What’s Heaven Really Like?

Heaven April 21, 2024 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Notes

Do you ever give any thought to what heaven is like? People who have faced death, either personally or among their friends and family, tend to think more about what heaven might be like.

What’s heaven like for the believer when they die? How can we face death and eternity with confident knowledge and expectation of heaven? In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he encouraged believers that they could confidently face death knowing what their heavenly home with the Lord would be like.



So we're continuing our series. We're in part two of this series entitled, "Heaven, it's better than you ever imagined." And today we're going to be answering the question, what's heaven really like? What's the Bible really say about heaven?

What's heaven really like? Now, before we dig in, I want to give a plug to our upcoming citywide prayer revival, and it starts next Sunday night at 6:30pm  at Daniel's Chapel. It'll be at the different churches, as we've mentioned to you before in the announcements. We can update you on that, but it will conclude on Wednesday night. So it's four nights of praying together and praising the Lord together.

On the fourth night, the Wednesday night, we will conclude at the Whirligig stage downtown. And we're praying for revival in our city. We believe that as we collaborate with other churches, and I pray together with these pastors, we've been praying monthly together since 2019. So that's over five years that the Lord put it on my heart together, these pastors who care about the gospel in our city, so we're collaborating together. And so different nights, they'll be, we'll meet at one church, but a different worship team from another church will lead.

And so we'll be singing and praying together. Now, if you're worried about what it'll be like, each service will last about an hour. It won't be weird. Okay, so it'll be like, we'll sing some songs. There'll be prayers from the stage.

There'll be opportunities for you to pray with people, too. And so please come and let me just put it like this. If you love me, come on. Because we believe that collaborating together with other churches in our city makes a difference. When we pray together, it will proceed.

That prayer always precedes a gospel movement. And so we're praying for gospel saturation in our city. So that's my plug. Hope and pray. If you love me, you'll come, right?

Okay, now back to our sermon. What's heaven really like? Now, some people say you can't know. And they say it's mysterious. You can't know.

But the truth is that, as we learned last week, the Bible has a lot to say about heaven. It's in the Bible over 696 times, old Testament 400,  296 times in the New Testament. The Bible has a lot to say about heaven. Just in the book of Matthew. It's in the Book of Matthew 75 times.

And so there's a lot in the Bible about heaven. So the Bible not only tells us a lot about heaven, but it also tells us that we are to think on and set our minds on things above. We talked about that last week, that we're to set our hearts and our minds and focus on heaven, and it's something to look forward to.

Now, when I was growing up, we used to hear the older people singing about heaven and talking about heaven. And I think it was because death was more real to an earlier generation.

We've kind of sanitized the idea today, and maybe as a people, as America, we're trying to get heaven on earth. It seems like sometimes we're trying to live as long as we can. But I wonder if you ever think about heaven. I've found that people who've had the experience of losing someone tend to think more about heaven. I told you last week that when I lost my father when I was eight years old, it caused me, from that point on in my life, my entire life, I've had thoughts about what's it going to be like.

I mean, I have no doubts of its existence, but what's it going to be like. And just really, the last few months, I've read probably a dozen books on heaven. I've studied the scriptures, on every occurrence of where it occurs in the Bible. And I'm just trying to share with you my passion on this subject, because the Bible has a lot to say about heaven. Now, if I were to ask you this, if I could tell you, and if the word of the Lord came to me and he said I could tell you this, which would you choose?

If I said, the Lord promises you ten years of life, or you could go to heaven today, which one would you choose? Now, some of you already said today, last service, someone way in the back shouted it loud today. I'd go today, but a lot of us would say no, I hadn't gotten married yet. I haven't had a family yet, or I haven't, and you've got something that you're thinking, and that's fine. But the thing is, we have uncertainty about heaven, and we tell ourselves about this.Well, whenever it's a funeral or something, other than that, we stuff it away. Now, our church has lost four sweet members of our family this year, three at our Wilson campus and one at our Rocky Mount campus. We've done a lot of funerals this year, and it's caused me. I planned this series long before any of this happened. Before the last year ended, the Lord put it on my heart to talk about this.

I think there's a timeliness of it to prepare us so that when we grieve, we don't grieve as those who have no hope, but instead we could have the certainty and the confidence of our eternal destiny. So I want you to think about heaven. We can face death and eternity with confidence, knowing that we know that we know that we have a place in expectation of heaven. The apostle Paul wrote in the second letter to the church at Corinth, he wrote to them instructing them about heaven and about the realities of heaven, and that they could have certainty, they could have confidence in heaven. And I believe as we look the text today, we'll see four realities that we can really know about heaven.

So let's look at it. Chapter five, verses one through ten of 2 Corinthians.  Notice that we know some things. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (ESV) 1 "For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. This is God's word. Amen.

We're looking for four realities of what heaven is really like. Here's the first:

1. We will be with Christ.

The believer can have this confidence. We will be with Christ. By the way,  I am thankful for Pastor Colin Smith at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Illinois for his sermon points on this same topic. His work helped us order up our sermon. He has his own YouTube. And as I was watching other sermons and so forth, I found his sermon to be particularly helpful on this subject. So I would. I would be unthankful not to mention his help in watching his sermon.

So I commend that sermon to you. If you want to watch it on YouTube, by Pastor Colin Smith. But we will be with Christ. Take note, first of all, at verse one, as I've already said, verse one says, "For we know..." and then look down at verse six, "We are always of good courage."

We know. Paul says this twice. There's something we can have understanding of. There's something we can have knowledge of. What is it?

We can have knowledge of our eternal dwelling. We can have knowledge of our future in heaven. In fact, he goes on to say, we are always of good courage. Another translation says, we can be confident. It translates it like that.

We can be confident. And indeed, it says in the King James, as we look at verse eight, which says here in the ESV, "Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."I kind of like the KJV on this one. It says, "absent from the body, present with the Lord."

And so when the soul departs this body, see, this body's not fit for heaven when it opens up. Talking about this tent, what tent is he talking about? A tent is a temporary dwelling. That's what this is. I'm glad it's temporary because I about wore this thing out, but this is a temporary dwelling.

But there's a house being built by God, not made by human hands. That's your future eternal resurrection body. This is what Paul's talking about. The church at Corinth needed some help with understanding what heaven holds for us. And so he's explaining, he goes, now, look, these bodies you have, they're like tents.

They're temporary, but you're going to be at home with the Lord, absent from the body, present with the Lord. And so that's the reality. That's the first thing we can know, that you. The minute you die. If you're a believer.

Now, listen to me. If you believe in Jesus, there's this thing you can be confident of. You can know that. You know that. You know.

Absent from the body, present with the Lord. What did Jesus say to the thief on the cross? We talked about this a few weeks ago. Today you will be with me in paradise now. Paradise?

Let's talk about that for a second. Paradise. It's in the New Testament. Three times we mentioned this last week. It seems to be an equivalent phrase, a synonymous phrase with present heaven.

I'm going to explain to you what I mean by present heaven. It's the heaven right now where Jesus and the angelic host, the Father, all the saints who have gone on before believing in Jesus. That's present heaven. Some theologians refer to this as the intermediate state. That's just too weird for me, so I just call it present heaven.

Okay, intermediate state. That means it's not the future state, which is the new heavens, and the new earth, which is what's promised to. But let's look at these three occurrences of the word paradise in the New Testament. The first, we looked at this last week.

This is Paul.  He says, 2 Corinthians 12:2-3 (ESV) 2 "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows."  So the apostle Paul is saying the third heaven and paradise are equivalent. He's talking about the present heaven that he was caught up into and saw things so amazing that he couldn't even put it into words. Then when we say third heaven, what did we learn last week?

He's talking about the place where God is, where the angelic hosts, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father, where the saints are. First heaven is what we learned this last week as we studied the scriptures last week. The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven. I don't know if it was still raining when you came in, but it's the part that got you wet as you came in. That's the first heaven.

The second heaven is the heaven that you can see at night. It's the stellar heaven. It's the stars. It's outside the envelope of the atmosphere. That's the second heaven.

The third heaven is the unseen heaven. Paul says he was called up into the third heaven, and he said it was paradise. So the word paradise seems to be an equivalent word to present heaven. Okay, here's a second occurrence of paradise. I mentioned it a moment ago:

It's in Luke 23:43 (ESV) And he said to him,“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus is talking to the criminal next to him on the cross. Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus says, truly, I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise. We will be with the Lord.

