Pillar One: Basic Discipleship – Is Heaven a Real Place

Date: June 15, 2016 ()

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Is heaven a real place?  Many people think that it is not. Most people think, “Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  Who knows?”  Can you know? I hope so. I hope everybody is going.  And they are not. That is sad. They are not. Everybody could. It is the will of God for everybody to go. It is the heart of God for everybody to go. He has made a place so big that there is room for everyone that ever lived, forever. But you know God runs the universe, and God has His own rules for how he wants things done. We can say, “I do not believe that.” It does not matter, it does not change anything. You can say, “Well, one person says this, one person says that, I just do not know who to believe.” The Word of God gives the answers.  If you know where to look, they are in there.

What does God say about heaven in the Bible?  Also, is there really a hell? Yes. How do I know that? Because Jesus went there after he died. It says he was in the grave and he went to Hell and preached. And Jesus talked about hell being a real place. You know hell was designed for the devil and his angels. But at the same time, heaven is so holy and pure, it cannot be full of people who have done wrong things. And never had their sins forgiven by the price Jesus paid. It cannot be. If you want to know what Hell is like, go to my web-site (www.bettyswann.com) and watch the video by Bill Wiese entitled, “23 Minutes in Hell.”  It relates his experience of being in Hell. It is amazing. You know people do have those after life experiences. You can read about them. You do not hear about hell very often, but you do hear about heaven sometimes.

What does the Bible say?  Are you going? Got your bags backed? Are you ready? Are you living the kind of life that prepares you to go there? I heard a pastor say that to the degree you know Jesus now is the degree you will know him in heaven. Your gifts are never going to stop. Romans 11:29 says that “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” You will be using your gifts. You need to learn how to use your gifts and how to help people with them.

This life is not the only life there is. It is not true that you die and then there is nothing. It is also not true that you come back again and again and again as some people believe about reincarnation. That is not what God says in the Bible. He says in the Bible, “It is appointed unto man once to die.”  And after that comes judgment. You are not going to get another chance. What you do here is it. What you do with Jesus is everything. Everything. God wanted you to be with him for all of eternity. Always. You and I are sinful. I do not know about you, but I know I am. I have to depend on the Lord Jesus to help me, to empower me and to change me because I want to be ready too. He has made the way. He is the way. A lot of people say, “How do you know that Jesus is the only way?” Because He said He was. He said, “I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

Do you ever wonder about people who have never heard about Him? Sure, everybody wonders about that. What about people who live in tribes, way in the deepest, darkest, most remote parts of South America or some other country, and they have never heard anything about Jesus or anything about God. They have never had a Bible. A lot of that is changing because of all of the Wycliffe Bible translators. They are getting the gospel into countries all over the world. Turn in your Bible to Romans 1:16-21, this is what the apostle Paul said. He was around a lot of intellectual people who wanted intellectual arguments about the world to come, the times and how things are done. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. First for the Jew and then the gentile.” That is us. You and I are gentiles. For in the gospel, a righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith. Remember that because it is so important. Faith is from the first to the last. Just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith.

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness. People think, “Is God mean?” No, He just hates godlessness. We all do. You do. I do. And we hate wickedness. It says, “Against all wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” Verse 19 says, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power, and His divine nature has been clearly seen. Being understood for what has been made.” Well the world, the sky, bugs, people, babies, clouds, “So that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they would not glorify Him or gave thanks to Him, and their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” So God has put the knowledge of himself inside of all people. And it is up to each person to respond to that.

How do I know that people know about God when they have never been told? One way is Helen Keller, who was blind, deaf and dumb (could not speak). Anne Sullivan came to her and taught her how to sign in sign language. She signed into her hand, God. Helen Keller said, “Oh, is that what his name is.” See, she knew. God puts that in our hearts. It says in Psalms that God puts in the heavens and in the skies. It is written all over the skies about Him and people know it. So, it is there.

