The classic story concerning death and graveyards is the question, "Why
do they have fences around graveyards?" People are just dieing to get in.
In reality, people ought to be dieing to accept the Lord so they can enter
Heaven, when I was a child was that which religious leaders talked about,
and that place which I assumed that I would go to. It was in my mind a
place, rather than an existence. It was up there somewhere above the clouds
and beyond the stars, where God had prepared a beautiful utopia for those
of us that were to go.
Heaven in reality is much more than a place. It is eternity, it is eternity
with our Lord and Savior, it is eternity with all the saints of all time,
and it is eternity with peace.
We might make mention of one other fact that was long in coming to light
in my foggy mind. All of mankind, past, present and future have eternal
existence! The quality of that existence is the problem. Some have eternity
in all that is good, while others have eternity in all that is bad! We
will spend eternity in one existence or the other! The choice is up to
LENGTH OF ETERNITY:
Hendrick Van Loon a Dutch historian in a book called, "THE STORY OF
MANKIND", suggests that eternity is something like this: "High up in the
North, in the land called Svitjod, there stands a rock. It is one hundred
miles high, and one hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years, a little
bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been
worn away, then a single day of Eternity will have gone by!" (Tan, Paul
L.; "THE INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY"; Rockville, MD: Assurance Publishing,
Tan suggests another illustration:
"When a baby is born, he is -- 0 YEARS OLD. If properly cared for, he
becomes -- 10 YEARS OLD. If very properly cared for, we add another zero
-- 100 YEARS OLD. Now, suppose we continue to add zeros: If we should fill
the remaining pages of this book with zeros, and cover the earth and universe
with zeros - and then comprehend its total value - we shall have discovered
the length of one day in Eternity."
AND, WE ALL KNOW THAT THE ILLUSTRATION IS NOT EVEN ACCURATE, FOR WE
CANNOT COMPREHEND THE VALUES LISTED, NOR CAN MAN FATHOM THE LENGTH OF A
DAY IN ETERNITY. Indeed, it could be 24 hours long!
REALITY IN AMERICA:
Newsweek March 27, 1989 had an article that listed some statistics of
interest. It detailed the fact that many do not believe in a literal hell,
and that many do not believe in heaven. That should key us into some thinking
about how we witness! If many Americans don't believe in Hell, then we
ought to use this concept in our witnessing to people.
CHANGING VIEWS OF HEAVEN: The article has some interesting information.
Roman Catholic: Since Vatican II much literature has been set forth
from the church, yet nothing has been mentioned about hell. The Newsweek
article mentioned a Catholic Theologian, James Burtchaell, that feels that
eternity is underway at this point in time. What you do here determines
your relationship with God as you go forward in eternity. You will change
modes of existence somewhere along the line.
I would agree in thought to the fact that eternity is now going on -
that when we change modes of existence we will have a set relationship
with God. The difference between us would be that his relationship seems
based on works while the Bible requires that the relationship be based
on the person of Jesus Christ.
Evangelicals: The article mentions that the evangelicals are changing
their thinking about heaven and hell. This is evident in the fact that
they don't talk about hell anymore. The author suggests that some are having
a hard time stressing the Christ only method of salvation. They struggle
with good men like Gandhi spending eternity in hell.
UNCHANGING VIEWS OF HEAVEN:
Fundamentalists: The author mentions that the fundamentalists still
have a strong belief in heaven and hell. I suspect that they may be wrong,
however because many do not preach about hell anymore.
The article also gives some other views of hell that might interest
you if you can find the magazine in a library.
Let us consider some facts about heaven:
1. There will be many mansions. Jn 14 1-3
2. We will recognize others. Lu 16:19-31 tells of the account of the
rich man and Lazarus, and the rich man recognized those on the other side
of Sheol. The transfiguration would indicate this fact of recognition as
3. We will have eternal life. The New Testament is full of references
to our eternal nature with God. One we might mention is I Thess. 4:16-18.
Vs. 17 mentions, "...and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
4. Some view Romans 8:22-23 as proof there will be animal life in eternity.
The whole of creation was affected by the fall. There were animals before
the fall, all creation was affected by the fall so the restoration of things
should include animals. We know there is plant life in eternity, and there
are animals in the millennium, so there may be animal life in eternity.
I'm not saying, folks, there will be a kitty and puppy heaven, but there
may be animals. We might mention the fact that Christ returns on a horse,
thus possibly indicating animals in eternity. Rev. 19:11ff You must remember
there will be 1000 years between this occasion and eternity, so it may
not indicate animals in eternity.
4. We will have new bodies. Philippians 3:21
5. We will be with Christ. Jn 17:24, "Father, I will that they also,
whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my
glory, which thou hast given me...."
6. We will have pleasure. Ps 16:11, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life:
in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures
7. We will have joy. Ps 16:11. The contrast of pleasure and joy would
be the tortures of torment.
8. It is a specific place. I Pet 1:4 tells us that something can be
9. It will be with God. Lu 11:2
10. It will be with the angels. Matt 22:30
11. We will be like Christ. I Jn 3:2. Some heavy thoughts there! Be
like Christ. See Him!
12. It is far better than this life. Phil 1:23
13. It will be beautiful. Rev 21 This describes the new Jerusalem.
LEST SOMEONE EMBARRASS YOU, MAY I RELATE THERE IS ONLY ONE STREET OF
GOLD. (There may be more, but the Revelation only mentions one.)
14. There will be worship. Rev 19:1
15. There will be rewards. Rev 22:12
16. The light will be from Christ. Rev 21:23
17. It will be a holy place. Rev 21:27
18. There will be no tears/death/sorrow/crying/pain! Rev 21:4
19. There will be no curse. Rev 22:3
20. Based on our being like Christ and what we know of His post resurrection
body, we assume the following will be true. Capacity to eat, if we want
to. Capacity to move through walls. Some physical features - the wounds
of the cross and lance. Communication skills.
