What Must We Do To Prepare For Eternity?

Gary Combs ·
May 19, 2024 · eternity, heaven · John 6:25-40 · Notes


What must we do to prepare for what comes after death? How can we prepare for the ultimate journey? It’s a journey that most of us don’t want to think about, but it’s a journey that everyone must take.

Trips take a lot of preparation, some more than others. But how much more must we prepare for the trip that everyone will face one day… the trip to our eternal home! In the gospel of John chapter 6, Jesus told His hearers what they must do to be prepared for eternity.


Good morning, church. We're concluding our series today on Heaven. We've gone through six weeks together on this series that we've entitled, "Heaven,  It's Better Than You Ever Imagined." And today's sermon is entitled, "What Must We Do To Prepare For Eternity?"

What must we do to prepare? And as we look back over the last six Sundays, the last six messages, we've been asking questions of God's word about eternity, about Heaven, and about the new earth and the new heaven. We've been asking these questions. We began the series by asking the question, "Why focus on heaven?" Why are we even doing this?

And we found in the book of Colossians that we were instructed that we're to seek things above, not things of this earth, and that we're to set our hearts and our minds on things above. And so we're instructed by God's word that we are supposed to imagine heaven. We're supposed to think on it and set our minds on it. And then we ask the question, "What's heaven like?" And what we had in mind on this particular sermon is, "What's the present heaven like?"

Because as we've learned from God's word, we must differentiate between the present heaven, which is the place where the Father is at, where Jesus the Son is at the right hand of the Father, where the heavenly host and where the saints that have gone on before us are presently in the present heaven. So this particular sermon, "What's heaven like?"  We were really asking, "What's the present heaven like?" And the answer that we found in scripture is that, first of all, we'll be with Christ.

That's what it's like. We will be with Christ. Second of all, we will be conscious. We will know who we are. We will be conscious.

Third, we realized that we would be actively engaged, that it won't be boring, as some suggest, that we'll have things to do, activity, and that we also, finally, would be eagerly awaiting, that we would be looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth, so that even in the present heaven, we will be waiting for the consummation of all things. And so we were clarifying that in that sermon. The next question we asked was, "Will we know one another in heaven?"

A lot of people had that question, and I believe, yes, we will know ourselves, we will know others, and certainly we will know Jesus, and we'll be known by Him. And so, yes, the scripture teaches that we will know one another. We ask the question, "What about heavenly rewards?" Should we care about heavenly rewards. And the apostle Paul actually answers this question.

He says we should take care how we build upon the foundation of our salvation so that we have a mind or a goal of our heavenly reward, that we're to think on these things. Last week, we asked the question, "What's our eternal home going to be like?"  And what we were talking about there is not the present heaven, but the consummation of all things, which is the new heavens and the new earth and the new you. We talked about that last week.

And so let me just pop up a chart really quick to kind of summarize what we've been talking about. And one of the beautiful things about scripture is that God starts His story with two chapters and ends His story with two chapters and you can kind of see the arc of human history and what God has planned for man. And so at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, we find that God was with man, that there was no differentiation between heaven and earth, that God walked in the cool of the evening and talked to Adam and Eve, that he said, creation is good. It was unaffected by sin. At this point, everything about creation was good.

And then finally, there was no sin or death. That's the reality of paradise, of this time in the Garden of Eden. But then, because of man's sin in Genesis 3, all the way from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, we have the story that we're living today in the present. And now there's a division between heaven and earth. And the present heaven is removed from us because there can be no sin there and no death there.

But we live and a planet of sin and death. And so even creation groans. So in Romans chapter eight, we read that Paul writes that creation itself groans because it awaits its resurrection. So it's not just us, but all of the animal kingdom and all of the heavenlies and all of earth groans, awaiting for that consummation. And we live in a time of sin and death.

