April 28, 2014 Broadcast

Sitting on Suitcases

A Message by R.C. Sproul

There are those moments in life when we are forced to make a decision between one bad thing and another bad thing. We call that being stuck between a rock and a hard place. But what happens when you are caught between a good place and a great place? A decision like that can be equally difficult to make. Continuing our series on Heaven, Dr. Sproul reminds us of the greater of the two places, as we are Sitting on a Suitcase.

From the series: Heaven

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Sitting on a Suitcase

  2. article

    Dreams of Paradise

  3. article

    Heaven

Sitting on a Suitcase

A newly married couple found themselves needing to be picked up from their hotel and driven to the airport in order to catch a flight to Bermuda for their honeymoon. After calling a taxi company, they sat on their suitcases in the hotel lobby, watching and waiting for the driver to come. The husband was forced to call the company once more an hour later because somehow their reservation had become lost in the shuffle. Finally, the cab came, and they were able to get to their airplane and their final destination. 

What do you suppose we would say if the couple refused to get in the car because they were having such a good time sitting on their suitcases? Would we not think that they were crazy? Yet how often are we like this couple, so attached to our present life that we live as if heaven does not exist? As Jonathan Edwards once said, so many of us live like the distracted traveler who takes up residence in a hotel along the way instead of pressing on to his destination.

The apostle Paul suffered no such attachment to this present life. As today’s passage demonstrates, he was well aware of the blessed hope awaiting him. We can detect a certain tension in his life. He enjoyed the fellowship he had with the Christians in Philippi, and he knew it was necessary for him to remain on earth and continue as their teacher. But what he really wanted was to see Jesus, for he also knew heaven is a far better place (Phil. 1:23–24). He knew that death is not finally a tragedy for the believer, because though we live in Christ, dying and being able to see Him face-to-face is gain (v. 21).

The contrast is between this life and the life to come. This life is good because “to live is Christ,” but heaven is not the “best” place to be. The “best” is yet future even for those in heaven now. Our glorification will not be complete until our physical bodies are resurrected (Rom. 6:5). The contrast in today’s passage is between good and better. Heaven, the place where believers go between death and resurrection, is not God’s final end for us, but it is better than this present life. Setting our hope on heaven will make us less concerned with our comforts and more desirous to help grow the Lord’s kingdom.

Dreams of Paradise

Robert Field

Hawaii has often been advertised as one of those classic dreams of paradise. When streets on the mainland clog with snow and temperatures plummet far below zero, thoughts are enticed by Hawaii’s warm tropical waves lapping upon beaches saturated with sun. Clouds drift by on perfumed trade winds. Cares melt away. The mind is filled with peace as you walk down a sandy shoreline. Ah, paradise found! At least, that’s what we believe we have discovered in those winter daydreams. Here is the eternal quest of man. He tries to find a quiet sanctuary that would bring him peace. Yet even in Hawaii, such a goal in the material world is impossible to find.

When we fell in the garden, paradise was lost and could never be regained through any of our efforts. It is not that we don’t try. Our imaginations fashion dreams of that perfect, happy place. Our philosophies and sciences work toward building a golden city. We seek its perfections in art and music. Every pursuit of man is aimed at finding the elusive paradise. Our lives are like the Tower of Babel, hoping to reach God in heaven. Yet in every generation the building crumbles, for there is no man-made solution that can put paradise back together again. Even the Christian sometimes passes into that dangerous sin of building a home for himself in this world. We are especially tempted by the prosperity of this nation. It lures us in with its promises of comfort and joy. Yet God has warned us never to be content here, nor to think of this unrestored place as home.

How does He point us in the direction of true paradise? He begins by showing us the hopelessness and emptiness of the place in which we live. Here in this fallen world there is no lasting joy or peace. We have tasted its finite pleasures, but they have left us miserable, lonely, and dissatisfied. Sin has corrupted everything. The city of man is collapsing and will be destroyed; hence, we are compelled to flee the wrath that is coming and to seek the restoration of God’s eternal home.

The Lord then directs us to Jesus Christ, the foundation of paradise. Here is the new Adam whose holy life and sacrificial death have provided forgiveness and justification to all who trust in Him and His work. He is the door to the eternal city. He is the fountain of love, joy, and peace for all who call upon Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the essence of paradise. 

When a man becomes a child of God through faith in Christ, he no longer finds a suitable place in this world to rest. God has redeemed him from the realm of sin and placed him in the dominion of grace. All that he once loved becomes empty. He sees the vanity of pursuing earthly goals and pleasures. He finds himself in opposition to his former friends — the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Every step he takes in this life seems to be burdened with trial and test. God has done this so that we are never comfortable in this place. We are compelled to press on to the eternal city, for this unrestored world is no longer our home.

