Philippians 1:23-24, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
I wish you dear readers could have known one of the many faithful deacons whom I was privileged to serve with by the name of Cecil Kammediemer. I wish also that you knew another deacon by the name of Wayne Daniels and another deacon Norm Tennimon. However, one of my favorites is Joe Simmons a faithful usher who on his death was worried about who would take his place at his post. I think of our Receptionist Elaine Howie and our Records Secretary Mary Robinson.
I am thinking of one of our faculty members Bill Nelson with his weekly letters of encouragement to me as his pastor. I am thinking of little Candice Connor who would stare at me, think for a minute, and then run up to me and hug my leg. I cannot but think of Dr. Paul Duckett Jr. who served with me on staff for 18 wonderful years!
All of these have one thing in common they are waiting for us in Heaven. I am thinking of over 150 of the dear members of Longview Baptist Temple who are in Heaven as of the writing of this article.
Every time the death angel visits someone has a broken heart, and empty spot at the dinner table, an empty spot in the bed, and has a heart that is heavy. I am thinking of Kathleen Davis who sat on the front pew at Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, TX, for over a decade and died from cancer. Held to a wheelchair all of her life by illness. She never missed church and not only a faithful rider of our Sunday school buses, but she visited every Saturday on that same bus route. She is missed!
Little by little age starts to show herself in all of us. May I say to all of us Heaven is getting nearer and dearer and sweeter all the time? I remember the day when the word came that our bus mechanic Bill Neiland had died suddenly from a heart attack how shocking it was to all of our church family. I recall the phone call at midnight of the tragic car accident where Bill Nelson returning home from his Shreveport bus route was suddenly and tragically taken in an automobile accident on I-20.
Every Memorial Day our church LBT made a tradition of reading the names of the dear members who have graduated into Heaven and each one had a special spot in my heart as pastor. I would sit in the pastor’s chair and thank God for every one of those soldier’s of the cross who helped make LBT the great church she is. Over one million souls came to Christ during my 3 decades of pastoring that great church.
So much is mentioned in the Bible about the New Jerusalem that is in Heaven after the Millennium, which is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. We find ourselves in a guided tour by John in Revelation chapters 21-22. We are shown so many things about the New Jerusalem in this guided tour by the Apostle John.
We are told of its size approximately 1,500 miles wide, high, and long. This cube, if you will, typified by the Holy of Holies. John tells us in this conducted tour about the walls of the city being 214’ high. We are told about the gates of the city being twelve gates with each made of one big pearl! Wow, I wonder what the oyster looks like? Ha!
We are told about the foundations of the city, the streets of the city, the trees of the city, the river that flows through the city, the glorified body the redeemed will have, and so much is told about the New Jerusalem, but there is no such tour about the Heaven that exists now. Nobody in the Bible tells us how big Heaven is now, what the streets are like now, about the gates now, or about the whether there is a river there now. No one tells us if there are streets there now. We assume the streets are of gold, because the streets of the New Jerusalem are, but the Scriptures do not say.
Surprisingly very little is said about the present Heaven. Occasionally we can see the door open briefly for us to quickly look in. Let us now take a brief peek into the Heaven that exists now. In the Bible we have a man who died and went to Heaven and came back. He is about the only one who can give us a glimpse into the present Heaven.
Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul said. The Apostle Paul on his first missionary journey went to the place called Lystra and there outside the city of Lystra he was stoned and died. The Scriptures tell us in I Corinthians chapter 12 he was caught up into the third Heaven. Now, let us ask Paul what he observed up there? For he is about the only one who give us any glimpse of the present Heaven.
Do you realize that deacon Cecil Kammediemer, the Apostle Paul, John R. Rice, Bob Jones Sr., Billy Sunday, Lester Roloff, Lee Roberson, Carl Hatch, Curtis Hutson, and Jack Hyles see Jesus and talk to him daily.
Hey Paul what is it like now? Paul says, “I can’t tell you! There is no way I can tell you because there is no human vocabulary that can describe it to you.” Paul what is Heaven like now? He replies, “You have never seen anything like it that I can use to describe what Heaven looks like.” Paul said, “The eye has never see anything like Heaven is now. The ear has never heard anything like Heaven has right now." Well Paul, can we imagine what Heaven’s like and Paul says, “You can’t even begin to imagine what Heaven is like now!”
Paul says, “I’m helpless in being able to tell you what it is like now for eye hath not seen he says!” Mrs. Gray and I have been to Hawaii and there is no way to describe it and do it justice. We have been to the Caribbean and again there is no way to describe its beauty and majesty.
We ask Paul for help! Paul says let me give you a few words to describe Heaven now.
