Sunday, May 7, 2017

John 14:1 - 3 “WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE?”

The doctrine of the ultimate state of man’s existence –i.e. eternal life  in a place called heaven or hell  generally receives little attention  among  the Christian people  of  our age. One heretical preacher’s bestselling book even claims that you can have your best life now. The so called Christian exponents of the health, wealth and prosperity movement are known to want to create their heaven on earth, except that death gets eventually in the way! Very recently I had conducted the funeral of a man who had left this movement and attended our church, and he really had trusted in the Lord Jesus. His wife and family had not joined him and they could simply not get to terms with his cancer and mortality and until the end they claimed his healing.    The point is that heaven, for many is not more desirable than this life. What about you? Are you content to live out your allotted years on this earth, and are you really looking forward to heaven? 

I have chosen this text from the gospel of John to remind you that  soon you and I will face  eternal reality, and if you are a Christian  I want  to  encourage you  to look forward  to that day.

The Context :

·         Upper room discourses in  John 13-17- The night He was betrayed. Jesus was facing His own death
·       Last supper – the foot-washing, servant act of Jesus – The betrayal of Judas and Peter’s denial is foretold.
·      The mood  is  one of  pessimism.  Jesus’ intention is clearly announced in 13:1“Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father…“. And in 13:33 He says, “Little children, yet  a little while  I am  with you… Where I am going, you cannot come.” Simon Peter asks Him, “Lord where are you going?“ (13:36),to which Jesus responds, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”

So we see that the hearts of the disciples are troubled and discouraged. Their beloved Teacher and good friend  is saying that He is going to leave them. Jesus responds: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.(14:1). And He proceeds to give them two important assurances:  

(i)           Vv.2,3 He is telling them that He is going away to prepare a place for them. And He promises to come back to fetch the. By this He indicates that they will see him again. 
(ii)          Vv.16- 18. He would not leave them as orphans. He would  provide Another One like himself – and from that follows the  doctrine of the Holy Spirit  which we find in Jn. 14:15ff and Jn. 16:5ff.

In giving them these two assurances Jesus caters for His disciples immediate security (sending the Holy Spirit) and future security (heaven)

But as we consider now  verses 1- 3, we are interested by what He means  by   His “Father’s House “ where there are “many rooms” which  He is intending to “prepare”  for them. 
The big thought  of this  message is that  heaven is a home for Christians! 

The Father’s House  here is  another word for heaven, the place to which Jesus had ascended, and from where He shall come again.  The term heaven is not used here, but it is often used in the OT  (shamayim - pl. noun lit. the heights) and  in the NT (ouranos).  The terms  “shamayim” and “ouranos“  are used in  3 senses:

(i)           The atmospheric heaven. This is the sky, or the troposphere—the atmosphere that surrounds the earth. That is the first heaven.
(ii)          The planetary heaven, the second heaven,  the abode of the moon, stars, and the planets.
(iii)        The third heaven, the one Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12, is the heaven where God dwells with His holy angels and those saints who have died. The other two heavens will pass away (2 Peter 3:10); this heaven is eternal. It is this place that Jesus refers to here.

