The other day Oprah made 300 guests mighty happy when she announced plans to take everyone of them with her to Australia. Seven days and nights. All expenses paid.
The youtube video of that has received a lot of traffic as people relived that moment with the lucky audience.
I have an announcement. An even better one.
(Drum roll please.)
“Ladies and gentlemn, we are going…to…HEAVEN!!!!”
And not just for a week. For eternity.
And not just a few of us. All who are in Christ.
And we’re never coming back.
And it’s free. All expenses paid. “Not by works of righteousness we have done but according to His mercy He has saved us.” (Titus 3:5)
That is the glorious hope of all believers. It is the solid promise of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the consistent testimony of Scripture. It is the eventual destiny of all the saved.
It’s my eventual destination. It’s what the Lord Jesus meant when He told the thief on the cross, “Today, you shall be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The New Testament is saturated with promises of Heaven for believers.
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places…. I will come again and receive you unto my self that where I am, there you maybe also” (John 14). Heaven is The Father’s House.
He said, “Come you blessed of the Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Heaven is a Kingdom prepared for us.
Paul wrote, “To be absent from the body is to be present, at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5). Heaven is our Home.
He said, “And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17). Heaven is where Jesus is.
“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:55,57)
The New Testament scriptures leave no doubt but that God has big plans for all who are in Christ!
However, a lesser known fact is that the Old Testament also testifies to God’s heavenly provision for His children.
The Lord has strewn His precious promises all along the scriptural landscape for the faithful to find and treasure and be encouraged by.
To the Sadducees who did not believe in an afterlife, Jesus said, “Remember all those places in the Scripture where God says ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?’ Well, He’s not the God of dead people but of the living!” (Matthew 22:32)
The Book of Job contains fascinating reminders of the future the Lord has in store for His beloved.
In the opening chapter, where Job is introduced, he has 7 sons and 3 daughters. In the second chapter, he loses everything–his possessions are stolen, his children are killed in a storm, and with his health going, his very life is in jeopardy.
When the story draws to a conclusion in chapter 42, the Lord famously restores the fortunes of Job. He is given twice the number of sheep, twice the number of camels, twice the number of oxen and donkeys. And he gets 7 more sons and 3 more daughters.
We read that and think, “Hey, wait a minute. Why wasn’t he given twice the number of children?”
The question is not raised in Scripture and therefore not answered. But we know the answer: He had not lost the first children. They were still his. They were just waiting for him in Heaven.
For these many centuries now, Job and his full contingent of children have been enjoying each other’s fellowship in the blessed presence of the Heavenly Father.
The Book of Job also contributes a wonderful and extremely clear teaching on this subject.
In the midst of his pain and smack-dab in the middle of the verbal tussle with his friends, Job asks the question of all questions: “If a man die, will he live again?” (Job 14:14)
Inquiring minds want to know the answer to that.
One Easter not long ago, while visiting with friends in another state, I listened as their pastor took his text on that verse. He called this the eternal hope and hunger of mankind, for eternal life. Nothing he said was wrong and he said a lot of great things.
But I wanted so badly to stand up and suggest that he read a little further where Job answered his own question.
I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
Job had little hope for this life, but his enthusiasm for the next one knew no bounds! Notice the dichotomy there: he will see the Lord “in my flesh,” but that experience will come “after my skin is destroyed.” Contradiction? Only if you don’t believe in the resurrection of the body.
The 23rd Psalm–everyone’s favorite–contains a precious whiff of this wonderful truth.
There are three movements in this psalm: life, death, and the afterlife. The first 3 verses speak of this life. The next three speak of death. And the last part of the last verse says: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Since the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, we take comfort in the words of the Lord Jesus who surely had this scripture in mind. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.(John 14:2)
If anyone on the planet was qualified to speak with authority on “the Father’s House,” it was Jesus. If we believe anyone on the subject, we surely must believe Him.
I love the insight on the celestial future of the righteous found in Psalm 17:15.
But as for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness. I will be satisfied with thy likeness when I awake.
David is contrasting his situation now as well as his future state with “the men of this world who have their portion in this life” (17:14). They seem to have everything going for them, they are satisfied with their children, and they leave vast inheritances for their offspring. In contrast, he says, I am going to Heaven.
Four future events are found in Psalm 17:15.
