Sermon: The Glory of Heaven

Adam Burton | April 23, 2023


The Glory of Heaven: Experiencing God’s Presence and Perfection
In his powerful sermon, “The Glory of Heaven,” Pastor Adam Burton takes us on a journey through the beauty and significance of God’s ultimate promise for believers. Through the story of Timmy, a young boy who felt isolated and alone, we are reminded of the pain of feeling disconnected from our loved ones. But the pastor reassures us that in heaven, we will never feel that way again because we will be in the presence of God, the ultimate source of love and connection.

As Pastor Adam delves deeper into the concept of God’s glory, we learn that heaven is not just a place of great beauty, but it is a place where we will experience the direct accessibility of God’s presence. He contrasts the isolation of hell with the fulfillment of hope and encouragement that believers will experience in heaven. Pastor Adam reminds us that the glory of God is the ultimate characteristic of heaven that we will experience, and it represents the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams.

In addition, we learn from the pastor’s sermon that heaven will be a place free from the curse of sin. God will restore all things, creating a world without tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain. Through the book of Revelation, we catch a glimpse of the perfection of all things in the new heavens and earth. We will experience abundance, healing, perfection, intimacy with God, and rulership with Christ. Believers can eagerly anticipate the day when they will be in the presence of the Lord and experience the perfection of heaven.

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Well, Timmy is a 10-year-old boy who’s known for being a good kid. Timmy is what we would all want in a child. He was polite, respectful. He excels in school. But despite his shining reputation, even good kids can make poor decisions. As Timmy would soon find out, it all started when Timmy’s best friend, Paul, got a puppy.

Now, Timmy had always wanted a pet, but his parents would never allow it. And during a sleepover at Paul’s house, Timmy fell in love with his best friend’s furry companion. And he begged his parents relentlessly for a pet, but they refused, causing a massive argument. And so feeling hopeless, Timmy declared, you know what? I’m just going to run away from home, meaning that statement would change his parents’ mind.

So Timmy gathered the essentials that one needs. In his backpack, he puts in a bag of potato chips and one of those packages of, you know, little Debbie cakes. And he sets off into the woods out behind his house. As Timmy walks deeper and deeper into the woods, he dreams of all the fun things he would be able to do now that he’s on his own. Timmy snacked on the potato chips until finally he falls asleep against a tree.

Timmy wakes the next morning to dew seeping through his clothes and an empty bag of potato chips on his lap. He stands up and resumes his journey while eating little Debbie snack cakes along the way. But then he begins to realize, you know what? I thought I had all the essentials, but I don’t think I packed enough food. And he was starting to miss his parents. Meanwhile, Timmy’s parents had realized that their son had run away. They called the authorities to assemble a search party.

As Timmy sat by another tree, he remembered why he ran away in the first place. If only his parents would just listen to him and let him have a puppy, none of this would have ever happened. So he prayed to God. He said, God, oh, if you were out there, would you just please send me a puppy? And in what seemed like a divine encounter, a dog ran up to Timmy and began licking him and sniffing him. Timmy was amazed, thinking that God had answered his prayer for a puppy, but this was no ordinary dog. No, it was a search and rescue dog who had tracked Timmy’s scent. The dog began howling, and as soon as the search party arrived, they reunited Timmy with his parents.

Timmy learned a valuable lesson, that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes what we think of in our mind and how things will end up don’t go that way, but a lot of times they do have a way of working out in the end. But Timmy’s experience of being lost in the woods without his family can be seen as a metaphor for us, for the pain of being isolated and feeling alone.

You know, when he first set out on his journey, Timmy was excited about the idea of being on his own, free from the constraints of his parents’ rules. However, as he walked deeper and deeper into the woods, the reality of his situation hit him. He began to feel the weight of his isolation. He realized that being alone wasn’t as great as he thought it was going to be, and now he missed the love and security of his family.

Welcome, my friends, this morning to a sermon on one of the most beautiful and breathtaking concepts in all of Christianity, the glory of heaven. You can find an outline in your bulletin on the back page to help you to follow along.

You know, we all know that the idea of God’s glory is complex and multifaceted. I mean, it can be tough for us to wrap our heads around it at times, but it’s worth examining closely. You know, sometimes it takes the absence of something to truly appreciate its significance. I mean, think about it. Has anybody ever experienced separation anxiety before? You know, this feeling of distress when you’re separated from a loved one or a place where you feel safe and secure?

