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The Next Chapter: The Truth About Heaven and Hell

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 22, 2021 9:00 am

The Next Chapter: The Truth About Heaven and Hell

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 22, 2021 9:00 am

Heaven is usually portrayed as this ethereal place in the clouds full of harps and chubby cherubim. But, is that really all we have to look forward to in eternity?

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Today on Summit Life, a heavenly message from Pastor J.D.

Greer. God is going to assign to us each very fulfilling work in heaven. You see, God knows how you're shaped. He knows how he designs you.

He knows what you love to do. But suffice it to say, we won't be bored. Boredom is part of the curse. Jesus died to put away boredom.

Boredom's going away forever. There we're going to be more fulfilled, more engaged, more entertained, and more alive feeling than ever. For the first time, some of you are going to know what it means to live according to your calling. Welcome to Friday here on Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Okay, this is a pretty easy observation, I think. Have you ever noticed how heaven is portrayed in art and film as a sort of ethereal place in the clouds, full of chubby angels playing golden harps and the bright lights?

There's always a bright light mixed in there. But is that really all we have to look forward to in eternity? Thankfully, the answer is no, as today Pastor J.D. gives us a biblical picture of the new heaven and the new earth promised in the book of Revelation. He titled this message, The Next Chapter, The Truth About Heaven and Hell. So let's return to God's word right now. Our last message in this series is on heaven and hell, because that's how John, the apostle, of course, concludes the book of Revelation, pointing us toward the life that is to come, which in many ways is far more significant than the life that we have experienced here.

Now, what I'm going to say next, some of you are definitely not going to like, but as your pastor, I'm going to say it anyway. You were never intended, God never intended for you to learn about heaven or hell from people today who claim to have been there. Every single thing that you need to know about this, as well as everything else in the Christian life, comes from the one book that God said that he wrote that was supposed to be your source of all that you need to know for life and godliness. In fact, the end of Revelation, John includes this pretty sober warning. You ever see this Revelation 22 18? If anybody adds anything to what is written in here, God will add to that person the plague subscribed in this book. So I would just be really cautious about believing somebody who's got something else that's not actually in here. You say, well, pastor, you tell me that all these people's stories are not true.

I'm not in a position to tell you that. What I can tell you is that all you need to know about these things and every other thing related to those things is in the one book that Jesus authorized his apostles to write. That is the book that you were supposed to know and understand and memorize so you can put up your cue, you know, five minutes in this and 10 minutes there and open your Bible. You want to hear God speak out loud to you? Then read the Bible out loud. And then you're hearing God speak to you, okay?

All right, so with that is our encouraging backdrop. Revelation chapter 21 verse 1. John said, 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 from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them now and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, behold, I make all things new. Also, he said to me, write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.

And he said to me, it is done. I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Many people have a secret fear about heaven they are afraid to admit. Namely, it sounds boring to them. Like an eternal choir practice where we prance about in diapers, play in a harp all day and listening to Morgan Freeman read from the dictionary. And quite frankly, that sounds more like hell to them than it does heaven. In fact, one prominent Christian pastor that I know of admitted, he said, whenever I think about heaven, it makes me depressed. I would rather cease to exist when I die.

I can't stand the idea of endless boring tedium. To me, heaven doesn't sound much better than hell. I'd rather be annihilated than spend eternity like that.

If I asked you to be honest, many of you would say that you thought the exact same thing. Well, the Bible gives a much different picture, both of the joys of heaven and the torments of hell, but you have to know how to read the symbolism. And so that's what I'm going to try to teach you here for a few minutes. John concludes his revelation with this vision, because understanding these things will do more to shape your life than perhaps anything else in the Bible. So let's talk first about heaven. I'm going to give you five words that describe the vision that we see of heaven in these last two chapters. Five words, they all start with R. First word is renewal.

Renewal. Verse one, John describes a new heaven and a new earth. Now there are two words for new in Greek. There is nios, which means brand new. And then there is kinas, which means remade. It is this word kinas that is used, remade, not brand new. If a mechanic that you knew said he got an old Corvette from a junkyard and remade it or kinased it, when he showed it to you, you would not be expecting to see a fundamentally different car, fundamentally different thing.

