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Heaven is out of this world

George Sweeting

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very year, the little town of Pacific Grove, CA, Witnesses one of nature's spectaculars. In the fall, great clouds of orange and black Monarch butterflies sweep down from the Canadian Rockies. Thay cluster on pine trees by the millions, to stay there through the winter.

In March the butterflies fly off again, singly and in small groups. They drift widely, breeding wher­ever there is milkweed for their young.

After laying its eggs the butterfly's work is complete. No butterfly makes the journey twice. Its life span is too short. Yet, year after year, new butterflies arrive at the

Dr. Sweeting is president of Moody Bible Institute.

same town at the same time.

Entomologists believe that each year these beautiful creatures come to the very same trees their ances­tors came to. They are completely directed by their instincts. And they are not disappointed as they respond. Isn't that astounding?

In much the same way, God has planted within man the longing for a place called heaven. Romans 1 tells us that God has placed in every man the awareness that God does exist! Paul writes, "That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them" (Rom. 1:19).

Just as the butterfly instinctively finds the right pine trees, so man instinctively directs his thoughts toward his Maker.

Why belief in heaven?

Did you ever wonder why men believe in heaven? One reason is because our inner consciousness has always longed for such a place. A study of the tombs of ancient Egypt tells us of the Egyptian's hopes and dreams for the future. Their awareness of a place such as heaven is obvious. The early American Indians believed that when a young brave died he went immediately to the great happy hunting grounds. Danish history reveals that when a landowner died, his servant would take his own life so that he might continue to serve his master in the land beyond.

History tells us that civilizations of' every age have had an instinctive

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awareness of an eternal heaven. The instinct of heaven is in the soul.

But then there are other reasons why men believe in heaven. One is that a man's soul needs such a place.

The greatest knowledge and intelligence that we can develop in this life is incomplete. We simply cannot come up with all the answers.

Isaac Newton was a brilliant English philosopher and mathema­tician, but he realized the limitations of human wisdom. "I seem to be only a child picking up a few pebbles on the shore," said Newton, "while the great ocean of truth stretches unexplored before "me."

With all our scientific achieve­ments we often forget the many mysteries that remain unsolved, the riddles that are yet unknown. The soul needs a place such as heaven, a place where one day we can know the answers to life's great quesitons.

Then, too, men believe in heaven because justice demands a place such as heaven.

In a world that is wracked by war and strife there is very little justice here below. At times it seems as if the wicked continue to prosper at the expense of God's people. Because evil continues to succeed here on earth, there must come a day when righteous judgment will be measured out.

Is it right that a John Huss or Wycliffe or a Savonarola should die a martyr's death and not receive a martyr's crown? Is it right that a Diocletian should sacrifice Christians and not pay for what he has done? Is it reasonable to believe that a Stalin should commit acts of brutality and oppression and yet go free?

Shall the wicked go unpunished? Shall the poor remain unvindi,-cated? Shall Jesus be crucified and not exalted? The answer is a' resounding "No!" Paul declared to the unbelieving men of Athens that God, "has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man Jesus

Christ whom he hath ordained." (Acts 17:31).

The resurrected Christ one day will once and for all bring justice. That justice demands not only judgment but rewards as well. Heaven is God's answer to the unjust suffering of His children here below.

The Bible's word on heaven

Since God's Word is our authority and our source of information about heaven, let's see what the Scripture has to say about it.

John's gospel,chapter 14, is one of the most familiar passages that speak of heaven. In the first three verses we read Jesus' words: "Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me.  ' 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also;"

Jesus is telling us not to be confused and discouraged by the trouble we see all around us. God is in control, and He is interested in us. And because God loves us He has gone to prepare a place that we who know and love Him will share with Him.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. 5:1). Paul said, "We know we have an eternal home." There was no question in his mind. Though our earthly bodies are temporal, God's building is eternal.

D. L. Moody was right when he said, "Someday you will read that D. L. Moody is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that's all—out of this old day tenement into a house that is immortal; a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.

"I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever."

Yes, my friend, the reality of heaven is as sure as God Himself.

