John: While I’m being recorded, let me just remind you that Theresa, our church secretary, says that there’s no food allowed in the sanctuary at any time. [Laughter] I’m just glad as I survey the sanctuary today that no one’s actually eating.
Welcome to Exodus. Tonight, we’re starting off a new series. Here’s the universal Christian way of saying “be quiet and pay attention” – let’s pray.
Lord, I thank You tonight that we are gathered in Your name…and I know we’re here for a serious purpose and that’s to learn more about You so that we can equip ourselves to tell other people about You. So Lord, as we always pray, take this time and set it aside. For the next hour, may we open our minds and our hearts, set aside distractions, and really hope to grow in our understanding of who You are. Thank you, Lord, for the things that You’ve provided for us, the things that we take for granted in our everyday life, including this time, Lord, that we have together. I pray, Lord, that You would bless this time, and multiply and use it for Your purposes in ways we could hardly imagine. Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.
So tonight, the long-awaited series that we’ve been wanting to start for awhile is talking (59.5) about heaven and what it will be like in heaven. The reason I’m excited about this series is because I think that we’re going to learn some things that are probably going to surprise you. But I want to stay true to our method of study in Exodus, so what that means is a couple of you have already asked me how you get this book that we’re kind of using as a — I wanna say as a textbook — because it kind of is like a textbook. It’s thick. It’s got a lot of cites and quotations. It’s Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven”. Some of you’ve already got it. You can get it if you want to. You don’t have to. I’m going to buy another copy in a week to have as a loaner, to loan out to different people. You guys know that our normal method of study that we’ve adopted for the last few months has been to have a subject-matter expert dive into whatever topic we’re studying and present part of the material. What I’ve decided for this series on heaven, is I want something a little different from our subject-matter expert — we’re gonna pick one tonight to maybe be our expert for the following week (2:00.6) and the week after. I want you to serve as a foil. And what that is, is someone who’s gonna kinda push back on some of the things we’re gonna be talking about. Okay? As an introduction to this topic, it’s a little controversial. There’s a lot of people who are gonna side with the, “Well…that’s speculation. That may not be biblical. I don’t know where you got that. I’m not sure if you’re interpreting the Bible correctly.” So, your job to be thinking, debating, intelligent people, is to foil anything that I say, you know, kinda act like an opposite, a push-back, a back-stop, so that you can kind of object, or disagree, but I really don’t think you can do that intelligently unless you’ve read the same material that I’m covering. So, we’re gonna pick somebody, next week we’re gonna be talking about the intermediate heaven and if someone wants to volunteer for that later on tonight that’ll be the person. I can tell you what chapters I’m gonna be covering. Not only will you learn something deeper because obviously you’ll cover a lot of material, but also I think it’s (3:00.0) more healthy when someone stands up and says, “Well, can you justify that? Can you back that up?” so that you know that it’s not just my opinion. Okay?
Alright, last week we had a little mini-introduction to the topic. I took a little survey and asked you guys some of your attitudes and opinions about what we might expect in heaven. That was kinda fun to read the results. So tonight we kick off and we’re gonna delve in tonight into the foundational things that we’re gonna use. We’re gonna throw out some topics tonight that we’re gonna use as we keep going for you to understand a little bit more. Feel free to stop at any time, and ask questions, this is a discussion group, it’s supposed to be, even though we’re presenting it more in a lecture format when we go through heaven, just…that’s the material.
What We Are Not Covering
So, let’s go to our first slide tonight. Let’s start with what we are not studying. Just to kinda frame the subject of heaven. So that our topics, and even our questions, and our debating doesn’t fall into these categories. Let me tell you what we are not studying. We are not going to study the end of the world. (4:00.2) That’s not quite what we’re doing. In our topic of heaven, we’re going to be assuming for the time being that all of us are just going to die at some point before Jesus comes back. So we’re not having a discussion about the rapture. We’re not talking about the millenium. We are not debating post-millennialism, pre-millennialism, and a-millennial views. We are not going to be talking about interpretation of apocalyptic literature and making predictions and prophecies about when’s the exact time Jesus is coming. If you want that, Calvary Chapel has numerous churches — that’s all they do — spend their whole life trying to figure it out. We are not doing any of those things, okay?
