What’s So Exciting About Heaven/Program 2
|By: Randy Alcorn; ©2013|
|As guest Randy Alcorn and Dr. John Ankerberg continue our study, we’ll find that the future state of the believer will be one of much excitement and joy. Rather than merely singing songs, believers will be involved in a wide variety of activities in community with other believers and in new, perfect bodies fit for service to the King of kings.|
What’s So Exciting About Heaven?
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.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We are talking with Dr. Randy Alcorn, and we’re talking about heaven. What will life be like in heaven? How old will you be when you arrive in heaven? Will we each have our own mansion? Where are we going to live in heaven? Will we travel in heaven? What are we going to wear in heaven? These kinds of questions are what we’re going to ask Randy to talk to us about from the Word of God. And, Randy, I want to start with a question we covered a little bit last week, and that was, a lot of Christians aren’t really excited about heaven. What do they think heaven’s going to be if they’re not excited about it?
- Alcorn: Well, they often think it’s going to be one long extremely boring church service, not that all church services are boring, but, you know, after a couple million years it starts to wear on you a little bit. And that’s what people are thinking. There was a Far Side cartoon where a guy is sitting on a cloud and he’s got his stereotypical halo and supposed angel’s wings, and he’s gone to heaven now, and he’s just sitting on a cloud doing nothing. And the caption says, “I wish I’d brought a magazine.” And that’s the way a lot of people think of it—nothing to do, no conversations to have, no place to go.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s talk about this thing of what God says. Let me read it and put it on the table, and I’ll let you kind of explain what we’re talking about here. Revelation 21:2, God gives us a glimpse of heaven. The apostle John writes and he says, “And 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.’” We talked last week a little bit about what this is, and we’ve got present heaven and we’ve got future heaven. And this is giving us a glimpse of future heaven. But it’s also giving us a little bit of a glimpse of present heaven. Define the differences, because people say, “Hey, come on, heaven’s going to change? Come on.”
- Alcorn: God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. But heaven is a specific location. God is omnipresent; that means He dwells everywhere. But He has a special dwelling place that He chooses, and that’s heaven. That’s where His throne is. And we’re told that God is going to move His special dwelling place from where heaven is now, outside of our observation, into the new heavens and the new earth, and literally bring it down to earth. And Ephesians 1 talks about how heaven and earth will be joined under one head, Christ. And, remember, Christ’s name, Immanuel, that means “God with us.” This is going to be God with us for all eternity. So when we see the throne of God in the new Jerusalem, we see Jesus sitting on the throne; and it talks about the Father sitting on the throne as well. Then that means that God has relocated His central dwelling place so that it’s like the new Jerusalem is the capital city of the new earth, which is the capital planet of the new universe, a recreated, renewed universe.
- Ankerberg: Alright, let’s start back at the beginning. What happens the moment we die?
- Alcorn: If we have a faith in Jesus Christ, we go immediately into the presence of God. We see with the rich man and Lazarus that where the rich man who did not know God, where he went immediately when he died, was to another place, which we can call the present hell. But what we call the present hell will be thrown into the lake of fire. Similarly, what we call the present heaven, which is where Lazarus went when he died, will ultimately be relocated to that new earth.
- But right after we die we enter the presence of God. Paul says it’s better by far, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” There is immediate ongoing consciousness. I know a family whose daughter was dying of a rare disease, and her name was Emily. And to help her understand this, they said, “Okay, Emily, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to wheel you in, in the wheelchair, into this room where you’re going to be, and then we’re going to be here on the other side of the door.” And then one by one they walked into the room. They said, “You’re going to be the first one in our family that’s going to enter the presence of God. But then, one by one, we’re going to follow you in here.” And, of course, to make the illustration perfect, you would have had to have Jesus be there with her in that room, you know. And so she’s never alone in that room. She’s going to be with Him, but then the rest of the family that loves Jesus comes in. I thought it was a beautiful illustration, because it’s a reminder that death constitutes a temporary separation, but then there is reunion that follows it, with those that love God.
- Ankerberg: Let’s talk about the new bodies that God is going to give to us, alright. Paul says this, 1 Corinthians 15: “The body that is sown is perishable”—the one that dies, it’s perishable—“it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor” —if you’ve ever seen anybody die, it’s not a pretty sight—“but it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness”—we can already feel as we’re growing older the fact that we’re getting weaker; when you get to death, you can hardly do anything; you can hardly breathe—“but it’s raised in power. It is sown a natural body,” Paul says, “it’s going to be raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body there is also a spiritual body.” And he uses Jesus’ resurrected body as our model. Explain what this new body’s going to be like.
