Heaven

We were not created to die.  This is why death is so difficult for us to deal with when we lose a loved one.  We struggle with loss because we were created to live in perfect harmony with our Creator for all of eternity.  Unfortunately, human rebellion corrupted our harmony with God and because of sin, death entered the world.

Fortunately for us, God fixed the problem! He did not leave us helpless or without hope!  Jesus conquered Satan, sin, and death! By doing so, Jesus brought us the ultimate victory, in restoring us to a right relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Because of Jesus, with complete assurance, we now know that even when we die, we will live with Him forever!  Jesus says it this way:

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
John 11:25

Jesus then follows up that monumental statement with this question:

“Do you believe this?”
John 11:26

The key to having joy, even when we are in a state of mourning, is believing what Jesus has said.  After all, why would we not believe the One who single handedly conquered the grave?  Jesus told anyone who would listen to Him about the Father’s plan; which was for Him to die, be buried, and rise from the grave on the third day.  This is precisely what Jesus did!

Now, when Jesus rose from the grave, He did not do so in secret.  He defeated the grave in front of a crowd.  So when Jesus tells us to have faith, we do so with confidence.  We do not have a ‘blind’ faith.  Blind faith is believing something because we are told to believe something.  For example, many people mock christians for believing in the “flying spaghetti monster.”  Their point is that it is ridiculous to believe in a God, so, in their point of view, we may as well just believe in something like the flying spaghetti monster.

This, however, is preposterous! We do not believe that Jesus rose from the grave with a blind faith, rather we believe with a factual faith.  Jesus proved that we could trust Him by appearing to many eyewitnesses after His resurrection.  He did not just appear to anyone. As a matter of fact, He appeared to a lot of people who doubted Him and His claims.  Additionally, He appeared to His disciples, He appeared to His family, and He appeared to followers of His.  This factual reality gives us a faith that is far from “blind”.

Let’s circle back to hope and faith.  As we are coping with the loss of a loved one, we can still walk by faith in the hope that Jesus is faithful and true.  Jesus does not lie.  If He makes a statement, He will follow through with it.  We walk by faith, not a blind faith, but a faith that is based on factual proof and because Jesus is good, trustworthy, and faithful.  This is why the author of Hebrews says,

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

Notice that faith is described as assurance!  But what should we have an assurance of when we die or lose a loved one?  What does God tell us about the afterlife?  What should we have hope in?

 1. Jesus promises us eternal life not based off of what we did or did not do, but based off of His graciousness.

We can not lose sight of this truth.  Many times we want to look out our lives and our efforts to prove that we have earned our way to heaven.  This, however, is not the Gospel message.  The Gospel reminds us that we are far worse than we could ever imaging, but Jesus is far greater than we can comprehend!  We do not get into heaven based off of our own merits.  We get to heaven based off of the merits of Jesus.  If we could somehow muster up the strength to be good enough for heaven, we would diminish the significance of the cross.  If we could muster up the strength to be good enough for heaven, then Jesus would have never had to come on a rescue mission to save us from ourselves!

Getting to heaven is based solely on what Jesus did for us.  Jesus lived a life of perfection, something that we can never do, and he did so on our behalf.  Jesus modeled to us what it looks like to live a life connected to our Heavenly Father.  Jesus absorbed the wrath of God, so we would not have to.  Do not take my word for it, take the words of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ best friend John, when they write:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8–10

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

2.   When we die, as soon as we die, we will face the judgment.

There is some faulty teaching that is prevalent which teaches us that when we die, we will rest in the grave until the final judgment.  This is a fallacy called soul sleep.  When we die, we will instantly appear before Jesus to give an account for our life.  For the believer there is no such thing as “soul sleep,” which asserts that after you die, your soul remains in the ground. Alternatively, when the believer dies their soul is instantaneously ushered into the presence of Jesus.  The writer of Hebrews teaches us about that instantaneous nature of our souls appearing before Jesus when he writes:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”
Hebrews 9:27

The word judgment may sound scary, but remember, you or your loved ones righteousness (How God views us) is not found in our efforts, but in the efforts of Christ alone.  This is why Jesus says:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
John 5:24

Jesus comforts us by telling us that His followers will not face judgment, but we have passed from death to life.  So, if we are in Christ, we do not have to fear the judgment because Jesus has already been judged for us!

Additionally, there is a story in the Bible about two thieves who were being murdered on a cross with Jesus.  Both thieves were mocking Jesus and poking fun at the claims that He made about Himself.  The Gospel accounts do not record exactly what Jesus said to the men on the cross, but at some point Jesus had to have preached the Gospel to them.  How do I know this?  I know this because one of the thieves repented and put their faith in Jesus.

What follows is amazing.  Jesus does not tell the thief that if he can somehow muster up enough strength to come down from the cross and be baptized, then he can go to heaven.  Jesus does not say if he forgives everyone that has ever done wrong by him, then he can enter heaven.  He does not say if you pray a certain pray, then you can enter heaven.  What Jesus simply says to the thief is:

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43

There is no “soul” sleep.  There is no work to do outside of what Jesus did for you.  When you or your loved one dies, you/they will be in Jesus’ presence instantaneously.