But in the last two chapters, which is where we were last week, we recognize that God's bringing it all to an end and that he will once again dwell with mankind. There will be no separation between heaven and earth, that the creation will be perfect. It'll be even better than good. It'll be the best ever. And you could say that what's our current condition in Jesus is good.

But Paul says it's better by far to be with the Lord. So to be in the present heaven is better, but to be in the final new heaven and new earth is best. And that's where we're headed, and sin and death will be no more. I hope that's helpful. I've had several of you talk to me and thank me as we were just talking about how many of us have confused the present heaven and the features of the new heavens and the new earth and kind of pushed them together.

But one describes this and another describes that. So it's kind of good. It's kind of good for us to get clarification. The Bible says way more about eternity than we realize, and that's what we've been unpacking together. And now this final sermon.

"What must I do to prepare for eternity?"  We've been talking about it. How do we get ready, people? Get ready. Jesus is coming.

That's a song that maybe many of you know. How do we prepare? And another way we might say this is how do we get ready to face death? Because this body must die. It's not fit for heaven.

Aren't you glad you came to church today? Like, I didn't know we were having a funeral service. But no, we're not. That's the only time I've had several of you say, you know, the only time I ever hear the preacher talk about heaven is at a funeral. And so that shouldn't be that way.

We should be people that talk about heaven and understand what the Bible says about heaven. You know, the people that we baptized this morning, one of the reasons that we do baptism by immersion is we believe that the old life has died. The old sinful life has died and buried with Christ, and the new life is risen in Christ. And so the picture of baptism is the very picture that we're talking about here. And so we're asking this question.

We don't like to think about it, but the book of Hebrews tells us, Hebrews 9:27 (KJV) "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment appointed unto men once to die, and after that, the judgment."  So death has a perfect batting average. All of us will face this one day. So why not prepare for death? Why not get ready?

If I'm taking a journey to the store to buy something, I have to go somewhat prepared. I don't have to get that prepared, but I have to make sure I have my wallet, my car keys, and because I'm who I am, I don't just go shopping. Now, some of you, like my wife, she goes in, she has an idea. She wants a thing, but she likes to look on every aisle to see if there might be some other things she might want, like that, but not me. So, like, if I'm going to go to Lowe's, and I need to buy a thing, a certain thing, before I go, I go online and find out what aisle and what bay it's in, partly because I could bump into one of you people and you'll start talking to me and I'll forget why I was there. But mainly because I'm not going to Lowe's for Lowe's. I'm going to Lowe's to get that thing, whatever that thing is. And that's just the way I roll. So I have to prepare a little bit, so I have to have my wallet, I have to get my keys.

I have to get there. And then I prepare where I'm going to go when I get there and what I'm going to buy, and that's all I'll buy. I just buy that thing and then I leave. That's the way I do things. Maybe you do it differently, but you probably prepared, too.

Now, preparing for the store didn't take much. That's a small preparation. But I've been on several mission trips, and I've actually led some mission trips. I've led trips to Israel. I've led trips to Uganda, to Guatemala, to Indonesia.

Now, some of those take a little bit more work. You got to get a passport, right? You really got to start a year in advance and start talking to the partners that you're going to be working with before you get there and see what they need. And then you start building a team. You got to train your team.

You got to, like, if we go to Uganda, what kind of medications and what kind of physical preparation do you need to make? And you find out, well, you got to get a shot for yellow fever and a shot for dengue fever and things. Kind of fevers I never heard of. And then you got to take medicine for malaria and all this that you got to carry with you, and you got to do these things to get ready. And then you got to make sure you pack not just your clothes that you need for a two week trip or whatever, but you got to pack your ministry tools and all these.

And then you got to train your team. And you haven't even got on the plane yet. You've been working for almost a year preparing. It's important to work on these things in preparation. How much more would it be important to prepare for eternity?

Because we're all going on that trip, every one of us. We're all going on that trip. I tell you, I still remember my first trip to Uganda. I thought I had figured it all out. I mean, I had gone through every detail.

