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The Real Heaven - What's Heaven Like?, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram
The Truth Network Radio
April 15, 2024 6:00 am

The Real Heaven - What's Heaven Like?, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram

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April 15, 2024 6:00 am

Imagine all the best things of life here on earth. Now, if possible, expand that by 1 million times. Better than anything you’ve experienced so far. Now, imagine living in that kind of environment forever. No struggle. No disease. No pain. No death. No injustice. No evil. Just the best of the best of the best - on spiritual steroids. That’s heaven. Chip gives us a glimpse of the life that awaits us there.

Main Points
  • As mankind was, so was the earth.
  • As mankind went, so went the earth.
  • As mankind will be, so will be the earth.
Broadcast ResourceAdditional Resource Mentions
  • Book - Heaven by Randy Alcorn 
  • Book - The Glory of Heaven by John MacArthur
About Chip Ingram

Chip Ingram’s passion is helping Christians really live like Christians. As a pastor, author, and teacher for more than three decades, Chip has helped believers around the world move from spiritual spectators to healthy, authentic disciples of Jesus by living out God’s truth in their lives and relationships in transformational ways.

About Living on the Edge

Living on the Edge exists to help Christians live like Christians. Established in 1995 as the radio ministry of pastor and author Chip Ingram, God has since grown it into a global discipleship ministry. Living on the Edge provides Biblical teaching and discipleship resources that challenge and equip spiritually hungry Christians all over the world to become mature disciples of Jesus.

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Imagine all the best things of life here on Earth. The deepest relationships. The greatest joy. The most spectacular experiences.

Now are you ready? If possible, expand that by one million times. I mean better than anything you've ever experienced so far in your life. And now imagine living in that kind of environment forever. That's heaven. And today we're going to get a glimpse of what it's really like.

Stay with me. Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. The mission of these daily programs is to intentionally disciple Christians through the Bible teaching of Chip Ingram. We're in the middle of our series, The Real Heaven, What the Bible Actually Says. Today, Chip gives us a glimpse of eternity by examining what Jesus and the apostles said about heaven throughout the New Testament. Well, there's a lot to get to, so grab your Bible and go to Revelation chapter 21 as we join Chip with his talk, What's Heaven Like? Well, we're in a series called Heaven, and men have been fascinated, mankind, fascinated with heaven, meaning for centuries. Artists, whether it's the top of the Sistine Chapel or whether it's in a cave, or you can go to any culture and people have a very vivid idea of what they think the afterlife is, and especially the part of going to heaven.

You know, poets rhyme about it. You know, Milton wrote this Paradise Lost. And in fact, now, if you want to know about heaven, it's become a hot topic. And if there's ever a time to write a book on heaven, it's now. If you go through the bookstores, this is Amazon, 36 books right now about heaven alone.

And I just sort of scanned them, and there's, you know, original titles like Heaven, Proof of Heaven, Heaven is for Real. And then there's a whole genre of kind of biblical answers to heaven or waking up in heaven, 10 true stories about heaven, Heaven's for Real and So is Hell, Heaven Beyond Your Wildest Expectations, 10, another, there's 10 different stories about people who've been there and back, My Journey to Heaven, My Son Went to Heaven, My Daughter Went to Heaven, Everyone's Going to Heaven. In fact, Heaven, someone thinks it's Texas. That's a book.

Look, I lived in Texas. It's pretty good, but it's not heaven. Heaven, I went and saw God, you know, page after page, 90 minutes in heaven, 23 minutes in hell, 45 minutes somewhere in between. What's heaven like? My gifted daughter went there, and she's telling the rest of us. Now, I'm not exactly sure, and I'm not trying to spoof other than it seems like someone went to heaven, or maybe they went to heaven, and they tell us a story, and it sold a lot of books, and afterwards, there's a lot of people that went afterwards.

Here's my point. What do you think heaven's like? More important, what information are you going to trust? And, you know, God very may well have, because the apostle Paul did, he may have some people in these near-death experiences have some very valid experiences, but which ones are valid, and which ones aren't, and what part of the bright shining light, or this happened, or that happened, how in the world can you know what it's really like, and what's true, and what's just the figment of people's imagination, or what might even be a delusion? And so, we're talking about what exactly is heaven like?

And so, to do that, please pull out, I put some notes, and if you'll pull those out, because I did a quick review, because it's so different than what we think. Most of us, at least, you know, we've seen movies, or, you know, there's always, like, the cloud machines. For some reason, you can never see people's feet in heaven. Everyone plays the harp, it's the one instrument.

