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"Our Father who art in heaven"
A Bible Study by
Perhaps you have heard the old story about the preacher who was preaching a fire and brimstone sermon one Sunday, and he stopped right in the middle of the sermon and said, "If you want to go to heaven, raise your hand." Everybody in the congregation raised their hand, except one little girl. The preacher was so disturbed by this that he got down out of the pulpit and went over to the little girl, and he said, "Child, when you come down to the end of your life, don't you want to go to heaven?" And the girl answered, "Well, yessir, then I do, but I thought you were getting up a busload to go right now." Now my wife tells me that joke is so old it has grey hair, but it illustrates the point. We are all like that girl. We do not necessarily want to go to heaven right now, but we all do want to go to heaven, and so we are all curious about heaven. We want to know what it is going to be like.
The word heaven is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word "heofon," meaning elevated or vaulted. The word implies then, in its original meaning, the thought of a place or state that is above our ordinary condition on earth.
Now it comes as a surprise to most people to learn that there is more than one heaven. The Hebrew Kabala says that there are seven heavens each rising in happiness above the other, the seventh being the abode of God and the highest class of angels. For a thousand years, most people in Europe accepted the teachings of the ancient astronomer Ptolomy that there were five heavens. The first heaven was the planets. The second heaven was the stars. The third heaven was a great vibrating crystal. The fourth heaven was the primum mobile, which communicates motion to the lower spheres. The fifth heaven was the place of God and the angels.
However that may be, in the Scriptures, we find definite mention of three heavens. The first heaven is the air. IS55:10, "As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven." Obviously there Isaiah used the term "heaven" to describe the earth's atmosphere. The second heaven is outer space. PS19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God." The heavens referred to there are the sun, the moon, and the stars. Finally, the third heaven is the realm of God. In Corinthians, the Apostle Paul speaks of a man caught up to the third heaven, but the man told no one what he had seen. This third heaven is sometimes described as a definite place, a new Jrslm, a home prepared especially for God's children.
Let us say what that does not mean. It does not mean that God is not anywhere else except in some place far away called heaven. To say that God is in heaven, does not mean that he is not on earth, or that he is not in outer space. God is a spirit who is instantly present everywhere.
I. In the First Heaven
God is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. The sunrises and sunsets that flood the world with glory show us God. The incredible beauty of a snow flake speaks softly but surely of the power of creation. The endless variety of cloud patterns are a reminder that God is not somewhere else, God is right here with us. God is everywhere and in everything. The trouble is that most of us are too busy, too preoccupied with our own pursuits, too distracted by the gross materialism of our man-made world to pause and feel God's hand upon us in our everyday lives.
The true measure of our spirituality is the degree to which we can detect God in the most simple events around us. AC17-28 says that "we live, and move, and have our being" in God.." A spiritual person is a person who moves quietly and humbly through life, keenly aware that we are surrounded with the presence of God.
II. In the Second Heaven
So we sense God in the first heaven, in the air, around us. God is also in outer space. Now we might say that we do not care about outer space, that is not very important to us, but not so. The moon, planets, sun, stars, galaxy, in spite of their enormous distance from us, still very much effect our lives.
Without the sun, for example, life on this planet would end abruptly. This golden light energy transmitted across millions of miles of subzero space enables photosynthesis to proceed in the plants of the earth, and this is the basis for all life. How strange that something so far away is the source of all life on earth. This shows us then that the earth can not be isolated from the rest of the solar system or from the rest of the galaxy. It is all one fabric and it all works together, and life on earth is part of that fabric, and God is in that fabric.
III. In the Third Heaven
Up to this point, we have been dealing with the two heavens that are familiar to all of us, the earth's atmosphere and outer space. The third heaven is spiritual not physical. Now we often hear people say that the Bible does not tell us much about this third heaven. Actually the Bible tells us more than we might think. It is just that we are so nonspiritual that we do not understand what the Bible is telling us.
