What’s So Exciting About Heaven/Program 3
| September 27, 2013 |
|By: Randy Alcorn; ©2013|
|In the third program of this series, we’ll look at what the Bible teaches about the New Heavens and Earth. The Bible discusses a time in the future when a new heaven and earth will be recreated from the ones that exist today. Dr. Ankerberg and Randy Alcorn discuss what will take place along with applications for how we live today.|
- 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.
The New Heavens and Earth
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking about the glorious topic of heaven. What are we going to do in heaven? What will heaven be like? And today we’re going to talk with our expert, Dr. Randy Alcorn. He’s the leading authority on heaven in our country, and he’s written over 47 books on this topic. And, folks, let’s start with a verse, Revelation 21:2, 3 and so on: “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.’”
- Then it goes on to talk about, Randy, there’s not going to be any more death, there’s not going to be any mourning, no more crying. God is going to wipe all that away from us, the sickness, the pain, the death. This place that’s being described here is where God says we’re going. And let’s define terms for folks that are just joining us this week. We’ve got present heaven; if we were to die right now, we’re talking about present heaven. What’s that like? And what is future heaven, because that’s kind of a different concept for folks? Define terms for us.
- Alcorn: Present heaven is where you go when you die. In theology it’s called the intermediate heaven. I don’t prefer that term, but it’s often used. But the present heaven, you just go to be with Jesus wherever that is. We know that that’s somewhere outside of our present existence, something that we can’t see. But we get hints of this in 2 Kings 6, for instance, where you’ve got Elisha and his servant, and he says, “Lord, open your servant’s eyes.” And the servant sees these horses and these chariots and these warriors. Well, they didn’t just suddenly come into existence. They were already there. It was just that the servant couldn’t see them. And so sometimes there are indications that would suggest that maybe heaven is almost a parallel universe, where we can’t see it, but it’s right there. It’s physical; it’s real; it’s tangible; but we normally can’t see it. But the future heaven is the new heavens and the new earth, which is just a synonym for the new universe, a redeemed universe. And that’s where we’re going to live forever. And God is going to come down and dwell with His people. So the present heaven is being with Jesus; the future heaven is being with Jesus; but the difference is, the present heaven is not down here on this earth. The future heaven will be on this earth, where heaven and earth are joined together under Christ, as we are told in Ephesians 1.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. Just describe the new Jerusalem, the city that we’re all going to, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” and in His beautiful city. How big is this city? What are the things we’re going to find in this city? Describe it as it is right now.
- Alcorn: We know that it’s huge. We’re told that man’s measurement was used by this angel, and it is a 1400-mile cube. Now, we’re told that that new Jerusalem is in heaven now, and the new Jerusalem that is brought down to earth is that size. And even for those who say, “Well, that’s not literal, that’s just figurative,” well, if it’s figurative, it’s certainly intended to convey a great amount of size, just huge. And I think what this should tell us is, there’s room for everything, and lots of room; things to do, places to go, people to see. We’re told in Revelation 22, His servants will serve Him. Do servants ever have a lack of things to do? We’re told we’re going to rule the world for the glory of God. Do rulers ever have a lack of things to do? So certainly we will have plenty of activity. And the greatest part of it, of course, is we’ll be with God who is the source of all good and all happiness.
- Ankerberg: Talk about, in that new city there’s going to be the river of life. What is that, and why do we need it?
- Alcorn: The river of life, I think, is a literal river that’s flowing down from the throne of God, because we know the tree of life, which is said to be growing on both sides of the river, is a literal tree. We see the tree of life; it was an actual tree that bore fruit, and it was in the Garden of Eden. And they could eat the fruit of that tree and all the other trees. The one they couldn’t was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But that tree of life, that disappears in Eden when the gates are shut, is used figuratively a couple of times in the book of Proverbs, but literally reoccurs in Revelation 2, where we’re told that the tree of life is in the paradise of God. And then it appears one last time in Revelation 22, where the tree of life is growing on both sides of the river. So, the tree of life is this literal, actual tree. So I think the river is literal that it’s growing on both sides of. It says it produces a new fruit every month. It says the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. So somehow it will be the source of ongoing nourishment, ongoing life. And we will not be infinite; we will not be without need. The difference is, our needs will always be met. It’s not that we will never eat, it’s that we’ll never go hungry, because there will always be plenty to eat.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, let’s talk about this a little bit more. The fact is that if you have a city, the new Jerusalem, which is 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide and 1400 miles high, that’s just one city. And you’ve got this beautiful river flowing, it must be at least 1400 miles, and if it’s in each direction. You talked about it might actually be canals that are around these streets of gold, where you could even have gondolas going down these.
