Heaven: Our Eternal Home
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, February 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Every person longs for stability in the midst of this changing world. But ultimate security can only come from knowing that we have an eternal home with God when we die.
In this passage Jesus Christ speaks about heaven, the eternal home of all Christians. We want to examine, first, our need for this eternal home; second, Christ's description of heaven; third, the preparation of this home by Christ himself; and, fourth, how to reach it.
What Is Heaven?
When we speak about heaven, we do not mean the atmosphere or the vastness of space in which planets and stars are found. Rather, we are referring to the heaven of heavens, where God and his holy angels are, where Jesus Christ is even now seated on the right hand of God the Father, and where live the spirits of just men made perfect.
The Bible uses several names for heaven. It is called a heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16) as well as a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Throughout the New Testament it is called the kingdom of God, as well as paradise (Luke 23:43). Here in John 14 it is called the Father's house.
Why Do We Need Heaven?
eaven is the ultimate answer to the longing in all human hearts for an eternal home. This desire has been intrinsic to mankind since the days of Adam and Eve. After they were created, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate fellowship with God. But when they sinned, they became alienated from God and were expelled from paradise. As a result, there is now profound ignorance of God in people's hearts. Alienation, ignorance, and death became a natural part of our lives because of Adam's sin. Our hearts are darkened and we are cut off from a life of fellowship with God.
But the Scriptures tell us that as early as Genesis 3 God revealed his plan to deal with this alienation, ignorance, and death, and to enable his people once again to live in his presence. In relation to that plan, God told Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). Abram obeyed God and traveled to Canaan, though he died without possessing it. Hebrews 11 tells us that this promise of God to give Abraham a land transcended giving him a mere physical location: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise" (vv. 8-9). Then verse 10 tells us, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose designer and builder is God." So this is speaking about heaven, not merely about a piece of real estate in the Middle East. It is speaking about God's grand plan for all of his people. Hebrews 11:16 tells us God's people rejected the world because they "were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."
Why did the writer say Abraham was looking forward to a city with foundations? Because the cities of this world have no permanent foundations, even though that permanence is what we are looking for. That is why we are called pilgrims in this world, as we move from place to place. But God has prepared for his people a city, a heavenly country, paradise, the kingdom of God, which has permanent foundations. There is a certain longing in the hearts of God's people for such an everlasting home.
Many professing Christians think about heaven only at certain times, such as when a loved one dies. But such thoughts disappear quickly as they go back to everyday life. They are like the materialistic Laodiceans, who said they had everything and needed nothing. But true children of God think about heaven always. To them, everything in this world is unsatisfactory.
Comfort in Trouble
In John 14 we find Jesus speaking to his disciples on the last night before his death on the cross. His first words were "Let not your hearts any longer be troubled."
Our present existence is characterized by trouble, tears, pain, poverty, misery, persecution, and slander. This is the lot of true Christians in this world. Jesus warned his disciples about this, saying, "Blessed are you when they persecute you," and "Blessed are you when they speak all manner of evil against you."
What were some of the troubles these disciples were experiencing? First, they were finally realizing that their Master was going to depart from them very soon, and now they must face trouble on their own. For three years, no matter what the problem, they could just tell Jesus and he would take care of it. For example, during the storm on the Sea of Galilee, they cried out, "Jesus, we perish! Don't you care?" and he commanded the wind and the waves to be still and everything calmed down.
They were also ashamed because of their pride. They remembered how even in the last few days the big question among themselves had been, "Who is the greatest?"
They were also deeply disturbed and perplexed because Jesus had told them, "One of you will betray me," yet they could not imagine such a thing happening. I am sure they were also troubled because in the back of their minds was the question, " We know Jesus is the Messiah, but how can the Messiah die? The Messiah is supposed to come and conquer all his enemies. But now Jesus is telling us that he is going to die."
They were also troubled because, as we read in John 13:21, Jesus himself was troubled: "After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, 'I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.'"
Finally, these disciples were sad because Jesus had prophesied that Peter, the chief apostle, would deny him that very night.
Although Jesus was troubled himself, he began to comfort his followers. He knew that soon he would be arrested, maltreated, spat upon, and be crucified. Yet here in John 14 we see Jesus comforting his disciples, and his words have provided great comfort to his church throughout the succeeding generations.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me," Jesus said. Was Jesus merely comforting them as we would, saying that everything would be all right without any basis for that comfort? No. We must remember that the source of all trouble in this world is sin. So Jesus was saying, "Yes, I know you are troubled and I know the reason for your trouble: It is sin. But I am going to take care of it."
