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What the Bible Teaches--A Guide to Total Christian Commitment
by Rev. James McRobbie    ©Pillar of Fire, International 
"If I would gain heaven in the life to come, I must prepare for it in the life that now is."
Learn more about the power of the Holy Spirit for personal holiness through Sanctification

[Bottom of page] [The Living Word] [Back: Chapter 13] [Next: Chapter 15] [Index]
Chapter 14 Contents: [Three Heavens] [Heaven is a Place] [Heaven When?] [Paradise] [Heavenly Conditions]

 [What the Bible Teaches refers to numerous passages from the Bible. Your study will be greatly
enhanced by looking up the verses as you go along. If you want to look up Bible verses online as you study, clicking here will open up "The Bible Gateway" in a new window. You may then use the title buttons on your browser screen to move back and forth between the Bible and this study. All quotations in What the Bible Teaches are from the King James Version [KJV] unless otherwise specified.]

Chapter 14: What the Bible Teaches ABOUT HEAVEN

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It is important to know what the Bible has to say about heaven, for there are many spectacular ideas about it. There are also many and varied conceptions of where the spirit goes and what it will be and do when this life is over. Since the chariot of time is hastening us on to inevitable mortality, all are naturally curious about the life beyond the grave.

Three Heavens

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Consider a few Biblical expressions. Here is Acts 1:11, "This same Jesus .... is taken up from you into heaven." Jesus went into heaven. Here the term is singular. Hebrews 4:14, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens." Here the expression of heaven is in the plural, showing that there must be more than one heaven. Hebrews 7:26, "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." Jesus is seen here to be exalted above the heavens, so that there must be more than two heavens. Hebrews 9:24 reads, "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands .... but into heaven itself." This place above the heavens is seen here to be the abode of the Father -- heaven itself, for Christ "sitteth at the right hand of God," and is "far above the heavens" (Eph. 4:10). This is heaven itself.

It can be seen here that there are at least three heavens. The first is the atmospheric heavens around the earth in which the clouds float and the birds fly, thus the expression: "The fowls of heaven" (Job 35:11). The second is the astronomical heaven in which are fixed the sun, the moon, and the stars. It is called the "firmament," of the expanse of "heaven" (Gen. 1:8). There are the heavens that shall pass away (Rev. 21:1), the heavens that are to be on fire (2 Peter 3:12), and which are to be dissolved. The reason for this is obvious. The Evil One, Satan, the Devil, is none other than the "prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2); consequently the air, the heavens, as well as the earth is laden with wicked spirits and both must be purified.

The third heaven is the throne of God. It knows no molestation by wicked spirits; it is surrounded with a rainbow, emerald in appearance, and a sea of glass (Rev. 4:3, 6), suggestive of mercy and peace. It is established "for ever and ever" (Ps. 45:6). The word in Hebrews 12:26 is, "I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.., as of things that are made." The day is coming when all created things will be shaken and when the sun will be a burned-out ember (Joel 2:31). But the throne of God will remain unshaken; it will abide forever.
 

Heaven is a Place

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While the earth and the heavens are to be dissolved and pass away yet we are not to forget that there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). We have reason to believe that in the good time coming the earth will be annexed to the celestial realm, and that it will be inhabited and enjoyed in its redeemed and re-created state by immortal beings in the hereafter.

We have our Lord's definite assurance: "I go to prepare a place for you." We will not be negative, disembodied spirits in the hereafter, but positive beings with resurrected, glorified bodies just as real and tangible as we have in this mortal existence, and so heaven must needs be a place.

Heaven is a kingdom -- a place of order and government (Matt. 25:34; James 2:5). It is a "better country" -- the blessed home of the redeemed -- where all are happy and holy (Heb. 11:16). It is an inheritance -- the gift of a loving Father (1 Peter 1:4). Abraham looked for a "city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). His was the concept of a literal heaven. St. Paul looked  forward to a "building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Heaven is a prepared place; a preparation that led through Gethsemane and Golgotha; prepared in God's sight from the foundation of the world [Matt. 25:34). It is commodious; there will be room for all, for God's house has "many mansions." It will be adapted to afford its inhabitants "fulness of joy," and "pleasures for ever more." There "the wicked cease from troubling" and the "weary be at rest" (Job 3:17).

A child once asked her mother how she could get to heaven when heaven was so far away. The mother answered, "My dear, heaven comes to us before we go to it." Heaven begins on this earth; it comes to meet us. Concomitant with the act of justification and the act of sanctification, God, there and then, sets up His kingdom of peace and love and righteousness and eternal life in our hearts. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36). Heaven is therefore a condition as well as a place. "Where Jesus is, 'tis heaven there."

Heaven When?

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There are some who teach that when we die, saint or sinner, we go to sleep in the grave, enter a metamorphic state, as they say, till the resurrection and the final judgment. But this is getting wise beyond what is written; it is getting away from the Scriptures; it is the essence of pernicious and false teaching. Death is simply transition, the passing from the life here to the life hereafter. Dives and Lazarus were both in a conscious existence beyond the tomb, equally, perhaps more than they were here. St. Paul said, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" {Phil. 1:23). According to the Holy Ghost, this great apostle was not going to sleep in the grave; he was going to depart and "be with Christ." He taught that as soon as he left the body he was present with the Lord: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" {2 Cor. 5:8).

Why would the angels wait about the dying beds of God's people if it were not to carry their ransomed spirits into the presence of Christ? How many have flung back their testimonies as they have swept through the portals into Christ's presence, telling of the rapturous glory and the exquisite beauty of the world beyond!

