6. The Hope of Heaven: Heaven Came Down (John 1:1-4, 14-18, 43-51)Related Media
The manuscript version of this article is unavailable. This is a lightly edited transcript of Bob Deffinbaugh’s preached message (available in the related media). Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers out there. I am sorry I do not have a Mother’s Day message for you. No, I am not sorry, actually. I think this is going to be better. Mothers are great, but heaven is better. So, let us put our focus on that. This is Part 6, and this is, in particular, a focus on the hope that we have that awaits us in heaven.
This past week I was at a doctor’s office and the receptionist greeted me and she came up with that question that I hear often and that is, “Are you related to Danny?” And it always catches me off guard because I am. I am related to my brother, Danny, with D-e-f-f-i-n-b-a-u-g-h. I am not related to Danny the FBI agent, D-e-f-e-n-b-a-u-g-h. I do not know him. Never met him. But, it is really my brother, Danny, that I owe a debt to as I come to this message. The last time we were in Washington State he was telling me that there are some texts, there are some subjects where you just feel like you have not gotten your arms all the way around. He said “that is the way I feel about John 14. Something about that just is not quite on target” and he said “I am struggling to figure out what it is about that text that I do not understand and why I feel a little uneasy about the basic understanding of that text.” So, that will be, in effect, the key text, but it will also come out of our passages in John 1.
As we have talked about heaven we have been doing it in the light of progressive revelation. So we talked about heaven in the Garden of Eden. Then, we talked last week about heaven in the tabernacle and in the temple, and this week we will talk about heaven come down. That is, God present with us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly life and ministry and his presence that remains among us because of His spirit.
Now, I have made some decisions about how I am going to handle the subject of our hope in heaven and, basically, I guess I am saying to myself—and I am just confessing to you—that what I am saying is “stay focused.” It is really easy to get off target when it comes to the subject of heaven and so that means to me “stay focused on what lasts forever.” Now think about this with me for a minute. If what is important is what lasts forever— and so if you take this spectrum, (which, obviously, there is no spectrum--it is infinity and has no beginning and no end) but if you take this spectrum and here we are as evangelicals and we are spending volumes and volumes in our books about the difference of three years, or three-and-a-half years, between pre- and mid-trib. Three-and-a-half years—folks, out of eternity, we are spending most of our time talking about that! Then, there are others who are going to talk about pre-millennial versus amillennial. Okay, that is a thousand years. In the grand sweep of things, though, that is nothing. So, what I am saying is this. I am going to talk about the eternal state. That is where I am really locking in on— more than the process of how we get there. I am talking about what it will be like when we get there, and, also, if you think about it, amongst evangelicals the subject of the eternal state is really that which we most agree upon. So, I am not going to get off in the toolies about all of these things that evangelicals disagree about, and I am not saying they are unimportant, I am saying when compared to all of time and eternity, I do not think we ought to get distracted from that by going down some of the bypath meadows and, trust me, I am very capable of going down into the toolies quickly.
So, let us talk about the incarnation. Heaven came down. In Matthew 1:23, you remember that the angel has come to Joseph and he is talking to Joseph about that child that is in Mary’s womb. He says that this child is to be named, “Emanuel,” which means “God with us.” Then, you see texts like Philippians 2:5-8 (which we know well) on the incarnation— the kenosis of our Lord— where He did not feel that those prerogatives and privileges that were His in heaven were something to cling to, but He came down and dwelt amongst us and took the road which led to His death on behalf of those who were sinners.
Then, the text in John 1. It is clear from verses one through three that our Lord Jesus is God. He was there before creation. He was there as the agent of creation, but it is in verse 14 that I really want to plant my tent peg if I can for a minute because it says: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The American Standard Version has a footnote. I do not know if other versions do. How many other versions have a footnote at this point or say something like “literally in the Greek text ‘tabernacled’ amongst us”? The reason I like this is because last week we talked about the tabernacle as the place where men would go to meet with God. Is it not amazing that now God “tabernacles” amongst men. He pitches His tent, as it were, amongst men that God may dwell amongst us, heaven came down and, hopefully, glory does fill out soul at the thought of that.
