What Happens One Minute After You Die? – Program 5

By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©1998
How long is eternity? What will we do in heaven? What does heaven look like?

Your First Hour in Glory: What Will Heaven Be Like?


Dr. John Ankerberg: What will happen to you one minute after you die? Today on The John Ankerberg Show, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, says:
Dr. Erwin Lutzer: John, the simple fact is that someday all of us will die. The Bible says that, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgment.” [Heb. 9:27] Death awaits all of us like the concrete floor awaits the falling light bulb. It WILL happen. And you know, God has created within us the knowledge that there is something that exists beyond the grave.
Ankerberg: The desire of many people to find out what lies on the other side of the grave is so great that some have turned to alternate methods such as channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences to gain a glimpse of what is coming after death. Today, you’ll hear what the Bible says will happen to you one minute after you die. You’ll also learn why the information coming from channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences, which attempt to peek behind the curtain of death, is not to be trusted. We invite you to join us for this edition of The John Ankerberg Show.

Ankerberg: Welcome. We all know that we’re headed toward death. We don’t like to talk about it a lot, but it’s true. But for Christians, the closer we are to death, the closer we are to heaven. It’s interesting, the older I get, the more I think about heaven. How about you? Well, today we want to talk about: What will heaven be like when we get there? When you close your eyes in this life and you open them in the next, what will you see? What will you experience your first hour in heaven? My good friend Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois, in our last program started to talk about what heaven would be like and today we are going to continue. Listen:
Lutzer: John, I love to tell that story about the preacher who asked, “How many of you would like to go to heaven? Raise your hand.” And everybody raise his or her hand except a man in the front seat. The pastor said to him, “You don’t want to go to heaven?”
He said, “Oh, yes, I do. But I thought you were getting a group to go right now.”
Well, you know, we smile, but the fact is that every one of us is going to spend eternity somewhere, and eternity is very, very long. Think of a hundred million years – almost impossible to grasp – and then another hundred million and on and on. It never ends! And that’s why it’s so important for you to be with us today because we are going to be talking about heaven. In another broadcast we’re going to be talking about hell. But the Bible paints a beautiful picture of what we call “the New Jerusalem,” and I interpret Revelation 21 and 22 to be a picture of our final home. That’s the best we can do as we think about the heavenly realms.
We’ve already learned that the size of the city is able to accommodate all of the saints – 1,500 miles square, the Scripture says; 1,500 miles high; 1,500 miles in diameter. We’ve learned also that the materials are absolutely exquisite and beautiful. And you know, when the Apostle John uses expressions like “streets paved with gold” or “the pearls on the gates,” [Rev. 21:21] he may be speaking metaphorically here, but he saw a vision and this is the best he can do, the best he could do to communicate it to us. It’ll be so much better than the way in which it is described.
Then we’re going to have a new occupation. We are going to be able to work for God but to do so effortlessly. He’s going to have assignments for us to do. The Scripture says that, “We shall reign with Him forever and ever” and “His name shall be on our foreheads.” [Rev. 22:4-5]
The other day someone said to me, “Pastor Lutzer, when I get to heaven, is it possible for me to sin and then be thrown out of heaven like Lucifer once was?” Well, you know, the answer to that question is, “No.” Number one, you will not want to sin, and number two, you have been “elect,” the Bible says, “from before the foundation of the world” and God preserves those who are His.
