January 30, 2011

Heaven: My Eternal Joy - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Heaven Scripture: Hebrews 12:1–3


Heaven: My Eternal Joy-Part Two

Hebrews 12:1-3
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith

The ancient Greeks loved their athletic contests. As you know, every four years they celebrated the Olympics in Olympia. Yet, held in Corinth, the year before and the year after the Olympics, was another popular competition called the Isthmian games.

Many of the events are well documented, but among the most popular and grueling was the marathon. Runners did not pursue this event for the mere pleasure of running, but rather for the award that awaited the winner at the finish line. Often, it was a wreath. In the early games (1 Cor. 9:25) a wreath of celery and in the later ones, a wreath of pine leaves.

A reference to this account is made when Hebrews 12:2 says, Jesus endured the cross "for the joy set before Him." While Jesus no doubt must have experienced great satisfaction at times in His ministry, He did not leave His Father's presence and heavenly glory to suffer all the emotional and physical pain for the earthly pleasures alone. He was motivated by something far greater. And that was what awaited Jesus in heaven when He finished the work assigned to Him by the Father. It was the glory He would receive (Jn. 17:4-5) and the satisfaction in fully doing the Father's will.

That same powerful motivation and prize is available to us as well. Therefore rightly understanding the joy that awaits us for all eternity is a powerful incentive to live faithfully in our service to God today. If Jesus Christ Himself found it necessary to look toward the future reward, I do not know how we can do any less.

Last week I stated that the anticipation of future events is almost as satisfying as the actual event itself. Therefore if we can understand all the future joy that awaits us in heaven, it will translate to present joy here and now. And that present joy in the Lord will give us the desire and strength (Neh. 8:10) to live fully in accordance with the will of God.

I submit to you that it is only when we are excited about our heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20), that we will become a responsible citizen for God on earth. We will invest in human relationships because we know souls are eternal. We will reorient our goals and aspirations in line with God's desires. We generously give of our time, money and talents because we desire to have our treasures for eternity. We will learn the Bible because as Jesus said, His words will never pass away (Mt. 24:35). We will spread the good news of Christ because we long to fill heaven's ranks. The list continues. So much of what we do is for the joy set before us.

An excitement for heaven will empower God's people. So, what is so exciting about heaven? Let's briefly review our three points from last week and then conclude with three more points for this week.


Without a doubt, what makes heaven so great is God's presence. Not only to we get to see the living God in all His glory, but we get to spend eternity with the One whom we love the most. Heaven is about maximizing our pleasures with not so much more of a good thing, but rather experiencing a good thing in a more fulfilling and more satisfying way.

Salvation means loving God will all our hearts. We get to do that now, but unfortunately our knowledge is limited, our attention is narrow, our vision is blurred and our sin is present. In heaven, all these obstacles will be taken away. Heaven is reserved only for people who love to be around God more than anything else. Heaven lifts the veil and allows the believer an eternity of the rich and deep and growing worship of God that life on earth never delivered.


Second, last week we said that heaven for the Christian is our true home. Philippians 3:20, "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Eph. 2:19). Luke 10:20, "[Our] names are recorded in heaven." 1 Peter 1:4, "[Our] inheritance … [is] reserved in heaven for [us]" (Eph. 1:18). And Colossians 1:5, "[Our] hope [is] laid up for [us] in heaven."

In 1 Corinthians 2:9 the apostle Paul wrote, "Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." Faith believes the promises of God and thus makes the invisible things real. Then as we mature in Christ, the visible things are that which really become unreal. We develop an earthly dissatisfaction that then becomes the road to heavenly satisfaction. We share hearts with the biblical writers who referred to themselves as pilgrims passing through a country on a journey to a better one. Eternity beats in our hearts. We grow less attached to a world destined for decay and destruction and more homesick for our true residence.


A third blessing of heaven that we covered last week is the fact that all our eternal rewards are waiting for us up there.

Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Lk. 9:23). In other words, Jesus is calling for self-denial, suffering for His name sake and absolute dedication. These are not wishful suggestions from our Master. They are the uncompromising demands for all His true disciples.

I never would deny the joy of the Christian walk. My whole purpose in this series is an attempt to promote it. But living all-out for Jesus Christ does require dedication and discipline and often results in fatigue, discouragement, persecution and sacrifice. God through His grace uses many things to keep us going and one of those is eternal rewards. As a matter of fact, Jesus specifically encourages us to "store up for [our]selves treasures in heaven" (Mt. 6:20). God checks the motives and sees all that we do oftentimes unnoticed and under appreciated by others. Hebrews 6:10, "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints."

It's very simple. The more we do here for Christ, the more we'll enjoy up there with Christ. We need to get to the point as Jesus commanded that our treasures up there outweigh our treasures down here. Then each day brings us one day closer not to losing our rewards, but rather to going to them and praising God for a well-spent life that was dedicated to His purposes more than our own.


