The Dwelling Place of God

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Psalm 33:13-14

INTRODUCTION: We are starting a new message series today called “Real Answers about Heaven.” People have real questions about heaven, and those questions deserve real answers. What is heaven? How do we know that there is a heaven? What happens when believers die? What kind of bodies will we have? Will we recognize other people in heaven? Will there be rewards in heaven? What will we do in heaven? Will there be animals in heaven? What does the Bible mean when it talks about a new Jerusalem and a new heaven and a new earth? How should knowing about heaven affect how we live right now on earth? Those are some of the questions that we will be answering in the course of this series.

But the first question we need to answer before we move on to any of the others is this: “Where do we get reliable information about heaven?” In other words, where do we get real answers to our questions? And the answer to that is from the Bible, God’s Word. When God gave John a vision of heaven in the book of Revelation, John heard these words about heaven: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Revelation 21:5) Only the Bible gives us trustworthy answers about heaven. Everything else is just speculation.

What about all the people who claim they have gone to heaven and come back? Should we listen to what they have to say? You can listen, but know that it is not a reliable source of information. Some people are scams, some people are con artists, some people are sincere – but even for those who are sincere, how do we know what is real from their reports, what is confused, what is remembered correctly or incorrectly? We don’t, and the problem with many of the “gone to heaven and came back” books is that they often contain information contrary to what we find in the Bible. John 3:13 says: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) And so we come back to the Bible as the only reliable source for information about heaven.

Now as Billy Graham reminds us: “The Bible doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know about Heaven, but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know about Heaven while we are here on earth.” (Billy Graham; The Heaven Answer Book, Kindle location 73) Deuteronomy 29:29 says: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children.” (Deuteronomy 29:29) We can only know what God has revealed to us. And God has revealed those things to us in his word. If you want real answers to your questions about heaven, then you need to go to the Bible. Only the Bible gives us trustworthy answers about heaven.

Today’s message looks at the first and most basic question about heaven: “What is heaven anyways?” (Read Psalm 33:13-14)

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So what is heaven anyways? Is it a place? A symbol? A state of mind? The word heaven is used more than 500 times in the Bible, but the Bible speaks of heaven in three different ways. Sometimes the Bible speaks of the heavens as the physical atmosphere that surrounds the earth. You might call that the first heaven. And then sometimes the Bible uses the word heaven to speak about outer space with the sun, the moon the planets and stars. You might call that the second heaven. But then the Bible also speaks of heaven as the place where God rules and lives. It is this meaning that Paul meant when he spoke about going to the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2.

These three uses of the word heaven refer to three different places, and it’s important that we don’t confuse them, because people often do. When the Russians put the first man into space back in 1961, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously said that they had gone into space and did not see God there.

Well, that’s because heaven is not up there in outer space. You can’t get there in a rocket ship. Heaven is not a physical location in our universe. Rather it is a spiritual dimension that we cannot see or enter apart from God. As author N.T. Wright puts it: “Heaven and earth in biblical cosmology are not two different locations within the same continuum of space or matter. They are two different dimensions of God’s good creation.” (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Kindle location 1844) God created heaven, and God created our world, but heaven is not a part of this world. Stephen Wellum writes: “Heaven is the spiritual realm where God dwells that presently exists alongside the created world.” (Stephen Wellum, Heaven, edited by Christopher W. Morgan, Kindle location 1580) So heaven is a real place. As E.M. Bounds says: “Jesus rose from the dead in a human body and went somewhere. That place is heaven.”

So what is heaven? According to the Bible, heaven is first and foremost the dwelling place of God. Heaven is where God lives. We’re going to look at three aspects of heaven as God’s dwelling place this morning. 1) Heaven is God’s house. 2) Heaven is where God’s throne is located. And 3) Heaven is Jesus’ home. So let’s begin.

I. Heaven is God’s house (Genesis 28:17; Psalm 23:6; John 14:2)

First of all heaven is God’s house. We find this expression repeated a number of times in Scripture. When Jacob had his dream of heaven and the stairway reaching all the way from heaven to earth, he said: “This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:17) Or you could turn to the last verse of the twenty-third psalm: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6) Jesus spoke of heaven as God’s house in John 14:2: “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” (John 14:2) So what do we mean when we say that heaven is God’s house?

   A. Heaven is where God lives.
      – 1 Kings 8:30; Matthew 6:9; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:3

First of all, heaven is where God lives. In the Old Testament the priests and Levites prayed to God in 1 Kings 8:30: “Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” (1 Kings 8:30) The book of Hebrews speaks of heaven as God’s city. Hebrews 12:22: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.” (Hebrews 12:22) And when we read in the book of Revelation about heaven coming down to earth, about these two dimensions, the spiritual and the physical, being joined together, Revelation 21:3 simply proclaims: “Now the dwelling of God is with men.” (Revelation 21:3) The dwelling of God was in heaven; heaven merges with earth, and now the dwelling of God is with men. Heaven is where God lives. It is his city. It is his dwelling place. It is his home.

