This is the sermon for September 18th, 2011.
(All Scriptures unless noted are from the ESV)
Bless God part 8
Is there a literal heaven?
This is the 8th sermon in our series entitled, “Bless God.” In this series we are looking into God, hell, heaven, and the chief end of man.”
We are in the question portion of the series – endeavoring to answer some questions that are being asked in the Church today.
One of those questions being asked is, “Is there a literal heaven?” Heaven is believed by more people than hell by far. And most people if you were to ask them would tell you rather emphatically that they are going to heaven when they die. They may give you reasons like, “I’ve been a pretty good person and my good deeds have outweighed my bad deeds;” or “A loving God would never send anyone to hell,” or “I’m assured to get there;” or “I’m a pretty religious person.”
Well, just who goes to heaven? That will be addressed in a future sermon in this series. But for now we want to see if heaven is a literal, physical, and at the same time spiritual place; or just a state of mind or a myth. Let’s look at the Scriptures and see what they teach.
Heaven is the dwelling place of God.
1 Kings 8:30 – And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
Notice here in First Kings that it calls heaven God’s dwelling place; a place he hears our prayers and forgives.
Matthew 6:9a – Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven…”
Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. Notice He starts the prayer by saying, “Our Father in heaven.”
Heaven is a part of God’s creation.
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Revelation 10:6 – …and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay…
Both the first book of the Bible and the last book state that God created the heavens.
Heaven is a place that can’t be fully measured and described in human terms.
Jeremiah 31:37 – Thus says the LORD:”If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.”
2 Corinthians 12:1-5 – 1I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.
There are a lot of books out in the Christian market right now that purport to be some one’s either vision of heaven, or that they died, went to heaven, came back and told their story. I have to be careful here, but we need to be cautious with these tales. I’m not denying that they have happened, but according to Scripture, I don’t think that their graphic description of heaven can be described in that detail. Why do I say this? Well these two Scriptures.
Jeremiah basically says that the heavens can’t be measured.
Paul, using the third person, describes his ascent to heaven, and he was not allowed to speak what he heard.
The point is, we need to stick with the Scriptures concerning the descriptions of heaven, and judge those visions and visits people have had with the Scriptures.
Heaven is a place of holiness.
Deuteronomy 26:15 – Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’
Isaiah 57:15 – For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Heaven rejoices when sinners repent.
Luke 15:7 – Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:22-24 – 22But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Heaven is a place where all Christians are known.
Luke 10:20 – Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Hebrews 12:23a – …and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven…
Heaven is a place of rewards for persecuted Christians.
Matthew 5:12 – Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Heaven will be made new, come to earth and death and suffering will cease to exist.
Revelation 21:1-7 – 1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
We could go on with much more truths of heaven from the Scriptures, but we are going to stop here. Heaven is not a frame of mind, a myth of someone’s imagination, or a place on earth; it is a real place revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. The attitude I hope you caught from the Scriptures we looked at this morning for the believer is one of rejoicing when it comes to heaven. It is a real, spiritual and yet physical place, where God dwells, holiness rules, and Christians are rewarded. Rejoice in these truths.