To the new material. A fourth blessing of heaven that will grant us greater present joy - we will be reunited with our loved ones in Christ once again.

Have you ever gone on a trip by yourself where you are separated from your family members for a period of time? At first the breaking away is difficult. Soon you adjust and begin to enjoy your new environment. Then the novelty wears off and you start to get homesick. The pleasure of seeing your family outweighs everything else. The thought of seeing them lifts your spirits. The joy intensifies when you wake up that morning, and everything culminates when you see your family waving to you through the car windows at the airport terminal.

God has created us to enjoy fellowship with people. He said in the Garden that "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18). And while God is the source of all joy (Psm. 16:11; 73:25), the love for people (a command by the way - Mt. 22:37-39) cannot be divorced from Him and finds its primary meaning in Him. God is pleased and glorified when we desire others. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders because of their loveless attitudes (Lk. 10:27-37) and informed us that we cannot love Him if we fail to love people created in His image (Jas. 3:9; 1 Jn. 4:20), especially fellow Christians (Gal. 6:10).

We grieve when we lose our loved ones in Christ. And the older we get the more funerals we attend. But for the Christian we have the distinct hope that one day we will again be together. And the more Christians we surround our lives with the greater that reunion will be when we ourselves enter heaven (cf. 2 Sam. 12:23).

Paul made his heart clear to the Thessalonian church. He spoke of his love for them (1 Thes. 2:8) and "great desire to see [their] face" (1 Thes. 2:17). Then he speaks of the great reunion they will one day have in heaven with him and with each other. "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep [a euphemism for death], so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For…God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus…. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thes. 4:13-14, 17-18). The comfort comes not only that we will be with the Lord, but also that we will be with each other.

"Will I see you in heaven?" was a common line used by a godly man in my life named Jim Rexilius who was a high school football coach in the Chicago suburbs.

Puritan Richard Baxter longed for that comfort: "I know that Christ is all in all; and that it is the presence of God that makes Heaven to be heaven. But yet it much sweetens the thoughts of that place to me that there are there such a multitude of my most dear and precious friends in Christ."

God be with you till we meet again;
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again;
Neath His wings protecting hide you;
Daily manna still provide you;
God be with you till we meet again.

Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus' feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.

For two Christians, death only becomes a temporary departure (an interruption not a separation) until we are reunited in heaven. The Old Testament called death being gathered to his or her people (Gen. 25:8; 35:29; 49:29; Num. 20:24; Jud. 2:10). The New Testament speaks of the "church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Heb. 12:23)…and the day when "many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 8:11). And when that long awaited day arrives, our relationship in heaven will be much deeper than it was on earth all for our greater fulfillment and God's glory.

Joni Eareckson Tada attempts to answer that age-old question in her book entitled Heaven - Your Real Home. "You will recognize the ones you love. On earth you only half-recognized them. But in heaven, you will discover rich, wonderful things about the true identity of your husband, wife, daughter, son, brother, sister, or special friends [who are in Christ], things that were only hinted at on earth. After all, we won't be less smart in heaven, we will be more smart. My husband, Ken, will be a thousand times more "Ken" than he ever was in flesh and blood. You will exclaim to your loved one, "Wow, so this is what I loved in you for so long!" for you will see him or her as God intended all along" (p. 104).


Let me give you a fifth reason why heaven is so great and why its future greatness will increase your joy right now. Heaven is a place of utter holiness.

When we receive Christ, we are acknowledging that we are sinners, that He paid the full penalty for our sin on the cross, and that we are committed to turning from sin and now pursuing righteousness (repentance). The second we receive Christ, we are given Christ's perfect righteousness. Because of His work on the cross we are declared innocent in the sight of God (justification). Then throughout the remainder of this early life, the Holy Spirit works in us and progressively makes us holy like Jesus (sanctification). And as we mature in Christ, we begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates. As Paul told the Philippians, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Heaven is God taking us home to the holy place our heart has been recreated to desire and making us perfectly holy ourselves.

In heaven the curse will be totally reversed. On one level that means all the stuff we hate about earth will be gone: no more migraines, mosquito bites, leaky faucets, cancer, snow shoveling, weeds, nuisance animals in your attic, sicknesses or broken appliances. No more working by the sweat of your brow, pain in childbirth, death and ongoing attacks of the evil one.

On another level, heaven is Paradise regained and improved upon in righteousness. As it says in the "Lord's Prayer," heaven is a place where God's will is always done (Mt. 6:10). Heaven is the home of holiness. Never will there be any sin among any of the participants in heaven (whether they be angelic or human).

