The Reality of Heaven Rev. Tony Cooke
Facing the death of a friend or loved one is always challenging. There are usually very mixed emotions.
There is sadness that a person is no longer with us. But there is also joy that a person is in heaven.
There is sorrow that a chapter in our lives has closed, and that someone very significant to us will now be but a memory to us.
There can also be a sense of relief and release… that someone we care about will not have to suffer or experience any of the pain and discomfort that this life can bring.
All of these, and countless other emotions can be very strong at a time like this, and we can understand why Jesus said: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." He understands that loss hurts, and we should not be afraid or ashamed to express our grief. Jesus does not condemn us, but said there was comfort for us.
I am convinced that Jesus not only offers comfort through the Person and the Presence of the Holy Spirit, but also through the truth of His Word.
The Bible makes it very clear that physical death is more of a transition than it is a termination. There is an element of termination involved in that the physical body ceases functioning, but the Bible describes more than just a body, an outward man. The Bible describes an inward man.
Man is a spiritual being with a soul, and he lives inside of a body. When the body terminates its functioning, the spirit of man simply transitions to a new location.
For a believer, that new location is a wonderful place called heaven. When we say that a believer who dies has "gone to a better place," that is not a mere cliché.
Heaven is not a dream. It is not
- a figment of someone’s imagination
- a metaphysical abstraction
- someone’s theological conception
Heaven is a real place.
Paul said, "To depart and be with Christ is far better."
He said that if this "earthly tent" were destroyed, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
He said that "to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord."
With this in mind, I’d like to share just a couple of thoughts about heaven.
1. HEAVEN IS A PLACE THAT IS FREE FROM ALL THE THINGS WHICH CAUSE PAIN IN THIS LIFE.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
2. HEAVEN IS A PLACE OF PERFECTION.
Not only in the physical sense (no pain, etc.).
Not only in the spiritual sense (God’s presence, etc.).
But also in the mental sense… in terms of what we’ll know.
1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
I John 3:2
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
3. HEAVEN IS A GIFT.
16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Though heaven itself is a place of perfection, perfection on our part is not one of the entrance requirements. If it was, none of us could make it. That is why there is forgiveness.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Eternal life is a gift. It was prompted by God’s love – It was purchased by Jesus Christ.
It is a gift that was received by , and it is the basis for our hope this day.
4. HEAVEN IS NOT AS FAR AWAY AS WE MIGHT THINK.
Leighton Ford is an evangelist, who, for many years worked as an associate to Billy Graham. His son, Sandy, died an untimely death, and in spite of his strong faith, Leighton struggled with that loss.
Even though he fully understood that he could not literally communicate with his departed son, Leighton kept a journal in which he wrote imaginary "conversations" with his son; it was his way of expressing things that were on the inside of him and bringing proper closure to the relationship.
In one of these imaginary conversations, Leighton wrote:
"Sandy, I sure do miss you. I think about you more now than I did when you were here on earth."
"I know you do dad, and I hear those thoughts"
"I guess I’m just afraid that as our time goes on here, that I’ll lose the sense of nearness we once had."
"But why?" Sandy responded, "It’s just like one big long day here, dad, and besides that, you’re not moving away from me, you’re moving toward me. And the wall between us is so thin, you would laugh if you could see it."
"Thanks son, it’s getting late, I’d better get to bed. Enjoy the stars."
"It’s day here dad, enjoy the light."
As we conclude this service today, let me encourage those of you who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ: You will see your friend and loved one again. And as the old hymn says: What a day of rejoicing that will be!
If there is anyone here who has never placed your trust in the Lord Jesus – the one who lived a sinless life – who died for our sins on the cross – and rose from the dead – I invite you, in the quietness of your own heart, to ask Jesus to be your Savior the same way _______________________ did.