What’s So Exciting About Heaven/Program 1

By: Randy Alcorn; ©2013
In this session, guest Randy Alcorn along with Dr. John Ankerberg help viewers discover some of the details of the believer’s future home and how exciting heaven will be. As we do, we’ll learn how a greater biblical understanding of heaven can transform how we live today, including how we share our faith with others.

Introduction

Today on the John Ankerberg Show, what’s so exciting about heaven? If you’ve ever planned a trip to Disneyland, skiing in Aspen, or a trip to Europe, you usually look at the brochures and websites to find out in advance what it’ll be like. Such guidebooks excite us about going there. But the guidebook to heaven is the Bible, and it says we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth which God has promised. But if heaven, or as the verse calls it the “new heaven and new earth,” will be your home one day, what do you know about heaven? What are you looking forward to doing, to experiencing, to seeing in the place you will spend for all eternity?
My guest today is bestselling author of Heaven, Dr. Randy Alcorn. He will describe the wonderful things God has promised Christians will enjoy in our future home in heaven. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

Will Heaven Be Exciting?

Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking about the exciting topic of heaven, and we have one of the leading authorities in the world, Dr. Randy Alcorn, that’s with us. I’ve wanted him to come for a long time, and you’re going to love the information that he’s got. Are you excited about going to heaven? Randy, a lot of Christians that I’ve met, I can’t say are really excited about heaven because they really do not know anything about it. They just know they’re going to heaven because they’ve invited Jesus into their life. Tell us what you’ve seen in the churches as you’ve talked in conferences and churches and you’ve taught at school. What are you noticing?
Dr. Randy Alcorn: Well, I actually had a good friend, a Bible-believing pastor, who confessed to me one day. He said, “You know, the truth is, I would rather be annihilated when I die than go on forever, forever, on and on in eternity.” And I said, “Why would you say that?” He said, “Because it’s just, the idea is so tedious, it’s so boring, nothing to do. I mean, I know we’re going to worship God, and I love the Lord, but I just would like to be able to do some other things too.” And I thought, here’s a pastor, a graduate of a Bible college and a seminary, and he’s not excited about heaven, so obviously he’s not going to communicate excitement about heaven. And I think for a lot of people it’s kind of a neutral subject where, yeah, it’s a great idea, yeah, the idea, I mean, heaven’s a lot better than hell. I mean, it’s a lot better than the alternative, but they’re not really excited about it.
Then I think about how excited we get about places where, you’re going to go to Disney World, or you’re going to go to the Grand Canyon or…. What do you do? You find out everything you can find out about it, and you talk to people who can tell you, give you little clues about what’s there. And I think, as Christians, we need to go to God’s Word and see what it says. And when we see what God’s Word says about heaven, this place that Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, has gone to prepare for us, the place He’s been preparing for us for 2,000 years. And He’s a builder, He’s a carpenter; He knows how to build stuff and He knows how to repair stuff. And He built this world, and this world went bad, and then He’s going to repair it, and we’re going to live on a new earth forever. And when you get that in your mind, you can’t help but be excited about heaven.
Ankerberg: Yeah, you said new heaven, new earth; just give me in a nutshell what that means.
Alcorn: Well, often we think about heaven only in the short term. We think about, okay, somebody dies. They loved Jesus. They go to heaven. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” That’s right. You die, you go to heaven. But heaven is now in a location that it will not always be. We are told that God will bring heaven down from the invisible realm and place it on a new earth, a new creation. And we’re told that in Revelation 21-22, Isaiah 60, Isaiah 65, other passages. And when God comes down to live with us on this new earth, it says His throne is going to come down and He’s going to dwell among His people. We will be resurrected. We will have new bodies. And the new earth will be parallel to our new bodies. Our old bodies die. They, over a period of time, decompose; and then God raises them in the resurrection. Likewise, the earth we’re living on now, yes, it’s going to be destroyed, but then it’s going to be resurrected, and there will be a new earth we will live on forever. And that new earth will have most of the features that we know of in this present earth; and we will have bodies where we will eat and drink and be happy and celebrate and tell stories at the dinner table. Abraham and Isaac, they’ll come from the east and the west and sit down with them at the table. And this is what we have to look forward to.
