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Newtown Bible Church

Heaven and the Glory of God (Selected Scriptures)

Intro / OpeningWhat a person believes about eternity affects the way they live here and now. And unfortunately, our lives reflect a rather dim and inadequate view of eternity; and, as one author notes, “our dim view of the glory to come means that we have far too little genuine knowledge of God here and now. Not having tasted much of heaven, all we can imagine is earth.”
  • Even worse are those who have such dim view of heaven so as to actually not want to go there until they have done certain things on earth (“if you have every thought this, or do think this: you need to repent!). 
  • One has noted the masterful slogan of Satan, that Christians are to beware of being: “Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.”  But this really isn’t true. The problem is that we don’t think of heaven enough, or think of it rightly anyway. 
  •  5 Truths about heaven that should fill our hearts with joyful anticipation and present obedience: (1) Heaven is a real place, where God uniquely manifest Himself; (2) Heaven is about the glory of God; (3) Heaven will be a uniting of God’s presence with the physical universe; (4) Heaven is a place of indescribable wonder; (5) Heaven should affect the way we live. 

 

(1) Heaven is a real place, where God uniquely manifest Himself

  • Heaven is not a concept, a metaphor for really nice feelings; it is not simply a state of mind, or consciousness but it is a real place where real people are, where real angels are, but most importantly it is where the risen Christ is in resurrected glory; where God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are. It is a place of the unique manifestation of the glory of the Triune God. 
  •  Terms: In Scripture the word “heaven” is the translation of essentially two terms - mymv in the Hebrew and oujrano/ß in the Greek. Each are used to refer to two basic realities. 
  • (1) The observable physical creation: Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” - here a simple summary describing the entirety of the physical universe. In 1:8 He is even more specific and designates the “expanse above the waters below.” 
    •  (14-23), describing days 4-5 of creation, God makes a distinction between the two parts of the expanse (firmament/heavens). Day 4 He places the stars, moons, all other celestial bodies in space. Day 5 He places the birds in the immediate atmosphere. 
  • Scripture refers to both of these as “heaven / heavens”
    • (a) Thus, speaking of the immediate atmosphere above us it is common to find expressions such as: “dew from heaven” (Dan. 4:23) “rain from heaven” (Gen. 8:2) “gates of heaven” (Gen. 28:17)  “windows of heaven” (2 Kings 7:2)” and so on. 
    • (b) Speaking of the outer space: Thus Isaiah 40:12, 22 “Marked off the heavens by the span … Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” - God’s display of His glory in the physical heavens is meant to be an encouragement (and rebuke) to His people; (Deut. 4:19; Isaiah 40:18-20; Rom. 1:18-25)
      • Jesus, in a similar way said in Matt. 5:18; 24:35 “Heaven and earth will pass away” but not the smallest stroke of the Law, or one of His words. 
  • So, the term “heaven / heavens” refers to all the created universe, which exist as a testimony to the power and glory of God.
  • (2) [Most commonly & importantly] it refers to the abode of God. 
  • (a) Where God dwells in a unique manifestation of His glory: Deut. 26:15 “Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel”; Is. 63:15 “Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation”; Is. 57:15 “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place” 
  • In the OT God’s presence / glory were strongly displayed in the Temple. 
    • Ex. 40:34 “God’s glory filled the tabernacle”; in 1 Kings 8:11 God’s glory fills Solomon’s temple; and in his prayer he ask that when people pray in the temple, or toward the temple, and that God would “hear in heaven.”
    • Jonah, from the belly of a great fish, and in deep distress prays: “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You into Your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7). Therefore, the temple could be spoken of as if it were synonymous with God’s presence. In a similar way, heaven was referred to as His “house” (Ps. 65:4) “tabernacle” (Heb. 8:2); “tent” (Ps. 61:4); “sanctuary” (Heb. 9:8); (cf. Ps. 132:13-14).
  • Even so, it was understood that God cannot be confined to a particular place. Is. 66:1-2 “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being” 1 Kings 8:27 King Solomon said: “Heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You”;  
    • These both speak of the fact that God is transcendent & infinite in His Being; God is infinite Spirit and there are no spatial aspects to His being. He is omnipresent: Everywhere simultaneously in the fullness of His Being (Makes your head hurt to think about). Time, space, matter are all aspect of creation; He operates within them but exists outside of them. 
  • So, God is never confined to a single place [either the temple or heaven]; however, the presence of God is specifically understood to dwell “in heaven,” therefore, the psalmist prays: Psalm 73:25 “Whom have I in heaven but You and besides you I desire nothing on earth”
  • During years following their exile (post-exilic) and during the intertestamental period an almost superstitious reverence for the use of God’s Name developed, so that it was thought too holy to even speak. Therefore, the designation “heaven” became common synonym for God. 
    • There are examples of this in the OT (Dan. 4:26), but it is most clearly seen in the NT: Lk. 15:21 the prodigal confesses that he “sinned against heaven” - i.e. God. Matthew’s repeated phrase “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God.” 
  • It is a place where God is: God speaks from heaven (Matt. 3:17; 17:5); We pray to “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). 
  • Furthermore, it is the place from where Christ came (“Bread from heaven”); when He returns it will be “from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:10); the Holy Spirit was sent from heaven. Paul went to the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2) and heard things a man is not permitted to speak about. 
  • So, though heaven is in another dimension, it is nonetheless and actual place; a part of this space / time creation. It is a place where God’s presence and glory uniquely dwell.  Jesus said: “I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). The most significant fact about heaven is God in His Triune glory is present in heaven. Acts 7:55-56 [TURN TO]

