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Heaven (Part 1) - Why Consider It?

Heaven's Gates

by Dennis Pollock

Those of us who are in Christ have an incredible future! Our past may not be so great; our present may not seem especially bright, but our future is absolutely brilliant! The Scriptures tell us: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). But sometimes we interpret this wrongly. We suppose this means that, although God indeed has some wonderful plans for us in eternity, there is nothing we can know about them on this side of heaven. We cannot even imagine how wonderful it will be, and to attempt to guess at what it will be like would be futile and would only lead to confusion and error.

However, we need to read a bit further. The Scriptures do not stop with the idea that it hasn’t entered the hearts of men and women what God has planned for us. Paul goes on to declare, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit, anointing and inspiring the writers of the Scriptures, has revealed much to us about the life to come which awaits all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son. We don’t need to try to guess or speculate, we don’t need to work up our imagination and picture things of which we can never be sure. Rather we can open our Bibles and learn a great many details about that life which awaits Christ’s redeemed people after they draw their last breath on this earth.

Standard View of Heaven

The basic view of heaven among Christians has long been extremely simple. It consists of three main points: 1) You die, 2) You go to be with Jesus, and 3) It’s great there. They are not wrong. The Bible does indeed indicate that these three things are true and certain. But something is missing with this view, which are the details and the specifics pertaining to that glorious life that awaits us. Now if the Bible were silent on these things, then of course we should be silent as well. What God leaves out of His word is every bit as significant as what God includes. So if these three points were all the Bible had to say about heaven: 1) You die, 2) You go to be with Jesus, and 3) It’s great there, then we should leave it at that and say no more.

But anyone who reads and considers carefully what the Scriptures reveal about the afterlife knows that it has more to say about the future of the believer – a great deal more. Our problem is not a lack of specifics given in Scripture; our problem is either we don’t pay attention to those details, don’t believe them, or perhaps we are convinced that they could not possibly be true as they read and must therefore be symbolical representations of some other truths of which we could never understand. Therefore, we are better off to say very little.

World’s View of Heaven

Heaven has long been a source of ridicule among the ungodly and non-Christians. They mock us for our “pie-in-the-sky” theology and contemptuously inform us that we are wasting our time and wasting our lives thinking about and believing in the prospect of living eternally with God in a place where suffering and sadness have been banished forever. Atheists love to throw cold water on our hope of heaven:

  1. “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
  2. “There is no God. There's no heaven. There's no hell. There are no angels. When you die, you go in the ground, the worms eat you.” – Madalyn Murray O’Hare
  3. “Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish—a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate…” ― Hunter S. Thompson
  4. ‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail… There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” – Stephen Hawking

Of course there is an obvious and very profound response to such nonsensical ramblings: “Sez who?” Who are you, puny pathetic little man, simple, dull little woman, to be able to speak so definitively on a subject of which you are entirely ignorant? The only way one would be able to declare that there is no heaven and there is no God is to have been everywhere there is to be and have seen everything there is to see and to know everything there is to know, and to have perfect, pure intelligence in order to be able to process it all. Go and learn everything, see everything, and know everything. Then come and make your declarations!

Absent from the Churches

As bad as it is to see how the world mocks the idea of heaven, it is far sadder to see how little attention is paid to heaven in most churches today. We have somehow become convinced that what modern men and women need is for ministers to focus almost entirely on the here and now. Thus we have seminars, conferences, and lengthy sermon series on marriage, child-raising, how to succeed in business, how to prosper, relationships, happiness, and so forth. We don’t talk about heaven much and we sing about it almost never.

"Some of you will not remember the old songs, but you folks my age will, songs like: “When We All Get to Heaven,” “Just Over in the Glory Land,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “The Sweet By and By?” Christians used to sing enthusiastically about heaven, preach about it, teach about it, and think about it. Today – not so much! It’s as though we have become too cool for heaven these days: “Oh, you still talk about heaven – that’s so 1800’s!”