You can be confident of this believer. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you will be translated immediately. At the very moment that you die, you'll be with the Lord. In fact, the Greek word for death means separation, and it's a separation from the tent, this temporary dwelling that wears out over time. Right.

Some of us wear them out earlier than others, but they, but they're not fit for heaven. The Bible says it's a tent. And even in this tent, we groan. And what is this groaning? It's a longing for things that will last.

Ecclesiastes speaks of this; it says that God has put eternity in our hearts. We have this desire for something. And in fact, when you have the Holy Spirit, if you look at the passage we read today, in verse five, he says he's given the spirit to us as a guarantee.

So the spirit within us is groaning for our eternity together, that he wants us to be fully with him. And so when we use that word guarantee, if you've ever bought a house or if you've ever been involved with real estate, you have to make a contract, and you have to give them a deposit or earnest money. And it's that Greek word there that means the idea of to give a deposit or earnest money. And so God has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment on our future reward. And the spirit lives within us, groaning in our own souls.

Groan so that we can do that which God's called us to do. We want to be with Christ. We want to be with Christ, but our bodies are weak. What does Jesus say to the disciples? He says the spirit is willing, but the what?

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. And so the spirit of God within us wants to obey everything, wants to do everything God says, but the flesh is weak. But there's going to come a moment in the present heaven when we're with Christ. We will be able to be fully what God has meant for us to be. So that's the second occurrence of paradise.

Here's the third occurrence, and it's where Jesus told the apostle John to write a letter to the church at Ephesus. Revelation 2:7 (ESV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Now, this tells us something very specific, that the tree of life. Where do we first hear about the tree of life? We hear about it in the first two chapters of Genesis. And, in fact, that God closed the garden of Eden off the paradise of Eden. He called it off, and he put an angelic host at the door with a flaming sword so that they could not enter in after they had fallen to sin.

And so this now. But now he says to the church of Ephesus, that you'll receive this. And so I believe that this paradise, this Eden like paradise, that God, it's a planted garden, that it's present in present heaven now.  And so let me put this chart up quickly.

You know  I like charts. And so if you just kind of think about the first two chapters of the Bible and the last two chapters of the Bible like bookends the first two chapters of the Bible, God is with Adam and Eve. He talks to them. He walks with them. In the cool of the evening, he's present with them, and then they fall to sin.

And so then we're separated. And so heaven and earth are separated from one another, and God is not present with us. But in the last two chapters, there's a new heaven and a new earth, and it's marked by what God is with man again. And so this is the arc of the whole scripture. The whole purpose of the scripture is that God is redeeming not only us, all creation back to himself.

And so. But we live in this envelope of time right here called the present heaven. So, the present heaven, or paradise. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, God is separated from man because of sin. But when we believe in Jesus and when we pass away, we graduate to present heaven.

Y'all with me when I talk about present heaven? Because that's in contrast to the new heavens and new earth, when the new Jerusalem comes down and God dwells with man. And there's no separation between heaven and earth. That's future. Future.

But in the present heaven, this is where we are today. Is that making sense? That's what we're talking about. So one of the things that you'll encounter when you're singing songs and talking about heaven, you hear people talking about streets of gold, gates of pearl. That's the new heavens and new earth.

In fact, that's a description of the new Jerusalem. That's not a description of the present heaven. But there are descriptions of the present heaven in the Bible. And so let's put them in the correct categories, because the Bible does. You with me?

Still with me. I got a lot to say. Some of you are looking at me like, wow, okay, we're talking about heaven. That's what we're talking about. And we can know these things.

Here's what Paul says in verse eight. He says, I would rather be. Did you see that? In verse eight, he says, yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Not only Paul says, he says, I'd rather be there.

It had to be hard for Paul because he'd already been caught up to heaven and he'd already seen paradise. And so then he's back on earth and he's preaching. I'm sure it put a fire in his belly, but it also gave him a deeper longing to be there. He'd already caught a vision of it. He knew what it was like, and so he wanted to be there.

He said, I'd rather be there. In fact, in Philippians 1:21-23 (ESV) 21 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."

Oh, it's good. It's good to have Christ by his holy spirit living in us.

Hey, praise God. Here we are. Church. Isn't it good? Isn't it good to have Jesus?

Oh, it's good. But you know what's far better? What's waiting for us? Oh, it's far better. It's far better.

Paul says it's far better. If I had to choose between the two, he said, I'd rather go ahead and be there with Jesus. That's what he says.

I don't know if you ever heard this, these words from Billy Graham. He says, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God with Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Well, he's there now. He's changed addresses. Right. The first reality of heaven is that believers will be with Christ Jesus, which is better by far. Here's the second reality:

2. We will be fully conscious.

We will be fully conscious. We will be fully conscious. Look at verse two, 2 "For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,"

For what does our soul groan? It groans for our heavenly dwelling. It groans. It longs. It groans. It wants to be swallowed up by life.

Verse four. Right. And it wants verse 7, "for we walk by faith, not by sight." It wants our faith to become sight. Right now we walk by faith, and we have faith that heaven exists.

But there comes a time when we will see it. And sight implies the ability to be conscious and to perceive, does it not? Does it not? Now I want to deal with quickly a view that some hold, and that's called "soul sleep." The idea that when you die, you just sleep until Jesus returns and gives you your resurrection body, and then he wakes you up.

Maybe you've never heard of this. If you've never heard of it, I'm informing you of it. But I'm informing you of it in order to demolish the argument. I don't believe that's what Paul means when he talks about sleep. First Corinthians, is an occurrence of this word. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (ESV) 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

He uses the word sleep here to talk about a believer's death, that all it is is their body now sleeps. Their body sleeps. Their soul lives.

And so there's a separation. Remember I told you the word death in the Greek means separation? And so when he says sleep, remember what Jesus said about the little girl that belonged to the synagogue ruler? They came and said, don't bother Jesus. She already died.

He goes, she's not dead. She's just asleep. Remember when he said that? Then he went and woke her up and brought her back to life. Do you remember that?

So that word sleep was a common word to describe the state of a believer who died, that their body's at rest, but their soul is wide awake. It's also found in 1 Thessalonians. I'll read that quickly. Just so I'm being fair to those who recognize these places. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (ESV) 13 "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord."

And so those are a couple of the occurrences. Are you with me? Now to understand that some people say when you die, you just sleep and Jesus returns, they're getting it from these passages. And I'm going to show you some other places that completely disagree in the Bible with this.

But I wanted to be fair and show you these places. Why would you groan for a place where you just aren't even aware of? Why would your body long for it? Why would you so long for it? And so we look through these passages talking about that you're not groaning because you'll be found naked.

What a strange phrase here, this tent, this temporary dwelling describing our temporary body, that there's going to be a season where your soul is without a body. Now, you're not longing for that because that's a strange way to think about it. And when you think about what kind of body will you have in present heaven if the Lord hasn't given a resurrection body to you yet? Okay. And so some would say, well, we have a spiritual body like the angels.

And so it can see, it can hear. That body is functional, but it's different than the present body we have. That seems to be what we're looking at. There might be a temporary dwelling that God gives, but the Bible doesn't speak of it with any specificity. So I would hesitate to say that.

But we know this. There's a season in present heaven where we're between these states of where we are now and the future new heavens and new earth. And so he talks about this. He said, but what we're really groaning for is that we would be unclothed. I'm in verse four, "For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life."

But that we would be further clothed, like clothing on top of clothing, like better clothing, like superior, eternal clothing. And he describes it with more detail. He says, in verse 1, "...a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." It's a building from God, eternal in the heavens. Now, that's what he's talking about.

He's talking about that future body, that resurrection body that's been prepared for us. Now I want to speak to you about a scene in the heavens. This is in Revelation, chapter six, where the apostle John is caught up and he sees this vision of the present heaven and the activity in heaven so that we're peering in now to what it looks like in the present heaven or in Revelation chapter six, rather. Here's what he says. Revelation 6:9-11 (ESV) 9 "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been."

Now, what we have here is we have an eyewitness view from the apostle John. He's in heaven, and he sees the throne high and lifted up. And below that he sees the altar, and below that he sees this group of martyred believers, the people who had died for their faith.

They've been persecuted. And they're talking. In fact, they're crying out, and who are they talking to? They're talking to the sovereign lord. Now, these people are awake, they're not asleep, and they are  asking him questions.

