It is quite interesting how one’s thought process can be challenged in unsuspecting situations and strange places. While waiting in line to have my groceries tallied, I was privy to a conversation that I had no part in (nosey (?) maybe). While discussing a joyous occasion in her life a lady said to her acquaintance, why that was just heaven on earth. Now, I would not for anything try to mar her joy or steal the twinkle from her eye, but the expression (one that I had heard before, somewhere), gave me pause to consider a thing or two about scriptural teaching. These I wish to share with you.
WE WOULD NOT KNOW ABOUT HEAVEN WITHOUT THE BIBLE
This reminded me of the great influence of the Word of God. Even people who have little regard for the word of God are affected by it. Expressing to the Apostles that He had been given all power or authority, Jesus sent them forth demanding, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:19-20). These courageous men preached to all nations without fear or favor announcing that Jesus was anointed the Christ when he resurrected from the dead and after showing himself to above five hundred ascended to heaven. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:9-11). There are several things clearly pointed out in this passages about heaven:
- Heaven is up from this earth, therefore is not on the earth.
- Heaven is not in sight.
- Jesus went up into heaven.
- Jesus is going to come back to earth from heaven.
- When Jesus returns He will be seen.
These things can be verified by other passages of Scripture. Jesus had foretold those who saw Him when taken up that He was going away to prepare a place for them. Sorrowed when told He was leaving, Jesus comforted them with these words: “Let not you 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 whether I go ye know, and the way ye know. (Jn. 14:1-4) From these statements we learn:
- When troubled we have comfort that Jesus prepares a place for us.
- That place is among the many mansions in the Father’s house.
- That place is where Jesus has gone.
- He will return to take His own where he is.
- We can know the way to place where He is.
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2). Why are our affections directed toward Heaven? In this particular, we are reminded that Christ is at the Father’s right hand. In ancient Oriental Courts, one seated at the side of the Ruler had intimate access to his ear. The most favored position was on the right hand, next was the one on the left hand. Jesus being at the right hand of the Father is able to influence God in our behalf, as we seek His blessing. We are informed, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:37). From these passages we can appreciate;
- Christ sits at the right hand of God.
- There He makes intercessions for us.
- Being raised with Christ Christians are affectionately drawn to Heaven.
Peter taught that certain things are reserved in Heaven for us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (I Pet. 1:3-4). Suffering was so much a part of some Christians’ lives, often ending in death. Peter reminds them that Jesus resurrected to a new life and so shall we. Our hope is very much alive, as he says; it is “a lively hope.” Our reward is not in this world just as our hope is not confined to this age. Our hope is in Heaven. Here the things we hold dear grow old and are subject to corruption. We see the things that are pure become defiled. The loveliness of precious things fade and lose their glory. But, in Heaven it is not so.
- Jesus has resurrected to live no longer in this world.
- Through Christ, God’s mercy is extended to human beings.
- Hope is given beyond this world.
- Heaven is the place reserved for permanent residence.
- There things will be forever abiding, pure and lovely to behold and enjoy.
From these (and a multitude of passages could be added), Heaven is beyond the mortal, the temporary, the transparent. We are able to see (although some may wish it so); heaven is not on the earth.
PERHAPS PEOPLE SAY “HEAVEN ON EARTH” BECAUSE: SOME THINGS IN HEAVEN IS EXPERIENCED ON EARTH
There is Joy in Heaven. When Jesus related the story of the one sheep out of a hundred that was lost when he found it and arrived home, the owner called his friends and neighbors together desiring that they share in his joy. Jesus added, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than the ninety and nine that need no repentance.” (Lk. 15:7). He then told of a woman who had 10 pieces of silver, upon losing one searched her house seeking it. When found, she also called her neighbors and friends together to share in the joy of her recovered property. To this Jesus added, Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Lk. 15:10).
Joy contributes to the goodness of this world. When a child comes to bless a home parents and family members are joyful. Seeing old friends is a joy. Joy comes when one learns that his illness is not nearly as bad as previously thought. The young are filled with joy as they experience things for the first time. Joy accompanies the thoughts of the aged as we remember the things that were a joy to us in earlier years, and we experience the joy of our children and their children becoming responsible and happy adults. Christians know the joy of witnessing others being baptized into Christ, as well as the joy of an unfaithful brother or sister returning to the church. When we sin, we know the joy of the Lord’s cleansing blood achieving forgiveness. The New Testament has much to say about joy. When Philip departed to Samaria to preach the Gospel, “there was great joy among the people in that city.” (Acts 8:8). When Paul and Barnabas came to Iconium “the disciples were filled with joy” (Acts 13:52). When they “passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.” (Acts 15:8). Knowing that bonds and afflictions lay ahead of him, Paul was not dissuaded being determined to “finish his course with joy.” (Acts 20:24). Among the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in our life is joy (Gal. 5:22-23). As God’s children, we demonstrate our longing for the joy of Heaven by having joy in this life.
Heaven is described as a place of Worship. When Jesus was born, there was worship in Heaven. The writer to the Hebrew Christians reminded them, “when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb. 1:6). John saw 24 elders “fall down before the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever.” Again, “the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.” (Rev. 4:10, 14).
Worship is something that human beings are inclined to do. This is one thing that sets us apart from the brute. Men are given to worship praise, power, money, popularity and a variety of other objects that are made into gods, whether by erecting a totem or a fabrication of pretence. “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Col. 2:23). It is even possible to worship the Lord in a vain way. Jesus declared, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” (Mt. 15:9). The things of this material world do not and cannot satisfy the inner or spiritual man. Therefore, we worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil. 3:3). God delights in men recognizing Him for who He is and has devised the way that we can seek Him out. In this way, He is said to seek our worship. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jn. 4:23-24). Worship is a MUST if we are to please God. When Christians gather to worship, others observing their worship, will themselves fall before God in worship. “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” (I Cor. 14:24-25).
When we gather in worship to God, we are enjoying something akin to Heaven. Why some Christians can (seemingly,) without remorse miss worship to engage in other activities is a mystery to me. How some can sit during worship and never sing a note, pay little or no attention to the lesson being given and otherwise show disregard if not downright contempt for the time spend in worship is a strange way for a Christian to feel and act. There is one thing for sure, that all of us should think about, if we do not enjoy worship here on earth what makes us think we will enjoy Heaven?
I have heard it said, (and I think rightly so), that “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.” As human beings there is no greater longing than to make Heaven our home eternal. As we have already seen from John the 14th chapter, Jesus promised that He was preparing a place for us within the mansions of the Father, and although Christ is the atonement for the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:2), that in itself does not mean that all men are going to be eternally saved. The Apostolic writer declared, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:8-9). As Jesus was obedient in all things, we, likewise, obtain the pleasure of God by obeying His will. The man who thinks that Heaven is here on earth and lasts only for the time one spends in a fleshly existence is a man demanding our pity. May I encourage you to seek the Lord enabling you to entertain the hope of Heaven. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” (II Cor. 5:1-2). “Heaven on earth” may be a grand thought to some, but, however dear are the experiences in this life, if Heaven isn’t better than everything this old world has to offer, then our Savior paid a terrible price for precious little.
Barney Owens 1408
Many prayers remain unanswered because they await the endorsement of our deeds