100516 Heavenward Bound


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A sermon on Heaven presented May 16, 2010, at Palm Desert Church of Christ, by Dale Wells

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  • Dr. George Morrison, a great Scottish preacher, once said, “The important thing is not what we live in, but what we look for.” None of the patriarchs entered into the full possession of the promises that God had made to Abraham. To the end of their days they were nomads, never living a settled life in a settled land. They were always moving on.
  • They lived forever as strangers – vivid words: Xenos (alien). In ANE, aliens regarded with hatred, suspicion & contempt. One wrote he was despised because a xenos.Another wrote: however poor home is, it is better to live at home than in a foreign country. When clubs had common meals, those who sat were divided into members & xenoi. Parepidemos (stranger)was a temporary resident. Patriarchs had no settled place to call home. A stigma attached to the foreigner. Letter of Aristeas: "It is a fine thing to live and to die in one's native land; a foreign land brings contempt to poor men and shame to rich men, for there is the lurking suspicion that they have been exiled for the evil they have done.”
  • In spite of everything these men never lost their vision and their hope. However long that hope might be in coming true, its light always shone in their eyes. However long the way might be, they never stopped tramping along it. Robert Louis Stevenson said: "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive." They never gave up the journey; they lived in hope & died in expectation. Their descendants, when they were in the desert, often wished to go back to the fleshpots of Egypt. But the patriarchs never wanted to turn back. "The world is a bridge. The wise man will pass over it but will not build his house upon it." The Christian regards himself as the pilgrim of eternity.
  • God's call meant that he had to leave home and family and business; yet he went. If faith can see every step of the way, it is not really faith. Abraham's faith was the faith that was looking beyond this world. Even when his body was wandering in Palestine, Abraham’s soul was at home with God. Even in earth's desert places he will send us the vision and with it the toil and trouble of the way become worthwhile.
  • The fear of death has always haunted men. Wherein lies the fear of death? Partly it comes from fear of the unknown. But still more it comes from the sense of sin & fear of judgment. So long as a man sees God only as judge, he must ever be in the position of a criminal before the bar with no hope of acquittal. But Jesus showed us that God is not law, but love, that the center of God's being is not law but grace, that we go out, not to a judge, but to a Father who awaits his children coming home. Because of that Jesus gave us the victory over death, its fear banished in the wonder of God's love.
  • In a very short time life for the disciples was going to fall in. Their world was going to collapse in chaos around them. At such a time there was only one thing to do--stubbornly to hold on to trust in God. Jesus adds something to that. He says not only: “Trust in God." He says also: “Trust in me.“ Jesus is the proof that God is willing to give us everything he has to give. Jesus went on to say: "There are many rooms in my Father's house." By his Father's house he meant heaven. But what did he mean when he said there were many rooms (monai) in heaven? In heaven there is room for all. An earthly house becomes overcrowded; an earthly inn must sometimes turn away the weary traveler because its accommodation is exhausted. It is not so with our Father's house, for heaven is as wide as the heart of God and there is room for all. Jesus is saying to his friends: "Don't be afraid. Men may shut their doors upon you. But in heaven you will never be shut out."
  • Jewish weddings in that day were quite unlike weddings in the Western world. First, there was an engagement, usually made by the parents when the prospective bride and groom were quite young. When the public ceremony was to be enacted, the groom would go to the bride’s house and claim her for himself. He would take her to his home for the wedding supper, and all the guests would join the happy couple. This feast could last as long as a week.Today, the church is “engaged” to Jesus Christ; and we love Him even though we have not seen Him (1Pe_1:8). One day, He will return and take His bride to heaven (Joh_14:1-6; 1Th_4:13-18), which is the site of the feast described here. It’s our wedding to Christ!
  • Here Jesus uses a famous and vivid Jewish picture. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came there would be a great banquet at which all Jews would sit down to feast. The Jews looked forward with all their hearts to this Messianic banquet; but it never for a moment crossed their minds that any Gentile would ever sit down at it. By that time the Gentiles would have been destroyed. "The nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall the utterly laid waste" (Isa 60:12). Yet here is Jesus saying that many shall come from the east and from the west, and sit down at table at that banquet.
  • The Thessalonians were wondering why many of their fellow believers had died and what would happen to them when Christ returned. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that death is not the end of the story. The great hope for all believers is in the Resurrection. Because Jesus Christ came back to life, so will all believers, including those who have already died. Therefore, we need not despair when loved ones die or world events take a tragic turn. God will turn tragedy to triumph, poverty to riches, pain to glory, and defeat to victory. All believers throughout history will stand reunited in God's very presence, safe and secure. As Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with the promise of the Resurrection, so we should reassure each other with this great hope.
  • If there is nothing to come, other than extinction, certain attitudes become inevitable. They are seen in ancient epitaphs.1. A man may well decide to just enjoy life’s pleasures. So we come on an epitaph like this: "I was nothing: I am nothing. So you who are still alive, eat, drink, and be merry." 2. A man may well be utterly indifferent. Nothing matters much if the end of everything is extinction. So we come on such an epitaph as this: "Once I had no existence; now I have none. I am not aware of it. It does not concern me." 3. A man may feel adrift. Man ceases to be in any sense a pilgrim if there is nowhere to go. Christians are convinced that life is going somewhere--and without that conviction there is nothing to live for.
  • This promise occurs again & again from Jesus.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied(Matt 5:6).I am the bread of life; he who comes …shall not hunger; and he who … shall never thirst (Jn 6:35). Whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst; the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (Jn 4:14). If any thirsts, let him come to me and drink (Jn 7:37). Many early Christians were slaves. They knew what it was to be hungry & thirsty; they knew what it was for the sun to blaze down upon them as they toiled. Heaven would be a place where hunger was satisfied, thirst quenched, & the sun no longer tortured them. They shall not hunger or thirst; neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them; for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will lead them (Isa 49:10).
  • 1. Power. Paul called Jesus, "Christ the power of God" (1Cor 1:24). He is able to plan & achieve.2. Wealth. Paul speaks of “unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8). He can back his promises.3. Wisdom. Paul calls Christ "the wisdom of God" (1Cor 1:24). He knows the solution to the problems of life. 4. Strength. Christ can disarm the powers of evil and overthrow Satan (Lk 11:22). There is no situation with which he cannot cope. 5. Honor. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord (Php 2:11). 6. Glory. "We beheld his glory, from glory as of the only Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Glory belongs to God alone. To say that Jesus possesses the glory is to say that he is divine. 7. Praise. The inevitable climax of it all. Praise is the one gift that we who have nothing can give to him who possesses all.
  • The inhabitants of heaven ascribing to God:Praise. As a great saint put it: "Thou hast made us and we are thine; thou hast redeemed us and we are doubly thine." Glory. God is love but that love must never be cheaply sentimentalized; we must never forget the majesty of God. Wisdom. God is the source of all truth, the giver of all knowledge. Thanks. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Ps 103:2). Honor. God is to be worshiped. We should offer ourselves and all we have to him. Power. God's power never grows less and the wonder is that it is used in love for men. God works his purposes out throughout the ages and in the end his kingdom will come. Strength. The problem of life is to find strength for its tasks, its responsibilities, its demands. The Christian can say: "I will go in the strength of the Lord."
  • The final shout is the praise of the host of the redeemed. John goes out of his way to heap up similes to describe its sound. It was, as H. B. Swete puts it, like "the din of a vast concourse, the roar of a cataract, the roll of thunder." Once again John finds his inspiration in the words of Scripture. In his mind are two things. First, he is remembering Ps 97:1: "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice." Second, he says: "Let us rejoice and be glad." There is only one other place in the New Testament where these two verbs (chairein and agallian) come together--in Jesus Christ's promise to the persecuted: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matt 5:12). It is as if the multitude of the redeemed sent up their shout of praise because the promise of Christ to his persecuted ones had come abundantly true.
  • God is to make his dwelling-place with men. The word used for dwelling-place is skene, literally a tent; but in religious use it had long since lost any idea of an impermanent residence. There are two main ideas here. 1. Skene is the word used for the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was a tent, the skene par excellence. Here in this world and amidst the things of time our realization of the presence of God is spasmodic; but in heaven we will be permanently aware of that presence. 2. Shekinah, the glory of God, is the other. SKENE--SHECHINAH (compare the Hebrew verb, shakan, to dwell)-. Hebrews could not hear the one without thinking of the other. As a result, to say that the skene of God is to be with men immediately brought the thought that the shechinah of God is to be with men. In the ancient times the shechinah took the form of a luminous cloud which came and went. In the new age the glory of God is not to be a transitory thing, but something which abides permanently with the people of God.
  • God's servants shall see his face. The promise will come true that the pure in heart will see God (Matt 5:8). We are promised a privilege that was denied even to Moses to whom God's word was: "You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live" (Exo 33:20, 23). It is in Christ alone that men can see God. The sight of God produces two things. It produces the perfect worship; where God is always seen, all life becomes an act of worship. It produces the perfect consecration; the inhabitants of the city will have the mark of God upon their foreheads, showing that they belong absolutely to him. John returns to his vision that in the city of God there can never be any darkness nor need of any other light, for the presence of God is there. The vision ends with the promise that the people of God will reign for ever and ever. In perfect submission to him they will find perfect freedom and the only true royalty.
  • 100516 Heavenward Bound

    1. 1. Heavenward Bound<br />And Why I Can’t Wait To Get There<br />
    2. 2. Hebrews 11:13-16<br />13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.<br />
    3. 3. Hebrews 11:13-16<br />14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.<br />
    4. 4. Hebrews 11:13-16<br />16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.<br />
    5. 5. Hebrews 11:8-10<br />8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.<br />
    6. 6. Hebrews 11:8-10<br />9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. <br />
    7. 7. Hebrews 11:8-10<br />10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.<br />
    8. 8. A New Body<br />
    9. 9. A New Body<br />1 Corinthians 15:50-54<br />I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—<br />
    10. 10. A New Body<br />1 Corinthians 15:50-54<br />52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.<br />
    11. 11. A New Body<br />1 Corinthians 15:50-54<br />54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."<br />
    12. 12. A New Body<br />1 John 3:2<br />Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.<br />
    13. 13. A New Home<br />
    14. 14. A New Home<br />John 14:1-3<br />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.<br />
    15. 15. A New Home<br />John 14:1-3<br />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.<br />
    16. 16. A Great Feast<br />
    17. 17. A Great Feast<br />Revelation 19:9<br />Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."<br />
    18. 18. A Great Feast<br />Matthew 8:11<br />I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.<br />
    19. 19. A Happy Reunion<br />
    20. 20. A Happy Reunion<br />1 Thessalonians 4:13-18<br />13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.<br />
    21. 21. A Happy Reunion<br />1 Thessalonians 4:13-18<br />14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. <br />
    22. 22. A Happy Reunion<br />1 Thessalonians 4:13-18<br />15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. <br />
    23. 23. A Happy Reunion<br />1 Thessalonians 4:13-18<br />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. <br />
    24. 24. A Happy Reunion<br />1 Thessalonians 4:13-18<br />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.<br />
    25. 25. A Happy Reunion<br />1 Thessalonians 4:13-18<br />18Therefore encourage each other with these words.<br />
    26. 26. A Perfect World<br />
    27. 27. A Perfect World<br />2 Peter 3:10-13<br />10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. <br />
    28. 28. A Perfect World<br />2 Peter 3:10-13<br />11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. <br />
    29. 29. A Perfect World<br />2 Peter 3:10-13<br />That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.<br />
    30. 30. A Perfect World<br />Revelation 7:16-17<br />16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; <br />
    31. 31. A Perfect World<br />Revelation 7:16-17<br />he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."<br />
    32. 32. Awesome Worship<br />
    33. 33. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 5:11-14<br />11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. <br />
    34. 34. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 5:11-14<br />12 In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”<br />
    35. 35. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 5:11-14<br />13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”<br />
    36. 36. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 5:11-14<br />14 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.<br />
    37. 37. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 7:9-12<br />9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. <br />
    38. 38. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 7:9-12<br />They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”<br />
    39. 39. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 7:9-12<br />11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, <br />
    40. 40. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 7:9-12<br />12 saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"<br />
    41. 41. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 19:5-7<br />5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!”<br />
    42. 42. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 19:5-7<br />6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. <br />
    43. 43. Awesome Worship<br />Revelation 19:5-7<br />7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.<br />
    44. 44. Long-Awaited Meeting<br />
    45. 45. Long-Awaited Meeting<br />Revelation 21:1-3<br />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. <br />
    46. 46. Long-Awaited Meeting<br />Revelation 21:1-3<br />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.<br />
    47. 47. Long-Awaited Meeting<br />Revelation 21:1-3<br />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.<br />
    48. 48. Long-Awaited Meeting<br />Revelation 22:3-4<br />3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.<br />
    49. 49. I’m Headed For Heaven<br />Are YOU Going Too?!<br />