This is what we must believe. By dealing with our sin on the cross, Jesus has taken care of the basic cause of our trouble. Thus, he has the authority to say to us, "Keep on trusting in God and keep on trusting in me." Such words tell us that Jesus himself is Deity. The solution to trouble is trust-not self-trust, but trust in God the Father and in Jesus Christ his Son.
Heaven: Our Home with God
ter telling his disciples not to worry, Jesus began in verse 2 to describe the heavenly home he has prepared for them: "In my Father's house are many rooms." I do not care for the use of the word "rooms" because it gives the idea that heaven is like a tenement house in which God's people all have little rooms. That is not the idea Jesus intended to convey. The Greek word means "permanent residences," so perhaps we could say "In my Father's house there are many apartments-spacious and fully furnished permanent residences-for all God's people."
Jesus said there would be many rooms in heaven. How many people are in the church of Jesus Christ? In Revelation 7:9 John gives us a hint: "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." A great multitude no one can number! But there is room enough in heaven for all of God's elect.
Heaven is not a house or building; rather, it is a home where we will enjoy sweet fellowship with God. In his commentary on the gospel of John, Dr. James Montgomery Boice cited a story D. L. Moody told to describe this aspect of heaven:
D. L. Moody used to tell of a child whose mother became very sick. While the mother was sick one of the neighbors took the child away to stay with her until the mother should get well again. But instead of getting well, the mother grew worse and died. The neighbors thought that they would not take the child home until after the funeral was over, and that they would not tell her about her mother being dead. So after a while, they simply brought the little girl home. At once she went to find her mother. First, she went into the sitting room to find her mother; then she went into the parlor to find her mother. She went from one end of the house to the other, but she could not find her. At last she asked, "Where is my mama?" When they told her that her mama was gone, the child wanted to go back to the neighbor's house again. Home had lost its attraction for her since her mother was not there any longer. Moody writes, "It is not the jasper walls and the pearly gates that are going to make heaven attractive. It is our being with God" (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985], 935).
What is the attraction of heaven? Our heavenly Father, who loved us and planned our salvation. As we said, Adam and Eve were expelled from God's presence. Now God is bringing Adam and Eve, together with us, back into fellowship with him by redeeming us from our sins. This was accomplished by Christ on the cross. Now we can be brought into the Father's house, which is also the Son's house, and which is also our house, because we who have believed in the Son are in him.
Jesus Christ desired to bring us to the Father, as he expressed in John 12:26: "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." The servants of Christ are going to be where he is, in heaven, the house of God the Father.
In his great high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world" (John 17:24). The goal of our lives is to be in heaven with God.
What, then, the Bible tell us about heaven?
Heaven is very glorious. When we consider what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, we are amazed at God's love and care. But what awaits us after death is even more surprising. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul wrote, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." And in Revelation 21:10-11 John describes heaven as the holy city, Jerusalem: "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." Heaven is a place whose glory we cannot even imagine.
Heaven is spacious. As we already read in Revelation 7:9, the people of God will be like a great multitude that no one can number. Yet heaven will have room for all of them; there will be no overcrowding.
Heaven is a place. Heaven is not just a state of mind. We read about Enoch and Elijah going to heaven without dying and Jesus Christ ascending into heaven after his resurrection. All of these have physical bodies which must be localized. Additionally, we read about the souls of Stephen and other saints who died being in heaven. So heaven is a place with lots of room for God's people. In fact, Revelation 21:16 tells us that it is a cube fourteen hundred miles in length, width, and height. Think about that! This glorious, brilliant city is a real location.
Some people do not believe heaven is an actual place, so let us examine a few scriptures that speak about it. In John 6:38 Jesus told his disciples, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me . . . ." The eternal Son of God was in heaven before he came down to earth. Additionally, he returned to heaven, as we read in Luke 24:51: "While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven." Acts 7:55-56 tells us, "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'" In Acts 1:10-11 we read, "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same you have seen him go into heaven.'"
Heaven is safe. Not only is heaven a glorious and roomy place; but it is also safe. Outside heaven is the storm, the rain, the flood, and the fire of hell. But inside is fellowship, joy, and celebration. Heaven is a place of complete safety and security.
Heaven is a place of rest. Have you ever seen mothers take their infants in their arms and just hold them and look at them? The infants are at rest, but who is not at rest? Mother, because her arms are getting tired. But not so the arms of God. In Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us, "The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." In heaven we will enjoy perfect rest in the everlasting, never-tiring arms of God.
