*Español? Français? Deutsch? Italiano? Portuguese? Click!
(Note: It is suggested that you may want to print these pages to better study them..or bookmark the page for another time. All underlined book titles are linked to the ordering page for that book at Christianbook.com, for your convenience.)
Next Page (beginning of Heavenly Visions)
Recommended Reading List
From: Max Lucado, When Christ Comes, by Word Publishing, Chapter 5. (Max Lucado is a pastor in the Church of Christ denomination.)
"'He'll come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise--they'll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we'll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.' 1st Thessalonians 4:16-18, The Message
"If you ever need to be reminded of the frailty of humankind, I have a scene for you to witness. The next time you think people have grown too stoic and self-sufficient, I have a place for you to go.....Let me take you to a school, and let's watch the parents as they leave their children in class for the very first time...Even though the parents know the school is good, that education is right, and that they'll see their youngster in four short hours, still, they don't want to say goodbye. We don't like to say goodbye to those we love. But what is experienced at schools in August is a picnic compared to what is experienced in a cemetery at death. It is one thing to leave loved ones in familiar surroundings. But it is something else entirely to release them into a world we do not know and cannot describe."
Oh, how I understand Max's words. I have told many friends, "But I wouldn't even let Lora choose a college in Ohio, 2,000 miles from our home, without checking it out first! Yet now God expects me to trust her to some Unknown Country called Heaven? Do you have any clue what a giant leap of faith this is for me??" Yes, I trust God with MY life--but with my CHILD'S life? Of this I am not quite so certain. I admit this with some embarrassment, but frankly, it is a struggle--a stretch--for me to do so... and this from one who claims to have loved Him for almost 30 years!
"But what about those who have already died? What happens to Christians between their death and Jesus' return?" Apparently the church in Thessalonica asked such a question. Listen to Paul's words to them: 'We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who HAVE NO HOPE.' (1st Thess. 4:13, TJB) (emphasis mine)
"The Thessalonian church had buried her share of loved ones. And Paul wants the members who remain to be at peace regarding the ones who have gone ahead. Many of you have buried loved ones as well. And just as God spoke to them, he speaks to you.
"If you'll celebrate a marriage anniversary alone this year, he speaks to you.
"If your child made it to heaven before making it to kindergarten, he speaks to you.
"If you lost a loved one in violence, if you learned more than you want to know about disease, if your dreams were buried as they lowered the casket, God speaks to you.
"He speaks to all of us who have stood or will stand in the soft dirt near an open grave. And to us he gives this confident word: 'I want you to KNOW what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope...' ...God transforms our hopeless grief into hope-filled grief. How? By telling us that we WILL see our loved ones again....
"We don't like to say goodbye to those whom we love. Whether it be at a school or a cemetery, separation is tough. It is right for us to weep, but there is no need for us to despair. They had pain here. They have no pain there. They struggled here. They have no struggles there. You and I might wonder WHY God took them home. But they don't. THEY UNDERSTAND. They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence of God."
(emphasis, once again, mine)
Thinking about it... heaven sounds great for a 70 or 80 year old after a long life--quiet rest, and lots of it--but for an 18 year old?? What is heaven like? What does the Bible say? Can we draw any conclusions from how it's described, or what is said in various verses? Heaven, frankly, as I have thought of it in the past, sounds ... well, BORING!
And so began my odyssey into Scripture, and the learned minds and writings of various theologians... along with the accounts of sincere Christians of visions and near-death experiences... Join me in studying the following excerpts from some of these books.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From Chapter 5 of "The Life Beyond," (currently out of print, published by Fleming H. Revell), written by Dr. Herbert Lockyer. Dr. Lockyer spent 30 years pastoring in England and Scotland, and 10 years lecturing under the auspices of the Moody Bible Institute.
The Question of Recognition in Heaven:
"A friend asked George Macdonald, the Scottish novelist and poet, 'Shall we know one another in Heaven?' His pointed reply was: 'Shall we be greater fools in Paradise than we are here?" Consciousness, fellowship, love, memory, personal identity, involve recognition. Each individual, himself or herself here, will possess hereafter a recognizable personality and faculties superior to those exercised on earth. We may not have the full understanding of the mode of recognition in Heaven, but of the fact there need be no doubt. ..We can assume with certainty that we shall know one another more thoroughly in the life beyond. 'Then shall I know even as also I am known,' (1st Corinthians 13:13). Heaven means a more holy, blessed intimacy, our present human frailties prevent...
The Question of Degrees in Heaven:
"…Scripture expressly declares rewards in the hereafter for faithfulness in this world, and these rewards contain nothing inconsistent with the Doctrines of Grace, because those very works meriting reward were the effects of God's own operation in and through His servants…
"In our Lord's teaching in the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25), He makes it clear that where there is unequal ability but equal faithfulness the reward will be the same. In His Parable of the Pounds, He teaches that where there is equal ability but unequal faithfulness the reward will be graded…
"The recurring promises and also solemn warnings should move us to daily watchfulness, to whole-hearted devotion to Christ, and to self-sacrificing service. Your work and mine is to be tried by fire of what sort it is (1st Cor. 3:13)-sort, not size.
