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  "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." - Mark 16:15 

 

Bible Facts About Heaven

Dr. John R. RiceBy Dr. John R. Rice
1895-1980

 

2 - Heaven, a Real, Literal Place

    When Jesus sent Judas away from the upper room with the words, "That thou doest, do quickly," and Satan entered into Judas so that he, burning with hate, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; and when Jesus finally convinced the eleven remaining disciples that He was to be crucified the next day, it was the darkest hour any of them ever saw!  In numbed misery, they huddled near Jesus.  Beyond a doubt, there seemed only an unknown blackness.  Misery and death filled their hearts.  So to comfort them, the Saviour told them:

"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." - John 14:2,3

    So Heaven is a PLACE.  Twice Jesus called it that.  He has gone to prepare this place.  It is in the Father's house of many mansions.  We do not know how the darkened minds of the eleven disciples reacted to this comforting word: 'Let not your heart be troubled because there is a heavenly place with many mansions in the Father's house.'  Doubtless the Savior, facing the torments of Gethsemane, His betrayal, His desertion by the disciples, His trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, and the agonies of the cross, was Himself sweetly comforted by remembering the happy place to which He was going and where He would prepare many mansions for His own redeemed.  Certain it is that countless millions have learned not to let their hearts be troubled as the sweet realization of Heaven as an actual place has come home to their hearts.

    Don't think of Heaven as a ghostly, unreal, indefinite state.  It is a real place, a place as literal and concrete as the house you sit in today, as physically real as the city where you live.  Human telescopes cannot see on what distant planet or star is the Paradise of God, where, in the tabernacle of God with its street of gold and gates of pearl, Jesus is preparing many mansions.  But though human eyes are too dim to reach it, it is there - a physical place.

    Revelation 21 and 22 tell us something of this wonderful place that Jesus is preparing for his saints, "the holy city," "that great city, the holy Jerusalem."  Oh, the shining brightness of it! "Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal"!  It is a literal city with walls of shining jasper, 144 cubits high.  The streets are pure gold, and the foundations of the wall of the city are decorated with every kind of precious stone.  The city has twelve great gates, each one a pearl.

    The wonderful city is 12,000 furlongs square.  There are ten furlongs to an English mile (eight to a Roman mile); so that city far surpasses all the cities of the earth in size.  It is 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide, and 1500 miles high.  Oh, the gleaming beauty of that wonderful place!

    A river runs through the city, coming out from the throne of God and of Christ.  And on each side of the river are the trees of life which bear twelve kinds of fruit and bring forth their fruit every month and whose leaves are healing leaves - for the healing of the nations.  The river is the pure water of life without a germ and without a stain, but clear as crystal!

    No doubt we saints of God will eat the fruit and drink the water in real bodies.  Our feet will walk upon those streets.  Our hands will touch the cheeks of our loved ones.  Our arms will embrace them again.  Every longing will be satisfied. 

    I tell you, Heaven is a real, literal, physical place, a city as material, as physical, as literal as Chicago or London or New York or Tokyo.

    The Saviour said He was going to prepare us a place.  How wonderful it will be is beyond human computation.  Remember that in six days Christ made the heavens and earth and all that in them is.  "Without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3).

    If He made so many wonders in six days, then what beauties and marvels He has surely prepared during these 1900 years in which He has been preparing our mansions in the Father's House!

    Where is Heaven? Up, somewhere away from this planet.  Jesus went up to Heaven.  "While they beheld, he was taken up" (Acts 1:9), "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven" (II Kings 2:11).  Even when Paul received special revelations, he was "caught up to the third heaven" (II Cor. 12:2) and "caught up into paradise" (II Cor 12:4).  At least Paul knew such an one, and I believe that it was Paul himself.

    Heaven is UP.  Somewhere out in space God has His beautiful Holy City, the house of many mansions, with its shining walls, streets of pure gold, its river of life, its trees with twelve kinds of fruit, and where there is no night.

    But for the Christian, Heaven will be where Christ is.  He is now there with the Father, but one day He will come and get us and take us away to those heavenly mansions.

    Then after a honeymoon in Heaven, Christ will come to reign on earth.  The angel told Mary, "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32,33).  And Matthew 25:31 tells us, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory."

    When the Lord comes to reign on the earth, His saints will come with Him.  In I Thessalonians 4:13-18, concerning the coming of Christ and the raising of the Christian dead, the promise closes with these words: "And so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words."  Where Jesus goes, we will go.

    When He reigns on the earth, we shall reign with Him.  In Revelation 5:10 we hear the praises of redeemed saints in Heaven saying that Christ "hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."  The Scripture says, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (II Tim 2:12).  Revelation 20:6 says, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

    So for a thousand years Heaven for the Christian is going to be on earth.  That happy reign of Christ is pictured in Isaiah 11:1-16, and in Micah, chapter 4.

Then

     "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." - Isa. 11:6-9

     There will be peace and joy on earth when Christ will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Then the nations "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Mic. 4:3).  Nations shall serve the true God in peace and holiness.

     "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing....And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." - Isa. 35:5,6,10.

     At the end of the thousand years the last sinner will be judged, the earth forever will be purged by fire of all the taint of sin; then the New Jerusalem will come down from God out of Heaven - that "Father's house" of many mansions, that "Tabernacle of God" - and Heaven will consist of this wonderful city on a new earth, surrounded by a new firmament.  Then there will be no need for light, for the Lord God and the Lamb shall be the light of it!  And there will be no night there.