You'd be expecting to see a Corvette souped up and made very flashy. That's the same thing that's happening with the new heaven and the new earth. It's not a completely new thing.

It's a remade version of the old. British theologian N.T. Wright says that we get a glimpse of this in the resurrection of Jesus, which is called the first fruits of the new creation. The first fruits are the first fruits of the harvest. They give you a sampling of what is to come after it, a taste, a glimpse. That's what Jesus's resurrection was. It was a glimpse of our future.

It was a glimpse of the world's future. Jesus's resurrection, his body had a continuity with the past. He had a body that you could see and touch, and he had a body that people recognized and knew who he was. He ate food, yet his body did not have the same limitations. He flies around. At one point, he apparates into a room.

N.T. Wright says one day God is going to do with the entire cosmos what he has already done with the resurrected Jesus. Jesus's resurrection was the appetizer to the full course meal of restoration.

It was the trailer to the blockbuster film of redemption. In other words, it's everything that we loved about the old creation minus the curse of sin. The new heavens and the new earth are everything we loved about the old heavens and old earth minus the curse of sin.

Creation's beauties are heightened, its pleasures are strengthened, and our limitations are removed. Frankly, Sumit, as I've told you, I get downright giddy sometimes thinking about what that's going to be like. What does the glorified heavenly Hawaii look like? If what we see now is the curse version, what's the real one going to look like?

Amen? What's a glorified filet mignon taste like? What's it like to eat at the glorified Waffle House? How entertaining are glorified movies?

Does Nicolas Cage star in every single role? It must be. In heaven, we'll experience pleasure without pain, beauty untainted by the curse. There, ice cream and cotton candy are good for you, and broccoli makes you gain weight. There's a football stadium where the Panthers win every single game, right?

And you can finally at last feel like you can depend on Cam Newton and he won't let you down. Tim Keller says it this way, heaven is not so much pie in the sky as it is a feast on earth. By the way, this ultimate version of heaven does not exist yet.

It's coming. Do you see that? John says, verse one, that it's something that God brings after he destroys the old heaven and the old earth. Now you say, well, wait a minute, doesn't the Bible talk about God being in heaven now? Doesn't it talk about believers dying and going to heaven now?

Yes, it does. The Bible says that wherever God is, that's where heaven is. And it talks about when believers die, to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord, 2 Corinthians 5, 8. So believers who die are in heaven now. But here's the thing, the current heaven is just a temporary holding place. It's like a layover. Now, granted, it's not like languishing around in the Atlanta airport, which is closer to the seventh circle of hell than it is heaven. But it's a glorious holding place, but that's what it is. It's a holding place until God brings the real thing, the new heavens and the new earth.

Number two, so renewal, number two, reunion. Reunion, that's verse three. Verse three says the dwelling place of God will be with man. They shall be his people and God will be with them as their God. Heaven is where God and his people are reunited together. In heaven, we're going to be reunited with all of our loved ones and friends who died in Jesus.

You see, one of God's purposes in salvation was to create an eternal family, united by a love that never fades, where we never experience heartache and we never have to say goodbye. There, Summit Church, those loved ones in Jesus who have been taken from us in death will be restored. There's a verse that I love because I've walked with several friends as they experienced death in their family, maybe with one of their kids. I have several friends that have walked through that kind of chapter and this verse is so precious to me. Isaiah 49, 22, this is what the sovereign Lord says.

In that last day, I will give the signal. I'll snap my fingers, I'll whistle or whatever, and they will, they, the angels will carry your little sons back to you in their arms. They will bring your daughters on their shoulders.

And I have to think that this refers to parents who've lost children, maybe in an accident or a miscarriage or a disease. They're going to see their son, God says, brought back by the angels in their arms. They're going to see their lost daughters carried back on the shoulders of angels and what a beautiful and glorious day that's going to be.

