This sermon is number 2 in a series of 8
Glimpses Of Glory - Part 2
"Is Heaven A Physical Place?"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning first of all - we've two portions of Scripture tonight, but the first is John chapter 14 and the second is Revelation 21, if you wish to turn to it as well. John 14, and of course these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples just before He was to leave them to go to the cross to die for their sins and ours, to be buried, three days later rise again, forty days later ascend to heaven. These are the words He spoke to them, troubled as they were at this prospect of His leaving.
Verse 1: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me".
Then over to John's writing of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and this chapter, along with chapter 22, gives us a glimpse of heaven as it will be forever. In verse 1 John sees - this is a vision, remember - and he accounts what he saw. Verse 1: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful". Amen.
Now last week - I would encourage you if you weren't with us in our introductory evening to get the recording of it - but we considered why it is important to study the subject of heaven. The reasons we gave were these: first of all, it's important to study heaven because Christians are going there. Secondly, it is important to study heaven because we can study heaven, and we'll find out that we can this evening by our present consideration. The third thing we said was that it's important to study heaven because it ought to be our focus down here on Earth, and we as children of God, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are not primarily citizens of this earth system, but we belong to an other world - that is, the world of the kingdom of God. Another reason we gave for the importance of studying heaven is the fact that Jesus is there, and our Saviour, our Lord Jesus is in heaven at present in His resurrection body, and it is from heaven that we expect Him to return for us, His people.
Now one that I left out, and I'm not going to ask you if you can remember what it was, was that we are to study heaven because there are many misconceptions and unanswered questions concerning the subject. I related some of those to you that hopefully we'll touch on in the weeks that lie ahead. But one of the questions that has remained unanswered for many Christians and non-Christians alike is: 'Is Heaven a physical place?' - our subject for this evening. There is, I believe, much misconception regarding that question. Most people, I have to say perhaps most Christian people, have an un-biblical conception about heaven. The common view is that heaven is some kind of ethereal, wispy, intangible existence that is purely spiritual, non-material, non-physical, that it is a spiritual existence - a bit like a state of mind, rather than a real physical place.
Now let me say right at the outset that I believe from studying God's word that such views on heaven have derived more from Eastern mysticism, Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, or from Platonism, rather than what the Bible has to teach. Plato, the philosopher, supposed that we all as human beings are merely spiritual entities that temporarily are encased in bodies, that we should be desiring to get out of the body - that's why the Greeks couldn't understand the Christian doctrine of the resurrection, that we should believe that our physical bodies one day will be raised from the grave, it seemed foolish to them, pointless, they wanted to get out of their bodies. That is not what Scripture teaches, and many Christians have adopted a type of Platonism in their understanding of heaven. I have to say that many of our hymns and choruses don't help us in this regard, neither do many authors that we read, even Christian authors and Christian theologians.
In fact, recently some Evangelical scholars have cast doubt on the fact of whether or not heaven is a place. Wayne Grudem, in his systematic theology, which I can highly recommend to you, quotes Donald Guthrie who is a New Testament scholar. He says of the New Testament, I quote: 'We shall not expect, however, to find a description of a place', that is, heaven, 'so much as the presence of a Person'. He goes on: 'Paul does not think of heaven as a place, but thinks of it in terms of the presence of God'. Now Wayne Grudem comments on that and says, I quote him: 'But does such a distinction make any sense? If a person is present, then by definition there is a place, because to be present means to be located in a place'.
We believe that the Bible teaches - or maybe I should qualify that, I believe that the Bible teaches - that heaven is a physical place rather than a state of mind. Sometimes after a meeting like this we are questioned on what we say from the pulpit, and asked for a verse to prove a certain thing - and it's not always possible to turn to one or two verses as proof texts for some of the things that I will say tonight. That's why systematic theology is an important discipline in Christian learning - what is that? Well, that is taking together all the truths of God's word on a particular subject, and correlating in the balance the weight of what the Bible has to say in regard to it. If I could illustrate it like this: it's like the many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, all scattered from Genesis to Revelation, and in order to get a picture of what God is saying in His revealed truth regarding a subject, we put them all together and hopefully the picture becomes clear. That's what we want to do this evening in answering the question 'Is heaven a physical place?'.