And so, when you ask, what is heaven like, we have here a remarkable description of what heaven is like.  Jesus calls it “the Father’s house”!  Heaven is compared to a home! And in this home we have  a Father and a brother and a very big family  in a setting of absolute sinlessness, perfect joy and  eternal peace. Regarding the aspect of joy, we may believe that there will be  continued satisfaction and happiness in heaven. Martin Luther once said, “If you’re  not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there“.  Heaven  will be a happy place.  Regarding our family in heaven  we shall have the unspeakable privilege not only to see and enjoy  the company of our heavenly Father, but also that of our elder brother, Jesus and we shall experience the continual ministry of the  Holy Spirit, but we shall also be in the company  of all the fathers and the mothers of the Old and New Testaments.
In  heaven no one shall ever complain that others have too much while  we have too little. In heaven there shall be no misunderstanding or arguments. There will be no hospitals and no cemeteries. And if there is work  to do, which is  something that God  has ordained and which is part of  His creative being  and our beings, there will  be no  policemen, soldiers and lawyers, for there will be no war and no crime.  There will be no doctors and nurses and hospitals, for there shall be no sickness. There will be no churches and no denominations and no pastors, for there shall be one flock and one shepherd - the Lord Jesus Christ. There will be no regrets in heaven, no tears, no second thoughts, and no  lost causes, Everything in heaven is purposeful and meaningful.
And since  language will exist in heaven, there will be many words missing from that dictionary. Words like  stealing, prison, adultery, murder, lying, coveting, idolatry- all those things  forbidden  in the 10 commandments, will not exist in heaven’s dictionary.
When Christians die they go home to their Father’s house. Have you ever thought of this? God’s eternal plan centers on family structures. God created society to be made up of families. Churches may be described best as families, the household of God [1 Tim 3:15]. Heaven is a family home.  When Jacob dreamed at Bethel [Gen. 28: 10ff], earth and heaven was connected with the angels ascending and descending on a stairway between the two. When Jacob awoke  he had the distinct impression  that he had been in God’s  direct presence. And what did he conclude from that?  He said, “how awesome is this place . This is none other than the house of God ; this is the gate of heaven… he called that place “Beth- el” which means “House of God”.
So it true to say that heaven is a  home. Therefore it is a distinct place.  And while it is true to say that  God is everywhere,  and that  He manifests His presence  everywhere, yet it is also true that there is also a special place in which He manifests  Himself  in a visible, glorious  and uninterrupted manner.  Heaven is His throne room, His center of command, if you like.
The architecture of the earthly temple helps us to understand this. In the temple there were many rooms and spaces, but there was the holy of holies, that place where God’s presence on earth was supremely manifested. Well, this is the picture of heaven, but the real heaven of which the earthly holy of holies is but a shadow is far more profound than we are able comprehend right now. The operative principle  by which we live now is by  faith … we live in anticipation of that  eternal home.  We live in anticipation of entering into the holy of holies – the very presence of God – heaven!  It is ours already by inheritance through the Son who has justified us and cleansed us from all sin, and who ALONE enables us enter the Father’s presence!  But we are not there yet! But in a little while …
We are presently like Abraham of whom it is said, “that he was looking forward (by faith) to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” [Hebr.11:10]. This is the same city as that which is described in Revelation 21 and  22. 
Heaven is our eternal home!  Right now we are not at home. We are strangers and aliens here. Do you feel it, dear Christian? It is true that  we have important  work to do here, and important relationships to pursue, and right now we need  to pay attention to  them. But do you find that your thoughts wander frequently  and longingly to your heart’s true home? 
The many “rooms” (KJV mansions)which are prepared for us by the Lord Jesus in heaven: The KJV translation “mansion” is  misleading in our modern context. You might be tempted to think that you might occupy your own Buckingham palace in heaven. But the word used here in the original does not indicate such. The Greek word used here is “mone[1]. It simply means “dwelling place”. But the significance of this dwelling place is that it shall be our eternal dwelling place.  Presently we actually live in temporary dwellings. Many of us have moved so often in life, and we  have had so many  dwelling places  here on earth, that we are certainly looking forward to our final dwelling place, where we shall never  ever have to pack and unpack a single  thing again!
What will heaven’s architecture and dwellings look like? We have very few descriptions, but one of them is found in Rev. 21:9 – 22:5 (read)
For a moment however we must take our eyes  off the physical  beauty of heaven and consider  the atmosphere  in which  we will live. We all know that we can live in a beautiful mansion, but in which we never feel at home. What makes a house a home? The atmosphere! And what is the atmosphere of heaven?  In 1738 Jonathan Edwards preached a series of messages to his congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts, on 1 Cor. 13. The last message he preached was taken from 1 Cor. 13: 8 – 10, and it was entitled, Heaven – a world of love. That text, you may remember, tells us that many things will pass away, but love never.  In that sermon Edwards preached his heart out! In essence he reminded his hearers that the atmosphere of heaven is “perfect love”. He begins with the Triune God whose supreme attribute is “love“. The Triune God lives in a love relationship. Thereafter he covers  the fact that  everything in heaven is  “lovely”  - “perfectly lovely “- uninterrupted , mutual expressions  of perfect love flowing from the Creator to His creation and between the creatures  to one another! Nothing imperfect will ever jar our relationships in heaven. And you who are deeply wounded and hurt because of your broken relationships here on earth - look forward to that wonderful atmosphere of heaven. Heaven is more than a place or a street address at which we shall live. Heaven is a “state of being“. It is a state of wellbeing! And it is connected to the state of our bodies.   The truth is that our present bodies are tabernacles, tents – temporary lodgings. In heaven we will be clothed with our “immortal bodies” [1 Cor. 15:53,54]  –  bodies that do not  get  sick, depressed, discouraged, confused, lonely  -   in our eternal city  [Hebr. 13:14] … our eternal house not built by human hands  [2 Cor. 5:1] .  And now lastly, remember that …
Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people
Jesus said: “I go  to prepare  a place for you”.  
Who are the “you?” 
Heaven is a place for sheep. There are no goats in heaven. Sheep are the people that Jesus died for [John 10].  There will be great multitudes of Jesus’ sheep,  from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and before the lamb [Rev.  7:9] in heaven.
Heaven is a real place. It doesn’t find a natural home in our heart. But it must, and it only happens  when  Jesus becomes  our  Saviour. He  is the way. He is the only way for you to heaven. Until you come to Jesus, heaven will have no attraction for you – but worse still - heaven will reject you. George Swinnock said: “Heaven must be in you, before  you can be in heaven.“
And the question for each one of us is this: “Shall I occupy a place in this house  with many dwelling places?
Someone once asked the Lord Jesus this question in Luke  13:23:  “Lord  are only a few people going to be saved?“  The Lord Jesus  does not give a direct answer to that question, but he turns the question upon the questioner and says to him:  “Make every effort (strive – agonize)  to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you , will try to enter and will not be able to.“   

Jesus is the narrow door. Look to Him. Trust in Him. Follow Him. Only prepared people go to heaven. And prepared people by definition are those, who have become participators in Christ, whose blood covers their sin. Heaven is for prepared people. Are you among them?
Beloved people, my abiding interest for you and yours is  this : Not that you may be firstly healthy, wealthy and prosperous , but  that you may firstly be lovers of God and  therefore citizens of heaven. Nothing  shall give me greater pleasure  than knowing  that it is well with your soul. 

[1] The word “ monastery” comes from this root

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