The Promise Of Heaven By George Stroh, Senior Pastor August 31, 2009
"... Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)
This was Jesus' response to one of the criminals being crucified along side Him who cried out "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom." The other criminal hanging there was hurling abuse at Jesus, saying "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" That very day both of those men entered into eternity, one into eternal death and suffering apart from Christ and the other into eternal life and paradise with Christ.
We know heaven will be wonderful, but I'm sure that even our greatest expectations, speculations and imaginations totally underestimate all the marvelous glories that await us in heaven. The Apostle Paul had the opportunity to experience heaven before death; "I know a man (Paul) in Christ who fourteen years ago---whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows---such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man---whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows--- was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak." (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
Earlier in His letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote to tell them not to lose heart and not to focus on those things which are seen and temporal, but to focus on those things which are not seen and are eternal; "For we know that if the early tent (our physical bodies) which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Corinthians 5:1-2)
Both of those men who hung on their crosses beside the Lord were suffering and would soon die. One was focused only on the moment believing only what he could see and feel. The other was focused on a glorious future he couldn't see or feel, but accepted by faith.
Paul understood that physical death was actually a blessing for him because he too would immediately be with the Lord in Paradise; "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--- for we walk by faith, not by sight--- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
In heaven there will be no more suffering, pain, death, fear, stress or problems of any kind. We will be alive in perfect bodies, suited for eternal bliss and most importantly, we will always be with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There will, of course, be amazing reunions with friends and family who are also in Christ and have gone home to Him before us. We will be meeting Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and the other Apostles and all the other Old and New Testament saints... Even that man on a cross who trusted Christ. We will see, hear and experience wonderful things beyond our wildest imaginations.
So when life gets hard and you start to lose heart, change your focus from the temporal to the eternal. Thank the Lord for His grace, His salvation and all the joy that will be yours for eternity in heaven with Him. Maranatha!