What the Heaven Is Going On?
By Ed Young
June 12, 2016
ILLUS: The first time I ever snorkeled I was in Hawaii. I remember looking at the beautiful sand and the different flowers, the mountains cascading into the turquoise sea, and I said to myself, Wow. It doesn’t get any better than this. Even, I don’t know, when the winds would blow a certain direction you could sort of smell a floral scent. I thought, whoa! Hawaii. I mean, that’s like paradise. I told Lisa,
“Honey, this has got to be a little bit like Heaven.” I put on some fins and a mask and for the first time in my life I snorkeled. I literally went from one world into another. I remember the first reef that I swam up to. I saw these fish. They had colors and designs and they were swimming like fish I’d never seen before. And through the muffled sounds of my snorkel I was like… <garbled> And then I saw another fish that was even prettier than the previous one. Then I saw another, then I saw a bigger one. Then I saw different types of reefs and different types of coral, and the underwater world was absolutely stunning. I was in one world, yet I didn’t realize there was a whole new world right there.
I believe in this two-part series on Heaven we’ve sort of gone from one world into another. It’s like we’re discovering new things. I truly believe when we get to Heaven, Heaven will be like that. It will be this paradise. It will be a place where we’re with Jesus, yet it will be a place of new discovery. Around every corner, from this reef to the next, a new sight, a new sound, a new smell. So join me as we delve deep into the reality and the depths of Heaven.
I think it’s interesting, it’s sort of paradoxical. On one hand our culture talks a lot about Heaven. Songs are about Heaven. The most requested rock song of all time by Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven.” I don’t know if you knew that or not but it is. There’s “Tears in Heaven” by Clapton, and there are different country/western songs about Heaven. We like to watch movies about Heaven. Heaven Can Wait, or Ninety Minutes in Heaven. We write books and they’re New York Times Bestsellers. After death experiences and it just goes on and on and on. We are hung up on Heaven. Yet I think if we really thought about it, if we really said what we know about Heaven, most of it is folklore. Most of it is word on the street instead of the real deal. I’m here to tell you that word on the street regarding Heaven is wrong.
I remember when I was a kid, and I grew up in a pastor’s home, I sort of had a faith crisis. Because I remember thinking, “OK, I’ve become a Christian and now I get to go to Heaven. Harps and halos and halleluiahs, jumping from cloud to cloud, I’m in this eternal worship service. Sitting on pews and man, my butt is about worn out. I’m tired of singing halleluiah. That’s Heaven?” I remember saying to myself, “I’m not sure I really… you know, I might get bored there. I’m ADD. Heaven, and eternal worship service? I’m going to church?”
That’s not what Heaven is about. Obviously there’s going to be worship in Heaven, but there’s so much more to it than that! It’s discovery. It’s peace. It’s joy. It’s purpose. It’s powerful.
Why are we so fixated on Heaven? Why the bestselling books? Why the movies? Why the songs? Why do we feel like there’s always something more? I mean, am I the only one? You live life and at a surprisingly young age you think there’s got to be something more. There’s got to be something more. There’s got to be something more. And we’re always thinking about happily ever after. We’re always thinking about the next level. Well, the writer of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, wrote some interesting words in Ecclesiastes 3:11. He said God has set eternity in the human heart.
No matter what culture, no matter what tribe, no matter what socioeconomic group, people have eternity in their hearts. Yet there’s a tissue-like veil that separates this life from the next. We’re eternal creatures. We will live forever, the Bible says, in one of two places.
So the Bible gives us some hard data on Heaven. Now it doesn’t tell us everything we want to know but it does tell us what we need to know. I believe we can use our intellect, playing off the hard data, and to use our God-given imagination to see what this paradise is going to be like. Because I want to give you the 4-1-1 on Heaven, because so many of us don’t know about it.
T.S. Last week I opened up talking about it. Today I’m just going to give you just a quick overview of Heaven, then I’m going to go through the most frequently asked questions about Heaven.
First of all, I want you to notice something. #1 – Heaven is a real place. Heaven is real. It’s a real place. Like this lectern is real, like these notes are real, like this blazer is real, like those seats are real, like this building is real. Heaven is a real place. It’s a real place. The Bible says Jesus called Heaven a place. He said this in Scripture, “I’m going there to prepare a place for you. 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.” Jesus also said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” In some translations it says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
Here’s some Biblical trivia. Heaven, for example in the King James Version, is used nearly 600 times. Heaven is a real place. It’s real. It’s a tangible town. The Bible calls Heaven a city. Now when you say a city, what’s a city? A city is a bunch of people, squillions and squillions of people will be in Heaven.
