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Pie in the sky?

December 2008 | by Philip Grist

Pie in the sky?

 

Heaven! Have you ever thought about it? Is there such a place? People die. This is the one fact in life that’s certain. But what happens when people die?

 

Many mock the very idea of heaven as ‘pie in the sky when you die’. The Bible, however, declares that heaven is indeed real and warns us: ‘after death, the judgement’.

     I’m not trying to convince anyone by human reason. I just want to make a bold statement – heaven is a fact and so is hell. My authority is not myself but the Bible, God’s own word.

 

Heaven is a place

 

Jesus said, ‘I came down from heaven’ (John 3:38). That upset a lot of people. They accepted he was an amazing person but were greatly offended when he claimed to be the Son of God – meaning God in human flesh.

     Now if God always speaks the truth, and if he claimed to come from heaven, then heaven can hardly be a figment of the imagination! If I tell you I was born in Trowbridge, even if you’ve never heard of it, you will believe that such a place exists. So if Jesus said he came from heaven it also must exist.

     Jesus told his disciples, ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwellings … I go to prepare a place for you’ (John 14:1-2). That place was heaven. Again, more than a month after his resurrection, we are told that Christ ‘was taken up into heaven’ (Mark 16:19).              Writing a book on the beginnings of the Christian church, Luke, a medical doctor, describes Jesus’ ascent: ‘He was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight’. As they watched in complete amazement, two angels came and spoke to them: ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:10-11).

     They didn’t say that he had disappeared into the ‘heavens’ or sky, but ‘into heaven’ – a place. The Jesus who came down from heaven to be born in Bethlehem had returned from where he came.

Jesus is coming again

 

The angels also promised that Jesus would return from heaven – not as a baby but as the risen Lord. He himself spoke about it in Matthew 24, spelling out some of the signs that would precede his ‘second coming’.

     He said that nobody but God the Father knows when he will return, so you can disbelieve anybody who tries to set a date. He warned his followers, ‘keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come’ (Matthew 24:42).

     Here, then, is further clear teaching that Jesus will return from the place called heaven. And when he does, time as we know it will be gone for ever. There will be a mighty transformation.

     Writing many years later, the apostle Peter encourages all who love the Lord Jesus and trust him for salvation thus: ‘in keeping with [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13).

 

What does this mean for us?

 

What does it means for those who trust the Saviour? They look forward with anticipation to that wonderful day when Jesus comes down again and even the dead will be raised to life.

     But, are you one of those who look forward happily to this great event? One who will, in fact, go to heaven – either when you die or when Christ comes again for you? If you haven’t sought God’s forgiveness for your countless sins, then you’re not going there.

     You are still on what the Bible calls the ‘broad road’ that leads to eternal separation from God – in other words, ‘hell’. That is also a place, but one of darkness, misery and eternal regret. Can you bear to think of that?

     When Jesus comes again, he will take all who love him into the perfection and eternal joy of heaven. But the unrepentant will be judged and descend to a place of joylessness – a fate we all deserve by nature but from which Christ can deliver us by his grace.

     I plead with you to listen to the simple invitation, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’. That is God’s promise that can’t be broken. Then, when Jesus comes again, you will experience the blessings of heaven for ever.

Philip Grist

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Evangelistic