The Most Important Questions on Earth

Here’s the problem: if heaven isn’t real, Jesus was wrong. His word was wrong. Heaven isn’t a peripheral subject in Scripture. The NIV uses the word “heaven” 427 times. If it isn’t real, God’s word isn’t true. And everything I believe based on his word is in doubt this morning.

How do we know?

I gave myself permission to wrestle with this issue in preparing for this message, and go wherever it takes me. I’ve landed on two reasons to believe that heaven is real, two reasons to have absolute assurance that heaven is a real, blessed place of reward. And one reason why this fact matters so much today, why the question of heaven is the most important question on earth.

Why do I believe in heaven this morning? First, because Jesus believed in heaven, and I believe in him.

I know from the ancient historian Thallus the Samaritan that Jesus existed, from Tacitus that he was crucified by Pontius Pilate, from Josephus that his followers thought him raised from the dead, and from Pliny the Younger that they worshiped him as God.

I know that his followers would not steal the body and then die for a lie. They didn’t go to the wrong tomb, for the authorities were guarding the right tomb. Jesus didn’t swoon on the cross, then convince 500 people he had heavenly powers and ascend back into heaven. I know from first-century records that opponents of the resurrection had no answer to the claim that he was risen from the grave.

If he is resurrected, he is God. If he is God, his word is true. And his word says that “he who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26). He promised us, “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.  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” (John 14:2-3).

I cannot go to heaven, and cannot meet those who have. By definition it is a realm which transcends my earthly ability to verify its existence. But Jesus came from there, and returned there. I know that he walked my planet, breathed my air, faced my sin, died on my cross, rose from my grave. I believe in heaven because Jesus believed in heaven. And because I believe in him.

Second, I believe in heaven because I’ve learned to trust what I cannot prove. Of course I cannot prove that heaven exists. By definition, the “supernatural” transcends the “natural.” Heaven transcends earth. I cannot use earthly experience to verify its existence. But I believe much which I cannot verify empirically. So do you.

Is there more beyond this present world of our senses and experience? Of course there is. Solipsism is the philosophical belief that reality exists only when you experience it. This sanctuary exists only when you enter it. You exist only when I preach to you.

It’s an appealing thought. The NBA Finals didn’t exist, because I refuse to think about them. I don’t have to pay for Ryan’s tuition at Baylor because Baylor doesn’t exist while I’m in Dallas. I bet they’ll find a way to change my mind.

The problem with the philosophy is that it doesn’t work. Start a fire in your fireplace, then leave the room for several hours. You’ll return to discover that the logs burned down. How is that possible? We all know that solipsism is silly. Of course things exist beyond our experience of them. Of course television and radio waves exist in this room, whether we can see them or not. I assume the choir is still behind me, that they didn’t sneak out during the sermon. And that my car’s still in the garage where I left it. And that someone is cooking lunch at the restaurant we’ll choose after church.

Just because we cannot see heaven makes it no less real. I cannot see the walls behind me, but I assume they’re still there. I cannot see into the next room, but that makes the people there no less present. If I could use earthly experience to verify heaven, by definition it wouldn’t really be heaven. If I could use physical methods to measure the God who is Spirit (John 4:24), by definition he wouldn’t be God.

So I’m going to believe in what I cannot prove, because nothing worth proving can be proven. I cannot prove that my family loves me. I cannot prove that the Bible is true, or that God is love, or that I will go to heaven when I die. I cannot prove that they are not, either.

All relationships transcend the evidence and are self-validating. If I were to wait until I could prove I could be a good pastor, I would never have become a pastor. If I were to wait until I could prove that I would be a good husband and father, I’d still be single. You could not prove the validity of a single relationship in your life to me. You may say that your spouse loves you, or your friends appreciate you, or your employees are loyal to you, but they may be lying or you may be deceived. I couldn’t know that you were right unless I experienced what you have experienced.

So we examine the evidence: Jesus is real and he said heaven is real. Then we take a step into relationship with him. And that relationship becomes self-validating. I’m willing to stake my eternity on him, not on me. On his truth, not my doubts. On his power, not my limitations. Because I believe in Jesus, I believe in heaven. I invite you to join me.

Conclusion

Let’s close with this question: why does any of this matter to your soul today? What about the problems and fears you’re facing this morning? What about the North Korean missile launch test, or the battle over abortion, or the Iranian nuclear program? What about the economy, and the time and money pressures you’re facing? What about your guilt over the past and fear over the future? One day there will be a new heaven and a new earth; but what about the earth you inhabit this morning? Why is heaven the only question which matters on earth?