Monday, April 26, 2021

Heaven on Earth?

A utopia is an imagined place on earth where everything is perfect. A place untouched by the reality of troubles. In the past, Monasteries were built, thinking isolation would create a greater environment where a person could find God more readily. That if they could get away from what takes them down, life would be better, more heaven-like.

Interesting that the original meaning of the word utopia is: no place or nowhere. It was a pun to say no place like this exists. And yet, man has always sought his Shangri-La.

Last week I quoted a Reformed Jewish Rabbi in his thoughts about heaven. He said: “The ultimate goal is that we will recreate paradise. We’re not in the business of getting to heaven. We’re in the business of bringing heaven down to earth. The Garden of Eden here in this world, that will be heaven on earth.”

Which raises the question: was that really God’s intention in His plan of redemption? An artificial world that doesn’t exist? To redeem people so they can better enjoy their stay on earth? Was God’s focus on the comfort and pleasure of His children in a temporary setting by making earth a better place to live or, as Jesus said, John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." 

It would seem Jesus had the greater insight. Until this world is finally transformed when God creates the New Heaven and New Earth, there will be tribulation. So, what would be the more important message? For us to learn how we can be at peace while living within tribulation or to hope for a trouble-free life where peace is only possible when there is no tribulation? Which is consistent with the total message of the Gospel? Which reflects best on the goodness of God?

The problem is: we live in a fallen world. As long as that problem remains, we will have tribulation: sickness, accidents, problems, trials, tests and temptations. None of that is going away. So, since we have a lifetime of 70, 80 or 90 years to consider, how do we live in a tribulation-based world?

Heb 13:9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace,

You’ll hear often in the Bible not to listen to false teaching, teaching that has departed from truth and is filled with man’s desire of what he wants to be true. It’s not just the Reformed Jewish Rabbi who wants Utopia. You’ll hear it every day by Christian Media. Preachers preaching a false message to people who want their tribulations to go away.

Tribulations are not going away. That’s why Jesus promised to give us what we need in our tribulations.

Don’t get caught up in the strange teaching of constant happiness, prosperity and plenty. The message that God wants you happy, healthy and prosperous isn’t consistent with Jesus’ message of tribulation. Teaching everyone has the right to be healed is a false hope for those God is using their illness to take them home. Thinking we must have no troubles will cause us to doubt God’s sufficiency in our lives. We are hoping to be supported by something that will not support us.

The number one lesson for new steel workers on high rise buildings is not to lean into the wind. You think it’s supporting you, but when it stops, you’re coming down. It’s putting faith in something temporary.

That’s like measuring our lives by our circumstances. Good circumstances don’t necessarily mean the favor of God, just like bad circumstances don’t mean He has withdrawn His favor. Both will change. We need a constant. That’s where grace comes in.

Grace – the work of God in us, not because of anything we do or deserve. It is His goodness on our behalf. God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Him accomplishing in us what we are incapable of doing on our own.

The writer said we were to be strengthened by grace. How are we strengthened by Grace? By needing it. We look at our tribulations and cry out to God for help, and the strengthening comes.

1Pet 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 

We rejoice with exultation at the revelation of His glory as we experience fiery ordeals. The Revelation of the Glory of God is the moment when we are able to say: God is here. This is a God moment. Like when the Temple was filled with the glory of God, the presence of God was so thick the priests couldn’t operate. They just had to stand back and be amazed. Can we see the glory of God even in tribulation? Can we expect God’s grace to show up in the midst of fiery ordeals? That’s what Peter said.

Because we remain in this tribulation-based, fallen world, God promises to manifest His glory in our lives. We’ll experience the peace that passes our understanding. We’ll see His Grace sufficient for all we need. Why didn’t God remove Paul’s thorn? Needing the Lord kept Paul actively connected to Him.

The Lord knew what would happen to the people when they felt the struggle was over.

Deut 6:10-12 Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

Believe it or not, willingness to honor the Lord is more of a struggle in good times than in bad times. Our tendency is to forget the goodness of God soon after we experience the goodness of God. That was God’s concern. Once the struggle was over, His people would forget how much they needed Him.

