Thursday, April 19, 2012

Are You Looking Forward to Heaven?

Part 1 of a Bible study series called Heaven



"To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (Phil. 1:21, 23). 


Introduction

The Bible doesn’t tell us everything about heaven, but it does give us lots to look forward to. Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, writes, “After examining what Scripture says [about heaven], I hope the next time you hear someone say, ‘We can’t begin to imagine what Heaven will be like,’ you’ll be able to tell them, ‘I can’” (p. 18).


Discussion

Going to heaven is like going to a country you have never visited before. If you were going to live in a foreign country for a year, how would you prepare? 

In theology books, heaven is often neglected. For example, in William Shedd’s three-volume Dogmatic Theology there are eighty-seven pages on eternal punishment, but only two on heaven. Why do you think there is this neglect of heaven? 


Explanation

D. L. Moody said, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. Don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.” Read 2 Cor. 5:6-8. Where do believers go when they die? 

There are many common misconceptions about heaven (e.g., heaven is boring). Jesus said that Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Why does Satan want people (both believers and unbelievers) to accept misconceptions about heaven? 

People often use 1 Cor. 2:9 to claim that heaven is beyond our imagination: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (KJV). But what does v. 10 say? Based on Scripture, what do you imagine heaven will be like? 

In the Bible, there is a present heaven (the place where believers go when they die) and an eternal heaven (the place where believers will live forever after the final resurrection). Wayne Grudem writes, “…Christians often talk about living with God ‘in heaven’ forever. But in fact the biblical teaching is richer than that: it tells us that there will be new heavens and a new earth—an entirely renewed creation—and we will live with God there…. There will also be a new kind of unification of heaven and earth…. There will be a joining of heaven and earth in this new creation” (Systematic Theology, p. 1158). Read Rev. 6:9-11. Based on this passage, Randy Alcorn lists twenty-one observations about the present heaven (Heaven, pp. 65-67). What do you observe about the present heaven in these verses? 


Application

Col. 3:1 commands us, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Most commands assume a resistance to obeying them. What can you do to become more heavenly-minded? 

In 1952, Florence Chadwick attempted to swim from Catalina Island to California. Unfortunately, she decided to quit when she was less than half a mile from the shore. At a news conference the next day Chadwick said, “All I could see was the fog…. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.” How can the vision of heaven keep you going during difficult times?