How long, lord, before you judge those? And they're aware of what's going on earth because they know God hasn't done it yet. Oh, there's a lot going on here, friends. Just in these couple of verses we can see they're fully conscious. They're fully aware.

They're engaged. They're talking to the Lord. They're aware of what's going on on earth. And they're asking, asking God to give them answers.They're so engaged.

You see, the throne room is like  the command center in this great place that controls the whole cosmos. And all these reports are coming in from the angelic host and these different pictures and images, and the saints are like, what's that? And when are you going to do this? And they're fully engaged.

And you might even say they're praying because it does sound like a prayer. Revelation 6:10 "They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” How long? That sounds like the book of Habakkuk that we just studied earlier.

How long, lord, before you do this? They're on the God team. There's no question.

They want what God wants. When you go and do it, that's what they want, to know God. And not only that, not only could they talk, not only could they be aware of their surroundings, but they were given a white robe and they were told to rest a little longer. You gotta rest a little longer on this. So I don't know what kind of bodies they had, but they was wearing white robes.

Okay, this is in the present heaven. All right. Now, Randy Alcorn in his book about heaven, and I would recommend this book to you if you want to look into this more deeply. He made 21 observations about the verses I just read from revelation, chapter six. Now I don't have time to do that.

Here's just a couple of them. He says, that when those people died on earth, they relocated to heaven. I can see that they remember their lives on earth. They remembered that they were murdered in persecution, so they didn't forget who they were. They still know who they were, and they know what they did on earth.

And heaven recognizes what they did on earth. And so he makes that they cried out. In other words, they could speak audibly. They were conscious, rational, and aware of each other and the situation on earth. He talks about all these details.

And not only that, they're asking God questions. It's almost like they're praying to God. I wonder, you know, the Bible says that when one sinner repents that there's rejoicing in heaven and that the angels are aware of it. I think the rejoicing is among the saints. The angels are aware of it, but I think there's rejoicing in heaven.

I wonder if those who have gone on before us, if they're watching to see if you're going to follow Jesus. I don't know how much they know. Some people say, well, they couldn't know much because it would interrupt their joy.  And heaven's a place of joy. Let me ask you something.

Does God's joy get interrupted by knowing everything? No, his joy is unconquerable. Now, what if you were in the throne room and you had access to God without anything holding you back? Like the tent?

The tent's not holding you back. The spirit is willing, and there ain't no flesh. The spirit is just willing. And you could know what God knows. And so you could know things and not have anything even chip away at your joy because you know what's coming.

I don't know. I'm just thinking through this a little bit. We sometimes deny ourselves what the Bible reveals to us about heaven by saying, yeah, but how would we have joy? But how would we? Because we think we're going to be like we are here, but we're not.

We're going to be with the Lord and we're going to be fully conscious. Well, I could go on. Randy Alcorn has 21. I can't do 21 right now. I don't have time.

Let me give you a couple more instances of where heaven has leaked into earth to give you more awareness that we're fully conscious. Here's one; it's called the mount of transfiguration. Do you remember this story? It's in three of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke. All three have an account.

I will read the one from Luke. Luke 9:28-31 (ESV) 28 "Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem." Let me make some quick observations right here:

Here's Peter, James and John. And Jesus pulls back the veil between heaven and earth and out steps Moses and Elijah. And they're all dressed in white, dazzling white raiment. And they start having a conversation because Moses and Elijah know what Jesus is getting ready to do. And they start talking to him about his coming departure and what his mission is in Jerusalem, because they know, because they just stepped out of the control center.

They just stepped out of the throne room and they're sitting there and they're wearing those  white robes that I think are like clothing of light, almost dazzling to see. And they stepped through. And Peter, James and John, they know who they were.  Now, maybe they overheard, heard them talking to each other by name, the Bible doesn't say, but it was Moses and Elijah. And they stepped out of the present heaven and manifested into the present earth for a moment.

And then they stepped back. And then Jesus, his appearance was restored to its original appearance. And he warned them, saying, don't tell anybody about this. For a little while. They were like, what?

I'm talking to you about present heaven. You still with me? You'll be fully conscious now. There's a parable in the Bible. It's in Luke 6. It's the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. There's a lot of material right here, some people say. Was that a literal story? It's unusual as a parable because it names a person. It names Lazarus as a person.

No other parable names a person like that one. It's an unusual story. It describes a place of torment where the rich man goes and a place of comfort where Lazarus, the poor man, goes. It seems the parable is primarily talking about how you should take care of the poor and how you should use your wealth wisely. And it's got, some of those things seem to be the thing.

But is it literal or instructional? Well, I think it's primarily instructional. But how much of it should you carry with you. I think at a bare minimum, we could say this, that when you die, what you believe on earth determines your destiny. And so Lazarus was immediately translated into the presence of God.

He was carried away by the angels. Jesus said, and the rich man woke up in torment. And so they were conscious. They were fully conscious, and they were immediately translated. Now, I've been reading a couple books, and I won't be quoting these books.

I'm not going to preach from these books, but these are books that have been written by some christian authors who have evaluated near death experiences. And a whole lot of them describe similarities that sound an awful lot like these biblical accounts. I'll leave it at that. I might mention some more of those things along the way. I just don't want to get too out there talking about other sources.

Let's stick with the scripture when I'm speaking from the pulpit. But we will be fully conscious. We'll be aware. Here's the third that I want to talk about. The second reality is we'll be fully conscious and aware.

Here's the third:

3. We will be actively engaged.

We will be actively engaged. We will be actively engaged. Remember, I told you last week, one of the members of my small group was like, hey, pastor, you know, I know you're getting ready to talk about heaven. Is heaven going to be like one big, long church service?

Is it going to be like eternally singing? You know, like, holy, holy, holy. I mean, are we going to have like a thousand verses of holy, holy, holy? What's going on? And I could tell you he was a little concerned, like, you know, that's the only thing I ever heard about the activity in heaven is we going to do a lot of singing.

And I think we will do some singing. We're going to have the marriage supper of the lamb. We're going to do some eating. We're going to do some singing. They're going to be worship.

But worship is not just singing. You think worship is just singing? It's not. Worship is anything you do where you put God first, where you pull your affections off of your own self and you say, I'm doing this for Jesus.

That's worship. Worship is serving the Lord. That's what worship is. So, mamas, if you're changing a diaper and you're saying, I'm doing this because I'm raising my child up in the Lord and I'm loving my child as the Lord has loved me, you're worshiping if you do it as unto the Lord and not unto men. It might not feel like worship, it might not smell like worship, but it's worship because you're doing it as unto the Lord and not as unto men.

So we'll be worshiping in heaven. In fact, as we look here about being actively engaged, notice in verse nine, it says, "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him." So when we're with  the Lord, we're going to still be trying to please him, right? We're still going to be wanting to do his will.

Even when we're in the present heaven, we make it our aim. And then he goes on to say, we're all going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. What is that? Actually, in the Greek, it's the Bema seat of Christ.

The Bema seat of Christ.  This is in contrast to the great white throne judgment, which believers don't stand before. The great white throne judgment is for unbelievers who have rejected Jesus. But the Bema seat of Christ is for believers.

And this is where he gives out reward. This is where he looks at how you've lived your life. Now, some have said this probably happens at the rapture. And maybe everybody's called together after the rapture, and there's a long line, as he does. You know, people line up before him, and you give an account of how you lived your life.

This might be where the scripture said, where he wipes away every tear. Because we might shed a tear or two as we give an account. I don't know. Some say it's at the rapture. Some say that it might happen at the moment you die.

Because one of the reports you hear from a lot of near death experiences is their whole life flashed before their eyes, and it's as if they had a memory of every single instant. And I wonder, it could be at the moment you pass away, that the moment you graduate to heaven, that you give a report to Jesus. I'm not sure the scripture is not clear on this, but it is clear on this. We must all appear before the Bema seat of Christ, every one of us. And so that's an active engagement, isn't it?

How can you give a report if you're asleep? And so you're going to be actively engaged to do this. Let me give you a couple of instances of examples of what we will be actively doing in heaven. First, we will be worshiping.

This is John. Revelation 4:2-4, 10-11 (ESV) 2 "At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. …the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

So this is a worship service. Twenty-four elders representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of the New Testament, showing that Israel and the church are now all the saints.

Old Testament saints and New Testament saints are now represented before the throne in the present heaven. And there's a great worship service going on, and there's more about that in chapter four. When John first got caught up, that's the first thing he saw when he came up, was he got caught up in a worship service. But that's not all.