1. I will die.
Scripture is clear on this. For it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) As an old commercial used to say, “You only go around once in life. You’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can!” No reincarnation, friend. There are no dress rehearsals for this life.
William Saroyan, the famous writer, once observed: “I know people live, they get old and they die. But somehow I always felt an exception would be made in my case.”
No exceptions. He died in 1983. You and I too have an appointment with the Lord’s death angel.
2. I will awaken.
This will probably feel like the greatest miracle in history when it happens. None of us knows the details of the afterlife and we all live and die in faith. But to awaken on the other side and to see how true it all is, how real, that will be the grandest awakening of all.
3. I will see the Lord.
When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.(I John 3:2)
They shall look on Him whom they pierced. (John 19:37, quoting Zechariah 12:10)
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him. (Revelation 1:7)
4. I will be satisfied.
Whatever it is like, it will be all I could have asked for and everything I’ve dreamed of. There will be no “return” lines in Heaven where people ask for their money back. No one will be disappointed there.
Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.(Daniel 12:2-3)
Ruth Bell Graham tells in one of her books something that occurred her pastor was just a child. His father was Bob and he had a 16-year-old brother named Robbie. Bob’s mother–the grandmother of the child who would grow up to be the pastor of the Montreat Presbyterian Church–was elderly and in poor health. Every day, Bob visited her in the nursing home and saw to her needs.
One day, Robbie, the 16-year-old, came down with a strange illness and was hospitalized. Because his mother adored her first-born grandson so much, Bob did not tell her. After a few days, Robbie died. Again, he did not tell his mother.
A broken-hearted Bob left the funeral home and drove to the nursing home to check on his mother. The doctor was just coming out of her room.
“Your mother has slipped into a coma,” he said. “But go sit with her. Hold her hand, and talk with her.”
Bob sat beside his mother for hours. She was unresponsive and later that afternoon, she died. But before she died, she did something.
All at once she opened her eyes and seemed to be looking far off. “Why,” she said, “There’s Jesus.”
“And there’s Mama. And there’s Papa.” And she named other old friends.
And then, “And there’s Robbie. I didn’t know Robbie had died. Poor Bob.”
And she closed her eyes and went to Heaven.
Eric Sevareid was one of the Murrow Boys, pioneer CBS radio newsmen who covered the Second World War in its early stages before the U.S. got involved. Stationed in London, they were given a small studio–Murrow called it a broom closet–in the basement of the BBC from which to broadcast the night’s news to America.
The problem, Sevareid says in his memoirs, is that the CBS brass in New York City kept telling them the American people were not interested in “Europe’s war.” What the people wanted, they said, were Amos ‘n Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly, big bands, and superficial entertainment.
Sevareid would do his broadcast at night, then in the daytime walk the streets of London trying to find something better to do for the war effort. If the American people were not listening to their broadcasts, it was hardly worth all the trouble.
Sometime late in the summer of 1941, Sevareid was summoned back to New York City for a conference. He flew the Pan American Clipper and within 24 hours of leaving London was standing on a street corner in downtown Manhattan on his way to the CBS building. Glancing at his watch he realized it was 6 pm, the supper hour. This was the moment Murrow or one of his colleagues would be broadcasting from the broom closet.
It being a hot August afternoon, and with little air conditioning in those days, every store had its doors open and every cab on the streets had its windows down. Suddenly, Sevareid heard the distinct voice of his colleague Larry LeSeuer broadcasting from London. The program was coming from every automobile and out of every open door and window. The whole city was listening!
Everywhere Eric Sevareid went that week, he was hailed as a hero and treated as royalty. People swarmed around him to assure him they listened to those reports and hung on their every word.
Sevareid could not wait to get back to England and say to his co-workers, “They are listening! Give it your best shot. We are doing good work here. It matters a great deal.”
When I read that in his autobiography, I realized something.
Five minutes after we arrive in Heaven, we are going to be overcome by the realization that–
–this is true!
–this is real!
–God’s promises are genuine!
–what we do really matters!
And we will wish we could go back to earth to say to our friends, “Give it your best shot, friend! This is the real thing! Everything you do for the Lord on earth makes an eternal difference. Be faithful! Be generous! Be prayerful. Witness to the lost. Preach the gospel. Get up and stand up and speak up. Get off the fence. This is no time to dilly-dally. You don’t have long, so give it everything you’ve got.”
We’re going to Heaven, friends. Let’s get everyone to go with us!