Everyone wears white, usually there's always music like, Right? And for those of you that aren't worship pastors or great musicians, there's, in an honest moment, you're thinking, like, singing, like, forever, and ever, and ever, and then forever, and ever, and ever. It might be great, but I'm just not sure if that's all there is to heaven. I mean, the alternative, this is way better than the alternative, but is that really what it's like? And what I want to tell you is that it's not like that. Our views of heaven are very skewed and unbiblical.

It's a very real place. In fact, you'll notice that when you look at heaven is, by definition, God's abode where God is, there's three eras of man where God's abode and connection is with men in different ways. And the first one you see in Genesis chapters one and two, there was a perfect environment on a perfect earth.

God delegates to mankind on this perfect earth to rule, and he visits God from heaven in this perfect environment with our first parents, and he had dreams for them to be co-creators in great relationship in an ideal, wonderful environment. And they didn't sit around and play harps. There were animals and life. There was work to do.

There was creativity. And then sin entered in, so chapters three of Genesis through chapter 20 talks about fallen mankind, and we have glimmers and tastes of what it was like in a sunset or a beautiful mountain or the birth of a baby. But the world that we have now is, it's tainted. It's fallen.

It's decayed. The original earth didn't have tsunamis and tornadoes and earthquakes, but God promises that not just when we die today, this intermediate state that theologians call it, where if you died today you would go, but there will be a new heaven and a new earth, that actually heaven will come down on a new earth, and you'll notice resurrected mankind on a new earth where God's original plan sort of gets kicked back in, and the experience is not about clouds and smoke machines and harps and just worship, but a city that's been prepared by Jesus called Jerusalem that comes on a new earth that's better and pure and jobs and life and culture and music and scientific inventions and galaxies and the way life was always intended to be with one another and with God is the heaven the Bible talks about. And so what you need to understand is it's very interesting as you study all of scripture that we'll talk about heaven and what happens when we die before the new heaven and new earth, but God started where there's a place where he wants to be with his people. That's the theme of scripture. This creator God that spoke all the world into existence, it's about relationship. He wants to be with his people. At one time he came and visited and the pre-incarnate Christ would talk and have conversation and share in a perfect environment and love and acceptance. He cared so much that after sin he came and lived a perfect life and demonstrated to us by his life and his words what God is like and promised to prepare a place and then he died to break that curse and pay for the sin of all people of all time and then rose from the dead and offers to whosoever would believe. To be ushered with him forever and then the new heaven the new earth it's he will be our God and he'll be with us and literally no separation.

So the earth is central. Real life, concrete, real people, doing things, gifts, and then there's this correlation between what we do now and how it impacts our experience in heaven. It's a little bit different than some of the movies that we've seen and some of the thoughts that just have been real vague. And so what I want to do is I want to take you on a journey and tell you what heaven is like.

So are you ready? I want you to assume two things. The first one you may not have to assume.

The second one I sure hope everyone has to assume. Assumption number one, regardless of your spiritual background today, we have all kind of people come and visit the church, I want you to assume that you're a follower, a believer in Christ at a certain day, at a certain time, you've turned from your sin, you've received Jesus as your savior, his spirit lives within you, so then the moment you would die you would be ushered in God's presence. The second thing I want you to assume is that kind of right now, we'll just sort of make this the moment, right here in about three seconds you're going to have a massive heart attack. What would happen to you immediately after that massive heart attack one minute later and until all comes together? You ready?

Can you assume that with me? And what you're going to see is what the Bible teaches. Heaven is like in this what the theologians call the intermediate state.

Are you ready? If you've got a pen, pull it out. I'm going to take you to some notes. Number one, the first thing that's going to happen is angels are going to usher your soul to heaven. Luke 16 22 says, Now the poor man died and was carried away by angels to Abraham's bosom, and the rich man also died and was buried there. And so what we find is there's this role of angels is the moment your body's there, your soul and spirit and angels will usher you into heaven.

You get an escort. In fact, if you've read anything about the Akka Indians, there were five missionaries many years ago that died. Jim Elliot and five others were slain, Nate Saint, and they were the fiercest tribe. They had just their lifestyle was one of murder. They murdered all the other tribes. They murdered one another.

It was actually probably as evil a group of people on the face of the earth. And these five missionaries begin to pray for him, had a heart for him. They flew into the jungle.

They dropped gifts. Eventually, they went down to meet them. They tried to help them, and they were all killed. This is a wild story.

If you've never read the Jim Elliot story, you should read it. Their wives, are you ready for this? Their wives, after their husbands died, got together and said, our husbands can't waste their life. Their wives then went back to that jungle to reach that same tribe, and eventually there was this miraculous revival. That tribe came to Christ.

