A great room, an amazing all-you-can-eat buffet, and even the greenest golf courses – as much as they are all nice – are not what heaven is about. The best thing about heaven is who we are with.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘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” (Revelation 21:1-4).
Most of the time, when we talk about heaven, we tend to focus our “what” heaven is like. Will it be “up there” somewhere? Where exactly will it be? Will there be fishing streams? Will my cat be in heaven. [Ugh… I hope not]. Then there are the streets of gold. Just what kind of gold are we talking about anyway?
There’s the story of the rich man who, on his deathbed, negotiated with God to allow him to bring his earthly treasures with him when he came to heaven. God thought this was a little strange, but being the benevolent God that he is decided to grant the man’s request. Sure enough the man died and he showed up at the pearly gates with a suitcase. St. Peter, being in charge of the front door and all, needed to take a look (I guess even heaven has security screening). Peter took the suitcase, opened it, saw all the gold that the man had brought, and asked with disbelief, “Pavement? You brought PAVEMENT?"
Gold streets are nice, I’m sure – but that’s not what heaven is about.
The most important questions about heaven are not “what” questions; they are “who” questions. Namely; who will be there? And of course, the most important “who” in “who will be there” is Jesus. The glory of heaven is not in the beautiful descriptions and all the wonderful comforts.
For example, we know that in heaven there will be no sorrow or crying or pain. Now, that sounds good! There is a lot of pain in this world. Some of you have been through so much already. I don’t understand it all. But I do know that all of that will be a thing of the past in heaven. That’s sounds good. And it is good. But even that isn’t the best part about heaven.
The glory of heaven will be the presence of God. Remember, John 14, when Jesus is comforting his disciples, “That where I am, you will be also….” And in Revelation: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (Rev. 21:4).
Now, don’t get me wrong….. I like my friends and my congregation. You are an amazing people. You’ve been patient with me, you’ve supported me, you’ve been there for me when I’ve gone through difficult times – you guys are awesome – and I very sincerely hope that all of us will be in heaven together some day. That would be awesome for sure. But [are you ready for this – brace yourself – this might come as a shock] I’m not looking forward to heaven because I’ll see you there. Crazy, isn’t it? And I’m not even looking forward to heaven because I’ll see my grandparents there. I know that sounds awful, like I don’t care. That’s not true at all. I do care. But heaven isn’t about me and my buddies or even my family – it’s about God. Heaven is about being in the presence of the eternal God of all creation, and being able to know him, worship him, and love him free from all hindrances and limitations.
Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Right now, we see God with our human lens, but we don’t see him clearly. Right now, we love God with our human heart, but there are also other things that compete. Right now, we worship Him – and yet even our worship is limited. In heaven, we will see him face to face, we will know him fully and we will worship him without hindrance. In heaven, we will be able to have that full and complete, unhindered relationship with our Lord and Saviour. We will see him, we will understand him, we will be able to worship him – fully and freely. All our imperfections will be gone. All our misunderstandings will be gone.
Going back to Rev. 21:7; “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Sounds pretty good. That’s what heaven is. Our relationship with, our communion and our understanding of God – fully restored.
But there’s one other thing that needs to be said about heaven – and that is that it’s not the eternal home for everyone.
We have this concept in our mind – and I think it starts in grade school now – where everyone is a winner. You win, I win, we all win. No one loses. And that concept has passed into the spiritual realm. God loves us all. We are all his children. We’re all going to end up in heaven one way or another. Sounds very modern – but it’s not at all biblical.
Take a look at Rev. 21:8, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all the liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Whoa…. Where did that come from? Yes, right after all that other nice talk about what heaven will be like.
Not everyone is in heaven now. Some people won't make it. The Bible speaks of the saved and the lost. The saved are those who trust Jesus Christ as their eternal Savior. The lost are those who do not trust Christ as Savior. This is the great dividing line of humanity-you are either saved or you are lost. And there is no middle category. You will either spend eternity in heaven or eternity in hell.
Way back in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, God made it clear to the people that there were two choices, two ways, two outcomes as they entered the promised land.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The same is true for us as we face the prospect of eternity. There is an eternal life and there is a second death. And the sad part is that no one needs to face the reality of hell. That’s why Jesus died for our sins – he took our sin upon himself – so that we can find life. We have a choice – life or death; blessings or curses. Eternity with God – knowing him fully – or rejecting Him and facing the consequences.
In his book "Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life", the author Charles Swindoll tells a story about the 19th Century agnostic Thomas Huxley. Huxley was in Dublin and was rushing to catch a train. He climbed aboard one of Dublin’s famous horse drawn taxis and said to the driver "Hurry, I’m almost late, drive fast". Off they went at a furious pace and Huxley sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. After a while Huxley opened his eyes and glanced out the window to notice that they were going in the wrong direction. Realizing that he hadn’t told the driver where to take him he called out ‘do you know where you’re going?’ The driver replied "No, your honour, but I am driving very fast’.
Far too many people are racing along in life but they haven’t given much thought to where they are going. The question for us is, where are you headed? I don’t ask you that, with a figurative gavel in my hand and a long finger pointing at you; I ask you that as a friend. “There is a way that seems right but in the end it leads to death.” Prov. 14:12.
There are two ways; two destinies; two choices. We don’t end up in heaven because we were lucky, or because we kept our nose relatively clean. We can only come into heaven through Christ.