After completing a lengthy sermon series in Exodus on Sunday evenings, last night I had the privilege to preach on heaven.  Back in 2011, a book was released by the title, Heaven Is For Real.  It was the story of a little boy named Colton, who allegedly visited heaven at age 4 during an operation on his ruptured appendix.  The boy’s father, Todd Burpo is also a pastor.  The book reveals the story leading up to the incident and then gives details about what the boy experienced during his alleged heavenly visitation.  For instance, at one point in the book, Todd asks his son a question.  “Can you tell me what you were telling Mommy about…about Jesus shooting down power?  What’s the power like?”  Colton responds, “It’s the Holy Spirit…I watched him.  He showed me.”  In order to gain clarification, Todd asked, “The Holy Spirit?”  Colton responded, “Yeah, he shoots down power for you when you’re talking in church.” [1]

When people ask me if I’ve read the book and if I can recommend it to others, I respond by saying, “yes and no.”  I read it because I knew that so many Christians were going to be discussing it.  I can’t recommend it, nor do I believe it to be factual, because I hold to a firm position upon the closed canon of the Bible and the sufficiency of God’s Word.  In other words, we don’t need a new revelation about an ancient truth.  God has already written a book and given us vivid details about the existence of heaven.  We know it’s for real and we simply need to trust the revelation that God has given to another man named John.

Sometime near AD 94 to 96, an apostle of Jesus Christ named John was exiled on an island named Patmos for preaching the gospel.  It was 60 years after he had witnessed his Savior Jesus be crucified on a Roman cross.  After that whole terrifying scene, God ushered in a triumphant scene with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and after 40 days of preaching, Jesus left His apostles.  He gave them the Great Commission – sending them out into the world to preach the message of hope and salvation – and then He ascended to heaven.

Some 60 years later, John is on a lonely island called Patmos – separated from his church by a vast sea.  Suddenly, on the Lord’s day, John was moved by the Spirit of God and the curtain of time and eternity was rolled back for John to experience what we see in the final book of our Bible – the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  What John saw and was told to write down in a book is astounding.  It provides for us a detailed account of many eschatological events, but as it comes to an end in chapters 21-22, we see a beautiful picture of heaven.  Many people ask, “What will heaven be like?”  There are many things we don’t know about heaven, but what God wanted us to know can be examined in Revelation 21-22.

Notice just from Revelation 21:1-4 three specific things about heaven:

Heaven Is Paradise Regained (Vs. 1-2)

The great mind of Jonathan Edwards often gazed into the promises of heaven.  He once said, “There, even in heaven, dwells the God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds. There dwells God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, united as one, in infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual, and eternal love.” [2]  What the first Adam lost, the second Adam – Jesus Christ – regained.  The paradise of the Garden of Eden is only a mere foreshadow of the paradise of heaven.  God is the centerpiece of the heavenly paradise, not loved ones, friends, and people who have preceded us in death.  Yes we will see fellow Christians again in heaven, but God will be the central attraction of heaven.  Jonathan Edwards writes:

God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. [3]

Heaven Is Where People Dwell With God (Vs. 3)

Think of the best vacation money can buy – it doesn’t in the slightest degree compare to the splendor and glory of heaven.  Allow you mind to think on these promises – these realities.  The greatest truth of heaven is not the street of pure gold, gates of pearl, or the reality that there will be no more dangerous sea and setting sun.  The most glorious thing about heaven is the reality that we will live with God.  John writes, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

Follow the trajectory from the Old Testament to the future glory of the new heaven and the new earth.

Exodus:  The building of the Tabernacle.  At the end of Exodus, we see that Moses’ work is complete and the knee shaking scene unfolds at the end of Exodus 40 where Moses records for us this truth, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34).

The Gospel:  In John’s gospel, we read about Jesus taking upon human flesh – the Son of God dwelling among His own creation.  John records these words in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” σκηνόω – “Dwelt” among us literally means – “tabernacled” among us. It means “to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent).”  What the Israelites experienced in a mobile tent in the wilderness was repeated in a human body as the fullness of God dwelt in a human body.

Heaven:  John, the author of the Gospel of John, now records for us what he saw in the magnificent Revelation.  He writes in Revelation 21:3 – “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”  Once again, we see the dwelling place of God is with man.  In a way that OT Israel never experienced – God will dwell with man and there will be no boundaries, no curtains, no tents to conceal His glory.  We will see God!  Paul records for us this truth in 1 Corinthians 13:12 – “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Heaven Is a Perfect Place (Vs. 4)

Heaven will be a place of complete perfection.  The full consummation of God’s redemptive plan will come to pass as God presents the new heaven and new earth – completely restored after His judgment is complete.

  1. The consummation of joy
  2. The death of death
  3. The end of sadness
  4. The passing away of pain

From the earliest moments of life, we are surrounded by pain, sickness, disease, brokenness, sadness, and disappointment.  One day, all of those things will be banned from our presence in heaven.  Like Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden when they were banished from paradise and God placed an angel with a flaming sword to guard the entrance (Genesis 3:24) – so will all things depraved will be banned from the glorious city of God.  All tears will be wiped away – and the fullness of joy will be experienced.  We will see new colors, taste new foods, experience new thrills, and make new relationships.  But in heaven, nothing will compare to God!

As we press on in this world of sin and brokenness – let us have faith like Abraham who was constantly “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).

1.  Heaven Is For Real, 125.

2.  Charity and its Fruits, 327-328.

3.  The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733.  Sermon title: “The Christian Pilgrim, Or, The True Christian’s Life a Journey Toward Heaven.”

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Author Heaven Is For Real

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.