Luke 16:25 tells us of the great comfort we will experience as we rest in heaven. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham told the rich man, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony."
Heaven is a place where there is perfect understanding of who we are. Just as children belong in a family, so we belong in heaven as children of the heavenly Father. There we will be known as we are, and we will know others. For example, I was born and brought up in a little place in southern India. When I go there today, I do not have to tell anyone who I am. Everyone knows me, and I know them. This is what we mean by saying heaven is a place of perfect understanding. We will recognize all believers in heaven, as we read in Matthew 8:11, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, and the loved ones, who went there before us.
Heaven is a place of permanence. In heaven, there will be no wandering, no more pitching of our tent here and there, no more yearning and looking forward to a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God. All these things will cease when we arrive in heaven. Heaven is the permanent place where we will "be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Jesus Prepares a Place for Us
Jesus told his disciples, "I am going there to prepare a place for you." What did he mean by that? After all, the Father's house already exists; no one has to construct it.
The problem is that we cannot go to heaven as we are because no unholy being can enter it. We are by nature sinners, and the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The greatest source of trouble is our own sin, with all its guilt, punishment, pollution and power. So when Jesus told his disciples, "I am going to prepare a place for you," he was saying, "I am going to take care of this sin problem that prevents you from entering into heaven and enjoying fellowship with my Father." He did so by his death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God.
Christ prepared a place for us in heaven by dying for our sins and being raised for our justification. The Bible uses several word pictures to describe this great transaction. Isaiah says that though sin left its stain on our conscience, it has been fully blotted out. Isaiah also says God will cast our sins behind his back (38:17) and swept away like a cloud (44:22). Micah says God will cast our sins into the depths of the sea (7:19). The psalmist says our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), while the New Testament writers say our sins are forgiven (Colossians 2:13) and forgotten (Hebrews 10:17). David says our sins are covered, which God did by the blood of Jesus Christ (Psalm 32:1).
Because of sin, we were cast out from God's presence, but now through Jesus Christ we can come before him again. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), but Christ died in our place; sin has been dealt with and everything is all right.
After telling his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them, Jesus said one more thing: "I will come back and take you to be with me. " This is speaking especially about the Second Coming. He is not merely coming to take us to heaven, but he is taking us to be with him. There will be no more separation. That is why Paul could declare triumphantly in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "So we will be with the Lord forever"!
The Only Way to Heaven
This passage assures us that we shall reach our heavenly home. When Jesus said these things, the apostle Thomas asked, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (John 14:5) Thomas was saying, "Lord, I do not know what you are talking about." But we understand that the destination Jesus was speaking about is heaven, his Father's house, and the way is through Jesus Christ himself. So Jesus told Thomas and the others, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
The only way to God is through Jesus Christ. In fact, in New Testament times Christianity was known as híª hodos, the Way. (PGM) Many people claim there are other ways to God and heaven, but Proverbs 14:12 tells us, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." Here Jesus declares that all other ways to salvation are false. We live in a democratic country in which we enjoy the freedom to proclaim even lies, and people are free to believe whatever they want. But Jesus did not say, "I will show you a way," or "I am a way." He said, "I am the way."
Acts 4:12 tells us, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." In 1 Corinthians 3:11 we read that there is no other foundation than the foundation of Jesus Christ. First Timothy 2:5 says, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." A mediator is one who must have connections with both parties in order to effect reconciliation. As God/man, Jesus Christ alone has such connections between God and men. That is why he alone is the way.
In Matthew 1:21 Joseph was told, "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." John says in 1 John 5:12, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son does not have life." In John 3 we read, "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 (v. 16)" and "He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (v. 36).
How to Reach the Heavenly Home
It is absolutely impossible to enter heaven by any way other than through Jesus Christ. How, then, do we reach this eternal home? We must have saving faith in Jesus Christ. "I am the way," Jesus said in this passage, and in John 6:48 he said, "I am the bread of life." Elsewhere in John's gospel he declared, "I am the light of the world" (8:12); "I am the door" or "gate" (10:7); "I am the good shepherd" (10:14); "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25); "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6); and "I am the true vine" (John 15:1, 5).
There is no other way, no other truth, and no other life. Only in and through Jesus Christ can we reach our eternal home and enjoy fellowship with God the Father. That means we must commit ourselves to Jesus Christ and trust in him alone. We must not merely obtain information about him and give mere intellectual assent to biblical propositions. We must move beyond these things and entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ forever.