1st Corinthians 3:13, "..his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work."
"Commendation will be ours not for the quantity of our work but its quality. Only those who are wise are to shine as the brightness of the firmament and only those who turn many to righteousness are to shine as the stars for ever (Daniel 12:2).
Daniel 12:2-3, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
"Only those who suffer with, and for Christ, are to reign with Him (2nd Timothy 2:12). Only the overcomers are to receive the specified rewards (Rev. 2:7, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
Revelation 2:7, 17, 26, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God...He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it... To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.."
Revelation 3:5, 12, 21, "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels...Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name...To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne."
"Only the faithful are to wear the specified crowns (1st Corinthians 9:25; 1st Thessalonians 2:19-20; 2nd Timothy 4:7-8; 1st Peter 5:4; Rev. 2:10).
1st Thessalonians 2:19-20, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy."
2nd Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
1st Peter 5:4, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
Revelation 2:10, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."
"The tragedy is that many of us may face the Judgment Seat with a saved soul, but a lost life.
"That the saints will be active we are plainly told, although the exact nature of service is not fully revealed. All will serve, but the extent and honour of service will be determined by the way we have lived and laboured here below (Matt. 25:21; Luke 19:17; 1st Corinthians 6:2; 2nd Timothy 2:12; Rev. 2:27; 5:10).
Matthew 25:21, ""His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"
Luke 19:17, ""`Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. `Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'"
1st Corinthians 6:2, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?"
2nd Timothy 2:12, "..if we endure, we will also reign with him."
Revelation 2:27, "`He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father."
Revelation 5:10, "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
"Presently, the saints in glory may be occupied in intercession both for the saints and sinners on earth. If there is joy among the Angels over lost men and women repenting of their sin after being convicted by the Spirit of their need and peril, can we not visualize the triumphant above sharing in such angelic jubilation? All that interests God, interests the saints for they are one with Him."
1st Corinthians 9:25, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From Chapter 5 of "The Undiscovered Country," by Ron Rhodes (currently out of print, Harvest House Publishers). (Ron Rhodes holds a doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary.)
Learning More About Our Incomparable God:
"Apparently we will be able to grow in knowledge in our heavenly existence. Throughout future ages believers will be shown 'the incomparable riches of his grace' (Eph. 2:7). Though our capacity for knowledge and our actual intelligence will be greatly increased, we will not be omniscient (all-knowing). Only God is omniscient. We will always maintain our capacity to learn.
"This means that we will never get bored in heaven. God is so infinite-with matchless perfections that are beyond us in every way-that we will never come to the end of exploring Him and His marvelous riches."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From One Minute after You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination, by Erwin W. Lutzer (Moody Press), Chapter 4. (Erwin Lutzer is senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.)
"Since we are Christ's sheep, He calls us by name, perhaps standing even as He did for Stephen (Acts 7:55). We look into His eyes and see compassion, love, and understanding…So much is different, yet you are quite the same. You have entered heaven without a break in consciousness. Back on earth our friends will bury our body, but they cannot bury us. Personhood survives the death of the body. Just before Stephen died, he said, 'Lord, receive my spirit.' He did not say, 'Receive my body.'
"We are accustomed to talk about the differences there will be when we make our transition from earth to heaven. But there are some similarities too. Given the fact that our personalities continue, we can expect continuity. Heaven is the earthly life of the believer glorified and perfected…
"…we are reminded of the rich man who was concerned about his brothers, lest they come to the same place of torment [where he was in the afterlife]. He not only knew who his brothers were, but he was concerned about them. He loved them so much that he was willing to never see them again if only they would not join him in this place of torment. He would endure isolation if they experienced consolation.
"Of course, dear widow, your husband who is in heaven continues to love you as he did on earth. Today he loves you with a fonder, sweeter, purer love. It is a love purified by God. Your child loves you; so does your mother and father. There is no more a break in love than there is in continuity of thought. Death breaks ties on earth but renews them in heaven…"
"Think of your purest joy on earth; then multiply that many times and you might yet catch a glimpse of heaven's euphoria. Even in the Old Testament, David knew enough to write, 'In Thy presence is fulness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever' (Psalms 16:11). Heaven is the perfecting of the highest moments of our present Christian experience.
"Knowledge, love, feelings, a desire for justice-all of these are the present experience of those who have gone ahead of us to heaven. Remember that the entire personality simply carries over into the life byond. Heaven has its differences, but it is populated with your friends, who are still the people who once dwelt on the earth. They are still your friends!
"Yes, in heaven we will rest, but it is not the rest of inactivity. We will most probably continue many of the same kinds of projects we knew on earth…We are, says Maclaren, saplings here, but we shall be transported into our heavenly soil to grow in God's light. Here our abilities are in blossom; there they shall burst forth with fruits of greater beauty. Our death is but the passing from one degree of loving service to another; the difference is like that of the unborn child and the [newborn] one who has entered into the experiences of a new life…"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From sermon 12-19-99 by Stan Mitchell, associate pastor of Christ Church in Nashville, Tennessee (church attended by Lora's sister, Crystal)
"Dr. [Norman Vincent] Peale made mention of the fact that he had heard some years before a study in one of the Ivy League medical schools...a study done of the experience of birth for a baby. Dr. Peale recounted that he had read this particular article how when a baby is born into this life, it experiences extreme trauma... The doctors that did this particular study said that these babies experience perhaps the greatest trauma, not only of their infant gestational life, but the greatest trauma that they will know IN this life. Peale recounted the fact that when the doctors were trying to describe the intense nature of this trauma that the baby experiences in transition from one stage of life to the other, the only word they could come up with, the only allegory that would make sense, was to say the baby experienced the trauma of death.
"When I thought about it, it made sense. They are leaving the only life and world they know. They never heard--they didn't even have the capacity to hear or understand--about this life. There's no way for the father to speak through the wall of the mother's body and explain to that infant child that nine months is nothing! Nine months is just fleeting--here you will have 60-70-80 years. The baby in the mother's womb has no capacity to understand. There's no way to explain to that baby the disparity between the tight confines in which it can barely turn and twist and the 25,000 mile circumference ball upon which it will one day live.... All the baby knows at that stage of life is that that life is all there is to life. Then the mother's body begins to push the baby towards what we know as real life. The doctors said the baby can only experience this [push] as nothing more, and nothing less, than death. Then the baby cries, and the baby struggles, as it thinks it is dying, and we're standing looking...knowing that that baby is about to live as it has never lived before.
"[Similarly,] what we refer to as death, ...everything in Scripture seems to indicate...is really only a transition from the womb, the tight, confined womb of this life to a life far greater. It's all relative. The apostle Paul threw up his hands and said, 'Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for us.' We have no more ability to understand that [next] stage of life than the [unborn] baby has to understand Mississippi Rivers and Great Lakes and Gulfs of Mexico... So God on "that" side--where I do not live and I cannot see--stands waiting to receive your children, and my granddad this past year, and your spouses, and all of our loved ones.
"He knows how we describe it--we describe it with tears. But the word the psalmist came up with [in Psalm 116:15] was this one: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.' Precious. It's not, at least to me, coincidental, that that word is frequently used in childbirth centers and hospital birthing units... precious. 'Isn't he...she...precious.' A baby passes from the womb to this life, and we cry 'precious.' Then we pass from this life to the next, and the Lord puts His hands on the backs of the angels and says, 'Isn't she...he...precious!' An 11th century saint said, 'And now I know, if all the death that ever was were pooled together it could scarcely fill a cup set next to the River of Life.' I can trust that what I call death, He calls birth..."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
From Joni Eareckson Tada's book, Heaven: Your Real Home, various chapters (published by Zondervan).
~Where is Heaven?~
"Heaven is close. Perhaps closer than we imagine.
"It's a little like saying to an unborn infant in his mother's womb, 'Don't you realize that you are about to be born into a great big world full of mountains, rivers, and a sun and a moon? In fact, you exist in that wonderful world right now.'
"..Actually, this moment, less than a hairsbreadth separates this material world from the spiritual world that is embracing earth. And like an unborn baby, we are being fashioned for the greater world into which we are about to be born (by dying, of all things!). We have a hard time believing that heaven encompasses this world, and so the Bible has to keep prodding us to fix our eyes 'Not on what is seen, but what is unseen.' It's a matter of 'seeing.' Using our eyes of faith.
"Faith assures us that heaven is transcendent. It is beyond the limits of our experience; it exists apart from our material universe. Heaven is also immanent in that it envelops all the celestial bodies, swirling galaxies, and the starry hosts. If we believe that God is omnipresent, then we can at least believe that what the Bible in Ephesians 2:6 calls the heavenly realms are omnipresent, as well. For where God is, the kingdom of heaven is.
~How Will We Relate to Angels?~
"Angels will...serve us in heaven. Their job description in Hebrews 1:14 extends beyond just earth. Angels will be subject to us in eternity. We will reign with Jesus; and if He has been given authority over all the heavenly hosts, then we will reign over angels too. Will we govern a few legions or many? What shall we command them to do in faraway galaxies? How will they aid us on earth to help carry out the kingdom rule? I can't say, but it's thrilling to imagine...