But there was this one little detail that I just didn't buy into. And it was. I had in my mind that the part of Uganda that, you know, it would be like the Savannah, you know, like where there are elephants and giraffes and lions, and it would be hot. And I was wrong. We were in this volcanic mountain region where the mountain gorillas live.

And it gets really cool in the evening. Now, they told us that. I just didn't buy it. And so my first trip there, the first night, I'm like, like that. And I was like, man, here we are.

We're here in June, and I'm freezing to death. Fortunately, somebody on the trip with us had an extra jacket, which I wore the whole trip. I was there. So even when you think you're prepared, you might have forgotten something. You see, going on a mission trip, going to a foreign country, it takes a certain amount of preparation.

But going to heaven, how much thought have you given to that? Are you prepared for eternity? That's what we're talking about today. We're in the book of John, chapter six. And in the book of John, chapter six, we see Jesus describing what we must do in order to be prepared for eternity.

And as we look at the text, I believe we can be prepared. We'll see, I think as we unpack the text together, we'll see three important details for our preparation. So let's read, and then we'll unpack it.  John 6:25-40 (ESV) 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

This is God's word. We're looking for three important details about what we must do to prepare for heaven. Here's the first:

1. Come to Jesus for Kingdom entry.

Come to Jesus for kingdom entry. Come to Jesus for kingdom entry. The first important detail is you need a passport. Need a passport to eternity.

And Jesus is that passport. As we read in chapter six, we find ourselves in the context. It's the day after Jesus has fed, miraculously fed the 5000. He fed them with five loaves and two fishes. You remember the well known story.

He has fed them this bread and these fishes miraculously, to the point that He even asked the disciples to gather the leftovers. And there were twelve baskets full of leftovers. It was a miraculous event. And the people in the crowd there were looking for Jesus again. And so that's how this story begins.

Our reading today begins. They had seen the boat pull out and they saw the disciples leave, perhaps, but they didn't see Jesus. And the reason is Jesus went up on a mountain to pray and that night walked on the water and got to the boat. So when they got there, they were like, Rabbi, when did You come here? Because they heard He was in Capernaum.

But they couldn't figure out how He got there, so they found Him. But their question was, when did You come here? But Jesus just skips over that question. He doesn't answer that question. He actually addresses something else that He talks to them about.

And he says, you didn't really come looking for me. You came for free food. Did you see that? He said in John 6:26
ESV, Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." That's the Gospel of John's way of describing a miracle.

He doesn't call miracles signs. He tells us seven signs in His gospel. And the thing about a sign is a sign doesn't point to itself. That's why he calls the miracles of Jesus signs, because they point to the miracle worker. Like, if you're on 301 and you see a sign pointing towards Elm City, you don't pull over and park at the sign and go, I'm here.

You don't park at the sign that says Elm City and think you're at Elm City. No, you follow the sign to the destination. Signs point to a destination, not to themselves. And the miracles of Jesus were not to be pursued. You don't go looking for the miracle.

You go looking for the miracle worker. He says that you didn't come here. You didn't really come here looking for me. You came because I gave you free food. And the food I gave you is the kind of food that perishes.

He says, it's the kind of food that you eat it and then you need more of it. The next day he goes, I'm trying to tell you something, that if you would come to me, if you'd really come to me, you would enter into eternal life and you'd have the kind of spiritual food that would satisfy you forever. He says, if you didn't really come to me. This is what he's talking to them about. He says, instead, you've been seeking after food that perishes.

It reminds me of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. He says, Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV) 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."

He says, 'look, you've been concerned about the things of this life, but trust the Lord for those things instead. Lay up treasure in heaven. Come to me.'

And then He says something down in verse 35 as He keeps describing to them this reality. He says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger again." I'm the true bread.

I'm the bread of life. This is one of the seven "I am" statements in the book in the Gospel of John. I told you, John likes sevens. He's got seven signs. He's got seven "I am" statements.