For example, I once had the task of telling a class of inner city kids in Atlanta about the mountains. Now none of these kids had ever been outside of Atlanta, none of them had ever actually seen a mountain, so when I told them about towering mountains covered with carpets of trees, and mountain streams rolling swiftly over rocks, and meadows filled with wildflowers, I lost them. Not one of them could relate to anything I was talking about because not one of them had ever experienced anything like that. That is what happens to us when God talks to us about heaven. We are so immersed in living on this earthly plane, that we can scarcely imagine being set free into a limitless life upon the spiritual plane.
But we do have a spiritual nature, and so we can know something of that spiritual dimension that we call heaven. Let me tell you about fourteen things that will not be in heave, and seven things that will be in heaven. There are at least fourteen things that we are delivered from in heaven, and at least seven things that we will know in heaven that we have only hints of here.
First, let us talk about the fourteen deliverances.
1. We will be delivered from spiritual war. As long as we are on this earth, we are ina war agains the power of darkness. Satan constantly seeks to destroy us. In heaven, we are delivered from Satan.
2. We are delivered from the sorrow of separation. We live in a world where we are always saying good-bye to someone that we think well of. These goodbyes break our hearts, but in heaven there are no more goodbyes, no more separations.
3. In heaven we are freed from physical pain. C.S. Lewis points out in his book The Problem of Pain that life on this earth has in it more pain than pleasure. Here we suffer more than we rejoice. But in heaven we will have no physical body and so we will be delivered from pain and sadness.
4. In heaven there is no more death. Even now, because of the power of our Father's eternal presence, and because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, death has been defeated. For those of us who know God as our father, death is but the doorway into his home. But though we may know that as a matter of faith, as long as we are in this life, we must still face death. We live in some fear of how we will die. We would like to die peacefully in our sleep. We dread the thought of painful accidents or long and lingering disease prior to death. But in heaven, we will be free from this fear. In heaven there is no more death.
5. We will be totally delivered from regrets and remorse. Here on this earthly plane, at our best, we sometimes make grievous errors. We have wrong attitudes; we speak unkind words; we harbor selfish motives. We do so much wrong and we know it, and are filled with remorse and regret. But in heaven, not only will we be fullly forgiven, we will be so perfected that we will never again fell regret or remorse.
6. In heaven, we shall now longer be tormented by doubt. Here we are always seekers after truth. We never really completely perfectly know. In heaven we shall know, completely and perfectly.
7. In heaven not only are we delivered from physical pain, but we are also delivered form mental anguish? The book of RV assures us that there is no crying in heaven. Here we are sometimes in anguish and tears for those we love. We hurt when they hurt. Or we are beset with worries about our financial condition. If we are not in physical pain, we are in mental agony, either for ourselves or those we love. There will be none of that in heaven.
8. No denominations will be in heaven. When we get over there, they are not going to care if we are arps, or Baptist or Presbyterian, or fire-baptized holiness. Revelation says that the new Jerusalem has no temple and no church, but all Gods people live in love and harmony. All the formal barriers and doctrinal divisions that divide us down here will be gone. Among our Father's children will flow the warmth and love and understanding that only God's presence can produce.
9. The book of RV tells us that there will be no sun or moon in heaven. The sun and the moon represent time and space. In heaven there will be no time and no space. In time and space we have a physical body and we are subjects to the limitations of a physical body. In heaven, we will have a spiritual body not a physical body, and we will be set free from the constrictions and limitations of this earthly life. Here in this body there are many things that we cannot do. We cannot, for instance, be in two places at once. Our physical bodies cannot really run very fast or leap very high. Our physical bodies are subject to disease and failure. In heaven, we are freed from all that.
10. Revelation says that heaven has no night. The night of ignorance will be banished. Perhaps of all the deliverances of God's children this is the most glorious. At long last all the misunderstandings, the misapprehensions, and confusions that so often foul up human relations will be done away with.
Most of the problems and perplexities that plague the human race are caused by this kind of ignorance. We do not undersand each other. More than that, we do not understand God. We do not even understand oursleves. Yet all of this will change. We will enter into total and complete enlightenment. We shall know as we are known. All the fears, doubts, misjudgments, animosities, and despair that are part of the present darkness of our lives will vanish forever.
