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Between the Trees

The Hope of Heaven  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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To reveal the changing nature of heaven of the history of man and focus on its present reality

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Last week: The evidence for heaven is clear and known, and that the denial of heaven is less reasonable than the belief in it.
However, to know something exists doesn’t mean we understand what it is. The actual nature of heaven is not something most people truly understand, but rather, we guess at tit. And the reality of anything is that it is hard to get excited about something you don’t understand.
Next week, John O’Dell is going to focus on the Bible’s teaching about heaven verses the culture or other worldviews

Too Broad/ Too Narrow

When we do talk about heaven, we can often be a little too broad
It’s like talking to your kids
When you ask about school, it’s too broad - “It was fine.”

Biblical Examples of Confusion

Pharisees and the Sadducees

Acts 23:6-
Acts 23:6–8 ESV
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
This trial against Paul was thrown into chaos because of the disagreement about heaven.
And this was between the religious leaders.


There was confusion even among Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus comes to comfort Martha at the loss of her brother, she knows all the right answers but something isn’t sinking in.
John 11:21–27 ESV
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
When Jesus comes to comfort Martha at the loss
Her answers seem right, but it isn’t affecting her reality. Just a little later when Jesus goes to raise Lazarus, she objects.
John 11:39–40 ESV
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Eschatology and Heaven

Now, most Christians today don’t argue over the existence of heaven, but there is still a lot of confusion about it. Often, our systematic theologies don’t say much about it, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that some good works on it have come out. Yet, even when we do talk about it, we tend to talk about it was something that will come at the end of all things.
In theological terms, heaven is typically found in a category called “eschatology” or the study of end times. And rightfully so, the fullness of heaven will not be realized until the end times.
However, the natural misconception this gives us is that heaven is something that will not come into being until later, rather than something that exists and has always existed.
Like Martha, we look forward to the end, but we are sad in the present because we don’t really know where the

Two Definitions

To help sort things out, I want to give us two definitions for heaven.
The first is the heaven that comes at the very end, when ALL of God’s people are gathered as a family and ALL is made right, and ALL is made good. This is our eternal home, the home God intended for His people when He first created.
What we must understand about this definition of heaven is that doesn’t exist yet, at least not in time. Although, by God’s sovereignty, it is guaranteed, it is still future. No one is currently there.
However, there is a second definition of heaven. It is a holy place wherever God and His people are. And this heaven is very much a reality right now.
The hard part about this definition of heaven is that it has been changing. I know that sounds weird, but let me explain.

The Progression of Heaven

We get a hint of this progression of heaven from a key feature in our final, eternal home
Revelation 22:1–2 ESV
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
This is not the first time this tree of life has shown up. This tree of life was also in the garden.
Genesis 2:8–9 ESV
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
That is why I called this message between the trees. Heaven has always existed but it has been changing as we (God’s children) are being shaped.
So let’s walk through these changes.

The Creation

The first heaven is what I affectionately call “Mom’s Heaven.”
The very first verse of the Bible mentions the creation of the heavens and the earth
Genesis 1:1 ESV
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Truth is that the word heavens here most likely speaks to the universe, but it doesn’t change the point that before God created the earth, He created a place where He and the angels resided, apart from the earth.
Job 38:7 ESV
when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Job 38:4 ESV
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Job 38:4–7 ESV
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Colossians 1:16 ESV
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
This heaven was a holy and perfect place where God and the angels resided. However, one thing was missing… us.
That is why I call it mom’s heaven, perfect, peaceful, ministering angels, and NO KIDS.


Now, if that was mom’s heaven, the next step of heaven would be “Teens Heaven;” this was the garden of Eden.
Genesis 2:8–10 ESV
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.
Genesis 2:8
Once again, we have this amazingly beautiful place. No pain, no death, no lack of anything you needed.
God was missing. Scripture tells us He visits, but He didn’t live there.
I know a lot of teens who would love to have all the provision their parents provide without their presence.
Man was alone
Genesis 2:18 ESV
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
The companionship we needed would be given by marriage, rather than by God Himself.
Yet, God’s intention was for His children to live and be with Him.
Revelation 21:3 ESV
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Yet, because of sin, Eden is no more. Man is kicked out.

The Intermediate Heaven

Which leads us to our current reality in regards to heaven; what is often called the intermediate heaven.
Which I believe is where people have the most confusion. And to be honest, not much is said about it.

Soul Sleep

Reasoned that Heaven is future
The word sleep is sometimes used to describe death

Soul Sleep

The word sleep is sometimes used to describe death
2 Corinthians 5:8 ESV
Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians
Philippians 1:23 ESV
I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Luke 23:43 ESV
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Seems to be indication that the inhabitants of heaven are aware of the events on earth
Revelation 6:9–11 ESV
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
Luke 15:7 ESV
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
[Joke about Reality TV]
[Joke about Reality TV]

Temporary Paradise

Although it will be paradise for those who are there, the reality is that the injustice of the earth still exists
[Norm’s Desire]

The Millennium

One more stage before we reach our final destination
Revelation 20
Revelation 20:1–6 ESV
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Lots of Questions

Mortal and Immortal Living Together
Internal rebellion in a perfect world
Psalm 72:8–14 ESV
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:8-14
[Denny’s Book]
[Denny’s Book]
The Questions it answers
Every Knee will bow
Psalm 72
Is rebellion or rejection of God ever justifiable?
1 Corinthians 15:23–25 ESV
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

The Point

It would have been great for God to just snap his fingers and create the final heaven the way it ought to be.
Preliminary Heavens = School Prerequisites
Each Stage of History Shapes God’s People

The Heaven Before Creation

God created us to be with Him. He has done all of this for us and for the glory of His name. He chose us to be with Him.


God’s presence and companionship is what makes heaven what it ought to be.
We know what it means to choose Him in return, and to love and obey God.

The Present Heaven

We learned what it means to be patient with brokenness and injustice
Yearn for the lost and celebrate the found
We want the family to be whole.
[Don’t want to rush the arrival of heaven as long as one child is still yet to be found.]

The Millennium

God is never to blame for the rebellion of man.


All of these steps are necessary for us to enjoy and appreciate our heavenly home; for us to be redeemed and grateful people.
The heaven we want doesn’t come without the process patience that God has shown us.
It all boils down to trust Him. He knows what He is doing.

The End

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