Where is the evidence to prove it? Well, I'm going to give you five initial pieces of evidence. Follow with me - let me say, someone said to me yesterday that they take notes, and they weren't looking for a prize, but they were just wanting me to know that all the effort I was putting into the studies was being put to good use by their pen and paper or their wide margin Bible. Now, it is utterly impossible for you to remember what you're going to hear tonight unless you get a CD or a tape, let me encourage you in weeks to come that these words do not fall to the ground - take notes, go home and think about these things and they will be an encouragement to your heart. The first piece of evidence that I want to give to you this evening on why heaven is a physical place is: location. Location.
Now if you were to turn - you don't have to - to Genesis 1 verse 1, you probably could quote it, the very first declaration of God in His word is: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth'. Now, in the Hebrew that word for 'heaven' is in the plural, He created the heavens and the earth. In Genesis 2 verse 1 we read: 'Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them'. Now we outlined last week just very much in passing that there are different uses of this word 'heaven' in the Bible. If you look at the slide above my head, you will see that first of all there is the atmospheric heaven where the clouds and the creatures of the sky, the fowl of the air, fly. Then there is the second heaven, which is the stellar heaven, which is space, the solar systems, the planets. But the word of God talks about there being a third heaven, and that third heaven is the dwelling place of God. Now, of course, God is everywhere, omnipresent - but there is a special place where His government and His rule resides and His presence is, in a sense, special, and that is that place called heaven. Paul referred to it in 2 Corinthians 12 and verse 2. You could think of this as three layers of the cake.
Now we cannot be dogmatic when it comes to the location of heaven. My view is that, just as the first and the second heaven are beside one another in this perpendicular fashion, so is the third - like, as I said, three layers of a cake. That fits in with a lot of what Scripture has to say. Some people have tried to spiritualise the directional language concerning heaven used in the scriptures. What am I talking about? Well, if you turn with me to 2 Corinthians 12:2 where Paul mentions the fact that he 'knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven'. Scholars at times spiritualise that word 'up' to mean, 'Well, when Bible writers talk about looking up, or praying up, or going up to heaven, it is simply a spiritual allegory to help us to not be earthly but be heavenly - but we ought not to take it too literally to think that God is up there somewhere'.
In Matthew chapter 14 and verse 19, I think the Lord Jesus here gives us another example of this directional language regarding heaven when He was feeding the 5000. The Bible says: 'He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude'. There are other occasions we find our Lord Jesus looking up to heaven for divine aid from His heavenly Father. Then, perhaps even more specific in John 3 and verse 13, the Lord Jesus said: 'No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven'. Very graphic and specific directional language regarding heaven's location. I believe we ought to take those terms literally. Heaven is a real location, and whilst we cannot be dogmatic on where exactly its location is, I think it is reasonable to view it in the light of Scripture as we see it on this screen.
Now let me say, as I contemplated that fact - and I believe it is a fact - it was thrilling to me, thrilling! Because sometimes we have adopted this notion that there is some kind of spiritual entity out there, not even out there, some other existence beyond our imagination - when really, what the Bible seems to indicate, I believe, is that when we pass through the first heaven of our atmosphere, and enter into the second stellar, planetary heaven, so there is another dimension, though it may not be enterable - I would say it is not enterable, by man at present - but yet it is there, and it is real, and God is there, the throne of God is there, the risen Christ is there, the angelic hosts are there, and we can interrelate with that dimension in a way that we cannot with the first and the second. Now, is that not thrilling to you, that heaven has a location, it is there, and it's as real - could I say, more real than this place? It's there.
Could I perhaps encourage you tonight, before you put your head on the pillow, to go out the back door and put your eyes to the sky and think of the light years away in our galaxy, but also imagine, by faith, that beyond all of it is heaven. It's there, my friend, and it is real, and it has a location. Secondly, as evidence to prove that it is a physical place, not just location but the truth of resurrection. Jesus rose from the grave the third day after His crucifixion, and Jesus now lives in a physical resurrection body in heaven. He is awaiting His return to Earth. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15 and various other passages that we, after the Lord Jesus comes again, will be given resurrection bodies like His. Now His resurrection body and our subsequent resurrection bodies all indicate that heaven is a place. In the beginning God created us not just as spiritual beings but as physical beings, and God breathed His breath into a body and we became a living soul. Man, in the beginning, was not designed to live in a non-physical realm. It was not God's intention ever.