And if you want to know, however, whether or not you are going to heaven, I want you to understand, it is possible for you to know right now. You can know, and that is through faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: Do you have a wonderful family right now? Have you ever wondered if we are still going to have family gatherings in heaven? And what will you experience in heaven if you came from a bad home, so to speak? Will you be like an orphan in heaven? These are very interesting questions and Dr. Erwin Lutzer answers them. Listen:
Lutzer: You know, there’s a question that people frequently come to me and ask. They say, “Now, in heaven, are we still going to have those good family picnics?” Let’s suppose that you come from a good family and those get-togethers – Thanksgiving, Christmas – they were so special. “Are we ever going to get together? Well, what I want you to do is take the intimacy that you experienced – I’m speaking now to those of you who came from good families – take the intimacy that you experienced and then broaden that to all those who are in heaven and you’ll have the same fellowship and intimacy and fulfillment that you had with all the saints who are there. And if you came from a bad home–I speak to someone rejected. Your father didn’t want you. He left the family. Your mother maybe rejected you. I speak to orphans. I speak to those of you who perhaps were conceived out of wedlock. You’ve always wondered, “Am I going to really belong?” Oh, yes, I want you to know that if you are a believer in Christ, you will belong and you’ll finally get the family that you’ve always wanted!
You say, “Can you show that to me from the Bible?” I think I can. In one of the most remarkable stories of when Jesus was on earth, I want you to listen to this because this just enlarges our understanding of the glories of heaven and the whole family structure that may exist there.
Mark 3:31-35, “And his mother and his brothers arrived, and standing outside, they sent word to Him and called Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him and they said to Him, ‘Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.’ And answering them, He said, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, Jesus said, ‘Behold, my mother and my brothers, for whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Jesus is saying that if you follow Him, if you know Him, you are brought from the fringes into the very heart of the heavenly family, and Jesus considers you to be your brother. In fact, he says in the Book of Hebrews, “He is not ashamed to call us brothers.” [Heb. 2:11] We share the same Father. It only makes sense. After the Resurrection Jesus said to Mary, “I ascend to My Father and to your Father; your God and My God.” [John 20:17] You see, if God who is in heaven is my Father and He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that makes Jesus and me brothers, does it not? Can you imagine the beauty, the beauty and the fulfillment of the heavenly family with that kind of a close relationship?
I’d like to read the words of a man by the name of Richard Whately who wrote this about the heavenly family. Listen carefully. “I am convinced that the extension and perfection of friendship will constitute a great part of the future happiness of the blest…. A wish to see and personally know, for example, the Apostle Paul, or John, is the most likely to arise in the noblest and purest mind. I should be sorry to think such a wish absurd and presumptuous or unlikely…. The highest enjoyment doubtless…will be the personal knowledge of our great and beloved Master. Yet I cannot but think that some part of their happiness [that is, our happiness] will consist in an intimate knowledge of the greatest of His followers also; and of those of them in particular, whose…qualities are, to each, especially attractive.”
Now, what he’s saying is, “Do you want to talk to Peter? You want to ask him what it was like to deny Christ as well as follow Christ, you’ll get a chance to do that. You want to talk to Martin Luther and ask him, “Now, what was it really that motivated you to nail the 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg?” he will tell you. I don’t know if we’ll be talking about those kinds of things or not, but I do know this, that our wishes and desires will be fulfilled.
My friend, today, you be a believer in Jesus and you are a part of a magnificent, wonderful family.
Ankerberg: You know, when we get to heaven, the Bible says that God is going to “wipe away every tear from our eyes and there shall no longer be death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain.” [Rev. 21:4] It’s hard for us to imagine an environment like that. But what other harmful, bad things does God say He will eliminate from heaven? Listen:
Lutzer: Of course, you know, we always talk about the glories of heaven and what is going to be there. But we can also take comfort in the things that won’t be in heaven. When our children were small, they sang a little song that talked about the “won’t be’s” of heaven. Things that will not be there.
I have read Revelation 21 and 22 and I’ve come up with at least ten things that will not be in heaven. For example, it says, that the New Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven and it says, “And there was no more sea.” [Rev. 21:1] Now, the sea in the Bible usually refers to “the nations,” you know, the “sea that cannot rest that casts up mire and dirt.” [Isa. 57:20] Well, there will be no more restlessness among the nations of the earth. The wars are going to end. Those headlines as to what is happening in some of the countries of Europe are finally going to be over. Aren’t you glad? No bad headlines in heaven.
