Tag Archives: Heaven

Everyone Wants To Go To Heaven, But No One Wants To Go First

I had a friend in fire safety who used to use the expression, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to go first.” I would dare say there is great truth in this statement. Think about it, most of us are excited about the prospect of going to heaven, of being in God’s presence surrounded by fellow believers.  Yet there are so many things in this world that we want to experience first. We have what is often called a “Bucket List.”

For many we want to go to college. We want to get married. We want to have children. We want to see our children grow up. We want to see our children get married. For others there are things like, I want to see the Grand Canyon. I want to visit every continent. I want to climb a mountain.

So many things we have that we want to do in this life. Once we have done these, then we will be ready to go to heaven. Once we have experienced all this life has to offer, then we will be ready to experience the next life. Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to go first.”

So how is it then that Paul can declare with such confidence, in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” “To die is gain?” Is Paul saying that dying is better than living? Is he saying that he wants to die? I certainly don’t think this is the case.

When we take the time to look at this statement in context, the real meaning begins to become clear to us. Paul had been arrested, basically, for preaching the Gospel, for fulfilling the call that God had placed on his life. When he was about to be beaten for declaring the truth he revealed to the Roman guards that he was a Roman citizen. As a result he was not beaten, but taken in to be questioned.  After bouncing around to a few different locations, it began to become clear that he was not guilty of what the others had charged him with. As the time went on  he took an unexpected step, he chose to appeal his case to Caesar, the right of a Roman citizen. As a result he had been transferred to Rome where he was held prisoner awaiting trial. While he awaited trial, he continued to preach the gospel to those who would listen. While under house arrest in Rome he learned that others were continuing to preach the gospel with passion. This is where we find Paul. Invigorated by the opportunity to preach the gospel to those in Caesar’s palace. Encouraged by the news that the Gospel continued to be preached by others. Yet keenly aware that Caesar could quite possibly order his death.

It is in this light that Paul declares, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul realized that his whole life was declaring the gospel of Christ, and that as long as he lived he could continue to encourage others in seeking Him. “To live is Christ.” Yet at the same time Paul longed to be in the presence of his Lord and Savior, a place he knew he would be should the end result be death. “To die is gain.” What a position to find himself in. What an attitude to have. This is what Donald Sunukjian refers to as a “Win – Win situation” in his book, “An Invitation To Philippians.”

As I think about it, I have to ask myself, “Could I have this same attitude?” “What would it take for me to view my life the same way?”

I certainly understand the first part of embracing my life for what I value, what I find important. But how can I bring myself to see the end of my life being even better? Part of the answer is found in my embracing what is important to my life and what Paul embraced as important to his life.  Paul did not say, “to live is to spend time with my family.” He did not say, “to live is to see amazing things.” And he did not say, “to live is to enjoy life.”

No, what Paul said was “to live is Christ.”  Now do you see the difference, “Christ.” What was important in Paul’s life was Christ. This is not to say that he did not enjoy things of this world, but that he saw everything he did as being for Christ. Christ was the center of his life. “To live is Christ.” This is the key to Paul being able to say, “to die is gain.” For if Christ was his whole life, what greater conclusion could there be than to stand in His presence. What greater joy could there be than to hear his Savior declare, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23) It is no wonder that Paul could say that “to die is gain.”

As believers in Christ there is no doubt that we do want to go to heaven. I pray for the day that I shall stand in his presence and hear his voice welcome me home. But are we ready to say that to die is gain and mean it? Are we ready to set aside the things of this world that hold our attention and distract us from Christ?  Only when we embrace that the purpose of our lives as believers is to glorify God and to make Him known.  Only when we live our lives for Him will we truly be able to join with Paul and declare with true belief that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

When We All Get To Heaven

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessèd
He’ll prepare for us a place.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Words by Eliza E. Hewitt, 1898
Music by Emily D. Wilson

 


For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
Ephesians 2:8

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
John 14:2 – 3

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11 – 12

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2


 

I am sure you have heard the old saying, you have to know where your going, or you’ll never know when you get there. Having been hiking with the scouts on numerous occasions, I assure you that this is a very useful adage. I recently had the opportunity to attend Florida Sea Base with the scouts. Part of this included canoeing more than five miles on the open ocean to live on an island. Five miles on the ocean, when all you see is water and sporadic islands can be a little disorienting, especially when you have never been there before. Fortunately, our “mate” (guide) knew where we were heading allowing us to arrive safely.

