The Glory of Heaven - by. Dr. C. Matthew McMahonThe Tract Series
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One of the most mysterious truths of the Christian faith is the truth that there is a real heaven. It is a real place, where real people, and real angels, and real glory and the real and living God reside in eternity. The Bible both speaks about heaven, and also shields our eyes from it so that we cannot see it as clearly as we would like; just like the incident with Christian and Hopeful in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress. They were on the Delectable Mountains with the Shepherds and were invited to look at the Celestial City. The Shepherds gave them a looking glass to peer through, and as they looked through it with great eagerness it seemed somewhat fuzzy and unclear. They were only seeing through a dim mirror (1 Cor. 13:12). But what shall we, as Christians today, think about the glory of heaven? What does the Bible say about it?
It is important at the outset to make it plain and clear that heaven is not a place everyone goes when they die. Heaven is reserved for those who are the redeemed children of Jesus Christ. And people only become redeemed children when they receive the transforming power of Christ and His cross into their lives. Not everyone gets to heaven. Jesus spoke emphatically on Hell, and that it was a real place too (Mark 9:35ff); it is the abode of all the wicked who will be eternally tormented for their sin and rebellion against God (Gal. 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Rev. 22:15). Heaven is a place where the faithful servants of God, who have been born again from above by the Spirit, enter into their joy for all eternity (Matthew 25:34, 46).
Probably the most frequently asked question about heaven is this: “What will heaven be like?” The first and most important aspect of heaven is that Jesus Christ is there. Just as Hebrews 8:1 states, “Now this is the main point we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens…” Jesus is in heaven. We long to be with Him. The presence of Jesus is what makes heaven heaven. We long to see Him as He really is; in all His wonderful power and glory. In theology, we call this the Beatific Vision. One day we shall see God Face to Face. We will see the beautiful vision of His face without any hindrance. His glory fills the heavens, and that is what we long to see (Isa. 63:15). It is the same thing Moses wanted when he was on Mount Sinai, “Lord, show me your glory (Exodus 33:18).” In the New Testament, Philip wanted to see the glory of God when he said to Christ, “Show us the Father and that will be enough (John 14:8).” Philip wanted to see the glory of God’s face. And this is the promise of Scripture, that in heaven, we will see God “face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).” That is the blessed promise. This was promised to us all the way back in Numbers 6:24-26, where the High Priest said, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” We long for His face and countenance to be placed upon us for all eternity. And it is a lofty concept to think this: that when we see the face of God and His glory, we will only see it once. We only see it once because the first time we look upon it and see Him as He is, we will continually see Him forever for He is everywhere—this is heaven. There will be no place in heaven where the face of God and His glory will not be in full openness. When we see Him for the first time, we will go on seeing Him for the first time all through eternity-we only get one look which lasts forever (Isa. 6:1ff). Praise God that we cannot escape His beautiful face! Heaven has, as its focus, the glory and honor of Christ.
Heaven is called many things in the Bible; the Kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5), The Father’s House (John 14:2), A Heavenly Country (Heb. 11:16), A Rest (Hebrews 4:9; Rev. 14:13), Paradise (2 Cor. 12:2, 4), Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:22), and The Holy Hill (Psalm 24:3). There are more, but I think the point is made; heaven is the place of eternal bliss and rest in the presence of God. It is the ultimate Sabbath Day where we will finally put down all our earthly toil, and be in service to God forever. We will once and for all put down our work and pick up His holy work, and bear much fruit (Rev. 22:3).
Some may ask, “Where is heaven?” Many times we look up into the stars to see “heaven.” It is important to distinguish between the three kinds of heaven that the Bible talks about. There is the heaven right above us where the birds fly (Isa. 42:5) , then the heaven which the sun, moon and stars hang (Psalm 8:3), and then finally, the throne room of God, which is the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2ff). When we ask “where is the throne room of God?,” we are referring to heaven number 3. We cannot look “up” to the throne room of God. We cannot look past the sun, into other galaxies and then into heaven somewhere in outer space. We could travel all the way to the edge of the universe and still not find it. Heaven is in another dimension. For example, Ezekiel 1:1 states, “As I was among the captives by the river Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel was standing on earth and saw heaven. He saw visions of God. The earthly heavens were removed for a moment where he was, and he saw into heaven. The same thing happened to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), Micaiah (2 Chronicles 18:18) and Stephen (Acts 7:56). They saw heaven, but they saw it in another dimension. So heaven is not up in the sky, but is all around us in another dimension.
