A friend recently told me a story about a person meeting St. Peter at the pearly gates. When he finished the story I asked him if he believed in a life after death. “Of course I do,” he answered. “I am no unbeliever.” Our minds sometimes cause us to wonder what heaven and hell will be like. It’s a subject not easily erased from our minds. When a loved one dies, our emotions express themselves by trying to describe what mother and dad are doing there in heaven with all of their friends and family. If a child passes away, grieving parents seem to find relief in saying, “God needed her to be one of his angels.” Such statements are understandable in the midst of terrible grieving, but today let’s set aside our emotions and review what God has to say about eternity.
Jesus talked about heaven and hell. Preachers today do not often preach whole sermons on the subject of hell. As I review my sermon notes, I find I do not devote much time to the subject. If asked why this is true, my usual answer is, “I don’t believe you can frighten people into heaven.” Perhaps this is faulty reasoning and is only an excuse to cover up one of my many weaknesses in preaching. It is not that I do not believe in hell. I understand hell to be eternal separation from God and make this very clear in my pastoral care with people and my references to this eternal state in my sermons.
However, I do preach sermons on heaven and clearly state that this blessed eternal state is offered to all people but enjoyed only by those who trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Let’s take a peek into heaven as presented in our text.
1. The Biblical writer says, “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count…..” About 120 people were commissioned by Jesus to go and tell the good news of salvation which came through faith in Jesus Christ. As they bore witness of what Christ had done for them through His suffering, death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit worked and millions of people were saved. While Christians are a minority on earth, their numbers in heaven will be countless.
2. God’s Word continues by telling us there will be no segregation in heaven. “They came from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the Lamb and singing their praises to Christ, the Lamb of God.” All of the things which divide us on earth will no longer separate us in heaven. Dream about that point for a few minutes. The cultural differences, language, wealth, education, and social distinctions will leave us at the time we take our last breath on earth.
3. Perfection will replace tribulation. Life on this earth is described as the great tribulation. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.” We sometimes wonder why such tragic things happen. Visit a nursing home and you will find yourself asking, Why do these people have to remain here on earth? There is little quality to their lives. Many of them do not hear, see, or recognize even their spouse of many years or children who once were the center of their lives.
At times we look with envy at a person. He apparently has few if any problems. He has plenty of money, travels to all parts of the world, has a family who brings him great pleasure and enjoys the finest health. Then you learn to know him better and his problems surface. One wonders if there is anyone who doesn’t live with some heartache. We live in a broken world and some of the imperfection clutters up our lives.
I recently was standing in line waiting to board an airplane. A flight attendant came with a boy probably 10 years of age. Walking behind them was a man well-dressed. As they came to the entrance of the corridor which led into the plane the father took the boy in his arms, embraced and kissed him. Then he gave him back to the flight attendant, wiped the tears away and left. This man had problems. He appeared to be a successful professsional or business man. Could it be that this boy was his son who was now going back to Minneapolis while he had to remain on the west coast? It is my assumption that the father and mother were divorced and they had joint custody of their son. The son had visited his father and now he had to return to his mother who lived 1500 miles away. Had you passd their automobile you could have had the impression that neither the lad nor his dad had a problem in the world. Little did we know what was going on in their minds and hearts as they lived in this broken world.
For many of us living is a great experience but it is too much to expect that we will not have many sorrowful hours for we live in a world described as “the great tribulation.” However, one day we will live in a place where all is perfect. All of our needs will be satisfied and “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.”
This is a peek into the heavenly home that Christ has prepared for us. Doesn’t it excite you? Does there not come a time in our lives when we are anxious to sign the living will and say, Let me go home to God. Shut off the life support.
4. Is this heavenly home for all people? Hear what God says, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” While salvation is offered to all, only those who have been cleansed through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ will enjoy the heavenly home. This is the day of grace. It is a time when we can be prepared to meet Christ in death and to enter the heavenly home.
When we think of the heavenly home, are there questions we cannot answer now? Yes, there are. Aren’t you glad there are mysteries which surround life in heaven. Surprises are fun. I am convinced that when we arrive at heaven’s gate it will not be at all as we thought it would be during our days on earth, but we will be at home with God forever. This is our comfort and strength as we appreciate the time God has given us now.