“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, 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” (Acts 1:11).
“Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And this surround the throne,
And thus surround the throne.”
These old and familiar words express the note of triumph that is found in the true Christian faith. We that love the Lord, we know that while we are marching to through Emmanuel’s ground, we are also marching to fairer worlds on high. Christians have a faith that there is a fairer world on high. Family and friends may gather today to mourn a beloved wife and friend, to miss a personal companion, but also to remember that this world is not our real home. We are but passing through. Perhaps it would be good if we turned our thoughts for just a moment, from time to eternity, from despair to hope, from darkness to light, from heaviness of soul, to heaven’s majestic splendor.
I want the Word of God to minister to all richly, so I shall merely guide attention to those passages of Scripture which speak of heaven. The Bible speaks about the inhabitants of heaven.
Holy angels dwell there. Angels are intelligent creatures of God with will, emotion, and intellect. They are highly organized, with Michael and Gabriel being two of the archangels. As ministering spirits, angels fly back and forth across the universe to do the will of God. Some angels surround the throne of God and cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, day and night. People often wonder if there is intelligent life beyond the stars. The Biblical answer is yes, because there is a place called heaven. Some angels are sent to help mortals in distress. Christians of the New Testament era are reminded to be kind to strangers, for some have entertained angels unaware (Heb. 13:2).
Jesus Christ also dwells in heaven. When the disciples stood on the Mount of Olives with the resurrected Lord, the Bible says that Jesus was taken up while they beheld Him, and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9). The body of Christ did not vaporize, nor did it disintegrate. Rather, it was uniquely prepared to be used in that fixed geographical location we call heaven.
God the Father dwells in heaven. Jesus taught people to pray and to say, “Our Father, which art in heaven” for God inhabits eternity.
God’s people are in heaven. When a saint dies in the Lord, we read in Hebrews they “are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the first born which are written in heaven and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect…” (Heb. 12:22-23).
Three things are necessary in order to go to heaven.
First, there is the necessity of the new birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” The new birth occurs when God the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, and that soul hears the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and cries out, “My Lord and My God.”
Second, a holy life is necessary in order to go to heaven. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow (or pursue) peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord”. Holiness is not an option. It has a direct bearing on our eternal relationship with God.
Third, pure motives are necessary in order to go to heaven. While man looks on the outward appearance, and beholds outward actions, God looks on the heart to discern the motive for worship and service. It is not enough for a person to be religious. There must be a positive righteousness.
Once in the eternal state, the Bible reveals both negative and positive characteristics of heaven. Heaven is a place where many things are not found which we are so familiar with on earth. There is no more dying in heaven, no corruption, no weariness, no sorrow, no pain, no night, no curse of Eden, no wicked people, and no end to an eternal state of blessedness.
But there is much in heaven.
Joy is found in heaven. Jesus said that, “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7). Whenever a soul is saved on earth, people in heaven rejoice. If ever there is a good reason for being saved and becoming a Christian it is that. A Christian husband, who dies in the Lord, can be made to rejoice over the conversion of a wife. A Christian father, who dies in the Lord, can be made to rejoice when a son or daughter is converted. A Christian, who dies in the Lord, can be made to rejoice when a dear friend on earth is saved.
There is rest in heaven. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
This journey on earth can become a heavy burden. There is so much sorrow and pain, both physical and mental. Death releases us from that, to walk in the newness of life. The spiritual body is made whole. Those who go to heaven enjoy a measure of perfect peace.
The Bible also speaks of heaven as a place of service. “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them” (Rev. 7:15).
Those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb are said to serve God, “day and night in His temple; and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” And who knows, perhaps time shall be allowed for the pleasure of the heart.
Many years ago, a lady in Arkansas was asked by her little boy if there were dogs in heaven. The mother wisely answered, “Honey, if it takes a dog to make you happy once you get to heaven, there will be a dog in heaven.” Who knows, maybe there is a place in heaven for a little Boston Terrier, a German Shepherd, or a Collie.
Someone has said that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Christians are a prepared people. Hilda was a prepared person. Therefore, “Let not your heart be troubled” for the heart of Hilda was not troubled. In the end she wanted to go to heaven, and now that she has seen things that mortal tongues cannot tell I believe if she could speak to us across the expanse of eternity she would say, “I wish you were here.”
If anyone remains skeptical about the reality of a place called heaven, offer that person the thoughts of C. S. Lewis, who had this to say. “We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky,’ and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere.’ But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or not.”
Millions over the centuries have chosen to believe there is a place called heaven. Jesus did not lie when He said, “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. 3 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. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:2-4).
Christians know the way to heaven, for believers know Jesus Christ. He is not only the Lord of life but He is the love of the heart of a Christian. Believers wanted to serve Him all the days of their lives, and so we shall.
“Here in this world,
He bids us come;
there in the next,
He shall bid us welcome.”
Every hour of the day Christ welcomes home a Christian. Therefore, until the resurrection we shall commend all to the Lord. Amen.
Pray with me for those who need comfort in the hour of death and who need the hope of heaven.
“Father, even in the tears and pain, our faith looks up to thee. We believe that the God of the Universe shall do right, and have mercy upon all who truly repent of sin and have faith in Jesus Christ. In time, we ask that the tears be dried, and courage be given to live a life of final glory with our great Savior and Redeemer. We ask all of this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.”