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Sunday, August 21, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "About Heaven"

“About Heaven”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
August 21, 2011
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

We’re in the middle of a very short series on God’s Great and Precious Promises.

The Bible says that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

They are that good!

God’s great and precious promises are basic necessities for living the Christian life.

They are not add-ons, not extra, not optional, not an upgrade.

When you go to McDonalds, they say, “Do you want fries with that?”  “Do you want to upsize to a bigger drink?”

That’s optional.

God’s great and precious promises are necessary for living the Christian life.

Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!


And each week, we’ve been thinking about a different set of promises and how great they are and making them precious to us.

Last week was great and precious promises about prayer.  Ask, Seek, Knock and expect good answers.

Next week will be great and precious promises about God’s presence.  Come back next week to hear about those.

Today, great and precious promises about heaven. “About Heaven.”

I had very hard time deciding what passage to preach on today.

Not because there weren’t very many promises about heaven, but because I couldn’t decide what promises to share!

There’s too many. And they’re too good to skip any of them.

A number of you asked for promises about the return of Christ and about heaven on your survey sheets.

But none of you asked for the same passage.

I studied John 14:1-3 for today.

Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

I almost preached that one.

I studied 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16.

Paul says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [meaning Christians who die], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

Those are great and precious promises, are they not?!

Paul says, “encourage each other with these words.”  Make them precious to you.

I almost preached that to you this morning.

And I studied Revelation 21 and 22 which, in amazing apocalyptic symbolism gives the most stunning, most breathtaking promises in all the Bible as to what heaven will be like.

It’s like drinking from the fire hydrant trying to take it all in.

I almost preached that to you this morning.

But I settled on 2 Corinthians 4:16 through 5:10.

And here’s why.  Because I think we need these promises today.

These are the ones we especially need to hear.

The apostle Paul was going through a terrible time in his ministry.

Extreme difficulty. His troubles were so extreme that he called it a kind of living death.

In the context of our passage for today, he said that he carries around in his body the death of Jesus.  That death is at work in him.

It’s an extremely terrible time for Paul.

Are you going through an extremely terrible time right now?

What sustains you?

What keeps you going?

For Paul, it is the great and precious promises of heaven that keep him going.

He says that he was hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.
He was perplexed but not in total despair.
He was persecuted, but he wasn’t alone.
He was struck down, but not destroyed.
He was hurting, but he didn’t stop.
He kept going in ministry for those people who needed to hear about Jesus.

And he did by reminding himself of heaven.

And that’s why I picked this passage for today.

Heaven is what sustained the Apostle Paul when he was going through his living death.  His death-ful living.

Heaven is what gave him hope and power for living through the midst of extreme suffering.

Great and Precious Promises about Heaven.

I want to point out three promises about heaven from this passage of God’s Word.

#1. HEAVEN WILL BE WORTH THE TROUBLES OF EARTH.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. [We don’t give up.]  Though outwardly we are wasting away [anybody feel like that today?], yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

The Bible says that we fix our eyes not on this world and what we can see now but on that world and what we cannot see right now.  What is unseen.

Why? Because this is all temporary.  But that is eternal.

Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God’s glory. And heaven will be worth all of the troubles of earth.

Paul says, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Do your trials feel light and momentary?

I know they don’t.

I’m trying to write a book.  For the next two weeks, it will be almost everything that I do while I’m awake.

I’m ready for this to be over.

But I know that in a few weeks it will be.

My troubles (which are really blessings) will be over in a just a few weeks.

They are, when I have perspective, light and momentary.

Of course, you trials may not be over in a few weeks. They may stretch on and on and on.

But in this perspective, they are light and momentary.

Heaven is eternal.  And it is the constant enjoyment of God’s glory.

And it far outweighs all of the trials and tribulations and troubles of this life.

“Far outweighs!”

Because I’m a pastor, I go to a lot of funerals. And people often say something like, “She’s in a better place now.”

But they don’t really believe it.  They just say it.  I have a friend named Jack who has lived through some nasty cancer. And once, when I saw Jack, he said that cancer treatments were going well, and that he’s on “the right side of the flowers.”  And I know what’s he’s saying.  But it’s not true.  If he truly belongs to Jesus, right now, he’s on the wrong side of the flowers!

