There is a place called heaven. Its a real place, not some fairy-land tucked away in another dimension. Way too much philosophical speculation has gone on here, until some descriptions of heaven begin to sound more like the land of Oz than the beautiful place the Bible describes. Yes, of course, its a spiritual place, but we need to keep in mind that the spiritual realm is real, not imaginary. Every physical thing in our universe was created by the spiritual realm, not vice versa. If you will, the spiritual realm is more real than the physical, not less. And heaven is a real place, and Jesus is there now in a glorious, imperishable body which is so solid you can still touch His scars, and so human you can eat a meal with Him.
Being sure of this makes all the difference in the world. We can endure almost anything if were certain whats waiting for us on the other side. It puts both the pleasures and sufferings of this life into perspective. It makes the purpose of life clear as crystal. Its all about going there and taking others with us.
Luke carefully describes the Ascension because he wants his readers to understand that Jesus didnt evaporate into thin air. He didnt disappear suddenly like a ghost. God lifted Him up and took Him to another place. He slowly rose into the air in His resurrected body with everyone intently watching, straining their eyes, until He entered a cloud and passed out of sight. God lifted Him off the earth and took Him to heaven.
What does Luke say?
DBS: Sunday, Thursday Saturday
Where did He go?
Mark says Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19). David prophetically saw this moment a thousand years earlier when he wrote, The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet (Ps 110:1). The point of this isnt to say Jesus is actually sitting down somewhere, but that He is honored in heaven above all others, and that the Father has commanded the entire creation to submit to His Son.
Yet, being in heaven doesnt prevent Him from being with us on earth at the same time. He told His disciples that after He ascended they, and all who would believe in Him, would be baptized into the Holy Spirit. They would be immersed in the Spirit, but He would also come to dwell inside them, and when He did He would bring with Him the real presence of Jesus and the Father (Jn 14:16-20, 23). This is why Jesus was able to assure them, I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you (Jn 14:18) and,
behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20). He is physically in heaven right now, but because He is the divine Son of God, He is also present with us at every moment.
Whats He doing there?
Were told Hes interceding for us before the Father (Ro 8:34; Heb 7:25). Hes leading His church (Eph 1:22; 4:15, 16; Col 1:18). Hes preparing a place for us where we will someday dwell with Him after His resurrection (Jn 14:1-5). Its called the new heaven and earth and there will be a city called the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:1, 2). Hes waiting for all His enemies, both human and spiritual, to be brought into submission to Him. Thats in process right now, but wont be complete until the final judgment (1Co 15:24-28; Php 2:9-11; Rev 20:10-15). Hes continually baptizing all who believe in Him into the Holy Spirit (Jn 1:33; 16:7; Ac 2:33; Eph 4:7-10), and through us He continues to minister to a needy world. And every believer soon discovers He is always with us, caring for us as well.
Where will I go when I die?
On the night He was arrested, Jesus prayed this:
I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (Jn 17:5, 6)
He knew He had come forth from God and was going back to God (Jn 13:3). But He went on to pray for us as well:
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (Jn 17:23)
So, when we die we go to be with Him. We go to heaven, where He is. But theres a difference between Him and us. Hes been resurrected and we havent. Hes in His solid, immortal body, but we must remain in a spiritual body until the resurrection of believers (1Co 15:51-55; 1Th 4:13-18; Rev 20:6). Our spiritual bodies will be recognizable. Afterall, Moses and Elijah appeared in such bodies on the Mount of Transfiguration and they were recognized by the disciples (Mt 17:1-4). We will be awake and fully conscious. We will know who we are and where we are, and we will be with Jesus and those believers who died before us. Reflecting on the possibility of a death sentence while in jail in Rome, Paul said...(Php 1:21-25).
Yet Paul was not content to remain forever in a spiritual body. Even though he knew if he died he would instantly be at home with the Lord, he longed for the day when he would be clothed in his resurrection body (2Co 5:1-9). Theres something more glorious than heaven waiting for us in the future.
The Angels Question
The angels asked the disciples, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? (Ac 1:11). In other words, He gave you an assignment, what are you waiting for? The reality of heaven creates an urgency for action. Hes physically gone now, but He left you here. Theres work to be done, people to reach, a power with which to be clothed. Your Lord was very clear, He told you that while awaiting His return you are to use the resources and opportunities youve been given to serve Him (Lk 19:13). He said He wasnt coming back right away (Lk 19:11). He promised to work powerfully through you. God took Him, but He left you here. Your days arent done, so go.
And the disciples listened this time. Luke ends his gospel with these words,
While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshipping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God (Lk 24:51-53).
1) How does the truth of heaven help us grieve a loved ones death?
2) How does the reality of heaven change the way you live your life? What do you do differently because heaven is real?