The apostle John was given a glimpse of heaven one day in a beautiful vision. And he did his best to describe what he saw. "The walls are of jasper," wrote John, "the foundations garnished with precious stones. Every gate is a pearl and the city is of pure gold."

The God who painted the wings of the butterfly, who mixed the colors of the beautiful rose, who blended the hues of the rainbow— He is the Master Artist who has made heaven beautiful.

The story is told of a small girl who had been blind from birth. The only beauty she knew was what her mother had described to her. One day a noted surgeon was able to perform the delicate surgery that restored the little girl's sight. As she viewed the flowers by the side of her bed, she exclaimed, "Oh, mother, why didn't you tell me?" Someday we will ask the same question of the apostle John, "Why didn't you tell us how beautiful heaven really is?"

Yes, heaven is a beautiful place. It is a special place prepared for a special people. But who is going to be in heaven? And what do they have to do to get there?

How can one go to heaven?

Some time ago I decided to find out just what the typical man on the street thinks about heaven. I decided to go to one of the busiest intersections in the world, the corner of State and Madison streets in Chicago, ask passersby at random, this question—"What are your chances of going to heaven when you die?"

Barbara, a high school senior, was the first one I questioned. "What are my chances of going to heaven?" she repeated. "They are very good. Not necessarily because of my own godliness, but because my father is such a good man. The Good Book says that we will meet

Moody / November 1978   115

our fathers in the next world. My father will be a saint, and I know He'll say a good word for me."

This young girl was very sincere, but also very wrong. Being born in a Christian home does not make one a Christian anymore than being born in a garage makes one an automobile. It just doesn't work that way. Basing your chances for heaven upon a good father or mother is very wrong. It is a tremendous advantage to be reared in a good home, but that alone is not sufficient for acceptance by God.

John declared that, "As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). Believing in Jesus Christ is the key, and it must be a personal experience.

The second person I questioned was a middle-aged businessman. "What are your chances of getting to heaven," I asked.

"My chances are pretty slim," he

replied with a grin. "I can't play a harp, and I don't own any long white robes."

I meet people like this man all the time. They brush aside the thought of heaven or hell with some inane remark, simply because they can't face the reality of a future life.

We can laugh at the Grand Canyon, but that will not remove it. We can joke about cancer, but it will still remain a dread disease.

Sir Walter Scott said, "Better had they never been bom, who read to doubt and read to scorn." Thomas Hobbes laughed at the existence of heaven and hell, yet when he died he cried, "I am taking a fearful leap into the dark."

We can speak carelessly of heaven and hell, my friend, but one day we will face their reality.

Behind the glib answer of that middle-aged man there was a seeking mind. He promised to read a Gospel of John that I gave him. He also said he would listen to our

program. Underneath his exterior of unconcern there was a searching heart.

A young housewife was the third person I questioned. "What are your chances of going to heaven when you die?"

"How can I possibly tell?" she answered. "Why not ask my husband? He knows me better than anyone else in the world."

Since her husband was with her, I said to him, "What do you think?"

"She has an excellent chance," he replied. "She lives a good life and is basically quite religious. I wish my chances were as good."

As our conversation continued, I discovered that this young husband and wife were basing their hopes for heaven on good works, a good life, and membership in a church. But none of these things will help one get to heaven. Heaven is a place prepared for people who have received salvation—not for those who have given money or done good works, or any number of things.

Paul wrote that it is, "By grace (you) are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man-should boast," (Eph. 2:8,9).

Heaven is God's gift to those who love Him, to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Do you want to go to heaven, my friend? If you do, you must realize there is only one way.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). No matter what you may have been taught, no matter what you may be doing to earn your way to heaven, Jesus said He is the only way to get there.

Have you met the Savior? Have you trusted Him? There are not many ways to heaven. Jesus Christ is the only way.

What must you do to be saved?
Believe! What must you do to be
lost? Nothing! You are lost, and
unless you do something about it
you will be lost forever. Give your
life to Jesus Christ, and heaven will
be yours.

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