In my Fathers House
Jesus said: “In my Fathers House are many mansions”
John 14:v1 and this rendering of the text in the King James version of the Bible, has often had a misleading effect on the Christian Church. The problem arises with the translation of the word “mansions”. Choruses and Hymns taking up the theme have not helped either. – Songs like “I have a mansion just over the hilltop, in that fair land where we’ll never grow old”.
It’s a nice sentiment, but theologically incorrect. Such songs or hymns conjure up pictures of grand houses and locations similar to the “Beverly Hills” estates in California. But Heaven is nothing like “Beverly Hills”! The Greek word translated “mansions” in John 14:1 is the word “moné” (Pr: mon-ay) meaning a “staying, abiding or dwelling place” but really gives really no indication of any earthly grandeur, of the sort we commonly associate with a Mansion?
In my sermon today entitled “IN MY FATHERS HOUSE”
I want to ask a simple question…
“What is Heaven like”? Its a simple question, yet one which is not simple to answer. It is generally considered by most church-going folks that Heaven is like this world was when it was originally created without the presence and power of any sin, like Eden, but this is not so. For the human mind to grasp the concept of heaven, is rather like a honey-bee trying to grasp the concept of sending an e-mail or playing a piano concerto? To the honey-bee, life is a series of transactions between the pollen ridden flower and the deposit in the bee hive, the maintaining of the “queen-bee” and the search for yet another fine bloom. It lives completely “otherwise” from the human species.
I can best answer my own question “What is Heaven like?” with the response … “It’s an-other world,
meaning effectively other than this world”!
How very frequently verses of Scripture are misquoted! Instead of turning to the Bible, to see how it is written, and saying, “What do you read?” we quote from one another; and then a passage of Scripture is handed down misquoted, by a kind of tradition, from father to son, and passes as current among a great number of Christians. How very frequently in our Churches do we hear some describing heaven as a place of which we cannot conceive! They say, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;” quoting from 1 Corinthians 2:9 (as we read earlier in the service) and there they stop, not seeing that the very heart of the whole passage lies in the next verse—”But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:10
So that the joys of heaven (if this passage alludes to heaven, which, I take it, is not quite so clear as some would suppose), are, after all, not things of which we cannot conceive; for “God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.”—1 Corinthians 2:10.
I have hinted that this passage is most commonly applied to heaven, and I shall myself also so apply it in some measure today. But any one who reads the connecting passages will discover that the apostle is not talking about heaven at all. Paul is only speaking of this—that the wisdom of this world is not able to discover the things of God—that the merely carnal mind is not able to know the deep spiritual things of our most holy faith. He says, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,
even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world
unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
And then he goes on in verse 14 to say, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I take it, that this text is a great general fact, capable of specific application to certain cases; and that the fact is this—that the things of God cannot be perceived by eye, and ear, and heart, but must be revealed by the Spirit of God; as they are unto all true believers.
I shall take that thought, and endeavour to expand it today, explaining it concerning HEAVEN, as well as regards other heavenly matters.
So then … Heaven, what is it? First, what is it not? It is not a heaven of the SENSES—”Eye hath not seen it.” What wonderful things our eyes have seen! We have seen the procession of Royalty and nobility; our eyes have been feasted with the display of glittering uniforms, of lavished gold and jewels, of chariots and of horses . By night we have turned our eye up to the sky, and we have seen the stars—those golden-fleeced sheep of God, feeding on the blue meadow of the sky,
and some have said,
“those are the nails in the floor of heaven” and if this earth has such a glorious covering, what must that of the kingdom of heaven be? And when our eye has wandered from star to star, we have thought, “Now we can tell what heaven is like, by the beauty of its floor.” A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be?”
But it is all a mistake. All that we can see can never help us to understand heaven. At other times we have seen some glorious landscape; we have seen the river winding among the hills like a stream of silver, covered on either side with emerald fields; we have seen the mountain towering into the sky, the mist rising on it, or the golden sunrise covering all the east with glory; or we have seen the west, again, reddened with the light of the sun as it set; and we have said, “Surely, these grandeurs must be something like heaven; we have clapped our hands, and exclaimed with the Hymn writer—
“Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
Stand dressed in living green.”
We have imagined that there really were fields in heaven, and that these things of earth were patterns of things in heaven. But it was all a mistake; remember —”Eye hath not seen” it.
