For the Joy Set Before Us

Hebrews 11:13-1613 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Faith is rooted in hope. It is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen. We cannot understand the value of faith unless we yearn earnestly for what is yet to come.  Those who died in faith sought for a heavenly country.  This hope gave them motivation to obey and the strength to suffer righteously. It allowed the people of faith to live distinct from others and overcome their enemies by trusting in God.

  • Faith works through the motivation of future joy (set before us). This is legitimate motivation provided through the secure promises of God. When we reach heaven God is glorified.
  • If you do not have a real anticipation and desire for a better place, your faith is without strength or foundation.  That explain some of what we see around us.

There is not much emphasis in teaching today on heaven, or the value of waiting for God’s reward.

1 Peter 1:3-4 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:6 – 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

I.   Does heaven appeal to you? Why is it unappealing to hear about heaven. (sing to me of heaven?) Is there a joy set before you in the teachings of the Bible?  There is a distinct sense of “nowness” about our discipleship that is portrayed in our speech. Philip Yancey recently observed in a popular religious journal that the quiet in religious circles on the subject of heaven was disturbing. Hr cited three possible reasons:

1)     Our present affluence has given us what former generations longed for in heaven

2)     We are being influenced by the pagan doctrine that death is life’s natural conclusion,

3)     The biblical imagery of heaven fails to appeal to modern man. Is his analysis right?

  1. A.    Our affluence has given us an occasional illusion of having heaven here – freedom from want, pain & fear. But these illusions are short-lived because diseases and death eventually run us down. The pagan concept of reincarnation or other efforts to get us to make peace with death have taken their toll, even in religious circles.
  2. B.    The imagery of the Bible concerning heaven was never intended to attract men & women in the literal sense. The Much of this imagery is found in the book of Revelation -a book of striking visions and images filled with symbolic, not literal meaning. Does the Lord intend to tell us that heaven will actually be constructed of gold streets and crystal walls? Why then does the Bible describe heaven is such terms?

II. Consider the home of the righteous – Heaven. Let me recall to your mind three impressive images of this place that are given in scripture

A.  It will be a place where this is no human suffering – no sickness, disease or dying.

Revelation 21:44 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

1. This is a compelling image in our world. How much appeal this must have had to those who suffered more than we. Consider  Paul’s words in  2 Corinthians 4:17 – 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, – our “light affliction”- Was Paul’s affliction light?   2 Corinthians 11:24-2824 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness —  28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. This world was not comfortable for him, and thus the promises of God provided an enormous benefit. The suffering as working for him a glory that was incomparable to any thing he could experience here.

B.  It will be a place where there is no sin – no moral evil. Revelation 21:27 –  27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

1.  How much good of this life has sin ruined. Broken homes, wasted lives, division among God’s people. But the Spirit says in heaven there will be no “defiled thing”.

  • You have to fight against sin here in order to be free from it there. Paul’s confidence came because he had fought the fight, and kept the faith. Heaven provides freedom from the influence and impact of sin.   2 Peter 3:11-13 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

C.  It will be a place of rest:

  • Hebrews 4:9 – 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
  • Rev 14:13 – Write:’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'” “Yes,” says the Spirit,”that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

There is a true joy in knowing that the struggle is over and the work is done. This does not indicate that we earn our way to heaven, but the struggle  ends when God provides rest for His people.

D.  It will be the place where God is: Revelation 21:2323 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. The image of heaven has always included the presence and abode of God.  Jehovah sits on the throne of heaven.

  • Job 22:12“Is not God in the height of heaven?
  • Ps 53:2 – God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
  • Jesus returned to heaven and now sits on the throne of heaven.

1.   This is the real appeal of heaven to Christians. When death hung over Paul in Rome, he did not speak of streets of Gold, or gates of pearl- he spoke about longing to depart and be with the Lord

  • Philippians 1:23 – 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
  • John 14:2-3 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

2. Finish reading Paul’s words in   2 Corinthians 5:1-8 – 5 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

He groaned for a new house – one made by God. Why did he want a new one? Vs. 4 – because those who are in this tent groan, being burdened. But he does not groan simply to be without the burden or pain – not just to be unclothed – but rather to be “clothed further” – when mortality is swallowed up by life.

  1. a.     But this life he desires is not just life as we know it – he was already clothed with that. To have this life in this body, he says is to be absent from God (vs. 6). But to be clothed further with this new life is to be present with God (vs. 8). And that is the real appeal.

Conclusion: Do you want to go to heaven? Do you want to avoid Hell? Paul gave the answer in short order here – Whether we are present or absent, we make it our aim to be well-pleasing to Him. Are you pleasing God?  We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade you.