Well, in author Randy Alcorn’s book about heaven, he describes hell as the ultimate state of isolation. There individuals are cut off from the presence of God and all that is good left to dwell in their own darkness and loneliness. I mean, hell in essence is an eternal state of separation anxiety. But what about heaven? What does it mean for us to experience the glory of God?

I mean, can you even imagine what life would be without God’s presence? The Israelites experienced this during the period of the judges when God’s presence seemed silent for over 400 years. In that time, the Israelites repeatedly turned away from God, engaging in idol worship and other sinful behaviors, and they faced consequences such as foreign oppression, war, and suffering. It was this continuous cycle of sin and suffering and redemption, but God never abandoned the Israelites. He raised up judges or leaders to deliver them from their oppressors and to bring them back to Him. And during this period, God’s presence was less evident than in other times in Israel’s history.

The same could be said of the period of crisis in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed, marking the end of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem all the way up until the 1960s in the 20th century. This temple was a symbol of God’s presence. It was there where He dwelled, where sacrifices were offered, and where Jewish worship occurred. And then John sees a vision of the new Jerusalem in Revelation chapter 21, where there is no longer a temple because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Now what this suggests is that in this new era, there will no longer be a need for a temple or a sacrificial system because God’s presence will be directly accessible to everyone. And this is where the glory of heaven comes in. See, the glory of God is the ultimate characteristic of heaven that we will experience. It is the fulfillment of the hope and the encouragement that God presented to Christians in the first century when John was writing his book of Revelation through John’s vision of heaven that God gave him.

See, heaven is a real place of great beauty, but its true glory lies in the fact that we will forever be in the presence of God. We will no longer experience pain and suffering of separation anxiety, but we will bask in the eternal unending love and glory of our Lord and Savior. So as we explore heaven, the first heaven’s glory is in the presence of God. Read with me here, Revelation chapter 21 verse 3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 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.”

Now, as I stand before you today, I am reminded that our finite minds cannot begin to grasp a world without sin. I mean, it’s sin that affects every single aspect of our world, and it hinders even the good things that we experience. But did you know there was a time when sin was not part of our lives? That’s right, though in order to experience it, we must travel all the way back to the very beginning, to the Garden of Eden. It’s there in the garden before the fall that Adam and Eve enjoyed a life without a shame in God’s presence. For they were created in a state of innocence and purity. Can you imagine what it would be like to be free from all guilt and shame? Adam and Eve were.

They enjoyed the intimacy of their relationship with God without any sense of guilt or shame. But then came the fall, and everything changed. Adam and Eve’s sin brought about a sense of shame and guilt that made them want to hide from God’s presence. Their nakedness, which was once a symbol of their purity and innocence, became a source of shame and embarrassment. They were no longer able to enjoy the same level of intimacy with God as before, and their relationship with Him was now marked by fear and distance.

Living on the Ohio River means that we get to experience heavy amounts of fog at times. Earlier this year, I was taking Riley to a swim meet down the road in Paris. We left so early that morning that we were the first ones through McDonald’s drive-thru. So you know it’s early when you get to be the first ones. And as I waited for the coffee to finish brewing, we get it, and it’s hot, and I open it, let it cool down, and we’re driving down the road, I’m sipping that cup of joe. I realized how bad the fog really was. There were times where I couldn’t even see the road lines right in front of me, and I knew that we had to be careful, so I slowed down the car, and my backseat driver kept reminding me of the danger. Maybe they were just a little too vocal. But God was watching out for us that morning, because as we drove on, another car passed us.

Now normally I don’t like being passed on the road, but that morning it was the best thing that could have happened, because I followed that car closely so that I could see their taillights to know where I was supposed to go. Now it’s usually not that safe to drive closely to another car, but I would rather take that risk than having to guess where I was going with the fog ahead.

Now my friends, let me tell you something, that sin is kind of like that fog. It blinds us to the dangers of what lies before us. Sometimes God brings people into our lives to help us to navigate the fog, and if we are wise, we will stay close so that we can see their taillights. However, even that can be dangerous, depending on who we’re following.

