Being Prepared For Heaven
BEING PREPARED FOR HEAVEN
2 Timothy 4: 6‑8
The Reformer's Fire ‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ Max A Forsythe
Sometimes my personal preparation for preaching leads into difficult ideas
and unanticipated results. Earlier this summer, I proposed a short series
on hades, hell and heaven. As the time drew near to begin teaching a
biblical view I found that I had a responsibility to prepare you all for
our focus on these less understood topics of our time. Before we consider
those topics in detail, we must first deal with the question of death.
That door leads to eternity. And since we must all pass through it
eventually, this lesson seems altogether necessary before we consider the
other topics. My first concern is that I should not unnecessarily frighten
the saints who belong to Jesus Christ. If you sincerely believe in Him and
His sacrifice on the cross for your personal sins, then our meditations of
the next few weeks will academically confirm what you already know.
However, there may be some within the hearing of my voice or on our
congregational mailing list who rightfully need to have the hell scared out
of them by the witness of God's Holy Word!
Let us begin today with the fact of death. One winter I was changing my
daily calendar on my Farmer's Almanac Calendar. A particular pithy saying
took an old proverb and developed it further. Remember the old saying
"Nothing is certain except death and taxes"? Well, this calendar date made
this observation: "Thank heaven that whenever Congress meets, only taxes
can be made worse. Praise God, they have no control over the realities of
The first thing that we need to know about the reality of death is that
there are three kinds of death: spiritual, physical and eternal. Let us
consider each one briefly.
The first kind of death is spiritual death. This means the separation or
alienation of the soul from God. This is the condition which Satan and his
demonic angels are in. We as Christians know that we can only truly live
in communion with God. We have this through spiritual life in Christ.
This life we have in Christ is the opposite of spiritual death.
To a certain extent even the worldly around us are restrained from becoming
all they could be by common grace. By God's grace, our world today is
neither as bad as it was just before the flood, nor yet as wicked as the
cities of Sodom and Gomorrah! Like the Sodomites, the Canaanites during
the Israelite conquest had to be destroyed because of their wickedness.
Centuries later, the leaders of the Aztec and Carib Indians of the New
World deserved their fates as well. Even in our own century, the execution
of Nazi leaders for war crimes is justifiable. Like all of these examples,
if we were left to our own instincts, we know from history and from God's
word just where man would end up without the restraint of God's word and
The second kind of death is physical. This means the separation of the
soul from the body. This death is also a part of the penalty for original
sin. At death our body chemicals return to the earth. At last count, the
chemical compounds of our bodies were worth about sixteen dollars. It is
only their combination that allows us to even talk about a six million
dollar man! However, when death intrudes, the natural six million dollar
man is worth nothing more than the sum of his body chemicals. For the
Christian, this is not absolute tragedy, because we know that God takes His
elect home to be with Himself. Further, at the last day, we are promised
that our bodies will be gloriously restored in some recognizable form.
The third kind of death is eternal. This is spiritual death made
permanent. A person's inward state may become their eternal outward
condition. The full weight of the wrath of God descends on those who are
eternally separate from God. We should well note that those who are born
only once in a physical birth, go on to die twice: both physical and
By contrast, for those Christians who are born again, there is only one
death: the physical. Thus we may say: The twice born die once, the once
born die twice. The new birth described by the Apostle in John 3 is
absolutely essential for those who call themselves Christian. This new
spiritual birth is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and we learn that the
debt of our sins is covered in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the
cross. This is the Good News of the Gospel. Knowing this we can face the
sting of death as the last hurdle to the life beyond. Now very many of you
who have made a commitment to Jesus Christ may not yet be able to say with
Paul the words we heard in his letter to Timothy. Like Paul, we still have
work and witness to accomplish here in this life. But also like Paul, we
should be ready and willing to depart this life when the Lord calls us. We
see in Philippians that Paul longed for relief from the burdens of life:
"For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living
in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I
choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart
and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary
for you that I remain in the body."
In the 18th century, a story was told about three popular evangelists. One
complained that he was tired and ready to go home. Another quickly asked
if he was tired of the work or worn out from the work. He observed that it
was all right to be exhausted from hard work, but inexcusable to be tired
of the work. We sense that Paul's experience was exhaustion. Even as the
three evangelists agreed that they must labor on as long as life and health
should last, so too is that Paul's desire. As much as he wanted to go home
to heaven, he realized that his times were in the hands of Almighty God.
Paul and countless other saints have had no fears of death itself. Death
is but the door to the next life. And if we are assured that heaven is our
eternal home, we ought not to fear.
Loraine Boettner repeats a story concerning a former president of the
United States: On his eightieth birthday, John Quincy Adams was walking
slowly along a Boston street. A friend asked him "How is John Quincy Adams
today?" The former president replied graciously, "Thank you, John Quincy
Adams is well, sir, quite well, I thank you. But the house in which he
lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon the
foundations. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is
pretty well worn out, its walls are shattered, and it trembles with every
wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John
Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon; but he himself is quite
well, sir, quite well." That is the attitude we need to cultivate so that
when the call home comes we may say with Paul:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept
In the meantime, there is a race to be run, a life of struggles to
strengthen our faith. Do you have problems, do you have disappointments?
Remember, God does not want us to become satisfied with life in this world.
To that end He sends an appropriate amount of sorrow, suffering and
disappointment to each of His children so that our anticipation and
appreciation for the heavenly life may grow greater. Certainly there are
good things that come to us in this world and we should give thanks for
those blessings even as we learn to disdain the realities of this life and
look forward to the eternal life to come. May the Lord give us grace to
hope for heaven even as we learn to trust completely in Jesus Christ our Lord.