- John 14:1-7
- Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5
Dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,
In this short series we are looking at two major event markers in the life of every human being on the face of this planet: life and death. What is left of this series will look at one of two major destinations of every human being. All of us will one day experience our last breath.
Without God’s plan of redemption in Jesus Christ who comprehensively crushed the head of satan, we have no choice but to inherit eternal destruction as God’s judgment on sin and rebellion.
But because of God’s plan of salvation in Christ we may by faith in Him alone, look forward to heaven. This is what this sermon is about.
More than Paradise
Although Adam and Eve were put in the most beautiful place on earth paradise was not absolutely perfect.
Possibility of sin
Adam and Eve were God’s ambassadors. But the mere fact that they were forbidden to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden put them in a relationship with God which in it had the possibility of disobedience.
We are not trying and pry into things we are not supposed to, asking questions we know very well we will never have all the answers to, because we are warned not to:
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, NIV)
The crafty snake, used by the devil to do his job, was present in paradise. He is the father of the lie and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). In this sense then paradise was not absolutely perfect.
Time and space
The phrase “morning and evening” is used repeatedly in Genesis 1. Even the time of fellowship between God and man was “in the cool of the day.” Space was defined in terms of the rivers surrounding the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were confined to the specific space allotted to them: the garden.
Not the final destination
There are verses in the Bible which indicate that, although it does not refer to the actual location of the Garden of Eden, paradise was intended to be something intermediate. When Jesus said to the criminal on the cross next to his, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), that man was assured of the fact that his soul was forever safe with Christ. But was also true, is that his body was that very day, buried in some gave.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, sums up what happens when the believer in Christ dies:
The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.
In other words, when we die in the Lord, all that He provided for, us will come true. We are safe with Him, and we enjoy the gifts of his righteousness, justification, victory over death and glorification. But our souls and bodies are separated, and our bodies will see decay.
…the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV)
It is only at the return of Christ that our bodies will be reunited with our souls into a glorious body, without the possibility do decay again:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20–21, NIV)
Not all of us will see death; some will still be alive at the return of our Lord. Their bodies will be changed, at the wink of an eye. Of that day when the sound of the trumpet announcing the coming of the Lord is heard, Paul writes:
We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51–55, NIV)
These things, at least, help us to understand that when we talk about the consummation of things at the return of Christ, that God had more in mind for his creation than what He created for Adam and Eve to live in.
Heaven, only possible through Jesus Christ
Our reading of John 14 this morning says:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3, NIV)
We’ve already heard the words of Jesus to the criminal on the cross next to Christ. There, the Saviour of the world could make that statement because He was paying the price for heaven’s door to be opened.
The heaven of Islam, or the heaven of Free Masonry, or the eternal bliss of all other religions is therefore only a pie in the sky when you die. There is only one Creator of the universe, there is only one Mediator of the universe, there is only one Spirit who intercedes for us in our waiting for the revelation of the new creation (Romans 8:26-27).
Our eternal home
The Bible holds out for us something of the events that will take place at the return of our Lord.
The return of Christ
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, NIV)
Jesus also taught his disciples:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:30–31, NIV)
Those who died before his return will be resurrected and their souls and bodies will be reunited. Jesus Himself said:
“… a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28–29, NIV)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12–13, NIV)
The new creation
The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare… That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10–13, NIV)
The destruction of the heavens does not refer to the abode of God, but to everything subjected to the influence of sin: all heavenly bodies, including the earth. Everything will not be completely destroyed as if God will create a complete, until then unknown universe; He will destroy the complete influence of sin, purify it as the smelter ends up with what was actually already there when he first put the ore into the furnace. So God will give those whom He gives eternal life in and through Jesus Christ a world to live in which is completely purged from all possibility of sin and its destruction.
Eternally with God
Let’s look at that home Jesus said He is preparing for us.
No Bible, Church or Mediator
The will and Person of God is revealed to us through the Bible, but when all is made new, that will not be necessary anymore. Our Mediator, Jesus Christ dealt with sin and there will not be any sin in eternity. Our Lord will still be there, but He will not make intercession for us at the throne of God – we will know Him as He is and He will be amongst us as Lord. In the same way the Holy Spirit will be with us, not to intercede for us as we pray to God, but we will worship Him as He is.
The earth redeemed
The old earth and old heavens are transfigured and redeemed. This is the work of God who will not forget his promises to his Son and to those whom he redeemed through his death. Not only did God create the universe through his Son, He also redeems it through his Son: sin is gone, and never will those who are redeemed ever want to talk about the old.
No sea – the enemy defeated
In Revelation the sea is the origin of cosmic evil, the unbelieving, rebellious nations who cause tribulation for God’s people, the place of the dead, and the primary location of the world’s idolatrous trade activity. One may also think the sea is what separates us now. Then we will not be separated, but be one in Christ.
The bride of Christ
Those redeemed by the Saviour is the bride of Christ, united to Him in eternal relationship. Revelation 19 tells us about it. The picture is one of purity, beauty, and eternal love. Jesus said He will come and take us to Him after He prepared the home for us.
We will have paradise and much more: God will dwell with us, we will be his people, there will be no reason for tears, no death, no mourning, no crying, no pain. People once afflicted with the deadly wound of sin, full of evil inclination and sin, are now shining and reflecting the glory of God, with the reflection of precious jewels and clear crystal. The people now is the city. It fills the earth. The great high wall is a symbol of protection: no evil will ever enter it. What follows is a description of all people, from all ages who are washed in the blood of the Lamb living in it: twelve gates and twelve foundations: the Old Testament period and the New Testament period. Not a single soul for which the Lord Jesus gave his life will be missing. The number will be full – 12 times 12 multiplied by a perfect 1,000.
The city is a perfect cube the same shape as the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle. The measurement of 12,000 stadia by 12,000 stadia takes us to 144,000, which corresponds with the 144,000 people of chapter 7, sealed in the blood of Christ. Even the thickness of the wall reveals something of this perfect number.
God with his people
There is no need for a temple to assure communion with God, no candle sticks as was necessary in the tabernacle, because the glory of God will give light.
We cannot talk about going to heaven, without talking about Christ, the Son of God. No one will enter heaven without the righteousness and justification of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some people might say if everything they heard about heaven is true, they would like to go there, but going there without knowing and serving the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is impossible. It is Him who said that He is preparing the rooms in his Father’s house; it is Him who will return to take to the Father to live with Him forever.
I trust that you understand that first of all, to get to heaven and be with Christ, you need to be united to Him in faith now. If not, you might end up in hell. More about that next week. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 15 June 2014