But I want to talk to you about something that was incredibly important to Jesus, and if it was important to Him, then it should be important to us, and that is the reality of both heaven and hell. It may not be the most comfortable topic, but it’s a crucial one that we cannot afford to ignore, for Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the entire Bible, and He paints a vivid picture of it for us, what it will be like in Luke chapter 16.

That chapter tells us the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, and despite all of his wealth, the rich man didn’t have the one thing that truly mattered, eternal life.

On the other hand, Lazarus may have suffered in this life, but he trusted Jesus Christ, and he was granted eternal life in heaven. And when both men had passed away, their fates were sealed. Lazarus was welcomed into heaven, while the rich man was tormented in the flames of hell.

And as Lazarus is in heaven, Jesus describes him having a conversation with Father Abraham up in heaven, and the rich man could see into heaven. He saw this poor Lazarus with Abraham, and he begged Abraham, he said, please just send Lazarus down here for just a moment to cool my burning tongue, but Abraham prohibited because there was a great chasm that separated those two realms that could never be crossed.

Now, it’s important to understand that the difference between these two men was not their wealth or their social status. Oh no, it was their faith in Jesus. See, sin is what has separated us from God. It’s like a dangerous fog that blinds us and it leads straight into hell, but there’s hope, my friends, for God in his infinite mercy has shown us the way out of this fog.

In Luke chapter 2, there were poor shepherds who were visited by an angel who revealed the glory of the Lord to them. It was Jesus who came to bridge the gap between us and God by dying on the cross for our sins, and he offers us eternal life, but we first must repent of our sins and put our faith in him.

We cannot afford to ignore the reality of hell and the consequences of sin. Just like the rich man who had everything in this world but lacked eternal life, we can have all of the riches and the comforts of this world, but without Jesus, we are lost in the fog of sin and we are headed for an eternal separation from God.

And so may we stay close to Jesus, may we allow him to guide us through this foggy world that we live in. And may we not be afraid to share the good news of Jesus with those who are lost in the fog for together we can experience the glory of God and spend eternity in him and with him in heaven.

As we reflect on the glory of God and the promise of spending eternity with him in heaven, we must also acknowledge that our current earthly existence is tainted by sin. However, the good news is that in heaven there will be no more sin.

We see the absence of sin, the absence of sin. We continue reading in Revelation chapter 21 verse 4. He said, he will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more and neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away.

Friends, there is so much to look forward to when it comes to the future that God has prepared for us. In this past verse, John describes a world where there will be no more death, no more crying, no more pain, no more mourning. I mean, can you imagine such a place? A place where all of our pain and sorrows are just completely gone.

Well, firstly, God promises to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Our Lord will be with us in his presence. His very presence will bring us comfort and healing and restoration to everyone who has suffered and experienced pain and sorrow.

Secondly, there’ll be no more death in the new heavens and the new earth. For death is what entered as a result of sin but through Jesus Christ we have eternal life. And then there will be no more fear or anxiety about what comes after death because we will be forever with our Lord.

Thirdly, there will be no more mourning or crying. Oh, I can only imagine a world without pain and suffering where the brokenness and sorrow that have marked this world will be replaced with joy and wholeness and we will be in the presence of our Lord.

Lastly, there will be no more pain. You know, pain has been a constant reminder of the brokenness of this world. But in the new heavens and the new earth, there will be no more physical or emotional pain for everything will be perfect. Everything will be made whole and God promises to reverse the curse that entered the world through human sin by wiping away every tear, abolishing death, ending mourning and crying and eliminating pain. There he will bring complete restoration to all things and create the new heavens and earth that are free from the curse of sin.

So may we hold on to the hope that is promised to us. Let us eagerly anticipate the day when we will be in the presence of our Lord and Savior forevermore.

So let us hold on to this hope when we will be with our Lord and experience the perfection of heaven, which brings us to the last point. The perfection of all things is what heaven will be like, it will be the perfection of all things. In chapter 22 of Revelation, John writes, and the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. Also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its 12 kinds of fruit yielding its fruit each month, the leaves of the tree were for healing of the nations.

Oh, no longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it and his servants will worship him. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads and night will be no more. Oh no, they will need no light of lamp or sun for the Lord God will be their light and they will reign forever and ever.

Have you ever just sat and wondered what heaven will be like? If First John sees a river of life that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, now this river here, it symbolizes the life-giving presence of God and it represents the perfect provision of everything that we need.