Why am I saying they're called "I am" statements? Because they're very profound to a Jewish hearer. Do you remember whenever Moses encountered God at the burning bush? He asks,'What name should I call you by? We've been calling you the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'

But what is your name. You want me to go tell your people that they're to be set free to deliver them? I don't even know your name. And He says, "I AM that I AM."

Tell Israel "I AM" sent you. Which in the Hebrew is "Yahweh."  Yahweh means "I AM"  not I am not or  I was not or I will be.

But I am the self existent one, eternally present outside of time. "I AM" sent you. Make no mistake, when Jesus said this, the Hebrew ears rang. They knew what He was talking about. In fact, in the Greek, it literally is Jesus saying, "I am the bread of life." It's called the emphatic use of I. He doubles down on the I because He says "I AM that I AM." So it sort of stands alone in his speaking.

He's saying. He's claiming, 'I am God. I'm the son of God. I'm the source of life. You wouldn't be exist if it weren't for Me. You wouldn't draw the next breath if it weren't for Me. I am life itself and you come to Me for free food.' Now I don't know why you came to church today. I can't judge your heart.

I don't know if you came today because you heard we have free coffee and you might. I doubt that you did. It's pretty good coffee, but you can get better. We do offer cup holders. Not many churches have that.

It's not the free coffee. We like the fact that this church used to be a movie theater and you have cupholders. That's why we come to that church. Well, then you would be like those in the crowd. You wouldn't be coming to Jesus for Jesus.

You'd be coming to Jesus for the coffee and the cup holders or for whatever it is that you think is your need. You're not really coming to Jesus, but you're coming because you  need this or I need this, or I need this. And yes, you can come to Jesus for those things, but until you come to Jesus for Jesus, you haven't really come to Jesus. Until you come to Jesus for Jesus, you haven't really come to Jesus. And He is the entry, the only entry, the only way.

In fact, He invites us to come to Him. He says, in Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV) 28 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Spiritual rest. I will satisfy your hunger. I'm the true bread. Notice in verse 27, he says, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

The seal of the Father is upon me. In other words, 'I'm the genuine article. The seal of authenticity, of approval, is upon me.'

Remember at Jesus' baptism when He was raised up from the water? It says that there was a voice that spoke from  heaven, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." And the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove. The seal of approval is on me.

He sent me. I am the bread of life, the bread from heaven, and I will satisfy your hunger. According to C.S, Lewis, he says this, and this is such perfect logic. He says, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” And we are. And so we are.

And there is a desire deep within us for something other that this world does not offer. Or as the french philosopher and mathematician Pascal was quoted as saying, "There's a God-shaped vacuum in the soul of every man that can only be filled by the person of Jesus Christ." There's a hole in our soul that only Jesus can feel. Jesus says that He's the narrow door. He's the narrow gate.

In Luke 13:23-29 (ESV) 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.

It's a narrow gate, this passport. You can't get this passport just anywhere.

You can only get it through Jesus. He's the gate.

He says, in John 10:7 (ESV) So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep."

I'm the gate. There's no other. I'm the only way. Now, I told you, you have to have a passport to travel internationally. Some of you have passports.

I'm on my fourth passport now. They last ten years, and then you have to renew them. I remember when I was going for my first passport, I had to go to the library. There was no internet then, kids. And so I went to the library and did research on 'how do you get a passport?'

I didn't  know how to get a passport. And so I found out, well, there's this list of requirements, and one of them is you have to have a proof of citizenship. And so for someone born in the United States, that's called a birth certificate. And so I had this birth certificate that my mom gave me. I remember she put me in elementary school with this birth certificate.

She enrolled me in little league with this birth certificate. She got me into high school, I carried it and went to college on this birth certificate. But then when I read the fine print of getting a passport, it said it has to be an original birth certificate with an embossed seal. And an embossed seal's got, like, you rub your hand over it, you can feel it, it's like, got this stamp, like a notary. And so I looked at mine, and it didn't have that.

