Whatever Happened to Heaven?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Dave, last week we talked about heaven, and we mentioned that people in general have a view of heaven which is more akin to fantasy than reality, and many of those who claim to be Bible-believing Christians—well, they get serious about the reality of heaven only some . . . in some cases, only after they have entered a nursing home or are, maybe, facing death.
But let’s start with those whose idea of heaven is people floating around on clouds all day and playing harps. They obviously don’t know what the Bible says about heaven, and they don’t know what God requires for them to get there. And, in some cases, when pressed about it, probably the only thing they know is that it sounds like a better place than hell.
Now, Dave, here is my question. Do we evangelize such a person on the basis of where he may end up and where he could spend eternity?
Dave: Well, I don’t recall Paul evangelizing anyone that way, or Peter, on the day of Pentecost. Talk about heaven is really for Christians. Jesus talked to His own disciples about His Father’s house of many mansions and so forth. He didn’t go into great detail, because I don’t think we can even understand; we couldn’t even begin to comprehend very much about heaven, and I’m not sure how accurate your opening statements were. I don’t know how many people think we float around on clouds.
Tom: Oh, Dave I’ve done a personal survey. And, yeah, it’s really overwhelming.
Dave: [Laughing] All right. Yeah, I don’t think people even think that much about heaven . . .
Tom: Could be.
Dave: . . . and, of course, it sounds like a better place than hell.
Dave: To many people, it’s certainly not a better place than this earth, until, as you say, they get into a nursing home. I used to own and administer a nursing home, and it surprised me—people that are in nursing homes don’t seem to think that much about death. It’s amazing. The atheists continue to be atheists, and they just kind of drift off. Christians—we had some really strong Christians, cheerful and loving the Lord. But people who think, Well, I’ll wait until I am about ready to die, and then I’ll get serious—forget that one! Generally, at least, from my experience.
I don’t think that we evangelize people by telling them what a wonderful place heaven is. I think we evangelize people by telling them that they have broken God’s laws. They have sinned, and they are under God’s judgment. This is where it begins. The law, Paul says, was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Maybe part of the problem today is we are trying to evangelize people who don’t know they need to be evangelized. We’re giving them a gospel that they don’t know they need, and they are not that interested.
Tom: It’s sort of like giving them a better deal than we think they already have.
Dave: Yeah. Well, I remember we used to have many meetings in our home—among them were Jewish meetings, special meetings for Jewish people—and I remember someone, he was sort of in the “positive confession, and health and wealth gospel,” went up to visit the father actually, of some young Jewish believers that had come to the Lord through meetings in our home, and he was telling this man, “You know, you come to Jesus, you’ll really be healthy! He heals you!”
And the guy says, “Well, I am very healthy.”
“Well, He’ll really bless you!” Well, the guy owned a whole mountaintop there, overlooking Thousand Oaks. He’s got a huge property and a big home, and he says, “Well, I’m doing okay.”
And, he tried to evangelize him on the basis of blessings. That wasn’t what the man needed! What he needed was to know that he’s a sinner; that he has broken God’s laws; that his life is very short. One day he will face God in judgment, give an account, and there’s nothing that he can do to justify himself because the ticket has been written out, and we are all condemned.
And, Jesus said it himself in John:3:36, that we just had a few weeks ago: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Maybe we don’t hear enough about the wrath of God. Maybe, in most of our churches, there is very little of the fear of God. I don’t see much reverence. We’ve got our techniques, certain people like different kinds of songs, and we’ve got our programs, and entertaining the young people, and so forth. Where is the fear of God? Where is the realization that this life is very short, and one day we face God in judgment? So, I think that’s basically the way we bring people to Christ.
On the other hand, Christ didn’t always use that, so you don’t have a hard-and-fast rule. He told Nicodemus he had to be born again. He’s telling this woman at the well where we are now in John 4, about living water. I think the Lord takes different approaches with different people to reach them where they are, or from their understanding or interests.
And I also find that, Tom, there are no formulas. Sometimes people say to me, “Well, how do I evangelize Hindus?” Or, “how do I evangelize Mormons?” Or, “how do I evangelize Jehovah’s Witnesses?” There isn’t any formula. The best thing to do is to find out what that person believes—what their hope is—and what they think they are getting out of this religion that they are involved in, and then deal with it on that basis.
Tom: Dave, you said something I think really interesting to me, at least, earlier. You said that we really shouldn’t talk about heaven with the unbeliever.
Dave: I didn’t say we shouldn’t—it wasn’t quite that strong.
Tom: No, but what you are getting at is that . . . last week I asked you to give your reason: what attracts you to heaven? And it was the person of Jesus Christ. Now, some people out there think, Well, how interesting is that? Because they don’t know Him; they don’t understand. But could you do that? Tell our audience here what attracts you to heaven. Why do you look forward to it? Why is your focus there and not here? Because I’m around you a lot; things are going pretty good. You have your ups and downs with regard to—you’ve got artificial hips, and so on, but, you know, that doesn’t slow you down. My point is that somebody could look at your life and say, “Hey, Dave is out speaking. He’s been fruitful . . .” and so on and so forth. Why would your focus be turned toward heaven?