Revelation 7:13-14 (ESV) 13 "Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

So what's going on here? We have one of the saints that's been there for a while, educating, one who just showed up fully conscious and actively engaged. In other words, there's learning in heaven. There's education in heaven. There's teaching in heaven.

Hey, did you know who those were? I saw you looking over there, sir. You know, well, those are the ones thatdied during the tribulation, but they believed in Jesus, and they've been washed in the blood. That's why.

That is who is marching on,being informed not by an angel, but by one of the other saints.

Do you see this? Fully conscious, actively engaged. Now, the angels are without spirit, without physical bodies. They have spiritual bodies. We know they can manifest.

As we look at the scriptures, they can appear I don't know if our bodies will be like the angelic host, that they'll be spiritual or if they'll have some other form. But we have little examples of this clothed in dazzling white light with Moses and Elijah and all these that we're reading about here. We will be this third reality. Believers in heaven will be actively engaged. Here's the fourth and final observation I want to make from this passage:

4. We will be eagerly waiting.

We will be eagerly waiting because the present heaven is not the final consummation of heaven. How about that? God is so creative. It's not chapter 21 and 22 we're talking about. We're talking about the present heaven.

But the people in the present heaven are longing. Did you see in verse two the longing for that eternal home, that heavenly dwelling? Paul seems to be talking.

He's talking of the now with the tent. He's talking of the future resurrection body, and he's kind of glossing over the space in the middle, which is the present heaven. We're trying to pull that out so we can examine it by looking at other scripture, but there's this longing for that future. In fact, as we look back at Revelation 6:10 (ESV) They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

There seems to be time in heaven. Like, why would they ask a how long question if there was no sensation of time? And so they're waiting for something. So we're waiting for something better, something far better, because we got it good right now in Jesus. But present heaven's far better.

But future heaven, new heaven and new earth is best because they're waiting for the best. They got it far better. But they're waiting for the best. And they're longing for it. Like God, talk to us, when's this coming?

And then we see in chapter 21, John gets a glimpse of what's coming in chapter 21. I'll read a little bit.

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV) 1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

This future, new heaven and new earth is really the location of where the resurrection bodies are built for.

That's what they're built for. So this imagery you have that you got from Hollywood or from some myth or maybe some toilet tissue commercial like Angelsoft, where you think you're floating on clouds, playing harps with little halos around your heads and little fat flying angels, little cherubs flying around. That's a commercial on tv. That's not what the Bible talks about. This new heavens and new earth is a place where you have a physical body like Jesus, and you actually can eat and walk and talk and everything that you ever dreamed of.

It's far better. In fact, it's best now. I can't talk to you anymore about this today. Cause I got a few more weeks to talk about this stuff. And if I tell you everything I know at the first sermon or second sermon, I won't have anything to talk about in the coming weeks.

But there's going to be more to talk about as we talk about this final place, this final place, which is best of all. What's heaven really like? You'll be with Christ, fully conscious, actively engaged, and still with hope, looking forward to even best, even something best.

I had to go and do a funeral yesterday in Bristol, Virginia. I'm that pastor now in my family. I've gotten old enough to where I'm the pastor of the family. So even yesterday, when I was doing a funeral for my mother's oldest sister, my aunt Jerry, I was asked by the family to come and do this funeral. And then another cousin came up to me and said, hey, you know, mom and dad aren't doing too good, and they wanted to know if you'd do their funerals. And I'm thinking, my goodness, you know, if I become the funeral preacher for my family. But we drove up there yesterday.

Now, my aunt Jerry was my mom's oldest sister. She was 93. She believed in the Lord. She had a testimony. She's with Jesus now, but here's a testimony I want to share with you from her.

When my daddy died on November 2,1966, at Bristol Memorial Hospital in Bristol, Tennessee, my mom had been sitting with him for days, and he kept getting worse. He had cancer all over his body. He was really in bad shape. He'd gone from 200 pounds to probably 98 pounds. It was sad.

It was hard. It took him a year to die. My mom went to the chapel, and she went to the hospital chapel, and she said, lord, I'm going to stop praying for you to heal him. He's suffering too bad. I just want you to take him.

He knows where he's going. While she was praying that in the chapel he passed, she used to say, I believe our prayers were keeping him here because he passed the very moment. But while she was in the chapel, my aunt Jerry, my mom's oldest sister, was in the room with my dad. She was in the room with my dad's mom and dad. So there was three of them sitting there with my dad.

I think preacher Potter was there. Now, I wouldn't know any of this if it weren't for my Aunt Jerry, because I wasn't there. I was eight years old. But my Aunt Jerry, who just graduated to heaven, she said, your daddy told me I had to talk to you like a grown up because you like to talk. And I was like, well, I do.

And I still do. She said, when your daddy, just minutes before he passed, he cried out to his dad. He said, daddy, take off my shoes. I'm about to walk on holy ground. And he said, son, you're in the bed.

You ain't got no shoes on. And he said, he just got quiet for a minute. And then she said, he caught his breath and he raised up and he said, I can see over the hedge. And that was it. He passed.

And she said, the doctor came in, you know, in time of death, and they have to check the pulse and all that. And they all said, did you hear what he said? And, oh, that was probably the morphine. He's probably hallucinating. My Aunt Jerri said to the doctor that he was not hallucinating.

Remember old Stephen? Stephen, one of the deacons? He was being stoned to death for his faith in Jesus. And he said, behold, I see the heavens parted. And I can see Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father.

And then he said, father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing to me. I don't know if my daddy saw heaven or not, but I know Stephen did. And maybe my daddy did, and maybe you will, too. And maybe right before you pass, maybe heaven's part.

And you see the welcome. You see the welcome party coming to get you. My friends, my loved ones, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Because we can know. We can know, and we can be confident that if you believe in Jesus, there's a heaven waiting for you.

Let's pray. Lord, thank you for your word. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

That you've prepared a place that we don't have to have troubled hearts, but we can have faith in Jesus that you've prepared a place for us, that wherever you are, we will be also. Lord, we thank you for that. I pray for the one that's here today that does not have that confidence. My friend, if you don't know Jesus, you're not ready. You're not ready to face eternity.

And who knows the day when you'll be called. So make it right today. Would you pray with me? Right where you are? Dear Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner.

I want to be ready. And I believe you died on the cross for my sins and that you were raised from the grave. Come and live in me. Forgive me of my sin. I repent and I turn from my sin, and I turn to you.

I want you to be my lord and savior. I want you to adopt me into your family. I want to live forever in eternity with you. If you're praying that prayer of faith, believing that's why Jesus came, he'll save you. He'll make you a child of God.

Others are here today. And maybe you're hurting, maybe you're doubting, maybe you're grieving. Would you know this? That we can have confidence because of Jesus, that we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope, Lord, bless us now with the confidence of the reality of heaven. In Jesus name, amen.



Good morning, church. Good to see all of you. I kind of do need my Bible this morning. I need it a lot. You're going to find out today.

We are all up in the word of God this morning as we go through our second part of this series on heaven. I hope you enjoyed last week. Those of you who got to experience that, if you missed it, you can go back and check it out online. We began this series asking the question, why should we even consider heaven? Why is it something that we as believers should be talking about and considering?

And there's really great evidence in scripture as to why this is something we should be talking about. But today I want to move into something a little more literal, a little bit more in your face, if you will, asking a question that I think probably just about all of you have asked on some level, you've asked this question, and that is, what is heaven really like? What's going on up there? What's this thing really about? And anytime you've ever considered that place, maybe it blows your mind.

Maybe when you think there, you're just like, I can't spend a lot of time there because I don't know how to experience life outside of time. I don't know what eternity can even mean. For me, that's mind boggling because everything we've done in this life has been based around clock. It's been based around an anticipation of the next thing. I'm not sure what heaven's supposed to be like.

And sometimes we even look at the word of God and we go, well, you know, it says some things about it, but doesn't it also say, no eyes ever seen, no ears ever heard? And there's these scriptures like that. There's even a verse in one of the songs we're singing today that says something like that. But that verse goes on to say, and the Bible, the scriptures, the spirit of God has revealed what this is about. I said this last week, but the word heaven or heavens is in the Bible 692 times.

The Bible has a ton to say on this concept. So there's a lot we can look at. A lot has been revealed in the word of God. And so let's not just look away and say, there's not much to know because it's a question that we're all asking. Some of you are asking it maybe more intensely than others.