     Then

     "he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." - Rev. 21:3,4
     Then in Heaven, "his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.  And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 22:3-5)

    Oh, may God make Heaven real to us!  It's is a real place, a physical, literal place prepared for us by the Saviour.

    We must remember that Jesus went to Heaven with a physical body.  His body came out of Joseph's new tomb.  To His astonished disciples who were afraid when they saw Him, Jesus said, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." He said, "It is I myself: handle me, and see" (Luke 24:39).  He invited poor, doubting Thomas to "reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27).  Later, in writing of Him, John the beloved spoke of Jesus as the One "which...our hands have handled" (1 John 1:1).  Long later, when the resurrected and glorified Jesus met the aged John on the isle of Patmos and gave him the Book of Revelation, Jesus laid His physical hand upon the head of John.  I say, Jesus has a physical body, a body of flesh and bones, a body of material substance.

    When Jesus ascended to Heaven from the Mount of Olives, there stood by the disciples two men in white apparel which said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven" (Acts 1:11).

    Note that they said, "THIS SAME JESUS."  This Jesus in Heaven is not another but the same.  The Jesus who will return for His saints is not another but the same.  When He comes again to Jerusalem, Jews will look on Him whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10).  They will ask, "What are those wounds in thine hands?"  He will answer, "Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends" (Zech. 13:6).  His feet shall stand that day upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4).  Jesus now has hands and feet, the same with which He went away, hands and feet with the marks of nails!  And this same Jesus now abides in Heaven with a physical body.  I tell you, Heaven must be real and is a real, literal physical place!

    In Heaven Enoch has a physical body.  He never died.  Rather, we are told, "Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Gen. 5:24).

    Hebrews 11:5 tells us, "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him."

    People may have looked for his body, but he "was not found," for the body was translated, taken literally and physically to Heaven.  Since the body of Enoch did not die, then it must still be alive.  Since his body was not found on earth, then it was taken immediately to Heaven.

    And this verse says Enoch went straight to Heaven where God is.  God did not SEND Enoch anywhere but TOOK him, in his physical body, was taken where God is, and is in that happy home of God, angels and departed saints!

    The Scriptures tell us that on the insistence of doubters, fifty men for three days scoured the country, trying to find Elijah's body.  It was not on earth but had gone to Heaven.  The physical body of Elijah is in Heaven.

    The Bible makes clear that Elijah, in a living human body, did not go down into the earth, but, "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (II Kings 2:11).  He was taken "into heaven."  As the Lord TOOK Enoch, so God twice says the Lord would "take away" Elijah (II Kings 2:3,5).

    Of all the race of mankind, the only two men that we know definitely went to Heaven without dying were Enoch and Elijah.  They were translated while yet alive and physically transferred into Heaven.  With chariot and horses of fire, Elijah was carried to Heaven in a whirlwind.  Therefore, we know there are at least three beings in Heaven with physical bodies - Jesus, Enoch and Elijah.

    The bodies of Enoch and Elijah are not "resurrected" since they never died.  In I Corinthians 15:20 we read, "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."  Christ is the first ever to be raised physically from the dead and given a glorified body.  But when Christ returned to Heaven with His glorified body, Enoch and Elijah were already there in their physical bodies.

    When Jesus arose from the dead and came from the grave with His glorious body, a body with hands and feet, a body which the disciples could handle and feel, a body which ate and drank before them, many other bodies likewise came from the graves.  Matthew 27:52,53 says,
     "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
     Note that this speaks of BODIES, literal, physical bodies.  Many Bible scholars think these bodies went straight to Heaven.  In the Scofield Reference Bible, Dr. C. I. Scofield says:
     That these bodies returned to their graves is not said and may not be inferred.  The wave-sheaf  (Lev. 23:10-12) typifies the resurrection of Christ, but a sheaf implies plurality.  It was a single "corn of wheat" that fell into the ground in the crucifixion and entombment of Christ (John 12:24); it was a sheaf which came forth in resurrection.  The inference is that these saints...went with Jesus (Eph. 4:8-10) into heaven.
     So in Heaven there may be many with their physical bodies, bodies of flesh and bone, hands and feet, bodies just as real as they had on earth.

    It is at least possible, perhaps probable, that even the others in Heaven are temporarily clothed with some kind of human bodies, awaiting the resurrection of their own.  As to that, we cannot say.  However, we do know that, when Moses appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah to talk with Jesus, he appeared visibly in the sight of the disciples.  "And there appeared unto them Elias and Moses: and they were talking with Jesus" (Mark 9:4).  Moses, who had died and whose body had been buried by the angel of God (Deut 34:5,6), appeared visibly to the disciples.

    When Samuel was called back from the dead, he appeared visibly to Saul and to the witch of Endor (I Sam. 28:12).

    In Hell the rich man SAW Abraham and SAW Lazarus in his bosom (Luke 16:23).

    John SAW "under the alter the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (Rev 6:9).  If the souls now in Heaven do not have physical bodies, they certainly appeared visibly to men.

    Yes - Heaven is a real, physical place, as concrete and literal as the city in which you live, with physical properties and dimensions, made of material substance, praise God!  And Jesus is there preparing real mansions for His redeemed so that, where He is, we may be also.  Hallelujah!






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Published 1940

 

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