1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. Colossians 3:1-2
1. SETTING OUR MINDS ON THINGS ABOVE
As I mentioned to some of you this week, we’re going to start a new series this morning on a new subject. The subject is heaven. I spent some time studying Heaven while I was in Colorado earlier this month. I can say this,
Heaven is a Huge part of the Bible that is often neglected by Pastor’s and churches. As a result of living in a society of instant gratification, a society of materialistic indulgence, the church has fallen prey to that and we no longer have ‘set our minds on things above’ or in the NLT “set your sights on the realities of heaven”, as Colossians 3 calls us to, but we have set our affections on things on the earth.
Heaven is also neglected and rejected by people all over the world. And, maybe this is the worst, Heaven is very misunderstood and mis-taught. In some aspects the studying on Heaven I have done has had a negative aspect because so many people lie about it and try to trick others. One said, ‘Heaven is whatever you want it to be.’ another ‘Earth is all the heaven we will ever see” “Heaven is what you earn by serving others.” or ‘Heaven is bliss and nothingness” or maybe you like Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story’
I think I like Mark Twain better, he said a good one, “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
Or to quote, Sam Levenson, “If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the up button.”
This is not going to be like a sermon series, in many ways, but more like a class, at least this morning will be. I want to teach you what the Bible has to say by way of introduction to the subject of heaven.
II. EVERYTHING PRECIOUS TO US IS IN HEAVEN
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. Mt 6:9
Let me just give you a little bit of an insight into that. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 6 and verse 9, you have a very familiar verse that all of you probably know,
“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy.”
1. First of all, your Father is in heaven. In a very real sense, the one who is the source of everything for us, God Himself, is in heaven.
For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands…He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24
Furthermore, in Hebrews chapter 9 and verse 24, Not only is our Father in heaven, but our Savior is in heaven as well.
You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. Hebrews 12:23
Not only is our Father in heaven, and our Savior in heaven, but our brothers and sisters in the faith are in heaven. Old Testament saints are there, New Testament saints are there, Everyone who has died in faith in Christ or faith in God in the Old Testament is in heaven.
20 But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven. Luke 10:20
In Luke chapter 10, we find this most interesting statement in verse 20 and what it says ought to give hope to all of our hearts. It says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you…referring to His disciples who were casting out demons…but rejoice that your names are registered in heaven.” Not only is our Father there and our Savior there and our brothers and sisters there, but our name is recorded there. What does that mean? That means we have a title deed to some property there. We are citizens of that place. Our Citizenship is in Heaven
In Matthew 5:12 Jesus said, “Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven” Your eternal reward is there. And in Matthew 6:19 to 21, 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Our Treasures are in Heaven
I added one last night, after press time….
Our inheritance is there as well. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 1 Peter 1:3-4
Your Eternal Inheritance is in Heaven.
What do you mean by that? All the riches of God’s glory and grace are set aside for you and for me in heaven. Our Father is there, our Savior is there, our brothers and sisters are there, our names is there, all of our heavenly treasures are there,—that is we hold title to a place in that land–and our inheritance is there.
We could sum a lot of that up in Philippians 3:20 where the Apostle says, 20 We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. Our citizenship is there. We are citizens of that place, we belong there.
III. ALIENS AND STRANGERS.
So, when we think about heaven, we’re identifying the place where your Father is, your Savior is, your brothers and sisters are, your name is there, your inheritance is there, your citizenship is there, your reward is there…and your treasure is there as well. To sum it up, heaven is your home.
Peter writes, Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 1 Peter 2:11(NASB)
We are strangers, we are pilgrims, we are aliens in this world. We are like space travelers who are on a planet not our own. We don’t belong here. Every time somebody in this world meets us, they’re meeting alien beings. We are the aliens, folks. We have arrived here but our home is somewhere else.
Everything we love is there. Everything we cherish is there. Everything valuable is there. Everything eternal is there. And yet here we are in the church of Christ in the United States in this century, committed to indulging ourselves in this alien land. Self-indulgent Christianity is the kind of Christianity that’s lost its heavenly perspective. The church today doesn’t hope for heaven, they hope they won’t go to heaven. They don’t want to go to heaven until they’ve had all that earth could possibly deliver them. And when that’s exhausted, and they finally are too old to enjoy it or too sick to enjoy it, then they’ll be glad that heaven is there to receive them. “But please, God, don’t send me to heaven yet. I haven’t been to Hawaii. I haven’t gotten my new car. I…I want to go to the Bahamas. I want to get a raise. I want a new house. God, please, no, not heaven.” What a jaded perspective.
John says in 1 John 2 that all that is in the world is passing away. And if any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I think there are many people who claim to love Christ but the fact that they love the world so much means that they’re not heavenly citizens at all. And like the old spiritual said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” But everybody going there ain’t talking about heaven either. And that’s the other side of it. And we need to learn to live in the light of heaven. That hope should fill our hearts, should change our lives, filling us with the joy of anticipation that loosens us from this passing world. We can get so tied down to this world, we consume things in this world that will perish, instead of laying treasure in heaven.