Something in your experience as of late has caused you to really go, hmm, I wonder what's going on there, because someone's there that you long to see again or someone's there that you're really hopeful that things are going well for them. You don't know exactly what's going on, so you want to know more. And the Bible has much to offer. Do you ever give any thought to this? I feel like the older I'm getting, the more I consider these things, and I think that's a natural progression of life, that if you talk to your parents or grandparents, you'll find that they're more and more thinking about those who have gone on beyond.

More and more, they're thinking about the other side of glory, whether it is because they've lost people that they really miss or whether it is their bodies are failing them. I find that more and more, as your body ages, you're longing for that heavenly body, right? You're itching for that thing that operates correctly and doesn't malfunction at times. So you begin to think about this place. Some of you have lost loved ones as of late, and this is a great question.

What's going on? What's dad experiencing right now? What's my husband, my wife experiencing up there now? What's granddad, grandma? What are they.

What are they seeing? You know, just this year, within this calendar year, or this fiscal year, if you will, our church family at both campuses have had four graduates to heaven. We've lost people together, and it's been hard on our little church to lose a couple of people over the last couple of months together. And perhaps it caused us to. Certainly caused us to mourn, but maybe it caused us to go.

I wonder what. I wonder what brother Rich is doing right now. I wonder what brother Tom's doing right now. He doesn't have to hand out mints anymore up there. Cause we don't all have foul breath there, I don't think.

I always felt like he gave me double. I'm honest with y'all about. Y'all can tell me, like, you don't have to keep that a secret. Why did Tom give me double mints? But anyway, it causes me to ask questions like, what's he up to?

What's he doing now? And I can't wait to see him. And how do I face this big question? So that's where we're gonna be today in two corinthians together. Second Corinthians, chapter five.

And this is a wonderful place where the apostle Paul encouraged believers that they could confidently face death knowing that their heavenly home would be with the Lord and that it was going to be an amazing existence beyond this place. And we can confidently face death like this as well, knowing what heaven is really like. So how do we do it? I believe the text is going to give us four very clear realities about heaven, this present heaven, so that we can be of good courage. So let's read together.

We're in two corinthians, chapter five. We're going to take on verses one through ten together. Here's what Paul writes. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on, we may not be found naked.

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened. Not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the spirit as a guarantee. So church, hear it. We are always of good courage.

We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each 1 may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

God bless the reading of his word. Amen. I'm thankful for this to us this morning. What's heaven really like for the believer, the first reality is that we, and this is the best one of all, that we will be with Christ. We will be with Christ.

Now, I'm very thankful you can look up this man's sermons. This was a great deal of help to me. Pastor Colin Smith up in Illinois at Orchard Evangelical Free Church. He's got a great accent, too. But Pastor Colin Smith really helped me think through these points.

But the first is this, we will be with Christ. And what we see right away is this idea that Paul is speaking to, that what we have now is like a tent, and what we will have is like a building that is purposeful. Now, that's a weird thing to say. If you've ever talked to some older folks in your life, they might say things like, you know, this old tent's getting all folded up. I'm ready to fold this tent up and be done.

That's because those people are familiar with biblical language, that's where they're getting it, is scriptures like this, it's not a common thing to say now that the body is a tent. But what Paul is arguing for is, we all already know this. You don't put tents up and live there for years, okay? That's not what you do with a tent. Those of you who go camping, which is not many of us, I imagine.

I don't blame you for that. Most of you would rather go glamping. But if you go camping, you're going to put a tent up and you're going to stay there one night. And if you've got your kids with us, it's going to be so horrible that you planned two or three nights, but you're going to go home after one. That's how that's going to go.

And the tent is meant to just be temporary. And that's what Paul's saying. This life, it might feel long and drawn out to some of you, but in comparison to eternity, it's like a tent. It's a breath. And he's saying, this is what this life is like.

But what is to come is the greek word oikadome, which is oikos means house. And dome is where we get the word dome. It's literally. It means a house with a roof. And he's saying, this thing we're getting later is a completed thing.

It's a completed house, rather than this tent that we keep rolling around in. And some of us have really wrinkled up bad. We've beat it up pretty good, some of us. And this thing that is to come is like a house. But the greatest news of all is right here in verse eight at home with the Lord.

The thing that makes heaven heaven is Jesus. It's not what we get. And that stuff's great. The Bible gives us many places to look and go, wow, this is gonna be fantastic. But the best part is that we're gonna get to see the savior face to face.

Imagine that day. That's what makes home. Home is the people that are in it. You can't wait to get to heaven because that is where you get to be with your savior. Remember, this is this idea.

Now that we're in this moment, if we passed in this moment, we would go to this present heaven. Now, this is something some of you may have not considered, but the Bible really teaches the idea that there isn't just the present heaven, but a future heaven. If you go to revelation 21, you'll see that there will someday be a new heavens and a new earth. And that's going to come after Christ returns. He has not returned yet.

So if you pass right now, you go to this present heaven, which the Bible often calls paradise. That future heaven is the one described as having streets of gold and pearly gates and all that stuff. That's the eternal place. This present heaven is where we want to spend time today. What is that?

What is going on there? This is why Jesus says to the thief on the cross, truly, I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise, this present heaven. Consider also what John writes to the church at Ephesus in revelation two. He says, he who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches, to the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in paradise, the paradise of God. So guess what?

The tree of life you read about back in Genesis is in this present heaven. Now, I've got charts. Some of you like these. Some of you are like, stop nerding out, Jonathan. It's too much.

But here's a couple of charts for you. I hope you can see them. If not, I can text these to you so you can check them out. But this is the idea of what's occurred. And the big theme of this text or this chart is that basically we are returning from garden to garden, that the Bible really argues this wonderful redemptive arc, if you will, from Genesis one to revelation at its end, of paradise to paradise.

And this is the idea that there will be a millennial reign of Christ, as depicted in revelation 20, and that eventually this present heaven will fall aside for the eternal new heavens and new earth. Now, I'd have to read most of revelation to you today to really get underneath all of that. I trust you to study that a little bit for yourself. Revelation 20 and on really specifically. But go to the next chart.

This is where we are right now. The present heaven is really between Genesis three and revelation 20. That's quite a bit of text that you can study of what this present heaven is like. Now, Paul goes on to say, we know some things. He says it a couple times.

He's very careful to tell these believers, and now us, that we can know some stuff. First, here's what we know. This tent, he says, this tent is going to be destroyed. This tent, in the sense that the sin and the shame and everything broken about this body is going to be dealt with, and that a future house which isn't built with human hands but by the power of God, is soon to come. And he talks about having good courage in verse six.

So when we look at this present heaven, when people go on before us, and when perhaps some of us are in mourning or we're working through these details, one thing that absolutely should be true of believers is good courage. I've done a pretty good amount of funerals at this point for, I think, a pretty short term of pastoring. And I can tell you confidently there's a huge difference between doing the funeral of someone who's a faithful Believer and someone who isn't. And the reason it's so different is because we can be of great courage. We can come confidently to that message and go, we know where that brother, that sister is.

And we can look at that and go, yeah, their tent on this earth has been folded up, but they are as alive now as they've ever been. They are as aware, as conscious, as active as they've ever been in this very moment. So we can be of good courage. That now the thing Paul says he's longing for, and this would be a really careful question for you, one that I'm a little fearful to even ask of myself. And that is, would you rather be at home in this body or be at home with the Lord?

Paul says confidently, I long for the day. I can't wAit. But I have to be honest with myself and go, I'd kind of like to see my kids get married, you know, I'd kind of like to see what's going to happen with this crazy church in ten years. Where will we be? There's some things I'd like to see, but I'd rather, as Paul says, I'd rather long for that place, because if I'm longing for that place, that's going to totally change my mindset here.

Do you see where I'm going with this? This is kind of like last week in some degree. Do I really long to be in a place where I can see Christ face to face? That is far better than seeing anything that's going to happen here. Yeah, sure, there's some people there I want to see.

But let me really analyze what it is I long for. I long for heaven because I long to be with the Lord. Do you long for that? Paul says it's better to be at home with the Lord. I'd rather be there, he says in Philippians, chapter one, in fact, for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, for I am to live in the flesh.

That means fruitful labor for me. So he's saying, I love what I'm doing right now. It's important, yet which I shall choose, I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is what far better.