So, let us talk about the whole implications of where we are going in terms of John 1. In particular, I am thinking about that interchange which is going to take place with Nathaniel. Now, if I were to focus on two words this morning it would be the difference between place and person. It is my contention that most Christians when they think about heaven they think about place rather than thinking about person. So, I am trying to draw our attention more on the person side. So, look with me at John 1 and go back to verse 45 for a minute. Look at Phillip going to Nathaniel and look at this interchange between Jesus and Nathaniel.
John 1:45: “Phillip found Nathaniel and told him we have found the one Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathaniel replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
What is he thinking about? Place, place, he is locked on place. He cannot get past the fact that Jesus is a Nazarene and to him anybody who comes from that place cannot be the right person, right? Now, here is the way the conversation then goes. He sees him. Jesus sees him coming in verse 4 and he says, “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” I love that! Nathaniel said, “How do you know me?” I would have said, “Who are you talking to?” I just cannot believe this. Jesus said, “When you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Now, I have to admit I had not really thought about the way in which Nathaniel was focused on place. When Jesus says “when you were there under that tree I saw you.” We would call that, theologically speaking, Jesus referring to the doctrine of His presence, right? Is that not interesting. Here is Nathaniel trying to somehow get Jesus locked into this little place called Nazareth and Jesus reply is on that presence. He is everywhere. Why would you think of it only in terms of Nazareth? It would be everywhere. What Jesus is saying to him is “you were out of sight. You were out of sight under that fig tree, but I was there and I saw you there and I saw what you were doing.”
All of a sudden, Nathaniel’s gears get to turning. He says, “Woo, this is bigger than I thought.” He says, “You really are the Messiah” in effect. “You really are the king of Israel.” Now, this is where it gets really interesting because Jesus now says this here in John 1:50,
“Because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” He continued, “I tell all of you the solemn truth. You will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Now, in order to understand what Jesus is saying here, you have to understand the story that he is referring to. That is the story of Jacob encountering God at a place that will then be called Bethel (Bethel means the house of God), encountering him as he is fleeing from Israel and he is going to go to Paddan-Aram— ostensibly to get a wife, but in reality to get away from his brother so he does not kill him. He just ripped his brother off in terms of his birthright and his blessing. So, he is hot on his way out of town. You remember he stops, he sleeps.
Now, anybody who sleeps with their head on a rock— I have to tell you that is no commercial for any kind of hotel that I know of—but to come sleep with your head on a rock...? Maybe that is related, I do not know, although with a guy as hardheaded as Jacob, that rock may have been soft. But, let us go on. And, by the way, Jacob, this is the early days of Jacob’s life. This guy is no theological Einstein. This guy, in fact, is a jerk. Any day, I would have rather been with Esau than Jacob. This guy is a thief. He is a conniver. He is a cheat. There is just nothing good to say. If you think that God chose Jacob because he was a good guy, you are not reading the same text I am. He is a lousy guy and here he is now fleeing. So, what I am trying to say is I would not think his words at this early stage of his life are that pious and they are not. It is not until he is 130 years old, standing before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh says, “Well, how is it going, man? (my translation).” He says, “It has been long and hard.” You know why? Because all of his life Jacob has been fighting God. He tried to cheat his way into God’s blessings. So, if he was that way at 130, I have got to tell you in these younger years he is no prize.
But, here is what happens. He has the dream and he sees this ladder and the angels ascending and descending. In Genesis 28:16, he says this, “Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it.” He was afraid and he said what an awesome place this is. This is nothing else than the house of God. Now, why did God do that? First of all, let me see if we can get this picture in our minds. So, here is the picture, this heavenly image, and here is this ladder with these angels coming up and down. He does not seem to notice as much what is on the top of the ladder. He does not even pay attention to what is on the ladder, the angels. He is looking at where the ladder is sitting. Now, that is not a bad message for Jacob where he is presently at because he is “getting out of Dodge.” In my opinion, he would never come back if he had not had this dream. What he realizes is this is the place of mediation. This is the place where men find an access point, a way of relating with God, sort of like an early tabernacle, as it were.
So, he says, “Wow, look at this. This place where that ladder is, this is the holy place. I better come back here. If this is where God has somehow chosen to communicate and to relate with men, I better get myself back here some day.” But, less you think that he is too pious, he then goes on to say, “If God takes care of me, if He makes me rich and famous and everything goes well, and if I get back, then I will do what? I will give God 10% of the action.” Run back. Who would not do that, folks! I mean we give the government a whole lot more of the action than that and they are not doing so well for us. But, God, if He makes us rich and famous, he says I will give Him 10%. I never have found a text where God says to him, “Uh, Jacob, about that 10%.” I never see it. But, there he is. He is thinking in terms of a place.
