We, as Christians, have a faith and hope of heaven in our lives. All of us have to die some day. This is a reality and all of us know it. But, we also know, as Christians, we have a hope that we will go to heaven. Once we get that, in a real sense, we will be so peaceful, nothing can shatter us, nothing can worry us but we will be concerned about reaching out to others because we have a hope that nobody can take away from us.
A story goes like this. A man went to buy a pair of shoes in a big shoe shop. It was a big shop with different varieties of shoes and slippers and many people were buying them. It was just before Christmas so there were a lot of people in that shop buying gifts. After buying whatever he had wanted to buy, this man was standing in the queue to bill his purchases and pay for them. In front of him, in the queue, were two children - a boy of 10-11 yrs and his sister of 6-7yrs. The girl was carrying gold colored, shiny sandals and the boy was holding some money.
They looked very poor but he heard them talking about the sandals that they were going to buy excitedly. When they arrived at the cashier's table, the cashier checked the price of the sandals and said, 'Rs 135/- please'. The boy gave all the notes he had and the cashier, after counting them, said that the amount fell short by Rs20. So the boy said that, in that case, they would come back later but the girl was very disappointed and big tears appeared in her eyes. 'But Jesus would have loved these shoes', she said.
The boy told her not to cry and that they would surely come back and buy the shoes later. The man who was standing behind the children, was touched by the little girl's tears and he asked the cashier to pack the shoes as he would contribute the Rs20 that was needed. The little girl thanked the man and took the package. Filled with curiosity the man asked the little girl what she had meant when she said that Jesus would have liked the shoes.
The little boy answered for his sister and said, 'Our Mommy is very sick and Daddy said she may go heaven to be with Jesus before Christmas'. The little girl piped in, 'My Sunday school teacher said that in heaven even the streets are made of gold. So don't you think, Sir, that, if my Mommy has these golden shoes when she goes to heaven, Jesus will be happy?' The Sunday school teacher could give the hope of heaven to these children. They were so confident that their mother was going to go to heaven and everything was going to be great.
If we have that hope of heaven our perspective of life will be different.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints--
5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel
Paul is continually thanking God. Paul continually talks about and is inspiring the Colossians about the hope they have in heaven. Today we need to think about our lives. Are we worried people? How do we visualize death in our life? Do we have the Christian hope that we will meet our God in heaven?
1. Heaven is a place
It is not an imaginary thing. If you open the Bible, it starts by saying that God created the heavens and the earth. Earth we see and believe but God has created heaven also. Three scriptures confirm that heaven is a place and it is real.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Jesus talks to the crowd and says that he has 'come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me'. Jesus is clearly saying that he had come from heaven. It is a real place and he had left it to come to earth.
1 Peter 3:22
who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
This says that not only did Jesus come from heaven but he has also returned to heaven. Not only do the scriptures say that Jesus came from heaven and returned to heaven but they also say that Jesus will come back from heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4:16
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
The Bible says that we as Christians will rise to meet Jesus. Living in this world we believe in the things that God created. Creation is very, very big - not just the earth. There are billions of galaxies. We need to believe that somewhere in the map of God's creation there is a place called Heaven.
2. Heaven is promised to Christians
There is a very clear promise from God, from Jesus to the Christians that we are going to go to heaven. Often when we ask this question - if you were to die tomorrow would you be ready to face God? What happens if you were to die? We get different answers to this question but most common is, 'I hope I get to heaven'. Let us ask ourself this question, 'What happens if we die'. There may be a vague answer somewhere that you would go to heaven. But the Bible guarantees that if we live as Christians then we will go to heaven. That's a promise of God and we need to believe that promise.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
This scripture clearly says that whether dead or alive, if we have lived as Christians, Jesus will raise us up to live with him in heaven forever and forever. The scripture also clearly says that we must encourage each other with these words.
1 Peter 1:3-5
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,
5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
This is a scripture that is filled with promise - inheritance. We have been chosen to be sons and daughters of God and there is an inheritance stored in heaven for us. This is an eternal promise of God. This is a free inheritance and gift from God for us. Since God has made this promise to us, he will never break the promise.
3. Heaven is prepared only for Christians
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me.
2 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.
3 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.
Jesus is talking about mansions in heaven and the architect of these mansions is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus puts it beautifully when he says, 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me'. When are our hearts troubled? When there are problems in this world and Jesus is assuring us that if we trust in God and in him we don't need to be worried about anything because he himself is preparing a place for us in heaven and will come back to take us there with him. That place which Jesus is preparing for us is more beautiful than anything we can think of.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
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.
This is a glimpse of heaven. It says the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them. We can live with God in heaven. v4 says he will wipe away tears from their eyes and there will be no more crying or pain or death or mourning. v1 I like - there was no more sea there!! So we don't need to worry about the sea there. It is a place unlike anything we can imagine. In heaven there will not be even one problem. Every broken heart will be healed. Death will be forbidden. Sorrow will be unknown. Sorrow will be no more.
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Who will enter heaven? Nothing impure can enter it. This scripture says only those whose names are in the Lamb's book of life will enter heaven. We must understand that Jesus needs to write our names in the Book of Life if we are to enter heaven. We need not be perfect but we need to surrender our lives to Jesus, repent of our sinful lives and understand the plan of salvation. Then Jesus will write our names in his book. The Bible also cautions us to guard our salvation with fear and trembling.
If we are real Christians, true christens, we don't need to fear death because our hope is in heaven. Secondly heaven is a place, it is real. Finally heaven is for Christians only. Jesus is making it better and better to prepare for all of us to get there. This hope we need to give to others. We need to kindle that hope in our lives and we need to encourage other people to get that hope by becoming Christians.