And so I grew up in Virginia. So I wrote a letter to the state of Virginia asking for my birth certificate, and they said, we never heard of you. I got a problem. So I was asking mom about it. She goes, "Gary Wayne, you were born in Tennessee."

I said, "Oh, that's right, I forgot." I was born in Bristol. Main street in Bristol is called "State Street;" on this side is Tennessee, on the other side is Virginia, and the hospital where I was born, Bristol Memorial, was on the Tennessee side. And I said, "I forgot, mom. I only lived there for three days, you know."

And so I sent a letter to the state of Tennessee, and sure enough, I got a birth certificate with an embossed seal, and got my first passport. It took preparation, it took some investigation, it took some effort to get a passport to go on my first mission trip. Why would we think that we could just stumble into eternity and hope for the best? You have to have a passport, and you have to have a birth certificate. You must be born again.

You must be born again, spiritually believing in Jesus. You come to Jesus not for what He can do for you, but for Himself, because He is your passport. 'Got Jesus?' (It's not good English) 'Got life.'

'Don't got Jesus?' 'Don't got life.' He is life. He is the bread of life. If you come to Jesus, you have kingdom entry.  This is the first important detail of preparation.

Here's the second important detail:

2. Believe in Jesus for Kingdom life.

Believe in Jesus for kingdom life. Believe in Jesus for kingdom life. When does eternal life begin? At the very moment you come to Jesus.

You don't have to wait till after death. You know, life after death to begin eternal life. No, it starts right now. An eternal life is which is what Jesus promises. To who?

To all who believe. The word,  "believe," in the reading that we've got today from John 6 is in there five times. The word, "believe," is in there five times. It's the most important word in this passage.

In fact, it's the most important word in the entire gospel of John. He says that he wrote the book so that we might believe. The purpose of the gospel of John is that we might believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of the world, the Messiah, that He is the only way, and He's the only eternal life. And so five times, verse 29, verse 30, verse 35, verse 36 and verse 40.

It's in there five times. And what do you get if you believe in Jesus eternal life? Now, this believing is not belief. It's not to have beliefs about Jesus. You can know about Jesus and not know Jesus.

This belief is not a belief. It's a believing. It's a trusting, it's a commitment, it's a competence in. It's a faith into. It's a verb, not a passive noun.

It means you're staking your life on it. I'm committing my life to Him. This word, "believe," means to place my utmost confidence into. And then what is this eternal life? It's not just quantity.

It certainly is quantity. It's everlasting that the one who believes in Jesus will live forever. That's true, but it's also quality. The Greek word is "zoe."  If your name is Zoe, there's several Greek words for life, bios and others.

But this particular one is always the one that Jesus uses. And He speaks not just of quantity eternal, but of quality. And the word, "zoe,"  implies this. And He says it even better in another place, in John 10:10 (ESV) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

And so this kind of abundant life that Jesus is talking about is not just its quantity, but its quality. And so this quality of life is full and overflowing without measure. It's your best life now. It's your best life forever.

Because why? He's the bread of life. He's the source of life, any true life. He's the true bread. He says in this Bible, 'If 'If you want true life, abundant life, you can only get it from Jesus.' And He's the one who comes down from heaven. He's the bread of life. Come down from heaven. When they heard this, when the crowd heard this, some of them understood more than others.

Some were still thinking, He's going to give us bread so we never get hungry again. And they thought He meant, like, wonder bread, some kind of bread. You just eat it and it just keeps feeding you. But He was taught, He was using physical language to teach us spiritual things, just like he did with Nicodemus in John 3:3-5, Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus says, John 3:4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” John 3:10,  Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

You have to be spiritually born again. You need to be born again spiritually.

