The following is my notes of Kevin Deyoung’s sermon on heaven. Click HERE for the audio of this sermon.
Where we go when we die is such a fundamental question in our lives. There may not be a more fundamental question then this. Also as a church we will be facing death and all the more as we grow older together.
When you think about heaven we need to get into our mind two different stages. The first stage is heaven the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns. This is the primary thing that the bible talks about when it speaks of heaven.
The second stage is sometimes called the intermediate state. It is not the final goal of our life, but it is the place we go when we die immediately after we die and before the new heavens and new earth are established.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Philippians is a great book about joy. Notice in this passage the joy that Paul talks about and the joy of the Philippian church. Paul is laboring for the sake of the Philippian’s joy. “For your progress and JOY in the faith.”
There are a lot of things we do not know about heaven, but what we do know is that it will be great gain. When we die there will be much joy.
John Calvin on the Intermediate StateNow it is neither lawful nor expedient to inquire too curiously concerning our souls’ intermediate state. Many torment themselves overmuch with disputing as to what place the souls occupy and whether or not they already enjoy heavenly glory. Yet it is foolish and rash to inquire concerning unknown matters more deeply than God permits us to know. Scripture goes no farther than to say that Christ is present with them, and receives them into paradise (cf. John 12:32) that they may obtain consolation, while the souls of the reprobate suffer such torments as they deserve. What teacher or master will reveal to us that which God has concealed? Concerning the place, it is no less foolish and futile to inquire, since we know that the soul does not have the same dimension as the body. The fact that the blessed gathering of saintly spirits is called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) is enough to assure us of being received after this pilgrimage by the common Father of the faithful, that he may share the fruit of his faith with us. Meanwhile, since Scripture everywhere bids us wait in expectation for Christ’s coming, and defers until then the crown of glory, let us be content with the limits divinely set for us: namely, that the souls of the pious, having ended the toil of their warfare, enter into blessed rest, where in glad expectation they await the enjoyment of the promised glory, and so all things are held in suspense until Christ the Redeemer appear. The lot of the reprobate is doubtless the same as that which Jude assigns to the devils: to be held in chains until they are dragged to the punishment appointed for them (Jude 6).
7 Statements About the Intermediate State
1. Heaven as the intermediate state is a period of delayed glory, but not a period of punishment or purification.
The bible does not teach about purgatory. When Jesus tells the thief on the cross that “today” he will be with Christ in paradise and even though he would have been a great candidate for purification he was going to be in paradise with Christ.
Death is not natural. It is a result of sin and the curse, but one day death will be swallowed up. So when we die we will be still waiting for that day when death will finally be destroyed.
Believers do not die on this earth because we are being punished. We die because we are living in a fallen world that has not yet been made new.
2. In heaven we will prior to Christ’s return be without a body.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Paul says we want a new body because this current body is groaning. It is failing. It withers away. Paul wants a new tent, but he is glad to put off this current body because that will mean being with the Lord. He will exist before he gets his knew body, but without his current body.
How do you exist without a body? How in the world does this happen? … I do not know! We do not have categories or any sort of experiences that help us understand this.
But we should take comfort that God is spirit and he is doing quite well.
3. In heaven we will be made perfect.
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
The spirits of the righteous will be made perfect. Hebrews 12 seems to indicate that our progressive sanctification has finally caught up to our positional sanctification.
Most people who think or talk about heaven speak about it being a big reunion of family members. This is certainly not the main glory of heaven, but it is a glory. We know in 2 Samuel when David’s son dies he speaks about going to his son. He speaks about going to see his son and then comforting Bathsheeba.
4. Conquerors will be at rest.
The word conqueror is reserved for Christians. Those true Christians who do not compromise. Those who finish the race and do not give up.
We conquer by loving Jesus and this love for Jesus casts down Satan.
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
Right now there is fighting and racing and perseverance. Then there will be resting from our labors. Our work will be done and we will sit down. Now is the time for battle and there will be the time for a break.
5. In heaven the dead are not dead.
In one sense the dead are dead. All those who have deceased belong to the realm of the dead. Revelation speaks about Hades giving up the dead when Christ returns.
Yet in another sense we see all over Scripture that those who have Christ are in a different category and we cannot die. Though we die we shall live. We have eternal life. We might die, but we will not really DIE.
Death then is a passage from life to life.
Those who have died in Christ are not dead. They are alive.
6. In heaven we will reign with Christ.
In Revelation 20:4 it says that there are thrones and seated on them are those who have authority to judge and that we will reign with Christ.
This picture is taking place in heaven and he is talking about martyrs and faithful Christians who did not worship the beast. These are dead Christians in heaven and the text says they came to life and reigned with Christ.
What does it mean that they came to life? Some think that this means there are two resurrections, but there are too many other passages that say there is only one resurrection.
So I argue that they came to life is not referring to a physical resurrection but a spiritual coming to glory and reigning with Christ. It cannot be a bodily resurrection because that would mean all has been made right. Yet all is not made right in this passage because death is not yet swallowed up in the 1000 years.
Therefore, even in death we will win and reign with Christ. You are going to win by losing. You are going to live by dying. That is why I think that the 1000 years is figurative and explaining the current state of the church we are in now.
What does it mean to reign with Christ? Does it mean they affirm Christ’s judgments? Does it mean that we form some council with Christ?
I think one thing we can think about is how C.S. Lewis says that we all want to be in some circle. We want to be in the know and we want to be in the inner circle. This passage says we will be in the ultimate inner ring and we will be in the best circle.
7. Heaven will be gain.
Paul says that being with Christ is far better. Stephen in Acts 7 says “Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Luke 16:25 says that Abraham was comforted.
Luke 24:43 Jesus tells the thief on the cross that today you will be with me in paradise.
Paradise is the same word for the garden of eden in the LXX translation of Genesis 2 and 3.
The important thing to know about the intermediate state is that it will be gain. I think that is all we need to know about it. We do not need to know the details about what it will be like as much as we need to trust that God’s word says that it will be better. It will be gain.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
The shepherd that leads us through life will lead us through death. Death may be dark and lonely and difficult, but just like the rest of our lives he will lead us and guide us through. It will look like there is no light and there is nothing good coming out on the other side, but trust him because it will be gain.