Dave: I remember when I was a boy in the ’30s, listening to a speaker at some outdoor amphitheater in Long Beach. Now, I remember very distinctly this man saying, “Who wants to go to heaven? Long Beach is good enough for me!”
So, one reason why I would like to go to heaven is “This earth is not good enough for me!” The Bible says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on this earth. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
So, first of all, I can say, Tom—and it’s not some great spiritual statement; it’s simple logic and common sense—there is nothing in this earth that attracts me. What would I want on this earth? I have no ambition for this earth. First of all, because I know that it’s temporary; it’s all heading for destruction. So, I’m not going to get excited about this world and have ambitions concerning this world. Heaven—I don’t even know how wonderful heaven is, but it’s got to be so far beyond anything that we can imagine!
Tom: Dave, just the idea that sin will never enter in! You don’t have to go for five minutes and recognize what sin has done to this world.
Dave: That “when we see Him,” this is 1 John chapter 3, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God,” that is, Christians. Now, you go to a Unity church, Unity School of Christianity, they will have everybody repeat, “I am a child of God, I am a child of God, I am a child of God,” as though that makes it so. No, we are the children of the devil by nature! That’s what Jesus said, “You are of your father, the devil.” We become the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus by being born again of the Spirit of God into the family of God.
And so, John, then, is writing to Christians, to those who know Christ. He says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God. It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” So, I can’t even begin to tell you about that, “but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Now, Tom, when you think of who someone would want to know and have as an intimate friend—some people would think if they could know some great athlete, or some great actor or actress, or president, or king, or queen, or whatever—if you just knew these great people, this great person, and that was your intimate friend and so forth, wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Wait a minute! What about knowing the God who created this universe? I mean, that is just so far beyond us, and to have Him reveal Himself—and Jesus Christ, of course, is the revelation of the Father. And when this world saw Jesus, His people that He came to—“He came to his own, and his own received him not.” He said, “They hated me without a cause.” They saw nothing in Him that they desired of Him, because He was the antithesis of everything that their sinful hearts desired, and, in fact, He condemned them.
To be in His presence and to see Him as he is—Paul said, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face. Now I know in part; then I will know even as I am known.” Wow! To know Jesus Christ, who is God, who created this universe, and to be transformed—to be like Him so that I don’t have sinful desires, I don’t have selfish ambitions, but I’ve been washed, I’m pure, I’ve been delivered from this body—because now we have been washed: “You are washed,” Jesus said, but you need to have your feet washed over and over, because you walk in this filthy world. But, the flesh that we live in lusts against the spirit, that is, the new life that we have in Christ, and to be delivered, to have a new body, and to be like Christ, and to know Him! I can’t even imagine that! It has to be . . . We have to have new bodies, Tom, or we would explode! We couldn’t handle it.
So, why do I want to be in heaven? I want to be with Jesus! I want to see Him, the One who died for me. Tom, it is so fantastic! He is God! He became a man. He became a baby. He walked this earth. He suffered the hatred, the misunderstandings, the false accusations of mankind, and He endured the cross—not just the physical sufferings, but He took the penalty for my sins! this God who created me would do that—wow! I want to fall at His feet! I want to see Him and know Him.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, all that you are saying here has to do with love. You’re in love with Jesus. If people are trying to get hold of what we’re saying here, the Bible uses the analogy of we being the Bride of Christ. And anybody who is married, go back to their first love early on, what excitement was generated! And that’s sort of a . . . not even a taste of what it’s going to be like to be with Him forever.
Another example would be when we’re in the fellowship of believers. You know, sometimes it can get a little rocky, but for the most part, when we’re with believers—again, we can have a taste of heaven. We’re going to be with believers who now, as you have mentioned—they’re going to know Him, they’re going to be like Him, and we’re going to be in that fellowship with them along with Him. That’s got to be exciting!
Now, why does the Bible take this term “the Bride,” the Bride of Christ; we are the Bride of Christ.
Dave: Well, before you get to that, Tom, just as you were talking about that—I also look forward to meeting Paul. I look forward to meeting David . . .
Tom: A man with a heart after the Lord.
Dave: . . . a shepherd boy . . . Yeah, and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel! Wow—that would be in the lion’s den and . . .
Tom: What about the biblical Mary? Those many Catholics who have an erroneous idea of who she is? There will be a biblical Mary there!
Dave: Yes, I look forward to meeting Mary. On the other hand, I think the Catholics have elevated her a bit too much, because I don’t find her giving forth any great insights into God, or into His Word; spiritual wisdom dropping from her lips, writing epistles like Paul. So yes, Mary is the mother of our Lord, of His physical body, and she has great honor because of that position, because of what she did in bringing Christ into this earth.
Tom: Sure, that ministry that she fulfilled.
Dave: Yeah, but I don’t think that she is in the same category as Daniel, the prophets, even Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who walked in that furnace that was heated seven times hotter than it was needed to kill anybody, and they are walking there with the Son of God! There are people like that who knew God! And Elijah, taken up in the chariot! Elijah who could call fire down from heaven—I often think about them. They knew God!
