May 3, 2015
Today is the culmination of 10 weeks of question and answer about the topics of Heaven and Hell. We spent four weeks discussing Hell. We looked at Hell from a biblical perspective. On the fourth week we answered as many questions as possible on the topic of Hell. For the last five weeks we’ve been trying to take a biblical idea of Heaven and what’s it going to be like. Today wraps up this whole Hell and Heaven sermon series with question and answers. You’ll see on the stage all the pastors from our church minus Ricky Smith, who is practicing with the praise team that will be leading worship on Sunday, and Nick Bruner, who is overseas on a mission trip in Africa.
You’ve asked a lot of really good questions and we’ve been trying each week at the end of the sermon to answer your questions. There are probably still more than 50 questions that we haven’t answered. Today we’re going to take six of the most important questions that you asked and we’re going to collectively try to answer those questions for you. If you sent the question in and you didn’t get an answer any time over the last six weeks, watch our church website. We will to do our best tomorrow to record a video to answer the rest of the questions. Then we’ll put it on the website for you to be able to refer to later on.
1. Will all denominations go to heaven?
Pastor Michael King
The answer is yes and no. That’s not very helpful because that’s covers everything. So we need to go to the text and find out what we mean.
5 For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.”And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The reason the answer is yes and no is because clearly faith is the means by which we are saved. It’s an act of grace of God. We don’t do anything to be saved. It doesn’t matter what church you are a part of as long as they preach this message. It is not about joining the right club. It’s not about being in the right denomination. It’s all about whether you trust in Christ and have faith in Christ. This is important because we have to fight this a lot with a lot of different questions. You don’t earn your way into Heaven or earn your salvation. There is nothing you can do. There is a famous old quote that says even our tears of repentance need to be washed by the blood of the Lamb. We don’t have anything we can do to be saved. It’s all God. It’s all grace. So will there be Lutherans in Heaven? Yes. Will there be Episcopalians in Heaven? Sure. Anglicans? Yeah. Methodists? Yes. Non-denominational people? Yes. Catholics? Yes. Southern Baptists? Probably a lot less than we think. We can say that tongue-in-cheek but the truth of the matter is our denomination does a really bad job of making it the things we do like being in church, going to Sunday School, etc. That’s not the case at all. It’s faith in Christ.
We have to be careful because even though it has Jesus Christ in the name doesn’t mean that they’re teaching the truth about Jesus. If a denomination isn’t teaching the truth about Jesus it would be very hard, probably impossible, to believe the truth about Jesus. So be warned! Will all denominations go to Heaven? Yes but no.
Pastor Jeff Struecker
The question that Michael just answered and the next question that I’m going to answer are not really questions about Heaven. They’re actually questions about salvation. I think this question probably came from somebody in our church who has been through this personally. At the end of the Hell series we answered the question, do babies that died in the womb or were aborted go to Heaven? Michael adequately answered the question. Absolutely! No question. We teach and we believe that that baby is in Heaven with Jesus. That was probably the catalyst for this next question someone asked.
2. Can a woman who’s had an abortion go to Heaven?
Yes and no. I’m going to steal Michael’s answer. Yes, if you just heard what Michael said. It’s not what we do or what we don’t do that determines whether or not somebody ends up in Heaven. So it’s really not what you did that keeps you out of Heaven or what you didn’t do that sentences somebody to Hell. So abortion doesn’t necessarily cause a woman to go to Hell. Michael has already answered this question but let me point you to Ephesians Chapter 2.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The truth is that having an abortion doesn’t cause you to go to Hell and not having an abortion doesn’t mean that you’re going to Heaven. It is faith alone. It is grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that determines whether or not a woman is in Heaven, even the woman that had an abortion. It doesn’t matter how good you are or you were. You could never be good enough to earn your way to Heaven. Trying to earn your way into Heaven will land you square in Hell if you believe by doing these good works or by belonging to the right club you’re going to Heaven. Can a woman who’s had an abortion go to Heaven? Absolutely, if she knows Jesus Christ personally as her Savior and he has cleansed her from her sins.
3. If Heaven is perfect and we are perfect in Heaven, will we be able to experience growth, learning, and challenges?
Pastor Alan Smith
The quick answer is yes. The idea of being perfect immediately invokes in our mind that we are like God in some way. We know everything. We can do everything. There’s an omniscient and omnipresent kind of evidence. But that’s really not the idea of perfect that you and I as human beings experience.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are all subject as human beings to the consequence of sin. As a result of being subject to the consequence of sin, we are currently living in an imperfect state. But, there comes a point when we go to Heaven that God transforms us. We get this new body, new Heaven, and new place.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
One of the realities of Heaven is that this humanity that we currently are suffering from is going to be perfected. It’s going to be cleaned and put back the way God designed it in the garden. We will have a perfect humanity in which we will still be human but we’re not going to have omniscient knowledge, we’re not going to have omnipresent abilities, but we’re still human. We’re going to be perfect in our humanity. Without the depravity of sin, without a consequence of sin, no longer being part of who you are. We will have humanity about us but is not going to be damaged or destroyed because of the effects of sin. Perfect humanity is not really being God-like.