Paradise is a word Paul used. Paul called Heaven Paradise. Now what is Paradise? It was the word the Jews used for the ultimate in blessings. I mean the ultimate or that which was beyond description. Paul said Heaven is the ultimate in blessedness. What does it mean?
· It’s the ultimate in joy
· It’s the ultimate in contentment
· It’s the ultimate in happiness
· It’s the ultimate in peace
· It’s the ultimate in fun
· It’s the ultimate I pleasure
Paul said I can’t tell you how wonderful it is so I’ll just have to choose the best words in our vocabulary to help you understand what its like now.
The second word used to describe Heaven as it is now is the word “mansion.” The word mansion in the Greek was the word for the ultimate comfort in a dwelling. Paul said I’ll take the top word you know concerning housing to help you understand. The top word you know concerning blessedness you know is the word “Paradise.”
Paul said I was there, I was caught up into the third Heaven, and I can’t tell you what its like for it is unlawful. The word “unlawful” means it is sacrilegious. Paul said it would be sacrilegious for me to take a human vocabulary and try to tell you how wonderful Heaven is now. Heaven is a wonderful place God is preparing for his people.
We use to gather around the piano on Sundays and Mama would play and we would sing…
I’ve heard of a place that’s called Heaven
Sweet home of the happy and free
Fair haven of rest for the weary
How beautiful Heaven must be
Oh, they tell me of a home far beyond the skies
Oh, they tell me of a home far away
Oh, they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise
Oh, they tell me of a home with an unclouded day
Oh, the land of the cloudless day
Oh, the land of the unclouded day
Oh, they tell me of a hoe far beyond the skies
There is a land that is fairer than day
And by faith we can see it afar
Now my Mama and Daddy are there seeing and talking to Jesus every day! WOW!
Paul you have been there could you just give us a little hint of what Heaven is like now? Give us a few words to help us!
IT’S A PLACE
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a PLACE for you.” The word “place” simply is defined as “a region” or “a locality” or something that is solid and occupies space. Doesn’t sound like a bunch of blind folded spirits in a vacuum to me as the liberals in Southern Baptist Seminaries are teaching their empty headed ministerial students. It is a PLACE!
It is a place with real streets, real houses, and real mansions. A place you can see and a place with real bodies. Paul said it is a place! God tells us just enough! Paul can’t decide which human words to use to describe Heaven. So God allows Paul to use the word “Paradise,” or the ultimate, “mansions,” or the best dwelling, and the word “place,” or a real place! Paul is using human words to help describe the indescribable.
Paul then uses another word “gain.” Paul said, “It’s gain.” The word “gain” can be defined “make a profit.” He is saying Heaven is more profitable than here. It is “gain” to go to this “place” called Heaven. Our loved ones and friends who are in Heaven have gained not lost. Paul said it is virtually impossible to use human words to describe such a Heavenly place as Heaven.
Paul must however use human words to give us a hint of what Heaven is like now.
Paul said is "far better" to be in Heaven. What a place it must be? Far better is a double positive, which in essence means “more better.” He is saying it is so much better than here and only a double positive will work in aiding us in our understanding. We said about Mama, “She’s far better off!” The truth is we have not the foggiest idea how much better off Mama is and the others who are in Heaven.
Paul you gave us hints with words like Paradise, mansions, place, gain, and far better is there any thing else you can give us as a hint? Yes, says Paul for I have one more word!
Remember when Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, held the coats of the men who stoned that good godly deacon and Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father?
Jesus said, “I will receive you unto myself that where I am there ye may be also.” It really doesn’t matter what the streets or mansions are made of as long as Jesus is there. It doesn’t matter if the gates are made of 2 x 4’s as long as Jesus is there. It doesn’t matter if the streets are asphalt as long as Jesus is there. However its not that way for the streets are paved with gold, the mansions are real, the gates are of pearl, the foundations are made of precious stones, and on top of all of that Jesus is there! AMEN!
Paul what’s it like to die? He gives us another word for he says to die is like the word “departure.” He said the time of my departure is at hand. The word “departure” is a sea faring term. It is a neutral term for it is like when a big old ship leaves the port of dock or like a jet pulling away form the airport gate. Paul gives us some hint about Heaven in certain words.
· Mansions-the ultimate in dwelling
· Place-it is real
· Gain-more profitable
· Far Better-more better
· Jesus-will be there with us
· Departure-like a ship leaving the dock
Paul do you want to die? No! Paul do you want to go to Heaven now? Not now he says! Boy, that makes me feel better! Paul why don’t you want to go now? He answers because I have some more people whom I love and they need me. I have more souls to lead to Christ. I have more churches to establish. He said, “To depart is far better, but is more needful for me to stay!’ Amen to that Paul!
GOTTA LOVE SOUL WINNING!