God is everywhere present, but he is present in a special way in heaven. That is why Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9) John MacArthur explains: “To say that God dwells in heaven is not to say that He is contained there. But it is uniquely His home, His center of operations, His command post. It is the place where His throne resides. And it is where the most perfect worship of Him occurs. It is in that sense that we say heaven is His dwelling-place.” (John MacArthur; The Glory of Heaven, p. 56)

One day God will bring heaven to earth and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21) But it will still be heaven because God will be there. Heaven is where God lives.

   B. God’s home reflects God’s character.

Heaven is God’s house, and God’s home reflects God’s character. We do that, too, don’t we? Homes are very personal, and over time your home reflects your interests, your preferences, your values. It’s the same way with God. We will be exploring more of what heaven looks like in later messages in this series, but for right now let me make three quick observations.

      1) Heaven is a place of beauty.
         – Psalm 27:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Revelation 21:2

First of all, heaven is a place of beauty. We read in Revelation 21:2: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2) The Holy City in some way represents heaven and in some way represents God’s people, and yet when John sees it in his vision he is struck first of all by its beauty. In fact one of the main themes of Revelation 21-22, the last two chapters of the Bible, is the magnificent description of heaven in all of its beauty.

What will heaven be like? It will be more beautiful than you can imagine. 1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

There’s a great principle here for thinking about heaven and what heaven will be like. Think about all the most beautiful and wonderful things you can imagine, that you have either seen or experienced here on planet earth. Will those things be in heaven? If it’s good and if it’s possible, then either it will be there, or something better will be – because the human mind cannot even conceive what God has prepared for those who love him. When C.S. Lewis speculated about heaven he wrote to a friend that these were “guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be.” (Letters to Malcolm, p. 124)

David writes in Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) God is beautiful. He is the source of all beauty, and God’s home reflects his character. Heaven is a place of beauty.

      2) Heaven is a place of holiness.
         – Deuteronomy 26:15; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:27

And then secondly, heaven is a place of holiness. Deuteronomy 26:15 calls heaven God’s “holy dwelling place.” (Deuteronomy 26:15) God tells us in Isaiah 57:15 tells us: “I live in a high and holy place.” (Isaiah 57:15) We read in Revelation 21:27 about 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) God is holy, and therefore heaven is a place of holiness.

      3) Heaven is a place of love.
         – Isaiah 57:15; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 John 4:15-16

Heaven is a place of beauty. Heaven is a place of holiness. And heaven is a place of love. Isaiah 57:15 goes on to say: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15) Yes, God is high and exalted above us, but in his love he condescends to live with us, to live with those who are humble and lowly and repentant.

We read in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Love is the greatest of all qualities, and love will remain forever. Heaven is a place of love.

1 John 4:15-16 says: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:15-16) God is love, and so heaven is a place of love, and those who go to be with God will live in love.

One of the most beautiful sermons about heaven ever preached was a sermon by Jonathan Edwards titled “Heaven Is a World of Love.” In the sermon Edwards writes the following:

“Heaven is the palace, or presence-chamber, of the Supreme Being who is both the cause and source of all holy love. God, indeed, with respect to his essence is everywhere. He fills heaven and earth. But yet he is said on some accounts more especially to be in some places rather than others. He was said of old to dwell in the land of Israel above all other lands, and in Jerusalem above all other cities in that land, and in the temple above all other houses in that city, and in the holy of holies above all other apartments in that temple, and on the mercy seat over the ark above all other places in the holy of holies. But heaven is his dwelling place above all other places in the universe.” (Jonathan Edwards, “Heaven is a World of Love”)

And because heaven is God’s special dwelling place, and because God is love, every nook and cranny of heaven is filled with love.

God is beautiful, God is holy and God is love. And so heaven is a place of beauty, holiness and love. God’s home reflects his character.

      C. God is central to heaven.
         – Psalm 73:25; Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 48:35

What do we mean when we say that heaven is God’s house? Heaven is where God lives. God’s home reflects God’s character. And then thirdly God is central to heaven. There will be many wonderful things to see in heaven, but God is the main attraction. We long to see our friends and loved ones who have gone before us, but we will be glad to see God even more. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 73: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:25)

In Isaiah 6 when Isaiah shares his vision of heaven, he begins with four words: “I saw the Lord.” (Isaiah 6:1) He saw many other things in his vision as well, and he goes on to describe some of them, but God was central to his vision: “I saw the Lord.”

Ezekiel shared his vision of heaven in Ezekiel 40-48 and after describing the city and the temple and the land for nine whole chapters, he sums it all up in Ezekiel 48:35, the very last verse of the whole book: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: ‘The LORD is there.’” (Ezekiel 48:35) Once again, God is central. There are many beautiful things in heaven, but the most important thing is that God is there.

Author David Jeremiah writes: “Heaven is heaven because God the Father is there and Jesus Christ is there.” (David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven, Kindle location 930) If you take away God, it’s not heaven anymore.