This is important as we lay a foundation tonight: earth was made for people, but people were made for earth. Christ's resurrection, His body now and our body in the future prove that fact: that we will have a physical body, though it may be animated by the spirit rather than the flesh, it will nevertheless be physical just as Christ's resurrection body is. So we assume, reasonably, that it will inhabit a physical place. The third piece of evidence, the first being location, the second being resurrection, the third is ascension - again, speaking of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus. When Jesus was resurrected He lived 40 days with His disciples, and then He ascended up into heaven. Now the fact that He went up into heaven in His resurrection body, and went into a place from a place is the entire point of the account of the Ascension of Christ in Acts chapter 1.
Now just listen to what the angelic annunciation was at that particular moment: 'Ye men of Galilee ', the angel said to the disciples, 'why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven'. I think that, perhaps, is the most watertight example of how heaven is a location that is there, above us, beyond us - but it is real, and Christ, as a real human being, moved from the real earth into the real heaven - and the angelic language illustrates that, I think, clearly for us.
Location, resurrection, ascension, and fourthly - and we'll take more time over this one - description. There is great detailed description of heaven in the Bible. Now right away, I must say before we look at any of it, it is a mistake to assume - as many Christians do - that all the language that is used in the Bible to describe heaven is figurative, it's allegory, or it's metaphor. Whenever we read about a garden, or a city, or a kingdom, it is often interpreted that it is not literal but it has a spiritual meaning. These things, it is said, are mere analogies that do not correspond to the reality of what heaven is like. Now that position regarding the description of heaven in the Bible is very problematic, and here's the reason why: if these are only analogies that do not correspond to the reality of what heaven is, we have to conclude that they are very poor analogies. Why do I say that? Well, if they are analogies that don't correspond to reality, they have defeated the purpose of what an analogy is. An analogy is meant to bring some understanding to us of a truth.
The fact of the matter is, whilst we don't want to subscribe to a ridiculously wooden literalism when interpreting scripture, particularly apocalyptic scripture, on many occasions there's no need to spiritualise the descriptions of heaven that are given to us in the word of God. In fact, at times these descriptions are not analogies, but can be understood as literal realities that we can take at face value.
Let us start with the first we read this evening in John 14, if you care to turn to it. In verse 2 and verse 3 Jesus referred to the place where He was going, heaven, as a place. It's very easy to read over that quickly and miss that point. He spoke of Himself moving from Earth, going to that place, and coming from the Father again to take His people home to be with Himself. Let me emphasise these words of the Saviour in John chapter 14: 'If it were not so, I would have told you'. That's significant, it implies that if it were not a place I was going to, why would I be telling you that I am going to a place? Now maybe that doesn't make sense to you, but it makes sense to me.
Then when we turn to Revelation 21 and 22, in verse 2 of Revelation 21 heaven is described as a holy city, or having a holy city. Then again it is described in verse 2 as being a place that is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. When we look at verse 4 we see that in that place death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more. Then in verse 6 we read that there the children of God will drink from the fountain of the water of life without payment. As we travel into verse 16 there is a graphic description of the immense size and measurements - whether they're literal or symbolic, I'll leave you to debate, but they're there. The length is 12,000 stadia, in verse 16 we read that - or to interpret it into our measurements, 1400 miles. Its length and breadth and height are equal, verse 6 tells us. Then as we go into verses 18 to 21 of chapter 21, parts of the city are constructed, the description says, of precious jewels of varying colours - a wonderful spectrum of a myriad of gems.
Now what I'm encouraging you to do is to take these descriptions more literally than perhaps you have done in the past. When you begin to take them literally, it may strike you that the biblical descriptions of heaven actually are very earthly. What am I talking about? Well, the Bible speaks of a city. You know what a city is, don't you? You're sitting in one. A country, we are familiar with that. River, trees, bodies - are not these very earthly symbols? But they're more than symbols we believe. You see, the problem in many people's understanding of heaven is that they don't understand that heaven is not as other-worldly as we have thought. In fact, biblical teaching is far richer than just that heaven is 'pie-in-the-sky when you die', and you're just a disembodied spirit floating about somewhere, even if it's only a state of mind. The Bible teaches that God's plan - and chapter 21, chapter 22 of Revelation are the concrete proof of this - God's plan is to have a new heavens and a new earth. God's ultimate goal in heaven is to have, ultimately, an entirely renewed creation, a new universe.