So, will we be able to grow in knowledge, understanding, and have experiences? I think so. I think we can look it at two places in Scripture that give us an indication of that. Luke 2:52, gives a little insight into the growing of Jesus.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Jesus was God even at age 10, 12, and 20. Yet he grew, had adventures, played, and he experienced life. I think that we’re told throughout Scripture that our nature of Heaven will have that body that’s Christ-like. I think that Jesus grew and had adventures. I think we can look at Adam and Eve in the Garden. Adam and Eve were learning about creatures, learning about tending the gardens, and figuring out how to take care of animals. All the wonderful things they did in the garden as they walked with the Lord in the cool of the day. So, will we grow, learn, or have the ability to experience challenges and adventure? Absolutely but we won’t be bound by time or by the consequences of humanity and sin. We will be able to do so limitless in terms of time and with all the resources that God allows us to have access to and without the consequences of sin. I think we will be open experience growth, learning and challenges. I think it will be done in a way that will be the most wonderful life adventure we can possibly have.
Pastor Jeff Struecker
The next question is actually two questions in one. I’m pretty sure there was more to this when this question came in online. I think it came from a mother who lost a child.
4. Will there be children in Heaven? What will we look like in Heaven?
Pastor Steve Pate helped me with forming the answers to these questions. The first part of the question, will there be children in Heaven? Yes. If you were to be literal about it everybody will be a child in Heaven because we are all sons and daughters of God in Heaven. We are all God’s children. I think you’re asking the question will there be babies in Heaven.
Isaiah 11:6-8The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
Yes, there will be children in Heaven. Just because Heaven, as Alan just alluded to a second ago, exists outside of time and time as we know it on Earth doesn’t have impact in Heaven, doesn’t mean that we don’t still learn and grow. Therefore a child will learn, grow and will become fully mature in Heaven.
The second question is a little bit harder to answer. What will we look like in Heaven?
1 Corinthians 15:49
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Notice how it says “the man of Heaven.” This is a reference to Christ. This body that we live in right now is tainted by sin, it’s fragile and frail, and it gets sick. That doesn’t happen when we get to Heaven.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body…
There are plenty of places in the book of Revelation that point out that the body knows no sin, no shame, no more struggles, no more pain, no more sickness, and no more death. What does your body look like when you get there? Do you still have long brown hair or is it now short blonde? I don’t know but I do know this the body that is imperfect here will be perfect when your body and your soul meet up together in Heaven.
5. Do you believe that the “Heaven is for Real” story is true?
Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.
When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.
And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
2 Corinthians 12:3-4
Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
We are not avoiding the tough questions about Heaven either. Several people have asked something similar to this, do you believe that the Heaven is for Real story is true? Ryan, what do you think?
Pastor Ryan Pearse
No, I don’t believe it. I wish I had a picture up there. Everyone has seen this book. It’s a yellow book with little three-year-old on the cover. I don’t need to figure things out about Heaven by a three-year-old. I can go to the Bible to figure it out. This is what we call extra Biblical revelation and I mean that in the worst way possible. I don’t mean extra Biblical as other than the 66 books in the Bible. I can recommend the Bible. There’s three New Testament guys that went to Heaven. John was the authoritative apostle of Jesus and authoritative writer of Scripture. Some of what was revealed to him God told him not to tell everyone everything that he saw. In Acts Chapter Seven, Stephen saw Heaven right before he was martyred and stoned. The apostle Paul also saw Heaven.
That right there should squash all of this what we call “Heaven tourism.” Just because it’s in Lifeway doesn’t mean it’s good. There is more than the Heaven is for Real book. I think some of these people who write these books about having trips to Heaven think they may have had an experience and went to Heaven. I think people who have seen Heaven are in Heaven. On the flip side I think some people who write these books who are wrong, they know they’re wrong, and they’re looking to make a buck. I think we need to be of aware of that.
There is someone else out there who wrote a book about it. His name is Jesse Duplantis. He said he went to Heaven and hung out with God. He came back and said, “God needs us.” That’s what God told him to tell everyone. I don’t know that God needs us. We need God. Duplantis is a false teacher. Don Piper wrote a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven. I guess Heaven is not timeless and you have a stopwatch there. He knew exactly how long he was there. Bill Weiss wrote a book 23 Minutes in Hell. Once again he had a stopwatch and he knew exactly how long he was there. Both of those books have tons and tons of theological errors. If you are reading a book that even a little bit contradicts the Bible it’s wrong because it can’t be from God. If it was from God then that means God contradicts himself and we know that he doesn’t. Mary Neal wrote a book To Heaven and Back. These are just a few examples of these books written by people who say they go to places and this is unbiblical. If it’s unbiblical, it’s not true.
