SERIES: Topical Messages: Heaven
SETTING: North Kelso Baptist Church
SERVICE: Sunday AM (September 6, 2015)
SUBTITLE: Heaven: Our Heart & Our Home (Part 1)
SCRIPTURE: Selected Scriptures
SUBJECT: The Promise of Heaven
SUMMARY: Heaven has been promised to the genuine believer
Our theme is: Heaven
Proposition: Heaven has been promised to the genuine believer
Interrogatory Sentence: What does the bible say about the promise of heaven to the believer?
Transitional Sentence: We will see what the bible says about the promise of heaven by looking at:
• The Anticipation of Culture
• The Anticipation of Christianity
• The Anticipation of Cessation
Heaven: Our Heart & Our Home
Selected Scriptures * Part 1
The Apostle Paul wrote “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19, NASB) We have hope of a future life!
A 2007 Gallup Poll showed that 81% of adult Americans say that they believe in heaven.
What I find interesting is that 80% of those polled also stated that they believe they will be granted entrance into heaven when they die.
What is also interesting is that as interest in heaven grows the belief in God is declining. Apparently this same poll showed that atheism was gaining in popularity.
Some final thoughts from this poll also show that the majority of these same people do not believe in a hell or at least they are not sure it really exists. These folks who were polled doubted whether the Devil really existed also.
What was clear that as confidence, belief, trust in the bible declines people still have ideas about heaven, what they think it is and that they are going to go there when they die? Reality shows people are making up a heaven that they can accept and be happy about.
Just look at the movies or inside so called Christian Book Stores:
• Heaven is for Real – by Todd Burpo. A 4 year went to heaven and came back to describe heaven in detail. A book and movie was developed from this “trip.”
• To Heaven and Back – is a book about Mary C. Neal’s trip to heaven and back
• Alex Markey claims to have gone to heaven and back during a bus crash when he was six years old
• Crystal McVea states she died during surgery in 2009 and went to heaven and was sent back to this life on earth
• Don Piper wrote a book about his trip to heaven and back as a result of a car crash in 2008
• Betty Eadie had a book Embraced by the Light – her personal account of a near-death experience. She “was on the brink of death” and guardian spirits accompanied her through a dark tunnel and into a heaven of light giving her information about her life
There are many, many more stories and accounts and we could go on and on about people who have claimed to have gone to heaven, been given tours, played with Jesus, saw warehouses full of body parts that were waiting on people to claim their miracles, and etc.
[In contrast however…]
Hopefully you have thought about heaven and have thought about it often. I would also say that a time or two you have tried to imagine what heaven will be like. We are going to spend several weeks trying to find out from the information we have in the bible.
Let me say clearly and give this caveat up front: many people throughout time have had a craving for detailed information about the afterlife. They have gone to great links to obtain or try to obtain information from all types or kinds of sources.
The bible never indulges or satisfies that craving. At every attempt in the OT when people tried to communicate with the dead it was considered a sin – as a matter of fact as serious a sin as child sacrifice.
The NT has given us some information that helps us understand heaven and the afterlife a bit more. But keep this in mind, we are forbidden in spiritual matters to go beyond what has been revealed and written in the bible. Listen to what Paul told the Corinthians:
“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers,[a] that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” (1 Corinthians 4:6, ESV)
If God wanted us to know more we would have told us in the Scriptures. He certainly had the opportunity:
• When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, we don’t have even the slightest whisper of what happened to him during the four (4) days he was dead
• When Elijah raised the widows son from the dead in 1 Kings 17 - we have no information about his experience
• When Eutychus fell out of the window and died when Paul preached to after midnight, he gave no information that was recorded about what happened to him or where he went
• When Paul was taken up to heaven and saw and heard the things that he did, God gave him a “thorn” to keep him from becoming proud and he was forbidden to speak of his experience
So, we are not allowed to go beyond what is revealed and written in Scripture, but we can examine closely and intently what God has revealed. And that is what we are going to do.
[So, let’s get started by looking at…]
A. The Anticipation of the Afterlife by Culture
Randy Alcorn wrote, “…the idea that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history.
1. Australian Aborigines
…pictured heaven as a distant island beyond the western horizon
2. Early Finns
…thought heaven was an island in the faraway east
3. Mexicans, Peruvians, & Polynesians
…believed they went to the sun or moon after death
4. The American Indians
…believed that their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffaloes in the after life
5. The Gilgamesh (epic book) of Babylonian origin
…contains a reference to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life
6. The Egyptians
…would place maps inside the pyramids with embalmed bodies for directions in the afterlife
7. The Romans
…believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysian Fields while their horses grazed nearby
It is clear that these illustrations are all very different but they demonstrate that human beings have some concept of an after-life and a future dwelling place.
Don Richardson in his book, Eternity in Their Hearts, wrote: “Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal – that this world is not all there is.”
These are just a few examples of what various cultures thought of death, heaven, and the afterlife. What about Christians? What was their thoughts about heaven and the afterlife? [Let’s look at…]
B. The Anticipation of the Afterlife by Christianity
1. From the Roman Catacombs
a. “In Christ, Alexander is not dead but lives
b. “One who lives with God”
c. “He was taken up into his eternal home”
2. From Historians
“Pictures on the catacomb walls portray heaven with beautiful landscapes, children playing, and people feasting at banquets.”