And so He's using that kind of language here, and He promises this kind of quality of life that we're to draw on. The apostle Paul talks about this in Philippians 3:13-21 (ESV) 13" … one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

Listen, Christian, we should draw on his life knowing where we're headed. So we begin to live heavenly lives now, drawing on the bread of heaven now so that we live the abundant life now. One of the people that I've looked up to in the last twenty years or so as an author, and also because I got to spend some time one on one with him at a conference some years ago, is Dallas Willard. He's graduated to heaven now. But I've read a lot of his books and a lot of you have read, "Renovation of the Heart"  and others that I've quoted to you in the past. I've thought highly of brother Dallas Willard.

When a student would come up to him, a believer would come up to him and say, "Why are we here, Dr. Willard? What's our purpose as believers on planet earth? I mean, why are we here?"  And he would say to them, "We are training for reigning." We are in training for reigning.

In other words, he just took so literally that word from the book of Revelation, which says, Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV) “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

And so our destination is not just the present heaven. That's like the temporary heaven that where God is now. And if we were to pass away today and graduate to heaven, that's where we would be.

But even there, we would be awaiting the resurrection of the bodies and of the new body, the new heaven and the new earth, where we will reign as co-heirs with Jesus. And Dallas Willard would tell people this, and he would say that we should start looking at heaven or looking at our life now on earth as preparation for heaven, that we're "in training for reigning." And so if you're in training for raining, if you're thinking like that, Dallas goes on to say, and I'm quoting much of this from a book that's entitled, "Preparing for Heaven: What Dallas Willard Taught Me About Living, Dying, and Eternal Life" by Dr. Gary Black, Jr.,

And so if you are a reader like I am, I've read about twenty some books, including, most importantly, the Bible, in preparation for this series. But this book, "Preparing for Heaven," has really touched my heart as Dr. Black spent the final moments with Dallas Willard when he lay dying in a hospital bed, and he got to record his final words.

But he had this idea, Dallas Willard had this idea that many Christians are mistakenly thinking that when they die, they go through, like, a "cosmic car wash" and they immediately are perfected in every way. Now, the Bible does say that we will be perfect, there will be no sin in heaven. And so he understands that, but Willard says, “we enter heaven perfect, meaning without sin, but we are not complete. We are not finished, nor is God finished with us"

He is not sure that we will all be completely matured instantaneously, like, we'll be sinless, there'll be no sin because the flesh is now gone and we will be pure in that sense. But there might still be some "growing pains" for us. And what made me really think about this more is I have a grandson in heaven.

His name is Conner, and if he follows earthly years right now, he's twelve years old. I say that because I think it would be weird for Conner to arrive in heaven as a baby, because he died as an infant and to instantly be a thirty year old man. Why do you say thirty, Gary? Well, because many theologians say that since we're going to get a body just like Jesus, that Jesus was around 30, and that maybe that would be the fully mature, maybe it's twenty-five or thirty but that we would be, this resurrection body would be a fully mature one, male or female. It would be fully mature at its very, very best.

It would be kind of weird if Conner showed up and became a thirty year old man. He didn't get to experience growing. And so when I sit and talk to my son Stephen, whose son, Conner, is in heaven, we imagine, and I'm standing farther from the Bible now, because I don't know. I do know what David said in the book of 1 Samuel when he lost his son. He said, "He shall not come to me, but I shall go to him."

I know that. I believe Jesus said, "Suffer  the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven." So I believe Conner is there, but I don't think he's thirty in human years. I think he's growing up around the saints and around Jesus, and he doesn't have flesh to inhibit his growth. He's growing faster.

He's more mature probably at twelve spiritually than any of us, because he doesn't have any sin to hold him back. But I think there's still, I think there's still learning in heaven. In fact, I think for eternity we will still be unfolding the mysteries of God, because He's infinite. We'll never know everything.