In this specific book, Heaven is for Real, this three-year-old saw Jesus riding on a rainbow colored horse. Revelation 19 says Jesus rides one horse of one color and that is a white horse. He doesn’t ride a rainbow colored horse. The Holy Spirit is not the color blue. One thing they did take out of it because they knew that it was false was that Colton saw human beings having wings. Well we know that angels have wings not human beings. They edited that out even though Colton saw this. So what exactly did Colton see? What exactly did he experience because he the experienced something? Did he actually go to Heaven? The answer’s no, he didn’t go to Heaven.
Let me describe what a near-death experience is “you can have multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation and the presence of light.” I think he saw a light because that’s what happens. That’s a medical biological answer. If you see light you can have a near-death experience it doesn’t mean you are in Heaven. Furthermore three-year-olds are not even allowed to be on the stand in a courtroom because they can be coached. They can be manipulated. They can’t tell the difference between reality and non-reality. He experienced something but it wasn’t that. I don’t think he’s to blame because he’s just a three year old but some of these other adults are to blame because they know the difference in right and wrong.
Let me give you one example of this. There’s this book called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Kevin Malarkey wrote it about his son Alex Malarkey. Alex didn’t want to write this book but his dad did. Alex and his mother, Beth, have come out recently and publicly disavowed this book and said the dad made the whole thing up. So everyone who has ever read that book should get their money back. Everyone who’s ever believed that book should stop believing it and should start reading the 66 books that I recommended earlier.
Here’s the thing. There are false teachers out there. Not everything you read is true. Not everything you read Lifeway is true. Romans 16:7 says watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught avoid them. What have we been taught? The Bible. What can we trust? The Bible. Second Peter Chapter 2 says there will be false teachers among you and to avoid them. First John 4:1, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. If they’re from God you keep it if not you throw it out. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 7, beware of false prophets.
This is a question, which really is a larger, bigger question. Is the Bible sufficient enough? Is it an inerrant? Yes. Is it infallible? Yes and the battle that is being waged right now is whether it is sufficient enough? I would say yes. Some people want other revelation and grasp at straws when they do so. No, the Heaven is for Real book is not correct.
Pastor Jeff Struecker
We have spent six weeks trying to make the concept of Heaven much clearer. We are going to nail it all down to one question.
6. What does Heaven look like?
Pastor Frank Bowden
The disappointing answer for you all tonight is I couldn’t tell you. What I mean by that is, Heaven is such a magnificent place. It is far greater than anything that we have ever seen on earth. It is far greater than anything we could have experienced on Earth. It far exceeds anything that we can perceive here. To even tried to describe what Heaven would look like if we were even allowed to catch a glimpse of it we wouldn’t be able to. The idea of trying to explain Heaven and what it looks like to someone would exceed the boundaries of human language. There are not words or enough adjectives adequate enough to rightly and fully describe what Heaven actually looks like. We know this because Paul in Second Corinthians when he is recalling his glimpse into heaven. He told the church in Corinth in Chapter 12 that he heard things that can’t be told, things that man can’t utter. Basically he was like, “I was so mind blown by what I saw I’m not even going to try to talk about it. In fact, I’m not even allowed.” None of us, even Paul himself couldn’t do justice to the idea of what Heaven looks like.
When we read Revelation chapter 21, John’s writing constantly portrays and affirms that Heaven is a place of tremendous beauty. Heaven is a place that is just flat out awesome and it will be greater and better than anything our minds can think of. He’s also portraying Heaven as a place of great joy and that we’ll not be disappointed with what we see. There is not going to be that “what’s next” feeling. So he’s constantly reaffirming that Heaven is amazing.
If you’re looking for a materialist what are some of the things that are there, when you read Revelation 21:11-22 you’ll see some materials. You will see a bunch of fancy gems and jewels. You’ll see the references to the size of Heaven. If you’re curious how big Heaven is the author refers to it as 12,000 stadia. Heaven is going to be a big place. He mentions the gates that are in Heaven are made of gigantic pearls. He’s given all these materials but are they literal. I think we have to be really careful when we look at Revelation, the type of literature and the type the text that it is. Be really careful not to read too much into it. Much like Parables we have to be careful not to read too much into those books. Revelation is apocalyptic literature and we have to be really careful how literal we take it. So is John really saying that the streets were paved with gold, the gates were made with pearls, and it’s really 12,000 stadia long? Or is he just trying to get some type of description from something that he’s been able to see here on Earth to something that he’s never seen before. I really think it is far greater then the jewels and the things he mentions here in Revelation.