One day Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one came back to thank Him. Why not the other nine? They got what they wanted and moved on.

Can you imagine what would happen if heaven on earth was His goal? If He promised us a trouble-free live? It wouldn’t take long before His own people would lose their need and then their desire for Him altogether. If that happened, history proves they would then seek out different ways to satisfy their own desires without Him.

That’s the recurring theme in the Book of Judges: Judges 2:11-19 Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers. When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. 

God used tribulation to accomplish a greater work. James 1:2-3 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 

There are some things God cannot work out in our lives without trials.

Mule and the 2x4. He’s great to obey. You just have to get his attention first.

The way God designed the earth to work is with a dynamic tension between the upward call and the downward bent. You hear it in the comparisons: light/darkness, life/death, good/evil, righteous/unrighteous. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

On earth there is a continuous, downward tug to life. Even in the People of God. A bent toward submitting to our lower desires rather than surrendering to the call of God for an uplifted life. That bent is working with our self-serving desires against God’s greater good.

Hos 11:7 So My people are bent on turning from Me. Though they call them to the One on high, none at all exalts Him. 

Ps 78:57  But they turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers; They turned aside like a treacherous bow. 

Hos 7:16  They turn, but not upward, They are like a deceitful bow;

Treacherous and deceitful bows are both the same: a bow bent or twisted cannot be trusted. It will not shoot straight. Using it will cause you to miss the target every time. It’s the wording behind Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

It is the picture of an archer missing a target. What causes him to miss? He’s using a bow that won’t shoot straight. Sin has bent or twisted his bow. No matter how often he shoots, he can never hit the target.

Paul is saying the target is the intention of God. Because of sin, we’ll miss it every time. Man by his own strength, intellect or will cannot bring about the glory of God, the presence of God to produce His work in us.

There is a recurrent word in Scripture – should. It’s usually combined with the word do or go or be. It carries an expected action. We should do something or should go somewhere or we should be someone who reflects something. The implication is: the should is the right thing to do. But the should is always in competition with the bent.

The should eyes the target but the bent because of the tug of worldliness pulls the arrow away from it. So, unless there is an overwhelming change to the power of worldliness, we will continue to miss. But, we can’t blame the bow as much as we have to blame ourselves for trusting in something bent toward missing.

Gravity existed before Newton made his discovery with the apple. Once he gave the force a name, he understood things he had never imagined before. Suddenly aspects of life made sense.

Learning we have a bent toward worldliness, is an important discovery. We now know why we do certain things, act a certain way and enjoy inappropriate pleasures, even as Christians. Something within us leans in the direction of a fallen world. It is our inner desire to seek fulfillment from a source that cannot supply us with what we need.

A tribe in South America was discovered that had great deficiencies in their health. Their primary diet came from a particular plant that grew well in the jungle yet it had no nutritional value to them. They were full and temporarily satisfied, but not nourished and suffered because of it.

Jesus was clear. The world cannot satisfy the longing in the heart for peace. In the world you can expect tribulation, only He could promise peace. Within God’s plan, He chose that instead of removing the tribulation, He would provide us the means to be at peace within the tribulation.

Heb 12:1 Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 

Encumbrance – something bulging or bending from a load weighing us down.

Entangle – being interfered with in a race, something or someone is getting in our way.

These are the effects of the fallen world and our bent toward it. Unless we lay aside what’s in the way, by denying the bent the right to dictate our response to our fallen desires, it will interfere with how we live and enjoy our lives.

That’s what Jesus knew would happen.

So, if living out our Christian life can be encumbered or entangled by an inner bent toward worldly desires getting in our way, and the world has no intention of getting out of our way and leaving us alone, how can we ever expect the paradise of God to be on earth?

Pull back the curtain and look at what’s really behind this. The earth is the domain of the prince of the power of the air. His mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Until he is removed at the end of time, tribulation will continue.

Which is the purpose of Jesus’ prayer: John 17:15-16 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil [within the world]. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Scripture never teaches that God intends to make the world a Utopia. But it does promise we can live in the world with joy and peace. The promises, provisions and purposes of God far exceed what a fallen world can take away. Therefore, God must have more in mind than heaven on earth.