A lot of us think it's going to be like the movie, "Matrix." They plug this thing in the back of your head and you instantly know everything. No, I think we'll spend eternity learning and growing and maturing. And so I think it would be better for us if we go ahead and start practicing now and drawing on the life of Jesus now, so that we're packing our bags and preparing ourselves for the journey to eternity.  I have to agree with Dallas Willard here. I don't think there's a "cosmic car wash" that just makes you perfect on arrival.

In fact, for some of us, we might have to go through a "cosmic body shop" because we arrive, as Paul says, in another place, as those who lost all the works that we did in this life. And we got to heaven as one passing through the fire. We read that just a couple weeks ago, if you'll recall. Let us prepare for heaven. Let us get ready for heaven.

Let us be ready when we get there. Okay? So I've got my passport now. I've got Jesus, so now I can live like I want to. No. No.

I've got my passport. I've got Jesus now. I'm going to live my life having fully surrendered to Him. And so I'm preparing myself for eternity by drawing on His life now.

Which leads us to the third detail, we've said, "Come to Jesus." "Believe in Jesus."  Finally:

3. Look to Jesus for Kingdom hope.

Look to Jesus. Do you see it in verse 40? That's where we're at now.

We're in verse 40. What does he say here in verse 40? "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

"For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son..." look to Jesus. Be ready. This is your hope.

You want to know what your hope is? Hope is a person. His name is Jesus. Look to Jesus. This word, "look," in the Greek has the idea.

There are several words for "see" or "look" in the Greek. This one has to examine and to understand and to know. It could be to know Jesus. It could have been translated "to know." It can include the eyes of thinking that thought.

And so, "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son..." could have been translated like that. Looks is a good translation. Translation, however, look to Jesus for kingdom hope. Are you looking for Jesus?

Do you believe He's returning? The scripture over and over again, tells us He's coming soon. He'll come like a thief in the night when people aren't ready. But the people of God should be ready. We should be prepared, and we should be ready.

I've said before, be all right with me if He shows up on a Sunday morning while I'm up here preaching the Good News, we all just jump up. I don't know if I'm facing east right now. I'd have to get a compass out right now. But I've already bought my grave plot, and I asked the lady which way was east. Nobody's ever asked her  that question before.

She asked me, "Why do you want to know that?" I said to her, "Because when I pop up, I want to make sure I'm facing where Jesus is at. Because He's coming from the east, it says in the scripture. And I don't want to miss His arrival." Are you looking for Him to come again?

Because that's how we finish up here. Jesus says, in verse 40, "For this is the will of my Father..." Do you want to know God's will for your life? I have. We have seven graduates in our church right now graduating from high school. We have a big class from our youth group graduating from high school.

And you know what? Kids that age, they'll often come to me. Maybe they've never come to me before, but they'll come and ask, "Pastor Gary, would you pray for me? I just want to know what God's will for my life is. Well, what college should I go to? Should I go to college? Who should I be looking for for a spouse?" Because that's like the two biggies, right?

Like, when you're that age, you're like, okay, what am I going to do with my life and who am I going to do it with? You know, like that. And so. And God's word gives you a lot of direction, a lot of principles about that, but it won't let you know in detail. You can't pull out  a certain verse that says, 'thou shalt go to NC State.'

You can't find it. 'Thou shall not go to Chapel Hill.' You can't find. You can't find that anywhere, right?

But you can find principles about what to do with your life. But people want to know. But if you really want to know God's will, here's Jesus speaking. He says, in verse 40, "For this is the will of my Father..."

Okay? So time out. What's the will of God? Jesus is about to tell us. Here's the will of God.

Here it is, continuing with verse 40, "...that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life..." Do you want to know God's will for you? Here it is. Every one of you that looks on the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.

You're going to spend eternity with God. That's His will for you. But not only that, Jesus nails it down with a greater detail, as verse 40 continues, "...and I will raise him up on the last day.”

You get a new body. You see, you're not, as we've been talking these past few weeks, you're not living out a toilet tissue commercial like Angel Soft, where you're floating on a cloud in heaven playing a harp and you have a little halo ring, little fat angels flopping around with their wings around you.

