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Revelation 22:12-20 says,
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the bride say, come. And let the one who hears say, come. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
I would like to start out today by asking you a question: Do you look forward to the return of Jesus to this earth?
You might think it unusual for a pastor to ask such question. I ask that question because some people do want him to return and others do not.
The ones who want Jesus to return are usually the old, infirmed or those struggling with depression or serious injury or significant loss.
The ones who do not want Jesus to return are those who have things they want to do and places they want to go, so they would prefer Jesus to wait.
The Bible tells us that no one on earth knows when the world will end and when Jesus will return. It could happen before the end of the day today or it could be a ways off. Some people find it frustrating not knowing, because things might get interrupted, things like falling in love, getting married, graduation, retirement, having children, a dream vacation, grandchildren.
As a pastor, I would like to remind everyone who calls themselves a Christian that our real home is in heaven, not here on this earth. If you find your heart set on earthly things, I would like to encourage you to redirect your faith, hope, and love to things above, to our father in heaven.
On this earth, we face many dangers and temptations. The devil works tirelessly to get people to live for themselves to live for the here and now. The devil wants people to forget about God and eternity. Listen to what the Apostle Paul had to say about the last days. The Apostle Paul said that in the last days, people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unfeeling, uncooperative, slanderous, degenerate, brutal, hateful of what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. They will hold to an outward form of godliness but deny its power. Stay away from such people (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
When we are tempted to sin or join in the sin of others around us we can lose sight of the fact that Jesus came into this fallen world to redeem us from sin and make possible our citizenship in heaven, a far better place for us.
I think it would be a good thing to spend a few moments reflecting on what heaven is like, especially since we will be there forever. Hear the words of the Apostle John:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelations 22:1-5).
As a pastor, I often get into discussions with people about heaven. Usually during the conversation I like to ask people two questions:
1. Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?
2. Why should God let you into heaven?
It amazes me how often people who consider themselves Christians answer question No. 1 with, “I hope so” or “I am not sure.”
Then when I ask them question No. 2, I get even a bigger surprise when some of them answer, “I have tried to be a good person” or “I am a good person.”
If you find yourself in the group of people mentioned above who are not really sure if they are going to heaven or that think they will granted entrance to heaven by being a good person, let me share with you what the Bible says it takes to get into heaven.
The Apostle Paul wrote those wonderful God inspired words so that a person could know with absolute confidence what kind of people are going to heaven.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:1-9).
God knew that we could not be good enough to get to heaven and that at some point we all sin and fall short. That is why God sent Jesus to do all the hard work of saving us. That is why Jesus died on the cross to pay our debt of sin. Each person who has faith and trust in the perfect work of Jesus to save them has eternal life. So forget trying to be good enough to get to heaven instead receive the free gift of faith in Jesus and his saving work on the cross because faith is the key that opens to door of heaven. Amen.