Here it is: Rom 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

If we’re looking for Utopia – Heaven on earth – we’ll miss the greater privilege of what God has promised.

This world isn’t designed for our happiness, pleasure or well-being. We cannot expect it to satisfy all our needs. It’s full of tribulation, which is designed to show us Jesus is our only answer for life to have meaning and purpose. In the world we will experience tribulation but in Him we can have peace. We will find happiness, pleasure and well-being in our lives, but never as an end in themselves. They will show up as we desire to honor the Lord who reigns in, over and through our lives.


  1. Heaven on earth is a pitiful limitation to the scope of God’s ultimate plan through redemption.
  2. It is a self-centered desire for pleasure instead of peace.
  3. Because Jesus knew what life would be like, the provisions for that life were included in our salvation.
  4. Scripture guarantees we have everything we need for whatever we face.
  5. That beats Heaven on earth any day.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Heaven and Hell

Little girl drawing a picture of God.

When we try to describe the indescribable, or explain the unexplainable, or try to draw a picture of something we’ve never seen before, we always come up short. When there is no explanation, we try to imagine what we believe to be true. We do this when the Bible leaves out details we think we need to know. Usually, what we come up with is less than what’s real. And, typically, our beliefs form around what we want to be or don’t want to be true. We’ll even change our beliefs when a subject is too controversial, too confusing or painful or distasteful. In other words, we will adjust our beliefs to what we want to be true.

I knew a preacher who was once harsh against divorce and spoke of it as the unpardonable sin, then changed his message when his daughter got divorced. A teacher who opposed homosexuality and condemned anyone who practiced it to hell, changed her teaching when her son announced he was gay. And someone who believed in hell and then had a loved one die who had rejected the Lord throughout his life, suddenly is no longer sure there is a hell. They changed the truth of the Bible when it challenged them personally. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Bible remains true whether we believe it or not.

In the earliest discovery of the realms of existence, there were the heavens and the earth. It’s how God introduced Himself to us, as creator of all that is. Then as we move along in Scripture, He reveals a greater interest in our lives than mere existence. That He has placed within us both spiritual and physical aspects and the sense of an eternal life, which makes the life of a human more significant than the life of an animal. That life on earth was not all that a person would experience. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes: God placed eternity in their hearts. A longing for a meaningful life now and a purpose-filled afterlife to follow.

The thought of an afterlife drew the attention of men toward the heavens.

Phil 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Paul put into words what God placed in the heart of man – the upward call. The heavenly call. Eternity in our hearts.

That made men look up. They saw the birds flying at day and the clouds moving across the sky. Then at night they saw the stars. And since they didn’t see God when they looked up, they realized His home must be even higher. So, they imagined different levels to the heavens.

The first level was the atmosphere where the birds fly and clouds form and rain falls. The second was the home of the stars and moon and sun – the outer heavens. And finally, the place from where God ruled and reigned was the third Heaven.

But one problem, they used one single word to describe all of this.

The collective Hebrew word for Heaven is Shamayim: the heavens. This didn’t distinguish which level of the heavens they were talking about so you needed context to understand.

David wrote:

Ps 8:1 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 8 The birds of the heavens

Ps 57:11 Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth. 

Ps 103:19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. 

It’s the same word for each level of the heavens, but you can see the difference.

Along with this expanded understanding of the heavens, there was also a growing curiosity about the earth. Erets was the word for the earth. This described what existed apart from the heavens: the heavens and the earth. And as the heavens had levels defining it, so must the earth. There was the place of the living and the place of the dead. Those who were on the earth and those under the earth.

Because little was understood about death, they used a single word at first to refer to the place of the dead: Sheol. When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek in ancient Alexandria around 200 BC, the word Hades was substituted for Sheol. Hades was the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Sheol. You’ll find Hades mentioned in Greek mythology as the god of the underworld. From that myth, the place of the dead took on the same name: Hades. So, both Hades and Sheol described the same thing: the collective place of the dead.