The other side of the flowers is the side that “far outweighs” it all.

Heaven is worth it.  Heaven is worth the troubles of earth.

Are you hurting right now? It really hurts. I know it really hurts.

But compared to eternity, compared to Heaven, compared to Forever, your pain is light and momentary and if you respond in faith it is achieving for you an enjoyment of an eternal glory that far outweighs it all.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of God’s Glory.   And it’s worth it.

Heather Joy and I were engaged for 14 months (I don’t recommend that long of an engagement!), and for the last 7 of those months, we were separated by 2,000 miles.

That was a very difficult time of waiting. It seemed to last forever.  It seemed like we’d never be together again. [Remember those days?] But it was necessary for my schooling, her health, and getting all the details of our wedding together.  It was a hard time.

But I knew that on June 18, 1994, I would be united with my wife.  And we would be (Lord-willing) together again for a lifetime. And those 7 months are just a passing memory now.  “Light and momentary affliction” compared to the glory that we enjoy in marriage today.

Now, my separation from Heather doesn’t compare, I’m sure with what you are going through.

But whatever you are going through doesn’t compare with Heaven.

Think about what will NOT be in heaven just to think about whether it is worth it or not!

We can often tell how good something is by what’s not there.

You know what is not there?

No more death.

Death will have died. No more funerals.  No more funeral homes.  No more graveyards.  No more sad goodbyes.  Death is gone. Can you imagine?

And therefore there will be no mourning.  No grieving.  No bawling our eyes out that we have lost stillborn children or spouses or parents or grandparents.

And the Bible says there will be no more crying.

The Bible says that God Himself [!] will wipe every tear from our eyes!

As they song says, “No more crying there, we are going to see the King!”

No more crying because there is no more pain. No more suffering at all?  No more wheelchairs!  No more cortizone shots.  No more back surgery.  No more suffering.

And even greater --  No more sin.

You know a couple of months ago, I had a brainstorm.

I was burdened about my book on resisting gossip, and frustrated because I was sure that it wouldn’t do very much to stop gossip.

I mean, what can stop the power of gossip?

Writing a little book on it seems like yelling at the ocean to stop rolling in on the waves.

Yeah, right.

And then, I had a little vision into heaven.  And I realized that there would be no more gossip in heaven.

No more sinful gossip.

Because there will be no bad stories to tell!  Only good ones.

Heaven is going to be so awesome, we can’t hardly imagine.

Heaven will be worth the troubles of earth.  More than worth.

Therefore, Paul says (v.18), “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

It is impossible to be too heavenly minded.

Now, it’s also possible to be no earthly good!

But it’s impossible to be too rightly heavenly minded.

We need to fix our eyes on what is unseen.

Fix your eyes on heaven.

That means get ready for eternity.
It means get right with God.
It means get busy sharing Jesus with those who need Him most.

Being fixed on heaven will give us priorities for living on earth.

Believing the great and precious promises of heaven being WORTH IT ALL will motivate us to live the right way now.

Fix your eyes on heaven.

#2. HEAVEN WILL BE NEW LIFE IN A NEW BODY IN A NEW WORLD FOREVER.

How’s that for a promise? It doesn’t get much greater!  Or more precious.

2 Corinthians 5: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed [He’s talking about our bodies], we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling [our new bodies], because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked [a bare soul].

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

I like to go camping.

My favorite place on God’s green earth is Cook Forest State Park on the Clarion River.

My dad camped there when he was kid.

My grandad camped there when he was a kid.

I’ve thought about changing my name to Cook so that it would be my forest.

[Not really. But you get the idea.]

I love to go hiking down Hemlock Trail.  And canoeing down the river.

And eating a meal cooked outside and having a campfire and sleeping in a tent.

But I also know that one of the best parts of parts of camping is ... coming home!

Isn’t it?  It’s okay to live in a tent for a while.  But eventually you want to get home to your own bed, right?  A real roof over your head.

Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul is calling this body, our earthly bodies, a tent. We’re camping right now. Everybody in this room is camping right now.  And camping is, by definition, temporary.

But there is an eternal dwelling–a heavenly dwelling–a new body that is on order, a great and precious on the way.

And one day, in the New Heavens and New Earth that is coming, those who belong to Jesus will have those new bodies.

Paul said it this way in Philippians chapter 3, “[O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (vv.20-21).

Isn’t that awesome?

Heaven is new life in a new body forever.

What in the world will that be like?

We can hardly imagine.

He says in verse 4, “The mortal will be swallowed up by LIFE.”

New bodies that never fail and never die.

In a world that is made for them.

But right now, we groan.  V.4

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”

Are you groaning right now?

The Bible says that the whole world is groaning right now like a pregnant lady who is just about to pop.

But God has given us His Spirit as a deposit (v.5) to guarantee what is to come.

Those new bodies, that new world, is on order right now, but we have the Spirit as a down-payment to know that the rest is on the way.

The mortal will be swallowed up by life.

Guaranteed!

The Holy Spirit is earnest money on this promise.

Heaven will be new life in a new body in a new world forever.

And you can take that to the bank.

But Heaven is even better than that.

#3. HEAVEN WILL BE LIVING AT HOME WITH THE LORD.

This is what really makes Heaven, Heaven!

Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 5, verses 6 through 8.

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Listen to verse 8 of that again.

“Away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

This what makes Heaven, Heaven.

Heaven is not primarily about seeing our loved ones who have already died.

Though we will. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see my mother-in-law again. And my grandparents. And my little daughter.

Heaven is not primarily about escaping the punishment of Hell.

Though we will if we belong to Jesus.  Hell, by the way, is the opposite of all of these promises.  It is banishment from the glory of God so that all of the fun of this world outweighs it. It’s not worth it. Hell is a resurrected body that suffers forever in endless torment.  Hell is separation from God forever and ever. Not being with the Lord.

Heaven is not even primarily about enjoying our new bodies or the new Earth.

Though we will, and the Bible makes a big deal out of it.

Heaven is primarily about being with the Lord Jesus forever.

“At home with the Lord.”

Jesus is what makes Heaven Heaven.

V.6 again. “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Paul says that we’d much rather have the return of Christ and our resurrection-style bodies.  We’d rather not be body-less.

But if Christ has not yet returned, then we would prefer, please, to die, and be “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

This is what happens right now when a believer dies.

He or she leaves their body and goes to be with the Lord in the “intermediate heaven” for lack of a better term or “Paradise.”

Jesus told the believing thief on the Cross that day, they would be together in Paradise.  At home with the Lord.

There is no purgatory.
There is no limbo.
There is no “soul-sleep.”

There is just “home with the Lord.”

“Away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Never to be parted for all eternity. Someday to have a new body.

But never to be parted.  Always to be with Him forever.

This was Paul’s greatest desire.  And it should be ours.

In Philippians chapter 1 he says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

Do you and I have that perspective?

“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

Jesus Christ is what makes Heaven Heaven.

Being with Jesus Christ is what makes Heaven Heaven.

Do you want to be with Jesus forever?

If that doesn’t sound good, then you either aren’t saved or haven’t grown much.

If that is how you feel, then be like Paul and live to please the Lord right now.

V.9. "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Everything we do counts.

And we will have to give an account.

To our Savior and our Judge.

To Jesus who we will spend eternity with.

He said in John 14, “In my Father's house are many rooms (there is a space for you there!); if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

At home with the Lord.

He prepared that place for us by dying on the cross and rising again to new life.

And that place is ours if we come through Him.

In John 14 when Jesus said that, Thomas didn’t get it.  He said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

And what did Jesus say back to him?

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If you want to get to the Father’s house (Heaven!)

which will be worth all of the troubles of earth...

If you want to get to Heaven

which will mean new life in new bodies in a new world forever

If you want to get to Heaven

will be living at home (HOME!) with the Lord.

Then you have to come through Jesus.

He is the way, the truth, and the life. No comes to the Father except through Him.

And everyone who comes to the Father through Him

has these great and precious promises to live by.

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