11. Revelation also tells us that there is no defilement in heaven. Our thoughts will not be contaminated Our lives will not be marred. In our present lives, at almost every turn we take, we are confronted with things that make our lives dirty. We hear things that distort our minds and weaken our wills. We read about and see things that draw us away from our devotion to God. But heaven is not like that, because when we are in heaven we are in God and God is perfectly holy.
12. In heaven, we will have an entirely different way of thinking than we do now. Now we live in a perverse and corrupt world system. We are conditioned to live in this system. We are so enmeshed in the affairs of life. we are so preoccupied with this physical body and all the things that have to do with this physical body that we do not even realize how completely the world and its ways dominate our thinking. But in heaven we are totally delivered from all the strain and stresses of this world.
13. Heaven has no dishonesty. Here on earth we are so accustomed to everyone putting on some kind of false front that we take that kind of thing for granted. We live behind masks. We spend a lot of time pretending to be something that we are not. Thank God, heaven has none of that. In heaven, we can let down the front, take off the mask, and just be ouselves. What a relief that will be, what a rest.
14. Heaven is without defeat. Here we are often defeateed, and even our vfictories have in them an element of defeat. For example, no victory that results in puttting down or destroying another person is ever truly and completely a victoyr. In haheaven, we come to know what true victory is.
That is fourteen things that will not be in heaven. Now let us talk about seven things that will be in heaven.
1. The first thing we will have in heaven is a sense of satisfaction and peace. On this earthly plane, our best efforts, our finest achievements still leave us disappointed and disenchanted. No situation or circumstance, no matter how great it might be, lasts long or remains free for long from being marred by something bad. Thus a sense of uncertainty always lurks about even our best moments here. We all know that. That is why when something nice is happening to us, we say, "This is too good to last." And it probably is. If something is good, it does not last. But here is a promise--in heaven, it will. In heaven, we will be completely and continuously satisfied.
2. The second great thing about heaven is its abundant life. In the book of RV, this is symbolized by the pure water of life that flows from the throne of God. Here we think we are alive, but the life we have here is but a shadow compared to the life we shall have in heaven. Here we live partly; there we live fully.
3. The third thing about heaven is that it is a place of absolute justice and absolute fairness. This life is not fair. Here sometimes the good guys do not win. Sometimes the good die young, and the evil grow fat and prosper. Sometimes it is even hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In heaven that will all end. Where God the father reigns, there righteousness and justice reigns. In heaven there will be no discrimination, no unfairness, no scheming, no conniving.
4. The fourth thing about heaven is that we will serve God there. Just what form that service will take, we do not know exactly, but it will be great and wonderful work, and that is exciting. Much of our work here on earth often seems empty and meaningless. For most people life is rather boring. In heaven, our service, our work, will be different. Life there takes a new turn, assumes a new direction. There we will be totally united with God and totally consumed in Gods service.
5. That brings us to the fifth aspect of heaven our union with God. In heaven we have wonderful fellowship with God. On this earthly plane, we meet God by faith. There we shall know him face to face. Confucius said, that "heaven means to be one with God." So it does. God is the highest that we can imagine. Heaven is union with the highest.
6. The sixth aspect of heaven is that we will have fellowship there with all God's people. Here and now we never fully know another person. There we shall fully know each other, and fully love each other, and fully rejoice in each other.
7. The seventh aspect of heaven is that we receive our royal inheritance. In heaven, we are crowned queens and kings of the universe, and we reign with Christ forever.
Those then are the seven aspects and the fourteen deliverences of heaven, and the gospel promise is that all believers will see heaven, all of us will have those seven aspects and fourteen deliverances.
Let me close then with three more things. I would like to tell you about three wonders of heaven.
The first wonder is this: When we get to heaven, we will meet people there that we never thought would be there.
The second wonder is that when we get to heaven we will not meet people that we thought would be there.
The third wonder is that we will be there. Praise the Lord. Amen.