The reason I say that is because a very important thing has happened on the way to our studies about heaven. The something that happened on the way to heaven is, we spent so much time as a church — and I don’t mean as NewSong church — but I mean as a church body, united across (5:00.6)the globe, talking about the things I just said we’re not going to talk about, that nobody ever got to talk about heaven. We spent so much time debating what the rapture was, what the millennium was, when the end of the world was, we spent so much time making cheesy movies like that…what’s that movie with Kirk Cameron…the Left Behind series you know has sold so much in Christian literature, but we spend so much time as a church debating topics about how long will the millennium actually be? Is it a literal thousand years? When is it going to happen? Is it before the rapture? Is it after the rapture? Is there a tribulation? That you know what? We got lost for a moment in some topics that Jesus gave us, without the use of apocalyptic literature at all. Now when I use the words “apocalyptic literature”, just so I can define it — we’re talking about parts of Revelation that seem like they need intrepretation. Parts of the book of Daniel, for example, when there’s visions of certain types of creatures and events (6:00.4) that don’t seem quite clear. But I do want to also footnote for a second, that there are parts of Revelation that seem very clear. And we’re gonna look at some of those verses. But there are also parts that seem like they need interpretation and like I said, so much debate and time is spent on that, that nobody ever got to the ultimate goal. So, that’s a list of things we’re not going to be covering.
Why Study About Heaven?
Let’s go to the next slide. Why even study heaven? This is actually a good question that Angela posed last week. And actually it was good enough for me to put together some thoughts on. Why is it that we want to study heaven? Isn’t it just enough that we should just know that it’s gonna be a great place when we get there, and forget about it? Some people will say, “We couldn’t imagine, so let’s just not worry about that. Let’s worry about things of this world.” But here are some good reasons, I think, that we should study heaven.
Number one, too many Christians believe very well-intentioned, but I believe, mistaken myths about heaven. Because we are not doing any teaching about heaven, it’s being filled in by the culture. This(6:59.8) evening as we were listening to music, I just picked, like, ten songs about heaven. I just ran a search on “heaven”, and got all these different songs that came up, and just put them all on a CD and burned them and brought them in, so that you could listen to different ideas about heaven. The funny things is, the culture is obsessed with heaven, and the church is not. So we’ve adopted — you could call them pagan, secular, whatever you want — ideas about what heaven is about. We’ve just kinda thought, “Well, we’re not doing any teaching about it, let’s just kinda see what’s out there.” So they put something on TV like the old show “Highway to Heaven” and go, “Uh, I think that’s a good thing, let’s watch that”. Or that show that was on TV a few years ago, like “Angels” or whatever it was — “Touched by an Angel”. So everyone’s like “That’s what it must be like!” It seems like, for some reason, the people who don’t believe in God love the idea of heaven, and the people who love God don’t talk about it, and that’s kinda curious. That’s one reason to study it.
Number two, we spend so much time telling people how to get there and we don’t tell them what to expect. That’s kinda the theme I told you we’re gonna cover over and over.
Three, (7:59.5) we need to be armed with some information about heaven so we can combat some of the lies that Satan puts up about heaven. Now what are some of those lies? Some of them are like, “You can’t figure it out, so don’t try.” Or, “Heaven just sounds so boring. Don’t even look forward to it.” I want to hopefully flush out some of those things so we can get excited about heaven.
Here’s kind of a darker one: too many people believe they are going to heaven, when they are not. That kinda hurts. That’s one of the reasons we should know what the entrance requirements are for heaven. Now, in the last couple weeks we’ve talked about some of those. We’ve talked about the entrance requirements from a Christian perspective. We talked about: why does God allow someone to go to hell? We talked about why people go to heaven and why people go to hell. And we’ll continue that theme a little bit, but let’s just remember that in the secular world, everyone’s going to heaven, right? I mean, if you’re trying to explain to your little three-year-old girl where Mommy went when she died, you just say what? “Mommy’s in heaven,” without any regard to what the entrance requirements are for heaven, or whether (9:00.4)you’ve met any of the tests that God puts forward about who can go to heaven. It’s just a simple way of saying to somebody, “Mommy’s in heaven.” You go to a funeral and a lot of people are standing around, and the comment you hear over and over when they’re trying to console themselves is, “Well, they’re in a better place,” irrespective again of, is that person following the entrance requirements that God lays down for heaven, or not? It’s just comforting for us to say, “They’re in a better place.” It’s better than saying, “Their life got snuffed out and now they’re in a really bad, bad, horrible, burning place.” We just say, “they’re in a better place.” It’s part of the denial we like to live in, you know? But if you think we’ve got denial, you should see how much denial the secular world has about heaven. That’s why they love it so much. That’s why everyone goes to heaven. That’s why little babies, when they die in the operating room, they just become angels. That’s what people say. Why? Because it’s a way of comforting ourselves from something that’s very difficult to comprehend. So one reason for studying heaven, and who goes there and who doesn’t, is because there are some people who are walking around (10:01.2) who want to believe in it, but are believing the wrong things about it. It’s a touchy subject, but I think if we’re going to be true Christians and take on matters as deeply as we say we do, we gotta take this one on.