In his Patmos vision John saw the redeemed by the altar around the throne {Rev. 6:9); he heard the entrancing music of the mighty hosts of the redeemed in the celestial world {Rev. 5:9). When Jesus ascended He "led captivity captive" {Eph. 4:8), that is, He took with Him the redeemed spirits of the Old Testament saints who had been up to this time in paradise. How could Moses and Elijah have appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration if they had been asleep!
 

Paradise

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We speak of the people who are in heaven as being in paradise. The terms are often used interchangeably. Paul said he was "caught up into paradise" (2 Cor. 12:4), when he had just stated that he was "caught up into the third heaven" (v. 2). Paradise means a "garden," and is rightly applied to the heavenly state. The purity and bliss of the Garden of Eden made it a paradise.

Theologically, paradise was the section of Hades (place of departed spirits) where the souls of the ransomed were retained. Our Lord called it "Abraham's bosom." The other section of Hades is "tartarus," a local hell, the place where the disembodied spirits of the wicked are confined until the judgment.

Our Lord said to the dying thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Jesus descended into Hades (Acts 2:31); He went to vindicate His victory to the Old Testament saints who had been waiting there, and when He arose He took them with Him -- "Led captivity captive" -- eventually at His ascension, leading these hosts of redeemed spirits, in a grand triumphal procession into heaven, when the divine summons was heard, "Fling wide the gates," that the "King of glory shall come in."

Now paradise is no more in Hades; it has been transferred to heaven, for, Jesus having now paid the redemption price of our sins on the cross, redemption is not now at stake. Christ has triumphed and our heaven is certain.

Heavenly Conditions

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The doctrine of materialism denies immortality, and ridicules the idea of heaven or any kind of future existence. It holds that man is not a compound being, which naturally leads to the repudiation of the Word of God. Consequently materialists are atheists. This system is based on the idea put forth by Epicurius and was propagated at various times by such atheistic philosophers as Hume, Ingersoll, Voltaire and others. The ancient Sadducees were the materialists of our Lord's time.

Ridiculing the idea of materialism, Christians hold firmly to reality and conscious existence hereafter, though admitting in the meantime, with St. Paul, that "flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." In heaven we shall be more real and more knowing than we are now (1 Cor. 13:12}.

There was confusion in Apostolic times regarding the nature of the bodies of the saints in the resurrection. But this was thoroughly elucidated by Paul in that masterpiece of logic -- 1 Corinthians 15. How convincingly he shows that there are different kinds of flesh, that there are different sorts of bodies -- terrestrial and celestial. The word of St. John is, "When he shall appear, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2}, and St. Paul tells us that we shall be fashioned in the future world exactly as Jesus is now in His resurrected glorified body {Phil. 3:21), and our Lord added that we shall be as "the angels of God in heaven" {Matt. 22:30}.

In heaven our knowledge will be perfected -- "We shall know as we are known." Loved ones will be intuitively recognized. Yet we will net be in the land of bliss as families, for there, racial, national, denominational and social distinctions will be unknown. All who "enter in through the gates into the city," will be as one individual family. While we shall meet in the "sweet by and by," yet in the resurrection glory there will be such radical departure from earthly conventions and conceptions that all human kith and kinship will be dissolved into one holy divine relationship, for "in heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God." Since, in the heavenly state, all will perfectly harmonize with the Divine will, and since human blood relationships will have ceased, the question that is often asked of how one could be happy in heaven with the knowledge of a dear one being lost, finds a satisfactory and logical answer.

What shall we do in heaven? It will be a place of worship, adoration and praise. They shall "come from the east and west," said Jesus, and shall "sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." Sit down! How suggestive is this of contemplation and worship.

Heaven will also be a place of service: "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple" (Rev. 7:15). Above all, Christ will be the center of attraction in that blissful land of unclouded day. It was for this that Christ prayed: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory" (John 17:24).

The Bible tells us plainly who will not enter the kingdom of God. In the 5th chapter of Galatians Paul enumerated the "works of the flesh" (vs. 19-21), and added, "They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Another scripture we should remember which is of the same order, is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. It says, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" He then specifies ten forms of evil that, unforgiven, cannot enter heaven. There is a similar but shorter list in Ephesians 5:5. There are also the words of the Revelator, assuring us that heaven is a holy place, that it cannot possibly be defiled, and that if the sinner refuses to get his sins forgiven and washed away in the precious sanctifying blood of Christ, he cannot possibly enter there, for, "There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27).

The Bible also abounds in positive declarations describing the qualities of the character of those who will be eligible to enter into the holy hill of God. To this the Psalmist replied, "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Ps. 24:4). "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?" asked Isaiah. How his answer needs to be pondered by us all! It shows us how holy we must be if we are to live through the eternal ages with this One who calls Himself the "everlasting burnings." (See Isaiah 33:14-17.)

In order to enter heaven all stand in need of a new birth. This is a transaction. I must come to God in true repentance and with a vital faith. The moment I repent and believe, I become justified and regenerated and by this become initiated into the household of God; I then become a citizen of heaven. But though forgiven, I still need cleansing from inherited sin, refining of character, and anointing for service. This comes with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Spirit is to all (Acts 2:39). The Holy Spirit, through the blood of Christ, purifies the heart, so that we can "see God." He creates that holiness in us "without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). As the tree falls so shall it lie; if I would gain heaven in the life to come I must prepare for it in the life that now is. The Bible nowhere teaches a second probation; its simple but profound edict is:

"NOW IS THE ACCEPTED TIME."





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