Monday, July 12, 2010

Snapshots Of Heaven

A Home of Harmony

Just before His death, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words of promise: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1–3).

The apostle Paul elaborated on Christ’s promise with this beautiful description: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). He goes on to say, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18).
And isn’t it true? Don’t these words bring real comfort to your heart—a thrill to your soul to think that Jesus is, at this very moment, preparing a beautiful home for you in a place where peace, love, harmony, and unity really exist? History shows that mankind cannot manufacture this kind of place. All of its best efforts have always ended in defeat and disappointment. It’s a proven point that all the greatest political, military, economic, and spiritual leaders have not and never will be successful in forging utopia.
But God will be successful. “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). With Jesus as your Savior, you will see the dawning of a new day, an entirely new order of things!
Snapshots of Heaven

So now that we know it’s just a matter of time, what exactly will this heavenly home be like? Many people picture heaven as a somewhat eerie place where ethereal spirits sit around on clouds, wearing halos, and strumming golden harps. I don’t know about you, but frankly, this depiction sounds pretty boring to me! Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a different picture. Several passages in Scripture provide some fascinating insights into the heaven that’s to come. You see, God wants us to know that heaven is a real place; and better, it’s more real and more fulfilling than anything we’ve ever known.
The Bible speaks of a beautiful city called the New Jerusalem, which will be God’s headquarters. It is described in Revelation 21 and 22. The picture these chapters paint is mind-boggling! First, the city is huge. It stands 375 miles on each side! (If placed on this earth, New Jerusalem would cover most of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, and parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky!)
Second, the city is incredibly beautiful. It has magnificent walls made of solid jasper with 12 foundations, each made from a different type of precious stone, including sapphire, emerald, topaz, and amethyst. And the city’s 12 gates are each made of a single pearl!
The streets of the city are made of a gold so pure that it appears as transparent glass. But we also learn that the streets are not made to simply look at and admire. Zechariah 8:5 says that “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing.” Not only will New Jerusalem be a breathtaking, shimmering sight, it will also be a place to have fun and rejoice.
But most awesome, God Himself will dwell among the redeemed within the midst of the city, and a glorious rainbow surrounds His majestic throne (Revelation 4:3). From beneath His throne, the river of life springs, and on both sides of this river, the tree of life produces a fresh crop of different fruit every month.
Even Better Homes and Gardens

If the walls, foundation, and streets are this beautiful and spectacular, just imagine what your home will be like—the one that Jesus custom-made for you! What an awe-inspiring privilege and reward to have the Chief Architect of the Universe, who knows your heart’s desires even better than you do, designing and building your own unique home in this city!
But don’t you do-it-yourselfers get discouraged. It’s clear that you won’t just be sitting around in the New Jerusalem, twiddling your thumbs without something to do. You’ll have the opportunity to build a country home in the new earth as well. “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands” (Isaiah 65:21, 22).
An important aspect of this utopian new world order will be the biosphere of heaven: its lifecycle will be eternal, not one cursed with the decay and death of this sin-infected world. The Creation story makes it clear that all of those negative biological processes entered our world as a result of catastrophic sin (Genesis 3:17–19).
Thorns will not be around in heaven to pierce your hands, nor will thistles scratch at your feet. Bugs will not bite, and leaves will not die. Sure, it’s a little daunting to comprehend how all this will work scientifically—but our minds are limited by what they’re familiar with. Heaven will change all that too.
Ever Learning

Indeed, our brains will certainly never get bored in heaven; you won’t miss your TV, and your kids won’t remember what a video game means. There will be more to see and do than we ever imagined here on earth, enough to stimulate our minds for eternity.
We’ll be able to trace our family tree right back to Noah and Adam. We will be able to personally visit with many of the people we’ve only read about before (Matthew 8:11). I look forward to talking with Moses and understanding more fully how he played a role in God’s great plan!
Furthermore, God and His angels will be there to answer many of the questions that have perplexed us here for 6,000 years; we’ll probably have questions we didn’t even know there were to ask! We will also have an endless list of fascinating things to study. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best when he wrote: “There are more things in heaven and earth ... than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Animals in Heaven

One of the great benefits of this utopian ecosystem will be that animals will not prey upon one another for food. We are told that “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:6, 7). And further, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).
Obviously, this means quite literally that there’ll be pets in heaven. In fact, every animal could potentially be a pet because none of them will be wild; they will not be afraid of us, nor us of them.
God does everything perfectly, and in heaven, everyone will find complete love and happiness—including companionship with God’s other creatures.
People often wonder whether their pets and furry friends from earth will be with them in heaven. Some say this is impossible because animals don’t have immortal souls, much less souls. However, this isn’t a hindrance at all. Humans don’t have immortal souls either; only God has unconditional immortality (1 Timothy 6:13–16). He will bless His people with immortality as a gift of His grace at the end of the age (2 Timothy 1:10).
So if the all-powerful God of the universe wants to surprise and delight us with the gift of resurrected kittens, puppies, horses, fish, rabbits, birds, snakes, turtles, or whatever other critters we love on this earth, He is certainly able to do so! By granting this, in no way would He violate His moral absolutes. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Celebrating With New Friends and Old Faces

