Heaven Awaits

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 5, 2013 – Easter VI
Sacrament of Holy Communion

Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67, Revelations 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29

From the book of Acts:
And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

From the Revelation to St. John:
And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Since accepting your call to be your Pastor, I have already officiated at 3 funerals. I realize that part of my job at a funeral is to give a brief summary of the deceased’s life during the eulogy, but more importantly it is to give hope and reassurance to those left behind; that there is eternal life for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

One of the scripture passages that I read is from the Revelation to St. John: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; He will wipe 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. Behold, I shall make all things new.
The eternal city is not only the home of the bride; it is the bride! A city is not buildings; it is people. The city John saw was holy and heavenly; in fact, it descended to earth from heaven, where it was prepared. John’s description staggers the imagination, even accepting the fact that a great deal of symbolism is involved. Heaven is a real place of glory and beauty, the perfect home for the Lamb’s bride. In this city, saints of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant will be united.

We are told that the heavenly city will be like a beautiful garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. There were four rivers in Eden (Gen. 2:10-14), but there is only one river in the heavenly city. Ezekiel saw a purifying river flowing from the temple, but this river will flow directly from God’s throne, the very source of all purity. Man was prohibited from eating of the tree of good and evil, and prevented from eating of the tree of life (Gen. 2:15-17). But in the eternal home, man will have access to the tree of life. The river and the tree symbolize abundant life in the glorious city.

What will we do in heaven for all eternity? Certainly, we shall praise the Lord, but we shall also serve Him. As we seek to serve the Lord here on earth, we are constantly handicapped by sin and weakness; but all hindrances will be gone when we get to glory.

What will this service be? We are not told, nor do we need to know now. It is sufficient that we know what God wants us to do today. Our faithfulness in life prepares us for higher service in heaven.

Another scripture passage that I read at a funeral is from the Gospel of St. John: Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

If we treasure His Word and obey it, then the Father and the Son will share their love with us and make their home in us. When the sinner trusts Christ, he is born again and the Spirit immediately enters his body and bears witness that he is a child of God. The Spirit is resident and will not depart. But as the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, there is a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!

This truth is illustrated in the experiences of Abraham and Lot, recorded in Genesis chapters 18 and 19. When Jesus and the two angels visited Abraham’s tent, they felt right at home. They even enjoyed a meal, and Jesus had a private talk with Abraham. But our Lord did not go to Sodom to visit Lot, because He did not feel at home there. Instead, He sent the two angels.

God led Paul west into Europe, to the city of Philippi, a Roman colony. The emperor organized “colonies” by ordering Roman citizens, especially retired military people, to live in selected places so there would be strong pro-Roman cities in these strategic areas. Though living on foreign soil, the citizens were expected to be loyal to Rome, to obey the laws of Rome, and to give honor to the Roman emperor. In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was exemption from taxes.

The Jewish population in Philippi must have been very small since there was no synagogue there, only a place of prayer by the river outside the city. It required 10 men for the founding of a synagogue. Paul met a woman named Lydia who was a successful business woman from Thyatira, a city renowned for its purple dye. God brought her all the way from Greece so that she might hear the Gospel and be converted. She was “a worshiper of God,” a Gentile who was not a full Jewish proselyte but who openly worshiped with the Jews. She was seeking truth.

Paul shared the Word with her and God opened her heart to the truth, and she believed and was saved. She boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized and invited Paul and his team to stay at her house. This gave Paul the opportunity to teach them the Word and all in her household were converted.

Our experience with God ought to go deeper and deeper, and it will as we yield to the Spirit of Truth and permit Him to teach us and guide us. If we love God and obey Him, He will manifest His love to us in a deeper way each day.

Jesus revealed Himself to His church and left the church in the world to be a witness of God’s love. Who is the church? We are. He is patiently waiting, still giving lost sinners an opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1-10). One day He will return and the world will behold Him.

One of the best ways to ease a troubled heart is to bathe it in the love of God. When you feel alone, let the Spirit of God reveal God’s love to you in a deeper way. Charles Spurgeon said, “Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” Your heart can become a “heaven on earth” as you commune with the Lord and worship Him.

We have all heard the greeting: “Shalom” which means peace. Shalom is a precious word to the Jewish people. It means much more than just the absence of war or distress. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, health, security, even prosperity in the best sense. When you are enjoying God’s peace, there is joy and contentment. But God’s peace is not like the “peace” that the world offers.

The world bases its peace on its resources, while God’s peace depends on relationships. To be right with God means to enjoy the peace of God. The world depends on personal ability, but the Christian depends on spiritual adequacy in Christ.

In the world, peace is something you hope for or work for; but to the Christian, peace is God’s wonderful gift, received by faith. Unsaved people enjoy peace when there is an absence of trouble; Christians enjoy peace in spite of trials because of the presence of power, the Holy Spirit.

People in the world walk by sight and depend on the externals, but Christians walk by faith and depend on the eternals. The Spirit of God teaches us the Word and guides us into the truth. He also reminds us of what He has taught us so that we can depend on God’s Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit uses the Word to give us His peace, His love, and His joy.

Again, Jesus assured His disciples that they would see Him again. Why should they rejoice because Jesus returned to the Father? Because His return made possible His wonderful intercessory ministry on our behalf, our great High Priest in heaven. We have the Spirit within us, the Saviour above us, and the Word before us!

Certainly, many interesting questions could be asked about our future home in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. In fact, John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven. Until then, may we rest assured that He dwells with us now, in our hearts.

And now as we come to your most sacred table Lord; we remember because of our Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension, that we are partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; that this Bread and Wine are signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us, until His coming again.

Let us pray:
O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee in all things and above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

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