Hell is the opposite of Heaven. In Hell we’ll be completely alone. In Heaven we’ll be in complete community and harmony with others. So Heaven is a real, real place. Philippians 3:20-21, “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 everyone under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
On a couple of occasions in Scripture the Bible says that those of us who are followers of Christ are strangers, we’re aliens. Yeah, we’re living on planet Earth but our citizenship is in Heaven. It’s like you visit a foreign country. You’ve got a passport. The passport tells you your citizenship. It shows people officially I am a citizen of, in my case, the United States of America. And there is no place like home. There’s no place like the USA. So Heaven is a real place.
Notice something else, #2 – Heaven is a personal space. What did Jesus say? “I go to prepare a place for… you!” For you! I go to prepare a place for you.
A child was dying of cancer and right before bed he looked into his father’s eyes. He said, “Dad, what happens when you die?” The father prayed a quick microwave prayer, “Lord give me the words to say.” And he said, “Son, you know you’ll be watching television in the family room. You’ll get tired, you’ll fall asleep. I’ll pick you up in my arms and move you from the family room to your bedroom. You wake up in the morning and you’re in your bedroom. I’ve moved you, your father, from one room to another. That’s Heaven. That’s Heaven.” Our Father moves us from one room to another.
“Well, I guess I’ll just be in some mansion on the hillside binge-watching Netflix and eating m&ms for eternity, polishing my halo, singing hallelu…” No. Yeah, we’re going to have a mansion, the Bible says. What that looks like, who knows? We, though, will be with people. We’ll be with Jesus. Sociologically where Jesus is, where God is, that’s Heaven.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot and when I come back from trips, when I walk into our house, I don’t walk up and see the lamp in my office and kiss the lamp. I don’t see the rug and go, oh, I’m going to kiss the rug and hug the rug. No, I don’t. I find Lisa, I kiss her. Because where Lisa is, that’s where home is. Where Jesus is, that’s where Heaven is. Heaven is a real place. Heaven is a personal space, a space just for you and just for me as we glorify Jesus.
#3 – Heaven is a prepared base, a prepared base. It’s going to be our base of operations forever and ever. As God is preparing a place for us, we should be about preparing our lives and also preparing others as we get to know them and share with them the good news of living together with God in Heaven. Love, though, is a choice. We’re not made as robots. Love is a decision. Those of us who are citizens of Heaven, we’re like real estate brokers. We have an opportunity, right, to put one party together with the ultimate party. When this person becomes a believer the Scripture says there’s a party in Heaven. Joy unspeakable is in Heaven when one person bows the knee and comes to know Christ. Heaven is locked. We’re eternal creatures. We’re eternal beings. In Heaven with this new base, we’re going to have new bodies. The Bible says. I don’t know what these bodies will look like but I guarantee you there will be no cellulite, muffin tops, spare tires, or manssiere’s in Heaven.
1 Corinthians 13:12, “I shall fully know even as I am fully known.”
We will recognize our loved ones in Heaven. It will be a faith-filled, fun, joyful on a holy ‘notha level partay in paradise when we’re reunited with our loved ones and our friends. We will recognize them. And more about that in a second. Well, how do you know you’ll be able to recognize your loved ones? Well just do some Bible thinking for me. When Jesus rose from the grave the disciples and others recognized him. On the Mount of Transfiguration, they recognized Moses and Elijah. We will be recognized in Heaven and we will recognize others and the recognition will be even more pristine and more beautiful by far than it is right here on planet Earth.
T.S. So that brings us, I kind of set the stage, I set some framework of Heaven. I set the dye for Heaven. Now I want to segue from that into some questions because I know when I was talking about some of those things about Heaven, for example being a real place. Heaven is a personal space. Heaven is the prepared base of operations for us for the rest of our lives. I know as I talked about those things, and in this series a lot of you are going “yeah, but… I have… I wish I could raise my… I wish I could ask you some questions… I didn’t know…”
OK, we have taken the questions, the lion’s share of questions that people have about Heaven. We’ve done the research, the Biblical research. We’ve consulted and read from some of the great theologians of our time, whoever lived. Here are some answers, biblical answers about however, and most of the questions, quite frankly, can be answered. Yet, as I say, if we knew the 4-1-1 on Heaven, if we knew everything there is to know about Heaven, we would be taking our lives in record numbers. That’s how amazing it is. Let me say it again. If we knew how Heaven really was, we would be like, oh I’m ready to go there now! I’m sick and tired of this anxiety, this depression. I’m tired of these miscommunications. I’m tired of school. Man, I’m going to Heaven. So that’s why God, in his sovereignty, in his omniscience, knew and knows just enough. He gives us just enough, just enough.
Is it going to be boring in Heaven, with harp music and clouds and all that? Answer: No. I used to think that until I began to study what the Bible says about it. It is not going to be boring. The opposite of boring. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For this world is not our permanent home. We’re looking forward to a home yet to come.”
