Scripture: Revelation 21:1-7, NLT
In November of 1986, I went with a delegation from Alabama to Nigeria, in the elbow of Africa. This nine-day visit changed my life completely. I bought a 35mm camera before departing and I took over a hundred pictures but my slides did not do Africa justice and I finally threw them in the trash. No description you can give will convey to others what you have seen with your own eyes.
How many of you have seen pictures of the grand canyon? How many of you have actually seen the grand canyon? I saw video of the Niagara Falls many times but when June and I visited the falls 1996, the sight took my breath. I stood there in awe and amazement and I tell everyone I see, “You have got to go to the falls.”
The same principle applies to heaven. I have never had a vision of heaven like John. God allowed John to stick his head through one of the portholes and take a quick glance and it changed Johns life forever.
I am sure that a visit to heaven would change us all…
I. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REASSURE OUR HEARTS THAT GOD IS ON THE THRONE
Africa was chaos, pure choas and it hasn’t changed. From what I understand, it is worse. But there is also chaos here, just not as much. In heaven, there is no chaos–there is perfect law and order because God is enthroned in every heart.
My father had a series of strokes before he departed this world. Back in 1994 he was in the hospital at Athens and I went up to see him on a Thursday night. Bill Clinton was the newly elected president and I had grown a full beard in protest. For some reason, Daddy had to explain the beard to everyone so when I walked into his semi-private room, he immediately began explaining to his room-mate why I had the beard. His room mate was black and his pastor was sitting by his bed. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but I knew that black people are block voters and they vote democrat no matter who is running but Daddy would not hush. I tried in vain to change the subject but he was relentless….”My boy doesn’t like Clinton and he will not shave until Clinton is out of office.” By now, I am embarrassed and looking for a hole to crawl into. The black man’s pastor rose to his feet and he stood at least 6’8″, he was a giant of a man. I thought, “Oh no, he is going to pile drive me into this concrete floor.” He walked straight to me and I am thinking, “Gee, thanks Dad, you are about to see your son executed.” He reached out with his huge arm and grabbed my head and pulled it right up to where I was facing him. My heart stopped beating, I was terrified, then he said, “Son, don’t you be worrying about Bill Clinton. He is not in charge. My LORD Jesus is on the throne.” I’m too scared to speak but I was thinking, “hallelujah.” When I got my composure, I said, “I knew that but God sent me hear tonight so that you could remind me of the fact.”
This black pastor reassured me of something I knew…Jesus is in absolute control…God is on the throne. Everything is going according to plan. There is no panic, no chaos in heaven.
II. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REKINDLE OUR CHRISTIAN JOY
I know you know a lot of Christians, do you know any happy ones. I’ve been serving church since 1970 and I can tell you, there are a lot of unhappy Baptist. A visit to heaven would cheer us up. There is no sadness in heaven and what this earth needs, what this church needs, what you need is a little heaven. There are plenty of folks who want to give us hell but very few who want to give us heaven.
Dallas Willard was a great theologian and apologist of the last century. He was promoted on May 8th, 2013. His last words were to his granddaughter, before they took him into the surgery that he did not survive, he looked at Larissa and said, “Give them heaven.”
Many, many years ago I heard George W. Truett tell the story of John D. Rockefeller’s grandsons. Their grand dad went to work for 50 cents a day back in 1855 as a book-keeper in Cleveland, Ohio. But by the turn of the century, he would be the richest man in America, worth over 300 billion dollars. John D. Senior was raised poor and his parents talk him the value of hard work, honesty and prudence. John D. Rockefeller hated waste and that was the key to his success. Long story short, he didn’t want his grandsons corrupted by inherited wealth so he sent them to the iron orchards of Oklahoma where they had to work on oil rigs. He made them hire on under pseudonymous names and they had to work at entry-level jobs but the boys had a blast. They sang, cut up, joked and even whistled as they worked. It was irritating to others who hated the dirty gruesome job. Finally, one of the foremen, complained to the boss–“What with these kids, they have a good time, they enjoy this hard and grimy work, they even sing while they work. The boss, who knew the truth said, “You would be singing to if you knew that one day all this would belong to you.”