3.  Jesus has prepared a place in Heaven for His children.  

Jesus is never surprised by the death of a person.  It does not matter if someone dies of a heart-attack, suicide, car accident, drowning, fire, or any other means, Jesus is prepared for it.  Jesus says:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
John 14:1–3

Notice, again, how Jesus is comforting our hearts.  He is pleading with us to trust Him and to not be troubled and to know that He has everything under control.  He is not surprised when someone dies, regardless of how they die.  He is prepared for their arrival home and has made a place for us.

This may be hard to understand, but God is happy when someone dies.  Sure, we are terribly sad, but God rejoices in bringing His children home.  It is so hard for us to understand this reality because we are restricted in our thinking by a thing called time.  Although we have the restrictions of time, God is outside of time and the Lord delights in calling His children home.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Psalm 116:15

4.  We will reunite with our loved ones in Christ  

When death occurs, sometimes we like to ask questions like, “why would God allow this to happen to me” or “where was God in all of this” or “why didn’t God hear my prayers.”  One thing that is for sure, is you are not alone in asking these questions.  For all of time, these questions have been asked.

In the Old Testament, we meet a guy that was “a man after God’s own heart.”  His name is David and he was the King of Israel.  Surely, we would assume that a man after God’s own heart; a man that God appointed King over his people; a man that loved the Lord; would not have to suffer.  We would assume that God would treat him differently, maybe with favor.  This, however, is not what the Bible promises us.  Do not ever believe the lie and false teaching that teaches us that as Christians we will not suffer.  On the contrary, we are guaranteed to suffer, but not as the world suffers.  I should clarify that last statement.  We will suffer the same fate of the world (cancer, divorce, poverty, etc.), but we have an underlying hope that all those momentary afflictions will be relieved on day in the near future.  We are all under the curse of sin, Christian and non-Christina alike, and because of this, we will suffer in this life time.

For King David, we see this suffering play out in the twelfth chapter of  Second Samuel.  David just experienced the joy of having a child come into the world, however the child was not healthy.  King David gets serious and prays and spends time fasting before the Lord.  He is pleading with the Lord to save his child.  But, it was not part of God’s plan.  God did not save his child and David heard the news that no parent wants to hear, “Your child is dead.”

It is amazing what David does next.  The Bible tells us that David got up, washed himself up, changed his clothes, and then went into the House of the Lord to worship him!

How could King David respond in such a manner?  He responded this way because he had a deep rooted faith in the Lord.  He knew that the Lord loved him, in spite of his suffering.  He knew that God’s ways are not his way’s.  He knew that the Lord was much wiser than him and that God would works all things together for good.  David also knew that he would see his child again.

David was able to worship the Lord because he had an eternal perspective.  He knew that one day, in the near future, he would be reunited with his child in heaven.  He said:

But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:23

Now, thousands of years removed from when David said this, we know that he has be reunited with his son.  While on earth, as we are going through the mourning process, it is not easy to wait.  We struggle through emotions.  We desperately want to see our loved one.  The day will come.  This life is but a momentary affliction, but our afflictions and pain will be gone for all of eternity as we rejoice in the presence of King Jesus and our loved ones in Christ!

5.  We will no longer experience pain, suffering, stress, agony, depression, hurts, betrayal, etc.

Part of God’s plan of redemption is to bring about restoration.  One winter in our church building was brutal.  I remember when we had overhead pipes burst on two separate occasions that caused a flood in our building and a significant amount of damage.  It was not fun getting all of the water out of the building, nor was it fun throwing out a lot of items that got ruined.  But as we worked to fix the damage from the flood, we were ultimately bringing restoration to the building.

This is what God has done and is in the process of doing.  We are living, to draw out the analogy above, in the flood stage.  It is not fun, but we know that a restored building is coming our way.  As we traverse through the flooded out building that we call life, we know that a completely restored building is awaiting us.

Heaven is restoration.  Heaven is perfection.  Heaven is God fixing the mess that we humans have created.  Heaven is a place of freedom, joy, and restoration.  God tells us that:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3–4

Heaven is not going to be what the prevailing cultural idea of what heaven is.  We get inundated with visions of heaven being a place where we will be up in the clouds and playing a harp.  This is not what heaven is like.  If you want a glimpse of what heaven will be like, read Genesis chapter one and chapter two.  Prior to sin entering the world, God created an environment for his people that was much like heaven.  When I think of what heaven is like, I view heaven in the sense of life on earth, minus the suffering.

Where do I get this idea from?  Well, we should never look at the cultural idea of what God is like to understand our Creator.  The culture does not know God, but we can know God and what He is like through His Word.  So to answer the question of where I get my idea of what heaven is like, I get if from God.

In the Bible, God’s Word, He writes to us through a prophet named Isaiah.  This prophet, though the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes to tell us what heaven will be like in the sixty-fifth chapter of Isaiah.  The prophet says that heaven will be a place of rejoicing forever; no longer will infants die; no longer will an old man die; people will be building houses; people will be planting gardens; people will be eating food; our labor will not be in vain; the wolf and the lion will graze together which tells us that there will be animals in heaven; the lion will no longer stalk and hunt flesh, but the lion will eat straw.