The actual people who speared them to death were living. And then as they became Christians and began to grow, they began to tell the story of that day, and how after they killed them, they had this weird experience of there was all this singing in the trees, and these white figures that came over the bodies and ushered into the sky. See, God really wants to be with you and cares about you, and as a believer and follower of Jesus, the first thing that happened is you get an escort to heaven. The second thing that happened is you immediately are in God's presence. 2 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul says this, Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we're at home in the body, we're absent from the Lord, the physical body, for we walk by faith and not by sight.

We're of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. So the Bible teaches that one minute after you die, you're ushered by angels. There's no stops. There's no soul sleep.

There's no intermediate sort of places that you go at any time. You are immediately ushered into the presence of God. You will see God. You will see Jesus. Third thing that happens is that you are conscious and in command of your faculties, thinking, feelings, speech, and memories. We go back to the very words of Jesus describing this rich man who finds himself separated from God, and this great chasm, and then the beggar who was a follower of Christ, and they can think, they feel, they dialogue, they recognize one another, they're aware of their past. So when you die as a believer, it's not like you have this disembodied spirit that's floating all around, and you don't know what's happening. You are conscious, you think, your personality, your soul, the real you is in the presence of God. Fourth, you participate in magnificent worship with angels and believers before the throne of God. Now, here's what I'm going to ask you to do a little work with me. I don't want you to take my word for it. I want you to turn to Revelation chapter 4.

There's two big things I want you to get. This is happening in heaven right now. The second is this is not what heaven is like forever. When you read this passage, at least for my early years as a Christian, the first decade or so, I would read this couple passages and I thought, I guess this is all there is and God's plan. Now, it's magnificent, it's amazing, but it's just part of it.

Are you ready? Revelation chapter 4, this is happening in heaven right now. So if someone you loved has died, this is part of their experience.

It's not all of it, but this is part of their experience. And as the angels have taken you into God's presence, you have your faculties, your feelings, your thoughts, you know what happened in the past, and here's where you're at, chapter 4. After this I looked, John is giving a snapshot of heaven by Jesus. And there before him was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I heard first speaking to me was like a trumpet.

And it said, come up here and I will show you what must take place after this. At once I was in the spirit and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian and a rainbow resembling an emerald encircling the throne. And surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones and seated on them were 24 elders.

They were dressed in white and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder. And before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.

Is there a word that seems to be repeated so far? Throne, throne, throne. What do people do from thrones? They rule. The very first snapshot of heaven, there is someone in control of everything. Not just this little planet, the galaxies, everything.

And it's overwhelming. You're listening to Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. And Chip will be back in just a minute to finish today's talk. But quickly, I want to remind you that this program is only possible because of the generosity of listeners like you. So if you'd like to support us, go to livingontheedge.org. That's livingontheedge.org. And thanks for doing whatever God leads you to do.

Let's rejoin Chip now for the remainder of his message. And then notice in the center around the throne are four living creatures. And they were covered with eyes in front and in the back. Eyes, perceptions, soaking in. And they're flying.

And notice, what are they saying? Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come. We learn, number one, God is holy. Number two, He's all powerful. And three, He's eternal. He's forever and ever. He's the uncreated one. He's the infinite reference point. He's the center and the focus of all of life, past, present, and future. Holy is, He's not like any of us. He's not a ramped up, more loving kind of a father or person.

There is no category for Him. That's what holy means, separated, different. And you will bow before Him. And you will have a simultaneous experience of being drawn and loved and being overwhelmed and afraid all at the same time. Because of His great power and holiness and yet His affection for you.

Whenever the four living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and to Him who lives forever, the 24 elders would fall down before Him and they sit on the throne and they worship Him who lives forever and ever. And then something happens about their life and what they did and what they achieved. And I don't know if you've ever gone to like a special party where something is for someone that you kind of know and it's one of those deals where you don't know whether you're supposed to bring a gift or not and so you think you probably shouldn't and then you get there and it's a pretty important person and everyone else is giving gifts to this person and you realize you don't have one. You know that feeling?

You've been there? That's what people who have died, ushered into the presence of God, they were genuinely forgiven and saved by faith, but basically spent most all of their life living for themselves. There are no rewards. They have nothing to give.

But these elders do. Paul talks about crowns and rewards and this opportunity and they worship. Skipping down to chapter 5, there's something else in the center of the throne. Verse 6, Then I saw a lamb looking as if they had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. And he had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And he came and he took this scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And as he took it, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the lamb, speaking of Christ. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense and this was the prayers of the saints and now they sing and the picture of Jesus at the center of the throne, at the center of worship, who opens these scrolls. You are worthy to take the scroll to open its seals because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God.

