Series: Heaven: What’s It All About?
How Far is Heaven
Matt. 3: 13-16
As we continue this series lets remember what we learned last week: Step One: Satan wants to blind our minds to the realities of heaven. He wants us to be confused and think that heaven is a boring out of the body existence with no substance. Scriptures tell us something different: When we die, we will immediately go into the presence of God together with other believers where we will be until the end of the age. There is immediacy and continuity. The most important thing is are you prepared? Today we are going to talk about step two: what happens at the second coming of Christ?
Life and death are the core curriculum of the church. Most of our time we spend on how should we live and how to prepare for death but in this series we are going to concentrate on life after death.
We cannot simply lift a verse from the Bible and create a doctrine around it. We must interpret that verse in light of other scriptures. In Biblical interpretation you start with the whole and then break it down so that it fits with the big picture.
Gen. 1 – 2 Creation heavens and the earth good created this special place called the garden of Eden which means pleasant or delightful set mankind in this idlyllic place of peace, joy, and happiness.
Gen. 3 Fall man the ability to choose man chose to disobey God – when they did, there was a curse placed upon them. Purity was tainted – sin affects us
Relationships were tainted – Cain kill Abel
Natural bodies were tainted – covered themselves in shame
Work was tainted – no longer will things be easy – work by the sweat of your brow
Emotions were tainted – anger, jealousies, sorrow, pain entered in.
Place with God was tainted – he removed his fellowship from us.
Rest of the Bible deals with Redemption: God set about redeeming mankind – first he chose a person – Abraham made a promise the world will be blessed through your seed
People – later to become the Jewish race – the redeemer will come through your people
Prophets – warned the people – tried to instruct them
Place – Jerusalem – heart of the Jewish worship of God
At last of all he sent forth his son born of a virgin that he might redeem mankind.
God begins this process of redemption in the OT as they offered sacrifices by faith and that redemption finally culminates in the story of Jesus that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Then he begins the process of Restoration -So what is God going to do with these redeemed people? Ephesians 1: 7-10
Redemption is the forgiving of our sins – restoration is making all things back the way it was intended redemption is a moment in time – restoration is a process that is not completed until Jesus returns to bring all things together in heaven and earth. We still struggle with health issues, emotional issues, sin issues, work issues and relationship issues but when Jesus comes again he will restore all of those things to perfection and completion.
Everything in scripture fits within this big picture.
So how does God bring everything in heaven and earth together?
How far is heaven anyway? Here is a song about that? Song is about a guy who feels enslaved and distressed and says – where is heaven – I want to be freed from this prison I am in. Most of us think of heaven in geographical terms – up in the sky far away? Is it really?
Times when God permits individuals to get a glimpse of heaven.
Matt. 3:13-1613 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (NIV)
Acts 7 Stephen was being stoned to death: he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven.
In Isaiah 6 he says: in the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on his throne
In Daniel 7, he sees a vision of Jesus coming in the clouds from heaven.
In John 1:51 Jesus says to Nathaneal: I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
Manyof us have read books concerning those who saw the present heaven opened and were given a glimpse – Linda Morris - Todd Burpo weren’t taken into heaven, they were given a glimpse of the present heaven. God for some people permits them to see this. Not the fullness of heaven but just a glimpse – a sneak preview. We don’t take our theology from books but from the bible so we always have to ask: does this experience line up with scripture?
Go to Revelation 21:
Deal with revelation, people interpret it in two ways: literal and symbolic - revelation is filled with weird and unusual things it is possible that we are arguing over nothing:
Something which is literal is often used to symbolize something else and something which is symbolic leads to something that is literal.
Wedding ring illustration: literal symbolic
Does heaven really have streets of gold? I don’t know – if it does wonderful if it is a symbol of something pure and beautiful and in reality is something else – wonderful
Lets not argue over the wrong things: let see what glories await us at the eternal heaven: choose to interpret them literally – fine choose to interpret them symbolic fine
Judgment is over – Satan is destroyed –Ephesians 1 is about to be fulfilled. the fullness of restoration is at hand. Rev. 21 is the story of the restoration of Genesis 1 and 2. They form the bookends of God’s story. Creation 1-2; fall – 3; redemption restoration or completion Rev. 21-22
We all long for an Eden like existence – beautiful environment in the constant presence of God enjoying life to the fullest. Satan wants you to think it will be boring. No way!