Ankerberg: And, folks, we’re going spend six programs describing what we’re going to enjoy in heaven. So, I mean, just stick with us here, because it gets better and better, just like heaven’s going to get better and better for all eternity.
Now, first of all, I want you to get into their mind the fact that heaven is a real place right now. And there was a story that you told in one of your books about when your mom died and you had to tell your little two and a half year old daughter, who was very, very close to your mom, her grandmother. And tell us how that situation went, because it illustrates how real heaven is.
Alcorn: Our daughter Karina, our oldest daughter, was very, very close to her grandmother. And she would go over every Monday, spend the day with grandma, and grandma would read her Bible stories and take her places and do special things with her. And when my mom was dying of cancer, we would take Karina over to visit her at my parent’s home, and had nursing care coming in. And she saw her grandma deteriorating. And it was hard on her, and it was hard on us, but we had that special time together. And one night I got the call in the middle of the night that my mom had died. I went over, dealt with the situation. I came back home and I thought, you know what, I’ve got to wake up Karina, because she is so close to her grandma, I just, she needs to know. And so I woke her up in the middle of the night. I will never forget it; it’s just like I’m back there right now.
I looked at her in her eyes. She was tired and all that. I looked at her and I say, “Karina, do you know where Grandma Alcorn is?” And before I finished the question, she said, “Yes, daddy, she’s in heaven.” And then a few minutes later she said, “She’s no longer in that hospital bed. Now she’s in Jesus’ lap.” And the thing that struck me, John, as I heard my daughter say this is, she believes everything we’ve taught her about heaven; all the Bible says that she’s heard about heaven, she absolutely believes it. This is the faith of a child. And we’re to come as children. And what she realized was that everything was okay now. She had known that her grandma was suffering, and Karina was actually happy. And so we’re feeling this great sense of loss, happy that mom’s with the Lord, but she’s overwhelmed with joy. And now everything is okay for our daughter whose grandma is with Jesus.
Ankerberg: Let’s put our evidence on the table. I want to put this verse on the screen. The apostle Paul tells us what happens at death. He says in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.” Okay, we’re going to find out, why is it gain. And he says, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is better by far.” So what Paul is saying is, the moment you close your eyes in this life, the fact is, you open them in the next, just like the rich man and Lazarus. The fact is, and I think that folks that are suffering right now, okay, the hope, the Scripture really says there’s a real heaven and the fact is, you close your eyes, and you’re going to be where? You’re going to be with the Lord.
Now, let’s put another verse on the table, because the time’s going by fast here. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John writes, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” What do these verses mean to you, Randy?
Alcorn: Well, this is a promise that all creation is going to be made right. Sometimes we forget that the last few chapters of Revelation correspond perfectly to the first few chapters of Genesis. The story begins—it’s a true story—it begins in this powerful way God intends for righteous man and woman to rule the earth to His glory. And then we think, well, Satan messes everything up. But then move forward through the redemptive work of Christ, and the culmination in the last couple of chapters of Revelation, as you’ve just read. And now we have God restoring, all the “re” words in the Bible, redemption, and reconcile, and all those “re” words. He’s going to make it better than it has ever been. But He’s going to restore what was lost. Paradise was lost; Paradise will be regained. No more sin, no more suffering, no more pain. What a perspective. And if you realize where we’ve come from and where we’re going, it helps you today to think the way you should and to rejoice; because you know that God’s working everything together for good, and one day you’ll be in a world where everything will be right.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break. When we come back I’m going to ask Randy, what are some of the things that he’s looking forward to when he goes to the new heaven and the new earth. Stick with us; we’ll be right back.

