You Asked for It Part 4
How Do I Get Into Heaven?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 24, 2003

 

Main Passage: John 14:1-14 (NLT)

 

"When you speak of Heaven, let your face light up. When you speak of Hell, well then, your everyday face will do."
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon


This morning, we’re going to speak about Heaven. So I expect all your faces to light up. In the church, when we talk about Heaven we’re usually talking about the place where God lives. Theologically, we talk about God being omnipresent, which means that He is present throughout all of creation. But Heaven is where His presence resides. It’s His home.

It’s also the place where we all hope to end up someday. The Bible teaches that there are two and only two destinations for everyone. Either we end up in Heaven where we spend eternity experiencing great joy and fulfillment in the presence of God, or we spend eternity in Hell, separated from God and subject to unending pain and torment. And where we end up depends on choices we make during this lifetime.

When we talk about Heaven in the Church, that’s usually what we’re talking about. But I was curious to know how others would describe Heaven, so I looked it up this week in the dictionary. Here is some of what I found:

Heaven:

  • the dwelling place of the Deity and the joyful abode of the blessed dead

  • a spiritual state of everlasting communion with God

  • a place or condition of utmost happiness

~ from Merriam-Webster Dictionary


In Jewish writings, including the Bible, Heaven has three different meanings:

First, it can refer to the atmosphere surrounding the earth. It’s the sky.
Second, it can refer to outer space… where you find the sun and the starts, the moon, other planets, comets and so on.
And third, it can refer to what we’ve already talked about… Heaven is the home of God where we hope to go someday to be with Him.

So the term “Heaven” can be used in a variety of ways. This morning, we’re referring to the dwelling place of God where we hope to go. Okay? Let’s get going. Le me start by giving you four facts about Heaven:

 

Facts about Heaven:

 

A. Heaven is a real place

Some people would say that Heaven isn’t a place at all… it’s a state of mind. It’s a state of consciousness. In fact, if you remember, the third definition we looked at from the Dictionary referred to Heaven as “a place or condition of utmost happiness.” But it’s not a condition, it’s not a state of mind, it’s a real place.

John 14:2-3 (NLT)
There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Jesus talked about a physical place that He was preparing for you and for me. It’s not a dream-state, it’s not a mirage, it’s not any kind of visualization, it’s not an illusion… it’s a real place. That’s the way the Bible portrays it.

What kind of place is it? That’s hard to say. Not much is given in the Bible by way of a physical description of Heaven. And what we are given is mostly figurative. After all, how could we ever understand the true nature of Heaven before we get there? It is a wonderful place which goes beyond our ability to comprehend or put into words right now.

In the Revelation given to John, in chapter 21, it says…

Revelation 21:21 (NLT)
The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

So we’re given a bit of a description there. But I’m not sure that description is meant to be taken literally. I think the point is that Heaven will be a beautiful, wonderful, glorious place.

So we’re not really given much of a physical description of Heaven. But we are told about some things that won’t be there and some things that will be there.

What are some things that you will not find in Heaven?

PARTICIPATION
(It’s a place free from danger, fear, turmoil, sin, confusion, sickness, death, despair, sorrow, regrets, pain…)

What will you find there?

PARTICIPATION
(It’s a place of joy, gladness, compassion, love, peace…)

 

B. Heaven is the dwelling place of God

In the book of Matthew, Jesus gives us instructions on how to pray and He begins by saying…

Matthew 6:9 (NLT)
“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured.”

Heaven is the dwelling place of God. Now, as I’ve already said, that fact does not mean that God is only in Heaven. He is omnipresent. He has the capability to be anyplace and everyplace at the same time. After all, He is God. In several different verses, the Bible talks about His presence being with His people. The Bible talks about God’s presence stretching throughout the whole earth.

Psalm 149:7-12 (NLT)
I can never escape from your spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night--
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are both alike to you.

 

C. All of us can go to Heaven

"We have no future, heaven wasn't made for me. We burn ourselves to hell as fast as it can be. And I wish that I could be a king, then I'd know that I am not alone."
~ From The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death by Marilyn Manson

Well, contrary to what Mr. Manson has to say, Heaven was made for Him. And it was made for you and me, too. All of us can go to Heaven.

There are some religions, though, who would dispute this. Some cults believe in a Heaven but claim that it’s only for a select group of people. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would tell you that only 144,000 people will get into heaven. And of course, those 144,000 people are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Last month I caught some of the Rolling Stones concert in Toronto. I didn’t actually catch in in Toronto… I caught it on TV. Did any of you happen to see it? There were about 450,000 people at that concert. Here’s a picture of it. (PowerPoint)

So only a third of that number can get into Heaven? I don’t think so.

Let me show you the verses the Jehovah’s Witnesses use to support this belief:

Revelation 7:4-8 (NLT)
And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God. There were 144,000 who were sealed from all the tribes of Israel:
from Judah . . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Reuben . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Gad . . . . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Asher . . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Naphtali . . . . . . . 12,000
from Manasseh . . . . . . 12,000
from Simeon . . . . . . . 12,000
from Levi . . . . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Issachar . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Zebulun . . . . . . . 12,000
from Joseph . . . . . . . . . 12,000
from Benjamin . . . . . . 12,000


And all of that together adds up to… 144,000. And they’re talked about in Revelation 14, also. Some people, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, use these two passages which are embedded in the prophecies about the End Times to declare that only 144,000 people will get into Heaven. I’ve even read that they teach that those 144.000 were all born before 1935. Don’t ask me how they arrived at that.