The adage applies to all areas of our lives, including our Christian faith. Yes, there are those who view Christianity as a philosophy of life and a journey of growth, but if this is all it is then as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Our hope is not simply for this life, it is also for the next. The Christian faith is not just the journey, we have a destination for which we are heading. This is the theme of Eliza Hewitt’s “When We All Get To Heaven.”

The hymn paints a picture of that glorious home to which we look forward. It begins with the words, “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and his grace.” Yes we have a destination, a destination that is available to each and everyone of us because of God’s grace and mercy. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” God’s mercy extends to us grace that opens the door for us. A door that opens to our final destination.

This is not a simple destination, it our eternal home. The hymn reads, “In the mansions bright and blessed He’ll prepare for us a place.”God himself has prepared the place for us. In John 14:2 – 3 Jesus says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

The hymn continues on with a contrast of our lives today, with the home will one day obtain. It speaks of the darkness and troubles we will face. Hewitt writes, “While we walk the pilgrim pathway, Clouds will overspread the sky.” Yes, we will face trials in this life. There will be struggles, but we can travel through knowing the reward that awaits us. Matthew 5:12 tells us to, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

So we travel on this journey striving to “be true and faithful, Trusting, serving every day.” This is the life we are called to live. This is the journey of the Christian faith, serving every day. We live the words of Joshua in 24:15, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

And so we look forward to the reward for serving, the reward for our faithful journey. The hymn sums up the greatest rewards we will know with the words, “Just one glimpse of Him in glory Will the toils of life repay.” To see the face of our Lord and Savior, one who loved us so much that He gave His very life. This is the fulfillment of our Journey for 1 John 3:2 tells us “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

So we look “Onward to the prize before us!”, knowing that “Soon His beauty we’ll behold.” Our destination lies before us, and we shall enter in when “Soon the pearly gates will open” and “We shall tread the streets of gold..” We look forward to that day of reward, when our journey shall come to an end. The day we will stand in the very presence of our Lord and Savior. Then “When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory!”

 

 

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In The Sweet By And By

There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

We shall sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious songs of the blessed;
And our spirits shall sorrow no more,
Not a sigh for the blessing of rest.
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

To our bountiful Father above,
We will offer our tribute of praise
For the glorious gift of His love
And the blessings that hallow our days.
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

Words by Sanford F. Bennett, 1868
Music by Joseph P. Webster

 


“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Revelation 21:1 – 7

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Philippians 3:20

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.
John 14:2

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.
Hebrews 4:3

to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:6


 

Stop and think about what your ideal vacation would be.  Maybe it would be a trip to some exotic location, perhaps you want to visit historic sites or then again you may just want to visit family and friends.  There are lots of things we can do on our vacations, but I think that deep down, what most of us really want to do is rest and relax, after all, it is extremely frustrating to get home from your vacation to find yourself more tired than when you left.

Resting from the business and chaos of life is a dream everyone has. Whether it is a good vacation or retirement, we look forward to rest. But for those of us who know Christ, there is a rest to come that is beyond what we will ever find in on a simple vacation of retirement in this life. In Revelation 14:13 we read, “…’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . so that they may rest from their labors . . .” This is the theme found in Bennett’s, “In The Sweet By And By.”

Bennett writes, “There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar.” He describes a beautiful vision of what we all hope for, a place of rest, a land that is more beautiful than anything we have seen.  It is a place that we will one day see, but for now, we can catch but glimpses of it through the faith we place in Christ.

But He reminds us that it is not simply some general place that lies out there waiting for us when he writes, “For the Father waits over the way To prepare us a dwelling place there.” It is a place that has been personally prepared for us.  Just as Jesus said in John 14:2, “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.”

We look forward to a place that will give us a rest and peace we can never know in this life.  Bennet writes, “And our spirits shall sorrow no more, Not a sigh for the blessing of rest.” Many have seen sorrows in this life that we can not comprehend.  We all pray that we can live our life without sorrows, but it is something we will face in this life.  Sorrows will come our way, but the in the rest to come the sorrows shall cease.  Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.”

