Some people would not be happy in Heaven. Nothing about it appeals to them. They would be forever out of place. So, God is not going to make them go.
The biggest slander I know is that Heaven is going to be one unending church service. Every pastor, every song leader, and every pew sitter groans and thinks, “Lord, I hope not.”
Not to worry. It will not be like that. Or, like anything else you know or have prepared for or imagined in your fondest dreams.
Throw away the categories. Nothing pertains any more. Jesus said in Heaven there’s no marrying or giving in marriage. He said angels are rejoicing each time a new person comes into God’s eternal family. He told us the angels of certain “little ones” do always behold the face of the Father.
The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus Christ is the authority on Heaven. He’s a native. He told Nicodemus, No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, referring to Himself (John 3:13).
The old line goes, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven but no one wants to die.” And, according to polls we see published from time to time, most people expect to go to Heaven.
My contention is most people not only are not going to Heaven, they don’t even want to go. They just want not to go to the other place. And since Heaven seems to be the only alternative, it wins by default.
I’d like to interject a question or two into the next poll someone is taking on who expects to go to Heaven. After the interviewee attests that, “yes, I expect to go to Heaven,” I want to ask, “For what reason? What do you expect to happen in Heaven?”
Since the Scripture is the only solid authority we have–anyone on this planet has!–we look to it for hints on what takes place in Heaven. And the news is not good for a lot of people.
In fact, once they find out what goes on in Heaven and who’s going to be there, I have no doubt that some of them would change their minds and opt for the other place. After all, to be eternally out of place is a form of hell in its own way.
I want to raise four brief questions about Heaven: what’s there, what activities go on inside its borders, who will be present and who absent.
What’s in Heaven?
Unable to express the inexpressible, to describe the indescribable, the Apostle John spends more time telling us what is not in Heaven. That gives us some kind of insight as to what might be there.
No death and no hades (Revelation 20:14). That’s good. We hate them both. Jesus hated them too. He broke up every funeral procession he ever encountered by raising the dead.
Heaven is the dwelling place of God (Rev. 21:3). That makes it the equivalent of “the house of the Lord” in which David said we would dwell forever (Psalm 23:6). This would also be the “Father’s House” of Jesus’ teachings in John 14:1-6.
No tears (Rev. 21:4). That’s good. Most of us who have lived a long time have shed tears enough for several eternities anyway. Good to know they cease to flow.
No more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4).
According to Revelation 21:10-21, Heaven is a real place, more glorious than anything we have ever seen.
There’s no church building there. “No temple” (Rev. 21:22).
No sun or moon. No locks or bars, no security system needed. No night.
Nothing impure will be there. (Rev. 21:27) That alone is going to upset a lot of people who got their earthly delights out of various impurities.
What activities go on in Heaven?
I wish we knew. We don’t, except for a few broad areas.
They sing a lot. (Check out Revelation chapter 19.) So, count on music being a staple. Furthermore, while they might sing an oldie or two (Rev. 15:2), for the most part it appears they’re singing new songs, composed just for this auspicious occasion (Rev. 14:3). I suggest God’s people not become too attached to the old songs here in this life. They will be relics in Heaven when we shall “know even as also we are known.”
They eat sumptuously. See what Jesus said in Matthew 8:11. Pay close attention to the numerous parables He gave on “a great king” or “a great man” throwing a wedding feast (see Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-23). Great. I love to eat. A pastor of mine used to say in Heaven we could eat all the lemon icebox pie we wanted without gaining weight.
They worship. Almost goes without saying, doesn’t it. But our worship here, which is so partial and shadowy and limited, will be nothing compared to the glory of worshiping the Lamb in the very presence of Heaven’s hosts.
I can only imagine.
They serve the Lord. (Revelation 7:15 and 22:3) You thought that was over? To serve the wonderful Savior is no drudgery, no punishment, and no evidence of the curse. It’s the greatest privilege, the highest honor, the purest joy.
Who will be in Heaven?
Staying with Revelation, here are a few glimpses of Heaven’s roll call….
Jesus is there. Oh, my, yes. He will be the Centerpiece of Heaven. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He said to John, Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Rev. 1:17-18)
The saints are there. “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” And he said, “These are they who have come out of great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”(Rev. 7:13-14)
This line from Revelation 17:14: With him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.
Oh, let’s not leave out our Lord’s wonderful line from Matthew 25. “Come you blessed of the Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you invited me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me.”
These are the do-gooders. They are not saved by their good works, but saved “unto” good works. (See Ephesians 2:8-10).
And, equally important, who is not in Heaven?
No dogs, the Apostle John said. But, he is not referring to the canine variety. He means the real rascals of society, the mangy curs who spread trouble and disease and heartache and dissension. Don’t look for them in Heaven. (Rev. 22:15) He describes those who are given that nickname: those practicing the magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolators, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
One of the most telling lines is Revelation 21:8. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolators and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
Did you see who is leading that unholy parade into Hades? The cowardly. That would be those who knew the right path, the way of salvation, but who feared what people would say or do more than they feared God so they never acted on what they knew. Their cowardice banishes them from Heaven’s environs forever.
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:15)
The conclusion then is that Heaven is not going to be like any place we know. It will not be an eternal church service. And the troublemakers of this planet will not be there. Those who arrive in Heaven will be those made holy in the blood of Jesus and who thereafter lived a life of service.
Mark Twain in a couple of his writings has a fellow say that both Heaven and hell have their advantages: heaven for the climate and hell for the company.
I say who would want such company as that?
C. S. Lewis wrote a fantasy about a busload of people from hell being allowed to visit Heaven for a short time, after which they could choose whether to stay or return. While that would seem a no-brainer, Lewis has the inmates of Hades complaining about the purity and solidness and sureties of Heaven. They preferred their own carnal devices and to a man, everyone returned to perdition.
He was making a point. And in a sense, it’s the same point I am trying to put forth here: Not everyone should expect to go to Heaven. Not everyone would be happy in Heaven. They don’t like anything about Heaven, so why would they want to go there?
–They don’t love the Lord and He is what Heaven is all about.
–They don’t enjoy worshiping the Lord, so why would they want to go where that’s the daily routine?
–They never serve the Lord here, so they certainly would not want an eternity of such.
–They care little for the people of God, and they make up the entire population of Heaven.
Therefore, God is not going to make them go.
He really is a God of mercy, isn’t He?