When We All Get to Heaven

Updated – You can listen to the podcast of the sermon below by clicking here.  Or you can visit St. Matthew’s website to listen to all of our podcasts.

14937275_10157635508585043_3564057864141773479_nYesterday at St. Matthew’s we celebrated All Saint’s Sunday. On this Sunday, we remember, and we name before God those saints that have passed into eternity in the past year. My sermon for this Sunday centered upon what scripture reveals to us about heaven. I wanted to share that sermon with you today.

Yesterday at St. Matthew’s we celebrated All Saint’s Sunday. On this Sunday, we remember, and we name before God those saints that have passed into eternity in the past year. My sermon for this Sunday centered upon what scripture reveals to us about heaven. I wanted to share that sermon with you today.

As a pastor one of the things that I am most blessed to be able to do is to be there in those final moments before death. As others are ushered out of the room as the time of death draws near, I am brought in. I have been blessed through the years to hold the hand of those that are dying. To hug the ones that are grieving. To sometimes stand speechless before the tragedy of death. This is a sacred trust. It’s a sacred event, something that I treasure and truly honored to be a part of.

And I do believe, in those moments the line between this world and the next becomes more permeable. I believe, and I have seen with my own eyes, as we get ready to pass over Jordan to the other side, we begin to see the world that awaits. I have seen saints drawing their last breath, and make reference to a loved one, or talk about how they hear beautiful music. I believe they see a glimpse of eternity.

I help co-chair our planning committee for the Mississippi Annual Conference, and in our first meeting this year, we went around the room, telling what was our favorite part of Conference. Many said it was the times to visit. Or the worship services. I said that my favorite part was our Memorial Service. That service was much like the All Saints Sunday within the local church. In that service, the names of clergy that have passed within the last year are called, as well as lay delegates. The reason why that service means so much to me is because at some point my name will be called. At some point, this Annual Conference will comfort my wife and my children in their grief.

And for us as the church, that is our duty as well. We are called to comfort the grieving. To hold their hand. To pray. To weep. To be present in grief.

Because here’s the thing about grief. We don’t grieve for those who have passed. They are fully alive in Jesus. They are in eternity. They see face to face. They know God fully, as He fully knows them (1 Corinthians 13:12 – For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.) In other words, they are more alive than we are. We grieve for ourselves because we are diminished. We grieve for ourselves because our lives are lessened.

We as the church must comfort those that grieve.

Today’s message has it’s genesis with one of the saints today. When Emily Young died, I have never seen a spouse miss the other like Mr. Walter missed Mrs. Emily. It was fitting when he passed a few months later. He called the church one day and wanted to know what Mrs. Emily was doing in heaven. And he wanted me to come talk to him about it.

So, I began working through scripture, reading, and what I shared with him became the backbone of this sermon. But, first, a few notes.

First, know this. Heaven is God’s party; he sets the invitation list. It’s not up to me to pronounce people’s eternity. That’s God’s job. The Bible teaches that: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). But God sets the invitation list.

Second, in this, and all manners, I try to speak what scripture speaks, and be silent where Scripture is silent. I was taught the job of a preacher is “say the same” as the text.

And within that, third, if I’m going to share my opinion n with you, I will let you know that it’s my opinion. I’ll never try to pass off my opinion as scripture.

So, first, what happens in heaven? No one knows. I’ve never been there, so I am no talking from person experience. And even Paul, who had a vision of heaven (2 Corinthians 2:12) struggled to explain what heaven was like. But here’s what we do know. It will be awesome. It will be better than anything our minds can imagine or fathom. It says in 1 Corinthians 2:9

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

I put it like this. You know that moment when you felt God? I mean really felt Him? Even if was just for a moment? That moment of peace, bliss, happiness? That small moment was a foretaste. That’s what eternity will be like. That moment was the mini cupcake. Eternity is the entire cake. Eternity will be truly amazing and more than we can ever imagine.

But what will we be like? One thing we do know is this. We won’t be angels. That’s a concept we get from culture, but it not what the Bible teaches. Angels are created order, we are a created order. We will not switch to a different species in heaven. We remain human; they remain angels. We remain and become fully human. It says in Matthew 22:30:

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

The text says we are like angels in heaven. We do not become angels. What does that mean to say that we are like angels? Just like the heavenly host, we have full access to God. We will know God fully as he fully knows us. We will be fully present in the glory of God.

But know, we don’t become another created species we stay human

One of the things we do know, though is that we will have bodies. We will not be disembodied spirits. There will be a tangiblity, a touchability to us. We will be fully human and will have bodies in eternity. We will not just be spirits.

What are these bodies like? We don’t really know. Even Paul struggles to explain it. He says that we will have spiritual bodies. Listen to what he says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44:

42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

We see the most about the spiritual bodies in Jesus after the resurrection. For instance, we see further proof of this physicality in John 21: 12-14. Look what we see Jesus doing. Eating:

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

We know that these bodies will be recognizable by others. In other words, we will know each other in heaven. We will recognize each other in heaven.

We see this example in the Transfiguration in Matthew 17: 1-3, where we see Jesus in His fully glorious state.

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Notice, Peter knew immediately it was Moses and Elijah with Jesus. He recognized them. He knew who they were. We will know each other in Heaven.

We also see it in the Old Testament, were Saul made the witch of Endor summon back Samuel from the grave in 1 Samuel 28: 10-12. When this happened, the recognized and knew Samuel when they saw him:

10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He answered, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”

Ok, so we recognize each other, but yet we will not have marriage in heaven. What is that like? This is my opinion, but it is based off a reading of scripture. Here on the earth, our primary relationships to people are family and friendships. For instance, my wife is also my sister in Christ. She knows and loves Jesus. But when I see her, I don’t think, “hey there’s my sister in Christ!” I say, “hey, there’s my wife.” On the earth, in our minds, most of the time the family/friendship relationship is primary and the spiritual relationship is secondary.

I think in heaven that is flipped. So, when I see my wife, I will say, “there’s my sister in Christ who on earth was my wife.” I know her, and she will know me, but the earthly relationship will be secondary to the spiritual relationship.

Why is that? Because of what we will do in eternity. What will we do? Listen to what it says in Revelation 5: 8-14:

8 When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 They sing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

We are going to be forever with the Lord. Everything will pale in comparison to the glory and praise of God. Everything. We will be forever at peace. Forever in love. Forever forgiven.

This veil that separates. This sin. This brokenness. This pain. This hurt. This temptation, these things will be gone forever. There will be no more sickness and death. No more pain. None of this.

We will be peace one at one with God. We will have full access to God. It will be amazing. It won’t be the mini cupcake. It will be the whole cake.
And everything will be seen in the light of this.

I heard it put like this recently. Here are five things that will occupy us in heaven. We will

Worship without distraction.
Serve without exhaustion.
Fellowship without fear.
Learn without fatigue.
Rest without boredom.

And we do know this, when we die, we will go immediately into God’s presence. It says in Luke 23: 42-43:

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This day he was with Jesus in paradise.

And it says 2 Corinthians 5:8:

8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

To be absent from the body is to be with the Lord.

Those who have passed into eternity, they are forever with the Lord. They are with Him. And one day, we too will cross over Jordan. And one day:

When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.

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