Monday, May 26, 2008

Heaven: The Promised Land for Christians

Yesterday I preached a sermon on heaven. Though I used several resources my sermon text was Hebrews 3:12-4:1. In that passage the writer weaves two Old Testament themes together as analogies to help us understand heaven. The first theme is "Sabbath rest" and the second is 'The Promised Land."

At death believers enter the eternal 'sabbath rest' that God instituted when he created the world (Genesis 2:2 and Hebrews 3:18 & 4:8). That rest will be a rest from the evils, toils and heartaches of this world: there will be no more tears, no more illness and no more death.

Likewise, at death believers pass from this realm to be with the Lord. After the resurrection of their bodies they will enter the eternal promised land (heaven). This is made clear by the reference to the ancient Israelites who failed to enter their promised land because of their disobedience (Numbers 13 & 14 and Hebrews 3:17). Because of their unbelief they were barred from entering a land that flowed with milk and honey. Those people who fail to believe in Christ forfeit something infinitely greater.

I quoted from a sermon by Bishop J.C. Ryle on Heaven in the volume"Classic Sermons on Heaven and Hell", edited by Dr. Warren Weirsbe and published by Hendrickson Publishers (part of their Classic Sermon series). Here is an important quote by which we might understand heaven and what awaits those who turn to Christ to be cleansed from their sins by His blood. He also draws upon these twin themes of Sabbath Rest and the Promised Land:

"Brethren, think of an eternal habitation in which there is no sorrow. Who is there here below that is not acquainted with sorrow? It came in with thorns and thistles at Adam's fall, it is the bitter cup that all must drink, it is before us and behind us, it is on the right hand and the left, it is mingled with the very air we breathe. Our bodies are racked with pain, and we have sorow; our worldly goods are taken from us, and we have sorrow; we are encompassed with difficulties and troubles, and we have sorrow; our friends forsake us and look coldly on us, and we have sorrow; we are separated from those we love, and we have sorrow; those on whom our hearts' affections are set go down to the grave and leave us alone, and we have sorrow. And then, too, we find our own hearts frail and full of corruption, and that brings sorrow. We are persecuted and opposed for the gospel's sake, and that brings us sorrow; we see those who are near and dear to us refusing to walk with God, and that brings sorrow, Oh, what a sorrowing, grieving world we live in!

Blessed be God! there shall be no sorrow in heaven. There shall not be one single tear shed within the courts above. There shall be no more disease and weakness and decay; the coffin, and the funeral, and the grave, and the dark-black mourning shall be things unknown. Our faces shall no more be pale and sad; no more shall we go out from the company of those we love and be parted asunder--that word, 'farewell', shall never be heard again. There shall be no anxious thought about tomorrow to mar and spoil our enjoyment, no sharp and cutting words to wound our souls; our wants will have come to a perpetual end, and all around us shall be harmony and love. O Christian brethren, what is our light affliction when compared to such an eternity as this? Shame on us if we murmur and complain and turn back, with such a heaven before our eyes! What can this vain and passing world give us better than this? This is the city of our God Himself, when He will dwell among us...Surely, brethren it is worth a little pain, a little laboring, a little toil, if only we may have the lowest place in the kingdom of God."

No comments: