“Assurance of Heaven”
Hello, and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” Thank you for taking time to study the Bible with us for the next few minutes. In the previous two lessons, we talked about different aspects of heaven. If you missed either one of those messages or would like to view them again, they are available on our website, keytothekingdom.com. As we study lesson number three, today, our attention turns to seeking heaven as our eternal home with God. At times in my life, the stress and the problems and the challenges of this world weigh heavily upon me. It is during those anxious moments that I feel somewhat overwhelmed and wonder if I can keep up with all of life's demands and duties. I wonder how I will be able to overcome. And perhaps you feel the same way. Well, if we are not careful, we can allow the problems of life to take our minds off of what is really important. Jesus reminds us that He is always with us and that a home in heaven is prepared for us. It is an eternal home where we can be in the presence of the Lord forever. Oh, in unsettling and challenging times, we need to be reminded of that fact. As we continue in this series, I want us to consider some passages that help us keep our minds focused on heaven. We will look at some statements made by the apostle Paul, encouraging us to not become distracted by the people or the things of this world. I hope you will join us for this study and that it will inspire you to be prepared to receive God's most special blessing.
If you have been with us for the past two broadcasts, you know we are engaged in a four part series of lessons on heaven. And if you missed either one of the first two, I invite you to visit our website. In today's lesson, we turn our attention to some Bible passages that help us to understand the assurance of heaven. We will think about the promise, or the guarantee, of being a part of God's eternal home. Obviously the assurance of heaven revolves around those who have received the Lord's free gift of salvation. And so, let us notice some assurances for those who are part of God's family. Assurance number one, heaven is already present in us. Hear are these words from the apostle Paul found in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 6 and 7: <God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.> The apostle Paul wrote that Christians are with the Lord in heavenly realms, even now; that, through our faith in and obedience to Jesus, we have a foretaste of what is to come. We are in Christ. Well, Paul mentions that idea again in Colossians chapter 3, verses 3 and 4: <For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.> As one dies to the sin in his or her life, that person begins to experience a new life in Jesus Christ, forgiven of that sin. We then receive all of the spiritual blessings and promises that God gives to His children here up on this earth. They are now available because of our new life in Christ. We are clothed with Him; and, when Jesus returns to gather all of those who are a part of God's family unto Himself, those spiritual blessings and those promises will then be fully realized. And until then, we just have a glimpse, or a sampling, of what that will be like. And so, assurance number one, part of heaven is already present in those who are in Christ. Here is assurance number two: Heaven is for those who are free from sin and Satan. That freedom comes as a result of receiving God's free gift of salvation. One makes a decision to turn away from the influence of Satan, and to separate himself or herself from anything that does not honor God. In other words, one aligns himself with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He becomes our first priority, as we turn our back on the sin of this world. The writer of Hebrews 12 verse 23 identifies such people who do that as the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. A similar statement is found in Revelation 20, verse 15: <On the Day of Judgment, if anyone’s name is not found written in the Book of Life, that person is thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death.> Well, we notice that there is coming a day when those whose names are written in the Book of Life, those who are a part of God's family, which is called the Church, will live eternally in heaven. On the other hand, judgment or punishment will come to those whose names are not found written in the Lamb's Book of Life. There will be an eternal separation from God, and it is called the second death. Let's notice one more passage along that line. Paul wrote, in Galatians 5 and verse 5, <For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person, such a man is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.> Well, once again, the idea is clear. The Bible tells us heaven is reserved for those who are in Jesus Christ, heaven is reserved for those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, heaven is reserved for those who do not live an immoral or an impure life. In other words, in heaven there is separation from sin. There is separation from Satan. Satan and his influence are not present in any form or fashion in that heavenly kingdom; and that is assurance number two. Here is a third assurance: Heaven is a permanent inheritance. Notice these words from the apostle Peter in 1st Peter chapter 1, verses 3 and 4: <Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.> Heaven is not something which is temporary. It is a permanent inheritance. Oh, a relative may leave an inheritance to their family members upon their passing, and that inheritance might include a number of things. It might include some money or some land or jewels or other valuable assets. It might even include a favorite charity or organization. Oh, there are many ways to leave a monetary inheritance upon one's passing; and, that is a blessing and a benefit to those who receive it. And yet, over time, that inheritance or those gifts might be used up. They might fade away, realizing such things do not last forever. And like most everything else, they're only temporary. Well, as we notice here, heaven is different. It is an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. It is kept in heaven, reserved for those who are a part of God's family. In other words, our name is on that inheritance. And again, how do we receive it? It comes through the hope that we have, or the promise that we have through Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. And so, as we live in Jesus Christ, this is something that is given to us here upon the earth, in some form; and then, on that final day, it will be that permanent inheritance. Well, there is no greater inheritance one could ever receive, here upon this earth, that is equal to or even comes close to comparing to the permanent inheritance that one finds in heaven; and that is assurance number three. Here is a fourth assurance: Heaven offers citizenship. Hebrews chapter 11, verse 13, describes those who are in Christ now as being aliens or strangers upon the earth. In other words, they are simply passing through, as they have not attached themselves to the things this world has to offer. They don't fit in. They do not view this life upon the earth as their permanent home; but rather, these people are looking for something better, according to verse 16. And that something better is that Heavenly City that God has prepared for His children. The apostle Paul summarizes that quite well with these words in Philippians chapter 3. Notice the very first statement here in verse 20: <Our citizenship is in heaven. We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.> In a previous lesson I mentioned how our identity will be changed to be like that of Christ, in heaven. We will be like the glorious body of Jesus himself. Now, obviously we don't fully understand, nor do we know how all of that will take place, but that is an assurance that we have from the apostle Paul. And as we are changed and transformed to be like Christ, we will be at home with Him and with God and with all others who are a part of God's family. In other words, our citizenship is in heaven. It's already reserved for us. And there is coming a day when we will fully embrace that. I am a citizen of United States of America. And I am certainly thankful for that privilege. I experience many blessings living as a citizen in America; and I'm grateful for that, and I cherish that. It means something to me. And if you are not a citizen of America, then perhaps you feel the very same way about the country in which you live. And no matter how great it might be, where we are, no matter how wonderful the blessings are, to be a citizen of America or some other nation, there is no greater citizenship any of us could ever enjoy that would surpass being a citizen of heaven. And our current relationship with Jesus Christ assures us of that citizenship. As we are in Christ, as we are living a faithful and obedient life to Him, as we have received that eternal gift of salvation, our citizenship is assured. Notice these words from Colossians chapter 3, verses 1 and 2: <Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above not on earthly things.> Paul wrote those words to people who had died to the sin in their life. They had turned away from Satan's influence over them, and they had given their devotion and attention to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They recognized the blessings and the benefits and the salvation that came by doing that. And since they now had that salvation, Paul reminded them to pay close attention to Jesus, to not get distracted by looking at and becoming involved in the things of this world that distracted them, but rather to keep your eyes focused on Jesus Christ, who is seated at God's right hand. Obviously the same is true for us, that we spend time focusing on Jesus, thinking about heaven and anticipating what lies ahead. I would challenge you, today perhaps, to just spend an hour or two thinking about heaven. What would it be like? What would you do anticipating the glories and the beauties that are waiting for you there. And that is assurance number four: Our citizenship is in heaven. Well, here is one more, number five: Heaven is real. When the apostle Paul was in prison, and he found himself there on a number of occasions, he oftentimes did not know for sure what would happen, whether he would live or die; and so, he began to focus on heaven. He focused on the future. And he wrote some letters to churches and individuals emphasizing that very theme. He did that with the church in Philippi. Notice his words in Philippians chapter 1, verses 21 through 23: <For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.> The apostle Paul's ultimate goal was to see Jesus. He envisioned that upon his death he would be with Christ, where Jesus is at the right hand of God: and there, he would be in the Lord's presence for all eternity. That was his greatest desire. Oh, he knew that if he was allowed to stay upon the earth, then some more fruitful service would be done to the praise of God, but he anticipated the time of being with Jesus. Oh, when some people near the time of their death some of these very same thoughts go through their mind. My father passed away not long ago; and before he did, we had the opportunity to talk a little bit about heaven, and he had the assurance of that eternal home. He knew, without a doubt, he had received the Lord’s salvation. He had lived a faithful and obedient life, here up on this earth. He had a deep and abiding connection with Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior, and he knew that his place in heaven was reserved. Yes, my father's assurance was in the Lord, and he had absolutely no doubt as to where he would spend eternity. Well, Paul adds this, two chapters later in Philippians, in chapter 3, verses 13 and 14: <One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.> The life we live here upon this earth has been described as running a race. It's not a short sprint, as we get from point A to point B just as hard and fast as we can; rather, the race we run is more like a marathon, it takes some time. There are a number of twists and turns along the path. There are some peaks and valleys, some good times and some difficult and challenging times. We make every effort to run that marathon race and to finish it and to do so well. We do that because we have the assurance of something better. We have the assurance of being with the Lord for eternity. An eternity in heaven, obviously, will be well worth all of the trials and problems and discomforts and challenges that we face upon the earth. Well, the assurance of heaven perhaps is best summarized by the words that we find in 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, beginning with verse 1; notice especially verse 5. Let's read together: <Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and He has given us His Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.> Well, the apostle Paul compares our physical bodies to a tent. Now most tents, as we know, are only temporary. They are not made to withstand much wind or damage, and most tents easily fall apart. And likewise, our bodies are only temporary. They fall apart over time and they are not meant to last. But in contrast to that, God's eternal home is permanent. Heaven cannot be destroyed by any human force or by any natural disaster. And as we live in our current tent, in these physical bodies, then our confidence and our assurance is in a solid dwelling place, an eternal house or home. In verse 4, Paul uses the word groan, as we cry out and as we long for something better than our current physical body. And he describes how we are clothed with Christ in heaven, and no doubt that is far better, being clothed with and living with Christ than being in our earthly tent. But here's something interesting in the fifth verse, to remind us of that permanent home God gives to us the Holy Spirit. Now, we receive the Holy Spirit when we receive His salvation, we know that from Acts chapter 2 and verse 38, but the Holy Spirit is our continual and daily reminder of several things; first of all, of God's abiding presence within us. As we notice here, the Spirit is given to us as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. The Spirit guarantees that we indeed have a home waiting for us in heaven. You know, our time in this physical body upon this earth, as we know it today, is only temporary. And we are not to hold on to the things this world has to offer. We are not to think this is all there is to life. Indeed, there is something far better and something far more permanent, and that is heaven. Perhaps you have heard these words of a popular song about heaven: “I'm just a pilgrim in search of a city in that bright land where we will never grow old; and someday yonder, we will never more wander, but walk the street of purist gold.” Doesn't that create a wonderful image in our mind, to know there is a bright place filled with the glory of God, with a street of gold there throughout heaven! And we won't be a pilgrim, an alien, a stranger upon this earth any longer, but we will be able to embrace the home God has in store for us. Well, the promise and the assurance of heaven is real; it is something prepared by God and it is waiting for all who are part of His family. Today we live in some uncertain times, filled with many problems and struggles, and those things weigh heavily upon us. But there is renewed strength, there is renewed hope, to be found in the assurance of a heavenly home; and that is something in which we can put our complete faith and trust! We close our lesson today in the same way that we did the previous two, and that is by asking a very important question: Are you prepared to spend an eternity with the Lord in heaven? Oh, I hope and pray that you are prepared for when the Lord returns to gather unto Himself those who are a part of His Father's family. And if you are not prepared, I hope that you will get that way by putting your faith and trust in Jesus, by being baptized into Him for the forgiveness of your sin, so that you can receive the Holy Spirit, the promise and the guarantee, the assurance, of that heavenly home.
Thank you for tuning in these last few minutes, to “Key to the Kingdom.” I hope this message was a blessing, as we consider the heavenly home reserved for those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ. This third lesson in a series of four is on the website. Please go to keytothekingdom.com, where you can download all three, without any cost or commitment. There are several other items on the site which might be helpful in your daily walk with the Lord. Previous lessons, devotional thoughts and short videos are some of the things which we offer. Feel free to download any that might be of interest; the same website can also be accessed through a free phone app. I hope you will contact me if you have specific questions or comments about these lessons, which have been broadcast. You can leave a message on the website, or you can call the number on the screen; and, I would love to hear from you regarding this mass media ministry. Next week we will conclude this short series of lessons on heaven, and I look forward to sharing it with you. Please keep in mind that no matter how challenging, uncertain or difficult life becomes, there is an eternal reward waiting in heaven. It is for all who know the Lord and who remain faithful to Him. Oh, I invite you to join us next week at this same time and on this same channel, as we continue to study about heaven on “Key to the Kingdom.”