The belief that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history.

The belief that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured the afterlife as a distant land beyond the western horizon. The early Finns pictured it as an island in the distant east. Peruvians and Polynesians believed they went to the sun or the moon after they die. Native Americans thought they would hunt the spirits of buffalo.

An ancient Babylonian legend refers to a resting place and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, maps were placed beside the embalmed bodies as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that those who were righteous would picnic in the Elysian Fields while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “The day you fear as the last is the birthday of eternity.”

Although these conceptions differ in many ways, the unifying factor between them is a belief that life after death is possible. Anthropological studies suggest that in every culture throughout history there has been a belief that this world is not all there is. It was not until the closing days of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ that the dream of and the desire for a meaningful afterlife became more than just a dream and desire.

Jesus, when He knew His crucifixion would soon take place, told His disciples that He was going to leave them. When they heard this, they became deeply troubled. It was at this point that He said to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. 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 NIV).

What a fantastic promise!

To every person who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord He makes the possibility of eternal life more than the expression of a dream or an aspiration. According to Jesus, who defeated death by rising from the grave, heaven is a real place. It is not a product of religious imagination, or the result of a psyched-up mentality, looking for “pie in the sky in the by and by.” Heaven is the place where God dwells and where Christ today sits at the right hand of the Father.

Heaven is described in the New Testament as a kingdom (2 Peter 1:11), as an inheritance (I Peter 1:4), as a country (Hebrews 11:16), as a city (Hebrews 11:16), and as a home (John 14:2). Jesus referred to heaven as “My Father’s house.” It is also “home” for all of God’s children. The Greek word that is translated “mansions” in John 14:2 and “abode” in John 14:23 simply means “rooms, abiding places.”

Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3) during His early years on the earth, and now He has returned to glory. He is building His church on the earth and a home for that church in heaven. He promises to return to the earth at a time of God’s choosing. Some redeemed believers will go to heaven through “the valley of the shadow of death,” but those who are alive when Christ returns will never see death (John 11:25-26).

When the apostle John tried to describe heaven, he almost ran out of symbols and comparisons (see Revelation 21-22). Finally, he listed the things that will not be in heaven: death, sorrow, crying, pain, night, etc. What a wonderful home it will be — and those who are redeemed will enjoy it forever along with their loved ones and others who throughout Christian history have already gone to heaven.

Do you have a room reserved in the “Father’s House?” If not, I suggest that you go to a hill called Calvary, repent of your sins, lay them down, accept Christ as your Savior, turn right, and keep straight ahead.

Del Parkerson is a retired pastor of First Baptist Church. Contact him at dparkerson@ec.rr.com.