Of course, the greatest reunion is with God Himself who will now permanently be in our midst. Chapter 22, John goes on and says, they, we believers, we're going to see His face and His name is going to be somehow written on our foreheads and night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun for the Lord their God will be their light. By the way, I think that night here is more symbolic, not that the earth ceases to rotate, but that the night, the darkness of fear and sin will be gone. His presence will be our constant light.

We will never feel the darkness of loneliness or abandonment or judgment. We will bask forever in the beauty and glory of His face radiating with His truth and beauty and love will be so intimately connected to Him. It's as if we'll have His name tattooed to our foreheads. I'm assuming that's symbolic in some way, but a tattoo always signifies a permanent relationship, right? I mean, some of you know this and this will scandalize others of you, but for our 15th anniversary, my wife and I got each other's initial tattoo to our ring figure. Okay, now technically she chickened out the last minute, so I'm the only one that has it, but she has promised to do it for our next anniversary. All right, but she loves this thing on my finger because this tells her I'm not going anywhere. I've told her, I'm like, yep, that's right. If you ever leave me, I'm going with you. I have tattooed you to my hand.

I'm not doing anything. Now, B, it's for V for Veronica. One of my friends was like, what happens if she dies?

I said, well, if you flip it upside down, it's A for available, you know? So no, no, no, that's a joke. That's a joke, but it signifies permanence. I'm not going anywhere. In some way, some way, God, His relationship with us is so secure that it's like a tattoo to our forehead. Hear this, listen, heaven's greatest joy is reunion, and the greatest reunion is reunion with God Himself, and there we will enjoy His eternal and loving and omnipotent companionship forever and ever, and our hearts will be so filled with love and delight and joy in Him, we won't even know how to contain it.

Number three, release. Release, verse four, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying or pain anymore for the former things have passed away. No pain means no chronic illness, no aching joints. No tears means, I got to holler at you back over there. No tears means no depression, no fear, no worry, no stress, no misunderstanding, no betrayal, no talking bad about each other, no relational conflicts, no more emergency rooms, no more intensive care wards, no more chemotherapy units, no more pharmacies or children's hospitals or funeral homes, no more homicides departments or grief counselors or security guards, no more tax forms or waiting lines at the DMV. God has already saved us from the punishment of sin that there, there we will be saved from the power of sin and the presence of sin and ultimately the pain of sin. This is the final work of salvation. One day the same hands that were pierced for you will wipe away gently every tear from your eyes. Then we will finally experience life in a world without sin, which may be the greatest overlooked benefit, no sin. I will finally be able to look out of these eyes without the selfishness and the suspicion and the jealousy that so plagues everything that goes on in my heart. What's it like to be sinless?

What's it like to finally have a pure heart? Sometimes people ask, well, when Jesus wipes away our tears, does that mean that we're not going to be able to remember what happened on earth? Because I can remember some times in my life that still make me weep and so is God just going to wipe away our memory?

No. There's nothing in the Bible that indicates that he wipes our memory, that we can't remember what happened back then. What it means is that he transforms our pain into joy. Paul uses two images to talk about how we'll think about our pain in heaven. These are images you should internalize. They are precious images. The first is in Romans 8 and it's the image of giving birth. He said life now is like being in labor, the pangs of labor that are very painful, but they're almost forgotten about the moment that you hold that new child in your arms.

It's not that you can't remember it, it's that they're just engulfed by the joy of this baby that you now have. He said, that's what your life is going to be like. I have a friend who suffered greatly. He had brain cancer and for a while they thought he was going to die and he had three kids. And he said, I spent a lot of time thinking about heaven and just reading the promises of heaven. And he said, you know, I used to think that what heaven was, was when you got to heaven, there God would explain to you, here's the reason that this happened and here's the reason that this happened. And he said, I guess there's going to be some of that that happens. He said, but from what I read in the Bible about heaven, it's going to be that there's so much joy in the finished product of what God did that we're going to look back and say, what pain are you talking about? I can barely remember it.

It's just been engulfed in the beauty of what God did. I think I've told you, Mother Teresa always described it. She said, you know, the worst suffering on earth is going to seem like one bad night in a cheap hotel. You ever had a bad night in a cheap hotel? It's not a good experience.