- Alcorn: Well, we can look at Jesus’ body because He’s called the first-fruits from the dead. We’re told that we will be like Him when we see Him as He is. And what that means is that we can look at Jesus’ resurrection body and determine from it some things about our resurrection body. He made a point of saying to His disciples, “Touch Me. I’ve got this physical body. I am not a ghost. A ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have.” What do we learn from that? Well, the resurrection body has flesh and bones. Now, it will not be a body subject to sin and death and suffering and all the things that came from the curse. In Revelation 22 we’re told there will be no more curse. So Jesus defeats death. He defeats the curse. He reverses the curse. And in our resurrection bodies we will experience life as we’ve never known it; because we can imagine what the resurrected life will be like: on our very best day when you felt your best and you looked your best and you had lots of energy and you thought this was the peak of my life. And we tend to look back and think I’ve passed my peak. Well, guess what? In the resurrection, our peak still awaits all of us, and we will never pass that peak.
- Ankerberg: Will we have supernatural abilities like Jesus? I mean, Jesus could just float right up into the sky. I mean, how far does this new body go?
- Alcorn: We don’t know for sure on that. Was that unique to Jesus as the God-man, that He did that? But we do know that certainly these bodies will be at maximum capacity, and they’ll be in a better form than they ever have been. So there won’t be sickness. We do know, for instance, that there are streets in the new Jerusalem. And there are gates that enter the city. Well, normally that would indicate streets you walk on, and gates you enter through. So probably not everybody flying around all the time; and roads—that could be vehicles, there could be horse and carriage. It could be all kinds of things. There’s certainly no reason to believe there will not be technology. But certainly our bodies will experience what our bodies experience now, but without the curse, without sin in the world.
- Ankerberg: We won’t be angels though, will we?
- Alcorn: No. A lot of people have this misconception: when you die you become an angel, and my friend or my mother or my child who died is now kind of watching over me as my guardian angel. No, human beings are human beings, created in the image of God. Angels are angels; the two are completely different.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break. When we come back I am going to ask him the question that all of you want to know. How old are we going to be when we appear in heaven? If you’re 95, are you going to be 33? Are you going to be 10? What age are you going to be? What age would you like to be? If your child is four, what about him? What age will he appear? Stick with us, we’ll be right back.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with the leading authority on heaven, Dr. Randy Alcorn, and we’re going to ask him this question: Randy, how old are we going to be when we arrive in heaven? If a five-year-old dies, or a person 92 dies, what age will they be when they arrive in heaven?
- Alcorn: Well, if we look back at Adam and Eve, we see that there was apparent age. Of course, they had just been created, but they appeared to be a certain age. What age was that? We don’t know for sure, but we just assume that it would be at the peak of their development, so probably post-adolescent. But in the resurrection where will we be? Well, actually a lot of ink was spilt over this in the Middle Ages. Peter Lombard, St. Thomas Aquinas, prominent theologians in the Middle Ages, thought a lot and wrote a lot about this. And Thomas Aquinas said we will all be 33 years old, the age of our Lord Jesus Christ when He died.
- Well, you know, that’s a good thought, but there’s no specific basis for that. But certainly the idea probably would be something like in our 20’s, or whatever the peak of our development might be. Now, as far as somebody, you know, dying when they’re older, you know, they’re not going to be resurrected in an old-looking and feeling body, because that was under the curse that the deterioration of age was taking place, and there will be no more curse. So we know for sure that won’t happen.
- As for little children, if the child does die at four years old, a lot of parents wonder, well then, will they just kind of fast-forward and will they be at the peak of their development and everybody will look alike to everybody else? And I think that it’s very possible that on the new earth, in the resurrection, on the new earth, it could be that God may allow the child who was four years old to be resurrected at four, and then grow to their place of maturity. If that’s true, whether that would be in the millennium or on the new earth, if that’s true, then what a basis for hope for parents who feel like they were robbed of those years in their child’s life, where their child would have been growing up. It’s possible that they may actually see their child grow up on the new earth. And if that’s the case, they would feel privileged, because they would be able to watch their child grow up without any worries about what’s going to happen to this child.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, how many old people have you heard that have said, “You know, I look old, but I don’t feel old”? And so you almost have a glimpse of where God is going with this thing, is that feeling of youngness and vibrancy; you just do not have the ability. But what if you had the ability? The desire is already there; and God’s going to enhance that. And let’s talk a little bit about the fact that God’s going to do more than we think or even imagine at this spot with these bodies. Talk about how strong. Kind of compare them to Adam and Eve. You had one interesting chapter, if we could see Adam and Eve now, and compare them with human beings now, I think we would really be amazed. What were you talking about?