Have you ever felt like you had a hole in your heart or that something was missing?  Maybe you are someone who has been extremely successful in the world. Anybody would want to be you, and yet, when you are by yourself there is a hole there. And you try to fill it with so many things, things that money can buy and nothing works. It is because it is a God hole. Only God can fill it. You need to get close to Him. You need to open up your heart, and your life to Him, and say, “God, I need you, I know you are there.”

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” People who do not believe in eternity say, “No, that is not real”. There is something wrong with this because the Bible says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.”  The heavens declare the glory of God. The sky proclaims His work. It is amazing what God has done to let us know; “I am real. I have a real place for you to spend all of eternity.” And guess what?  In Revelation 5:8-10 it says that there will be people there from every tribe, every language, every people and every nation. Do you hear what that says? You are thinking, “Well what about the people who have never heard about Jesus. What about the people that never had a chance.” There will not be anybody who says, “God did not give me a chance.” There will not be one person. Everybody will have a chance.

The Bible says that God is not willing that anybody should perish, but that all should come to Him. And He will do whatever it takes. If you make the littlest step toward God, the tiniest one, He makes one towards you. He watches your heart and He listens to you. In verse eight when it says, “You were killed” it is talking about Jesus. “You were killed and your blood ransomed people for God.” Pretty high ransom isn’t it? “From every tribe, every language, people and nation.  And after this I saw a vast crowd too great to count.” So, millions and millions and millions of people will be in heaven from every nation, every tribe, people, every language standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.  Who is the Lamb?  Jesus.  Why do they call Jesus the Lamb?  In the Old Testament in order to be protected and to have sins forgiven, they had to sacrifice a lamb every year. So Jesus is called the Lamb of God.  These people were clothed in white.  They had clothes in Heaven. How about that?  And they held palm branches in their hand. That is in Heaven, trees. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, salvation comes from our God and from the Lamb.  So, there is going to be a whole lot of shaking going on, a whole lot of shouting and a whole lot of joy.  It is what you are headed for.

This life is a vapor.  Some of you may be elderly and you say, “Well maybe I have another five or ten years, not many.” This life is a vapor.  Some of you are young and you think, “I have a long time to live.  I have 80 years to live, life is long.”  But it is not, it is a vapor.  What you do in this life determines so much. You want to be sure that you understand what you are living for and who you are living for.  Are you helping people? Are you giving your life away? Are you saying, “God use my life. Use me any way you want to use me. I want to be used in your kingdom.”  If you will pray that, God will use you. It might seem like a small thing to you, but I know that to God it is a big thing.  I know a lady whose only ministry is writing note cards, just little notes to people. But I have received those notes and I can tell you they have come on days I really needed to hear what she wrote in there.  So to me, it is a big ministry.  Just be sure you are ready and that you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

What does the Bible say that heaven looks like?  The best description of it is in Revelation 21.  But it is all over the Bible. Have you ever talked to someone who has had a near death experience?  It is not based on Scripture, but on what they have experienced.  I have. I ministered to a lady in jail that tried to kill herself by drinking rat poison, and she saw a blue light and it was heavenly. A beautiful light. That light is God.  Did you know in Heaven there is no need for the sun or the moon? God, Himself, is so full of light that there is no need for anything else. The Son of God is so full of light there is no need for a moon and stars in Heaven.

Where is heaven?  Does anybody know? The first heaven is the atmosphere here.  The second heaven is the stars and the moon, the sky you and I see. The third heaven is where God is.  Paul said he went there.  He said, “I do not know if I went in the body or in a vision, but I saw things.  I saw things that there are not words to describe.”  And a lot of people that have had this experience say that. There are not words to describe it.

There is beautiful music in heaven.  Do you love music?  I love all kinds of music, but there is music in heaven that is like nothing we have ever heard.  You know there is no time in Heaven. It is forever.  Our music on Earth is based on time; two four, four four, six eight.   What kind of music must there be in heaven that is not even based on time?

My grandfather was a very godly man, and my dad grew up very poor.  He said that he can remember early in the morning how his dad would light the fire and read the Bible as loudly as he could to wake everyone up. Now that is an alarm clock!  When he died, my mother and aunt were there.  He had been in a coma and had not spoken for days. They said that all of a sudden he sat up, opened his eyes, looked up and said, “Oh, it is beautiful!” and then died.  So, it is there. It is real. It is wonderful.

Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for you.  When I studied for this lesson, I got to thinking that Jesus was a carpenter on Earth, and He said I am preparing a place for you in heaven.  There is some kind of connection there.  In fact, Hebrews 11:10 says, “He is the builder and the architect of heaven.”  In Hebrews 11:16 it says, “God has made a heavenly city for them.”  So, in heaven there is going to be a city called the New Jerusalem.  There is a lot of description about it and what is going to happen to it.  If you have not read about it, you might be really surprised about what is going to happen. The New Jerusalem is going to descend out of the sky at some point, and we will have a new heaven and a new earth.  This beautiful city will descend and we will be able to see it.  Does that sound like science fiction to you?  It is not, because it is in the Word of God.  God does not lie.  God says, “I am not a man that I should lie.”

What is heaven going to be like?  The Bible says the New Jerusalem is 1,500 miles long, 1,500 miles wide, 1,500 miles high.  It is a cube, but it is crystal clear.  Revelation 21:1 says that it is amazingly, shiningly, transparent like a beautiful gem. Why would it be so shining like that?  It is because it is filled with the glory of God.  Beautiful.

Do you go there the instant you die?  Yes.  Jesus said to the man on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Well, what is paradise?  You know the Garden of Eden was called paradise, too.  So, it is the garden of God with beautiful fruit and beautiful trees.  In Revelation 2:7 it says there are trees and fruit.  So, how long does it take to get to heaven when a person dies? It says in the twinkle of an eye. That is how fast you get to heaven.  Instantly.

Do you become an angel when you go to heaven?  Do babies or children who die become angels? Absolutely not.  Angels are created beings and they have their own place and authority in Heaven.  They have rank. They have different jobs to do. They are massively tall. They are huge.  In the Old Testament it says one angel killed 186,000 men in a battle where he was protecting the children of Israel, the Israelites.  Angels are very powerful and they are not human.  In fact the Bible says we are going to judge the angels at the end.  Maybe that is the angels that left Heaven.  I do not know.  Who knows?  But I know we are going to judge them and we are not angels.

What will we be like when we go to heaven?  The Bible says we keep our personalities, our souls.  That is why you need to get your soul saved.  Your soul is your mind, your will and your emotions.  And then we get new bodies.  But they are going to look a lot like our bodies.  You are going to be able to recognize people in heaven.  How do I know that?  Because when Jesus came back from the dead, when he was resurrected, he went to a sea shore where all the disciples were out there fishing, so discouraged. He cooked them a meal of fish and they realized it is the Lord.  So, He looked like Himself. And you will too.  Hopefully better.  That is how I feel.  Do you know I just get older and older, and I hope I look younger and younger?

Are there animals in heaven?  My husband is a veterinarian and we see people who love their pets so much when they die.  It is so heartbreaking. They are like a member of their family.  We have people ask us if animals go to heaven. The only thing I know to tell you is that the Bible says Jesus is going to come riding on a white horse.  It says the lion and the lamb will lie down.  So, I think there will be.

In what ways is Heaven like Earth?  There are houses, trees and fruit.  There are going to be some trees there that bear fruit every month.  Every month.  If you are a gardener, how does that sound to you? I like to grow peaches every year and watch them mature.  But just think about it, having a fresh, new crop every month.  Wonderful. There are many houses and there are going to be streets.  The streets described in the Bible are transparent gold.  Pure gold.  A lot of people get caught up in making money here, right?  The pavement of the streets there are made of gold.  Why are you going to get caught up in pavement?  Why do you want to spend your whole life caught up in pavement?  Get caught up in people and the Word of God.  You know there are only two things that are not going to burn up:  God’s Word and people.  So, how much time do you spend with each of those?  Do not be wasting your time on the stuff that is not going to matter.  You know you can give a lot of money into the Kingdom of God and that is laying up treasure in Heaven.  There is going to be treasure in Heaven.  You are going to be so glad you did that. Do not just spend your money on Earth.  Spend it for the Kingdom of God, it pays big dividends.