Equally our text asserts that “the ear hath not heard” it. Have we not on occasion on Sundays sometimes heard the sincere voice of the messenger of God, when he has by the Holy Spirits unction, spoken to our souls! We know something of heaven then, some of us have known what it was to sit and weep, under the power of some mighty man who played with us as skilfully as David could have played on his harp; and we have said, “How sweet to hear those sounds! how glorious his eloquence! how wonderful the power of oratory! But the ear is not the medium by which you can guess anything of heaven. The “ear hath not heard” it! At other times perhaps you have heard great music; and has not the best music poured from the lungs of men and women—that finest instrument in the world—or from some harmonious Choir, and we have thought, “Oh! how wonderful this is!” and felt, “This is what John meant in the Revelation—’I heard a voice like many waters, and like exceeding great thunders, and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps;’ and this must be something like heaven, something like the hallelujahs of the glorified.” But we have made yet another mistake, for “Ear hath not heard” it.
Here has been the very ground of that error into which many people have fallen concerning heaven. They have said that they would like to go to heaven, for this reason: they looked upon it as a place where they would be free from bodily pain, disease and sickness. They should not have a head-ache or the tooth-ache there, nor any of those diseases which the flesh is prone to, and whenever in this life God laid his hand upon them in discipline or correction, they began to wish themselves in heaven, because they regarded it as a heaven of the senses and a heaven which the eye hath seen and the ear has heard. A great mistake; for although we will have a body free from pain, Heaven is not a heaven where our senses shall indulge themselves. Heaven is not a place for the delight of mere sense; we shall be raised not a sensual body, but a spiritual body. We can get no conceptions of heaven through the senses; they must always come through the Spirit.
Consider also, that it is not a heaven of the IMAGINATION. Poets and hymn-writers have too often let their imaginations run riot, when they have been speaking of heaven. When we have read them, we say, “And is that heaven? Oh I wish I was there.” And we think we have some idea of heaven by reading books of Hymns or Poetry. Perhaps the preacher too at times, delivers a flight of fancy, and builds you up in a moment by his words of charming Ivory Palaces, the tops of which are covered with gold. He pictures to you lights brighter than the sun; and a place where spirits flap their bright wings? He tells you of fields where you may feed on heavenly manna, where no weeds grow and where sweet flowers cover the meadows. And then you think you have some idea of heaven: but he has only worked on your imagination! And do you know, there is not a greater power on earth than the human imagination. A man who has no imagination – cannot move the multitude. If you were to take away my imagination I might die. And while it is true that it’s a little heaven below, to imagine sweet and beautiful things; yet never think that your imagination can picture heaven!
When imagination is at its most sublime, when it is freest from the influences of earth, when it is inspired by the greatest knowledge, and kept steady by the most extreme caution, the imagination still cannot picture heaven. “It hath not entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Hallelujah! Imagination is good, but not to picture heaven. Your imaginary heaven you will find when you get there, to be all a mistake! Though you may have piled up fine castles, you will find them to be castles in the air, and they will vanish like a puff of smoke. For imagination cannot make a heaven. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive it.”
My next point is, that it is not a heaven of the INTELLECT. Men who take to themselves the title of intelligent, and who call themselves philosophers, generally describe heaven as a place where we will know all things; and their grandest idea of heaven is, that they shall discover all of life’s secrets there. The rock which would not tell its origin shall bubble forth its history; there the star which would not tell its date, shall at once unravel all its secrets; there the animal, the breed of which could scarcely be guessed at, so long had it been buried amongst other fossils in the earth, shall start up again, and it shall be seen of what form or shape it really was: there the rocky secrets of this our earth which they never could discover will be opened to them; and they shall conceive that they shall travel from one star to another star, from planet to planet, and fill their presently restricted intellect, with all kinds of human knowledge. They reckon that heaven will be to understand the works of the Creator: Man will drink at the fountain of knowledge, and have all his mistakes rectified, and his doubts cleared up.
But I do not believe anything of the kind.
“It hath not entered into the heart of man.” It is only the Spirit that can give you and me a glimpse of heavens glories!
So then, What is Heaven like?