Here’s another one, another reason to study heaven: God wants us to yearn for heaven. This is God’s plan. This is God’s purpose for our lives. It’s not to be here, it’s to be in heaven. And he wants us to know what it’s like. If God spent a lot of time — and a lot of people think he didn’t — but God spent a lot of time in the Bible trying to describe what his home, and our ultimate home, is like, we’re not studying it. And finally, the last one, which is a personal one I told you, and you’ve heard it from me is: many people just don’t look forward to heaven. And I’m one of those people, who, before I started reading this book and investigating this topic, and studying all the things, the citations and the verses that are in this book…this just didn’t seem like a place I wanted to be. I was doing pretty good here on Earth. And last week, this seemed to resonate with a lot of us (11:00.0) as we did a little introduction on heaven. It seemed like the only time people ever yearn for heaven is when we’re in the midst of that just, stricken grief, where they’re lying on the floor in their room, just going, “God, take me now.” But as soon as things get better, it’s like we’re back to living on Earth and everything’s okay. So if the secular world has denial in what happens after life, we kinda have denial in this life. We kinda think everything’s okay in this world, everything’s fun. Then we find out how horrible those moments are — could be a breakup, could be a death, could be a loss of something big, could be a moment where you find out somebody’s ill — something happens and suddenly you’re like, “Oh, now I yearn for heaven. Now this world isn’t good enough anymore.” I think there should be other reasons we yearn for heaven. Maybe it’s because of what’s laying ahead for us if we follow Jesus Christ.
Is Heaven Just A Big Sing-Along In The Sky?
Here’s a great quote I’m gonna use — next slide if you could, Anthony — it says, and this is a quote from John Eldredge: “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity (11:59.3) is an unending church service,” he says. “We have settled on an image of a never-ending sing-along in sky, one great hymn after another, forever and ever, amen. And our heart sinks. ‘Forever, and ever? That’s it? That’s the good news?’ And then we sigh and feel guilty that we are somehow not more spiritual. We lose heart and we turn once more to the present, to find what life we can.” I love this quote because it summarizes, in my opinion, a large number of Christians today. It starts with the idea that we think it’s gonna be a big sing-along in the sky, standing at the throne of God, over and over and over, doing nothing but praising and worshipping forever. Now some of us like to sing, but even those of us who like music and like to sing cannot imagine worship forever. It’s just too much. It’ll be singing and praising, nonstop, 24 hours, alright? (13:00.6) But look at what John Elderedge also says in here. He identifies this thing in us that is what I consider the great Protestant legacy — the guilt. As soon as we don’t like what we’ve been taught to imagine — even though it’s been wrongly taught, or we have an image that we’ve adopted from the secular world about what heaven’s like — as soon as we don’t like it, rather than searching the Scriptures and saying, “What does it really say, is it really that bad!?”, we just sink into despair and go, “I’m just not spiritual enough,” like the idea of singing forever is not appealing to me, so therefore I just might not be as spiritual as that guy standing next to me in church, raising his arms — like, that guy could go FOREVER! [Laughter] You could see him, he’s thinking, like, “Aw, man, give me MORE! I’m not done yet!” But that’s not really a biblical view. And the good news for us is not that we’re going to be singing forever, the good news is that we shouldn’t feel unspiritual. God didn’t create us (14:00.2) to do these things. He created us for other things.
Now, He did create us to sing, and worship, and pray, we’re going to break that down — what does that mean? But, He did create us for other things. But notice, we start off with a wrong conception, and rather than finding the truth, we end up just feeling guilty and unspiritual about it. We lose faith. And then the last line says, “We lose heart and we turn once more to the present to find what life we can.” Look, isn’t that weird? Christians are the ones living for this world. Because we don’t like the next world and what it sounds like. And yet all the people who are not gonna get to go, they’re the ones who are waiting for it! That’s so backwards, we have to correct that view. But we do have to admit that we do love this world a little too much sometimes. And part of that is bad — the Lord tells us about that — but part of that, and I want to start to identify this theme and bring it out slowly, part of that is the way we’re wired. Part of that is the way God created us. God did not create us to (15:00.3) sing forever. He did create us to sing. He did create us to love music, maybe, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it forever, there are other things that God created and we tend to make these things unspiritual in our own minds. I want to start to debunk that as we go through this series. To learn that some of the things that we think are unspiritual are actually things that God wants us to do, actually enjoys watching us do, loves to see us do. I don’t think He created us just to sing forever.
How Did Our Views About Heaven Get So Skewed?