Some people have asked, “What will happen to us when we get there? Will we float around on clouds all day long?” First, God will change us. Just as a fish needs water to live, we will need to be fitted just right to exist in heaven. 1 Cor. 15:51 says, “…we shall be changed…” We will be changed to be able to exist in heaven. Our mortal bodies cannot exist there. These corruptible, cursed bodies must be remade and renewed. So God will renew us and we will be changed. We will have bodies just like Jesus Christ; miraculous bodies which can do things that these bodies can’t. They will be special resurrection bodies which will be perfect for dwelling in heaven. These new bodies will not experience anything that relates to the Fall and curse of Genesis 3. Psalm 16:11 says, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” We will experience total bliss, and eternal joy in the presence of Christ. God shall wipe away all our tears and there shall be no more death; no sorrow, no crying, no pain, no hunger, and no thirsting, for the former things will have passed away. And God will make all things new for us (Revelation 7:15; 21:4ff). We will not even be able to sin! God will have so changed us and made us perfect, that the very essence of sin will be thrown into the deepest hell never to torment us again. Though we struggle with sin now, we will be made unable to sin when we reach heaven. Heaven will be eternal joy because sin will be gone. We shall sing, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…(Revelation 5:9) We will have been truly renewed without sin-redeemed by the Lamb! Our service in heaven is the worship, glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Golfers will not go to golfer heaven. Fishermen will not go t fisherman heaven. Heaven is not our fantasies come to life. It is the Life of God in the soul of man empowering him for the service of Christ which will be the aim of heaven’s bliss.
Some people say, “But if I am in heaven, and my family is in hell, I will be sorrowful. I will not be able to enjoy heaven.” The reason people say this is because we are still in these mortal bodies which have the capacity to cry and feel sorrow. We think about how bad hell will be and then cannot possibly think we will enjoy heaven knowing they are burning in hell forever. But, when we are in heaven we will not even think those thoughts. We will be transformed in such a way as to be perfectly holy before God. We will be just and righteous, as Jesus is just and righteous. We will say that all those people who are in hell deserve to be there because they have acted wickedly against our Lord. And we will be so righteous and just that God Himself, because of His trust in our just judgments, will appoint us to judge wicked angels and sentence them accordingly. Paul says to us in 1 Cor. 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” So those thoughts of sorrow will be nonexistent. We will be righteous as He is righteous and will say “Sending them to hell is the right thing to do.” And though it may be hard to understand, the redeemed in heaven will not love the wicked in hell at all. They will love what Christ loves—the holiness of God. And everything that is not holy, will not be loved. Those in hell will not be loved. Our thoughts will only be filled with the joy resounding in holiness.
Many ask, “What will heaven look like?” The realm in which we will live is called the “New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21:1).” The New Earth will have no sea, and the New Jerusalem will be the city in which we dwell. In Revelation John the apostle saw in a vision that the city will descend from heaven and be settled on the new heaven and earth which God will reconstruct. The city is described in cryptic language. It is said to be 1500 miles long, wide and tall. The idea expressed is that it will be a perfect city. There will be no sun shining in the city because God lives with us and His glory fills all the city giving it light. The walls of the city are made form what looked like jasper, and the city was made from what seemed to be pure gold. The streets were gold and all the foundations of the city were made with precious jewels. There are twelve gates that are never shut, for there is no night there, which are the entrances to the city. Each gate is said to be made of one giant pearl. There is a river of life, pure and undefiled proceeding out of the throne of God from the center of the city out to the entire city. There is a river and trees of life lining it. There is a sea of glass coming forth from the throne of God. And forever and ever in holy service before His throne we will serve Him (Rev. 21:1-27; 22:1-5). All of these visionary images are imperfect representations of heaven. They are visionary ideas put in humanistic terms so we may grasp something of the wonder of God. But all the wonder of heaven cannot compare to spending eternity with God. We will have all of eternity to experience God and learn more about him. Heaven is the ultimate school, the eternal classroom, were we will come to experience and know Christ forever. We are finite beings, and when we get to heaven we will still be finite beings. We could never comprehend the infinite God. But we have an eternity in heaven to try. This is heaven: knowing God, in the very midst of God, for the glory of God.
How do we enter heaven? It is not as simple as walking up to the pearly gates and getting a pass from St. Peter. That fictitious nonsense is reserved for untheological and blasphemous jokes. The only way anyone may enter into heaven is by the grace of God. Jesus says, “Unless a man is born again…he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (John 3:5). People must repent of their sin, turn to Christ by faith, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord. And when those people who are saved die, Jesus will say, “Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the earth.” (Matthew 25:34).
Unless you exemplify heaven now, unless Christ is seen in you in this life, unless heaven is seen in you now, you will never see heaven then.