Break

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back, and we’re talking with Dr. Randy Alcorn. We’re talking about the wonderful topic of heaven. What can we expect? What has God promised about what He’s going to do for us in the future in heaven? What’s He going to provide? You remember when Jesus was on the cross and He looked at the thief that was next to Him that believed in Jesus and He said, “Today you will be with Me in,” where? “paradise.” He compared it to a garden. What was paradise? It was the Garden of Eden. And other places, in the book of Hebrews we find this: “They were longing for a better country, a heavenly one.” God’s talking about a country here. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared,” then he says, “a city for them.” So we’ve got a garden, a paradise, a country and a city. God describes heaven in these terms. Randy, explain this.
Alcorn: Well, I think it’s talking about the multifaceted nature of the new earth, where we’re going to live with our Lord and with our spiritual family for all eternity. In Revelation 22 we’ve got the stream, the river, that’s flowing from the throne of God. And it’s got the tree of life growing on both sides of the river, so it’s like a forest of life now. It’s like Genesis 1-2, except on a much grander scale. And it’s also got the benefits of cultural development, because you’ve got building projects. You’ve got these huge walls. You’ve got the jewels and you’ve got the beautiful architecture. And you’ve also got the natural wonders and resources of the river that’s flowing. And then it says the tree of life is producing this fruit.
So it’s a city, the new Jerusalem; it’s a country; it talks about the kings of the nations of the earth will be bringing their treasures into the new Jerusalem, presumably to set them at the feet as tribute, so to speak, of their Lord who they love and they’ve done the works of their hands for His glory. So heaven is those things. It’s paradise; it’s city; it’s country. We will be citizens of that world, and we, as God’s men and women, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, will reign over the earth. He is the King of kings, so He is above all. But He’s the King of kings—capital “K,” King, and lower case “k,” kings—His children serving under Him and ruling the world to the glory of God so that His original purpose from Genesis will be fulfilled for all eternity. And what an exciting prospect that is.
Ankerberg: Yeah, I was reading in my devotions the other night where Jesus is before Pilate, and Pilate says, “Are You a king?” And He says, “Yes, I am a king” and it just, it struck me, Jesus is saying, “I am the King.” But then He said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” okay. But He is ruling right now. And the reason that heaven and earth are not connected is because earth is sinful right now, alright. And the fact is, someday God is going to bring the heavenly city and connect it to earth. But before He does that, He’s got to destroy everything that is sinful here on earth; and then He’s going to recreate this earth that we’re familiar with, but He’s going to make it so much more fantastic. And He’s going to bring heaven down. How big is the heavenly city of new Jerusalem right now?
Alcorn: Well, it’s described as being 12,000 stadia, and that comes out somewhere in the neighborhood of 1400 miles, a 1400-mile cube; so, as high as it is wide. And so we’re talking about a base that would go basically from Canada to Mexico, from the west coast to the Appalachian Mountains. So you’re talking about an incredibly large structure. But that’s just the new Jerusalem. Then we’re told that you can go outside of the gates and there are nations of the earth, and the kings of the nations of the earth that bring their treasures in. So we’re talking about an amazingly large place that God has prepared for us.
Ankerberg: Yeah, 1400 miles high as well, okay. I mean, we don’t have anything to comprehend what that’s like, that that’s high. It’s like outer space, okay. Now, if that’s just the new Jerusalem, okay, it’s like one of the prophecy scholars said, you know, God’s going to have to enlarge the earth if that’s still going to be Jerusalem, and we have some kind of semblance of the rest of the nations out there. But the fact is, I think that He will, in that sense. Talk about the fact that, we just rolled by this quickly, and people say, “Well, wait a minute. Does that mean that heaven’s changing from what it is now, and it’s going to be better? And what is heaven presently? So that if I die, or you die right now, the fact is, we’re instantly with the Lord and we’re in the heaven that is there, okay. Tell us what’s there now. What’s the present heaven?
Alcorn: We’re given a picture of this in several passages. One is in Revelation 6, where you have the martyrs who have died. They’re with the Lord, and they’re in conversation. And they cry out together. They say, “How long, O Lord, before You bring judgment on those who murdered us?” Well, we learn a lot about life in the present heaven. One, of course, people are in the presence of God; and, as Paul says, that’s better by far. So they’re without sin. But they’re communicating, so they still have their rationality; they have consciousness; they have interaction and relationship; they have memories of their time on earth. A lot of people say, “Well, maybe we will be able to remember a few things, but we won’t be able to remember any of the bad things.” Well, they remember that they were murdered. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
But the thing is, the key to heaven is not that you have a memory loss because you can’t cope with what happened to you when you were on the earth. Rather, you have a perspective that God gives you, and you see His plan. So they can remember that they’ve been murdered, but they pray to God. So people in heaven are talking with God; they’re praying to Him. They’re saying, “How long, O Lord, before You will do this?” And that’s another aspect about it; there is time in the present heaven. We know this because it’s, “How long, O Lord,” and then the Lord responds, “You must wait a little longer.” So clearly there is time in heaven. In fact, Revelation 8:1 says there was silence in heaven for half an hour. So it’s pretty clear that we are finite beings who experience space and time in heaven.
Ankerberg: Alright, and they’re also waiting for the Lord to return. Why?
Alcorn: Because they know that when Christ returns and they come with Him to establish the millennium kingdom on earth, and then when that’s done, new heavens and a new earth, after final judgment, that God at last will bring the justice to the earth that they’re crying out for.
Ankerberg: He will also, at that point, destroy the earth, the sinfulness of earth, and recreate it. And give me a glimpse here of how you see the new earth that we’re going to be able to enjoy, because God is doing this for us. He knows what we like and He’s made us a certain way, and it’s going to answer a lot of folk’s questions here if you answer this question. What’s it going to be like on the new earth?
Alcorn: I think the key to everything is to understand what resurrection means. That’s the promise of Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15 we’re told, “if the dead are not raised we are of all men most to be pitied.” It’s all about the resurrection. This notion that the spirit must be delivered from the body—it’s in bondage, it’s in chains to the body, which was a teaching of Plato—it’s foreign to Scripture. Scripture says God created us to be physical beings as well as spiritual beings. And so the promise of resurrection is, we will live forever in a redeemed condition, but we will have real bodies—our original bodies made perfect—and we will live on a real earth—the original earth made perfect, restored, brought back from destruction, resurrected for all eternity. And then all the promises, all the joys of life, the relational things, the communicative things, the wonders of the world. Romans 8 teaches that the whole creation is longing; it’s crying out for deliverance. And it says that it will be delivered on the coattails of humanity. So when humanity is redeemed in our resurrection, the creation that fell under us will rise again with us. And this is so exciting.
I think about my friend David O’Brien, who has cerebral palsy, and he is 65 years old now. And what David has experienced over the years, with deteriorating health, never having had good health, being delivered one day. For him to stand before God in a new body and to walk the earth and to run through meadows, and to swim, and to enjoy what’s in front of him. To be with His Lord, above all, but God the source of all good things; this is what eternity will be for the redeemed people of God.
Ankerberg: It’s going to be terrific. And we’re just getting started, folks. Next week we’re going to talk about, what will heaven be like? How old will you be when you hit heaven, alright? You might be 95 saying, “I wonder how old I’m going to be when I get to heaven,” or you may be 4 or 5 years old saying, “Am I going to be 4 or 5 years old when I get to heaven?” We’re going to ask Randy that question. Are we going to have a mansion? What’s the place that we’re going to live? These are just common questions that everybody wants to know about. We’re going to talk about it next week. You won’t want to miss it.

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