Which raises the question, if you don’t love God, then why would you want to go to heaven? If you don’t love Jesus, the Son of God, why would you want to go to heaven? Stephen Wittmer asks the penetrating question: “Could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?” (Stephen Wittmer, Eternity Changes Everything, Kindle location 323)

Heaven is where God lives. God’s home reflects his character. God is central to heaven. What do we mean when we say the heaven is the dwelling place of God? We mean first of all that heaven is God’s house.

II. Heaven is where God’s throne is located

Secondly, heaven is where God’s throne is located. And there are two things the Bible especially tells us about God’s throne.

   A. God is worshiped on his throne in heaven.
      – Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 5:13-14 (all of Revelation 4-5!)

First of all, God is worshiped on his throne in heaven. Going back to Isaiah’s vision of heaven in Isaiah 6, we read in verses 1-3: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” (Isaiah 6:1-3) The first thing Isaiah tells us is he saw the Lord. The second thing he tells us is he saw the Lord seated on a throne. And the third thing he tells us is that he saw the angels worshiping God on his throne.

In the book of Revelation chapters 4 and 5 we are given an extended vision of God receiving worship on his throne in heaven. The vision ends with these stirring words in Revelation 5:13-14: “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:13-14) So that’s the first thing we learn about God’s throne. God is worshiped on his throne in heaven.

   B. God watches and rules over all the earth.
      – Psalm 11:4, 33:13-15; Daniel 4:26

And then the second thing we learn about God’s throne in heaven is that God watches and rules over all the earth. Psalm 11:4 tells us: “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.” (Psalm 11:4) And then Psalm 33 tells us: “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth – he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Psalm 33:13-15) Daniel 4:26 puts it real simple for us: “Heaven rules.” (Daniel 4:26)

This is one of the reasons, by the way, that heaven is pictured as being “up” or “above” in the Scriptures. It’s not that heaven is physically in the sky; rather it means that is where God’s throne is, that God is over all and has authority over all. Gerald Bray notes: “[He is] high above the heavens, including the sun, the moon, and the stars that other nations worshiped as deities.” (Gerald Bray, Heaven, edited by Christopher W. Morgan, Kindle location 4030) Pastor Ray Ortlund writes: “The Lord’s throne is in heaven (Ps. 11:4; cf. Ps. 2:4) and therefore unthreatened by earthly powers and final in its judgments.” (Ray Ortlund, Heaven, edited by Christopher W. Morgan, Kindle location 662) Author N.T. Wright puts it this way: “Heaven is, as it were, the control room for earth; it is the CEO’s office, the place from which instructions are given. ‘All authority is given to me,’ said Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel, ‘in heaven and on earth.’” (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Kindle location 1847)

Heaven is where God’s throne is located. God is worshiped on his throne in heaven. And it is from his throne that God watches and rules over all the earth.

III. Heaven is Jesus’ home

What do we mean when we say the heaven is the dwelling place of God? 1) Heaven is God’s house. 2) Heaven is where God’s throne is located. And 3) heaven is Jesus’ home. Now Jesus is God’s Son. He is God himself, and so everything we’ve already said about God and heaven also applies to Jesus. But the Bible also speaks specifically of heaven as Jesus’ home in two ways.

   A. Jesus came from heaven, and he returned to heaven.
      – John 6:38, 16:28; Hebrews 9:24

First of all, Jesus came from heaven, and he returned to heaven. Jesus said in John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Jesus said in John 16:28: “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28) And we read in Hebrews 9:24: “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrew 9:24) Why is heaven Jesus’ home? Jesus came from heaven, and he returned to heaven.

   B. Jesus is the only way for us to go to heaven.
      – John 14:6; Acts 4:12

And finally heaven is Jesus’ home because Jesus is the only way for us to go to heaven. Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) We read in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

As Martyn Lloyd Jones writes: “Our entry into heaven, this entry into the eternal mansion and home with God, is something that is obtained for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and by him alone. He has won our admission for us.” (Martyn Lloyd Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Kindle location 985)

Heaven is Jesus’ home. He holds the keys, and he is the only one who can open the door for you.

CONCLUSION: My hope for you today is that you have gotten a taste of the beauty and wonder of heaven and that you will desire to learn more about this wonderful place in the weeks to come.

1) Heaven is God’s house. It is where God lives. It is a place of beauty, holiness and love. God is central to heaven.

2) Heaven is where God’s throne is located. God is worshiped on his throne in heaven. God watches and rules over all the earth from his throne in heaven.

3) Heaven is Jesus’ home. Jesus came from heaven, and he returned to heaven. And Jesus is the only way for us to go to heaven.

Heaven is the dwelling place of God. God is in heaven, so if we want to be where God is, we want to go there. But how do you get there from here? Jesus is the only way. He holds the keys. Trust in him for salvation today, and you will be heaven bound.

© Ray Fowler

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