Now, here is what Jesus does. When he comes to this text in John 1:51, he is picking up on that story. But, you see, Jacob was saying, “Wow, this is an incredible place.” If he is thinking of any person, it is himself, not God. Is that not right? It is the place. Now, that is important, but it is not all important. Now, when you come to Nathaniel, he has been thinking about place, too. He is saying, “Wow, Nazareth, I mean who comes from that place. Nobody important.” Then, our Lord reveals to him, he is actually in thy presence so place is not very relevant any more. He then says, “starting from this you will see in time to come greater things. You will see the heavens open and angels ascending and descending upon a person. See, it is now not where that ladder is placed. It is who the ladder is. That is Jesus. What he is saying is Jacob really did not have it right. Frankly, Nathaniel, you were kind of off in the toolies, as well. You were only thinking about place. What you ought to be thinking about is person. I am the ladder. I am the one who is omnipresent. I am the one who is the mediation point between men and God. So, quit thinking about the land and start thinking about the ladder. Quit thinking about the place and start thinking about the person.
Now, watch that come to full bloom in John 4— Jesus with the woman at the well. You remember in John 4, He meets the woman in Samaria, and He asks for a drink of water. There is the conversation and then Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband.” She said, “Well, I am not currently married at the moment.” Jesus said, “Well, technically speaking that is true. Actually, you have had five men in your past.” (I do not know whether that means they were husbands or not. It really does not matter at this stage.) “The man you are presently with (that guy we know she is not married to because she just said she is not married) but you have number six going at this point.”
That is when she says, “I perceive that you are a prophet.” Now, we usually think that she is trying to avoid the point and she is saying [thinking] “well, let us get Him off on some tangent. Get out of my moral life and let us get into something abstract.” I do not think that is true at all. I think she, like Nathaniel, has come to the realization “Woo-ee! This person is significantly greater than I thought. This man knows everything. If He knows everything, I am going to ask Him the most hotly debated question between Samaritans and Jews that there is. That is, where is the place where men must go to worship?” Right? And she is thinking in terms of her categories—here on Mt. Moriah, (as it were in Jerusalem where the temple is) or Mt. Gerizim, (where the Samaritans thought you would go if you wanted to worship God). So, she is thinking of this or that place. To her if Jesus went to that question, then she will figure out whether she is on the right track or not. Jesus basically says to her, “It is no longer a matter of place.” Remember now, we have just had this interchange with Nathaniel in Chapter 1, and now He says to her there is going to come a time when place is really irrelevant and you do not worry about whether it is on this mountain or that mountain. What you do is you worry about whether it is in spirit and truth. She says, “Whoa… Ohhh!” Well, I know Messiah is coming. That could be the person. All right, “who is he?” “I, the one speaking to you, am he” or, probably more accurately, “I am.” All of a sudden, this woman is down a whole new path because it is really not about place. It is about person.
Now, let me just take a quick aside here and go to Luke 16 in your mind and I will tell you why I am not going to go there for very long. Many people if they want to talk about heaven and what Jesus says about heaven they would go here. I would say there are several reasons not to do that.
Number one, in my mind, it is undoubtedly speaking of the intermediate state; that is, where do people go when they die? Not their ultimate state. So, you are really not talking about, I think, the ultimate of heaven.
The other part is this—whatever Jesus is saying there, He is saying more about the rich man and hell than he is about heaven. Would you not agree? There is not a whole lot of description about all the bliss and whatever Lazarus has received. What you see is all the agony the rich man has gotten. So, the real question is, how did I get here? Then, he is saying, “how do I keep other people from getting here?” You do not get there by being rich. Pharisees really led people to that conclusion that this was a sign somehow of spirituality. So, I am passing by that one simply because it does not appear to me to be the key text.
The key text is John 14. That text that my brother agonized about. Many people have read it and thought pleasant, happy thoughts about it and, no doubt, they should. I almost managed this morning, not quite, I almost managed, I actually had the CD on my desk to bring with me and I forgot it. That is the CD where my grandmother at 100+ reads this text and it is from her funeral. One of my nieces or nephews videotaped my grandmother after she had moved into my folk’s house somewhere after 101 and she...this was her favorite passage...and she read that text. I used it as the text—which she had specified, I might add— for her funeral. It is a great text.
“Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God, believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you because I am going away to make ready a place for you. If I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me so that where I am, you may be, too.”
Here are my problems with this passage. Is heaven really just a house? It is really just a mansion or, to put it in different terms, is this just a glorified version of HG TV? Do we just look at it as a great house? Somehow that just does not grab me when you think about it. And my other problem kind of falls on its heels. If God could call all of this universe into existence in six days, how long does it take Him to build an apartment complex? Would you not agree? My goodness! Do you think that it has taken Him all this much time because He is still... [working on it]? I know Jesus is the carpenter, folks, I know He was a carpenter, but He is not building that place as one man like Noah building the ark! How come it takes so much time to do that? I guess I would have to say here are the disciples. He has just told them “one of you is going to betray me and I am going to die.” Then, he says to them “I am going away and you cannot go with me.” These disciples are distressed. Somehow, I just cannot get it. I cannot put my arms around it. Jesus is saying “there is this great house. There is this really cool apartment. In fact, there are a bunch of them and each one of you guys gets one of those.” Does that really stir your soul? At the worst moment in the disciples’ lives, so far? Does that really give you something to hang on to? To me, I just find myself saying uh, I do not know.
So, here is my proposed solution: (1) It is very clear in this context the disciples do not have a clue what Jesus is saying. Would you agree with me on that? I mean, yeah, somebody is going to betray Him and they are arguing about who it is, but that argument quickly comes down to who is the greatest in the kingdom. They do not even stay with it very long. Judas gets the point and he is out of there because he knows if he does not betray Jesus now, he is never coming back. If he comes back and Peter figures out it is him, Peter will kill him. I have no doubt about that in my mind. So, it seems to me that you have to say, as Jesus said to them in John 16:12,
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”
They are going to understand later after His death and resurrection, after the Spirit comes upon Him, all of a sudden there is going to be those ah-ha moments when they say “Man! Why did I not see that then!” At this stage, what Jesus is saying to them really makes no sense. What does it mean when He says “my Father’s house”? I think that is the key. When He says “in my Father’s house are many mansions,” I think that is the key. So, we would have to go back to the Old Testament— by the way, this shows up there many times. It is not called “my Father’s house.” It is called “the house of the Lord” in the Psalms over and over again, but get this one:
Psalms 27:4, “I have asked the Lord for one thing. This is what I desire. I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord and contemplating His temple.”
Now, think about that from the standpoint of an Old Testament saint. We talked last week about the tabernacle and the temple and all the glory. Think about the fact that an Israelite did not go to church every Sunday. An Israelite came at least three times a year and that was a very special time. When they came and they offered their sacrifices, there would be this festive meal that they could be a part of and they would celebrate and sing the songs of ascent. When the psalmist was talking about or when they were singing and praising as they are going up to be at the temple, they would speak of it in terms of yearning. This is where they want to be an they would be there. They would not spend the night. There were no rooms there. There were not rooms available in the temple to spend the night. There was no room in the inn. Folks, there was no room in the temple.
I am going to get to that in a minute, but there was a great of anticipation and the psalmist and the worshippers, the true worshippers of God said, “This is God’s dwelling place. Oh, that I could spend all my life here.” Remember, one of them said I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord? Nothing was greater to an Old Testament saint than to dwell in the house of God (Psalm 23) and I dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Nothing could be more delightful than dwelling in God’s place forever.
Now, drop back. How often is the expression “my Father’s house” used in the New Testament? Not very often. Luke 2:29, Jesus, remember at 12 years of age got displaced from his parents. They come to Jerusalem, lo and behold He is there interchanging with all the sharp intellectuals about the kingdom. When his parents say to Him, “Son, son, why have you done this?” What did he say? “I must be in my Father’s house.” His Father’s house is the temple. John 2:16, Jesus cleanses the temple (this is after creating the wine out of the water at the wedding in Cana), He goes and cleanses the temple and they say, in effect, they are going to say “what are you doing?”, but He says, “Do not make my Father’s house a market place.” So, when we come to John 14:2 and He says, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places,” what would you think He is talking about? I would think He is talking about the temple, would you not? Remember in John 2, He makes it clear that He is speaking of Himself as the temple. John 1, “He who tabernacled amongst us.” He tabernacled in Chapter 1, temple in Chapter 2, so when we get to Chapter 14, I would think he is talking about the temple.