He's right about this. Now, we had a similar thought last week as we were looking through the text together, but I think it bears repeating that home is often a place you long for if you've got a good home life, if you've got a good place to go home to when you're out traveling or when you're out working or whatever, you long to go home. And for some of you, this might mean I can't wait to get back in my bed. Right? We know who you are.

We know those sleepy types in the room that are like, I just. Yeah, sure, there's some people there I can't wait to see. But my pillow, Jonathan, my pillow, I can't wait to see it. We long for that place. But if we're honest, what really drives us back home, what gets us amped, is our spouse or our kids.

That's what we long to go back to. And that's the argument made by Paul here. And should be the Christian, should be the christlike way of looking at heaven is. I long for that place because what makes it home is Jesus. I long to see him.

I can't wait to get to know him even more. I can start on that right now. I can be working on my relationship with him every moment of every day. But I can't wait to be with Christ. So that's the first thing we can say confidently.

Friends, your loved ones, those people you've lost that question you're asking. Here's what you know with confidence. If they knew that they knew Christ here, they know him way better now they are with him and they're walking with him and they're having this perpetual peace and joy like we've never experienced. It's an amazing thing. I can't wait.

Here's the second reality that our loved ones are now experiencing, and that is they will be. We will also be fully conscious. Fully conscious. Look at verse two. Verse two.

What does our soul groan about? He says over and over again that it's groaning, but he goes on to say that it's this wild explanation. Like, I imagine you had a little bit of trouble following me when Paul suddenly says, I'm groaning in this tent, but I don't want to be found naked. And you're going, what? What are we talking about here?

This is the idea that Paul is not wishing to be, like, outside of the body. He's not talking about physical clothes. He's literally saying, I'm not longing to, like, lay aside my flesh. You know, I'm not trying to have an outer body of experience. What I'm longing for is a better body.

What I'm longing for is a resurrection body. I'm longing for the day when no longer, as Paul puts it, I no longer have to deal with this thorn of the flesh. You can read in other parts of the text where Paul is dealing with something, whether it's an ailment or some temptation. Scholars don't really know for sure what he means by that, but I bet every single one of you have some kind of thorn of the flesh, if you will. I've found that men and women alike have something that tempts us, and it's not the same with everybody.

Men and women alike probably have ailments. Perhaps that's what Paul was dealing with, some disability, something that aches some of you every day, just getting out of bed, you're like, gosh, that thing still hurts. And it's going to hurt until the Lord comes and takes me or takes me home. Some of you are aware of that. That thing's always going to hurt.

Paul talks about this. So you long for a date not where you're just out of body, but a better body. That's what he means when he says, I want to be further clothed. Now, there's an argument. I want to face a couple of things in this series, because some of you may be familiar with this, that there's an argument out there, and a whole denomination of believers that believe that people will soul sleep.

You ever heard this terminology that when you die, your soul will sleep? Now, here's where they get that. Paul writes in several places, first corinthians being one, chapter 15. He says, I want to tell 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 trumpet.

He also says to the thessalonian church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he says, we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who don't have hope for. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this, we declare to you by a word from the Lord that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep, for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

So we always. We will always be with the Lord. Now he uses this terminology, asleep quite a bit. When we do christian funerals, we often will say, we are now laying the body to rest. That is a common kind of language to say, and we mean just that, that this physical body is laid to rest.

But there are other passages, including what Jesus says to the thief. He says, today you will be with me in paradise. There's another scripture that says, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So what is asleep? This body and this amazing thing is going to happen.

This all sounds very mysterious to you, I bet. Mystical almost, but it's the way the Bible describes it. Are you going to be able to k with the fact that maybe God does some miraculous, amazing, wild stuff like this? When I read these texts, there's a part of me that goes, do I need to convince people that this crazy, wild stuff's going to happen at the end of the day? I hope it's this way.

Like, I want to see the miracles of God. I don't need everything to be functionally. Oh, my goodness. It rationally works. No, the Bible says that the dead in Christ will be gathered up with him when he comes.

That means that the souls of those who have passed on before us in that moment will be united with their bodies in the sky. And if by some chance we're still walking the earth, all of a sudden we're going to get gathered up. So in my mind, here's what's happening. One day, I'm doop de dooing around and whoo, I'm in the sky with all of my. All of the saints of old.

That's the way the Thessalonians reads to me. I'm good with that. I'm good with that. Oh, it looks really wild. I can't.

It's hard to imagine, but are these people asleep? No, they're not asleep. Their bodies are. So this present heaven is a place where our loved ones are there with a different kind of body. A soul that is with Christ is fully conscious.

It's. It's doing things, but it's different than this body. We have to be honest about that Paul says, we groan for that place, this heavenly dwelling, this place where it's no longer burdened. He goes on in verse four to say some great stuff where our mortality, that is, the part of us that's liable to die, this part of us that is feeble and will pass, will be swallowed up with life. The word swallowed up here is a great word.

It literally means to chug, to drink down. It's ironic to me. Well, I shouldn't say ironic. It makes total sense that the very thing Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane is, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but yours be done. And what is Jesus going to do?

Drink the cup, the cup of suffering for us, the one we deserved. He drank it. Paul says, mortality will be swallowed up, so that now we have this, only this one thing, life. No longer feeble, no longer weak, no longer liable to death. The very tree of life is in this place and we're allowed to eat from it.

This is amazing. And all of this has been prepared before time, as verse five says. Now, John was fully conscious and aware. The book of Revelation is a fascinating book. If you never spent time in it, it's wonderful.

In revelation six, we see John witnessing these fully conscious saints of old. Look at revelation six. It says, he opened the fifth seal and he saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness that they had borne. They the souls, they cried out with a loud voice, o sovereign lord, how holy and true. How long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. So John, he goes, he gets this vision from God and sees the heavenly realm, sees all this amazing stuff. But in the moment, here in the present heaven, he sees the souls of those who've been martyred and what are they like? They tell us a lot about what our destination is like. I would recommend a book to you.

You can pop up this image. This is a book that's like, I would say maybe the book on heaven by Randy Alcorn. It is massive. Be prepared to. It's not light reading.

This guy is one of the top scholars, if you will, on heaven. But I like what he had to say about this particular text. He made 21 observations on the passage. I'm not going to give you them all, but here's a handful of the observations he makes about this idea that there's souls there that are crying out to the Lord. Here's what he says.

One, when these people died on earth, they immediately relocated to heaven. We see that here in the text. Two, this demonstrates that there's a continuity between their identity on earth and their identity in heaven. Now, this is pretty cool, because some of you are asking this question like, okay, when I get there, what kind of guy am I going to be? What kind of gal you're going to be?

You. What is you is still you. Okay? So I have a feeling I'm a decent guitar player. I'm gonna be a decent guitar player when I get there.

I got a lot of time to improve, y'all. I'm gonna get better. I can't wait to hang out with David and figure out what he was doing on the harp that made people's souls like, saul is being tormented by this evil spirit, and he's playing the harp and makes Saul feel better. I'm like, I need lessons from David. I'm just putting that out there.

But it says there's a continuity. These people were fully aware when they got to heaven that they had been martyred. They were aware that it was their testimony that got them slain. They're aware of who they were. Okay, so your loved ones, those who've gone on before, they know who they are.

And not just that, they know what's going on. Now, look at this. They're looking and saying, oh, Lord, how much longer until you go and judge this that's happening. They're aware. They see what's going on in this place.

Now, that's a humbling thought for me to think about. Those who have gone on before and the saints of old and go, they're aware. Number three, people in heaven are. They will be remember. They will be remembering their lives on this earth.

That's similar to two. Number four, they're crying out, so guess what? These souls are able to express themselves audibly. It's hard for us to imagine what that's like. But God can do what he wants, obviously.

We know that it comes from the lungs and up from the diaphragm and through the mouth and the tongue does the diction. And we know this stuff, right? I don't know how this is working in heaven, but here's what I do know. John sees souls speaking. They're fully aware.

They're fully conscious, and they're able to speak, these martyrs. Randy Alcorn writes next. They are conscious, they are rational. They are aware of each other. They're aware of God, and they're aware of the situation on earth.

They're asking God questions, which means there's a part that we don't know there. Now, I don't know if you're under the impression that when we get to the present heaven, we're going to suddenly know everything God knows, that does not seem to be the case. We're going to get there and be, like, looking on, what's going on, God? How much? How long are you going to let this go on?