Some very rich person died and someone asked a friend of his how much did he leave. And the friend said, “All of it.” And that’s exactly what you’ll leave, all of it.
On that note, let’s set aside the message for a moment and run through some Bible things about Heaven.
IV. BASIC THINGS ABOUT HEAVEN
Now let’s talk about some basic things regarding heaven to help us kind of get a start.
The word Heaven is in the Bible 550 times.
If we’re going to be heavenly minded and we’re going to long for heaven, we’ve got to know a little about it so we’ll have something to kind of pull us that way.
The Name Heaven
The Old Testament’s key word for heaven is shamayin, it literally means, it’s a plural, it means the heights…the heights.
The New Testament key word is ouranos (ooooranis) from which the planet Uranus was named. It literally means that which is raised up. So it’s a general term in the sense that it means something that is high and something that is raised up.
There are 3 Heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2) 3 Heavens: Now when we look up in the sky and we look at the night sky or the daytime sky, we’re looking at heaven. Our eyes, however, can only go so far. Let me just give you this thought from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, he says, chapter 12 verse 2, “That I was caught up to the third heaven,” okay? Second Corinthians 12:2, “Caught up to the third heaven.” Now that is very clearly an indication that there are three heavens. So let’s talk about the three heavens, all right?
a. Heaven One: The first one is what we could call the atmospheric heaven…the atmospheric heaven. That is the space immediately above the earth, that is the air we breathe. That is generally called the troposphere. Sometimes when the Bible talks about heaven, it is referring to that first heaven. The atmosphere around the earth, it’s the air we breathe, it’s our environment in which we live. And when the Scripture refers to that, it’s pretty clear that that’s what it has in mind. For example, in…there are several places but I think in
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9
” Yes, the first heaven, the first heaven is the atmospheric heaven where the rain and the snow come down. Wasn’t that nice to get some rain this week…It says they don’t return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater. The hydrological cycle which is the water cycle occurs in the first heaven. It’s the atmosphere around the earth.
There are several references in the Psalms to that atmosphere as well. It says, for example, in Psalm 147:8 that God covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth. Again, that’s the atmospheric heaven.
Heaven Two: Scripture refers to this as well, and that is the planetary area, the area where the stars and the moons and all of the planets move about. Scripture also refers to this heaven. In fact, way back in the first chapter of Genesis, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens…” Genesis 1:14-17. And what He meant by that, He goes on to say…”Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars…”
Heaven Three: And again, the first heaven is our sky, air, breathe, second heaven the planets, the stars and the moons. The Psalmist refers to that as the 2nd heaven as well.
The third heaven is the DIVINE heaven. Now that’s where God dwells. And that’s where He dwells with His holy angels, and that’s where He dwells with all the saints of all the ages who have been redeemed. That’s the heaven we want to concentrate on, the heaven where God lives, where the holy angels dwell, where all the redeemed of the ages dwell and will dwell forever and ever.
B Now I want to give you one reference so that you will not be confused. Turn for a moment to 1 Kings 8:27…
1 Kings 8:27, it says, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee,” Solomon says, “how much less this house which I have built?”
Now here the Scripture says that on the one hand and even the highest heaven, or literally in the Hebrew, the heaven of heavens, can’t contain God. How can we say on the one hand that the heaven of heavens can’t contain God, and on the other hand that the heaven of heavens is His abode? I’m not sure. I’m not sure how we can say that but that’s what the Bible says. There is a sense in which the heaven of heavens can’t contain God, and yet there is a sense in which that’s His abode.
But there is a heaven of heavens where God dwells. It is His place. It is His home. It is His dwelling. In Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is holy, I dwell on a high and holy place,” He said. God has a place where He lives, a real place, a dwelling place. In Isaiah 63 and verse 15, “Look down from heaven and see from Thy holy and glorious habitation.” That tells us where the place is, it’s in heaven. He says in chapter 57 God has a place and in chapter 63, God, he says, look down from Your place, and he calls that place heaven. That’s the heaven of heavens where God dwells.
In fact, in Psalm 33:14 it says that God looks from heaven, verse 13, from His dwelling place He looks out. So there is a place where God dwells. And that place is called heaven. It’s the heaven of heavens, the third heaven.
In Psalm 102, just another reference, we could give you many but here it says in verse 19, “He looked down from His holy height, from heaven the Lord gazed upon the earth.”
In the New Testament, just so that you’ll have a New Testament reference, in Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, he will not go out from it anymore, I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from out of heaven from my God.” And again the New Testament identifying God with heaven. God lives in heaven.
Okay #4, There’s no Limbus Patrum. There’s no limbo place, no purgatory. You go immediately into the Lord’s presence! Away from the body, is at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) The thief of the cross was told by Jesus, “Today you will be with me in paradise!”
Do we have a minute? Are there any questions?
Week 1, Setting Our Minds on Things Above
1. SETTING OUR MINDS ON THINGS ABOVE
II. EVERYTHING PRECIOUS TO US IS IN HEAVEN
III. ALIENS AND STRANGERS
IV. BIBLE TEACHINGS ABOUT HEAVEN
Bible Reading for the Week is on the insert.