Now, get this, Nehemiah 13:4-9. Interesting, Can one spend the night in the house of God? Not legitimately. Nehemiah 13:4-9:
“But prior to this time, Eliashib, the priest, a relative of Tobiah”
(he is a bad boy)
“had been appointed over the storerooms of the temple of our God.”
Now, when you think about all the things which needed to take place in the temple, it really took a lot of storage. By the way, what a wonderful building we have. The one deficiency is not nearly enough storage, right? Boy, they needed storage for all the things which took place so there were these storerooms.
“He made for himself a large storeroom where previously they had been keeping the grain offering, the incense, and the vessels, along with the tithes of grain, the new wine and the olive oil, as commanded for the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priest. During all this time, I was not in Jerusalem,”
(Do not blame me, I did not give him the room!)
“For in the 32nd year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon, I had gone back to the king. After some time I requested to leave the king and I returned to Jerusalem. Then, I discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah by supplying him with a storeroom in the courts of the temple of God. I was very upset. I threw all of Tobiah’s household...”
Boy, you talk about getting tossed out of your place! You know sometimes what happens…They just throw out your stuff out there in the street. He is getting moved out folks!
“threw all of Tobiah’s household possessions out of the storeroom, Then I gave instructions that the storeroom should be purified and I brought back the equipment of the temple of God along with the grain offerings and the incense.”
So, up to this point in time, with the real temple nobody had a right to stay there and yet in the Old Testament in the Psalms they said, “Oh, that my glory would be that I could dwell forever in the house of the Lord, in the temple. If I could just be there forever. ” You are not going to be there in that temple. You are going to get tossed out. There were not that many rooms. So, when Jesus says then, “In my Father’s house,” I think he is saying in that temple that the Father has there will be many places to dwell and, folks, you not only get to spend the night, you get to spend all of eternity. It is like if you could take all of those hopes and aspirations of those Old Testament saints that talked about dwelling in the house of the Lord forever and all of a sudden Jesus is saying it is going to happen. In this dwelling place that God is preparing, men will live in His presence forever. So, when you look at that text in Matthew 27:51-54, you see when our Lord Jesus is crucified, the veil is torn from top to bottom, which meant now that forbidden access that was true in Old Testament times has been set aside and men have direct access into the presence of God. In the context of what Jesus is saying, not only can they come into the Holy of Holies, they have a room there. Is that our right? You have a place there to stay forever.
In Hebrews,10:19-22, He says,
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us, through the curtain that is through His flesh.”
He talks about coming in and entering into all that God has for us. It fits Revelation 21:22, because in Revelation 21:22, it says there is no temple. Why? Because God Himself and the Lord Jesus are the temple. So, why would you talk about heaven being a place with all these rooms and this mansion with all these rooms if, in reality, there is not a building in the sense that we like to think about with all these apartments. It seems to me that what it is saying is when we get to heaven we will enter into the most intimate fellowship with God that there is. We have already seen the introduction to that by the veil being rent, by us having access through our Lord Jesus into the Holy of Holies and we will in all eternity and for all eternity we will enter in and we will dwell in God Himself. I would say that is a whole lot more person than it is place, right? To me, at least.
Take a look at John 14 through 16 in your minds. We cannot go to all those texts, but think about the context where Jesus is talking about how things will be. What does Jesus say in the first verses of John Chapter 15? Abide in me. After He has just said, “In my Father’s house (in the temple, as it were, this heavenly eternal temple) in Him there are many places to dwell. How do we start? He says you start by abiding in Me. That is what it is about. It is about us entering into Christ and all that He has and having our being and our existence in Him. Having our joy in Him. Will Aunt Tilda be there? Yep. That is not my life and my eternal hope. Hi, Hilda, you know. I mean, we will wave. Jesus says, you know, that there is not marriage in heaven like there is today. If you are thinking about heaven in the sense that you are going to have a room for two, I do not think so. I do not think so. They will be there. We will have fellowship with our fellow believers. It is going to be different. That is why I think when we look at Ephesians 1 and you find all of the great blessings that are in store for us, they are described really in terms of two words or by two words. Those two words are “in Him.” Heaven is more a person than it is a place.