 

(2) Heaven is about the glory of God

  • Heaven is all about the glory of God. The centerpiece of heaven is not redeemed man, or even the angels, but the Triune glory of God,
  •  The single greatest reality (sine qua non) of heaven is that it is where God is; where Christ is! This is the longing of the Christian’s heart (John 14:3)
    •  It is very telling that in the NT the believer is not said to “Go to heaven,” but is repeatedly said to go to “be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23 “I desire to depart and be with Christ” - Maybe this is how we should start to speak about it)
    •  1 Cor. 13:12 reminds us that we will “for now we seen in a mirror dimly, but then face to face”; 1 John 3:2 “We will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (cf. *John 17:24)
    • Let’s put this is perspective: Moses, that righteous man, wanted to see God’s glory but could not without being destroyed; angels are pictured as hiding their faces and feet; Peter fell down like dead with the incarnate Lord in the boat; John fell down like a dead when he saw the risen Christ; yet in heaven, because we will no longer have bodies of sin, we will be able to forever enjoy and live in the full presence of the glory of God - that is awesome!.
    • Heaven is never pictured as people wandering around talking about how great all the redeemed people are, how wonderful they are that that God chose them; and incredible special all their abilities are; how wonderfully worthy they are; how they need to first love themselves. 
    • Rather, those there are continually delighting in, enjoying, worshiping, rejoicing in the glory of God alone! They are filled with a sense of amazement that they are there, that they who deserve hell are enjoying the glories of God’s heaven “praise of the glory of His grace.” Jude “standing in the His presence with great joy”!
  • One of the surest ways to expose a person’s heart is to see what their view of heaven is. It is impossible for an unbeliever to have this desire to be with Christ. They may think of heaven as receiving some earthly joy (like food, harps on clouds, etc.), or it may only be the reunion with a loved one; *but for the regenerate believer, the driving passion of heaven is the Person of Christ; it is beholding His beauty; gazing on His glory; *having fellowship and worship that is unhindered by sin. 
    • The glory of God is the purpose of creation (Ps. 19:1 “Heavens declare the glory of God”); the focus of redemption (Eph. 1 “praise of the glory of His grace”); the focus of heaven (Rev. 21 “the glory of God illumines it”); and it is the longing of the Christian heart to behold unhindered the glory of God and rejoice in Him forever. 

