God's End Game - Part 49

Series: God's End Game

February 16, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

God’s End Game - Part 49

For those who have been with us a while on Sunday mornings as we’ve been in the series God’s End Game, let me ask you a question.

Has your understanding, your view of “heaven” changed or been challenged in the past year?

I’m guessing it probably has. Mine has too, in that what I’m sharing with you came clear to me not all that long ago, even as a pastor of 25 years.

Many folks, even Christians like myself, have held to a nostalgic and sentimental but unbiblical view of heaven and the afterlife. They’ve made a patchwork quilt of what heaven is or will be from snippets of verses pasted together out of the larger context of God’s End Game plan as a whole. 

When I was in Bible college and seminary, we didn’t have a single class on heaven. I know we must have touched on it at some point, but it was so inconsequential I don’t remember. It’s not uncommon for well known theology books to dedicate tens of pages to things like the end times and less than one to heaven or the afterlife.

How many of us have ever heard a sermon or sermon series preached exclusively on heaven? We’re told often how to get there but hardly ever what it’s like. Which is ironic when you consider we’ll spend infinitely more time there than here.

It’s kind of like how my wife’s mother plans out trips to the point of absurdity because she’s excited about where she’s going, such as their recent visit to Hawaii and the shutting of roads at certain times. The more pumped you are about going somewhere, the more you’re gonna want to know about where you’re going!

Why don’t we believers get as pumped about our final destination? Partly because our warped view of it is incredibly unappealing. John Eldridge writes…

“Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an unending church service.  .  .  . We have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after another, forever and ever, amen. And our heart sinks. Forever and ever? That’s it? That’s the good news? And then we sigh and feel guilty that we are not more ‘spiritual.’ We lose heart, and we turn once more to the present to find what life we can.” — John Eldridge

Randy Alcorn, author of an amazing book called Heaven which has really helped me here, offers a more sinister reason. He writes, “I believe there’s one central explanation for why so many of God’s children have such a vague, negative, and uninspired view of Heaven: the work of Satan.”[1]

Jesus, speaking to the pharisees said…

John 8:44 (ESV) 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The devil is the father of lies, and some of his biggest tall tales have been about heaven. The devil is called a dragon in the book of Revelation and his cohort is the beast who…

 Revelation 13:6 (ESV) — 6 … opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

Satan slanders God’s person, God’s people, and God’s place (heaven). Why? Most likely because he was kicked out of it, and doesn’t want anyone going there.

Isaiah 14:1215 (ESV) 12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. 

I’m convinced the devil doesn’t want us to really get a hold of what “heaven” will be like because it might influence how we live right now. One way he holds us back is to trick us into thinking heaven is beyond our ability to comprehend. After all the Bible does say…

1 Corinthians 2:9–13 (ESV) — 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

See, we can’t imagine what God is up to in the end so we shouldn’t try! Keep reading!

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

We can’t imagine it on our own. But God can reveal it to us in a way that shapes our imagination through his Word. Our prayer throughout this series and especially the last part should be…

Psalm 119:18 (ESV) 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

This is important because, as Alcorn writes…

…the moment we say that we can’t imagine Heaven, we dump cold water on all that God has revealed to us about our eternal home. If we can’t envision it, we can’t look forward to it. If Heaven is unimaginable, why even try?

Everything pleasurable we know about life on Earth we have experienced through our senses. So, when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alienates and even frightens us. Our misguided attempts to make Heaven “sound spiritual” (i.e., non-physical) merely succeed in making Heaven sound unappealing.[2]

The Bible gives us way more insight into heaven than we give it credit for. We’ve already learned a lot and we haven’t even gotten started.

Here are the two big things we’ve learned so far about heaven and the afterlife.

No one is really in “heaven” at the moment.

The Last Things haven’t happened yet, so our final destination isn’t available to arrive at yet. The Bible gives evidence that there is a temporary place believers go to called Paradise. Alcorn calls it the Present Heaven. The temporary place in God’s plan for us is PARADISE!

Maybe the biggest thing about heaven we’ve learned is…

Heaven is a place we can imagine, a place we can understand, a familiar place because it’s going to be physical and material not mystical and ethereal 

How do we know that? 

What we learn from Jesus’ resurrection and ours.

I know I’ve covered this a lot but it’s worth repeating. We will be given flesh and bone bodies. Those kind of bodies are made to love in a physical and material place. 

Sure enough we confirm that in the way our eternal destiny is…

Is described in both the OT and NT.

Isaiah 65:17 (ESV) — 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

2 Peter 3:13 (ESV) — 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 

Just as we are waiting for our redeemed resurrection bodies free of sin and decay and place for those bodies to live in, so is all creation waiting for the new heavens and earth…

Romans 8:18–23 (ESV) — 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 

Of course this leads us to a text I’ve read quite a few times but we are now ready to look at with fresh eyes. It just all fits together giving us a clear and attainable picture of what our glorious future with God looks like…

Revelation 21:1–22:5 (ESV) — 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. 4 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.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

One night I sat on a cliff in Pisgah Gorge. It made me think what it would be like if I were free from all the baggage and sin. If this world were free of it.

Alcorn writes…

…in order to get a picture of Heaven— which will one day be centered on the New Earth— you don’t need to look up at the clouds; you simply need to look around you and imagine what all this would be like without sin and death and suffering and corruption.[3]

The biggest thing we learn about heaven, future heaven, is that it’s just like here but infinitely better. It’s a redeemed new heaven and new earth. 

I long for that. I want to be a part of that. 

Conclusion:  C.S. Lewis observed, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”[4]

Colossians 3:1 (ESV) 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Hebrews 11:16 (ESV) — 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

“All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”  — C.S Lewis

[1] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 474-475).

[2] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 579-583).

[3] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 585-587).

[4] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Collier Books, 1960), 118.

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