HEAVEN – WHAT IS IT?
Paul, in giving his testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:2, tells about how he was caught up into the third heaven. It would be safe to assume that if there is a third heaven, there must be a first and a second one.
David Jeremiah, in his book ‘Revealing the Mysteries of Heaven,’ explained it this way, “The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven; the sky, with its clouds and life giving oxygen. Isaiah 55:10 declares, ‘For as the rain comes down and snow from heaven.’ This is referring to the atmosphere that surrounds our planet.”
“The second heaven is the vast universe in which we live, filled with billions of stars, planets, meteors, and galaxies. Psalm 19:1 states, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.'”
“The third heaven, which Paul talks about is a reference to the highest heaven, the very dwelling place of God. Matthew 6:9 states, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’ Psalm 103:19 says, ‘The Lord has established His throne in heaven.'”
Billy Graham describes heaven this way, “Heaven is the place where God dwells. It is God’s holy habitation. He created it. He lives there and some day, so shall all believers. Heaven is a literal place. It is not an imaginary world or a fantasy land in which to dwell.”
In heaven, we will have, as Paul describes in I Corinthians 15:42-44, new bodies. It will be exciting and awesome, and it certainly will not be boring. We will not only be involved in the most dynamic worship you could ever imagine (See Revelation 4 & 5), but I believe God will have work for us to do that will allow us to both further develop the gifts He has given us and explore a whole range of new adventures. Heaven will be awesome!
A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
Revelation 21:1 records the apostle John’s vision of the end times, “Now, I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . . Then I, John, saw the holy city New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Note that in verse 5, God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” i.e. a process of renewal and restoration, like restoring a piece of damaged furniture or a car that has been in a collision. It doesn’t say I will make all new things. Rather, it states I will make all things new; God will make things that presently exist new.
What does all this mean? Well, I believe that in the age to come believers will be living on a restored and renewed earth prepared by God for us to dwell on. Note that it states the holy city comes down which is contrary to what we traditionally think, that we go up to heaven. Heaven comes down to us.
The eminent New Testament scholar N.T. Wright states, “. . . The Western church retains the resurrection concept because it’s in the creed, but actually all the iconography and so on is all about “going to heaven.” And when you get things like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or Dante’s Inferno and Paradiso, then it’s clear that what we’re dealing with is something very different than what you find in the Bible. The problem is that the last great scene in the Bible is not about saved souls going up to heaven as most of the medieval mystery plays would have it, but about the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth so that heaven and earth are joined together.”
HOW DO YOU GET TO HEAVEN?
A Sunday school teacher asked her class that question, and little Johnny had the answer, ‘Well, firstly, you have to die.’ I guess that is true.
However, there is more than that to the answer. Each one of us will die (unless the Lord returns before then) and when we do we will stand before the judgment throne of God in heaven and He will say, “Why should I let you into heaven?” There is only one answer that is correct, and that is, “Because my name is written in the lambs book of life,” which happens when we invite Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior and put our trust in Him and what He did for us dying on our behalf at Calvary.
Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, shares a story written by Ruthanna Metzgar, a professional singer.
“As a professional singer, it was not unusual to be asked to sing for a wedding, but it was a bit unusual to sing for the wedding of a millionaire. I knew the wedding would be picture-perfect and was pleased to be able to participate, but when the invitation to the reception arrived, I knew it would be something exceptional.
“The reception was held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper, and it was even more wonderful than I imagined. There were waiters wearing snappy black tuxedos who offered luscious hor d’oeuvres and exotic beverages for the most discriminating tastes. The atmosphere was one of grace and sophistication.
“After about an hour of merriment, the bride and groom approached a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor. A satin ribbon, which was draped across the bottom of the stairs, was cut and the announcement made that the wedding feast was about to begin. The bride and groom ascended the stairs, and the guests followed. What a lavish event of which to be a part.
“A gentleman with a lovely bound book greeted us as we reached the top of the stairs. ‘May I have your name please?’ ‘I am Ruthanna Metzgar, and this is my husband, Roy Metzgar,’ I replied. The gentleman searched the Ms. ‘I’m not finding it. Would you spell it please?’ I spelled it slowly and clearly. After searching throughout the book, the gentleman looked up and said, ‘I’m sorry, but your name is not here. Without your name, in this book, you cannot attend this banquet.’ ‘Oh, there must be some mistake,’ I replied. ‘I am the singer. I sang for this wedding!’ The gentleman calmly answered, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you did, without your name in the book you cannot attend this banquet.’ As I looked around the room, I thought briefly of running to the groom and trying to plead my case, but with a hundred guests on the stairs behind us and every place at the tables assigned according to the thoughtful choices of the bride and groom, I stood silent.
“The gentleman with the book motioned to a waiter and said, ‘Show these people to the service elevator please.’ We followed the waiter past beautifully decorated tables laden with shrimp, whole smoked salmon, even gracefully carved ice sculptures. And adjacent to the banquet area was an orchestra, its members all dressed in dazzling white tuxedos, preparing to fill the room with glorious music.
“We were led to the service elevator, stepped in, and the waiter himself pushed ‘G’ for garage. My husband, thoughtfully, did not say a word, nor did I. As Roy drove out of the Columbia Tower garage, we both remained silent. After driving several miles in silence, Roy reached over and gently put his hand on my arm. ‘Sweetheart, what happened?’
“And then I remembered: “When the invitation arrived for the reception I was very busy, and I never bothered to return the RSVP. Besides, I was the singer; surely I could go to the reception without returning the RSVP!”
“As we drove on, I began to weep. I was not weeping because I had just missed the most lavish banquet of my life, but I was weeping because suddenly I knew what it would be like someday for people as they stand before the entrance of heaven: People who were too busy to respond to Christ’s invitation to His heavenly banquet. People who assumed that the good things they had done, even perfect church attendance or singing in the choir, would be enough to gain entry to heaven. People who will look for their name in the Lamb’s Book of Life and not find it there. People who did not have time to respond to Christ’s gracious invitation to have their sins forgiven and accept Him into their hearts.”
Jesus made it clear when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” There is no other way to heaven. If you have not received Jesus as your Savior and Lord you can ask me right now to come into your heart and life.
There is much much more to the subject of heaven than can be contained in this short Langstaff Letter.
Randy Alcorn’s book simply entitled ‘Heaven’ is one of the most exhaustive books on heaven.
– David Jeremiah’s book entitled ‘Revealing the Mysteries of Heaven’ is a very clear teaching on the subject of heaven.
– Link to Ruthanna Metzgar’s Story – http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/29/Its-Not-in-the-Book/