 

(3) Heaven will be a uniting of God’s presence with the physical universe 

  • It is highly suggestive & not by accident that both the observable physical universe and the dwelling place of God are referred to by the same word. The reason is that there was never meant to be a separation between the two. The separation only exists because of sin.  
  •  (a) Sin has corrupted not only the spiritual nature of man, but also the current physical creation 
    • Gen. 3:17 [When speaking to Adam] “Cursed is the ground because of you”; Is. 24:20 “the earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and it totters like a shack, for its transgression is heavy upon it, and it will fall, never to rise again” Rom. 8 “The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now”).
    • Even the physical creation, though still bearing testimony to the glory of God, is corrupted by sin. 
  • (b) Therefore, the current “heaven and earth,” will be destroyed. However, in His destruction God does not eliminate the physical universe, but He creates a “New heavens and earth” The problem is not with the physical world, but with sin. (Matt. 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”)!
  • *In this new heavens and earth there is a union, a joining of the presence of God with His creation.  
    • Rev. 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” 21:22 “I saw no temple in it [i.e. In the new Jerusalem] for the Lord God the Almighty and the lamb are its temple. And the city has not need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (**22:3-5 [TURN TO])
  • God’s intention in redemption includes the physical as well as the spiritual. The single greatest confirmation of this fact is the resurrection, of which Jesus Christ is the first fruits. 
    • Now Jesus had a real, literal, physical resurrection; and He ascended back to the Father in that real, literal, physical resurrected body and return in the same (Acts. 1:9). Therefore, He must be in a real place since He has a real body, and is really returning physically. 
    • When Jesus Christ took on flesh; He became forever united to His physical body. The resurrection should be an essential part of our longing for heaven. Paul shows how intensely he longed for a new body (2 Cor. 5:1f), not simply existence in some etherial state of consciousness!
  • Bodies described in 1 Cor. 15 as “imperishable [and] immortal.”; Phil. 3:21 “The Lord Jesus Christ … will transform the  body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” A body with no more sickness, or weakness, or pain, or disease; fit for eternal, joyful, existence in the presence of God.
  • Let me make a couple of other notes before moving on. (1)  Who will be there? Hebrews 12:22-24 [TURN TO]
    • (a) angels (cf. Rev. 5:11); all the redeemed OT & NT; but most importantly “Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant” 
    • (b) Very possible we will have immediate recognition of all who are there, as the Peter, James, and John did of Moses & Elijah on the Mt. of transfiguration (Matt. 17:4).  
  • (2) Heaven is eternal and therefore those there are never in danger of being cast out as Adam and Eve were in the Garden. There is no possibility of sin, which is unlike the Garden. 
  • (a) Satan, the demons, and all unbelievers are forever damned and under the judgement of God - all sinners are removed - and according to Rev. 21:27 will never be able to enter into it. (b) Unlike Adam who was without sin but able to sin, all those in heaven are in perfect spiritual union with Jesus Christ - as well as the Father and Holy Spirit (John 14:23)

(4) Heaven is a place of indescribable wonder: What is heaven like? 

  • (1) Physical Descriptions: 
  • New heavens and earth will be even more glorious than the first. 
    • No Sea There will be stars and planets “heavens and earth” (same language as Gen. 1:1). 
    • There will be trees and rivers and beauty and delights untold.
      • Food will very likely be there (Rev. 19:1; 22:1-2; etc.). Even here we can eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), why would not be able to do even more so in heaven? 
      • Animals will very likely be heaven (new animals, not the ones that died here) - all creation shouts His glory. Why would there not be animals? They were here before sin and brought glory to God. 
    • New Jerusalem: Unimaginable size and glory: 1500 miles high, long, and wide. It is made of all kinds of precious jewels and translucent gold so that the glory of God may be more fully displayed.  
  • (2) Spiritual Descriptions: Holiness and Worship.
  • God’s will is perfectly done (Matt. 6)
  • (A) A place of perfect love. 
    • (1) Perfect experience of the love of God: 
      • Rom. 5:8 “God demonstrated His love us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” Rom. 8:32 “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” - Eph. 1:3 “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons” - 1 John 4:1f “God is love”; Eph. 2:7 “He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”; Paul prayed in Eph. 3:18 “[that we] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” - heaven will be the perfect realization of that; even more than we can imagine. 
    • (2) Perfect love to God
      • Matt. 22:37 Greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” 
      • Every true believer has a love for God in Christ in the depth of their soul 1 Cor. 16 “If anyone does not love Christ, let him be anathema”. We have a longing and desire to express that love in pure praise and obedience, but we are so hindered by the reality of our sin (Rom. 7:24)
      • An overwhelming passion of the true believers heart for heaven is in the ability to worship Christ perfectly; worship with distraction of self, this world, a measure of unbelief. (**1 Pet. 1:7-10)
    • (3) Perfect love for one another
      • 2nd half of the Law: “Love your neighbor as yourself” - Eph. 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.”  
    • In heaven, every person there will love each other perfectly: as perfectly as Jesus love us. If there is one thing that is true of this existence it is that sin brings disharmony in our relationships with God and with others. 
    • This is removed in heaven, there is no more sin, there is only a perfect love to God, which is then reflected in a perfect love for others! Each person fully, perfectly, and sincerely giving of themselves and delighting in the joy of and in serving the other person (how different from our experience here)!
  • (B) A place of perfect joy. 
  • Rom. 14:16 “Kingdom of heaven is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”  Shorter Catechism famously states: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever” - God is glorified when we find our highest delight and joy in Him, and a believer’s greatest joy is the enjoyment of God; the enjoyment of His perfections, the joy of His nearness. Heaven is the unending experience of perfect joy and delight in God through Christ!
    • Think of this: in those times of the most joyous, satisfying, and intimate experiences of the presence of God; when lost in the pleasure of His presence and not wanting it to ever end, such is but a dim glimmer and foretaste of the eternal and unending delights of God’s people in heaven. When in His presence without hindrance, without sin, without any distracted thoughts, unbelief, lack of imagination, ignorance of its reality or anything will impede the full enjoyment and expression of that enjoyment in the Person, presence, and glory of God (Rev. 22). “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11). Heaven is the ongoing experience of the full presence of God. And in heaven we will likely have an even greater capacity to experience that joy!
    • Also, there will be the absence of all that causes pain and distress. The death of a loved one, the parting of friends, pain of sickness and disease, the sting of sin, the anxiety of personal failures - all will be done away in heaven. John puts it this way in Rev. 21:4 “He will wipe away very tear from their eyes; and there will not longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  