- Alcorn: Absolutely.
- Ankerberg: And we could drink of this and beautiful trees and you start getting the scenery that Revelation is describing. And you say, what is this actually like? What else do you see in that city?
- Alcorn: Well, I think culture; this is where we’ve got to get the idea that is God is not against culture. He made us in His image to be what Tolkien called sub-creators—He’s the Creator with a capital “C”; we are sub-creators. We are supposed to make things, use our creativity to God’s glory. God enjoys human arts and architecture and music and, I think, sports. I mean, some people say, “oh, of course there would not be sports in heaven,” because I had one pastor tell me, “well, sports bring out the worst in us.” Well, I’ve coached high school tennis and I know that that can happen sometimes. Sports can also bring out the best in us. But the thing is, what we have to remember is, there will be no worst to bring out of us. We will be completely and fully redeemed, glorified, without sin, covered with the righteousness of Christ, so that all that we will want is good.
- So to be able to play, and enjoy leisure, and even compete in sports, and rejoice when you do your best, but someone else wins. And somebody said, well, there can’t be winning or losing in heaven, and if there was golf, everybody would have to make a hole in one. No, no, no, we’re not infinite. We are finite creatures, and I think that means we will grow in our abilities and skills. And certainly we know, from Ephesians 2:7, that we will grow forever in the knowledge of what our Savior has done for us. We’re told that in the ages to come God will be revealing unto us the riches of His kindness and His grace to us in Christ Jesus. That means as eternity unfolds we’ll always be learning more about God, giving us more to rejoice about, and more to talk about and ponder.
- Ankerberg: Will we see God?
- Alcorn: We are promised we shall see God. Now, to some people that’s a very scary thing, because in the Old Testament it says no man can see God at any time; no man can see God and live. But the reason for that is our sinfulness. Adam could see God and live when God came down the Garden and walked with him and all of that. But when sin came into the world, that’s what causes us to fear the idea of seeing God. But we’re told, covered with the righteousness of Christ, being fully righteous beings, we will be in God’s very presence. So the person who loves Jesus Christ, covered by His blood, in seeing God will see the source of all goodness, the source of all happiness, the source of all beauty. But the person who doesn’t know Jesus Christ, has reason to fear the idea of seeing God, needs to come into a relationship with Christ, repent of his sins, be cleansed, so that then he can rejoice in seeing God.
- Ankerberg: Alright, this is great stuff, folks. We’re going to take a break. When we come back we’re going to talk about, what are we going to eat in heaven? Are we going to sleep in heaven? Will there be animals in heaven? Will you be reunited with the pet that you love in heaven? Alright, interesting questions; we are going to ask Randy to answer them when we come right back. Stick with us.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Randy Alcorn, and we’re talking about the glorious topic of heaven. And we’re at an interesting point here where I want to talk about, what is the biblical basis, Randy, for believing there’s going to be animals in heaven? And then go on to the next one, will people, Christians, who have had pets that they have loved so much, will they be reunited with those pets in heaven? Alright, let’s start with the basis, first of all. Elijah, we all know, was taken up to heaven in a chariot pulled by horses, according to 2 Kings 2:11. And then we’re told in Revelation 6:2, 8 there are many horses in heaven. In fact, there are enough horses for the entire army of heaven, of all the redeemed saints, to come with Christ out of heaven when He returns. So there’s got to be a lot of horses there. What other kind of animals do you think are in heaven?
- Alcorn: Well, first of all, if there are all these horses, there surely must be other animals; because as soon as you’ve got one animal in heaven, why is that animal talked about? Well, there’s a specific reason: because it relates to people having gone there, like Elijah and then us coming from there with the Lord who will be mounted on a great steed, as well. So we are told that. But what about the other animals? Well, though we don’t know much about other animals in the present heaven, we know a great deal about animals on the new earth. The reason we know that is that Isaiah 60 is quoted twice in Revelation 21-22, with portions that apply to the new earth. And that chapter is filled with animals. It talks about camels and it talks about horses and it talks about mules and it talks about all kinds of animals. Ezekiel 47, which is also quoted as a new earth passage at the end of Scripture, talks about fish in the waters. And so we see this.