Our text from 1 Corinthians, 2:10 says “He hath revealed it unto us by his Spirit.” I take this to mean, that it was revealed unto the apostles by the Spirit, so that they wrote something of it in the Holy Word; but as most believe that, we will only hint at it, and pass on. I think also that it refers to every believer, and that every believer does have glimpses of heaven below, and that God does reveal Heaven to him, while here on earth, so that he understands what heaven is, in some measure. First of all, we think a Christian gets sight of what heaven is, when in the midst of trials and troubles he is able to cast all his care upon the Lord, because he knows that he cares for him. When the waves of distress, and billows of affliction pass over the Christian, there are times when his faith and spiritual rest are so strong that he lies down and sleeps. Though the hurricane is thundering in his ears, and though the billows are rocking him like a child in its cradle, though the earth is removed, and the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea, he can say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Famine or Material Hardship come his way; but he confidently says, “Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall there be fruit on the vine, though the labour of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no increase, yet will I trust in the Lord, and stay myself on the God of Jacob.” (Habakkuk 3:17) Affliction
smites him to the ground; he looks up, and says, “Though he
slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Persecution surrounds him;
but he is unmoved. Heaven is something like that …
a place of holy calm and trust!
But there is another season in which the Christian has heaven revealed to him; and that is, the season of quiet meditation and Prayer . These are precious hours, (thank God), when we can forget the world—times and seasons when we can get away from it, when our weary spirit flies far away, far from the scenes of work and trouble. These are precious moments when the angel of contemplation and meditation gives us a vision. He comes and puts his finger on the lip of the noisy world; he bids the alarms that are constantly ringing in our ears to be still; and we sit down, and there is a solemn silence of the mind. There, we can find our heaven and our God; … we can engage ourselves in contemplating the glories of Jesus, or mounting upwards towards the bliss of heaven—in going back to the great truths of Gods love, in considering the permanency of the new covenant, in remembering our own part in that life which cometh from God, in thinking of our blood-bought union with the Lamb, of the coming consummation of our marriage with him in realms
of light and bliss, … or any such related topics.
It is in this place that we glimpse a little about heaven, and sometimes think we have been at its very gate?
But … then there are those seasons in Prayer when it seems we go through the gate, times when the Spirit positively crosses the Jordan and dwells with Christ, holds fellowship with angels, and talks with spirits—gets up there with Jesus, clasps him in his arms, and cries, “My beloved is mine, and I am his; I will hold him, and will not let him go.” I know what it is at times to lay my weary head on the bosom of Christ with something more than faith—actually and positively to get hold of him; not only to take him by faith, but literally to feed and focus on him; to feel a vital union with him, to grasp his arm, and feel his very
pulse beating… for me, this is heaven, this is bliss.
“He hath revealed it unto us by his Spirit.”
And let not the Christian, who says he has very little of this joyful experience be discouraged. Do not think you cannot have heaven revealed to you by the Spirit; I tell you, you can, if you are one of the Lord’s own? Just learn the secret of making
time for God and spending time with God.
Then, if there is one season in which the soul gets into closer communion with Christ than another, it is at the Lord’s table. How often have we sang these words …
“Can I Gethsemane forget? Or there thy conflicts see,
Thine agony and bloody sweat, And not remember thee?
Remember thee and all thy pains, And all thy love to me,—
Yes, while a pulse, or breath remains, I will remember thee.”
And then you see what an easy transition it is to heaven:—
“And when these failing lips grow dumb, And thought and memory flee;
When thou shalt in thy kingdom come, Jesus, remember me.”
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
As a boy, I thought of heaven as a city with domes, spires, and beautiful streets, inhabited by angels. As time passed by my Grandfather and Grandmother died, and I thought of heaven much as before, but with some inhabitants that I knew. Then another Grandmother died, and then some of my neighbours, so in time I began to think of heaven as containing several people that I knew. But it was not long until one of my very close friends died that I began to think I had a treasure in heaven myself. Afterward another went, and yet another. Then my Father died, and by that time I had so many friends and family in heaven that I no more thought of it as a city merely with streets of gold, but as a place full of my friends . Now my dear Mother is there too, and there are so many loved ones there I sometimes think I know more people in heaven than I do on earth…. and yet, though millions have come, there is still room for one, there is still room in heaven for you.
And like the hymn writer, there is one thing of which I am sure:
“There shall we see, and hear, and know
All we desired or wished below,
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy.”
Till that time we can only have these things revealed to us by the Spirit; and we will seek more of that, each day we live.