So the next slide shows you that God's word taken as a whole tells us that there will be new heavens, even different than the heavens that exist now. There will be a new Jerusalem, and there will be a new Earth. Now we have to prove this, I think we've done it already from Revelation, but this has always been God's promise through the prophets, the apostles. Isaiah 65 and verse 17, Isaiah prophesied the word of God: 'For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind'. I believe that's where John the apostle is quoting from. We read of it in 66 of Isaiah, verse 22 as well - and then, as we come into the New Testament, in 2 Peter 3:13 Peter says: 'Nevertheless we, according to his promise', God's promise, 'look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness'. Then of course, as we read, Revelation 21:1: 'I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea'.
Now, John goes on to tell us in the book of the Revelation that there will also be a new kind of unification between heaven and earth that there never has been before, for he sees a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven from God - verse 2 of chapter 21. Then in verse 3 of the same chapter he hears a voice, and it is God's voice: 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God'. So there will be this joining, this unification of heaven and earth in a completely new creation. Now what we're talking about is yet to be, it's not the heaven that exists now that we'll speak of in more detail next week. We're talking about something that will happen after the Lord Jesus Christ comes again. It is called the 'eternal state', but let me say: what heaven will be as an eternal dwelling place is more earthly than we think.
Are you confused? 'He's saying heaven's like earth?'. Well, often we are confused because of many of the things we sing. You've heard the song: 'This world is not my home, I'm only travelling through'. Now I know what it means, and I suppose in a sense it is true in the manner that this world system and worldly age is not our home. But you know, I believe it's wrong, and such type of hymns and teaching like them have caused great confusion, and have caused people never really to get to grips and understand the full extent of God's redemptive plan.
What am I talking about? Well, this is the fifth and essentially final piece of evidence to prove that heaven is a physical place. We've looked at its location, we've looked at Christ's and our subsequent resurrection, we looked at Christ's ascension from earth into heaven, we looked very very briefly at the descriptions that are given in the Bible - but I want you now to look at how all this fits into redemption. This entire physical universe, Genesis tells us, did not evolve but was created by God. It was created for God, for His glory. What happened, we read in chapters 2, 3 and thereafter, is that man and woman disobeyed God, and because of that sin came into the world, and the consequence of sin was death. Man, the world, the universe became a fallen, depraved existence. Now God had a plan, and I believe His plan was in place, to redeem man, to glorify Himself - but we fall into a mistake if we think that God's redemptive plan was only to redeem mankind, for it was not. It was to redeem the whole of creation, and just as God promises to make men and women new creations in Christ Jesus, He also promised eventually to renew the whole earth and universe.
Now think about it, for it is reasonable and logical: if all God wanted to do was save your spirit, He doesn't need to create a new heaven and a new earth, does He? You can just go to be with Him now. But because God's plan in redemption is not just for a spirit, it's for the body, soul and spirit, it is for the whole man - the whole man fell, and the whole man must be redeemed - everything, as God pronounced in the beginning when it was created before the fall, He said it was good, yes, very good. God's plan of redemption is to restore everything that was good before sin came into the world, so that it will all be good again. That is God's redemptive plan.
Randy Alcorn puts it very well in his book on heaven, concerning God's redemptive plan he says: 'We won't go to heaven and leave earth behind, rather God will bring heaven and earth together into the same dimension with no wall of separation, no armed angels to guard heaven's perfection from sinful mankind as it was in the Garden of Eden after sin. As Ephesians 1:10 says, God's perfect plan is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ'. This is profound what he says: 'Christ died not merely to make the best of a bad situation, He died so that mankind, earth, and the universe itself would be renewed to forever proclaim His glory'. God has never given up on His original creation. His redemptive plan is not just to redeem men and women, but to redeem this whole fallen universe. As Alcorn goes on: 'Yet somehow we've managed to overlook an entire biblical vocabulary that makes this point clear'. Think of these words: 'reconcile', 'redeem', 'restore', 'return', 'renew', 'regenerate', 'resurrect'. That little prefix 're-' suggests a return to an original condition that was ruined or lost. God could have consigned us to hell, started over again, but He is, he says, the ultimate salvage artist - 'ruined sinners to reclaim'. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! He could have wiped the slate clean, but He didn't and He won't.