We have a purpose in life. Once we receive Christ we understand the purpose. The purpose will continue to be fulfilled in a pristine way in a perfect way once we go to the other side. Our gifts and abilities will be – I hate to say it but I’m going to say it – on a holy ‘notha level! We’ll be able to do things, create things, say things, lead things, build things like we’ve never, ever, ever, ever dreamed possible! You like gardening? You’ll not believe the gardening in Heaven. You like athletics? You will not believe the athletics in Heaven. You like fishing? You won’t believe the fishing in Heaven. That’s what I’m talking about.
And the Bible says it’s going to be a place of joy, joy unspeakable, joy like we’ve never, ever known before. Because the overarching emotion, the overarching vibe in Heaven is that of outrageous and contagious joy! Joy. Joy because of Jesus, joy because of others. What did Jesus say, the great commandment? Love God holistically, then love your neighbor as yourself. In Heaven we’ll do that perfectly, perfectly. So it’s not going to be boring. We’re not going to skip from cloud to cloud, shining our halos and singing halleluiah! It’s not going to be boring, OK? It’s not going to be boring.
OK, what’s Heaven going to be like? How would you describe Heaven? Do you remember when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he was crucified between two common criminals. One of the criminals said, “Lord, I trust you. I give my life to you.” Jesus said these words, Luke 23:43, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
Paradise. Paradise, paradise. The word paradise literally means the park of God. I mean, there are some beautiful parks. I love Clyde Warren Park in Dallas. I love some parks I’ve had the opportunity to exercise in Miami, and I’ve seen Central Park, and I’ve seen national parks, and places around the world that are gorgeous. They pale, pale in comparison to the paradise that we’re talking about. So in one word, what’s Heaven like? Paradise.
Here’s another good question, too. What will we know in Heaven? I mean, will we know everything? We’re not going to know everything. Only God knows everything. But we will know a heck of a lot more in Heaven than we do here. I mean, we’re going to really, really know some serious stuff.
And that brings the question, how about the people in our lives, friends, family members, who are in Hell? Will it make us sad? Will there be tears in Heaven? Tears of sadness because of those people who are in Hell? Quick answer: No. The reason is I think we’ll have the knowledge that they had opportunities to get to know Jesus and they said no. And there’s going to be some sort of, I think, memory wipe or something of all that, but we’re not going to be worried about that in Heaven. Jesus said, when I did the message on Hell recently, he said to those people who will go to Hell, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” So we’ll understand what that means and we’ll be able to take that, apply that, but we’re not going to be thinking about that.
1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Then we’ll see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Will we experience relationships in Heaven? I mean, will we be able to communicate and talk? 1 Thessalonians 4: 14, 17, “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with him, and so we will be with the Lord forever.”
Short answer: Yes. We will have relationships. We’ll have communication with people, with our loved ones, with friends, with new friends and acquaintances like we’ve never, like we can’t even wrap our brain around. Because there’s going to be no sin. There will be no pride in my life or your life, no ego, no chicanery, no manipulation. It’s going to be pure and pristine. Think about the billions and billions of people in this tangible town, this city of the Savior, Heaven. Think about the time and just the opportunity we’ll have to meet and greet and get to know people from all nations, all tribes, all socioeconomic levels. Just the relational quotient alone blows me completely away.
And that brings another question. Can people in Heaven see us now? It’s a pretty good question. Yes. They can. I mean, why not? You mean you go to Heaven and God closes the blinds? I believe they can see us. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1 we have a “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on. We have a standing ovation, those of us who are running the race, those of us who are citizens in Heaven, we have a standing ovation that never sits down. They’re cheering for you and for me. Integrity! They’re cheering for you and me. Commitment! They’re cheering for you and me. Share your faith! They’re cheering for you and me. Worship! They’re cheering for you and me. Endure! They’re cheering for you and me in every slice of life. So yes, yes, yes. People can see us, I believe, in Heaven. The Bible talks about that.
Now one of the main questions that I’ve had asked me about Heaven is the animal question. Will there be animals in Heaven? Yes. No cats, but there will be animals in Heaven. Ed, how can you say that? And I believe that. Because in Isaiah 65:17, 25, it talks about God creating a new Heaven and a new Earth. It talks about in the book of Romans, creation waiting, yearning for a new Heaven and a new Earth. Those of us who have pets, cats, dogs, iguanas, whatever. Those of us who care for pets, who love animals, I truly believe they will be in Heaven. And I’m looking forward to evaluation loving animals and relating to animals and nature even on a deeper level. I love the outdoors and I think one of the reasons why all of us love the outdoors is because it’s been set in our hearts. Its eternity has been set in our hearts.
Sadly, a lot of people are pantheists, meaning they worship nature. No, we don’t worship the creation, we worship the Creator. Yet, the creation is going to be perfect. We’ll see plants, animals. I think we’ll look and relate like we’ve never, ever seen before.
