I would talk to you today about misconceptions that people have about death and heaven. First of all, I am not a believer in what are called “NDE’s” (Near Death Experiences). Why not? Two reasons: first of all many people who say they have died have been reported to have seen a great light. They talk about a peaceful experience. These reports are from people who had, by their own admission, no relationship with the church and thus with Christ. I am reminded of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:14: “that the devil can disguise himself ‘as an angel of light.’” Other people have reported that when they died they left their body and saw themselves floating above and saw their relatives mourning their passing or doctors trying to revive them. I do not believe these people were clinically dead and that our mind can imagine anything. For example one of our first elders had a severe heart attack. His heart stopped beating for about 10 minutes. After he was revived, I asked him if he experienced anything and he said no. Hebrews 9:27 says: “It is appointed once for man to die and then comes judgment.” (emphasis mine)
What do we know about heaven? I think very little. One of the joys of the Christian life is anticipating God’s Kingdom. In John 14:1, Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” The word for mansion literally means “dwelling”. It does not describe exactly what that is like. We are studying the book of Revelation on Sunday morning and are seeing glimpses of heaven but certainly not its fullness. What we do know is that we will see God and the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form. We will see all the saints and angels and enjoy a sinless eternity.
We do know however that many speculate about heaven with unbiblical teachings. For example, evangelist Jesse Duplantis in his book Heaven, Close Encounters of the God Kindsaid that he went to heaven in 1988 in something like a cable car. He claims that when there he put out his hand to comfort Jesus who seemed to be hurting only to tell him: “I need you, Jesse!” This is blasphemous.
In 2004 Randy Alcorn published a book entitled Heaven. He uses words such as maybe, likely, could be, perhaps, in describing heaven. He says “We may not set foot on the new earth until ‘the sixth day of the new creation’ and perhaps ‘watch God at work for another creative week.’ We may ‘look back at the present earth and conclude, creatively speaking, that God was just ‘warming up’ and getting started.’ He also said that God may create new races of intelligent beings, either on earth or on other planets spread across the new universe.” This is very unlikely.
He also says there may be talking animals and intelligent non-human beings. He says animals will be seen to have “non-human souls” but then he says that although humans continue to exist after death this may not be the case for animals but he says God may have a future plan for animals. He continues, “extinct animals may be brought back so that we can imagine ourselves riding a brontosaurus, or flying on the back of a pterodactyl.”
What we should know about heaven is only what the Scripture tells us and what St. John tells us in Revelation 21:1-4: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself with be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’”