A look at both the Apostles and Nicene Creed - The Basics of the Christian Faith
Creed part 11 – Heaven
We are in the final message of a series that I’ve entitled Creed
In this series we have looked at the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith
If you were to ask 10 different people what it meant to be a Christian you would likely get 10 different answers
For some, unless you believe exactly like they do, read the same translation of the Bible as they do, vote like they do, talk like they do, and dress like they do then you are going straight to hell
That’s kind of sad
I want to make it clear, though, that not all beliefs are equal
There are some that are flat out wrong
There are others that are just different
The Bible gives us a lot of “wiggle room” in some areas
I’ve seen many times in which two people can read the exact same passage of Scripture and get two totally different things out of it
There are areas in which we as Christians can see things differently
That is why we have so many denominations
But what are the non-negotiables?
What does someone have to believe in order to be a Christian?
That is what this series is all about
When thinking about the non-negotiables of the Christian faith I was drawn to the creeds
Specifically to the Nicene Creed, which is what this series is based on
In my opinion the Nicene Creed covers the foundational beliefs, the non-negotiables, of the Christian faith very well
Let’s read the Nicene creed together
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Tonight we are looking at the final part of the Creed
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
What is this phrase talking about?
In a nutshell, it’s talking about what happens after we die
This has been a subject of great debate over the course of known history
Some say that when you are dead, you are dead
There is no afterlife and all you get is the here and now
Others talk about reincarnation
That when we die we go through some kind of heavenly “recycling” process and start life over as another person
Then there are those who believe in some kind of afterlife – heaven & hell
Those who make the cut go to heaven, those who do not go to hell
This debate was even going on in Jesus’ day
There were two main camps for the religious leaders in the first century – the Pharisees and the Sadducees
One of the biggest differences between the two is that the Sadducees did not believe in life after death
There was an incident in which some Sadducees were trying to start a theological debate with Jesus – but it did not end up like they expected
Luke 20:27-40 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" 34 Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." 39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, "Well said, teacher!" 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The Sadducees wanted to start a theological debate over life after death and Jesus shuts them down pretty quickly
God *IS* the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, not *WAS* the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
In one swift statement Jesus declares that there IS life after death
There are many places in which Jesus does something similar
2 passages that we all are familiar with are found in John 11 and John 14
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus says that even though we die, we will live
There is life after death!
John 14:1-3 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Jesus states that he is going “to prepare a place for us” and that he will come back and bring us to that place
What Jesus is talking about is what we commonly know as heaven
I don’t think I need to go on trying to convince you of the existence of heaven
There is no doubt in my mind that it is a very real place
What I want to do is spend the rest of my time looking at two questions I often get about heaven
What’s it like?
Who gets to go?
Let’s take a look at the first question – what’s it like?
Joe McKeever posted an article on churchleaders.com that had this description of heaven:
Heaven is a land with all new realities, new everything, where nothing is the same and “all things have become new.”
No one in Heaven will live by earthly rules and be bound by manmade regulations.
Gloryland has no licensing bureaus, no code enforcement offices and no department to see that we all obey the rules.
Heaven is the culmination of everything we have hoped for and dreamed of.
“We shall know as also we are known” (I Corinthians 13:12) when we shall “see face to face.” “We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:1-3).
We shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52).
No one is deformed, unformed, partial or incomplete in Heaven.
No one in Glory has self-esteem problems.
Heaven is the end of all the grief and pain we have known in this lifetime.
No tears, no pain, no darkness, no wickedness, no devil, no death, and no bullying or competition (Revelation 21:1-8).
There are no counseling services in Heaven.
Heaven is your inheritance for all who are born again.
“An inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted and unfading, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).
No one can take Heaven away from you. (See Luke 10:20 and John 10:28-29).
Heaven is a place of reward. (2 Timothy 4:8).
No one in Heaven gets the short end of the stick.
Gloryland has no complaints department.
Heaven is a place of music, singing, praise and harmony as we have never heard it done.