The center and circumference of a sinner is self. A person will say, "I will do what I want to do when I want to do how I want to do; who are you to tell me how to live?" Such people are even in the church, but if their autonomy is threatened in any way, they will walk out.
But the center and circumference of a true Christian's life is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow me." There is much phony Christianity throughout the world; in fact, such Christianity is very popular in this country. But such Christianity will not save us. Many people are going to say, "Lord, Lord," but not enter into this eternal home prepared by Jesus Christ himself. "I am the way," Jesus told us. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
In Psalm 27:4 David wrote, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." Remember Jesus said, "Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her"? (Luke 10:42)
The vast majority of people who confess to be Christians are focused not on Christ, but on themselves. Such people have not truly trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation; rather, they have believed in Jesus only for temporal benefits. They are not saved. Their center and circumference is their own self and they are always trying to manipulate Jesus Christ to achieve temporal success. They have no interest in heaven. In fact, they do not even want to go there because they are having such a good time here.
But David tells us, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." He denied himself and focused on God alone. Elsewhere he concluded his great psalm of trust and appreciation of God's shepherding care by stating, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6).
Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, spoke similarly. In verse 25 he wrote, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." This is real worship. It is not "Jesus and something else." Asaph was a realist, so he continued, "My flesh and my heart may fail. . . ." The tent of our body is going to fall apart and die. But Asaph concluded, "but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." To reach our heavenly home we must have total entrustment of our will, mind, and emotions to Jesus Christ alone. The center of a Christian's life is Christ.
Do You Have a Home in Heaven?
What about you? Are you ready to die? Can you say with utter certainty that if you died today you would go to heaven? Do not be like the many who will come and say, "Lord, Lord," but do not do what God says. Such people will be very certain, but it is a false certainty. Can you say that you have trusted in Jesus Christ alone? Do you know for sure that he has taken care of your sin? Have your sins been blotted out, forgiven, forgotten, covered by Christ's blood, cast behind God's back, and removed far from you? Have you been clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that you can approach the throne of grace without shame? Consider what Thomas à Kempis said about Jesus' statement, "I am the way and the truth and the life":
Follow thou me. I am the way and the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which thou must follow; the truth which thou must believe; the life for which thou must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth; the never-ending life. I am the straightest way; the sovereign truth; life true, life blessed, life uncreated. If thou remain in my way thou shall know the truth, and the truth shall make thee free, and thou shalt lay hold on eternal life." (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 299).
What will you do when death comes? I hope you will not be like those who do not think about heaven except when their mother dies. For a brief moment, there is a little flash, a little thought of heaven, but soon it goes away.
The late Dr. James Boice cites a story from D. L. Moody about a rich man who was dying:
There was a man who had great wealth. He was dying. When the doctor told him he could not live, the lawyer was sent for to make out his will. The dying man had a little girl who was about four years old. She did not understand what death meant. But when her mother told her that her father was going away, the little child went to the bedside and looked into her father's eyes and asked, "Papa, have you got a home in that land you are going to?" The question sunk deep into the man's soul, for he had spent his time and energy accumulating great wealth. In this life he enjoyed a grand home, but now he had to leave it. (James Montgomery Boice, op. cit., 933).
We are all going to die. Hebrews 9:27 tells us, ". . . [M]an is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. . . ." The question is, are you going to the heavenly home prepared by Jesus Christ for his people?
Yes, life in this world is full of trouble, pain, tears, parting, persecution, sickness, poverty, and shame-all because of sin. Like Abraham, we long and yearn for our heavenly home where there is safety, comfort, rest, perfect understanding, permanence, and fellowship. We know that heaven is a glorious, spacious, wonderful place wherein dwells the triune God, the holy angels, and the church of God. We know that heaven is a holy place where no evil can enter, so the Lord Jesus Christ prepared us for heaven by removing our guilt, punishment, pollution, and corruption. Having forgiven us our sins and clothing us with his perfect righteousness, he opened up for us the new and living way through his own body so that now we can come to God with a good conscience sprinkled clean by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now we can approach the throne of grace by faith, and we know that when we die, we will die in faith and arrive in our eternal home that has been in existence all these ages.
If we are Christians, there is a place for us in heaven! May God receive us there when we die. And if we are not Christians, may God grant us faith to trust in the Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, that we may be saved and enjoy the certainty of an eternal heavenly home with God. Amen.
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
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