That's what's going on here in the heaven, in the throne room. These martyrs remember what's happened there. Those in heaven are distinct individuals. Look at verse eleven there in the revelation passage. It says each of them was given a white robe.

That suggests that they're able to wear things. So these souls, these spirits, if you will, are able to wear white robes. God is responding. That's another point. He's communicating.

He tells them something. He says, not yet. You're asking how long? Rest a little bit more. My timing is my own and different from earth.

They seem to be comforted by it and move on. They get their white robes and they move on. Whereas we hear God say, not yet. You ever hear God say, not yet? Or he says nothing and you're like, well, I guess that was not yet, or just no.

You ever get that from God? And you go, in this place, though, we have the mind of Christ and we see and we hear from him and we're comforted by it. Here's one of the last observations that Randy makes. He says, those in this present heaven live in anticipation of future fulfillment of God's promises. Did you know in that place there's something to hope for, that the hope we have now, there's still an anticipation and a hope in that place that if we pass today and we go to that present heaven, that God has not yet put the bookmark on this story.

So we wait in anticipation. Now, there's some things that we can gather from the text that I think give us good information. Number one is there's a passage where Jesus says, we will be like the angels in this next life. And so in some degree, we can learn from that because the angels appear all through the text. And here's what they appear doing.

They're able to take what appears to be physical form. They're able to speak, they're able to worship, they're able to think, they're able to communicate all of these things are happening, and perhaps those are good indicators of what our loved ones are doing right now. They're able to do all of those things. We also have in Luke, chapter nine, the transfiguration. And here's what it says in verse 28.

About eight days after these sayings, he took with him. That's Jesus. He took with him Peter and John and James, and they went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered and his clothing became dazzling white. Now you're going to see a theme that every time these heavenly hosts appear, white robes, like a bright light, it goes on to say, and behold, two men were with him, talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Moses and Elijah here are clothed in white. They have a form. They speak. They know about Christ's coming departure, so they know a little bit. They know what he's going to accomplish on the cross.

It's as if the heavenly realm, like, leaked into earth for a minute. This is why the disciples who were up there were like, you know what we should do? We need to build some temples up here because this is, like holy ground. They totally missed the point that Jesus, wherever he is, is holy ground. Like he's the, he's the moving present heaven.

So they appear as if wrapped in light, if you will. And maybe the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is also good information. It's a good idea, church, just in general, when you read a parable to, to take the instruction that Jesus is trying to teach and not take it too literally, but I think there's some things in this parable of the rich man in Lazarus. This is in Luke 16 that you can gather. And that is at a bare minimum.

These people are conscious of where they are. They remember who they were. If you remember this story, the rich man is like, hey, send Lazarus down and help him to bring me a cup of water. I'm very thirsty. So this place where the rich man has gone is a place where he's dry and feeling heat and feeling thirsty.

So bring him there. And the story's wild, but Abraham says, no, there's a chasm in between us. We can't bridge the gap. So he goes on to say, well, then send someone back. Send someone back to tell my brothers and my family so that they won't end up where I'm at.

Now, this is a parable, but I think it reveals something about an awareness we will have in the next life of who we were, of what we're dealing with, of who's still left behind.

I hope this comforts you, that those who have gone on beyond can speak, can think, know what's going on. They can look at you now. You might be thinking, how is it that they can look upon this life, this suffering, and have joy? How is it that they can look on us and go, ugh. And not feel a sense of, like, grief for us?

Because heaven is a place where all tears are wiped away. Heaven is a place of perpetual peace and joy and hope and love, and the fruit of the spirit is on perfect display. So how is it, and to that argument, I would say, how is it that God himself looks at us in our hot mess and he himself still has perpetual joy? Because he's unaffected by his joy, at least is unaffected by our suffering. He grieves for us.

Jesus himself, he weeps at death. The Bible says we can grieve the holy spirit, so perhaps it is that our loved ones can look at us and see our good and our bad, but their joy is not robbed. Cause Christ's isn't.

I hope this is comforting to you but also challenging to you. I gotta admit to you, if I know that Christ, it should have been enough to know that Christ himself is guiding my life and watching me and wants something better for me. But there's some nuance to know that my loved ones and the saints of old are also appearing in maybe asking God a question like, how long are you gonna let that boy Jonathan Goof off? I'm concerned about that question. Like, God, can you just go put your thumb in that a little bit?

Cause that boy's a mess. All right? And we want to see him go on to do what you called him to do. I don't know. There's something about that that convicts me and makes me go.

I want to hear, well done, good and faithful servant. And I also want my relatives to give me high fives when I get up there. And we all go, you know what? We suffered and we were faithful, and we did what Christ called us to do. I want to hear that.

So that's two, we're going to be with Christ. We're going to be fully conscious. Number three, we're going to be actively engaged. This is what Paul writes in verse nine. He says, whether we're at home in the body or we're at home with the Lord, we make it our aim to please him in this life for the next.

We are with Christ. And it is our goal, our labor, our striving to be pleasing to the Lord.

He goes on in verse ten to say, there's going to be a judgment that we will all face, a judgment seat. I've heard, and maybe you've read some of these, of these, like, near death experiences that people have had, and they often talk about the idea of. Some of them talk about going over a hedge. You'll hear these stories of, like, there's a hedge that they suddenly go over, and there's always, almost always a bright light that they go into. I've read some stories about people that said, in, like, a matter of moments, it's like my entire life flashed before my eyes.

It's like everything I'd ever done or said or. It's like all just went right through my mind. And perhaps that's how it will go. We don't know for sure what those experiences mean or how much we should really read into that. But I think this judgment seat that we will all go before the Lord, there's going to be a moment, I think, where he just brings out the ledger and really quickly goes, this is what you did.

Paul says, we'll be judged for the good and the evil that we did in the body. Now, there's plenty of other scriptures we could go to to point to the fact that at the end of the day, what matters is they're going to look at the ledger and go and go, well, this is a mess. This was good. This is a mess. But at the end, at the very back, it's going to have a stamp that says, paid with the blood of Christ.

So at the end of the day, we're gonna be with him, those of us who have believed. But there is gonna be a moment, and I don't know what it's gonna look like, exactly where he goes through the story of me. And some of it will be interesting to wrestle with, with the savior. We're gonna be engaged. We're gonna be fully aware.

We're gonna be active in heaven. Now, this is an important point for some of you. I have met people who have said, you know, I don't really long for heaven. And the reason being is I'm not really interested in just doing the baby with wings and the harp and the pictures of heaven that we have in our heads sometimes that are on, like, the roof of the Sistine chapel. We're thinking, I don't want to be that.

That sounds less like heaven, more like hell. And I'm like, I'm with you. I don't want to be the baby in a diaper doing this either. That's not heaven. That's not heaven at all.

Some of you might even be thinking, well, I'm really good. Like, I like to work with my hands here. These people get to heaven and they know what they've been and they continue to be. There's a continuity to who they were and who they'll be. Some of you are good at fixing cars, man.

I don't know what kind of cars are going to be up there. I don't see that in the Bible at all. But maybe, I mean, seems like the things they're making more and more nowadays are not very good vehicles. God's really good at this. He made us.

I don't know the things. You're good with your hands now. I have no doubt that there's continuity between this place and that you're not going to suddenly get there and go, all I get to do all day is this. But there's going to be a heart change that you should be aware of that right now. There's sin and there's other things that interfere with your ability to really, truly worship.

There's some stuff holding you back that won't hold you back anymore. Oh, there's gonna be some great worship there, but there's also going to be eating and working. I wanna remind you of something, some of you retired folks in the room. Work came before sin.

And work, when you work at your passion, the thing you love most stops feeling like work. It starts feeling like joy. That's what's happening in heaven. A sinless, a work, a kind of thing that you were built for. I long for that.

Otherwise, heaven sounds right boring to me. Oh, it ain't going to be boring. You're going to be fully engaged. Look at revelation, chapter four. It says at once, I was in the spirit.

And behold, a throne stood in heaven with one seated on the throne. He who sat there had the appearance of Jasper and Carnelian. And around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. And around the throne were 24 thrones. Seated on those thrones were 24 elders.

Now, I'll give you a little hint about what most believe that is. There are twelve tribes of Israel, and there are twelve disciples. And one of those disciples goes bad, but they replace him. Read the gospels, but there are twelve and twelve. And that's who many people think are sitting on those thrones, some of those twelve tribes and the twelve disciples.

And so that's what's going on there? So there's 24 elders. They're clothed in what? White garments. Wow.