- But what really is clear is Romans 8. And I will never forget studying that passage, not having the conviction that there would be animals on the new earth when I started studying it. And when I was done, I realized I had totally changed my mind on this subject. I had always thought, I loved animals; it’s a warm sentimental thing to think that there could be animals on the new earth. But what you see in Romans 8 is the whole creation suffers; and it talks about groaning, the whole creation. It distinguishes man from the rest of creation, and then says the whole creation. So it’s not just talking about human beings suffering.
- Well, what non-human beings in this creation are suffering? Well, clearly animals have a capacity to suffer. It then goes on to say that those who are suffering, as part of this whole creation that suffers, are going to experience a deliverance that will come with the resurrection of God’s children. Okay, so that seems to be saying that animals will be resurrected in some sense as human beings are. And God could certainly just recreate them, or whatever it is. But it seems to be saying that, not just that there will be animals in the new creation, but that some animals who are currently suffering will be delivered from that suffering and experience the joy and lack of pain and death in the new creation.
- Alright, then that opens the door to say, well, which animals will God choose from this life to be part of the life to come? Wouldn’t it be just like Him to take animals that we personally had dominion over, relationships with, the people of God, that had special meaning in our lives—and certainly my wife and I just love dogs and we’ve had several dogs, and God has actually ministered to us through those animals. There’s just something about that dog that can, you know, jump up on you and lick your face and love you just the way you are. And it’s an unconditional love and there’s a joy there.
- And God says He has manifested Himself in His creation. So if that’s true now, in the ages to come, wouldn’t it be just like Him to reunite people with our pets—we don’t know for sure biblically, but it could certainly be true—and to be able to enjoy them forever in a world without pain, without grief, without death. And Romans 1 says we look at creation, we see God’s attributes manifested in creation, and we’ll be able to see His attributes in an animal.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, when it says there’s going to be no more seas, okay, no more sea in the new heaven, the new earth, okay. It seems like all of us love the ocean, okay. So, are we missing something here? What do you see?
- Alcorn: I think we actually are missing something, John, because I remember reading Charles Spurgeon on this, where Spurgeon was making the argument that, you know, the sea—for people of those days—was everything that was bad. People were lost at sea; people would drown; people would run out of fresh water and then they’d go crazy by drinking the salt water; the opposing armies came in, or navies came in, by sea. It separated you from your loved ones. Everything that was bad was wrapped up in the sea.
- So when it says no more sea, is it saying no more large bodies of water? Well, we’ve got that river, that great, vast river that’s flowing from the throne of God, and you think it’s going somewhere. Where is it going? And I think it’s going out to water the whole world, whether that’s huge lakes or what we would call an ocean, but not a sea in the sense of the salt water that poisons and all of that. Ezekiel 47 is a new earth passage. We know that because it’s quoted at the end of Revelation. And in it, it talks about the water that is coming through the city, and when it goes out into the sea, it makes the salt waters fresh. And I think that’s probably the best interpretation. The sea is no longer the sea; it’s now fresh water. And when you get to the animal issues, something like three quarters of all species of animals alive in the world are in the oceans. And I think it’s just very likely that they will become fresh water, and God will make all the changes in animals He needs to. For instance, we’ve got the lion and the wolf and the lamb, all of them lying down together. And it says that the lion will eat straw like an ox. So He’s going to change some things in the whole digestive system in order to accommodate the fact that there’s going to be no more death, no more killing, on the new earth.
- Ankerberg: Do you see mountains in the new earth?
- Alcorn: Yes. We’re told in the book of Revelation, John is taken up on top of a mountain and he gazes down and sees this. It’s not the mountain, it’s a mountain. One would assume with one mountain there would be many mountains. And certainly we’ve got the tree of life, so we know that there’s trees. So there is one. When you get one of something then you can project that there’s more. And it’s producing the new fruit every month, and we’ll eat of that fruit. And you’ve got the banquets, so you’ve no doubt got all the production of food on the new earth that we can enjoy.