So, how did our heavenly views get so skewed? We kinda touched on this a little bit but let’s go through these points. Number one, we don’t talk about heaven in our churches. We talk about making sure you get there, kinda like fire insurance. Like, make sure you have Jesus Christ so you don’t go to hell. But we don’t really talk about the other part, like “When you get to heaven it will be like this.” Sure, we talk about streets of gold and people celebrating and a big feast of the lamb, and that sounds really exciting, but what do you do after the first five hours? You show up, there’s a (16:00.4)big wedding feast, and then you’re done. Are you just going to stay at the table the whole time? Or is it like, okay, suckers, you’re here, you got the wedding feast, now go over there and sing forever! What is that all about? That’s about the depth that most sermons will go into to talk about heaven. They’ll stop at the first day there. We talk about the judgment: “then, there’ll be the judgment, you get your rewards, you get your entry pass, it’s like we’re in…” and like, “whew!” End of the sermon. So we’re left with this gray, misty, cloudy, foggy image of what it’s going to be like.
Second point I have — something that I realized in reading some of the topics that Randy Alcorn puts forth — is that this topic isn’t even talked about in seminaries. He goes through a survey of all the different subjects that are covered, but heaven is rarely one of them. Most theology books — when they talk about it, they’ll talk about all those things we’re not going to talk about – they don’t talk about heaven much.
Here’s another one: we believe Satan’s lie that we should just live for this life and forget the next one. A lot of us are doing that, so we’re not really worried about (17:00.1) heaven yet. We convince ourselves that no one can really know what heaven will be like, and of course, the one we’ve talked about; we’ve already kind of adopted some of the pagan and heretical views of heaven.
Can We Really Know What Heaven Will Be Like?
Here’s a common objection – I think it’s the number one objection that people will throw out when you talk about heaven. And as I’ve been telling people as I’ve started to prepare this topic over the last two months to present a cohesive discussion about heaven, I got this almost automatically, I didn’t even have to tell them, “by the way, here’s an objection.” I would say, “yeah, I’m reading this book on heaven, it’s really cool,” and instead of someone saying, “Wow! That’s really exciting, tell me about the book; I want to know about heaven,” they would say, “Yeah…but how can you really know what heaven’s like? I mean, what could be in that book?” And here’s the verse that a lot of people use. This verse is actually cited quite a bit by people. They’ll say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” And they (14:00.2) say, “Look, there’s just no way. I mean, anything you say is a guess. Because God is so much bigger than that.” And I guess the thing I’d say to you first is, there’s a lot of things about God that are infinitely big, and He still wants you to know who He is. There’s no commandment in the Bible that says, “I, therefore, the LORD your God, am so big, you will never know me.” Or, “I am so infinite that you better not read the Bible because you won’t get it.” Or, “My commandments are so much better and so much more perfect that you shouldn’t try to keep any of them.” The Bible doesn’t say anything like that. The Bible doesn’t say that, “My ways are higher than your ways, so don’t worry about it; it’s too much for you.” God wrote this whole scripture for us to know Him better, to know Him intimately. And in the scriptures are words about heaven. Because here’s the rest of that verse that seems to be omitted from the topic: the full verse says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, BUT God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” (19:00.2) That’s the full verse. “God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”
I want you guys to engage in what I think is a little bit of healthy Christian speculation. Sometimes we’re a little worried about stepping outside of the text, but I think that God wants us to hope and to wish and to imagine heaven. And some of that means we’re going to depart a little bit from just pure verses that say, “Here it is, one, two, three.” We may have to add a few things in our mind. And yes, scripture is always our base, and that’s why I want one of you to be reading these texts and these verses, and these other quotes, and to say, “Maybe that’s a wrong interpretation.” Or, “I read it differently than you did.” Because the spirit reveals to (20:00.2)us what heaven is going to be like, and I want the Spirit to reveal it to you as well, so that we can together seek truth. And I think when you walk into an area where the Spirit is supposed to direct, it’s a good idea to have someone testing what you’re saying. And that’s one of the reasons I think it’s biblical that we have this model set up in Exodus, someone to act as a foil to what we’re saying. But, I want to point out that the verse itself is telling us — it’s hinting at the fact — that He is revealing it, not like, “Hey, it can’t be known,” it’s saying that without the Spirit, it would not have been known. The Spirit is revealing it to us.
