The reason why we are not simply transported to paradise or caught up to Heaven as soon as we believe and come to faith is because we have a job to do here on Earth. God has Kingdom work for us to do, and we have got a message to deliver…

On the 18 February 2013 this headline appeared in the Daily Telegraph: ‘Postman jailed for burying 30,000 letters in garden.’ Jabur Hissan, a thirty-two year old Royal Mail postman felt unable to keep up the demanding postal route he had been given, so he took an unusual approach to solving his problem. He put on his washed and ironed uniform and his polished shoes, jumped into his shiny red van, and dumped some of the letters into a canal. Then he burned around 400 more, and the other 29,000 items of mail he couldn’t be bothered to deliver he buried in his garden. He may have looked every inch a postman, but he refused to deliver the letters he had been given. His actions denied that identity of a postman.

Cited by Krish Kandiah: Paradoxology, 2014, London: Hodder & Stoughton, p.174

God is in Heaven. Jesus is in Heaven. And Christians who have already died are in heaven. They are in heaven now but they are not there in body, they are there in spirit, held in a temporary state as they wait for the day of resurrection when they will be given new bodies. – We should understand that to a Christian a cemetery is just a dormitory. In fact, a Christian is the only person in the world who, on their deathbed can still be optimistic! – 1 Thessalonians 4:13 describes Christians who have already gone to heaven as having fallen asleep (sleep being a temporary state or condition). But it is not as if believers in heaven are unaware: they are not oblivious or unconscious or in a coma! That’s not paradise! The Bible tells us there are great multitudes of believers in heaven, worshipping God (Nehemiah 9:6, Revelation 7:9).

The Bible mentions Heaven a great deal it but tells us very little about what it will actually be like. Maybe one of the reasons for this is that if God told us everything there is to know we would become so heavenly minded we would be of no earthly good. Like the story of the small boy sitting down to eat a bowl of spinach when there’s a chocolate pudding at the far end of the table: He’s going to have a rough time eating through that spinach when his eyes are on the pudding. Similarly, if God had explained everything in detail, about his plan and what we’re going to inherit, we’d have an even harder time getting through our own ‘spinach’ down here.” We’d become so heavenly minded we’d be of no earthly good… As it is, the Lord has work for us to do, yet!

So what will the new creation, the new heaven and new earth look like? Again we don’t really know because we are not given detailed information. Instead, we are given picture language, poetry and symbols, to try and describe the indescribable. If fact the Bible tells us, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). That’s how wonderful it’s going to be; so wonderful it’s indescribable in earthly terms!

In Heaven there’ll be no more hearses… no more hankies… no more hospitals – there’s no need for them. We are told in Revelation 21v4: ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.’ What a wonderful hope; a wonderful promise! Whatever happens in this life, it’s not the last word. God has already written the last word – the final chapter – and, although we don’t know as much as we would like to, we do know how the story ends, and it’s a glorious, happy ending for those who are in Christ. In fact, it is not an ending at all, but just the beginning of eternal joy. Christians really do get to live happily ever after!

How do we know that heaven really exists? – Because we have the word of Jesus; we have the resurrection of Jesus; we have miracles that clearly speak of the nature of the kingdom of God and point to its coming, and we have the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and gives us just a foretaste of what it is to know God and be known by him. Paul said to the Corinthians, “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.” (1 Corinthians 13:12.) The truth is we don’t really know what heaven is like, but we do know Jesus is there and we know what Jesus is like so we can trust what he says. Jesus referred to heaven as paradise: He said to the thief who acknowledged him on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The evangelist Billy Graham, who passed away in February 2018, talked about death this way: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

We may ask: will I know ‘them’ in heaven? Yes, on the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples knew Moses and Elijah even though they had died centuries before. Would we know less in heaven that we know on earth? Paul writes… ‘Then I shall know just as I also am known’ (1 Corinthians 13:12 NKJV). – Will ‘people’ grow old in heaven? At 33, in the prime of His life, Jesus died, rose again and went back to heaven. And John the apostle says that when we see Him, ‘we shall be like Him…’ – in the prime of life! (1 John 3:2). Finally, we may ask, what will they do in heaven? The Bible says that in heaven, ‘his servants shall serve him’ (Revelation 22:3). Have you ever said to yourself, ‘I wish I could do better’? In heaven you will. You will be at your best forever and ever.

Source:The UCB Word For Today, 3/2/2011

Dr James Dobson tells the following story: “In my first film series, ‘Focus on the Family,’ I shared a story about a 5-year-old African-American boy who will never be forgotten by those who knew him. A nurse with whom I worked, Gracie Schaeffler, took care of this lad during the latter days of his life. He was dying of lung cancer, which is a terrifying disease in its final stages. The lungs fill with fluid, and the patient is unable to breathe. It is terribly claustrophobic, especially for a small child.