Peter’s sermon in Acts 3:21 says: “he must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything as he promised long ago to the prophets.”
Verse one new heaven and new earth – Bible says we will have new resurrection bodies like Jesus had and we will live in a resurrected universe called heaven. We are not ghosts – there is a physicality to our existence. While nearly everyone believes we will have a new body; sometimes people rebel at having a new heaven and a new earth. Same concept.
John is not introducing a new concept. Isa. 65:17: “Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth.”
God doesn’t promise us a non earth – he promises us a new earth.
Hebrews 11:10 the patriarch Abraham said “he is looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.”
II Peter 3:13 “but in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
God will bring heaven and earth together into the same dimension. – no separation between the two. Eph. 1:10 says: God’s plan is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
Look at the correlation between Eden before the fall and the New Earth called heaven:
Eden: God makes heaven and earth and including a garden and puts his people in it
Heaven: God makes a new heaven/earth -
Eden: God walks/communes with people heaven same
Eden: no sin, death, or curse Heaven: same
Eden: mankind lives in ideal place heaven same
Eden: no shame - naked in our innocence heaven: no shame we will be clothed with righteousness
Eden: labors were pleasing and fulfilling (ever wonder why weeds grow twice as fast as grass) heaven; same
Eden: tree of life heaven: tree of life
Eden: flowing river heaven: flowing river
Eden: perfect worship heaven: perfect worship
Eden: glory of God heaven: glory of God.
Eden: abundant food/water heaven: same
Eden: relationships were wholesome heaven
After the fall in chapter 3 things change. We need a redeemer who is the Christ the Lord. Now comes the restoration of all things.
Verse 2 here comes the bride
In various places in scripture heaven was called both a city and a country. Here he uses a city: this city is populated by a bride in scripture refers to the church – the people of God who have preceded us in death join with us once again in the new city.
Old Jerusalem was the centerpiece of worship – temple
New Jerusalem is the centerpiece of worship – Jesus is the temple
Now what do we know about this city:
One: the presence of the Lord is there. Vs. 3
The closeness of the fellowship in the garden will be renewed. Just as those who saw and talked with him after his resurrection were given a brief glimpse of his fellowship; now we enjoy it with all of its wonder. The entire city is filled with the glory of God. His presence is so radiant that it lights the city.
Two: no more death, mourning, or crying. Vs. 4
We are all quite aware of these destroyers of life –everyone in here could stand on your feet and relate to us a story about yourself or someone you know who is going through trauma, pain, and mourning. In this eternal heaven, is when they are finally destroyed completely. the reality of their absence will fill us with unmeasureable joy.
Three: everything will be new vs. 5
When we become a Christian we are told that old things pass away and behold all things become new. Yet we still live in these bodies subject to decay; face temptation, sorrow, pain, and problems. While we have a new perspective on life, in heaven that perspective becomes reality. Just as we have been set free in the spiritual, we will be set free in the physical. Everything good we now enjoy will be magnified and enhanced and everything evil and harmful will be destroyed.
Four: be a holy city vs. 6-8
I will discuss this more fully in a future sermon in this series but only those who overcome inherit all of this. Those who by faith have received Christ as their Savior.
Five: a beautiful city vs. 11
John mentions the most beautiful things he can envision. It’ll be better than that. Shine brilliance beyond anything we have seen on earth.
Six: a unified city vs. 24
The nations will come together finally. We will not lose our identity but we will lose all prejudice. This will be the real united nations organization. Luke 13:29 says: they will come from the east, west, north, and south and sit down together in the kingdom of God.”
Seven; a safe city vs. 25
Its gates will never be shut – why do you close and lock your doors – so no thief or unwanted person can come in. No thieves in heaven.
Conclusion God has a unique and special place waiting for those who are believers in His son Jesus. We can only glimpse it now but one day we will see Him and His place in all its glory. Will you be there?