“The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps” (Revelation 14:2).
“They sang a new song before the throne” (Revelation 14:3).
“And they sang the song of Moses … and the song of the Lamb, saying ‘Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty …’” (Revelation 15:3).
No one is tone-deaf in Heaven.
No one “sits this one out.”
I love that description!
The Apostle Paul says this in 2 Corinthians
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. 3 And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
Paul said he heard “inexpressible things” – in other words, he is saying “I do not have words to describe what I experienced”
He then goes on to say that they were things “that man is not permitted to tell” – or “even if I had the words, I couldn’t tell you!”
Heaven is so much better than anything we have here that there is nothing to compare it with
All I know is that if heaven is good enough for God for the rest of eternity, then it’s good enough for me!
Let’s take a look at our second question
Who gets to go?
I wish I could say that everyone gets to go, but I can’t
Jesus had this to say in Matthew 7
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
There are many that believe they are all set for heaven, but in reality they are not
Here’s the interesting thing – almost everyone I talk to thinks they are on the narrow road
But just a few verses after this Jesus has something to say that is a little scary
Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
There were people who called Jesus Lord and who did ministry in His name, yet Jesus said that He never knew them
It’s one thing to know ABOUT someone, it’s another thing entirely to really know someone
Jesus wants us to know Him
How do we do that?
The first step is to believe
John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
This belief is not just an intellectual agreement, this belief requires action
If we really believe Jesus we will do what He says
We will repent of our sins
We will love God with all our heart, soul and mind
We will love our neighbor as ourselves
We will live like Jesus wants us to live
The second step in knowing God is to do the same thing we do when we want to know a person – spend time with them
James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.
God wants us to know Him
Notice that in all of Scripture we never see anything like our modern day “sinners prayer”
You know, the old “every head bowed, every eye closed, repeat after me” schtick that is so common in evangelical circles
I remember a conversation I had a couple years ago with a young woman, and she asked me where she could find the sinner’s prayer in the Bible because she wanted to read it
It was a genuine question, she was really curious
The thing is, it’s not in the bible
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with praying the sinner’s prayer, I’m just saying that you don’t find it in scripture
The principles are certainly there - repenting and dedicating your life to God - but the prayer is not
Here’s the danger with the modern evangelical “sinner’s prayer” mentality
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that all you have to do is say a magic prayer and you automatically get your ticket punched for heaven
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7 - Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
It takes more than just calling Jesus Lord, anyone can do that
It’s following the will of God
In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us the parable of the sheep and the goats
In it He describes a time when He is going to separate people into two groups just like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats
It’s a pretty sobering parable and has this passage in it -
Matthew 25:41-45 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and the imprisoned - this is all part of the core tenants of the Christian faith
Jesus said that if we don’t do it to “the least of these” we didn’t do it to Him and cannot enter His Kingdom
This is a topic that I think we should explore in detail in the future, but for right now it’s pretty sobering isn’t it?
There’s something else I want to mention here as we wrap things up
The Christian life is so much more than “heaven after we die”
Sadly this has become the primary message in many circles - give your life to Jesus so you can go to heaven when you die
While this is true, it is not the primary focus of the Gospel
When you read the New Testament the focus of the Gospel message was not “heaven after you die” but building the Kingdom of God
“On Earth as it is in Heaven” is the focus, not heaven after you die
I want to make one thing perfectly clear - there are tremendous benefits of following Jesus right now
We don’t have to wait until we die and go to heaven to receive the benefits of following Jesus
Quite frankly, if the only benefit of following Jesus was heaven after I die, I don’t think that would be enough for me
I’m not the type of person that thinks about long term consequence and reward
I know I shouldn’t be that way, but it’s the way I am wired
Thankfully for me the Christian life has tremendous benefits now, I don’t have to wait!
Provision - Peace and comfort - God’s presence - purpose - etc.
Yes, I am looking forward to someday going to heaven, but honestly I hope that’s at least another 61 years away (my plan is to live to 110!)
I am loving the benefits of following Jesus now!