Where from? America? No. Every tribe, language, people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priest to serve our God and notice the future and they will reign on where?

Earth. This is a worship service. This is amazing. And then they're going to say, worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor. And there's this worship service I want you to know, bam, heart attack. Angels, usher, presence of God, awareness.

You get it. You come before and there's a throne and you are overwhelmed. And then as you read this more carefully, there's thousands and then tens of thousands of angels and anything you ever thought about God gets clarified.

And he is holy and he's majestic and he's awesome and he's powerful. And you recognize thrones are where people rule and every ounce of where you ruled your own life and I ruled mine, every ounce of where you had responsibility that this has got to be that way and I'm going to make this or that happen, all of that just gets faded out and you realize, I had some responsibility. I am now in the presence of the one who is the ruler over all who is sovereign and holy and there's a level of beauty that's breathtaking and a level of power that causes you and apart from your relationship and being covered with the blood of Christ and being forgiven, you're an absolute all and ecstasy at the same time. And that's part of what happens, but that's not all of heaven.

That's what's happening right now. Fifth, you're aware to some degree of the activities and events on the earth. If you'll just look at chapter 6, same book, Revelation. We're going to just stay in Revelation. You're aware in this worship service, it doesn't go on forever. In fact, later it talks about there's a break.

They take a break for a half hour. But you're aware of at least of some of the things that are happening on the earth. Hebrews 11 and 12 talk about we're living this life before a great cloud of witnesses, but notice verses 9 and 10 of chapter 6. When the angel opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who'd been slain, martyred because of the word of God and the testimony they maintained. And they called out in a loud voice, How long sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge their blood.

Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told, Wait a little while until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they would had been completed. Three things you might notice. Number one, the souls under the altar. The word soul, we get our word psychology. The word in Greek is psyche. It means the immaterial part of us, but also it often refers to a whole person. You know, how many souls were saved or lost.

And so whatever the real you is, the real you is there. Notice second that they're clothed with a white robe, so they're not disembodied spirits somehow. There's a covering and a robe, and then notice they know something because they're looking down on earth and saying, How long, O Lord, is this going to happen?

The only way you can ask how long is if there's some awareness of what's happening on the earth. Now, we don't know how much, but we know to some degree that there's some things happening. You know, it's very interesting. We really do care about who knows what we do. Isn't it true? I mean, our behavior really is when certain people are watching us, we behave in certain ways, and when other people are watching us, or we don't think anybody's watching, we behave in certain ways.

And intellectually, it's really interesting. I mean, I'm with you on this, is that we all know that God is watching all the time, knows the secrets and motives of our heart, but somehow we sort of put that aside and sort of forget that happens. I remember as a young man in high school, my sister was one of the most amazing people I'd ever met. I did not know at the time that she was a Christian. She had a friend, and she'd become a Christian like her sophomore year. All I knew was when I came home, she had an interest in my life. We took some classes together. She was only about a year and four months older, but she was like my hero.

She was the nicest, kindest person. And I mean, you ever have someone who thinks way more of you than you know is true, and you unconsciously find yourself trying to live up to it? And I can tell you, multiple times in high school, I'd be at a party, and there'd be some dope, and I would think, it wasn't even like, what would my parents think? It wasn't even like, you know, am I going to mess up my body for the basketball team?

It was I had this picture of, oh, I just could see my sister Punky's eyes going, oh, Chip, I can't believe you would ever do that. Have you ever had that experience? Do you realize that it well may be that your mom that is in heaven or your dad that's heaven or a brother or a sister, they may be this great cloud of witnesses. It really has some impact, maybe if we thought a bit more. Instead of heaven as some ethereal floating around, people playing on electric harps, what if some people that really mattered were aware of at least some of the things that were happening?

I wonder how that would impact how we lived. The next thing that happens, because what you find is that Moses was recognizable in Luke, I put the passage there, Luke 9, 28 to 36. I mean, remember the transfiguration?

When Moses and Elijah came, Peter didn't say, gosh, I wonder who these guys are. We're able to recognize and know what's going on with people. You'll know when you meet your mom. In fact, at least one thing of all these different books of people who come back, one of the common things is they meet people that were strong followers of Christ.

You'll recognize them, and there's relationship, and they talk about things, and it's interesting. It gives me actually great hope. This is Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram, and you've been listening to part one of Chip's message, What's Heaven Like, from our series, The Real Heaven.