My wife and I and family, all six of us were on a road trip and we decided to save some money by staying in a cheap hotel. It was a bad, I mean, we, I remember my son was sleeping on the corner of the room and evidently, well, when they flushed the toilet in the room above him, it dripped on his face. I mean, it was gross. Nobody got any sleep that night. It smelled bad. It was awful. Now it's a joke.

It's a joke, right? Because you barely even remember it because it's just this, it was awful when it happened, but it's been swallowed up in the joy of just being together as a family. That's the first image. The second image Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 15, he says, death, death in that day is swallowed up in victory. Think about that word swallow. When you swallow something, it becomes part of you.

The food that you eat becomes you. In the same way, Paul says our experiences with pain and death make the end product sweeter and even more beautiful than if we had not gone through them. You've probably seen somebody that you love go through suffering and really grow from it, hadn't you? Or maybe you've gone through some painful chapter of your life and you couldn't understand the purpose. Like God, why is this happening? But already you look back on it and you see how it produced something good in you.

Here's the question. If already with a limited time and limited perspective, you could already see some of the good reasons for some of the bad things in your life. Don't you think given infinite time and God's perspective, you're gonna see a reason for all of it? And how's it gonna feel in that moment when you get to heaven and see how God kept all of his promises and there was not one stray molecule. He was using all things for the good purpose of your life and he used every moment to weave his beauty and glory into you. J.R.R. Tolkien uses a great little phrase.

He's the writer of the Lord of the Rings. Sally Lloyd-Jones picks up this phrase and uses it all through the Jesus story book Bible. He says, in that moment, all the sad things on earth are gonna come untrue. To come untrue doesn't mean that they weren't true.

It doesn't mean you forget about it. It just means that where they once led you to think that it was devastating, you're gonna see how God rewove those things for a good purpose and for his glory and you're good. What I probably most love about this or most love in this is the account of Joni Eareckson-Tada, who was a quadriplegic who broke her neck as a teenager in a diving accident. She's now in her 70s and she talks about how God used that accident to bring her back to himself. And she says this in one of her books.

Listen, I love this. I hope in some way I can take my wheelchair to heaven. She's quadriplegic and you can use your arms or legs.

She controlled everything through an instrument she had in her mouth. She said, there with my new glorified body, I will stand up from that wheelchair on resurrected legs and I will be next to the Lord Jesus. And I will be next to the Lord Jesus. And I will feel those nail prints in his hands. And I will say, thank you, Jesus. He will know that I mean it because he will recognize me from how hard I leaned on him during my sufferings. And then I will say, Lord Jesus, do you see that wheelchair over there? Well, you were right.

When you put me into it, it was a lot of trouble and I hated it. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you and the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. I do not think I would ever have known the glory of your grace were it not for the weakness of that wheelchair. So thank you, Lord Jesus, for that. Now, if you like, you can send that thing off to hell.

That's how you'll feel about your pain. Number four. Number four, reassignment. Reassignment, chapter 22, verse three. Like I mentioned at the beginning, lots of people have this image of being really bored in heaven. Imagine that we sit around all day strumming harps and firing off Nerf arrows into the sky.

But look at how heaven gets described in chapter 22. There, his servants will serve him. What do servants do? They're not bored. They're busy.

They're constantly going places and doing things. Work, you see, was part of God's original creation. Work was not added because of the curse. It wasn't like God was like, oh, I'll show them I have to get a job now.

No. Right? It was part of how God created us to be fulfilled. We did work in paradise, which means that when God restores the earth, work is going to be a part of the new creation, too.

Except it won't be like it is here filled with worry and struggle and toil and bad bosses. God is going to assign to us each very fulfilling work in heaven. You see, God knows how you're shaped. He knows how he designs you. He knows what you love to do. Maybe you're already doing it. Not many people have that privilege, but maybe you already know exactly what you're created for. Maybe you love building buildings and you're doing that.