Secondly, it says “there is no more death.” [Rev. 21:4] The hearse will have taken its last journey. You know, you look at all the funeral homes and you can see how busy they are, day after day. I’m not to the point yet where I read obituaries, but from time to time, you turn to it in the newspaper and you see this long list of people who died. When we do that, what we should really do is to see our own names because the time is coming when you and I shall be listed there. It’s going to be all over and it’ll be all over a lot sooner than we realize.
In Chicago the other day, a friend died very, very unexpectedly. Just, boom, and he’s gone. And that’s going to be our story. We’re gone. The Bible says it’s like a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. [James 4:14] No more death. No more sorrow. I speak to you today because you are filled with sorrow possibly, and if you are not filled with sorrow today, you know someone who is. You know someone who is.
And then it goes on to say that “there is no more crying.” Let me read the text here. It says, “And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall no longer be any death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the first things have passed away.” [Rev. 21:4] The phrase that I wanted us to zero in on is, “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Naturally, the question always is, “Why are there tears in heaven?” Well, I think that there are tears in heaven possibly because we regret the way in which we lived. Now, by the way, this is a good time to emphasize that we are the same people in heaven as we are here on earth. And the memories of earth we take with us. I’m not necessarily saying the memories of our sins but the memories of who we were, how we served the Lord, the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ which shall already have happened at this point. We have all of this that we bring to bear and we weep. We weep because of the way in which we lived. Yes, we also might weep because of people we know who will never show up for the celestial celebration – relatives, friends, possibly a mother, a father, and we know that they will be lost forever. Wow! We weep.
You know, there are some people who have actually looked at this and they’ve said, “It is impossible to be happy in heaven as long as you know that you have a loved one who is in hell,” a topic, by the way, that we are going to encounter and discuss in the next program. But they’ve said, “It’s impossible because how could you possibly be happy in heaven,” and they’ve even suggested that God will blank out the memory of a mother who has a son who is lost. I disagree with that. I can’t imagine that God is going to somehow take away our tears by giving us the “gift of ignorance.” God’s method of solving these problems is not to limit the sphere of human knowledge; it is to broaden it and to give us an explanation. And here is how I generally answer that question. I say, look, if God can be happy throughout all of eternity, we will be happy throughout all of eternity, too. So I tend to think that rather than God having a handkerchief and coming and wiping away each individual tear – though, of course, He could do that – I tend to think the tears are wiped away because He gives us an explanation for those who are lost and His purposes and we accept the fact that we have failed and that is put behind us. That’s one of the reasons for the tears, so that we can get on with heaven without crying.
I don’t know about you, but I think I speak for you when I say that when you look at the newspapers today: children being abused. You see starvation. What is it? Twenty thousand every day because of famine throughout the world? You think of the buckets and buckets of tears cried every single minute on this sinful, hurting world. I want you to know that for believers in Christ, the tears are wiped away; wiped away by God.
Ankerberg: You know, in listening to these wonderful promises that God has made to us about what heaven will be like, be sure that you have placed all of your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and for His gift of eternal life. Well, let’s continue. There are still more things that God says He is going to eliminate that won’t be a part of our existence in heaven. One of those is pain. Listen:
Lutzer: Let me say also that there is no more pain. Revelation 21:4 says, “There shall no longer be any pain.” Well, you come with me to a hospital and you see the pain, you see the agony, you see those that are going through these difficult, difficult circumstances, whether the pain is physical or emotional. We live in a very, very hurting world. None of that in heaven. No more pain. It’s all gone.
Also, “there is no temple therein,” it says. Let me read it directly in the text: “And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple; and the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and the lamp is the Lamb.” [Rev. 21:22-23]
Now, earlier in the Book of Revelation there is a temple and it has been suggested that as long as the earth is in existence and the Great Tribulation is taking place, there’s a temple in heaven. But once that ends in the new order of reality there is no temple. Why? Because we have the privilege, then, of worshiping God directly. We don’t even need a temple that we enter. Could I say it? That the whole universe is God’s temple at that moment. All of heaven is God’s temple. And we have the privilege of being able to see Him face to face and to worship Him directly. So there is no temple therein.