Now this is evident, I believe, in the life of our Lord Jesus here on the earth. First in His incarnation: He came in a body, and a perfect body at that - but His ministry as he walked among men was to the whole man. Albert Volter (sp?) has put it like this: 'It is particularly striking that all of Jesus' miracles, with the exception of the cursing of the fig tree, are miracles of restoration - restoration to health, restoration to life, restoration to freedom from demonic possession. Jesus' miracles provide us with a sample of the meaning of redemption. It is a freeing of creation from the shackles of sin and evil, and a reinstatement of creaturely living as intended by God'. It is God's redemptive plan not just to save our souls, but to save our body, to save our world, to save our universe - and what we are yearning for, the Bible says, is heaven that is like Eden, a paradise in the very beginning.
Are you homesick for Eden? The first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells the story of paradise lost; but when we go to Revelation it tells us of paradise regained. The similarities, we haven't time to look at them, but it would be a good exercise for you to go down and make a list of the similarities between Eden and the eternal state. We long for a perfect world, a world without corruption of sin where God walks with us as He walked with Adam and Eve, and talks with us in the cool of the day. We desire something tangible, something physical that will not fade away - and that is exactly what God promises mankind! A home that will never be destroyed, a kingdom that will not fade, a city with unshakable foundations, an incorruptible inheritance. God's redemptive plan is to give us a new heaven, and a physical heaven, and a physical earth that will never fade.
Now let me say that there are two - there are many implications, but two that I want to highlight this evening concerning the redemption of the physical creation. They answer two of the questions that we asked last week, as we anticipated this study. The first is in relation to animals: will there be animals in heaven? I know you're going to like this one! Well, I don't want to go into too much detail because I mightn't survive it! If you think about it for a moment, ask yourself the question: why God led animals into the ark? Now, of course, you could say: 'Well, He wanted to replenish the earth', and that is true. But could he not have done that by recreating animals? Of course He could, but He chose to save the animals along with man, because the animals originally with man's creation were good. Now, when Noah came out of the ark in Genesis chapter 9, God made a covenant with Noah - we don't have time to read it, it's found in Genesis 9:9-17, and the covenant included animals. God was making a covenant, an agreement with all of creation, mankind, but all the rest of it. God's plan in the ark, I believe, is a picture of His desire to redeem all of creation.
Now in Romans 8 - and it would be good, perhaps, for you to turn to this one - in Romans 8 we read of the yearning that we have, physically and spiritually, for new bodies, and for creation to be redeemed. In Romans 8:22 and 23 we read these words: 'For we know that the whole creation', now notice that all-encompassing term, 'the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also' - not only they, who is that? The whole of creation waiting, as it says later on in verse 23, 'waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body'. The redemption of our body is collectively assumed in this whole regeneration of all of creation. God's plan is for a renewed earth after the flood, and I believe that God's plan involves animals.
It's helpful to point out that, as one has said, Christ's emphasis is not on making new things but on making old things new - that's the point. He could have made a new race of men, He could have made a whole new creation, but He has chosen not to. He has chosen to redeem the old, and make the old new. It's not about inventing the unfamiliar, but restoring and enhancing the familiar. That's why heaven has an earthly feel to it in the descriptions that we are given in Scripture, because it's more like earth than we imagine, because it is the redeemed universe - a rejuvenated existence! John Wesley, who spent most of his life on horseback, said these words in a sermon about creation: 'Something remains after death for these poor creatures, that these likewise shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption, and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings'. The whole creation is groaning, I believe the Bible teaches that the whole creation will be redeemed - animals and all.
