Tell Me The Truth About Heaven

Posted: January 2, 2013 in after life, death, grief, heaven, life, loss, Uncategorized

What do you believe in your heart of hearts about heaven?

What you believe about heaven will determine how you live, face life and loss, and how you care for others.  Genuine hope anchored in heaven is the source of our strength and courage for today. Heaven is clearly pictured for us in scripture, but our concept is often clouded by false impressions accepted by the church.
When you think of heaven, does it excite you or does it bore you? Does the prospect of heaven encourage you or frighten you? Do you believe heaven to be a mystical ethereal existence or a physical existence; a tangible place? Will heaven be a never-ending worship service or will it be a new creation in which we work, relate, and rule? Where will heaven be? Will it be up in the sky somewhere or here on earth? Where will you live? What will you be doing? Who will you know?

It is amazing how many Christians, theologians, and pastors believe that heaven will be a ghostlike existence where we lose our identities and individuality. The common misconception is that it is a place where we generally float around with not a great deal to do. There is, they believe, no challenge, no excitement of life, no relationships, and no adventure. If that were true, why would anyone want to go there? Randy Alcorn’s prolific book entitled Heaven, shows that Satan’s favorite lies and deceptions are about heaven, the people who dwell there, and about our God Who created it. He coins the term “Christoplatonism” referring to the wrong belief that the physical realm is evil and God’s plan is to permanently destroy it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Another major misconception is that the present heaven (where Christians go when they die) is the same place we will live and reign eternally. They are similar, to be sure, but not nearly the same. There is clearly the present heaven and the future new heaven and the new earth.

Several truths are clear in scripture. For instance, both heavens involve physical places. In the present heaven, redeemed people live, function, relate to each other and God, and carry on lives related to God and His plan for mankind, but it is not our final destination. It is a physical place, but in the angelic realm. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you.” The New Testament also refers to the present heaven as “Paradise.”
Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise. Luke 23:43
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. Rev. 2:7
Randy Alcorn points out that “Paradise” was a Persian term referring to an elaborate walled park or enclosed garden; walled gardens of the king’s royal palaces. That is a far cry from the idea of a south sea island where you do nothing. Paradise is place of beauty under the dominion of people who live there. They bring all their creativity, skills (management and otherwise), cultivate, develop, and live there. A metaphor? Perhaps, but how much better, for it refers to a redeemed civilization.
Did you know that in the present heaven, people have recognizable physical bodies (not resurrected bodies) perhaps similar to Moses and Elijah? Did you know that there is time in heaven? Read the following passage and see how many truths can be gleaned about the present heaven and the people who live there.
When He (the Lamb) opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until You judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. Rev. 6:9-11 (NIV)
I see distinct individuals, wearing clothes (physical), talking to each other and to God. They talk to God about earth. Doesn’t that answer a question for you? Is my loved one aware of what is happening here? Read the passage in Luke and see who is rejoicing. We commonly assume it is the angels, but that is not what is said.
I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ”Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!” In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:7-10 (NASB-U)
Who is doing the rejoicing? It’s not the angels, but people; redeemed people in the present heaven; actively engaged in the affairs of God, of angels, and of the present earth in some way.

How can they enjoy heaven knowing sadness on earth? Randy Alcorn aptly points out that joy is not based on an erased mind but on a renewed mind. Happiness in heaven is not based on ignorance of earth but from having the perspective of God: God’s perspective from the other side of heaven; knowing and seeing the plan of God worked out; knowing and seeing that their lives and deaths were not in vain — that there is more to come! Happiness in heaven is talking to each other and God about us; serving God in whatever way God has chosen for them to do so; knowing that justice will prevail where it needs to and mercy will triumph as God allows.

But they are eagerly awaiting something: Christ’s return to this earth. People in the present heaven: the people there are waiting for that day! They are longing for Christ’s return
… Our citizenship is in heaven. (homeland) 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.
The people in the present heaven eagerly await the return of Christ, their own bodily resurrections (glorified bodies), the final judgment, and the fashioning of the new earth from the ruins of this planet. Only then, in the new heaven and the new earth (future heaven), will all evil and suffering and sorrow be washed away by the hand of God. The present heaven is only a stopover on the way to the future heaven. The future heaven is called the new heaven and the new earth.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son… Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. Rev. 21:1-11 (NIV)

God has not given up on His original creation; He has redeemed it. In the new, restored creation, there will be resurrected people and the resurrected Christ living, and working, and loving, and creating on a resurrected earth. We will be part of a new creation, a new civilization set up by God to rule the universe and beyond. That’s our homeland.
Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
But our citizenship[homeland] 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.

If you have not yet read Heaven by Randy Alcorn and some of the works to which he refers, then you have missed one of the most fruitful studies of God’s plan for us and those to whom we minister.

My father died in May of 1993. My mother died this past year at 92. They had been together for over fifty years. She lived without him for many years. She lived with my brother and his wife for the last several years of her life. Her memory and mental abilities were failing to the point that she could only live in the moment, not remembering a conversation or person from five minutes before. She may act 92 or as a child. She asked question after question, questions that have been answered many times over only minutes before. The person that gave me life, nurture and encouragement, needed to be cared for as she is lost in a world of confusion and dementia. I recently wrote to a dear friend, Judy , a prayer partner of many years, a woman acquainted with grief, telling her of my experience with my mom and the hardness of seeing her this way. Judy wrote this back to me:

I sit beside a dear elderly woman in church almost every Sunday. She has Alzheimer’s. Last Sunday she kept saying, “What are we supposed to do?” I said, “Just sit here close to me.” She teaches me so much about God and how He wants our relationship to be like that. Sitting close. And yes, we ask Him question after question. But just like I smiled at my little friend, I realize God does that for us, too, knowing that He has everything in control and wants us to just sit close. I love that lady. Just think, someday, all healing will come and be final! Your dear Mom and her approach to Heaven – Wow! What it will be like for her and someday for your family.  She is there now along with my dad.

What do you believe in your heart of hearts about heaven? What you believe about heaven really will determine how and how well you minister to those who are dying and to those who have been left behind. We are the voice of truth and the voice of hope. Genuine hope anchored in heaven is the source of our strength and courage for today. Genuine hope can only be dispensed by those who have it.

Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Real Life Ministries USA and commented:

    Re-posting upon request….

  2. Anonymous says:

    What an incredible article! Thank you for these words. It makes so much sense, and gives so much hope and understanding. Excellent.