- Alcorn: Well, I don’t think we realize how much we have deteriorated. I think if we saw Adam and Eve in paradise, in the Garden, we would be stunned at their beauty, their strength, their capacity. Because what happened in Genesis 3, sin comes into the world; immediately the curse falls upon us: “And in the day you eat thereof you shall surely die.” But then we say, but they didn’t die. I mean, they went on to live like 900 years or something. Right; and then the lifespan shortened after that. So the curse and the affects and consequences of the curse got more and more severe. I think if we could imagine what they were like—humanity at its very best, the way God intended—that would be a great picture of the resurrection. But in the resurrection, even beyond, because what we have to remember is, God is not just going to restore Eden and restore original bodies, He is going to make it all better. And this is where the atoning work of Christ on the cross is so spectacular, because it doesn’t simply apply to us as human beings, but to the whole creation that went down under the fall, that’s going to be entirely resurrected and renewed.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, I think, you know, Einstein was supposed to have an IQ of 160. I’m wondering if God would boost our IQ’s to 1,000, alright, so we could understand more. And the same thing in terms of our physical abilities, and being able to smell and to see and to feel things, where you talk about God has got so many dimensions and so many colors and so many things that are out there that we’re not picking up on right now because we just don’t have the capability of doing that. But if God opens us up to all of that with these new bodies, it’s going to be spectacular beyond anything that we can really imagine. But He gives us glimpses of these things.
- Let’s talk about the place we’re going to stay when we get to heaven. What kind of house are we going to have? Where are we going to live? Are we going to be comfortable in this house? Jesus said in John 14, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places” —the King James says “mansions.” “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” And people want to know, what’s this dwelling place? What kind of house are we going to have? And will it be crowded in heaven? Answer those questions.
- Alcorn: Well, first we know that it’s a physical dwelling place. That word translated “place,” or “dwelling place”, is topos, from which we get topography. It is an actual place. And remember, we’ll have resurrection bodies; and bodies need a place. And the most important thing about heaven, of course, will be that we’ll be with Jesus. But some of the translations of John 14 have the idea of one huge estate and then rooms in there. And then others have the idea more of many separate dwelling places on this larger estate. It could be either. But in Luke 16 we’re actually told to use wealth that belongs to God in such a way in this life that we invest it in other people. And then we’re told that in the kingdom, in heaven, they will welcome us into their dwelling places. So that indicates individualized dwelling places where you could actually be taken in as you’re traveling about the new earth. So, it’s a great idea. So the best and most important thing is that we’re with Jesus, but we’re also with each other, and we also have that individualized place that will be our very own.
- Ankerberg: What kind of clothes are we going to wear? What are we going to wear?
- Alcorn: Well, all we know is that the martyrs who’ve died that have gone to heaven, and others are described as wearing robes. So a lot of people say, well, so that means we’ll all wear robes in heaven. But robes were just the regular daily garb that they had in those days. So I think in a sense, we could say that, well, we’ll wear normal clothes. So I fully expect that people of different cultures might dress very much as they did on the old earth while we’re walking around the new earth.
- Ankerberg: Are we going to have feelings? Are we going to have parties? Are we going to have family gatherings?
- Alcorn: Well, certainly we’re made in God’s image. And, as a result of that, we have emotions; we have feelings; we care about other people. We like to be with other people. We love to party. And, you know, for a lot of people, they associate partying in this world with doing bad things, when, in fact, in biblical times, partying is where you got together and just celebrated. Think of all the feasts. Think of all the special occasions in Israel’s history where they would gather and they would eat. And their meals would go on for hours. And when you sit around a table—and we’re told in God’s kingdom we will sit around a table, and we’ll eat together—and think of the story-telling that comes with that. Think of the relating to each other what happened today: Here’s what I discovered today as I looked up at the stars, as I took a walk in the mountains, as I was making something for Jesus today. Here’s what I did and here is what I discovered. We’ll hear each other’s stories. And I think we will reflect back at the time we had on earth with the perspective of being able to see how God was at work in ways that right now we might not even realize.
- Ankerberg: How can a person know for sure they’re going to go to this heaven?
- Alcorn: We are told in 1 John 5, “These things are written that you may know that you have eternal life.” Written to who? To “those who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It is through a relationship with Jesus Christ that comes through placing our faith in Him. And that’s how you become a child of God. Bow your knee to repent, give your life to Jesus, ask His forgiveness. Because our default destination is not heaven; it’s actually hell, because we’re under sin. But Jesus took our sins upon Himself on the cross so that by placing our faith in Him, accepting the blood of His atonement, that we could be made righteous before God and enter heaven and live with Him for all eternity.
- Ankerberg: Alright, folks, you won’t not want to miss next week. We’re going to talk about, will there be animals in heaven? Will you be reunited with your pet in heaven? Will we eat and drink in heaven? Will we sleep in heaven? What about the relationships that we’re going to have? Will there be marriage in heaven? All of these questions and more next week; you won’t want to miss it.