How does a Christian journey to the final paradise? Every day he wakes up in this world as a warrior pilgrim, fighting the temptations to root him here while pressing on to his eternal reward. On this voyage, he draws close to his Savior through prayer and Scripture. He dresses himself with the armor of God in order to face his conflicts. He finds fellow pilgrims who are heading in the same direction and loves their fellowship along the way. He keeps his eyes on the eternal and does not become trapped in the finite. He takes the members of his body and uses them for righteousness. Though he sees life decaying all around him, including his own mortal body, he has the hope of resurrection and life in the new heavens and earth. Here he finds everything changing. Friends pass away, circumstances make life unpredictable. Yet in himself he sees the seed of new life springing up in hope. He stores up treasures in that paradise that will never rust or decay. In essence, he lives here in this finite world as if he were already living in that holy paradise. His blessed Savior gives him a foretaste of what is to come, a peace that passes understanding, a joy that does not fade, and a love that is eternal.

One day we shall pass from this world. The Christian, like Abraham, waits patiently for the promises to be fulfilled. He knows it is coming. He knows that he will see and hear things that he has never imagined. He knows he will be transformed completely in holiness. He knows he will see Jesus, and on that day sin and mortality will be swallowed up in the perfection and victory of the Son of God. Thus, he presses on to his final rest. Which paradise are you seeking? Is it a daydream that will vanish away or is it the eternal hope laid up in God whose promises are certain? Press on Christian. The night is past and the day has already dawned upon the eternal city where we are heading.

Heaven

Gerrit Scott Dawson

As we discussed heaven, my wife asked a fascinating pair of questions: “How do you think God’s presence with us in heaven will compare to His presence in Eden? Will it be as intimate?” These questions get us right down to the heart of why we want to know about heaven. Once, God walked with us in the garden in the cool of the day. Once, we related to God and to one another with no barriers, no shame. Once, we did not die. Will it be so again? Will heaven answer the yearnings for love and life that are in every heart?

In both the Old and New Testaments, the same words we translate as "heaven" can have different meanings depending on the context. First, heaven can mean simply the sky above us, either the atmosphere where the birds fly or space where the stars are flung. In that sense, heaven is simply part of this reality where we live. Second, heaven can mean the realm of God, a “place” beyond our sense perception. Heaven in this sense is spiritual, for “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and heaven is where we consider the uncontainable, omnipresent God to dwell. This is the main way we think of heaven today.

We see both these senses used in one of the Bible’s most important passages on heaven. In Revelation 21:1, John sees “a new heaven and a new earth.” Here, heaven means the sky and the deeps of space in which our earth resides. But John also sees the new Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2). Here, heaven is a spiritual reality. The wonder in this passage is that the two senses of heaven are being joined. The heavenly city is coming from the realm of God to the realm of man. This means that the divide between God and His creation will be closed. After sin’s long interruption, we will in heaven at last become all we were meant to be.

So let’s peek in on John’s vision to glean some thrilling information about what heaven will be like at the consummation. The Apostle reports that he heard a loud voice declare, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:3–4). Two foundational truths about heaven arise from these verses.

Embodied Existence

The text tells us that mourning and pain will disappear. This is not because we will lose our memories, our emotions, or even our nerve receptors. It is because any cause for such anguish will be gone. Heaven will be, in a sense, even more real than this “real” world we live in now.

How may we be sure of this? We anchor our hopes to the Son of God who became man for our sakes. We know that Jesus has ascended into heaven and still retains His resurrection body. So Paul could write that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20). The body that Jesus has now is the very same kind of body we will have in heaven. Jesus has been outfitted, so to speak, for an embodied life in heaven. His body has been transformed, but it is also still Him, still Jesus. So, too, we will be ourselves, only more so as we too receive resurrection bodies fit for embodied existence in a real heaven.

Covenant Communion

Throughout Scripture, we read that the intention of God has been to create intimate communion with His people. Salvation history may be summed up in the phrase: “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In Revelation 21, we see this vision fulfilled. The triune God will dwell, will have His very life, in intimate relation with the community of people to whom He has bound Himself forever.

Heaven is described in terms of the the new city of Jerusalem. There will be robust interaction among those who are the people, the body, the bride of Christ. We will relate in love to one another. But at the same time that God will relate to all of us as one body, God will also relate to each of us personally. He will wipe away every tear. A hand to the face to gently daub away a tear is deeply intimate. That’s how close His healing presence will be to each person in heaven.

In summary, the stab of longing in our hearts for our Lord since the fall will be fulfilled in heaven. The intimacy we will have with God and one another will be even greater than that of our first parents.

Since the beginning,

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