I mean, can you imagine a world without any scarcity or lack? You don’t have to worry about budgeting your checkbook because you’ll never be overdrawn. In the new heavens and the new earth, God will provide for every need.

First John sees the tree of life, which is a symbol of eternal life and complete healing. Now this tree was first mentioned in the garden of Eden, but after Adam and Eve sinned, they were prevented from eating it. However, in the new heavens, in the new earth, the tree of life will be available to all who believe in Jesus and it will provide complete healing and eternal life.

In verse three, we read that there will be no more curse in the new heavens and the earth because the curse of sin that entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience will be completely removed and there will be no more death, pain, or suffering for everything. Everything will be made new and there will be no more brokenness or imperfection.

Then in verse four, we read that we will get to see God’s face and his name will be written on our foreheads. Oh, this speaks of the intimacy and the closeness that we will have with God in the new heavens and the new earth, for we will no longer be separated from him by sin or death, but we will be able to enjoy his presence fully without any barriers.

Lastly, in verse five, we read that we will reign with Christ forever and ever. I mean, this speaks of his perfect rule ship and governance that will exist in the new heavens and the new earth. Christ will reign as the perfect king and we will reign with him as his co-heirs, sharing in his glory and authority. Can you imagine being a ruler in heaven with Christ?

So there you have it. The new heavens and the new earth will be a place of abundance, healing, perfection, intimacy with God, and rulership with Jesus Christ. And it’s something that we get to look forward to as we journey through on this life.

Have you ever thought about what it would look like to be locked up in a prison cell? I mean, really think about it for a moment. You’re in a small, confined place where all of your freedom is taken away and you’re left with nothing but four concrete cinder block walls to stare at.

You know what’s even more limiting than a prison cell? Sin. Sin has the power to hold us captive, to keep us from living the life of abundance and freedom that God intended for us. But when we’re stuck in sin, we feel trapped, we feel helpless, like we can’t break free no matter how hard that we try. Maybe it’s an addiction or a destructive behavior or just bad habits that keep us locked in this cycle of sin and shame.

But the good news is, in heaven, there is no sin. We will be set free from the bondage of sin that we experience and experience true freedom in Christ. I mean, imagine a life without sin, without guilt or shame wearing us down. It’s like an open field where we can run and play without any walls or barriers holding us back.

But you know what’s even better than physical freedom? Spiritual freedom. We will be free to worship God without any distractions or hindrances, free to love, to serve without any selfish motives or desires. That’s the kind of freedom that this world does not understand.

The world thinks freedom is being able to do whatever we want, but that’s not true freedom. As the Bible tells us, we’re slaves to sin. But in heaven, all of that changes. We will finally be free to be who God has created us to be, free to live in the abundance and joy that He intended for us all along.

And so may we keep our eyes fixed on the prize, oh my friends. The freedom that we will experience in heaven is worth fighting for, and it is something that we can look forward to with hope and with joy.

As for musicians, would come forward at this time, I come to you today with this message. I come bearing hope and salvation.

The Bible tells us that we have a choice to make in this life. We can live either for ourselves and the world, or we can choose to live for heaven and for the glory of God. It’s an important decision, one that has eternal consequences. So I ask you today, which path will you choose?

Perhaps your view of heaven is a little unclear. It’s a little foggy. Maybe you feel trapped in that jail cell with no way out. But I have good news for you, for Jesus holds the key to open those bars. And all you have to do is trust in him to save you from your sins. For by accepting him as your Savior, the Bible tells us that you will be granted eternal life free from sin and guilt and pain and suffering. You will experience that perfect life that every single one of us desires.

I get it. I know that the decision to trust in Christ may seem daunting, but I assure you, oh I assure you that it is worth it. He’s calling out to you today. He’s inviting you to be saved, to experience the joy and peace that comes from life with him.

So right now I just ask you if you would just bow your head and close your eyes, everybody here this morning. I want us to just take a moment to be still and sit in the presence of God. To forget about everything else that’s going on. To focus solely on him.

God is always speaking to us. He is always present. But I think oftentimes we fail to hear him because of all of the noise in our lives and our impatience to just sit and listen. Listen for his voice. Let him guide you to the decision that will change your life forever. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait any longer. Trust in Jesus today. Let him lead you to a life of freedom and eternal bliss.