Human exploration of the cosmos and space travel will know no limits. The Bible declares that Jesus created all the worlds seen and unseen (Hebrews 1:2). And the last time I checked, more than 200 billion suns have been photographed by California’s 200-inch telescope. So it would seem plausible that we will find other inhabited worlds, visiting with other created beings! Isaiah 45:18 also says of our world, “He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” Those other solar systems must be “created not in vain.” They light a multitude of worlds.
Another scriptural clue is found in Job 1:6. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” In Luke 3:38, Adam is called “the son of God.” It’s quite possible that the “sons of God” in that heavenly council meeting are the first created beings from other planets. Adam should have represented earth, but Satan usurped his birthright. Fortunately, the first Adam’s, and subsequently all of humanity’s, rights were bought back by the second Adam, Jesus (1 Corinthians15). We cannot be positively sure that this is what the passage in Job refers to, but many in the Christian world agree this scenario is possible.
The Bible also assures us that the righteous loved ones we lost here on earth will be raised to join the living in God’s kingdom (Isaiah 26:19; 1 Corinthians 15:51–55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Being reunited with the redeemed we loved here is undoubtedly one of the things we will enjoy the most. Imagine just how deeply moved you will be when a baby or child you lost will be brought to you and placed in your arms! And think about looking into the eyes of a parent, spouse, or close friend who passed away before you, and then embracing their vibrant, glorified bodies and knowing you will never need to part again!
Heavenly Music

Thrilling music is often mentioned in connection with heaven, so you can be sure that playing instruments and singing God’s praises will be a big part of our eternal experience. Our Creator is one of immense diversity. I’m sure we’ll enjoy an endless variety of delightful music; we won’t just be limited to playing harps!
The Bible even says that God Himself will sing: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). He also gives many instructions to sing, such as we see in Psalm 100:2. “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.” It would make sense then that the angels who also worship Him would come before Him with singing too.
Marriage and Children in Heaven

Some find it disconcerting when Jesus says there will be no new marriages in heaven (Matthew 22:30). We shouldn’t deny, cover up, or worry over this important concept; He ought to know since heaven is His hometown. First, we must be careful not to assume this passage means that God will hand divorce papers to the redeemed who have harmonious marriages as they first enter the pearly gates. Knowing who God is, that He is the very essence of love, whatever type of relationships we have now will be even more intimate and fulfilling than anything we have experienced here. I think we can trust in Him to plan something wonderful that will not disappoint us.
There also might not be any new births, but we know from the Bible that there will be children in heaven. Isaiah 11:6–9 describes heaven and mentions children several times. Malachi 4:2 says that we shall “grow up as calves of the stall.” This seems to indicate that the children of heaven will experience a physical maturing process going on as well as a spiritual one. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that no matter how “old” we get in heaven, we will be eternally young. We will never suffer the terrible effects of aging that we must endure on this corrupted earth!
Face to Face with God

Of course, the ultimate and culminating experience of heaven will be meeting our Creator God face to face. “Then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The book of Revelation comments: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:3, 4). This is the God who created our world, and who created us in His image. He mourned when Satan tempted mankind to fall, and He’s also the one who rescued us through Jesus. His unsurpassed love moved Him to implement a perfect plan: to enter into our world, suffer the results of our sin as we do, and then to die for us. And now, as He makes preparations for us to go home, He longs to shine the way and fulfill all of our hopes.
God’s chosen people waited 4,000 years for the Savior to come the first time. That seemed like a terribly long time, and many lost hope.
But He did come. It’s a historical fact. And if He came the first time, according to His promise, we have no reason to doubt that He will come again just as He says He will. He isn’t like a conqueror of empires who promises glory only to become a tyrannical despot. And He isn’t like a politician of today, making countless promises He cannot keep.
He is true to His Word. He will do what He says. Always has. You can count on it.
Heaven Begins Now

Until then, rejoice knowing that we don’t have to wait to experience all the benefits we’ll have in heaven. “Peace on earth, good will toward men” is not just a “pie in the sky” that the angels sang about. Knowing what lies ahead, that our future is secure in God’s hands, we can have a powerful sense of joy and peace right here and now. Even though we won’t see peace among the nations on this earth, we can still have peace in our hearts amidst the chaos.
For those who make contact with God in a personal way today, heaven begins now. God becomes the Friend who never forsakes us; the Counselor with all the answers to our questions, and the Partner in all our endeavors. He cleanses us from all sin, and when we ask, He also imparts the power we need to transform our sin-filled lives. That’s the kind of heaven we can live in right now.
Blessed Reality

You see, a perfect world would be pure misery for anyone whose heart was not converted—who didn’t learn on earth to love what God loves. If you don’t turn away from the things that cause Him grief now, what makes you think you will want to please Him in heaven? The Judgment Day will not be a time when God confers a sentence on hapless victims. Ultimately, God always honors our choices; He’s not a tyrant. Never has been.

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