When my daughter, Holly, was four or five years old, I explained to her about Heaven. I told her that all the people who love Jesus go there after they die. To my surprise, she took in every word. I wasn't expecting the slew of questions that were to follow. After thinking about what I said, she asked, "Will we live in the same house that we live in now?" I chuckled to myself, "Well, no," I told her. She wanted to know more, "Will our house be purple?" That is her favorite color, and she wanted her house, in Heaven, to be purple. I responded to her question as seriously as I could, "I don't know maybe." I wonder if God would grant such a request, I pondered. Then, as if she was going to pack her bags right then, she wanted to know, "When are we going?" Her innocence was precious. I responded, "I really don't know. Only God knows that." Hopefully not too soon, I secretly thought to myself.
Heaven became so real to my daughter that day. She viewed it as a cherished place to go. I'm not sure she fully understood the concept of first having to die in order to get there, but at least she had a hope of something better to come.
First things First
There is something inside of every human that desires to live on. Unlike our bodies, our souls never wear out. God created them to be eternalwhether in the body or out of the body. Our bodies are simply a home for our souls to dwell, while earthbound. When our bodies fail us, our souls depart into their eternity. There is a hereafterto some people's delight and others' dismay.
So what happens when we die? The Bible is very clear. "it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Reincarnation finds no room in this verse. Death is our final exit from the earth. There are no redoes. We also learn that we do not cease to exist when we die. The scripture states "after this comes" meaning there is more to come.
Whatever we have done while in the body has been recorded. We each are responsible for our own actions, words and yes, even our own thoughts. We read, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Nothing will be hidden in God's presence. The things we've done in secret will also be brought to light.
Wait a minute, some are thinking, why are we judged if we are saved by faith in Christ alone? As believers in Jesus, we will not receive judgment leading to condemnation. Jesus already paid the penalty of our sin, so we wouldn't have to (Romans 8:1). However, how we lived our lives will be judged by him. The sincerity of our deeds will be made plain. Were our actions motivated by: Selflessness or selfishness? Kindness or greed? Humility or pride? Love or hate? The intentions behind our deeds will be tested. The deeds that are founded on Christ will be rewarded. Those that aren't, will be burned (1 Corinthians 3:12-14).
Our lives here can be compared to a flash; it happens so fast. Eternity, on the other hand, cannot be compared to anything we know because it never ends. Every human will spend eternity in one of two places, according to the Bible: Heaven or Hell.
Jesus talked more about how to get to Heaven than he did about what it would be like. On a few occasions he referred to heaven as a treasurea treasure so valuable that losing everything else to obtain it would be well worth the trade.
Heaven is often described as the kingdom of God. It is a place where God's headship reigns supreme and His will is displayed beautifully.
Heaven's atmosphere contrasts that of earth. Earth is stained with death, sorrow and pain. We cannot get away from these troubles, and it seems we are at their mercy. However, in heaven we find relief from such distresses. Death, sorrow, crying and pain will "pass away" when we enter God's presence (Revelations 21:4). In God's kingdom all sorrow and evil disappear. They cannot dwell in the presence of God because "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John1:5). The very nature of God radiates throughout heaven. In Romans 14:17, we read, "righteousness and peace and joy" emanate through God's spirit. Heaven is a place that will bring joy and peace to our souls; a place where we'll find rest and true happiness.
My grandfather, who loved the Lord, had a dream about heaven shortly before his death. He dreamed he was walking down the streets with Jesus when they came upon a grand home. My grandfather asked Jesus whose house it belonged to? Surely one of the apostles he remarked. Jesus replied that it belonged to my grandfather. Just a few short weeks later my grandfather died.
Jesus said "In my Father's house are many dwelling places I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). The Father will gather all His children together to live with Him. A place is being prepared for each of us to dwell in. All the saints of old and our godly loved ones, who have passed before us, will be joined together in God's kingdom. What a joyous time this will be.
I've often heard negative connotations with the phrase "those hell-fire-and-brimstone preachers" when referring to someone who zealously preaches about hell. It's certainly not a popular subject, and most people avoid it altogether. They assume denying that it exists will make it go away. I mean who wants to hear about gnashing teeth, outer darkness, continual weeping, undying worms and unquenchable fire. Nevertheless, it is a reality that needs to be touched upon.
In 2003 the Barna Group performed a survey and found that less than 1% of Americans believes their final destination will be in hell. Some popular beliefs are: A loving God would never send anyone to hell; I'm a good person so God has to let me into heaven. Although people know very little about hell, what they do know is enough to make them not to want to go there.
The Bible is very clear that hell is a terrible place to be. It is referred to as "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46). Hell was initially created for the devil and his angels as a place of punishment for their rebellion against God. Unfortunately, many people have taken the same road of rebellion and will pay the same price.
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we learn that hell involves torment. It is a place of heat and fire that cannot be quenched. After the two men died, the rich man descended into the torments of hell while Lazarus was comforted in Abraham's bosom. Seeking mercy, the rich man requested a mere drop of water to cool his tongue from the fire. His words describe his anguish "for I am in agony in this flame" (Luke 16:24). Despite his plea, he found no mercy. His punishment was final.
God's presence is completely absent from hell. The goodness of God's mercy and forgiveness cannot be found. There is no hope for those who abide there.
The Bible makes clear the realities of both worlds. Hell is a place of damnation and torture. The gate leading there is very wide and sadly many will enter in. Many do not want to acknowledge the actuality of such a terrible place. But the Bible warns of the footpaths that lead us there. How we respond to this knowledge will make all the difference.
The doorway to heaven cannot be accessed by tangible means. It can only be discovered by those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). There is no other door into heaven but through God's beloved son. Author and preacher Leonard Ravenhill was often heard saying, "This life is a dressing room for eternity," and rightly so.