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Heaven: Longing for Our Heavenly Home John 14
Almost home. After ten days, twenty-three restaurants, four castles, seven cathedrals, one art museum, eleven taxi rides, two trains, three bus tours, one theater, and 459 miles of walking the streets of London and the countryside of England, I'm almost home.
The plane vibrates under me. The sun stands still in front of me. Weary travelers sleep around me. My wife watches three movies in a row beside me. Cool air blows from a hole above me. But all that matters is what is before me -- home.
There's no place like home. The sofa is softer, the bed is firmer, the shower is higher, the smell is sweeter, the embraces are more tender.
The longest part about going home is the last part. I waited to board the plane. I waited for eight hours in flight as time stands still traveling east to west. I waited in a slow moving line through customs. I waited for the limo to pick me up to take me the final leg home. I waited as the traffic crept slowly along on I-294 toward my hometown. I waited as the door to 708 Timber Trail opened.
But once it opened, out ran a beautiful seven year old. Her hair combed and braided. Wearing a brightly colored hair bow. Clean and pressed little jumper. And a toothless grin the width of the Grand Canyon. She jumps in my arms and cackles. Then she whispers in my ear, "Daddy, you're home!"
If Heaven is anything like that I can't wait. If I can feel so welcomed and so wanted in an imperfect world, through an imperfect child, in an imperfect house, what must heaven be like -- a perfect kingdom, through a perfect Father, in a perfect mansion?
This is what Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples in John 14. Jesus was announcing that he must go away, but they were not to worry. He assured them that he was going to do some house remodeling and room additions for their heavenly occupancy. When he was completed, he would come and get them and welcome them to their heavenly home.
Like the disciples, there are some things about our heavenly home you and I need to know.
Our Heavenly Home Is Real
Bertrand Russell, the 1950 Nobel Prize winner for literature, wrote concerning the heavenly end to life, "There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere; only triviality for a moment -- then nothing." John Lennon's 1971 song Imagine contains the words, "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try; No hell below us, above us only sky; Imagine all the people living for today." Still others have suggested that heaven is a state of mind, a figment of the imagination, a land of fairy tales.
Is heaven a myth? A fantasy? A wish? A non-existing place? A state of mind?
No!
Heaven is real place. We have Jesus' word on that. He told his disciples not to worry about death, not to worry about their heavenly residence, and then gave them a reason, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).
Heaven is a real place for real people. Just as there was a house of brick and mortar and wood and siding when the limo driver pulled into my driveway, and just as there was a child and a mother-in-law opening the door when we came home from London, so will it be when we step inside the pearly gates of our heavenly home. It's a real place with real people.
Our Heavenly Home Is Resplendent
The Book of Revelation could be entitled the Book of Homecoming, for in it we are given a picture of our heavenly home. John's descriptions of heaven will steal your breath. "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, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live 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'" (Revelation 21:1-4).
God pulls back the curtain and allows the weary apostle John to peek into the homeland. When given the task of writing down what he sees, John chooses the most beautiful comparison earth has to offer. Our heavenly home, John says, is like "a bride beautifully dressed for her husband."
What is more beautiful than a bride? One of the side benefits of being a minister is that I get an early glimpse of the bride as she stands at the back of the sanctuary before she walks down the aisle to her waiting husband-to-be. I can say that I have never seen an ugly bride. I've seen grooms that needed a little help, but never a bride. As the bride cascades down the aisle their is an aura of beauty and an air of purity and the atmosphere of love.
When you read that our heavenly home is similar to a bride, tell me, doesn't it make you want to go home?
The world I woke up to this morning couldn't be described as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The world I woke up to saw a ninety-seven year old man longing to be with his wife and children who had crossed the ocean of death to the other side of paradise. But in our heavenly home there will be no more sea -- nothing that separates. The world I woke up to saw the tears running down a mother's face because her daughter thought to be lost was found in a river murdered. But in our heavenly home there will be no more tears -- nothing that saddens.
The world I woke up to saw a father standing with his two preschool children over his wife's grave. Dead at thirty-two. The cause: cancer. But in our heavenly home there will be no more death -- nothing that grieves. The world I woke up to saw a teenager seething with anger and hurt because her best friend stole her boyfriend. But in our heavenly home there will be no more pain -- nothing that hurts.
The world I woke up to saw a pre-born infant slaughtered before it came out of it's mother's womb, and an air force pilot caught in adultery, and a homosexual man accused of murdering three people escaping the police. But in our heavenly home there will be no more sin -- nothing that defiles.