Here’s another verse that’s often quoted, “Since then you’ve been raised with Christ (meaning resurrected), set your hearts on the things above.” I used to read this verse, sounds like one of Paul’s holy exhortations that I could never live up to: “Set your hearts on the things above.” Like, set your sight on holy things, (21:00.2)don’t think about things like, houses and cars and all that kind of stuff, think about holy things like…I don’t know, hanging out and doing good things for people and feeding the poor and visiting people in jail — that’s what it meant. “Set your hearts on the things above.” That’s what we should be longing for in life…love…things like that. Read the rest of the verse, here’s what it actually says: “Since, then, you’ve been raised with Christ, set your hearts on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not earthly things.” This verse is a direct commandment to seek heaven. Read it again: “Set your hearts on the things above where Christ is seated.” It’s telling us where to look, not like some random, loftier thoughts, higher thoughts. We’re not defining the words “things above” like they’re greater or loftier or smarter or holier. He’s actually (22:00.5)directing us to look at a certain place: “Set your hearts and your minds on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Where does Christ reside? Where does He sit at the right hand of God? In heaven. And He’s actually telling us, this is Paul telling us: This is something you should do. Now that we’ve been resurrected, now that we have this hope, now that we’ve been saved, you should long for where you’re going. You should long for where heaven is, where you will be with Jesus, seated at the right hand of God. This is a great verse that tells us that it’s okay for us to think about it. Not only that it’s okay, but it’s something that we should be doing as a regular discipline in our lives. Thinking like, “Hey, whatever’s going on…I’ve got a goal. I’ve got something to shoot for. I’ve got somewhere that I’m going to be. I need to prepare for that. It’s almost like any other trip you’d be taking: as it nears, you probably think more and more about the things you have to do to be there (23:00.4) and then you start to imagine, ‘what’s it going to be like to actually be there? What’s it going to be like to be in those places?’ You guys know that in a couple of weeks, Lina and I are going to go to the Holy Land and I know that in Lina’s mind, she’s probably wondering, “What’s it going to be like?” I’ve been there, I can imagine it, I can see it. But for her, she’s already starting to imagine, “What’s it going to be like?” And I’m sure that nothing that she actually imagines may be exactly the way it is, unless she’s looking at a picture book. But still, even as you start to think about it and dream about what it’s going to be like, and speculate about some things, you’re doing something that just anticipating the wonders that you’re actually going to see and that’s really what we’re supposed to do with heaven in a way.
Common Myths About Heaven
Alright, let’s dive into some common myths about heaven. One we already kinda talked about: everyone is going to heaven. It’s just that easy. We die, we go to heaven. That’s a myth.
Heaven is our default destination (24:00.5) unless we are very, very bad. No. Again, here it is again: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Everyone whose name is not found in the book of life will be judged by God, according to the works they have done, and thrown into the lake of fire. If you don’t have the saving blood of Jesus…not good. Matthew 13:41 — We see in that verse Christ saying to people who are not covered by His sacrifice, He says basically to them, “depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” So we know that one of the myths that we talked about earlier that the secular world likes to believe is that everyone goes to heaven. Not true. There are entry requirements.
Here’s another myth: We cannot know for sure if we are going to heaven. I think this is a total myth. I think this is one of the lies that the devil wants to tell people in the church — that you cannot know for sure if you’re going to heaven, that you should sweat this one out the rest of your life.(25:00.0) More of the protestant guilt trip. Entrance requirement easy, but then you have to work out the rest of your life on the treadmill trying to make sure you stay fit enough to go. First John 5:13 — This is John writing, saying, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. There is a certainty that we need to have, otherwise all of our teachings about grace and Jesus doing all the work and basically providing the sacrifice for our sins is just nonsense. We’re just saying it without believing it. If you believe in Jesus, then you’re going to heaven. If you believe in His sacrifice and you believe in what He’s done for you then you’re going to heaven. You can be certain that you’re going to heaven. Where Christ says, “If you do this, basically, you will know. And not one of my promises are ever broken and I give you this promise”. What does “new covenant” mean? It means the new promise. I mean, this is the new contract, the new agreement, the new guarantee, that if you do this you will go. The whole New Testament is based on that guarantee.
Alright, here are some myths: We will become angels in heaven. That is a myth. A lot of Christians believe it. It’s not true. Angels are a different creation of God. We are human, there are angels, we don’t cross over. We don’t become one another. I said at the beginning, some people say, “Oh, like my baby’s like an angel now”. Your baby may be in heaven, no doubt, but not an an angel. Here’s another myth. This comes closer to Christianity: We will remain as spirits in heaven. A lot of Christians believe that when our body dies, it stays here, and we become a spirit and that we just go up into heaven as a spirit. Now, let me put an asterisk next to this one. We’re going to be talking next week about the intermediate heaven and this may or may not be true for some period of time, and we’ll talk about the different views about what happens in the interim. But in the end, in the real heaven that we’re going to get to, we’re going to have bodies. And we’ll come back to this point in a second. And finally, the last one I throw up there because we’ve been talking about it, this big myth: We’ll do nothing but pray and sing praise songs. We’ll yes of course there’s going to be the person in the group that says, “Isn’t like everything we do going to be like an act of prayer?” Okay, what I’m saying is we’re not going to just physically put our hands together and repeat words all day long and sing praises. We are going to other things. And that’s the tantalizing part I’m going to be telling you about in a few weeks – what are we going to do.