III. A VISIT TO HEAVE WOULD REVIVE OUR HOPE
Just this past Friday, I made a special trip to Huntsville Hospital to share the gospel with a young woman age 37. She has two children and a husband who will not work. In the last five years, she has lost both parents and battled two forms of cancer: ovarian and bladder. The treatment for the cancer has destroyed her kidneys and now she is on dialysis. She is hoping for a transplant but the chances are slim.
Week before last, I talked with a Daddy who had lost a son to suicide. The boy had medical issues, relational issues and he was head over heals in debt. He reached a point where he saw no way out and he took his own life.
I know a number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their parents are on drugs. I know several who have used their life savings to rehab their children only to see the child go right back to the addiction. There are a lot of situations that seem hopeless.
Years ago, I had a friend named Charlie. Charlie was unique, he was a pistol but he had a stroke, a massive stroke. He could not talk, he could not walk, he could not feed himself. The stroke left him totally helpless. Charlies was a prodigal, he had lived on the wild side and the stroke left him with nothing. His mom wanted him to go to their family doctor and have test run and so they went. The doctor obliged them, knowing nothing could be done. After four or five days in the hospital, the doctor came to Charlie’s room and said, “Charlie, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do. There is no hope of you getting better.”
I felt so sorry for Charlie. I didn’t like the doctor telling him there was no hope. I had shared Christ with Charlie and he had affirmed his faith by gripping my hand. I went to his bedside and said, “The doctor is wrong Charlie, there is hope and that hope is in Jesus.” I began talking to Charlie about heaven.
If we could visit heaven, it would rekindle our HOPE!
IV. IF WE COULD VISIT HEAVEN, IT WOULD REASSESS OUR EARTHLY POSSESSIONS
I am sure you’ve heard the fable of the miser who converted all his wealth to gold bullion so he could take it with him when he died. The story goes that when he got to heaven was those bags of gold that St. Peter questioned him, “What in the sacks?” The old miser opens one of the sacks and Peter exclaimed: “You brought pavement, why would you bring pavement to paradise.”
We are supposed to love people and use things but we have it backwards: We love things and use people.
I know some of you are campers. You are not shocked when you pull into a camp ground and see tents or trailers, campers but what if you saw a couple drive in with a load of lumber and start building a house on a camp site? Would you say, “Wow, that is a good idea, I wish I had thought of it,” or would you think, “those people are nuts.”
For too many are trying to build a permanent home on a camp site.
V. A VISIT TO HEAVEN WOULD REAFFIRM OUR FAITH THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE
I am running out of time so let me cut to the chase. Imagine on our visit to heaven, we interview some of the saints that are there. Lets start with Moses the Law Giver…Moses you had some unique experiences, you did some powerful things. You were God’s servant and God’s friend… Moses would then interrupt: “Jack, I am not here because of what I did for God, I am here because of what He did for me.”
Then I stop Peter, “Peter, you were one of the twelve and the leader of the church. You even died as a martyr for your faith in Christ…” but Peter would interupt…”Jack, I am not here because I died for Christ but because He died for me. Jack, I was ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, without spot or blemish.”
Every testimony would be the same….JESUS…JESUS….JESUS…GRACE…GRACE…GRACE!
VI. A VISIT TO HEAVEN RELIEVE OUR ANXIETIES OF DEATH
Physical death is an illusion, at least to we humans. Remember the story of Jairus Daughter in Mark 5…
Jesus is on His way to Jarius house to heal his daughter but friends coming running up to Jairus and say, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” When they got to the house, the profession mourners were weeping and wailing until Jesus interrupted, “What’s going here, why all this commotion and weeping. You folks act like someone died, the girl is not dead, she is sleeping.”
So the professional mourners who see death daily are convinced that the girl is dead: Jesus on the other hand is convinced that she is not dead. He said, “She is sleeping.” and He went in the house and woke her up with these simple words, “Little girl, get up!”
What we see, dread and fear is nothing more than a nap. I plan to take one this evening and I do not dread it.