’s house and the holy angels sit spellbound as we give our testimonies of the love and grace of God.

It is no wonder that God has not revealed more about the glories and joys of heaven. It would spoil us for this world and we would not want to stay here another moment. Even with what we do know of this place, we sometimes grow homesick for heaven, but we have a purpose to fulfill here on earth.

The Christian view of death is totally different from the conception of those who do not know Him who is “The Resurrection and the life”. They speak of “the great beyond”, “the unknown”, “the unexplored land”, “a leap in the dark”. A Bob Ingersol, the noted atheist, stood at the grave of his brother and said: “Life is narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing”. He was simply expressing the hopelessness of his unbelieving heart. But our hope is in Christ.

For the believer death is no tragedy but a glorious homecoming. It is not the sad end, but the glorious beginning. It is but the passing out of one life into a higher and better one, an exodus from this wilderness of sin and pain and sorrow, into a land of beauty, fellowship, joy and peace. Death is the swift passage into the life with Christ forevermore. It is the passageway into the Holy City, a quick journey home, at home with God.

Believers are to look up and fix their gazes heavenward. Christ has conquered death for us, and has made it the corridor of life and immortality. Fear not what lies beyond the grave in the mystery of eternity, Christ is there! In the 23rd psalm, that well-known passage of Scripture, David, speaking for the believer refers to walking through the “valley of the shadow of death”. Shadows cannot harm us. Death has lost its reality and terror, it is a mere shadow, it has lost its sting.

“Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15: 55-57).

One day a little boy came running to his mother screaming that a bee was after him. She covered him with her apron, until finally she said, “You can come out now”. He peeked out from her apron, “You see, the bee has stung mommy and has lost its stinger in mommy’s arm and cannot hurt you now”. He watched as the bee crawled harmlessly down her arm.

This is what Jesus has done for us. He has removed the sting of death by taking the stinger in His own heart and made it harmless for us. We can rest content in the words of our Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17:24: “Father, I want those you have given Me to be where I am”. That prayer will be answered.

Those who belong to Christ have the assurance that when that day comes for them they will be more than ready to enter the Father’s house.

The assurance of heaven should make us better servants down here. It should free us from the pursuit of earthly pleasure and comforts. Christians are soldiers on the battlefield in a foreign land. Soldiers do not build mansions on the battlefield. They do not sit under palm trees fanning themselves. They are to fight battles. Their weapons are to be prepared and ready. Our battle is “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

We will have peace there. Here we are to work. We are exhorted “Let us not become weary in doing good, for AT THE PROPER TIME we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Heaven is ours, but there is work to be done and rewards to be won if we “do not become weary in doing good”. We must use whatever time and opportunities we have while we still can. Our Lord said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Some of us are farther along into the night of this life than others. We must use what time we have left to serve Him.

Heaven is the place of celebrating victories won, here is where we must win those victories. There we wear the crown, here is where we wield the sword. We are not to be as ease here. Lets us be faithful in testifying for our Lord and in separating from the worldly lusts that bog us down, and identifying ourselves with Him who is rejected by the world. May we realize that our lives are hid with Christ in God, and be found living out our days here below with an upward gaze.

To the unsaved: When the eternal God created Adam and Eve, He wove into their nature the hope of immortality which the succeeding centuries of sin and darkness were not able to erase completely from mankind’s inner being. God has put into man’s heart not only the consciousness of his limitations, but desires that take him far beyond his limitations. To perpetuate one’s name on earth is like writing in the sand by the seashore; to be lasting it must be written on eternal monuments.

If there is something in your heart that longs for something greater than this world offers, it was put there by God; it is a longing for Him. The only thing that stands between you and God is a Savior who was provided for us by God. The Lord Jesus Christ bore your sins on the cross. He paid the wages of sin for you. He rose from the dead and carries out the benefits of His death in behalf of those who trust Him. Whatever your preconceived ideas of God may be, He loves you and does not want you to perish. No matter how bad your past is He still loves you and wants to save you if you will turn from your sins and turn to Him.

You may say no to Him and die in your sins, but only because you choose to, and in the realm of darkness, the tender words of Jesus will forever haunt you: “You would not come to me that you might have life” (John 5:40).

No matter how miserable a person’s existence, they seldom want to die. Death carries with it a certain dread. From the day that the first couple laid their second born child in the grave, men have dreaded death. This mysterious enemy makes all quake with fear. It is no idle saying that “death makes cowards of us all”. But this fear has been removed for the children of God. The question of job: “If a man die, shall he live again”. Was answered by the empty tomb of Jesus who said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).

Death has been the great leveler of all men. Your worldly greatness and wealth mean nothing. Death has conquered all; all but One. Death was powerless against Him. He allowed death to claim Him for three short days for our sins. Death could not hold the Lord of Life, and neither can it hold those who belong to Him.

Jesus is the only way to heaven, and anyone who tries to come any other way will be bitterly disappointed. Here is eternal life for the asking. Eternal life is not some thing, but some One: “For he that hath the Son hath life, but he that does not have the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12).

 

 

 

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