I am getting excited and time is running short so let me move on. When you look in the New Testament, you discover that something is happening now. If in heaven what is going to happen is we will have our dwelling in God and that will be our great joy and satisfaction. On earth, God has His dwelling in us. Is that not an amazing thought? God has His dwelling in us so there is a sense that our Lord Jesus, as God fully dwelt in human flesh, now God is dwelling in His church and in saints individually. So, we see for instance, this text in I Corinthians, Chapter 6, this is talking about all the kinds of terrible things that were going on morally in Corinth and about prostitution, in particular, and He says in I Corinthians 6:18,
“Flee sexual immorality for every sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God. You are not your own.”
If we are temples today, if we are the dwelling place of God, that has incredible implications for what we do and what we think, does it not? But, not only is that true on the individual level, it is true on the corporate level. So, Ephesians 2:21 ,
“In Him, the whole building being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the spirit.”
Folks, that is not in the sweet by and by, that is here and now. The sweet by and by is when we dwell in Him in a level of intimacy that we have not yet known or experienced in this life. That He dwells in us now.
So, what I want to leave you with is just this. Are we not Jacob-like? When we think about heaven, are we not really Jacob-like? Do we not think more of the place than the person? Do we not think more about the blessings than the blessor? Would we, come on folks, when we get to heaven in the way many of us are thinking and acting, you know what the first thing we would do is? We would go to the employment office and ask for a job on the street repair department. Think about that for a minute. Streets of gold? Come on guys, get with me! We would work on the street department, folks, and we would be filling our pockets. We are so fixed on those streets of gold. We are so fixed on those mansions of glory that we have somehow lost sight of the fact that heaven is dwelling in God and finding his presence the joy and the satisfaction which the Old Testament saints longed for and which New Testaments saints now have the words of our Lord Jesus himself saying it is coming. There will not be a physical temple. There does not need to be a physical temple because our dwelling place is God.
Now, here is the thing that strikes me. When you think about heaven, we tend to think about what it is not and we think about what it is, gold, and all that stuff. We also think in terms of what it is not. It is not death--that is good. It is not sorrow. It is not suffering. No pain, whatever, and all of that is good, but, you know, here is the interesting thing. God has in the present time chosen to dwell amongst us in the midst of all those things. It is Romans 8:18-25, This present world is suffering and groaning and we are in this kind of angst where we are waiting for the freedom from all those things, but you know what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches us that in the midst of all of that, we can grow in a depth of understanding and love for Him. As the psalmist in Psalm 73 said, I am watching all these guys prosper and I am doing badly and I am thinking where are you God? Then he says, wow, I forgot, you are always with me and I will always be with you. You notice he is not really grumbling and saying, man, I wish we would get this over with and get on to that, although it is better. He is saying I have entered into that relationship with God through Christ where in the midst of these terrible things I find God is nearer to me than ever. That is why Paul says that I can enter into the fellowship of His sufferings. That is why Peter can say if you think you have it bad rejoice so that there is a sense in which there is heaven on earth. Not heaven in the sense of streets of gold, not heaven in the sense of no sickness. Heaven in the sense that when we enter into suffering we know our Lord entered into suffering and we know Him better because of the affliction we have now.
So, my big message is this. We need to stop thinking about place, buildings, streets, and making that our focus. It is there, but we need to think about heaven as the place where we will dwell forever with God. In that sense, folks, when we gather on Sunday mornings, it is a taste of heaven or it should be. It ought to be a taste of heaven. We ought to be saying to ourselves this is what it is really meant to be for now. I look forward to that time when we will do it without the distractions and all the difficulties we face, but for now God dwells in us for all eternity. We dwell in Him.
I hope that everyone here has known the Lord Jesus and has come to trust in Him as He is the way. He is the way to heaven. As Jesus says a few more verses down in 14, “no man cometh unto the Father but through me.” You want the keys to the house, the big house, the really big house? It is Jesus. You have to acknowledge that you will never get there on your own. It is only through Him and His death in the sinner’s place that you could be saved.
Father, thank you for this great book of John and thank you for the reality that heaven is going to be the place where we know you in great intimacy. Thank you, too, that You are dwelling in us now through your Spirit and we find that a delight and a privilege and a joy in Jesus’ name. Amen.