This little boy had a Christian mother who loved him and stayed by his side through the long ordeal. She cradled him on her lap and talked softly about the Lord. Instinctively, the woman was preparing her son for the final hours to come. Gracie told me that she entered his room one day as death approached, and she heard this lad talking about hearing bells. “The bells are ringing, Mommie,” he said. “I can hear them.” Gracie thought he was hallucinating because he was already slipping away. She left and returned a few minutes later and again heard him talking about hearing bells ringing. The nurse said to his mother, “I’m sure you know your baby is hearing things that aren’t there. He is hallucinating because of the sickness.” The mother pulled her son closer to her chest, smiled and said, “No, Miss Schaeffler. He is not hallucinating. I told him when he was frightened – when he couldn’t breathe – if he would listen carefully, he could hear the bells of heaven ringing for him. That is what he’s been talking about all day.”

That precious child died on his mother’s lap later that evening, and he was still talking about the bells of heaven when the angels came to take him. What a brave little trooper he was!”

Source: https://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/3057/hear-the-bells/

I wonder if you ever travel by train, maybe to Reading. As you approach the end of your journey the automatic announcement comes over the public address system: “We will shortly be arriving at Reading, our final destination!” – I sometimes look at the people in the carriage and think, “I do hope this is not your final destination!” – Of course, the train station is not the final destination for the passengers; it is just a stopover. The passengers are still in transit and from there they will travel on to their final destination. Similarly, Christians who die before Jesus returns go to heaven – like transit passengers on a stopover, they are in heaven waiting to travel on to their final destination – the new heaven and the new earth; the new creation described in Revelation 21-22.

Author and theologian, Christopher Ash, says, “I hope I don’t go to heaven when I die… I realise that I might have to, but I am hoping not to.” – Why is he hoping not to? – Because he knows that if Jesus returns before we die we will not need to go to heaven at all. In that event there will be no need for a stopover because we will join the straight through train and go immediately to be with the Lord in the New Jerusalem, the new creation.

R. Ian Seymour

Maybe you have read the best-selling book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, about his little boy’s trip to heaven and back. It has now been made into a film. Todd Burpo is a pastor of a church in the United States. When his son, Colton, was four years old, Colton very nearly died with a ruptured appendix. In the emergency operating theatre the little boy visited heaven, met with Jesus and a number of other people, and then he miraculously recovered and over the next few months Colton relates what he saw in heaven to his parents.

In one incident, several months after recovering from the operation, Colton said, “Mommy, I have two sisters.” His mother replied, “No, you only have your older sister, Cassie,” but Colton was adamant: “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” His parents were stunned. Colton’s mother had miscarried before Colton was born but they had never mentioned it to him. Colton described how his sister had introduced herself to him when he was in heaven, how she was bigger than him. She kept hugging him and looked similar to his older sister, Cassie, but with dark hair. His mother asked, ‘What was her name? What was the little girl’s name?’ But Colton said, ‘You guys didn’t name her.’ How did he know that? They didn’t even know she was a she!

In another example Colton tells his dad, Todd, how he met Pop in heaven. Pop was Todd’s grandfather who had died when Todd himself was a small boy. Todd showed his son a photograph of Pop, taken just before he died, but Colton didn’t recognise him. He said that’s not Pop, so Todd digs out an old photo taken when Pop was a young man, more than 50 years before Colton was born, and Colton immediately recognises him.

Jesus said the way to heaven was like finding treasure in a field or discovering a fine pearl of great value (Matthew 13:44-46). In July 2009 a metal detector unearthed ‘The Staffordshire Hoard’, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures ever found, and which was valued by the British Museum at £3.28million. Terry Herbert, aged 55 and a jobless council tenant on disability benefit, discovered the hoard while searching the field near the M6 toll road between Lichfield and Tamworth, using his 14 year old metal detector. The haul of over one thousand items – most of it gold and silver – dated back to between 675 and 725AD and made Mr Herbert an extremely rich man!

Then, a little over a year later, another extremely valuable hoard of Roman coins – the weight of two men – was found. Another metal detector enthusiast unearthed the second largest haul of Roman coins ever found in Britain. David Crisp, a 63-year-old hospital chef, found the 52,503 coins in a single earthenware pot in a field near Frome, Somerset.