You mightn't agree with me on that, but a second implication is: is there time and space in heaven? Now again we are misled, I believe, by hymnology: 'When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more' - wrong! Time shall not be no more - excuse the grammar! The Bible teaches us not what Buddhism teaches, that there is no resurrection, therefore they assume time will be extinguished - but the weight of the body of evidence in the word of God shows us that our eternal existence will be an unending succession of moments. It is described in such language. All the pictures of heavenly worship that we are given in the book of Revelation, such as for instance falling down before God's throne, casting crowns before His throne - all of those involve the sequence of events. It's not a suspension of time, but things are described to us in such a way as we understand time and space and physicality.
More correct was John Newton when he said: 'When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun; we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun'. There won't be a sun in the sense that we have a sun here, because the Lamb shall light - but that does not mean that there will be no time, that there will be no space. You might say: 'Well, if that's the case, what am I going to do with my time in heaven?'. Well, that's a study for another day that we'll not look into this evening.
Let me sum up everything that we have said concerning the physical nature of heaven. We have looked at the proof being the location, the resurrection, the ascension, the description and redemption, and I want to finish off with an application. Maybe you're sitting here thinking: 'Well, so what? What does it matter whether heaven is a physical place or a spiritual place? Does it matter?'. Yes! Why does it matter in application? It matters because of our anticipation of that place. It is possible, indeed I believe probable, that much of our Christian spiritualising of heaven has robbed us of the anticipation of it. Remember what I said last week, again quoting Randy Alcorn: 'We cannot anticipate or desire what we cannot imagine'. God has used these descriptions in the word of God in order to cause us to imagine what heaven is like. I know it cannot give us the full extent of it all, but these are descriptions in order to cause us to understand, in order to anticipate. They are hints of heaven. They are a wonderful jigsaw that we put together. Whilst it may not correspond exactly to the reality, it does give us an idea, a picture of it.
The clues are scattered right throughout the word of God, but here is my main point this evening: the earth is our point of reference. What do I mean? I mean that when we see these earthly descriptions of heaven, we ought to look around us at the corresponding realities on earth and try to imagine what this place would be like, what this creation would be if it was not for sin, if it was not for depravity, if it was not for fallenness. This earth is our point of reference to imagine, through the Bible's descriptions, a new heaven and a new earth. Now we shouldn't read into the new earth anything that is wrong with this old earth, but have you ever looked around you and imagined that all is perfect? Abraham did it, for the Bible says he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. He was thinking on spiritual terms? No! Physical and spiritual. Again it tells us in Hebrews that he imagined it, and his descendants too, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. We as Christ's followers are meant to anticipate this heaven as well. Second Peter says we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews: we are looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth that He has promised.
The problem is not that the Bible doesn't tell us much about heaven, it is that we don't pay attention to what it does say about heaven. Let me finish by quoting Randy Alcorn again, who has so much insight on this subject, this is profound, listen carefully to it. He says, having studied heaven for over 20 years in his life, 'Some of the best portrayals I've seen of the eternal heaven are in children's books. Why? Because they depict earthly scenes with animals, people playing, joyful activities - but the books for adults, on the other hand, often try to be philosophical, profound, ethereal and otherworldly; but that kind of heaven is precisely what the Bible doesn't portray as the place where we shall live forever. Our problem is that we are too clever for our own good. Jesus taught us that we need the faith of a little child, why? Because God has not revealed great things to the wise and prudent, but to the babes, the children'.
Heaven is a physical place - are you going there? Jesus said to Thomas: 'I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me'. Are you sure? Are you on your way? If you are, surely you can say tonight: 'Ruined sinners to reclaim, hallelujah!' - you're allowed to say 'Hallelujah' by the way, you're allowed to shout it if you want! Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Next week, in the will of the Lord, 'Where are the saved dead now?'.
Father, no more let sins and sorrows grown, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. Thank You, Lord, that You have redeemed not only a people for Yourself with the blood of Jesus, but You have redeemed this whole universe for Your glory. What a thrill it is to think in anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. We are not ignorant enough to think that we can know all there is to know about it, far from it - but what has been revealed to us for our benefit and our children's children, may we take it, believe it, rest on it, and live unto it to the glory of God, and Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ who has made it possible, in whose name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Glimpses Of Glory' series, entitled "Is Heaven A Physcial Place?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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