Will we still experience emotions in Heaven? The longest stretch of Scripture that talks about Heaven is in Revelation 21, and it talks about emotions. God has feelings, too. We’re made in the image of God, we’ll experience emotions. Well, how about tears? Yeah, probably tears of joy, not tears of sadness. There’s not going to be anything bad. No sin, no junk and funk in Heaven. There’ll be no crying or no pain, the Bible says. No more death or mourning. God will wipe away every tear from all of our eyes, and that is something that should give us so much hope.
You know, the Scripture says we should have hope in Heaven. Now hope is not fingers crossed. Hope is not rabbit foot. Hope is not well, if I wear the same shirt I did yesterday… no, that’s not hope. It’s not luck. It’s not change. It’s something that’s fixed. It’s Godfidence. It’s faith.
Will our identities stay the same? Huh. OK, Ed Young before Heaven, will he be Ed Young in Heaven? Yes. Because if I changed identities I could not be held accountable for the stuff I messed up on planet Earth. And then I couldn’t be rewarded for the things I’ve done well on planet Earth. Remember this. Let me go back several teachings ago. Those of us who are believers will be held accountable regarding what we did with what God gave us. It’s not talked about very much but we will.
Those who rejected saying ‘I do’ to Jesus, those who rejected his love, they will be banished to Hell. They choose the highway to Hell. God does not send anyone to Hell, it’s a choice. However, those of us who are followers of Christ will be held accountable. So I’m going to be held accountable, and I have been held accountable because of my sinfulness, yet I have received Jesus. He’s washed me clean. What I’ve done with Jesus will be rewarded in Heaven. So that should motivate us to think about Heaven, the backdrop of Heaven. I’ve never locked eyes with someone who is not facing a forever.
Where do I go one second after I die? The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And remember what I said earlier? Jesus talked to the thief on the cross. He said today… right now. Not that there’s going to be some limbo or waiting period or some waiting room. Right now, today, you’ll spend eternity with me in paradise.
The Bible says in the book of Hebrews, we die, then the judgment. As we think about time, see we think about time in a linear fashion. Yet, time in God’s economy is now. It’s right now. So we die, we face the Lord. Yet I want you to understand this, and stay with me here. When someone dies, their bodies are in the ground, six feet under. Their spirit is with Jesus. And I’m not sure what sort of body, nor are theologians sure what kind of vibe we have in this world; yet when Jesus comes back our spirit will be reunited with our bodies, brand new bodies. Then Jesus will make a new Heaven and a new Earth. So everything that we enjoy here, go back to Hawaii, the mountains cascading into the turquoise sea, the white sands, the flowers, the breeze that even smells like this floral scent, all of that will be on a place in an area like we’ve never ever seen. We can’t even comprehend it. Even if God explained it to us we wouldn’t get it!
ILLUS: When my kids were going up, because I liked the drums, we got a little drum set for them. I think about the twins, they were maybe 3 or 4. They would take the sticks, boom-boom-boom. It didn’t sound that great. The twins playing the drums at 4 years of age doesn’t come close to the drummer of Coldplay. Not even close. It’s like they’re playing a different instrument.
Will we be able to be creative in Heaven? Are you kidding me? I mean, are you kidding me asking that question? First thing we know about God is in the beginning God what? Created. We’re made in the image of our creative Creator, thus we should create. We create here. In Heaven, though, well make Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Bach, and Shakespeare look pitiful! That’s what I’m talking about!
So we’ll be able to do a lot in Heaven. I mean a lot! It never gets old, it never gets tired, it never gets boring. Adventure every day, excitement every day, purpose every day. We’ll help God rule and take care of the Universe in a pristine paradise-driven environment. Heaven is real and real people go there.
There are two things, though, we can’t do in Heaven. #1 – we can’t sin. That’s good. Sin is out of the picture in Heaven. Whoo! That will be great.
But there’s something else we can’t do in Heaven. We can’t share Jesus with others. That’s why God has placed eternity in our hearts. That’s why God has placed this holy angst, this holy discontent in your life and mine. Because we’ve never locked eyes with someone who is not going to spend eternity in one of two places. You, if you’re a follower of Christ, are a citizen of Heaven. You’re a citizen. You’re a citizen. You’re a broker. You have an opportunity to connect only by God’s grace and power, by his sovereignty, the Lord with others. Just like I talked about last week I had that opportunity with Muhammad Ali. I’ve had that opportunity with others. Just today I was talking to a friend of mine who is not a follower of Christ who does not believe in Heaven. But see, if I turn my back on Heaven, not only am I wrong, I’m really, really, really wrong. You’re not prepared to live until you’re prepared to die. God has prepared a place for you. Are you prepared? Are you prepared for Heaven? And are you preparing others for Heaven as well?
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]