There are walls in heaven.  The Bible describes what God says Heaven is like.  It says that in this beautiful city the wall is made out of jasper.  Have you ever seen the color of jasper?  It is kind of an amber color. It says there are twelve foundations that are made up of beautiful stones.  And there are gates in Heaven. Have you ever heard about the pearly gates?  Well, that is what the Bible says they are because they are made of one single pearl. But the gates are always open.  I just read that today.  It is so interesting when you read the Bible and you think, “I never noticed that before.” And I noticed today when I was preparing for this lesson that it says the gates are always open.  The Bible gives the dimensions of the city wall as being over 200 hundred feet thick.

Does it say that Saint Peter is going to be at the gate?  No, it does not say that at all.  But it does say who is going to be at the gate. Angels.  It says angels will be at the gate.  They are guarded by twelve angels and there are twelve gates.  So, there are three on each side of this cube.

Did you know there are mountains in heaven?  It tells about the mountains in Revelation 21:10.  Do you love the mountains?  I love the mountains. Can you believe there are going to be mountains in Heaven? Isn’t that amazing?

There will be a river and a sea, but no ocean.  Now why is that?  I do not know.  In Psalm 46:4 there is a river.  In Revelation 22:1, the river flows out of the throne of God.  You should read about what God’s throne is like.  Oh!  It is beautiful with jewels, beautiful, wonderful. All around it.  And this amazing river that flows out from it.  It says that it goes right down through the center and feeds trees that have leaves and fruit.  It says the leaves are for the healing of the nations.  Where is this river of God?  I think it is full of the life of God.  You know you can experience the river of God in your life now.  You can say, “Lord I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I want the rivers of living water to flow out of me.”

There is a rainbow in heaven.  Do you like rainbows?  They are beautiful.  There is a rainbow around the throne, all around it.  And imagine the colors of it.  There will be food.  You mean there is food in heaven?  Yes, we are going to have the marriage supper of the Lamb?  Who is the Lamb?  Remember, it is Jesus.  There is going to be a great, big banquet.  So, there is food there.

God is light.  There is no need for the sun and moon.  God says to store up your treasure in heaven. You do that by giving money into the Kingdom, by caring about people’s lives, by leading people to Christ, by helping people find Jesus.  You can do that.  I have always prayed, “Lord I do not want to be a person that gets to Heaven and I did not reach my full potential.  Help me Lord.  I want to do everything you have planned for me to do.  I do not want to get to Heaven and say, “I could have done that and I did not do it.” You do not want to be like that.

There are thrones.  You know God has one.  People wear clothes that are white, linen, and spotless.
There is jewelry everywhere.  You have a heavenly body.  It is different from what you have, but it is the same.  A lot of baby Christians are there and you do not want to be one. You want to grow in the Lord. There are beautiful choirs singing.  You are not going to sit around all day playing a harp, so get over that. You are not.  You are going to be busy.  There is going to be work for you to do.  And you want to prepare by being ready on Earth, so that when you get there you will have a great place to work.  You want that. You are going to be ruling.  You better be prepared.  Do you know how to rule? You better learn how to do it.

Think of all of the people who are in hell.  I met the man who made the CD, “23 Minutes in Hell” I referred to earlier.  When we were talking about it, I asked him, “What two things impressed you the most?”  He said, one that there are billions in hell, two that God was brokenhearted.  Ask Jesus now, “Jesus I believe in you as the Savior. You died. You are resurrected. Come into my life.  I want you Lord.  I want you.”

QUIET TIME QUESTIONS
1.  What are the different ways a person can lay up treasure in heaven?
2.  How does Jesus help you get to heaven?
3.  Explain what a hole (God hole) in the heart is.
4.  How does everyone in the world have a chance to go to heaven even if they have not had the opportunity to hear of Jesus?  Refer to Revelation 5:8-10 and Isaiah 52:13-15.
5.  Describe what heaven looks like using Scripture references.
6.  What are you living for?  Pray that God will show you areas that need to change and then ask Him for help in making these changes.

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