When I look at this question, what does Heaven look like? I think maybe this person was asking not so much what does Heaven look like but what’s Heaven going to be like. I know for me and when I’m looking forward to going to a place that’s really what I want to you won’t know what’s it going to be like. We can answer that a little bit. We know Heaven is Eden restored. We know it is going to be like it was in the beginning all the way back to perfect created order. We know that Heaven will be here on Earth. Not Earth as we experience it today, earth that’s stricken with a stranglehold by sin and by depravity. It’s not going to be that. It will be earth restored. We get to experience creation as it first was.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
So we know Heaven will have the glory of God all the way around it. Basically that means when we’re in Heaven we will get to experience the power of God’s holiness through all eternity. We will get to be in the presence of God’s glory with no fear, with no trepidation, and with no danger. There is none of that when you are in Heaven. In verse 23 we read that John tells us there’s no sun or moon for light in Heaven. The glory of Jesus is the light that we will get to experience for all eternity.
Today I got to get off campus for little bit and go over to the local high school to watch them in a playoff baseball game. It was awesome but it was way too hot for a bald guy. I was soon sweating and I thought this is nice but it’s too much because the sun was beating down on me. When I get to Heaven I get the glory of Jesus on me. It is just right and perfect.
So when I’m looking at all this stuff and how fantastic Heaven is it seems great. But you know what’s really more important then the physical beauty of Heaven and whatever it is created with be it jewels, big pearls, or how big it is. What’s more important than the fellowship we will have with God’s people from all nations from all points of history, what’s more important than the freedom that you’re going to have from pain, sorrow, and from the struggle with sin, and what’s more important than the ruling over God’s kingdom that we’ll get to have in Heaven. As great as those things are going to be, what’s far greater is the fact that we’ll get to be in the presence of King Jesus all day every day. We’ll get to be in the presence of God and we will get to enjoy an unhindered fellowship with him. That’s what Heaven is going to be like. When you get to Heaven you have an unbroken, unhindered fellowship with Jesus. That ought to get you excited! Tell you what, I don’t care what the streets are paved with, how tall the walls are, or what the gates made of. When I get to Heaven I get an unhindered, unbroken relationship and fellowship with Jesus. That’s awesome!
What’s really cool about this, as if it could get any better, isn’t some dream vacation thing that you can’t afford to go on. You may think that sounds great right but you don’t think you can get there because of your past. Or, that sounds really, really good but you have some doubts about this and you’re not sure. This isn’t something that that you don’t have to worry about. This is an internal reality that has already been paid for by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, his burial and ultimately by his resurrection. This is an eternity that you can have. As many of these pastors have said you can’t earn it on your own any way. There is nothing you can do that buy it. There isn’t a thing you can do to earn it. There isn’t a thing you can do to make what Jesus did on the cross even greater. There’s nothing more you can add to it. There’s nothing. This should relieve some of you. It should relieve some of us from that burden of having to be good enough.
The pastors of Calvary would all like to know who or what are you really trusting in to get to Heaven. All of us would say if it’s anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ it’s not going to get you there. What do you have to do to have this eternal reality? Nothing, because Jesus already paid for it. There is moment where you have to say from your heart to God that you are trusting in him. You admit you can’t do this on your own. You admit you can’t get there on your own. You admit there’s nothing more that you can add to it because your a sinful broken depraved guy or girl. You can’t add anything more to this. You can say to God that today you’re trusting in him for your eternity. Today, you are trusting in him for your salvation. Maybe today you realize that you can’t do it on your own. And, that there is nothing you can add to it through your good deeds, good work, or going to the right church. None of that gets you there. It is that communication and honest confession from your heart to God. If you’ve never done that before you can do that right now. You can know when you walk out the doors a few minutes from now without a shadow of doubt that if you died on the way home you would wake up in Heaven. You can take care that today. There are no magic words, no right formula and no magic prayer. It’s just you admitting before God that you need him.
- I want to know that I m going to Heaven. Today – for the first time- I trust Jesus as my Lord and place my eternity in his hands.
- I want my friends and family to be with me in Heaven. Please pray that I would take the opportunity to talk to people about Jesus this week.
- Please contact me about getting plugged into a small group where I can learn more about Heaven.
- What have you learned that you didn’t know before this Heaven series?
- Why do you think most unbelievers don’t care about Heaven?
- Now that you have the tools to understand the reality of Heaven, how can you start a conversation with the questions and answers to Heaven that have been unpacked?
- What questions do you still have about Heaven?
- What are you looking forward to most about Heaven?
- Pray for opportunities to talk to your friends and neighbors about Jesus and Heaven.