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November 14, 2014

Where is Heaven? Part 5

“No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father has made Him known.” John 1:18 (RSV)

 

As a pastor, I am often asked, “Where is heaven?” Is it high in the stratosphere? Is it higher than the mesosphere, the thermosphere, the exosphere or as Buzz Lightyear said, “To infinity and beyond!” Paul speaks of being “caught up in to the third heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2, and John tells of seeing a door open in heaven and hearing a voice saying to him, “Come up here…” in Revelation 4:2. Verses like these cause us to think of heaven as up high in the sky somewhere. I like to think of heaven a little differently based on some encouraging insights from Scripture. In John 14, Jesus spoke of leaving to prepare a place for us, so that one day we may be with Him, where He is. Later in John 17, Jesus prays saying, “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am…” (John 17:24 NIV). Then in 1 Thessalonians, Paul assures us that one day Jesus will return. He said the dead in Christ would rise first and those who were alive would be caught up in the air to be with the Lord. Look at the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NIV) “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” So where is heaven? Heaven is where Jesus is. Loved ones who followed Christ and died are now in Christ. Where is Christ? Our key passage tells us, Jesus is in the bosom of the Father! The New Living Translation renders “bosom” as “…near to the Father’s heart.” The Amplified Bible translates that as “…in the intimate presence of the Father.” The word picture here was illustrated well by Lee Strobel of Jesus sitting on the lap of the Father. What an intimate expression of love, acceptance, warmth and security! Jesus invites us to sit with Him on His Father’s lap! What would it be like to sit on the lap of God? Imagine it for a moment. What would you say to God? As a child growing up in church, when the sermon would get long and I would get drowsy, I would crawl up into my dad’s lap. I remember his comforting arms around me before I fell fast asleep. You may find this visual image foreign in your understanding of God, but Paul did not. In Romans 8:15 he wrote, The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” The word “Abba” is a term of endearment that means Papa or Daddy. Jesus used it often in His prayer to His Father. As His sons and daughters, we share that same intimate relationship with Him. Heaven is where Jesus is! Jesus is in the lap of God. One day every child of God will hear the Father say, “Welcome home!” and He will embrace you with His strong arms of love. Let that image marinate in your minds and hearts this weekend at church as you worship. Let it draw you more intimately to the heart of God.