Now, imagine there’s a piece of land up for sale near where you live, and you ask permission to go into the field with your metal detector, and there you find a hoard of buried treasure, more valuable than you can possibly imagine. Quickly, you bury the treasure again, and then you go off and liquidate all your assets, and you sell everything you own so that you can go back and buy the field and own the treasure for yourself. And even though it cost you everything you have you make the trade joyfully because you know the treasure will last way beyond your, and your family’s, lifetime. – Jesus said that is what God’s kingdom is like. If we really understood it, if we really knew how wonderful it is, then we’d sell everything we own and give up everything we had to gain entry into it, if we had to do (which fortunately, we don’t, because someone else has paid the entry fee for us).

R. Ian Seymour

You don’t get to heaven by chance, you get there by choice. And God will honour your choice.

The thing that makes a house a home is the people who are there. And that’s true of heaven too…

Jesus knew what heaven was like and so was able to say: “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 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” (John 14:2-4). – Jesus said He was going to heaven to prepare a place for those who trust in him… He didn’t tell us, exactly, what heaven is like but we know it is a wonderful place, almost beyond words to describe… the Bible puts it like this: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

R. Ian Seymour

I met a man recently who was full of hope: he’d had a dream of a wonderful world where everything is perfect and this filled the man with hope. He shared his dream with us:

  • He dreamt of a perfect world without war and terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; a world where people can travel safely on aeroplanes or on the London underground, and where people can go to work in tall skyscraper buildings without fear of something horrible happening to them or to their loved ones.
  • He dreamt of a world where someone had actually made poverty history, where there was no more hunger or famine, or national debt, or squalor, or misery or austerity. It was world of plenty where there is no such thing as the homeless, the hungry or the destitute.
  • He dreamt of a world where our streets are safe to walk, even for a woman and even at night; a world where our children, or grandchildren, are never picked on or bullied at school or college (nor grownups picked on in the work-place), and where Christians are not persecuted or ridiculed for their faith: a world where peace and love and harmony reign, a world where everyone gets on with their neighbour and where sin and wickedness simply do not exist.
  • He dreamt of a world where there is no more sickness, or ageing, or pain. A world where diseases, such as AIDS and cancer and heart disease and arthritis and depression are all just things of the past and no one even remembers them. A world where there is no more loneliness, no more crying, no more pain.
  • He dreamt of a perfect, paradise world, where people will live forever, where they will work, and eat and play and sing and worship God, and where they will live in an intimate face-to-face relationship with God forever… it’s a perfect world in which mankind will rule and reign with Christ over creation. Man and God together again just like it was in the beginning.

But friends, this is not a pipedream; it is not false hope or a denial of the truth. To a Christian this is not a dream at all: it’s a reality! A God-given promise of a new world that will, one-day be brought into existence. This is God’s plan – which the Bible tells us about from cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation – a plan that is still today approaching fulfilment and is almost complete but for one thing… it is what Christians are waiting for; the return of Christ, and when God will bring about the fulfilment of his promise; to rid the world of everything that is wrong and bad and to bring about the renewal of all things (see Revelation chapter 21).

R. Ian Seymour

There’s a story told that might help us, about a man of faith who was dying and who asked his Christian doctor to tell him about heaven. As the doctor fumbled for a reply, he heard a scratching at the door… and he had his answer. “Do you hear that?” he asked his patient. “It’s my little dog. I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up and he hears my voice. He has no notion what is inside this door… but he knows that I am here.” – And that’s the same for all of us: We don’t know exactly what lies beyond the Door, but we do know that Jesus is there.

What will heaven be like? A few years ago a charity asked some celebrities to describe their idea of heaven for a book. Princess Anne said that, for her, it was sailing with friends on a summer’s day. Jeffrey Archer spoke of an eternal game of cricket. What would you have said? Perhaps you would have mentioned a favourite place, or a pastime, or person. Those things may or may not be in heaven but they are not the things that dominate the Bible’s vision of heaven. The fundamental reality of heaven is that is where God is.

Vaughan Roberts

Vaughan Roberts, Turning Points, Authentic Lifestyle: Carlisle (2003), p.141

What is Heaven like; what do we know about Heaven?

  • We are told there are great multitudes in heaven: angels worshipping God and serving him. (Nehemiah 9:6, Mark 9:32).
  • Jesus promised his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them. (John 14:2) and all Christians are promised a place in heaven, after this life (1 Peter 1:4).
  • Jesus told us that the angels in heaven rejoice over the one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7,10); to rejoice means to celebrate, to have a party. There’s going to much fun and laughter in paradise.
  • The Bible says, in heaven we will be like Jesus. (1 John 3:2). In heaven we’ll have new spiritual bodies that won’t be limited by the laws of nature. This doesn’t necessarily mean we will all be ‘super heroes’ but our bodies will be different and more capable than our earthly body.
  • In heaven we will be in God’s presence where there will be joy forever.
  • And in heaven we shall meet with all those who have trusted Jesus in this life, and even though we will have different bodies we will see friends and loved ones again.