Maybe you love inventing or producing or leading. There's only two kinds of jobs that we know won't be there. There won't be any doctors because nobody's sick, and there won't be any evangelists because everybody's saved. So you doctors and seminary students, bad news, we're going to have to find something else to do. But suffice it to say, we won't be bored. Boredom is part of the curse. Jesus died to put away boredom. Boredom's going away forever. There we're going to be more fulfilled, more engaged, more entertained, and more alive feeling than ever. For the first time, some of you are going to know what it means to live according to your calling because you didn't get to experience it here on earth. Maybe life, maybe bad decisions of yours, or maybe just the way life went. You're in a job or you'll never be in a job where your real potential is released there.

You don't have to worry about not finding that on earth because there God will have you working at your fullest potential. You'll be reassigned. Number five, last one, rain. Rain, chapter 22, verse five. There they will rain forever and ever.

Now I'll be totally honest with you. I'm not quite sure over whom we rain. Some have said it means angels. Others said it means over creation itself, we're going to rain over creation.

C.S. Lewis thought it might be that we rain as kings and queens over other beings and other universes that God created. My favorite part of all the Chronicles of Narnia is how Lewis ends book seven, the last book in that series. Here's the very ending. So for us, this is the end of all the stories. And we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them, it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover in the title page. Now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever in which every chapter is better than the one before.

I'm not exactly sure whom we ran over or how we rain, but I am looking forward to finding out. The point I want you to take away from this is you are destined to be royalty. You're destined to lead.

You're destined to rain. You're not destined to be an insignificant groveling peon with no importance or no responsibility. God created you to be a reigning prince or princess. So start acting that way.

I don't mean start bossing each other around. I mean like, because you're going to be servants also, but I mean that you begin to see that you were created with the dignity of being a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Renewal, reunion, release, reassignment, rain. Before I conclude this section, let me draw just a handful of things I think this means for us. Let me reflect on it with you.

Here's letter A. Put up your bucket list. You see, bucket lists are all the things you want to do before you die because you assume you'll never have a chance to do them again. That's not true for a Christian. And when Jesus says he's making all things new, wouldn't that include all the mountains, stars, rivers, oceans, planets, animals, culture, arts, music, architecture, and even extreme sports that you never got to experience on earth? Does your Bible have an asterisk by the word all that leads you to the fine print of all the things that are not included in the word all? All means all, church.

That means that for those of you who are single, the joys of marriage and family will be in some way even more greatly fulfilled there because all means all. Revelation 21, 26 even says that we will bring into heaven the glory and honor of the nations, which scholars say means the best of culture. It means that we will have the best of the Italian food in heaven, right?

Come on, it's about lunchtime. It means we're going to have the best of Arabian and colonial architecture, which are my personal favorites, the best of the Renaissance paintings, the best of Disney World, the best of Mardi Gras. It might not be that much, but it'll be there. Even the man-made things we didn't get to experience on earth, we're going to experience there. There's only one thing that we can't do there that we can do here. Tell people about Jesus. That is the one thing we will not get a chance to do there, so why not give your life to pursuing that instead of some silly bucket list item you're going to experience a better version of in heaven anyway?

Put winning people to Jesus on your bucket list and make the last chapters of your life about pursuing that, not pursuing something that you're going to get a better version of in heaven. Sometimes in order to get perspective on this life, we have to look ahead to the next. Thankfully, God gave us this picture in His Word, however confusing it might seem.

He wanted us to know. You're listening to Pastor JD Greer in a message titled The Next Chapter on Summit Life. When you give today, we'll show our thanks by sending you a custom Summit Life Bible. It comes with a custom reading plan to take you through the Bible in a year, and it's not dated, so you can start using it now.

It goes through 52 weeks so that every verse is included. Ask for the Summit Life Bible when you give a one-time gift or when you become a monthly gospel partner today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or give online at jdgreer.com. By the way, if you haven't checked out Pastor JD's newest podcast called Ask Me Anything, you'll want to do that today. Pastor JD gives quick, honest answers to tricky questions, and you can find it online at jdgreer.com or through your favorite podcasting app.

I'm Molly Venovich. Thanks for being with us this week. Hope you enjoy your weekend worship and join us again Monday as we conclude our overview of the Bible called The Whole Story right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-04 09:02:51 / 2023-08-04 09:14:28 / 12

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