Our heavenly home is a beautiful place for beautiful people. It is more beautiful than we could ever imagine. We couldn't begin to put it into words. When asked, "What is heaven like?" R G. Lee replied, "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create."
When you look at this world, stained by innocent blood, smudged with selfishness and splattered with sin, doesn't it make you want to go home?
Our Heavenly Home Is Ready
Our seven hour flight to London began at 5:20 in the afternoon. After flight delays, a long trek through the night-time sky over the Atlantic, waiting for our transfer to take us from the airport to the hotel, and the long trip snaking our way through the narrow, busy streets of London, we finally arrived at our hotel. It was 9:00 a.m. their time, but my body was reminding me that it was 3:00 a.m. and it had yet to go to sleep. It was exhausted, ready for bed. My fear when I spoke with the clerk at the desk was that we would have to wait before our room would be ready. "Is our room ready?" I questioned, fearful of a negative response.
"Oh, yes. Your room is ready. We have been expecting you," came the reassuring reply.
Likewise our heavenly home is ready. It is a prepared place for prepared people. The Father has been expecting us. Jesus said, "I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2-3). Jesus has gone ahead to make things ready for us. The carpenter of Nazareth who must have built many a home in his day has gone to build a mansion for you and me. Jesus has done everything necessary for us to be with him in this heavenly home, even die on the cross. We will live in our heavenly home, not because we hope so, but because He loves us and has made preparations for us.
Heaven is ready, are you?
Cindy, my wife, and I packed the night before we left for our return trip home. The limo would arrive at 6:30 A.M. We dared not wait until morning to gather our clothes and souvenirs. It would have been too late. We would have been left behind. Likewise, the preparation for our heavenly trip home needs to be made in advance. We dare not wait. It may be too late. We don't want to be left behind. Preparations have to be made before the day of departure.
Are you packed? Are your affairs in order? Have you made the necessary travel arrangements? Have you booked your flight for your heavenly home?
Our Heavenly Home Is Restricted
Carl Sandburg was once asked whether there were any bad words. He replied that he was aware of only one: "Exclusive! Belonging to exclusive clubs, living in exclusive communities." It will come as a surprise to some, but heaven is a restricted neighborhood. It is an "exclusive" place. But its exclusion is not a matter of race or face or place. It is a matter of grace. Everyone is welcome, but only those who put their faith and trust in Christ may enter in.
When it comes to entering our heavenly home there is only one way, one plan, one road, one option. Jesus made it abundantly clear, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus is the way. Without him there is no going home. Because of sin we are separated from God. We are hopelessly and helplessly lost. But Jesus has provided a way -- a map to our heavenly home. Jesus is the truth. Without Him, you cannot know God. Sin blinds us to the truth. But in Christ we find a full picture of him. Jesus is the life. Without Him, you cannot grow in eternal life. Apart from Christ we are dead in trespasses and sins. But Jesus is the source of life. He who has Jesus has life now and forever more.
As our flight from London was descending into O'Hare International Airport, we gathered our belongings -- books, crackers, magazines, jackets. "Don't forget your passport," I said to Cindy. We walked with vigor and anticipation down the corridor. We were making good time until we rounded the corner where all the people were standing in line for customs. "Oh, no," I thought to myself, "this will take hours." A customs agent ahead of us said, "If you are holding a U.S. passport, move on up past these lines."
"Are the lines shorter," I inquired.
"Oh, yes," she said.
We walked on ahead and sure enough they were shorter and moved a lot quicker. In no time we were to the customs agent who asked the general questions about food and purchases. Then he asked to see our passport. He, then, stamped our passport and slid it back toward us.
"Is that all?" I asked.
"That's it," he said. As we picked up our carry on luggage to walk away, he added with a smile, "And welcome home."
One day I will the on a flight to glory. I'll go through the customary check points and at one point, the keeper of the eternal entrance will ask to see my passport. He will then examine a book where every name is written down. In order to gain entrance into the heavenly home he will look in the book for three words beside my name. If he finds those three words, he will stamp them on my passport. And stamped on that eternal passport will be the words: "Trusting in Jesus."
"Is that all?" I'll ask.
"That's all that is needed," he'll say.
Only one thing is needed for entering our heavenly home: Trusting in Jesus. And if I am trusting in Jesus, I need not worry. Entrance is guaranteed. Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me" (John 14:1).
And, when I walk through those gates, I'll hear my Heavenly Father say, "Child, you're home!"
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