An aging Harry Rimmer wrote the following letter to his friend Dr Charles Fuller:

I believe you’re going to speak about Heaven next Sunday. I’m interested in that land because I’ve held a clear title to a bit of property there for about fifty years. I didn’t buy it, it was given to me without price, but the Donor purchased it for me at a tremendous sacrifice. I’m not holding it for speculation; it’s not a vacant lot.

For over half a century I’ve been sending materials up to the greatest Architect in the universe, who’s been building a home for me, which will never need re-modelling, because it will suit me perfectly and will never grow old. Termites can never undermine its foundations, for it rests on the Rock of Ages; fires can’t destroy it, floods can’t wash it away; no bolts will ever be placed upon the doors, for no vicious person will ever enter the land where my dwelling stands.

It’s almost completed and almost ready for me to enter in and abide in peace eternally without fear of being rejected. There’s a valley of deep shadow between this place where I live and that to which I shall journey in a short time. I can’t reach my home in that City without passing through this valley. But I’m not afraid because the best friend I ever had went through that same valley long, long ago, and drove away all its gloom. He’s stuck with me through thick and thin since we first became acquainted fifty-five years ago. And I own his promise in printed form, never to forsake me or leave me alone. He will be with me as I walk through the valley of the shadow. And I’ll not lose my way when he’s with me.

My ticket to Heaven has no date marked for the journey; no return coupon; no permit for baggage. I’m ready to go and I may not be here when you’re preaching next Sunday evening but I’ll meet you there someday.

Harry Rimmer died before the following Sunday.

Cited by Simon Guillbaud in For What It’s Worth, 2006, Oxford: Monarch Books, p.116-7

Every cup will be full in heaven, but some cups will be larger than others.

Imagine boarding a plane for your dream vacation and the pilot’s voice says, “Welcome on-board. After take-off we will be serving you a meal and we’ll do all we can to make your flight as enjoyable as possible. However, I need to tell you – we have no destination! That’s right; we’re just going to keep on flying and have a wonderful time until we run out of fuel and drop into the ocean.” No matter how wonderful the journey is, what’s the point if there’s no destination?

Source: The UCB Word For Today devotional 1/3/1999

Have you ever watched those extreme makeover TV programmes where famous presenters get rid of the old and bring in the new – maybe Ground Force with someone’s garden, or Changing Rooms, or even a person undergoing personal self-image reconstruction with – new hair, makeup, wardrobe etc. We get to see the way things were, and then the way they are now, re-created. If nothing else, it’s entertaining to see the shock and absolute delight on people’s faces as the new creation is revealed. But TV makeovers, at best can only ever temporary… they won’t last forever. And that sort of thing is absolutely nothing compared to the changes and re-creation that God is going to bring about, when He re-creates the new heaven and the new earth.

R. Ian Seymour

Death is not a full stop – it is only a comma.

Some people think of heaven and they see a caricature of fluffy white clouds and winged angels playing harps; where everyone has a halo, dresses in white and floats around singing God’s praises 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year, for all of eternity. Is that an accurate picture of heaven? No, thank goodness: that’s a caricatured and distorted worldview and one that sounds pretty boring, if we’re honest! So what is Heaven actually like? It’s not something we think a lot about because it’s intangible and we’re usually pre-occupied with the here and now! But as Christians we do yearn for it, sometimes, don’t we, especially during the hard times? Why do we yearn for something we know so little about? It’s because it’s a part of our being, our makeup; we were made for eternity. The book of Ecclesiastes (3:11 NIV) tells us, ‘God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.’ We were made for eternity, for paradise! That’s why we are never truly satisfied with this life; why we are always wanting more: more of everything, including more years to enjoy it. No matter how much we have we are never truly satisfied… and we never will be in this life because we weren’t originally created for this life – not in the beginning – that’s why we yearn for eternity, for Eden; our souls are homesick for paradise.

Q. What is the only man-made thing in heaven? A. The holes in Jesus’ hands and side.

So why wasn’t Jesus’ body made perfect? Puzzling! Most theologians suggest it’s because Jesus’ wounds have significance for all time.

In the ancient port of Pompeii in the year AD79, among those who fled from the torrents of lava erupting from Mount Vesuvius was a woman who sought to save not only her own life, but also her valuable jewels. With her hands full of rings, bracelets, necklaces, chains and other treasures she was overwhelmed by the rain of ashes from the volcano, and died. In the course of modern building operations outside the area of the buried city her petrified body was unearthed in a sea of jewels. She lost her life to save her treasure.

Nicky Gumbel

Nicky Gumbel, The Jesus Lifestyle, 2010, London: Alpha International, p.174

Worship I Can Only Imagine ~ MercyMe w London Symphony Orchestra