They weren’t like the prophets today, you know, the false prophets. We could name many false prophecies. I don’t want to offend anybody out there, but please wake up! Benny Hinn has given dozens of false prophecies. It only takes one false prophecy to make a false prophet.
So, we have a lot of false prophets today making predictions that don’t come true. And then they have the audacity to say, “Well, we’re learning. We’re in the school of prophets.” And, some of these people would even say, “Well, you know, the prophet isn’t expected to be a hundred percent perfect,” and so forth.
And, as I’ve often facetiously said, you can imagine Jeremiah saying, “Well, just ignore chapter 12 and 14 and 27, because I didn’t quite have the connection right.” No! These men knew God, and when they spoke, God spoke through them. I want to know! How did they do this? They had such a relationship with Him, back in the Old Testament times!
But now, Tom, I got you off the track here, but I am talking about being His Bride.
Tom: Right. Let me give you a scripture: 2 Corinthians:11:2, just to begin with that one: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: [this is Paul writing] for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
Dave: Tom, let me go back just for a second, because I know there are some people out there who are saying, “You’re attacking Benny Hinn! You are attacking these prophets!”
I am not attacking anybody. All I am giving you are the facts. Check it out. False prophecy after false prophecy—Benny Hinn for example [in] 1989, he said there wouldn’t be a place safe from earthquakes in America. He talked about destruction on this earth; he said that God would destroy the homosexual community with fire and so forth. That’s all I am saying. Check it out. These are the facts, now. Don’t follow someone who is giving you false information.
Tom: And then, think of what Jesus said to those who came to Him and said, “Lord, Lord, did we not do all of these things in your name?” He said, “I never knew you.” So, this really relates to . . .
Dave: It’s very solemn, Tom . . .
Tom: Yeah, and it relates to, do we know him? We want to be with Him forever, and He says to some, “I never knew you.”
Dave: And then, Benny, of course, has said that Jesus is going to appear physically in his meetings? Now wait a minute! Paul said [in] Titus:2:13: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ.” This is the blessed hope of the Christians, the appearing of Christ! It’s going to happen in a Benny Hinn meeting? Hardly! Paul said, “There’s a crown of righteousness for me, not for me only but for all those who love his appearing.” There is an appearing of Christ. This is what we are talking about, Tom! He will appear first of all to His own, “and when we see him, we shall be like him,” and I don’t think that’s going to happen in a Benny Hinn meeting!
So, I mean, this is just elementary error that should not be condoned in the church and should not be praised, and it grieves me that so many people accept this and follow it. But now we are talking about really knowing Christ and being with Him.
Tom: And the Bride, the Bride looking forward to His coming, to His appearing. But what about this term, “bride”?
Dave: I believe this is what the Bible teaches. Now, there are people who say, “No, the church is not the bride; Israel is the bride.” Well, Israel was the bride in one sense in a different way, and He said she played the harlot, and she was unfaithful to the Lord. But we are definitely . . . Ephesians chapter 5: “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might purchase it unto himself, a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle.”
The love of Christ to the church is given as an example of the love that husbands should have for their wives. And, we have a marriage in heaven. In Revelation 20, “His bride has made herself ready, and she is clothed in fine linen, white and clean,” and so forth. And I don’t believe that she has made herself ready on this earth. Some people think that the church has to reach perfection before the Rapture will occur. Well, we must reach a perfection on this earth that millions who are already in heaven didn’t reach? When did they get perfected?
Obviously, we all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. That’s solemn. Now, that’s something that I must confess I don’t anticipate with great eagerness. But the first thing that occurs after the Rapture is we will appear before Christ. And He will wash tears from our eyes.
Tom, we understand so poorly! Somebody says, “If you don’t confess every sin, you’re lost!” I don’t even know every sin, because my thoughts are so far below God’s thoughts. I’m sure there is pride, there’s been selfishness and things in me that I haven’t even known, and He is going to reveal what we should have been. It’s going to break our hearts, I think, and He’ll wipe all tears from our eyes, and, perhaps, hopefully, I guess, wipe out all memory of that.
But we will give an account. Our works will be tried by fire. So, it’s awesome to look forward to. We’re not playing games; we’re not playing church; we’re not trying to build an organization; we’re not trying to make a name for ourselves. We would like to bring people face to face with the reality of eternity; with the reality of God, who created this universe, who knows our hearts, and with the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ that delivers us from sin, that cleanses us, that forgives us, that gives us eternal life and an inheritance with Him in the family of God! And I think if these things gripped our hearts more, Tom, it would change our lives, it would change our churches.
Tom: Right. Well, Dave, I’ve just been thinking about all you’ve been saying, and it’s all in Him. It all has to do with—begins with—a personal, intimate relationship with Him, and then we have that for all eternity.
Dave: And, better and better in eternity!
Tom: Exactly. And, that’s our heart for those who are listening, those that don’t know the Lord. This may seem difficult. It may not seem to line up with where their priorities are, but we’re talking about eternity here—not just some “pleasure in sin for a season,” but for eternity we can be with Him.