"One more thing. When it comes to fallen angels--demons--we will judge them. If 1st Corinthians 6:2-3 didn't spell it out in black and white, I'd laugh at the improbability of it all; for it says, 'Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? ...Do you not know that we will judge angels?...'
~Will There Be Envy in Heaven?~
"Once after a speaking engagement, a woman came up to me to tell me how much she enjoyed my message. In her enthusiasm, she exclaimed, 'You're so wonderful. I wish I could be like you...you'll get a great reward in heaven!'
"I appreciated her accolades, but I see it differently. God is by no means impressed that I can pain with my mouth, have written books, traveled all over the world, or am on speaking terms with Billy Graham. When He sees my name on a bestseller's list, He doesn't get all effusive and say, 'Boy, am I proud of her, chalk another one up for the lady in the wheelchair.'
"I'm not discounting my painting or books or the exciting places I've served; I just feel that I have received a lot of my reward here on earth. I've enjoyed the reward of seeing the gospel go forth because of this wheelchair and of watching believers become encouraged and inspired. It is sheer ecstasy to watch Him work through my life, and I'm humbled and honored.
"It's just when it comes to heaven, I'm convinced the highest accolades will go--and should go--to godly people who have labored loyally yet received no recognition...Yes, some will be greater in the kingdom than others. What a wonderful thought!
"I can't wait for the Lord to greatly honor the missionary in the back jungles of Brazil who spent fifteen years translating Scripture and then quietly moved on to the next tribe to do the same. I want to see the Lord richly reward small-town pastors who faithfully preached every Sunday morning despite meager numbers in the pews. Better yet, pastors in China who are still suffering persecution and haven't seen the light of day from their jail cells in years.
"I hope the Lord takes highest delight in elderly grandmothers in nursing homes who didn't dwell on their plight, but rather prayed, without fanfare, for others. Godly teenagers who held fast to their virginity, saying 'no' time and again to peer pressure, intimidation, and their hormones. And moms and dads of handicapped children who, in the name of Jesus, served the family faithfully despite the day-to-day routine, isolation, and financial setbacks. These are the real heroes and heroines over whom we will be exceedingly glad to hear the Lord say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!'...And do you know what will thrill me most? The obedience of these unsung heroes will raise the wattage on God's glory. He will shine brighter because of them.
"I won't be jealous of others with brighter raiment than mine in heaven...You won't be either. And do you know why you will be satisfied with the reward Jesus gives you? First, you'll be pleased with whatever Jesus bestows simply because He's Lord. Second, your perfect sense of justice will be in complete accord with the Lord's judgment. Third, your capacity for joy will be filled to overflowing.
"So, I'm fixing my eyes on Jesus and focusing on things unseen. I'm stretching my heart's capacity for God here on earth to insure my bucket for joy in heaven will be deep and wide. I'm searching high and low in my heart to choose the right building materials, whether it be gold, silver, precious stones, or platinum-plated service [to God]. I'm down here on earth to win as many crowns as possible.
"'Uh-oh,' you may be thinking, 'Joni, aren't you being self-serving here?'
"No. I have a clear conscience in light of 1st Corinthians 9:24, which encourages missionaries, prisoners, teenagers, moms and dads, ALL of us in the contest to 'run in such a way as to get the prize...'
"...Just like marriage is the reward and the happy consummation of love, and a medal of honor is the reward given at the end of a victorious battle, so it will be with heaven's crowns. A reward is the cherry and whipped-cream topping of the pleasure of serving God down here on earth... Heaven is one big reward. Gift after gift after gift...
~The Connection Between Hardship and Heaven~
"Suffering is no failure of God's plan. True, it is part of the curse, along with death, disease, and destruction. But before God comes back to close the curtain on suffering, it is meant to be redeemed... Suffering moves our heart toward heaven. Suffering makes us want to go there. Broken homes and broken hearts crush our illusions that earth can keep its promises, that it can really satisfy. Only the hope of heaven can truly move our passions off this world--which God knows could never fulfill us anyway--and place them where they will find their glorious fulfillment...
"You can appreciate this, especially if earth has broken your heart. You may be a mother who has lost her child in an accident, a son who has lost his father to cancer, or a husband whose wife has passed on to glory. These dear ones take with them a part of your heart that no one can replace. And since the pursuit of heaven is an occupation of the heart anyway, don't be surprised if you find yourself longing for heaven after you leave the graveside. If your heart is with your loved ones, and they are home with the Lord, then heaven is home for you too."
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails
to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a
speck of white cloud just where
the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: "There! She's gone."
Gone where? Gone from my sight--that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was
when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load
of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished
size is in me, not in her; and just as the moment when
someone at my side says, "There! She's gone," there are
other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to
take up the glad shout, "There she comes!"
And that is Dying!
Page Two, Heavenly Visions
Back to Homepage
FastCounter by LinkExchange