But from my understanding, they are neglecting some very important things.

a. These 144,000 are talked about in the surrounding verses as coming through the Great Tribulation. We talked about the Tribulation a couple months ago in our End of Days series. They are not the number of people who get into Heaven… they are the number of believers who endure the Great Tribulation.

b. The 144,000 are described as being from the twelve tribes of Israel. They are also described as being virgins, spiritually undefiled, free from any lie, and completely blameless. No one but Jesus holds all those credentials if you’re taking it all literally.

c. They neglect the very next verse in Revelation 7 which says:

Revelation 7:9 (NLT)
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

d. The number is probably figurative, anyway. In our society we talk about the number 7 as being lucky and the number 13 is unlucky. In Jewish numerology, 12 was a number of completeness and perfection. The number 144,000 is made up of 12 multiplied by 12… the perfect square… and then rendered even more inclusive and complete by being multiplied by 1,000. The number 144,000 is not there to tell us that the number saved will be exceedingly small, but that the number saved will be exceedingly great ... even to the point of being exceedingly complete.

There is no maximum capacity in Heaven. No one will be turned away because the Fire Marshall said you can only have 144,000 there. We can all go to Heaven.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

 

D. Not all of us will go to Heaven

The opportunity is there for all of us to enter Heaven, but not all of us will.

Revelation 21:27 (NLT)
Nothing evil will be allowed to enter—no one who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

So the key is to get your name in that Book. You need to make your reservation now. How do you do that? Well, to answer that, let’s look at another question…


[For a great article by Peter Kreeft entitled “What Will Heaven Be Like? Thirty-five frequently asked questions about eternity” visit www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/122/51.0.html]

 

How Do I Get Into Heaven?

 

The first thing you need to know is…

1. You cannot earn your way into Heaven

Some people seem to think that you can earn your way into Heaven by living a good life.

I read a joke this week about a Sunday School teacher. She was asking her students how she could get into heaven. She asked them, “If I sold my house and my car and if I had a huge yard sale and gave all the money I made to the church, would I get into heaven?
And all the students answered, “Noooo.”
“Well then,” she said, “if I cleaned the church every day and attended church every week and if I mowed the grass and kept everything looking neat and tidy, would I get into heaven?”
Again the students answered, “Noooo.”
“So”, she said, “how do I get into heaven?”
And from the back of the class a five-year-old boy piped up, “You have to be dead first.”

Brian O’Rourke joked about this when he said…

“When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. Sooooo, let's all get drunk, and go to heaven.”
~ Brian O'Rourke

Sorry, Brian. Doesn’t quite work like that. Let me show you some verses:

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

None of us is completely without sin. We have all failed God in one way or another.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death…

We have all sinned, which is essentially treason against God. And because of that we deserve the sentence of death. And nothing we can do, no matter how good, can ever make up for it.

Matthew 7:22-23 (NLT)
“On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’”

You cannot earn your way into Heaven.

 

2. You cannot inherit your way into Heaven

I have family visiting with us today. I grew up in a Christian home which I’m very grateful for. In fact, I come from a long line of Believers, going back several generations. I have a great Christian heritage. But none of that matters when it comes to getting my name in that Book of Life. Because my salvation is not based in the faith of my mother or father, my brother or sister, my grandmother or grandfather… I can’t inherit salvation.

Read these verse with me…

John 1:12-13 (NIV)
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

 

3. You cannot buy your way into Heaven

You can’t bribe God. You can’t secure your spot in Heaven by sending money to missions or putting money in the offering box or giving to the needy, although all those things are important for the Christian life.

Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT)
The LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and takes no bribes.

 

4. You only get into Heaven because of Jesus

We looked at the fist part of this verse earlier. Let’s complete it now.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing you can say or do can get you into Heaven. Because it’s not based on what you can do… it’s based on what Jesus has already done.

John 14:2-6 (NLT)
There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there."
"No, we don't know, Lord," Thomas said. "We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

 

  • Without Jesus we are all destined for Hell

    The wages of sin is death… In the Bible, this death does not mean annihilation. It doesn’t mean that you cease to exist… it means that you are separated from the life you were meant to have and banished to Hell. The wages of sin is death… that’s what we all deserve and without Jesus that’s where we’re heading.

    Anyone can devise a plan by which good people go to heaven. Only God can devise a plan whereby sinners, which are His enemies, can go to heaven.
    ~ Lewis Sperry Chafer

 

  • Jesus suffered the penalty for sin in our place

    This is how great the love of God is for you and for me. God knew that we deserved death, but He desperately wanted to offer us a way out. So He became a man… Jesus… who suffered and died to take our place and pay the price for the wrongs we have done and ever will do. His sacrifice on the cross satisfies all the requirements of God’s Holiness and Justice while also showing His incredible love, compassion and mercy.

    Does anyone recognize the name John Newton? John Newton wrote a very famous hymn, Amazing Grace. Well, he was talking about God’s amazing grace when he said:

    If ever I reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: first, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had expected to see there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there.
    ~ John Newton

 

  • We must individually accept what Jesus has done for us and enter a relationship with Him

    That’s what it all comes down to. If you want to go to Heaven… if you want to experience the life you were meant to live… then you need to make a decision to accept that what Jesus did He did for you. And you need to begin a relationship with Him today.

 

 

So where are you at? Are you on your way to heaven? What are you counting on to get you in? Are you relying on the good things you do? Are you counting on the fact that you’re a nice person? Are you counting on your generosity, or even on the faith of your parents or your spouse? None of those will do it for you. You need to accept that what Jesus did He did for you, and enter into a relationship with Him today.








 


 

 

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