21. It is up. Acts 1:9, in speaking of Christ being taken it states,
"...he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight."
22. Misc. items: Created by God, Gen. 1:1; Everlasting; High, Ps 103:11;
God's dwelling place - Matt 6:9.
Eyewitness accounts of heaven:
1. Christ: He spoke of it, as one that has first hand knowledge in that
it is his eternal home, both past, present, and future.
2. Paul mentions it: II Cor. 12:1-9 He mentions being caught up to the
3. John: Rev 4:1-2 mentions him being caught up. He saw the throne scene
4. Old Testament saints: Isaiah and Ezekiel both observed the throne
I assume that heaven will be the complete opposite of the place of torment.
This would mean that heaven will be as peaceful as torment is without peace.
This would mean that heaven will be as beautiful as torment is dark. This
would mean that heaven will be as neat as torment is terrible. This would
mean that heaven will be everything that torment is not.
AT ANY RATE, TORMENT IS NOT A PLACE TO DESIRE TO BE!
I would guess that a study of torment would give a real appreciation for what we will have in eternity with God. We will have a study on hell next.
In the practical area we might consider:
1. We will be able to accept ourselves as God accepts us.
2. We will be satisfied for the first time in our existence.
3. We will totally enjoy every moment of all of eternity. Never bored!
4. We will have total and free access to Christ and all the other saints
of all times. Imagine those potlucks!
5. It will mean never having indigestion.
6. It will mean having hair, or not having hair - depending on which
is really heavenly. If there is hair in the spiritual realm.
7. Never having those problems with the dentist.
8. This list could go on forever. INDEED, IT WILL!!!!
Heaven should be a glorious thought to the believer, not something to
be shunned or avoided in preference to worldly things, activities nor desires.
A couple of quotes will show how some believers have reacted to the thought
"Origin of 'Sweet By-and-By
The origin of the familiar hymn, 'In the Sweet By-and-By,' is given
by a writer in The Christian Advocate, and it is a story of unusual interest.
Sanford F. Bennett was a New Englander with a gift of writing verses, who
in 1836 removed to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he conducted a drug store.
Joseph P. Webster, also a New Englander who had come to Elkhorn, had some
musical skill, and Bennett and he became intimate friends. Webster, who
was subject to moods of depression, one day in 1867 went into Bennett's
store and stood at the stove without speaking to anyone. Bennett saw he
was depressed, and here the story runs as follows: 'Seeing that something
was wrong, the latter asked, 'What is the matter now?' 'It is no matter,'
Webster replied. 'It will be all right by and by.' Like a flash the idea
of the hymn came to Bennett, who exclaimed,'The Sweet By-and-By. Would
not that make a good hymn?' 'Maybe it would,' returned Webster indifferently.
Bennett turned to his desk and in a few minutes handed Webster the paper
containing his verses. Meanwhile two friends, N. H. Carswell and S.E. Bright,
had entered. They watched Webster as he read the words. Bennett said: 'Ad
he read it his eyes kindled, his whole demeanour changed. Stepping to the
desk he began writing notes rapidly. Presently, taking a violin, he played
the melody. In a few moments more he had the notes for the four parts of
the chorus jotted down.' It was not half an hour from the time Bennett
began writing before the four men were singing the hymn in the form in
which it was afterward published in the 'Signet Ring.' It was while they
were singing it that R.R. Crosby came in, and after hearing the song, cried
out, with tears in his eyes, 'That hymn is immortal.'"
"'It was in 1876 that I wrote 'Beulah Land,' said Mr. Stites. 'I could
write only two verses and the chorus of 'Beulah Land' when I was overcome
and fell on my face. I could only weep and write no more. That was on Sunday.
On the following Sunday I wrote the third and fourth verses and again I
was so influenced by emotion that I could only pray and weep. The first
time it was sung was at the regular Monday morning meeting of Methodist
ministers at 1018 Arch Street, Philadelphia. Bishop McCabe sang it to the
assembled ministers. Since then its story is known wherever religious people
congregate.'" (Lawson, James Gilghrist, "Best Sermon Pictures"; Chicago:
Moody Press, No copyright.)
Might I challenge you to come to a place in your life when you shed
tears of joy over the thrills of eternity with the Father, but at the same
time be able to shed tears of sorrow over the torment of the lost!
This study should not end without comment on what has been termed near
death or after death experiences. These experiences are related to us from
people that have died and then been brought back to life, or people that
were very near death.
The experiences vary around the basic, seeing of bright light down a
long corridor and a being at the end calling them. These people are certain
they were on their way to heaven to be with God.
A couple of thoughts that you might be able to use in relation to this
discussion. First, the fact that this is almost a universal experience
with the near death people, leads me to believe they would have us believe
that all people that die are going to heaven. The Scripture is quite definite
on the falseness of that theory.
Second, in recent days doctors are finding out that the people that
were pronounced dead, may not have been really dead. They have found that
people with no pulse, may have a pulse so weak that the doctor cannot feel
it with his finger. Research in such cases with new technology have proven
that in some cases the pulse is there, but is very weak. The pulse is large
enough to keep blood going through the brain, which would allow for impressions
of light etc. to be retained in the memory. Indeed, this bright light may
well be that viewed through their closed eyelids and the voice may well
be that of doctors or friends.
To accept these experiences as real and allow them to contradict the
clear teaching of Scripture is foolish. We must take such experiences as
suspect, but truly the experience of the person.
We might well be glad for the usual change of life for the better in
the people that have had these experiences.
Heaven will undoubtedly be a picture of all that God is and all that
He can do, so we can only hint at what it might be like.