Heaven, thus, is going to be a place of familiarity redeemed!  Heaven is going to be a far cry from what our culture pictures heaven to be like!

6. We have been given an amazing Heavenly inheritance

Have you ever known someone that was adopted?  There is not a single picture that can be painted that better represents what God has done for us than that of adoption.  The Bible says that we are adopted.  This means that God chose us.  If you think of an earthly adoption, there is nothing that a child in an orphanage can do to make parents choose them.  When a parent walks into an orphanage, the simply pick a child.  They then take the child home, lavish them with love, provide for their needs, give them their last name, and humbly welcome the child into their family.

This is what God has done for us.  He has lovingly selected us to become part of His family and now we are know as children of God.  Just like earthly parents, God welcomes us into His family, lavishes us with Grace, provides for us, and gives us the rights to be called His child.

As if this isn’t the greatest news imaginable, the Word of the Lord also states that we have received an inheritance!  Imagine with me if you were that adopted child that I mentioned a moment ago.  Now imagine if those adopted parents left you with an amazing inheritance.  How would your life change?  You would skip around with joy upon joy.  You would be financially free to enjoy and indulge yourself with any and everything that you ever wanted.  All of your dreams would come to fruition.  Simply, you would be a changed person!

Likewise, as a child of the King, we have received an inheritance that is imperishable meaning that it will never fade.  All of our earthly joys will fade away;  all of the earth treasures that we spend a lifetime pursuing will stay behind when we die.  However, the inheritance that the Lord has given to us will last for eternity.

We are a child of the King.  We have the greatest inheritance imaginable.  We have eternity to spend with Jesus, our loved ones, in complete bliss.  No earthly inheritance can come close to the inheritance that God has promised for us!

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians 1:13-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”
1 Peter 1:3-4

7.  Death has lost it power over us!

Have you ever wanted to die?  I suppose there are times in our life that we want to die based off of circumstances.  Maybe when a loved one dies, or extreme circumstances.  However, have you ever wanted to die just to see Jesus?

Paul, formerly known as Saul, is a man in the Bible that wrote 1/3 of the New Testament.  Outside of Jesus, he, in my humble opinion, is the greatest man that has ever walked the earth as it pertains to knowing God, following Him, and making others know about Him.

Paul’s life didn’t start that way.  Paul used to hate Christians and oversaw their executions!  However, Jesus showed up, as He has for us, and radically changed the life of Paul.

While Paul was on earth, all He wanted to do was serve Jesus.  Paul served Jesus in spite of all of the suffering that he endured.  Paul was falsely imprisoned, he was stoned to the point of near death, he was abandoned by all, but a few people near the end of his life, long story short, he suffered.  In spite of his suffering, he was a man determined to serve Jesus.

But, in his serving Jesus, he yearend to see Jesus again.  He wanted to go home to see Jesus.  Paul says,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
Philippians 1:21-23

Notice how Paul says that it is a ‘gain’ to die?  It is okay to mourn the loss of our loved ones, but when we, as believers in Jesus, can not move past the healing process, it shows that there is something askew in our hearts.  It reveals that there is a lack of hope and faith in Jesus.  If we truly believed all the promises of Jesus, should we not be rejoicing with praise at the fact that our loved one is with Jesus in perfect harmony?

Now, I hope that the last paragraph did not discourage you.  I lost my dad in 2001 and it was the greatest sadness in my life to date.  I went through a very hard time.  Now many years removed, I still struggle and have my moments of sadness.  I am not perfect and I am positive that I will mourn for my father in some capacity until the day that I die.

But, with that said, I have found a joy in knowing that my father is with Jesus.  My mourning now revolves around that fact that I just want my dad.  I want to barbecue with him and watch football with him, but when I put everything into perspective, and realize how well off my dad is, it brings great joy to my heart.

Death then, as believers, should have no power over us.  When put in the proper perspective, death is nothing.  Death is momentary.  Death is temporal.  Remember, Jesus said, though we die, we shall live.  I do not fear death.  I know that even though I die, I will suddenly be ushered into the presence of Jesus where there will be no more suffering or pain.  For these reasons, Paul writes:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Paul calls death a victory!  Have you ever thought of death that way?  In the church, we do a lot of things to remember the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  For example, we sing songs about it; we preach about it; we take communion; etc.  One of the greatest testimonies to the reality of the victory that we have found in Jesus, it to have hope and joy when a loved one dies.  Much like when we take communion to remember the life of Jesus, when we sit in a funeral home and view that body of a deceased love one, we can stand over the casket and proclaim, “VICTORY IN JESUS!”

Jesus has won the war and because of it we move forward in service to the Lord in full assurance that He is faithful and what He promised us He will do!  In Christ, we will live forever;  In Christ, we will be united with our loved ones;  In Christ, we are victorious followers of His!

All praise, glory, and honor be due to Jesus Christ!

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