Chip will be back shortly to share some helpful application for us to think about. Have you ever sat down and thought about heaven? What will it be like to have a new body, to reunite with a loved one, and finally be in the very presence of God? Well, the fact is, many Christians aren't excited enough about heaven, which shows just how little we understand it. In this seven-part series, Chip opens our eyes to what God tells us about our eternal resting place, the unimaginable beauty, the fulfilling relationships, and the activities we'll do there. He'll also correct the faulty views of heaven and explain why we should be enthusiastic about eternity.

You're not going to want to miss a single part of this series. Well, Chip's joined me in studio now, and Chip, before we go any further, I thought it might be helpful for you to talk about what happens when people support us financially. I mean, when you ask people to partner with us, how are their gifts being used? You know, Dave, what I want you to know is that when you support Living on the Edge, you bring biblical teaching on core issues that at times is not politically correct, but is at the core of what brings about real life change and families that are stable and honor God. And what I'd ask you to do is, would you be willing to partner with us as we create these small group resources, as we put them on the app, as we pay for radio time, as we try to help families be all God wants them to be?

It requires an enormous amount of time and energy and financial support. And so if you have never given to Living on the Edge, now would be a great time to say, you know, I want to help them reach families. Or if you're a regular giver to Living on the Edge, first let me say thank you, and then let me ask you this, would you be willing to become a monthly partner?

You know, there's nothing quite like having people that you know that you can count on each and every month. The amount is immaterial, whether it's $10, $50, $100. God uses every single gift. If you would pray and just give whatever He shows you, we will be grateful and we'll invest 100% of it right back into the ministry. Thanks so much for whatever He leads you to do. Well, as Chip said, if you already support us financially, we appreciate you. With your help, Living on the Edge is ministering to more people than ever. But if you're benefiting from this ministry in some way and haven't yet taken that step, now's a great time to give back. To send a gift or to learn how to become a monthly partner, go to LivingOnTheEdge.org or call us at 888-333-6003. That's 888-333-6003. Or visit LivingOnTheEdge.org.

Have listeners tap donate. Well, Chip, in this program you stressed that heaven and hell are real places. Why should we have an unwavering stance on that truth?

Well, Dave, yes, I did talk about two places. And pretty graphically and very specifically, and quite honestly, I don't think Christians are hearing much about heaven. And if we're not hearing much about heaven, we're hearing almost nothing about hell. And I think we have so been overwhelmed with this sort of fear of, you know, a sermon that was given, you know, a hundred years ago, you know, sinners in the hands of an angry God, actually well over a hundred years ago. And we so want to be careful not to preach fire and brimstone. You know, and all that.

But I think what's happened is we have become smugly and arrogantly intellectually politically correct. And we don't want to bring it up because we act like, well, what will people think of us if we talk about a literal devil and the hell? And it's interesting to me that I don't know how intellectual Jesus was, but he was like really sold on.

It was a very real place. And he was sold on it so much that he came and took on human flesh and died for you, died for me, died for everyone, that he actually right now is creating that other place called heaven. And I just think it makes us uncomfortable.

And let's just be human about it. But the reason you teach God's word is the truth sets people free. The truth frames new perspective.

The truth is what God wants. And for many of us right now, they're probably thinking about a family member or a co-worker or a really good friend. And as far as we know, they're not on their way to heaven. And because that's so disturbing, I mean, me, not other people, for me, I want to push this down and not think about heaven very much, not think about hell at all. But I've got news for you. All of our friends, all of our family, they're going to die.

And after they die, it's appointed unto man once to die and then judgment. Here's the question. So what do we do about it?

I mean, what are we going to do that's different? And what I would say is you may not be comfortable giving anybody the message that I just gave them. So give them mine. Say, hey, you know, this guy was talking about this, and it really stirred my heart, and I was thinking about you and me. Would you listen to this, and we'll grab coffee later?

For others, maybe you with your family could get together or you with a couple guys or gals and watch the DVD. I mean, they've produced it in a way that it'll be like, oh, wow, heaven's really real? And it'll give you boldness that you long to have so let us help you help your friends. Thanks, Chip. Well, if you've been searching for some solid biblical answers about heaven, let me encourage you to get plugged in with our resources for this series. Whether it's Chip's book, The Real Heaven, or the small group study, you're going to walk away with a more accurate and exciting view of the place God's preparing for us. For complete ordering details, go to livingontheedge.org or call 888-333-6003. That's 888-333-6003, or visit livingontheedge.org. App listeners tap special offers. We'll listen in next time as Chip picks up in his series, The Real Heaven. Until then, this is Dave Drewy saying thanks for joining us for this Edition of Living on the Edge. ...
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