In 1971, John Lennon challenged the world to Imagine. The Beatle’s had broken up by spring ’70… solo career… “Imagine all the people…”
Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us, Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people living for today.
In the song, Lennon confesses to being a dreamer… of a perfect world – excludes religion, private property, national boundaries – communistic utopia.
I think we all dream of a better world. In light of floods, earthquakes, war, crime, terrorism, sickness, personal sin/addiction, racial conflict, family conflict… and death. The human mortality rate is still somewhere around 100% — do you know how many people die on a normal day? 150,000 – 200,000 a day – over 55 million people a year!
No wonder we long for a better world — a perfect world. But does it really exist? Is heaven a reality, or a pie in the sky fantasy?
1843 – Marx wrote, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.”
Yet, what if just the opposite is true? What if a prerequisite to human happiness and flourishing is a confident faith in the reality of heaven?
When we look in the Bible, we discover that an eternal perspective on human existence is exactly what we need in order to live our lives with hope, peace and purpose.
Like John Lennon, I want to challenge us to imagine: Imagine that there IS a heaven.
Five passages & six take-a-ways: (introductory, not exhaustive – read Heaven by Randy Alcorn)
The first passage – John 14:1-6.
In his commentary, Edwin Blum: “The disciples were completely bewildered and discouraged. Jesus had said He was going away, that He would die, that one of the Twelve was a traitor, that Peter would disown Him three times, that Satan was at work against all of them, and that all the disciples would fall away. The cumulative weight of these revelations must have been [incredibly depressing].”
John 14:1-6, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Philippians 1:21-23, “21 For to me, to live is Christ, but to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. 24 But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
Psalm 16:11, “In your presence is the fullness of joy.”
1 Peter 1:3-10, “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Revelation 21:1-5, “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. 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. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the coast of California 22 miles away. First woman to swim the English Channel both ways. Weather was foggy and chilly. After 15 hours, she wanted to quit. Her mother urged her to keep going, but she gave up. Less than 1/2 mile away. Press conference, “All I could see was the fog… I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
- Heaven is a real, physical place, but located in an alternate dimension.
- Scientists at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, believe there are at least 10 unobservable dimensions.
- When Stephen was martyred, “Look! I see heaven opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
- In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha prayed that his servant would glimpse the invisible realm, “Give him eyes to see…”
2. It is a place of inexpressible joy, devoid of sin and suffering.
- Better by far!
- C.S. Lewis, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”
- This may be why we love Disney World. Longing.
- John Lennon’s dream. His personal life was a mess!
- One day, heaven will actually be on a renewed earth! What you LOVE about this world, but perfected and better.
3. There is hope in present suffering and injustice – in the rubble.
- Puts our pain in perspective. Injury, disability, chronic sickness. Temporary!
- Yet, we must learn to discipline our minds. To actively look past the fog to the coast.
- Col. 3:2-4, “2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
4. Death is bitter-sweet.
- At 5-years old Emily Kimball was hospitalized… terminal cancer… cried… Mother had an inspired idea… Gathered the family, sent Emily ahead to the room next door. Then each family member began to walk though, one at a time.
5. In the scope of eternity, our present lives are but a tiny, insignificant spec on the timeline.
- This means no more YOLO hashtags- Friday night #YOLO
- Malcom Muggeridge, in Jesus Rediscovered, “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realize, is to feel ourselves to be at home here on earth.”
6. There are not “many roads” to heaven. There is only one.
- In ancient Mediterranean world, was said that “all roads lead to Rome.”
- Religious sincerity is not a road – Muslim, Buddhist, secular humanist or Moralist, nor Universalism.
- Most live as if heaven is humanities “default” destination. When someone dies, we say that they are in a better place.
- There is a better place, but access is through the cross.
- The ultimate brokenness is not external, but internal. Terminal disease called sin.
- The cross tells us that Jesus took that disease upon himself. Endured the condition to change ours.
- To open the door into paradise.
My first international flight was to Madrid, Spain… summer school… dark, rainy day… then the plane rose above the clouds! Whoa! The sun had been there all along! I think this is what heaven will be like for those who receive the gift.
The question is, have you received the gift? The operative word is receive.