What will we do? 

  • (1) Worship. This is the consistent picture of heaven’s primary activity (if you do not like to worship God now, then you would be miserable in heaven): (**Rev. 4:11; 5:9-14). 
    • There is every indication that Jesus Christ still bears the wounds of His crucifixion. In Revelation He is identified and worship as the “Lamb who was slain” “who purchased men … with His blood” therefore, it would seem certain that throughout all eternity we will worship Jesus Christ for His purchasing us at the cross. We will always worship God for the display of His grace and love in salvation and so always knowing and loving God for His sacrifice. We will always remember we were “bought with a price.”
  • (2) It will be a place of singing and making melody in our hearts to God. 
    • In the OT God appointed singers and musicians as a part of worship. The Psalms were given for that very purpose. Rev. 14 reminds us that there will be singing of such a magnitude that it can only be described as being like the sound of thunder and the sound of many waters. 
    • Eph. 5:17-19 and Col. 3:16 (1 Cor. 14:15) being filled with the Holy Spirit shows itself in part by “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” In heaven there is perfect fullness of the Spirit at all times, therefore it is certain that heaven will be filled with an eternity of singing, music, and beautiful melodic sounds singing of the glory and wonder and majesty and pleasures of God. 
  • (2) Serve God (Rev. 22:3); (3) Rule with Christ (Matt. 19:2*). 
  • (4) Grow in knowledge  Col. 1:10, as with here we will continually be “increasing in our knowledge of God.” 
    • Since He is always infinite and we are always finite. (Ps. 145:3 “Your greatness is unsearchable”); there is reason to think that for eternity we will be ever increasing in the discovery of His perfections; and finding new reasons to delight in them. 

(5) Heaven should affect the way we live

  • Heaven is where Christ is, where God is, it is a place righteousness and glory, therefore the Christian should pursue those things that reflect where their true treasure is (*Matt. 6:20-21)
  • Heaven is our true home: “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20-21); Hebrews reminds us that we are “aliens and strangers” here on earth. So, we should live in a way that we reflect the character and nature of our true home. 
  • Heaven is consumed with knowing Christ (John 17:3), of continually delighting in an ever increasing knowledge of Him; this should be the constant preoccupation of us as Christians individually and as a church. 
  • Set our minds on the things above where Christ is;” and as we do this we: Purify ourselves as He is pure (1 John 3:1); Encourage one another in difficult times (1 Thess. 4); Gain heart of perseverance in suffering (2 Cor. 4); Increase our joy, love, obedience, humility, and worship here on earth. 
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