I believe C. S. Lewis had it exactly right when he wrote:

If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you'll get the earth "thrown in;" aim at earth and you'll get neither.

Jesus Preached Heaven

JESUSJesus continually affirmed the reality of heaven. In His preaching and teaching He loved to link God the Father with His dwelling place in heaven. In the early days of His ministry the Bible tells us: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). When He taught on prayer, He instructed His followers to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” He gave both title (our Father) and address (in heaven). Sometimes we declare that God is everywhere. In one sense this is true. There is nowhere where God’s spirit is not. But the Person of God the Father is declared to be in heaven: “Our Father which art in heaven.” Not “Our Father which art on earth,” not “Our Father who dwells in Jerusalem,” or “Our Father who inhabits Washington D. C.,” but “Our Father which art in heaven.” After His resurrection Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father…” Where was He going? He was going to His Father in heaven.

In documentaries and news reports, often an expert is called to comment on the subject at hand. They do not feel it would be of much benefit to get a plumber to give a detailed analysis of a rare disease that was breaking out in our nation. It would be silly to get a truck driver to comment on why a rocket launch failed. Instead they locate an expert, one who has studied the subject for years and knows it inside and out. But where do you find an expert on heaven? Of course Jesus Christ is that Expert. He came from heaven. Jesus declares: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man…” (John 3:13). If you want to learn about heaven, don’t look to the celebrities, the talk show hosts, the philosophers, or the politicians. Look to the One who walked on water, raised dead people, healed lepers, cast out demons, and came directly from heaven!

When We Die

Are people in heaven today? The answer is a resounding yes! Paul is there, and John and Peter, and first century Christians, second century Christians, and right up to those believers in Christ who died yesterday or this morning. Jesus tells us, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). He was obviously talking about the death of the spirit, not the body, for believing Christians have died physically all through the ages. But according to the Scriptures this death of the body is a bit of an illusion. It does not mean the cessation of consciousness or the death of the spirit. Paul writes:

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Absent from the body and present with the Lord” – this is how the Bible describes death. The real you, the spirit inside the physical body will one day leave your body and be absent – it will no longer be present inside the body. It will be gone! Scientists and doctors have long debated just when death really occurs. Is it when the heart stops beating? Or when the brain waves cease? Or when the body reaches a point in which it can no longer be resuscitated through CPR? From the Scriptures we have the answer. Death occurs when the spirit leaves the body.

But Paul tells us that the spirit of the believer does not hang around, watching the doctors frantically trying to resuscitate the body. He declares that, for Christians, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. There is an immediate transfer from earth to heaven, from sickness, weakness, and pain to joy, peace, and wholeness in the presence of Christ. And he declares that this is his preference. Heaven should never be seen merely as consolation for not being able to live on earth anymore. It is infinitely preferable! He writes to the Philippian believers: “For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Not somewhat better, not slightly better, not merely manageable, but far better, and that is surely an understatement!

Will You Be There?

Will most people go to heaven? We certainly act like this is so. Whenever someone dies we always suggest that they are in heaven right now, regardless of how immorally they lived, or how little attention they paid to Jesus Christ. Surely they are in heaven right now, rejoicing with the angels. The actor Tom Hanks famously suggested that the homosexuals who died of AIDS were not only in heaven, but were now functioning as angels there. Again, we might ask the question: “Sez who?” When a survey asked people if they were going to heaven when they died, they replied in the affirmative by a rate of 120 to 1, an incredibly optimistic but rather naïve response.

When Jesus, who undoubtedly knows whereof He speaks, addressed this issue, He emphatically declared that most people would surely not go to heaven, saying:

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13,14)

Most people will not go to heaven for the way is exceedingly narrow, and that Way is Jesus Christ. He announces, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Believing these things, let us rejoice in Jesus, who has made a way for us to live with the Father eternally, in a place where there is no suffering or sadness. We have it on good authority. The world’s only true Expert has weighed in on the matter.


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