- Ankerberg: Are we going to sleep in heaven?
- Alcorn: We don’t know. We aren’t told that, but one of the responses to that sometimes is, well, of course not, because we’ll be infinitely strong and powerful and won’t need rest. No, we will live forever, but that’s not the same as being infinite. Only God is infinite. So we are always going to be finite creatures. Did Adam and Eve need to sleep? Presumably the answer is yes. Is sleep the result of the curse? I don’t think it is. No more than eating is the result of the curse. And so I think it’s very possible that we could need to sleep and rest. I don’t think there will be the debilitating fatigue and the exhaustion the way we now experience it.
- Ankerberg: The Mormon Church says we’re going to get married in heaven, but what does Jesus say?
- Alcorn: Jesus said that in heaven we neither marry nor are given in marriage. And a lot of people feel like, oh no, because I just love my spouse and I really want to live together with them forever in a marriage relationship. But I look at it very differently. Nanci and I—Nanci is my wife; she’s my best friend. We are so close and have gotten closer and closer as the years have gone by. She’s my best friend; but this I know, she and I will be part of the same marriage for all eternity. Why? Because the Bible doesn’t say there will no marriage in heaven, it says there will be one marriage. We will be married to Christ, Christ and His bride. Nanci and I, together with the rest of the bride of Christ, will be married to Him. So we will enjoy the closeness and the intimacy of oneness as we are the bride of Christ, and He is our spouse who will never let us down. And He is infinite and we will enjoy, I think, a closer relationship in heaven than we ever enjoyed even on earth, as great as it’s been.
- Ankerberg: There are people that are listening that assume they’re going to heaven, but they’re not. I want you to take time and develop this. We’ve only got two minutes left. Talk about how people can quit being deceived about their going to heaven and know for sure that they are going to heaven, that they’ve done what God says they should do.
- Alcorn: How many of us have been to funerals where they talk about Joe. And Joe has died now, and he loved to golf, and no doubt he is up there golfing. And sometimes you sit there and you go, I knew Joe. You know, he did not love Jesus Christ. He did not repent of his sins. He did not live a life that was honoring to God, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He didn’t recognize God, and he didn’t know the Savior. And so it’s a lie. Scripture portrays hell as our default destination. If nothing changes, that’s where we’re going to go. We are sinners. We are in desperate need of the grace of God. There’s nothing we can do to earn it or achieve it, “not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. For by grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works lest any man should boast.” There is nothing we can do to work our way to heaven. When somebody says, “hey, I want what I deserve,” look out! You don’t want what you deserve. What you deserve is a four-letter word, hell. That’s what I deserve. But by God’s grace He gives us heaven for all eternity as we bow our knee and accept the gift of Jesus Christ.
- Ankerberg: Say a prayer for folks that would like to say that prayer to the Lord, and they can pray with you. They can pray for themselves. What do they need to say? And, folks, if you really would like to know Jesus and have your sins forgiven, I want you to pray with Randy as he prays right now.
- Alcorn: Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am a sinner, that I truly do deserve hell. I do not deserve heaven. Lord, show me the true condition of my heart. Show me my violations of Your word; hatred that I’ve had; jealousy that I’ve had; lusts that I’ve committed; theft; and certainly, Lord, a heart that’s not right with You and right with other people and it is not loving You, and not loving other people. Lord, I recognize sin in myself, and I realize that it separates me from You. And I ask You, by the grace of Jesus Christ, to apply to my life His shed blood for my sin, that I might experience complete forgiveness and know that I will spend eternity with You in heaven by Your grace. I ask this, in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Ankerberg: Folks, if you prayed that prayer, the Bible says “whosoever,” put your name there, “shall call upon the name of the Lord,” if you prayed that prayer you called; the last three words in that verse is what God does, “shall be saved.” He looked at you, if you meant that, then He saved you. He’s going to start to do a work in your life. He forgave your sins and now He’s going to start to live with you and walk with you and change your life.
- Randy, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being willing to come all the way from Oregon to come down here to Chattanooga to tape these programs; and all of the study that you have put in; all these fantastic books that, folks, I highly recommend. Thank you for being willing to share this information with us.
- Alcorn: It’s my pleasure, John. It’s great to be here.
- Ankerberg: Folks, I hope you’ll join us again next week.