Yes, we all seek a rest from the weariness of this life. And by God grace, there is a rest that will come for those who “believe in the Lord Jesus”.  “(Acts 16:31)  When we have put our faith and trust in Christ, “we who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3) We can know the rest that will come “in the sweet by and by.”

So we conclude with the final stanza as Bennett writes:

“To our bountiful Father above,
We will offer our tribute of praise
For the glorious gift of His love
And the blessings that hallow our days.”

 

 

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I’ll Fly Away

image

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Words and Music by Albert E. Brumley, 1929

 


I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
Psalm 55:6

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16 – 17

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as also I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ
Colossians 2:16- 17

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Psalm 90:10

So with you: Now is your time of grief but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:22


 

Children all over have found themselves in the same place every year. Waiting for Christmas. Waiting for the excitement and joy that will come with Christmas morning and the gifts that will be found under the tree.

But it is not as simple as waiting for the excitement of that morning, because these same children have been told that “he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake,” Santa Claus can see their behavior and it will have a direct impact on what they receive for Christmas.

So we find children behaving well and getting along with their siblings. We see them doing extra chores and helping out at home. In short, they are facing the the work of today, hoping for the joy to come on Christmas morning.

This is the theme behind, “I’ll Fly Away.” Brumley writes, “One glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” Just like the child waiting for Christmas has an end goal in sight, so we who have put our faith in Jesus Christ can can face the struggles of today knowing that there is an end target. This is not simply an escapist dream as some have proposed, but rather a reminder that whatever comes our way, it is temporary, giving us the strength to face it.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 17, Paul tells us, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The fact is we all face troubles in our lives that are more than we can handle on our own, but our focus is not on them but the promises of God. Our hope of the end day, however does not have us living simply in the future, but giving us the strength to live today.

But even when everything seems to be going right it is a dim reflection of what is to be. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that “for we see now in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. . .” No. we look not at the shadows that darken our vision, but forward to the day “when the shadows of this life have gone.” Because Paul tells us that “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16- 17)

No, we do not look at hide away living in the future that has not yet come. Rather, we live today with the strength we find in what is to come. It is because of this that we can sing, “Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away; To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).”

 

 

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Justified Fully

O what a wonderful, wonderful day –
day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness away,
Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend –
He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, With joy I am telling,
He made all the darkness depart.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away –
And my night was turned to day –
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Born of the Spirit with life from above
into God’s fam’ly divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary’s love,
O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made
when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer of grace He did proffer –
He saved me, O praise His dear name!
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away –
And my night was turned to day –
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure,
there in those mansions sublime.
And it’s because of that wonderful day
when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
from His precious hand I received.
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away –
And my night was turned to day –
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

Words and Music by John W. Peterson, 1961

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

. . . For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
Romans 3:21 – 26, 28 – 30

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Romans 5:1

 

“Oh what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget.”  This hymn written by John Peterson is definitely a fun song to sing.  The rolling melody is filled with joy and energy to the point that the music itself portrays the same feeling that is given with the words.  And the chorus is readily recognizable to people.

But as I sing this hymn, it is the second verse that strikes me with such important and profound truths.  Peterson writes, “Justified fully thru Calvary’s love.”  This is the great gift of salvation.  We have been justified, that is, we have been made right in our standing before God.  But how has that happened.  Romans 3:24 tells us that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  We are justified, made right, because God has shown us His grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He alone is our source of redemption.

What is more, Paul goes on to write, in verse 28, “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” You see, there are no actions, or good things we can do, which will justify us before God.  It is only by believing in Jesus Christ that we can be made right before God.  What is more, it is not a long and arduous process to receive this.  It is not something that happens over a long period of time.  No it happens the moment we choose to believe.  As Peterson writes it, “And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came, Took of the offer of grace He did proffer – He saved me, O praise His dear name!”

Paul goes on to write in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  All that has separated us from God had been removed.  We can now freely stand before Him.  So I sing with a renewed vigor and joy, the words of the third verse.

“Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure,
there in those mansions sublime.
And it’s because of that wonderful day
when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
from His precious hand I received.”

 

 

Read more about “Heaven Came Down.”