What’s So Great About Heaven?
Vol: 123 Issue: 30 Friday, December 30, 2011
It think it fair to say that most unbelievers are motivated to come to Christ more by the fear of going to hell than they are by the promise of heaven. It was certainly true in my case.
I’d heard about heaven all my life. An eternity of praise and worship and singing . . . ummm, an eternity? (My enthusiasm starts to wane a bit.)
But given the alternative. . . heaven sounds just great!
It is that comparison that motivated me to seek salvation. By itself, Heaven sounded a lot like an eternal church service. But truth to tell, I’m good for about an hour in church before I start squirming in my seat.
It was fear of the alternative that drove me to my knees. Perhaps that might be why the Bible has more to say about hell than it does about heaven.
Here’s what we know about hell, and the Lake of Fire to come after that.
Luke 16:19-31 reveals that in hell, one has no name. Abraham is mentioned by name. So is Lazarus. But the rich man is not named. What good is a name when nobody will ever call it again? In hell, while you have no identity, you know who you were.
The rich man remembered his father and five brothers. His memories are intact. In hell, one is tormented by flame. The rich man begged for a drop of water to cool his burning tongue.
We addressed the three-fold nature of man in detail in Volume 123, Issue: 20 during our discussion of the death of Kim Jong il.
In life, the body is the sensory input station for the soul. The soul also receives input from the spirit, after it has been regenerated at salvation, but the soul’s primary source of input is still physical; sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.
Absent the body, the spirit becomes the eyes and ears, so to speak of the soul. The body’s sensory gates close, but the spirit’s sensory gates swing wide-open. We (that is, the soul, the part that makes you ‘you’) remains aware of what is going on.
So when you die, the spirit functions much as the body did, as the primary sensory gateway into the soul. The soul of a person that dies unregenerate, like the rich man of Luke 16, has lost its physical sensory input. His spirit is dark, dead, and incapable of getting any spiritual input.
He is conscious and aware, like the rich man, but he is buried in hell where the only input he gets is burning pain.
That lost soul will have his physical sensory input restored to him just before being cast alive into the Lake of Fire. There, he will be deprived of spiritual comfort, since his spirit is dead, but his resurrection body will be eternally alive.
Brrrr! Considering the alternative, suddenly the idea of eternal church sounds, well, heavenly.
Isn’t it interesting that heaven is practically impossible to imagine, while the image of hell is not only easy to grasp, it is almost impossible to erase from one’s mind?
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Heaven sounds boring because we can only imagine it through our own eyes and from our own, earthly perspective. What can we learn about heaven that we can sink our teeth into, the way that the concept of hell tends to seek its teeth into us?
First, the Bible tells us that heaven is the spiritual realm in which God’s Presence is manifest. It is the dwelling place of the angels of God and of all believers that have gone on before. (Hebrews 10:22-24)
Because it is the place where God dwells, heaven must consist of many more dimensions than just the three we can comprehend. The Apostle Paul reports an out-of-body experience in which he describes heaven.
“How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12:4)
Since Paul said it occurred “fourteen years ago” he is referring to his own conversion experience on the road to Damascus, (as he admits in v. 7).
Whatever Paul saw, it made him long for more.
Here and elsewhere, the Bible confirms the truth that there is no cessation of consciousness at death, no “soul sleep.”
We have the testimony of the Lord Himself, when He said to the thief on the Cross, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
When our physical inputs shut down and our souls leave our bodies, they are immediately present with the Lord:
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul re-confirms, from his own experience, that when we depart, we go to be with the Lord.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21,23)
The Bible reveals that when we get to heaven, our spiritual nature changes. The dual nature of man exists only until the carnal part dies. What we have now is ‘imputed’ righteousness, whereas in heaven our hope of righteousness is realized.
The Apostle John says that when we see Jesus, we shall be like Him as we are transformed. When we do, we will be purified from sin and eternally bonded to Him.
We cannot imagine heaven, we can only compare it to earth and all its beauty and wonderment, remembering that the earth is the universe’s garbage dump.
It is the only place where sin can exist without throwing the entire universe out of balance, thanks to the fact it has an environment that contains it.
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)
Think of our beautiful planet. Try to imagine what it must have been like when it was still pristine and pure, back when Adam walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening.
When Satan and his crew were cast from heaven, they were cast to the earth, what the theologians call the ‘cosmos diabolicus’ or literally, a world of evil.
To Satan and the rebellious angels that actually have seen heaven, it was the worst place they could imagine — a place of involuntary and horrific exile. The elect angels share that opinion:
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10)
The angels know what that sinner has just escaped from. Jesus also describes what we become in eternity in Luke 20:36,
“Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
Paul tells us that we will receive new, immortal bodies at the Rapture:
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
But first, our loved ones who have gone on before get theirs. Then we who are alive and remain get ours.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Despite being changed, we will recognize one another. (1 Corinthians 15:49) Together with those we love, we will meet with the Lord in the air, and “so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)