We’ve all seen the footage of rescue helicopters as they hover over a scene of destruction and pluck victims from rooftops, raging waters or intense fires. Such tragedies fill people with dread and fear, but hundreds of Bible passages forecast even greater impending doom and global destruction at the end of the age.
Yet, in a fashion similar to those who are plucked from a rooftop, those who have put their trust in Christ will be saved when He returns. The promises of the evacuation of the redeemed, the full restoration of Israel and the peace of Jesus’ reign as Messiah strengthen the Lord’s people during the times of the “beginning of sorrows” (KJV) that Jesus described in Matthew 24:8.
The Lord’s rescue operation for the believers before the arrival of the wrath to come is the ultimate deliverance of the child of God from the problem and power of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 5:4-11). Ever since Adam and Eve’s exit from Eden, sin has isolated everyone from God. The Prophet Isaiah said, “Sins separate you from God” (Cf. Isaiah 59:2). And what is sin? It is the lack of conformity to the will of God.
It is deliberate disregard of and disobedience to the laws of God. The Book of Romans explains that sin and death are passed on to the entire human race (Romans 5:12) so that sin becomes the preference in all human behavior and causes a perpetual falling away from God’s hope in the world (John 3:19, Ephesians 2:12-13).
What hope is there if life ends only in sickness, sorrow and death? T.S. Eliot observed, “Life ends with a whimper.” William Shakespeare said life, at best, “is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.” Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma: God’s grace and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. However, even greater than the joy of our rescue from the plague of sin and the shadow of death is the return of the Lord Jesus for His own. He told His disciples, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (John 14:3, KJV).
And the Apostle Paul reminded believers: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep [the biblical term for death]. 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, NIV).
What is the meaning of Heaven? The word Heaven appears 550 times in the Bible. The first mention is Genesis 1:1, “God created the heavens and the earth” (NIV). It is the residence of God with the people of God (Revelation 21:3) and as such, Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9, KJV).
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, the angel’s last words were, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11, NIV). Later, Paul wrote of being lifted into the third heaven, apparently a place of revelation or superior insight. The believers will be raptured, or evacuated, into the air at the Lord’s return.
Who is in Heaven? God is in Heaven. God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, tenderly described it as His Father’s house (John 14:2). The eternal Heaven, the highest above all heavens, is the presence of God. It is the ultimate salvation, because when we have this everlasting union with God, all sin and everything that is not in conformity to God is banished forever from His presence. The throne of God is there–the place of authority, where He rules and reigns as King forever. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18, NIV).
There is holy and glorious worship beyond description in Heaven. All glory, honor and power are given to God (Revelation 4:8-11). The angels are in Heaven, praising and serving God. They are powerful with radiant splendor and they rejoice when each sinner repents.
Probably the most frequently asked question about Heaven is, “Will I recognize anyone there?” Absolutely! All people who knew Christ will be there. On Earth a person’s identity is his or her body and invisible soul. In eternity it is the soul, separated from the physical body. But there is a spiritual body, not made by human hands, that is eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1). In Jesus’ presence at His transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elijah, who were in Heaven (Luke 9:33, 2 Peter 1:17-18).
Stephen, as he was being stoned, “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” to welcome him into Heaven (Acts 7:55, NIV). So we see that the saved will have an incorruptible body that can be recognized, but that body will not be in physical form (1 Corinthians 15:35-44). All infants and children with no cognition of sin will also be in Heaven. When King David’s child died, he said, “I will go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23, NIV). When a baby is taken before birth, this story is especially consoling and comforting.
What is in Heaven? All knowledge and wisdom are in Heaven. Here and now, we can only partially know anything. In Heaven, human knowledge will vanish, but the people of God will know fully, even as they are known (1 Corinthians 13:8-12). Inexpressible, exquisite beauty and the perfection of all things are found there.
What is not in Heaven? “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27, NIV). Sin will be no more, and neither will any of its consequences. In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John heard a loud voice say, “God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4, NIV). In the same chapter, we are told who will not be admitted: “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8, KJV). It also says there will be no darkness or night in Heaven, for the Lord’s glory will eternally illuminate the city.
The presence of God is the only assurance of the absence of sin. Many Christians do not think frequently about Heaven unless sickness, hospitalization or the death of a loved one occurs. Terrorist events, floods and natural calamities may be far removed from us, but they remind the conscience of that which is inevitable and sure to come–the fact of death.
Every person who has believed and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior–who died for sin and rose again, destroying death and negating the punishment for sin–has the confidence of Heaven. At death he or she will be immediately and eternally “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:7-8, KJV).
Treasures (Matthew 6:20), inheritances (1 Peter 1:4) and rewards (Matthew 5:12) are waiting there for every child of God. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, NIV). Crowns will be given for being faithful until death, for enduring temptation, for witnessing that brought people to Christ for salvation and discipleship, and for shepherding and serving God’s people (Revelation 2:10, James 1:12, Philippians 4:1, 1 Peter 5:1-4). Everything will be laid at Jesus’ feet in eternal worship, to His glory forever (1 Corinthians 15:25-28, Revelation 4:10).
There is more than we can imagine waiting for us in our eternal home. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, KJV).