Graduation announcements start arriving in the mail each spring. What an exciting time in the life of a young person. It is the end of an era and the beginning of another. But this year as those announcements are arriving there are other more sobering announcements coming my way not only in the mail, but also on Facebook, and by word of mouth. In fact, all of this last year has been sobering as many friends have gone through the ultimate graduation to the promise of heaven.
The best is yet to come- the promise of heaven awaits
I remember graduating from college and all the promises that were ahead. I was looking forward to my first job, my first paychecks, and moving to a new location. Life was exciting. I had been preparing for this all of my 21 years of life. It finally had arrived.
We can have the same excitement as we think about graduating from this life to the promise of heaven. We can look forward to a full-time job praising and serving God forever. We also will have perfect health (no sickness, pain, or disappointment). We will be relocating and have a new address. Jesus promised that He was going to prepare a place for those who love Him, and what a place it will be. Furthermore, we won’t need a GPS to find heaven, because He will personally escort us there. (John 14)
“Eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) ESV
I don’t know about you, but the promise of heaven sounds like a great place to move to when I graduate from this life here on earth. The best is definitely yet to come. Just being in the presence of Jesus forever- no politics, no evil, no heartbreak. Now that is something to look forward to.
What does the Bible say about heaven?
There are many verses in the Bible that mention the word Heaven. The King James Bible uses the word heaven 327 times in the Old Testament and 255 times in the New Testament.
Many other verses do not use the word heaven, but the meaning is there when using phrases like, “The Kingdom of God”, “At home with the Lord”, “Eternity, eternal life, everlasting life”, “In your presence”, “Receive me to glory”, and “In paradise”.
The promise of heaven in the Old Testament
Heaven is clearly a topic of importance and many of the authors describe joy in heaven. (Psalm 16:11) Other points about heaven include:
- The heavens that we can see now declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1)
- Elijah was taken into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings2:11)
- God resides in heaven (Lamentations 3:41)
- Those of us who are guided by God’s council here on earth will eventually live with God in heaven. (Psalm 73:24)
These are just a few of the verses in the old testament that speak of the promise of heaven.
The promise of heaven in the New Testament
John, Paul, Peter, and other writers discussed heaven. Some were quotes of Jesus, some quotes from the Old Testament, and some original words as given to them by the Holy Spirit. Examples of what they wrote are:
- Our citizenship is in heaven where we will have new, beautiful, perfect bodies. (Philippians 3:20-21)
- Heaven is full of joy every time a sinner repents and follows Jesus. (Luke 15:7)
- When we receive Jesus into our lives, we are given hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7)
- What we treasure or value will determine our future home. If we value heavenly things, then we will live with God in heaven someday. (Matthew 6)
- We can’t earn the right to live in heaven. It comes by the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The New Testament focuses more on the “how” of obtaining the promise of heaven.
What did Jesus say about heaven?
Other than the Lord’s prayer, probably one of the most well-known passages Jesus spoke about heaven is found in John, chapter 14. Yet he does not actually use the word “heaven”. He was preparing His disciples for the fact that He would be leaving them physically.
“Let not your hearts be troubled … I go to prepare a place for you … And I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also … No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-4)
The promise of heaven is selective
Jesus made it clear that not everyone will be with Him in heaven.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Talk is cheap. Anyone can say they believe in God. They may even do work for Him, but not be part of the family of God. Family members obey the Father. Working for God and obedience are not the same thing. Obedience is summed up in the two great commandments, “Love God, and love people.”
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandment depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ( Matthew 22: 37-40)
Yet even keeping these two commandments is not what saves us. They simply are the evidence of our faith in Jesus Christ to save us.
“A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16)
The promise of heaven is our eternal hope
When you think about it, there are many promising things here on earth. But ultimately, everything here deteriorates and vanishes. There is no real, lasting hope here on earth. Everything is temporary, momentary, and a blip on the screen of eternity.
Contrast that with the promise of heaven. This earth is not our home if we are following Jesus and His teachings. We are hardwired for something better, and that something is a forever life with God in heaven.
Life often is hard. Yet when we have the promise of heaven, it helps us keep putting one foot in front of the other. We know that what we are going through will end. It can’t go on forever.
So even in terminal illness, we can look forward to God’s promise of heaven. In fact, terminal illness is our ticket on the next flight to heaven when we know Jesus personally. Do you know Him? Do you have questions? You can call or text 1-888-need Him, or chat at chataboutJesus.com. Someone is waiting there to talk to you.
A gift with the promise of heaven
God does not want us to fear the future. In fact, the apostle Paul said that to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21). Many near-death experiences have verified that someone escorts us to the promised land, the promise of heaven.
The following song was written and recorded by Chris Tomlin. Take a listen and enjoy the description of heaven in the song, Home.
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