Platonic Influence On The Church
Let’s do a little bit of theology. This idea we just talked about a few seconds ago about us becoming spirits was basically because Plato, the Greek philosopher, was very influential in a lot of places, especially took hold in the early church. One of the things that Plato believed was that the material things, including the human body and the Earth, were inherently evil and that immaterial things, such as our souls, were good. A lot of people still believe this to this day. Now the early church was influenced by these doctrines that he had, and they began to create some ideas and notions that exist in the church today. And you can’t just blame the early church because it just seems like throughout the entire history of the church we’ve been plagued by the belief that if it’s material, it’s bad and it’s not spiritual, and if it’s of the soul, then it’s good. We always talk about the sins of the flesh being even greater, right? So then people make the next extrapolation: “Well that must mean that all material things; the body itself is bad. We’re going to leave it someday. We’re going to — you know, it’s going to decay into the ground and hopefully we’re going to the next life.” You see people that say, “Hey, you can’t take it with you,” right? They talk about all material things like that: “You can’t take it with you, you can’t take anything with you. So you should just leave it all behind.” So, some of the heresies in the church adopted the Platonic view about materialism. They added it in a Christian context and they began to deny, for example, the resurrection of the body. That our bodies are going to be with us in heaven. You hear doctrines like: “Wait a minute, it’s going to be a different body. It’s going to be a spiritual body which is different that a physical body. It will kind-of be a body, but it’ll be spiritual somehow.”
Here’s what the Bible says, and we’re going to go into it in just a second. So, give me just two seconds to walk through this. When it comes down to it, we need to understand that this one heresy probably does more to confuse our idea about heaven than anything else. When you ask people, “Why is it that you believe that we become angels?” it’s because angels are more spiritual than we are. If you ask why it is that we’re not going to be doing certain things in heaven, like having houses and driving cars, well that’s because that’s what this world is made of. This world is evil. In heaven you do spiritual things like sing and worship — those things. You sit on clouds all day, because this world is evil. You’ve got to remember that was not God’s plan for this world and just like God could save you, He could just as well save this world. Just like He could save our souls, He could save our bodies. He could save this Earth and He could recreate it. But let me just underscore this. Here’s the reality of the resurrection. Just a statistic to start. Of those Americans who believe in this statement: “The resurrection of the body belongs in one of the creeds,” two-thirds believe that they do not have bodies in the next life. That’s a contradictory statement. If you believe in the resurrection of the body, when you read that statement, in like the Nicene creed, it means your body will be resurrected and you’ll be in it again. It’s part of you. It’s not like a shell. You’re not like a crab that walks out and leaves the shell behind. This is you. You look at the creation story in Genesis, two very key things happen: God creates from the dust and then He breathes the soul, but the two together are what man is. We don’t get to separate them and go, “Hey, in heaven, I’m just floating around like a ghost.” Your body is just as much a part of it. If you have any doubts about this doctrine, read 1 Corinthians 15. If you doubt that there’s any resurrection of the body or what it’s going to be like, just read 1 Corinthians on your own. I’m going to cite a small part of it, but the entire chapter is dedicated to the Corinthian church because they were influenced by the Platonic view. They started to believe a heresy that said that Jesus could not be God and man because man, flesh, human, is evil. So God could only be spirit. And they started creating this whole heresy that Paul had to debunk.
This is 1 Corinthians 15:12-14: But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is not resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith. So the point being, we may think this world is bad, and it is. We may think our bodies are bad, and they’ve done bad things. But God is going to remake everything anew. Was it last week — yeah, last week during Easter if you guys were here for any of the NewSong services, or if you’ve seen “The Passion,” they showed the clip from “The Passion” where Jesus stumbles and falls and his mother runs over to him, and you could see every person welling up. But you know what’s interesting is that there are some people who get really teary-eyed because they watch the scene between a mother and her child. But, for me the thing that really gets to me the most is Jesus’ words when He turns to her and he says, “Behold, I make all things new.” And that gets to me every time because in that scene, what they did that I love is when Jesus gets back up after stumbling, He looks like he’s hugging the cross. Like it’s — a pillow? his mother? — I don’t know what it is exactly that He’s holding onto in that scene, but the statement, “Behold, I make all things new,” has got to be the ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ. That in the moment of sorrow that she sees, and all the things that she can imagine in that moment — it’s compartmentalized –she sees her son dying and yet he’s trying to open her eyes to what is about to happen. “I make all things new.” He doesn’t just mean our souls. He’s going to mean our bodies. The new Jerusalem, the new Earth, the new universe is all going to be made new because of His saving grace. The curse of Satan exists in the world. It exists in every place. But He is redeeming all of it. Not just our souls. And we need to understand that, because then we can finally free ourselves of that notion that the church has had for so long that our bodies are bad, our souls are good. Materialism in this world is bad; the future is all going to be good because there’s going to be nothing but singing and praying. And our souls are going to be floating around like ghosts sitting on clouds and some spiritual things like halos floating over our heads. It is not our future! Our future is better than that. And if your heart doesn’t resonate with the future I just described — it’s because God doesn’t want you to have that future.
