Pearly Gates (a way in not a cockney whelk seller). Blue sky. White fluffy clouds. Haloes and white kaftans.
Renaissance artists really do have a lot to answer for. Ok I know it’s not easy laying on your back painting the ceiling but I sometimes wonder why they didn’t stick to their equivalent of Trade Matt White emulsion instead of trying to explain the bible in big pictures.
Their vision of heaven (for that is what this is all about) has coloured the thinking – and, dare I say it – twisted a fair bit of the church’s theology down the years. As a result, we’ve lost sight of the real heaven even if we know why we’re going there and how we’ll arrive at our destination.
We all have our own picture of heaven. How much of it is wishful thinking and what is real remains to be seen. It’s important, though, for the church today to recognise the relationship between hope and heaven: we are grounded in our engagement with the world and with the certainty that this – here, now – is not all there is.
There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below (C T Spurgeon)
For the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is. We do not need to speculate on what heaven will be like. It is enough to know that we will be forever with Him (William Barclay)
We talk about heaven being so far away. It is within speaking distance to those who belong there. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people …. at that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal- a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body (D L Moody)
To think about
- What would you really like to know about heaven?
- What understanding of heaven do we get from media and culture?
- Why might these images mislead people and provide false hope?
- How do the words of Spurgeon, Barclay and Moody help us to understand the nature of heaven?
The study of heaven and end times has very personal implications. It addresses fundamental questions which everyone asks from time to time: Central to our understanding of the last things is the conviction that Jesus will return in glory to receive those who have committed their lives to Him. The words of Jesus in John (14: 1 – 4, 28) assure us of this; but they also show us how the Holy Spirit, now at work in our hearts and the community of Christ, are the tangible evidence of the reunion to come.
Please read Titus 2 verses 11 to 15 and John 14 verses 1 to 6
Finding hope in a broken world (Titus 2)
- Define “salvation.” How has God shown us about salvation? (see verse 11)
- How does God’s grace help us to live holy lives?
- What are we waiting for? How would you explain this to an unbeliever who questions how you can possibly be so happy when the world is falling apart at the seams?
- How could you use verse 14 to explain what you believe and to recognise what Jesus has done?
- Why is it so important to encourage as well as to rebuke? Share circumstances where these may be necessary and appropriate
A belief in “heaven” has significant implications for the missional commitment of the church and the individual believer. This impacts the way believers live as well as recognising the foundations of the faith they profess: being in the world but not of the world. The challenge is to live today for today yet not losing sight of the final goal to which all believers are called.
What can we expect? (John 14 verses 1 to 6)
- Jesus has told his friends the He will be leaving them (John 13 verse 33). How might His words in this passage bring comfort for them in troubled times?
- What do these verses tell us about heaven?
- How, in a pluralistic world (many “faiths”), can we promote the uniqueness of salvation through Christ? (verse 6)
- Why will Jesus come back? (verse 3)
- Please read verses 1 & 27. These verses contain some very reassuring words. What is meant by “peace” and how might we use these verses in our support for others who are going through difficulty?
To think about & give thanks: the nature of Heaven
- perfect knowledge (1 John 3:2)
- the absence of evil (Rev. 21:4)
- surrounded in glory (Matthew 25:31)