And then, we read it here, “There is no need of the sun, nor of the moon, for God Himself shall illumine it, and” – remember this – “the lamp is the Lamb.” [Rev. 21:23]
Wow! Did you know that in heaven we will not have to sleep, and it’s not because we will be weary, either. We’re going to have bodies that are going to be able to just keep going and going and going and we will never, never be tired. And therefore there is no need for night because we generally sleep during the night. “The lamp is the Lamb.” You know, it does make you want to say, “Lord, come quickly,” doesn’t it, as you think about the beauty and the glories of heaven.
Ankerberg: Now, one of the things we’re going to talk about next is that God says there will be no more lying in heaven. And if you stop and think about it, most people lie once, twice, or even more every day. Am I talking about you? Well, if you lie or have lied in the past, and no lying will be a part of heaven, will you be in heaven? If you’re troubled by that thought, then listen to what Pastor Lutzer says next:
Lutzer:> And then, “no more abominations.” Now, notice, “And the nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and in the daytime [for there is no night there] its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it and nothing unclean….” We need to take this carefully because we live in an age where we have taken the holiness of God and we have brought God down to our own level and we’ve gotten so used to sin that it doesn’t affect us anymore. But listen to this: “Nothing unclean, no one who practices abomination and lying….” Is there someone listening who practices lying? Sometime ago I read that book, John, The Day America Told the Truth and I concluded that the only time you can believe an American is when he tells you he’s lying. I’ve exaggerated it, but 90 percent of all Americans say they lie at least every week if not every day. Notice, it says, “And lying… they shall not enter in but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Wow! [Rev. 21:24-27]
Let’s talk very frankly about this. You say today, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, I’ve committed abominations and I am one who practices lying.” What you need to do is to flee to Christ. What you need to do is to understand that, of course, it’s possible to have that in your background. We have all sinned. But what we need to do is to recognize that Jesus Christ died for sinners and when we put our faith in Christ, we can be assured that our name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older than I used to be, which is true of all of us, but I used to like that song sung many years ago: “Is your name written there?” It asks the question. The question is, “Is your name here?” You can find out by believing in Jesus and participating in the blessings that He brings and be very, very clear on this, that no abominations will enter heaven. It’s a pure place for a people that have been purified by God.
Ankerberg: Now, this next question is the most important question today. How can you know for sure whether or not heaven is your final destination? Pastor Lutzer says there is only one way to be sure and he explains what that is. Listen very carefully and don’t miss it:
Lutzer: John, even as I am here with you today, in Chicago a close friend of ours is dying. She is dying so victoriously. In fact, some time ago I was with her in the hospital and I knelt beside her bed, I took her hand. She said, “Pastor, my bags are packed. I’m ready to go.” She’s dying so victoriously, in fact, that some of her relatives and friends have asked, “Tell us about her. How can she die that way? Is she in denial?” No. She’s not in denial. She knows that eternity is coming. But about four or five years ago she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and she knows where she is going.
One day after dinner I received a phone call from a friend of mine who is a pastor who is dying of cancer and he just had days to live. And he said to me on the telephone, “Goodbye, Erwin, I will see you in heaven.” I spoke to him very briefly then and put the receiver down and spontaneously I began to cry. I normally don’t do that but it was so touching to think that this is real. These people and many others will be in heaven and we will be there with them forever. And as we’ve learned, no more tears, no more crying.
If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, if you are not sure whether or not heaven is your final destination, there’s only one way to be sure, and that is to trust the One who is already there qualified to lead you all the way home.
You know, there was a little girl who was asked whether or not she was afraid to go through the cemetery. She lived close to one. And she said, “No.” She said, “The reason I am not afraid to run through the cemetery is because my home is on the other side.”
All of us are going to be in a cemetery someday. But through faith in Christ, we need not be overwhelmed by it because our home is on the other side.

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