Surprise, surprise. With golden crowns on their heads, the 24 elders fell down before him, who is seated on the throne, and they worship him, who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, worthy are you, o Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they existed and were created. So this is the present heaven that John is here seeing. And he sees them clothed.

He sees them sitting. He sees them worshiping. He sees them speaking. They're throwing things. I'm down with that.

I'm thankful for that. I like to throw stuff. Just last night, me and my cousins were outside waiting for dinner, and we're bored, so what do we do? One of them had this little weird frisbee thing, so we're out throwing stuff. This is women.

I know this is maybe weird. Some of you are down with this, too, but most women are like, what? Why didn't you just stand and talk? We don't like talking. We want to throw things, maybe throw them hard at each other every once in a while just to see what'll happen.

And guess what? We get to throw crowns in heaven. At a bare minimum, we're throwing crowns. I bet we're going to throw other things. I hope that I can throw footballs over mountains.

I'm rooting for some good stuff. But they're speaking. They're worshiping. They're wearing. Sounds amazing.

We will teach others and be taught by other saints. Look at revelation seven. Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, who are these clothed in white robes, and from where have they come? And I said to him, sir, you know, and he said to me, these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.

They're active. They're engaged. They know what's going on here.

These few have gone before. This third reality of heaven is that believers are going to be actively engaged. Now, here's the fourth and final. In that place, in this present heaven, we will be eagerly waiting. Now, that's a part we don't often consider, that those who have gone on before us, before Christ comes again, are eagerly waiting.

Verse two says, longing. Paul writes, longing. This great craving, this yearning. Did you notice, as we've said there in revelation six, what we read earlier of these souls who were under the altar, who had been martyred? It says in revelation 16, they cried out with a loud voice, o sovereign lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

They're waiting for God's judgment, and they're waiting for their resurrection bodies. There's only one church. There's only one right now that has a resurrection body, and that's Christ. He's the only one. The rest of us are eagerly waiting for his second return.

The best is yet to come. Now, I don't know if that excites you, but it really ought to, that your loved ones who are there right now, they still have something to hope for. They're still like, it's coming. And Peter writes in another place that a thousand years is like a day. So maybe to them, I have this suspicion that when you and I get there, barring that, Christ comes before we pass.

But if. If we pass before that point, that we're going to get there and our loved ones are going to be like, hey, good to see you. It feels like yesterday. Feels like yesterday since I saw you. And we might be thinking, boy, that was like 30 years ago.

Not to them. They say time flies when you're having fun. Revelation 21 says, then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven. And the first earth passed away, and the sea was no more. And then I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

This is what is to come. This is what we and those before us are waiting for. This fourth reality of heaven is that believers are eagerly waiting. But it's not like a waiting room, because some of you are sitting here thinking, waiting. I think I'll stay here.

I don't really want to do the waiting thing. Because you're thinking DMV, and it's not DMV. All right? That's what you're thinking. It's not waiting to get on the roller coaster.

No, you're on it. You get to ride this wonderful roller coaster until he comes and puts you on a much cooler one. For we will be with Jesus. We're with him. The angelic hosts, the saints, all of those who have gone before.

They're not in a waiting room. They're actively engaged. They're aware. They're having an a blast. They're with the savior, and they're aware of what we're doing, and they're rooting for us.

The Bible says there's a great cloud of witnesses watching the race run. Those aren't just angels, friends. Those are saints.

It's good to follow Christ here. It's even better to be with him there. And the best is yet to come. This is the story of humanity. This is the real story.

He made us. And what he made was good. And this life, most of the time, is good.

It's even better in this life. If we know and walk with Jesus, that makes it truly good. But this present heaven is better, far better, because we walk with him. We turn what was walking by faith into sight. But the future heaven is best, and we're all longing for it.

I hope you're excited. Not so excited that you're like, I really would like to leave now. I'd really like to go there. But that you would have an understanding that that is a wonderful place where your loved ones are already are. And that when you think about that place, it should guide you to consider the things on this earth that really matter.

And they are few. Just so you know, we talk often about having a simpler life. It is way simpler than you thought. Because there's only one thing, only one thing. You can take people.

That is it. Your relationships. You introverts in the room of which I'm one. Guess what? Only relationships matter.

I know. I need it, too. I need a lot of time away from the peoples. But they're all that matter. They're all that matter with heaven.

It's gonna be really great. And those who are really already there, here's what they're experiencing. They were with Jesus. They're conscious, they're engaged, and they're waiting for this future glory. Here's as I leave, I want to share with you this little story that Randy Alcorn tells in his book, safely home.

He tells of this man who goes to heaven. He says, compared to what to he now beheld. The world he'd come from was a land of shadows, colorless and too dimensional. This place was fresh and captivating, resonating with color and beauty. He could not only see and hear it, but feel and smell and taste it.

Every hillside, every mountain, every waterfall, every frolicking animal in the fields seemed to beckon him to come join them, to come from the outside. And plunge into the inside. This whole world had the feel of cool water on a blistering august afternoon. The light beckoned him to dive in with abandon to come join the great adventure. And the man said, I know what this is.

And the king said in response, tell me. It's the substance that casts all the shadows in the other world. The circles, they're but copies of the spheres here. The squares, there are just copies of the cubes here, the triangles, but copies of the pyramids here. Earth was like flat land.

This is. Well, this is bigger. It's bigger than the outside, isn't it, too? How many dimensions are there? The king said, far more than you have seen yet.

Laughing this is the place that defines and gives meaning to all other places. I never imagined it would be like this. Let's imagine what heaven is really like, and it's going to be way more. This is why, when you go back and read your old Testament, the temple that God outlines for them, he was giving them a present earth experience of what's actually on display in heaven. Do you see what he's saying here?

And I think Randy's right, that what we see now, we see in part, but we will one day see the full picture, that these are mere shadows of what is to come. And this place is amazing. This place is beyond beautiful. This is a shadow of heaven. You believe it?

I pray that you do. I pray that it encourages you but also challenges you to live for Christ. Let's pray now together. Church heavenly Father, thank you so much for this glorious place that your word tells us you are preparing for us and have been preparing for us, that heaven is a place where we get to be with you. I long for that.

But I don't have to wait. I don't have to wait to be with you, God, would you do a work in us, those believers in the room, the church represented here in this place, that we would walk with you, Jesus, that we would long to be with you now. And what that would do. We don't have to wait till heaven. No, we can be in prayer with you right now.

And we are. And we can do it in ten minutes. We can do it later this evening. We can be in your presence. We can be in your word, your love letter to us.

I pray that that longing for future glory would impact our longings and desires here. God, would you do that work in us? That we would begin to experience heaven on earth, but that at the end of the day, we would be comforted and encouraged to know that you've prepared a wonderful place for us and that our loved ones and the saints of old who have gone on before us are experiencing a wonder we can't even imagine, are so aware and so alive and so engaged in a way we've never known. God, thank you for that truth. I pray it comforts those in the room.

God, would you pour out an incredible comfort on those families represented who have lost people recently? Remind them in this moment that those people are dancing. Those people are living life like they've never lived. God, I'm picturing brother Rich and brother Tom. I'm thankful when I picture them there because I didn't know those men when they were young.

But they're way more vibrant now than even when they were young. And I can't wait to see them dancing and jumping hurdles or whatever mess they want to get into. I'm thankful for this picture, Lord. I pray that it's a comfort to your people. I pray it comforts us.

But I also pray, Lord Jesus, that it challenges us. That the things that matter on earth are very few and that we would take them very seriously as believers. That what I desire more than anything is that my friends and family would be in that place with me. I don't want to see not one single one of them not there with me. I long for that, Lord.

I pray for them. I lift them up as I think about them right now. And I pray for your church that right now, wherever you are seated, thinking about those people that you would pray for, those who you love and who you care for, that they would be in this present heaven with you. Those long shots pray all the more for them. Those ones you're like.

It would take an act of God to move them towards faith. Well, guess who we serve. An all powerful God. Pray for them, that they would come to know him and join you in this present heaven. God, thank you for all you've done for us.

Thank you for your wonderful son, Jesus. Thank you that above all else, we get to be with you and know our creator like we've never known him. God, help us to be a church that to, as best as we can, we would represent the kingdom of heaven on earth. That people, as they visit us. And I pray they will over the years, that they would experience just a piece of heaven in this place.

We pray all this in Jesus name. Amen.

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