God's people are those who want God's holiness in their own lives and in their surroundings. Matthew 5:6 declares, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Are they satisfied now? The relentless battle with personal sin (Rom. 7:24) and the agony of the sin that surrounds us: a world boasting in wrong, child abuse, playground bullies, injustice, hate, foul language, dirty jokes, abortion, sexual immorality, immodesty, greed, gossip, drunkenness, rape, credit card hackers, overdemanding employers, inconsiderate neighbors, backbiting, cliques, persecution, phony Christians and worldliness. Christians by the power of the Holy Spirit eagerly pursues holiness, just as their heavenly Father is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). They know Hebrews 12:14 that says "without [holiness] no one will see the Lord." Heaven is their reward. All true Christians want righteousness. In heaven their hunger and thirst for righteousness will be finally satisfied. As Peter said, "But according to [God's] promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pet. 3:13).

Those who love sin will not be in heaven. Personally, I cannot imagine how they would desire or even feel comfortable in a place of utter holiness, a place where God is praised by all, a place where sin is not "in". Yet for the Christian, this is our blessed hope of a good and fulfilling future. And understanding this future promise prevents frustration, anger, self-pity and compromise in the present. We know one day we will be in that environment that our hearts desire as we sing with all the company of heaven Revelation 4:8: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty."

When Pepper Martin, the Cardinal's hero of the 1931 World Series, was asked, "What is your chief ambition?" He answered, "My chief ambition is to go to heaven!" His flippant questioner chuckled, "You want to play harp, eh?" "Mister," said Martin, "I don't think that's funny. People don't want to be ignoble, I guess, but there surely are so without thinking. If there is anything foolish in reading the Bible every day and believing its contents; if there's anything funny about wanting to enter heaven when you leave this life, then I'm afraid that life in this world is not worth living" (Knight, p. 282).

Your God is there, your home is there, your rewards are there, your loved ones are there, your holiness is there…


One more reason heaven is our abode of joy is because in heaven all our pain will be taken away, and we will enter a place of eternal rest and comfort. Because the curse will be reversed, our work in heaven will be ultimately satisfying and not by the sweat of our brow (Gen. 3:19). Pain and discomfort will find no home. And the Sabbath rest promised for all God's people will be finally realized (Heb. 4:1-11).

John Rice in his excellent little book about heaven said, "When the Christian dies, he loses his sorrows. If one glistening tear can stain the pure face of a saint in Glory, then God Himself will wipe it away and comfort with His own endearments all His own who have sorrowed! Pain will be forgotten. Poverty will turn into riches… Earth has no sorrow Heaven cannot heal" (Bible Facts About Heaven, p. 42).

Heaven is the place where the fulfillment of all God's promises of comfort are realized. Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." In Luke 16:25 Abraham told the man in hell, "Now [Lazarus] is being comforted here, and you are in agony." Psalm 30:5, "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning." Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death for all time." Isaiah 35:10, "And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." Isaiah 65:19, "There will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying." Jeremiah 31:13, "For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow." Revelation 21:4, "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Even the most materialist and self-indulgent individual cannot overcome the inherent difficulties that come with this world. Heaven is the place where we can lay down all of our burdens and receive eternal comfort.

Christian, realize the blessedness of your future home. And then allow the future joy awaiting you to bring present joy to your life today! As Richard Baxter said, "A heavenly mind is a joyful mind; this is the nearest and truest way to live a life of comfort, and without this you must need be uncomfortable. Can a man be at a fire and not be warm; or in the sunshine and not have light? Can your heart be in heaven, and not have comfort?… O Christian, get above. Believe it, that region is warmer than this below." Fix your eyes on Jesus who served the Father so faithfully "for the joy set before Him" (Heb. 12:2). May the joy of the Lord in all He's promised you in heaven be your strength today!

There's no disappointment in heaven,

No weariness, sorrow or pain;

No hearts that are bleeding and broken,

No song with minor refrain.

The clouds of our earthly horizon

Will never appear in the sky,

For all will be sunshine and gladness,

With never a sob nor a sigh.

We'll never pay rent on our mansion,

The taxes will never come due;

Our garments will never grow threadbare,

But always be fadeless and new;

We'll never be hungry nor thirsty,

Not languish in poverty there,

Forall the rich bounties of heaven

His sanctified children will share.

There'll never be a crepe on the doorknob,

No funeral train in the sky;

No graves on the hillsides of glory,

For there we shall never more die.

The old will be young there forever,

Transformed in a moment of time;

Immortal we'll stand in His likeness,

The stars and the sun to outshine.

I'm bound for that beautiful city

My Lord has prepared for His own;

Where all the redeemed of all ages

Sing "Glory" around the white throne;

Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven,

And the glories I there shall behold;

What a joy that will be when my Savior I see,

In that beautiful city of gold!

F.M. Lehman

other sermons in this series

Mar 6


Heaven: My Everlasting Companions

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Revelation 21:1–9 Series: Heaven

Feb 27


Heaven: My True Home - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:35–44 Series: Heaven

Feb 20


Heaven: My True Home - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Revelation 21:10–27 Series: Heaven