What is Heaven to You? This is Heaven to me.
December 5, 2006 1:32pm CST
Heaven is a place of unspeakable glory where the elect of God live with one another in the immediate presence of God and of the Lamb and where they behold Him in all His glory face to face. It is a place where the curse of sin and all of its effects have been removed forever from all who dwell there; they, being made joint heirs with Christ, inherit all things and live with unmixed joy in a state of perfect happiness incapable of being described or exaggerated forever and ever. Heaven is called by Jesus Christ "a kingdom." "Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). It is called "the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). This tells us that the exceeding glory of this kingdom far outweighs the glory of all earthly kingdoms combined. This is a heavenly kingdom where Christ is King. Not only that, but those who live there with the Blessed One are declared by Christ to be "priests to His God and Father" (Revelation 1:6) and proclaimed by Peter as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (I Peter 2:9). What kingdom is like unto this kingdom? What earthly kingdom can be compared to it? There are none. Heaven is called "the third heaven" (II Corinthians 12:2) and "the heaven of heavens" (Deuteronomy 10:14) to show its great eminency. By this it is distinguished from the sky above, the atmospheric heaven, which is also called heaven, and the starry heaven containing all the celestial orbs: the sun, the stars, the planets, and moons of the universe. Think how vast and great are the starry heavens above. The heaven of heavens is far greater still. Here we see only the objects of creation. There God's children will see, worship, and dwell with the God who created the universe and everything in it. In the parable of the unrighteous steward, Christ refers to heaven as "the eternal dwellings" or as one version translates it "the everlasting habitations" (Luke 16:9). This tells us that heaven is a place, not a dream or an illusion. It is a place where glorified saints and angelic beings live together with God. We are told that God "has prepared a city for them" and we are given a preview of the glory of this city in the book of Revelation: "Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, or a stone of crystal-clear jasper...the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone...And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass...the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Revelation 21:11, 18, 19, 21, 23). It is also a place that remains forever. It is called "eternal" or "everlasting" and of its inhabitants it is said, "neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and are sons of God" (Luke 20:36). Those who go to heaven live in that glorious city for all eternity. When Christ was dying on the cross the penitent thief next to Him made a request of the Lord: "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" Christ responded to him: "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42, 43). Heaven is called Paradise. Men often refer to an exotic, tropical island as "paradise," yet this paradise will make all earthly paradises look meager and barren. In Luke 16 heaven is also called Abraham's bosom. Christopher Love helps us understand this expression better: "Dives saw Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. And it is so called, because as the bosom is the receipt of love, and the friend of your bosom is your dearest friend, so in glory they are said to be in Abraham's bosom to show that God will love and shelter His elect, as a friend will do to this dearest friend, the friend of his bosom."2 This is Paradise indeed! Lastly, heaven is called "the joy of your master." The servant who acted wisely with his master's talents is welcomed into the kingdom of God with these words: "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23). Psalm 16:11 tells us: "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever." These expressions have given us a view of heaven which is like looking through a colored glass at a far distant kingdom which we cannot see clearly. Now we will look at the blessedness of heaven from two different perspectives. The first one will show us what those in heaven will be free from. The second will give us a better understanding of what the eternal blessedness of the soul consists. The occupants of heaven shall be freed from sin itself, from the causes of sin, and from the consequences of sin. First, those who enter glory to live forever with God in heaven shall be free from sin itself. Sin is the cause of all the misery in the world. Sin is the reason we experience pain, sorrow, sickness, and even death. Paul mourns over sin and expresses in strongest language his desire to be rid of it: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). The true child of God longs to be where he will sin no more: a place where he will never commit another sin; a place where he will never even have another sinful thought. Sin is the greatest enemy of the one who loves holiness. Here sin makes war upon you as the flesh lusts against the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). As the hymnwriter asks: Would you be free from your burden of sin? Bunyan's Pilgrim fled the city of destruction seeking relief from the great burden of sin which he carried about with him. Heaven is the place where sin will be no more. This is pictured beautifully in Revelation 21:3-4: "And God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Why are there tears? Why is there death? Why do men mourn, cry, and feel pain? It is all because of sin. Sin brings all of those evils upon man. In heaven men shall be free from sin. Second, in heaven men shall be free from the causes of sin. There are three primary causes of sin: your sinful nature, the temptations of the devil, and the lure of the world. Your sinful nature is the source of the sins which you commit. James tells us: "Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived it gives birth to sin" (James 1:14-15). Your sinful nature spews out poison, filth, and vileness every day of your life in this world. If the devil were chained up and not allowed to touch or tempt you, you would continue to sin because of the principle of sin which indwells you: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh" (Romans 7:18). In heaven your vile body shall be made like unto His glorious body and you cannot sin. In heaven you will be free from the temptations of the devil. Here men are assaulted daily by the enemy of their souls. Here "your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8). On earth the devil seeks to sift you as wheat as he sought to do to Peter. Soon the devil shall be thrown into the lake of fire and be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Soon, if you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, "the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20). In heaven there shall be no more devil to tempt saints to sin anymore. In heaven men shall be free from the lusts of the world. These are described by John as "the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life" (I John 2:16). Here the world system seeks to press you into it's mold. Christians are constantly being bombarded by the ungodly influences of lust, greed, pride, etc. These ungodly influences working hand-in-hand with your corrupt nature bring much grief to your soul. In heaven the godly shall be free of the evil influence of the world for they will have overcome the world for all time through the blood of Jesus Christ. Finally, in heaven men will be free from the consequences of sin. The primary consequence of sin is eternal punishment in hell. Scripture makes it clear that a person at death goes to either heaven or hell. There is no in between state or place, no purgatory, no other option. Those who go to heaven are spared the wrath of God which falls upon those in hell. They are delivered from "the wrath to come" (I Thes-salonians 1:10). Physical death which opens the door into eternity is also one of the consequences of sin. Death came originally, as a direct penal infliction upon man because of his sin for "the sting of death is sin" (I Corinthians 15:56), "but thanks be to God, who gives us the vic-tory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Death is swallowed up in victory" so that the child of God can boldly say, "Oh, death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:54, 55, 57). We shall now look at what the eternal blessedness of the soul consists of in heaven. Paul said, "Now we see through a glass darkly" (I Corinthians 13:12). Certainly, the picture we now try to describe is dark indeed compared to the true glory of heaven. Who can imagine the things we now try to describe? "We shall never understand glory fully till we are in heaven. Let me give you some dark views only, some imperfect lineaments of that state of glory at which the saints shall arrive after death."3 The blessedness of the soul in glory consists of at least three things: 1) the seeing of God, 2) the perfection of graces in the believer, and 3) fulness of joy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
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