Learning From The Example of Jesus
Let’s go to the next slide. Let’s talk about Jesus for just a second. It’s a good thing to talk about in church. He provides a fantastic analogy, and vision, and picture of what it’s going to be like to have a resurrected body. Now, I did use the word ‘analogy’ for a reason. We cannot take everything that Jesus does and say, “I will be this way.” One example I can think of is Jesus in His resurrected body walked through the walls and showed up in the room and just appeared and disappeared. I don’t know if we’ll have that power in heaven. We may, we may not. But, let me just say that it would be conservative of us to say that Jesus will be able to do some things that we won’t. [Laughter] And maybe walking through walls is one of them, but then again I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to heaven and He says, “You can walk through walls too.” Jesus models for us what our resurrected bodies will be like. Look at what Jesus did after He was resurrected. He ate. Remember when He was standing on the shore and He was making breakfast for the disciples? He didn’t like walk on the water the way He did before and just kinda float above the water and stand there. He was actually waiting for them on the shore, making breakfast. For who? For Himself! He was eating. Remember He told them to bring their fish and add it to His. So it’s not like He wasn’t hungry. So I see in our resurrected Lord, I seem somebody who’s — first, He’s got a body, because remember even the Marys who didn’t recognize Him at least called Him “sir”. So at least you know what gender He is. Another thing we know about Him is that He walked, He talked, He taught, He ate. Those are good things. Sounds just like it before His death.
Here’s another thing. People recognized Him. Now, there’s some speculation about how close His body looked to His original body, but we do know a couple of things. He showed the nails in His hands. Now, is that one of the things Jesus will always bear that will be different? Like, our bodies will be more perfect, but His will always have the nails. I don’t know. You know what, we all know that we will have renewed bodies, but we don’t know the extent of what that means. We know that our bodies will be better, different, they won’t die. They won’t have sickness. They won’t have illnesses, but does that mean that all of us will look, like, the same? Will all of us…I don’t know. And this is where I can say, we can imagine and we can speculate, and it’s ok to do that, but let’s come back to the things we do know for sure. What we have to be sure we don’t do is make up doctrine that doesn’t exist. We can say, “Alright, now it’s time for us to speculate about some things.” We can use Christ as an example and it’s a great example to use but there may be some differences. For example, the nails in His hands. Will he always have those? I don’t know. Will we be the only ones — like, will He be the only one who has nails to show and yet our scars will be gone? I don’t know. Will He be the only one who walks through the walls? I don’t know. Maybe when we get to heaven it’ll be totally different in another way, like we’ll have other abilities we don’t have. Like, will we fly? I don’t know. It’d be great to think that we could, but that’s — this is where we go into healthy speculation where it’s kind of fun to think about, but in the end we come back to scripture, which is: we know that He was recognized. We know that His relationship with the people He knew before did not start over, and that’s important because people ask, “What happens with the people we knew on earth?” Well from His example and the people He knew on earth, He continued right along where He left off. In fact, He goes back to mend fences as a first order of business and sits down and tries to redeem Peter for having denied Him. So it’s not like He was, “Aww that was back then. I’m resurrected. It’s over.” No He goes right back to keep the relationship going where He left off. And He spent time teaching the same things that He was teaching before. So, there’s a continuity here.
Now again, we can glimpse into it a little bit, but it’s not crystal clear because we’re using an example of Christ and in a lot of ways Christ may be different than we are. But I think there are enough clues here to see that we’re not going to be just like disembodied spirits floating around somewhere, like, “whoooooo.” Look at this point: in Luke 24:39, Jesus makes it clear to His disciples, Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself . And He says, Touch me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. So He was like trying to even tell them, and this is scriptural, like it’s been copied into our Bibles to make sure we don’t miss this point. “I’m not a ghost. Touch me.” It’s one of the things they thought important enough to write down to become part of our scriptures that we know that Jesus didn’t come back as a ghost. We have the example of Him on the road to Emmaus and He’s talking to the people and they didn’t recognize Him until He opened their eyes when He broke bread. I actually think if you read the text in context, it isn’t that they didn’t recognize Him, it was that their eyes were kept from recognizing Him so that they could hear everything He had to say until He finally broke bread. And as you remember, then He disappears in their midst after that. Again, probably a trait that only Jesus has.