3. From Scripture
a. Philippians 1:21, 23
b. 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8
c. John 14:2
4. From an Early Church Father (Cyprian)
“Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us from this place and sets u free from the snares of this world, and restores us to paradise and the kingdom. Anyone who has been in foreign lands longs to return to his own native land…We regard paradise as our native land.”
And so we see that death, heaven, and the afterlife was anticipated by both culture and Christians. All cultures have some form of idea about “heaven.” Christians certainly anticipated heaven.
But there is a third and final source that anticipates the afterlife. That is…
C. The Anticipation of the Afterlife by Cessation (Curtains)
Don’t forget, there is one “disease” that every person who has ever been conceived will without fail come down with. That disease is “death.” As human beings we are mortal.
A number of people from writers, to philosophers, to the religious have at one time or another made this point – The death rate is 100%. Apart from the return of Jesus Christ in our life time, we will all die.
*Current statistics show that worldwide:
• 2 people die every second,
• 180 people die every minute
• 6,392.70 people die every hour
• 153,424.70 people die every day
• 4,679,452.00 die every month
• 56 million people die every year.
Each and every one of those people went to either Heaven or Hell!
*World Death Clock, http://www.medindia.net/patients/calculators/world-death-clock.asp
Don’t forget, King David once said, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed you have made my days as handbreadths.” (Psalm 39:4-5, NKVJ)
Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12, NKJV)
How does the anticipation of death help the believer?
God uses the suffering we endure and our awareness of our impending death to break the hold of this world and its philosophies and to cause us to set hour heart and to settle our hope on what comes in the life after our death.
Most people never learn the benefits and lessons from the things that they suffering this life. How foolish is it to suffer and never benefit from it?
Most people never think about their impending death. Most people never use the fact that they will die to benefit their living now and to prepare for their afterlife.
I am across some interesting and good examples of a few who thought about death and the afterlife. Let me share them with you, if for no other reason than they are interesting:
• Ancient merchants would write the words memento mori – “think of death” in large letters on the first page of their accounting books
• Philip of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great) had a servant stand and read to him every day, “Philip, you are going to die!”
• Seneca wrote numerous letters, many with the instructions “to meditate often on death”
• The transi, or cadaver tomb, was a tomb that depicted the decayed corpse of the deceased. This became a fashion in the tombs of the wealthy in the fifteenth century, and surviving examples still create a stark reminder of the vanity of earthly riches.
• Puritan tomb stones in the colonial United States frequently depicted winged skulls, skeletons, or angels snuffing out candles.
• The chapels of bones, such as the Capela dos Ossos in Évora or the Capuchin Crypt in Rome. These are chapels where the walls are totally or partially covered by human remains, mostly bones. The entrance to the former has the sentence "We bones, lying here bare, await for yours."
• Timepieces were formerly an apt reminder that your time on Earth grows shorter with each passing minute. Public clocks would be decorated with mottos such as ultima forsan ("perhaps the last" [hour]) or vulnerant omnes, ultima necat ("they all wound, and the last kills").
Interesting, wouldn’t you say? The world has some strange means and ways to remind themselves of their mortality and impending death. But what about Christians? Do we need such things?
Christ came to deliver us from the fear of death. Listen to these comforting words:
• “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death that is the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14, NKJV)
• “…death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O hades where is your victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54c, 55, NKJV)
• “But has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10, NKJV)
So, death, heaven, and the afterlife is nothing new nor are these things relegated to Christians. Death, heaven, and the afterlife have been anticipated by every culture, by Christians, and by the expectation of cessation, or death.
Let me conclude with this true story.
Florence Chadwick in 1952 attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the mainland of California. She was the first woman to swim across the English Chanel both ways.
The weather was very foggy and it was very cold. She could barely see the boat that was accompanying her. She swam for some fifteen hours. Then she couldn’t swim any longer. She asked to be taken in the boat and her mother said, “Florence you are close you can make it.” But exhausted, she just stopped swimming and so they took her aboard the boat.
When she was on the boat she discovered that she was less than ½ mile from shore. At her news conference on the following day, she made this statement, “All I could see was the fog…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
As believers we get discouraged, we are burdened, and we become afraid. Life happens and we think that there is nothing good that we can cling to. A biblical understanding of heaven can change that!
If you can see the shore, you can make it!
Think about Florence’s words, “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” For us, the shore is Jesus and the promise of being with him forever in heaven.
This life is full of fog, it is full of cold weather, and it is certainly full of exhausting tasks. But, if you have a glimpse of heaven, if you can see the shore, you can make it. So over the next several weeks we are going to take a look at the shore.
All men have a sense of eternality within them.
Today I wanted to prove to you that all men have a sense that there is something, some type of after-life beyond death.
What Should You Do?
Study the Scriptures about heaven; know this topic well
Live in anticipation and expectation of having a hope in heaven
Thank God for the life He has provided in Christ beyond the grave