Now the big difference between Greek mythology and Biblical truth is, there is only One God who is Lord over all. For the Greeks, there were multiple gods with various assignments to manage the world. Biblical truth reveals that there is only one God who reigns over all the realms of both life and death and everything that exists in either realm serves God’s purposes.

Ps 139:7-8 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. 

But if there was only one place for all the dead to go and everyone went to the same place after death and experienced the same afterlife, man realized that wasn’t fair.

Ecc 8:10-12 So then, I have seen the wicked buried, those who used to go in and out from the holy place, and they are soon forgotten in the city where they did thus. This too is futility. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil. Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God. 

So, in trying to understand justice, especially with regard to ungodly people who lived despicable lives on earth, men hoped there was some accountability for those people when they died. When they didn’t see justice served in life, they anticipated it being served in death.

Ps 73:1-17 God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot. They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth. Therefore his people return to this place, and waters of abundance are drunk by them. They say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?" Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning. If I had said, "I will speak thus," behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. 

David saw more in death than simply a place to disappear to. He understood that somehow God would implement judgment for how people lived on earth and what they deserved in eternity. That judgment would need to be carried out in a different place than where God might extend blessing. David saw a division within the category of death, one place for reward, another for retribution.

In Hebrew thought, both the godly and ungodly go to Sheol in this broad sense of the term, but then, God’s judgment required separation, a place for condemnation and a place of peace. Not everyone would rest in peace. Some deserved consequences for the evil they demonstrated while alive.

Sheol, then, was divided into two categories. There was Gehenna as the place of torment for evil where God's anger burned against unbelievers, represented by an ever-present fire, and Gan Eden, the paradise of God.

In OT terms, we would consider Gan Eden a type of Heaven for those who have lived according to God's law, reminiscent of a return to the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned, while Gehenna developed as the place of punishment, or Hell, as we understand it, for those who had lived immoral and ungodly lives apart from God.

The word for Hell in the NT is Gehenna, which literally referred to a valley called The Valley of Ben-Hinnom, shortened to Gehenna. It was at the southeast corner of the city of Jerusalem. That valley had an evil history, as a place where Israelites who worshipped the idol of Molech, sacrificed their children to this heathen god.

Jer 32:35 They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. 

Later, when King Josiah was destroying all the pagan worship sites in and around Jerusalem, he also destroyed the shrine in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, so that it could no longer be used for sacrificing children.

2Kings 23:10  He also defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire for Molech. 

Later, that same valley became the city dump, a refuse pile where garbage was continually burned. Now, it took on the image of a consuming environment of fire and smoke picturing never-ending suffering and kept the name Gehenna.

Jesus referred to it: Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into gehenna, into the unquenchable fire, where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.

It’s seen in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus uses the word Hades instead of Sheol and describes the two compartments there.

Luke 16:19-24 Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' 

This is the one and only picture Jesus drew of the two places within death. It was compatible with the Hebrew understanding of Gan Eden and Gehenna. But notice, the transition from death to final destination was immediate. Not going to a place called Sheol as a collection point for all dead and later it would be decided which of the two awaiting places one might go. In the Bible, there has never been another place to go to wait out judgment, or a temporary place to pay for your sins so you can transfer to the other. It was one or the other.

But notice Jesus didn’t say Heaven. He said Abraham’s bosom. Abraham’s bosom was code for Paradise or Gan Eden. The bosom is considered the place of the body from where we receive comfort and rest. It’s why a hug is so soothing. So that, from the place where Abraham was, he would welcome in the family of God and give them comfort and rest.

This was the same idea Jesus used with the thief crucified alongside Him.

Luke 23:42-43 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." 

This story creates a couple of strains for us. We’d think Jesus and the thief would not end up in the same place. But that’s the power of salvation. To think Jeffery Dahmer accepted the Lord in prison before he died and is in heaven today is unthinkable, but that’s the power of grace – God giving us what we don’t deserve. How do we know this thief made it to where Jesus was going? Something in what he said to Jesus indicated belief. So, Jesus said he would join Him there.

Was this Heaven? Not exactly. Remember, we’re still in the OT times, under Hebrew terms of understanding the things of God. Jesus is still using the concept of Sheol with its two destinations, both located in the depths of the earth. The idea of Heaven as Jesus revealed in John 14 wasn’t ready yet.

John 14:2-3 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 

Jesus, needing to prepare a place for them, indicated He was in the process of doing something new, something unlike the OT destination of Gan Eden or Paradise. Thus, we have the interesting question: When did Jesus prepare Heaven for His people?

The answer will present the other strain we have to deal with.

David prophesized: Ps 68:18 You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there. 

Paul expanded that same idea: Eph 4:7-10 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN." (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 

Peter didn’t fully understand this but said: 1Pet 3:18-19 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 

During the three days in the tomb, Jesus was in the place of the dead – Sheol (specifically Gan Eden or Paradise) – and while there proclaimed Himself the Messiah to the Jews who had died in faith, prior to His coming. When He left Sheol and rose again, He gave that same evidence to His followers on the earth. Then, during the 40 days before the ascension, He went back and forth between Heaven and earth to prepare the place for all His people to be with Him in the Father’s House – Heaven. On His ascension, He took with Him the spirits of those who had been in the Paradise of God awaiting their resurrection, emptying and then closing Gan Eden for good. Gehenna remained but Gan Eden was no more.

Rev 1:18 I am the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. I have power over all realms of life and death, to unlock the doors and set the prisoners free.

It was part of the prophesies concerning the Messiah.

Isa 42:7 To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. 

Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 

The moment Jesus ascended, Heaven as we know it currently was fully prepared. So, Paul can say later: 2Cor 5:8 to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 

John gave us his revelation of what Heaven is like:

Rev 4:2-6 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 

Rev 5:13-14 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped. 

Rev 19:1 After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; 

Heaven is the home Jesus prepared for us. Interesting that Gehenna is the place prepared for Satan and his demons.

Jesus taught in a parable: Matt 25:41 Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 

Hell wasn’t made for people, yet it is the destination for those who reject God’s offer of salvation. He doesn’t send them to hell, they send themselves there by rejecting Jesus.

So, the concept of Heaven has changed. The OT presented a paradise of rest, not the place prepared for us to dwell in the presence of the Lord. What are the customary words after a Jewish person mentions someone who has died? May they rest in peace.

But if resting is the reward of the righteous, we have a dismal concept for the afterlife. It takes away the hope of the joy of living in the presence of God.

David saw that day when more was to come. Ps 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.


David spoke of himself and of the Messiah to come. He knew God would not abandon him in death and leave him there, as strongly as he knew the Holy One would not remain dead after the crucifixion. He was convinced that since the power of God extended into Sheol, death cannot claim victory over God’s children. They will live again in the very presence of the Lord.

Samuel saw more beyond dying. 1Sam 2:6 The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. 

It was the Hebrew understanding of resurrection. Remember the conversation Jesus had with Martha after Lazarus died? John 11:23-25 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 

Jesus told her He was in charge of the resurrection. Through Him the dead will rise and be lifted into Heaven. The last days were the end of the Old Covenant and beginning of the New Covenant.

Those with an Old Covenant concept of Paradise, only have a place of rest open to all and not a place where God’s family enjoys the presence of the Lord. Most non-believers believe Heaven has an open-door policy that anyone who is good enough will be allowed in. That entrance isn’t based on beliefs. Any good person will get in.

Others believe Heaven is here on earth, not a place yet to be experienced. One Reformed Rabbi said, “The ultimate goal is that we will recreate paradise. We’re not in the business of getting to heaven. We’re in the business of bringing heaven down to earth. the Garden of Eden here in this world, that will be heaven on earth.”

Paul disagreed: 1Cor 15:19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. There’s more awaiting us after this life is over.

Lady that kept her fork. Dessert is coming. The best is always at the end.

For Believers, the best is yet to come.


  1.  God’s plan takes into account every aspect of life, from conception to death to life beyond death. 
  2.  Each aspect has meaning and purpose.
  3. For all of it to accomplish His purpose, God must reign over all.
  4. Because He reigns, He can fulfill all that He intends in the realm of the living and the realm of the dead.