So, if all of these theological points leave your head spinning just get this one point. The Christo-platonic view left us with a sorry excuse for Heaven, that this world and all material things were bad, that our souls were good and that we were going to divorce them somehow — leave them behind. And the truth is, the point you need to know, our bodies will be resurrected in whatever state they look, whether they’ll be perfect, whether they’ll be different, but they will definitely be resurrected. And we will join again with that body, and that is really what our intention is to be.
What’s Ahead In Our Series…
In the coming weeks what we’re going to be talking about is, what is heaven going to be like? You cannot begin to understand or appreciate what heaven will be like if you don’t appreciate that you’re going to have a body. For example, people who live in bodies don’t want to sing all day. Maybe if you’re a disembodied spirit, maybe you do that. But people who live in bodies want to eat, want to walk and talk, and do other things like sleep maybe. And, can you take it even further than that, and we will. We’re going to start talking about people living in the cities and things like that — and all the things the Bible talks about start to make a little bit more sense when you remember that we’re going to be in bodies. Yes, they’re perfect, in some respects — maybe it’s because they don’t die and don’t have illness. Does that mean that everyone will look like a model? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe that’s what makes it heaven. And I don’t know what age we’ll be — like, what age would we pick for the resurrected bodies? Everybody get to be 19? Is it 30? But, here’s the point: God can take anything and make it better. And He’s going to do that with our bodies.
We’re going to talk about the new Earth, but let me just give you one glimpse of that. There is a place that we go in between the time that we actually die and the final place. I’m going to tell you what the final place is now so you can start to imagine it. You know in the end of Revelation the final status is the new Earth comes down and we dwell with God where? On Earth. We started tonight playing a bunch of songs, some secular songs. And the funny thing is, they get it right more than we do. That Belinda Carlisle song, “Heaven is a Place on Earth” is actually right. Even though what she’s trying to say is, “I don’t want to go to heaven ’cause I could make it good here on Earth,” which is a false notion of our world — that we could turn this place into a good place without God. But, what she doesn’t realize is that God is going to do exactly what she’s singing about. He’s going to wipe out this place and make it all good. But we’re not living in some 5th, 6th, 9th, 12th dimension somewhere else in heaven. We’re going to live here on Earth. God will be pleased to dwell with man here on Earth. So that’s where we are going. Next week we’re going to talk about what happens in between, while we are waiting for that to happen. And in a couple of weeks after that, as we go through the final — like, what our life is going to be like — the questions we are really going to be asking are, when we get to the final place, when we get to heaven — which is really the new Earth — you know Heaven with a big ‘H’ — here we are in the new Earth, what are we going to be doing? And that’s when it gets interesting, when we start to ask ourselves the real questions. Because you know the intermediate stuff is interesting, but it will end and then we will finally be on the new Earth. And yeah, somebody still wants to know where does the millennium fit in, but like I said, you can talk to the Calvary Chapel people, they’ll tell you. For us, the real important thing is, where will it be and what will it be like?
Let’s Pray. Lord, the things that You’ve given us to ponder are amazing. And Lord, I just pray that You would have Your spirit reveal even greater things to us. It’s true that so few people get to study this topic that maybe during this time, Lord, Your spirit would work wonders and we’ll be able to glimpse at heaven in a way that we’ll get excited about it as a group. One thing I’m thankful for Lord is that this group will be in heaven and that we’ll be there together and that we’ll be able to continue our relationship together. And that we’ll be able to look back and laugh at the times that we anticipated heaven and maybe all the things that we got wrong and how much better it’ll be when we’re there. But Lord, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look and peer into what we can so that we can better anticipate the place that You’ve prepared for us. This is Your ultimate plan, to save us and to take us into this new Earth. And Lord, I just confess that for me, for many many years, even now, I’ve never looked forward to it. I want to look forward to it. I want to yearn for it. I want to live my life for it, because it’s going to be the place where I spend all of my eternal life. So Lord I thank You first that You’ve saved us. I thank You for Your saving grace, that You’ve made it so easy, that You took it upon Yourself to make all things new. And I thank You that the people in this room are included in what will be made new. I just pray Lord that we would have time set aside to help others see it, Lord. That we would have hearts and minds that would be able to explain to others the wonders of heaven and help them to get excited to come along on the journey. And Lord, that Your holy spirit would work in those people’s hearts that they would accept You and really meet the true entrance requirements for heaven, not the made-up ones they use to comfort their own hearts. Pray all this in Your precious name, Amen.