That's an Angel Soft toilet tissue commercial. That's not heaven. In fact, Jesus is even talking past present heaven. He's talking all the way to the new heavens and the new earth. Because God's ultimate will for us is that we would have new bodies on a new earth and a new heaven forever.

And we would have a room, a mansion in the new Jerusalem, come down out of heaven from God. This is the new reality. This is the new future. This is what he says, 'you know what My will for you is? That you eat of this bread of life, that you come to Me and you receive this eternal life because I have plans for you, for you to reign with Me forever over this perfect and new place of eternity.'

N.T. Wright, in his book, "Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church,"  says this, “Salvation, then, is not “going to heaven” but “being raised to life in God’s new heaven and new earth.”

He says, “God’s kingdom” in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming “on earth as it is in heaven…"

 "On earth as it is in heaven" is how we pray. Right?

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  Salvation then is not so much going to heaven, but being raised to life in God's new heaven and new earth. That's Dr. Wright in his book, "Surprised by hope." Doctor Black, in his book "Preparing for heaven," says, “Without an eternal perspective, much of human existence simply will not make any sense at all… This is not to suggest that we become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. In fact, we are to be heavenly minded in order to do earthly good.”

Suffering makes no sense in this world if this is all that there is. But suffering makes perfect sense if we're going to live forever with Lord. And then,  suffering for Jesus in Jesus becomes a badge of courage. When we arrive knowing that we kept the faith and endured, everything in the world starts making better sense.

It affects how we live in a positive way. Paul says we can have confident hope of our eternity.  In Colossians, he says, Colossians 1:4-5 (NLT) 4 "For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News." You can have confident hope.

You can get your passport, that's Jesus you can pack your bags with. Well, not things of this world. But how about that other list from the spirit of Christ, like put some love in your baggage, some joy, some peace, some patience. That one takes a little heart.

You got that one. You got to wrap that one up. That one. People like that one's hard to get in your baggage. But love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and that last one, self-control, which can also be difficult.

Pack those for heaven and then be ready to go. There's nothing like when you're getting ready to go on an international trip and you've done all this preparation. You've been working for a year, and then you're finally sitting in the airport, and you're looking, you've checked your bags, and you go.

Are you ready to go? Are you prepared? It's the one journey that every one of us will face.

Every one of us, according to some, I've read that the three grand essentials of happiness are someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. Well, Jesus gives us all three. He gives us someone to love, something to do, something to hope for. We can look to Jesus for kingdom hope.

Now, we began this series with me talking about my journey and how, for me, the study of heaven began when I was eight years old and my father, my 39 year old father, died of lung cancer. I'm the oldest of four children. And I went from just being a little kid, thinking little kid thoughts to growing up kind of overnight, being raised by a single mom and having a lot of questions about eternity. And they brought the preacher over because little Gary was asking questions that were disturbing the other adults. Could you come talk to this little kid?

And we sat at my mom's kitchen table, and the preacher said, "Gary, I understand you have some questions." And I said, "Yes, sir." He asks, "What are your questions? And I said, "Well, my first question is, where's my daddy now?" Where's my daddy now?

And he says, the Bible says, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."  He's with the Lord. I asked,  "That's where he's at right now?"  He says, "Yes, he's in present heaven right now with the Lord." I said, "Okay."

He asked, "Do you have any more questions? I said, "Yes. Can he see me now? Can my daddy see me?" Because the relationship I had as the oldest son, I was a daddy's boy, and I saw my whole life at that age kind of through his lens, He was the one that I would talk to him about what I did at school or what I did in sports.

And if he couldn't see me and applaud me, it's like I couldn't imagine what my life was going to be like. The preacher  said, "Well, son, I'm not sure about that question, but I do read in Hebrews, chapter twelve, that we are being watched by a great cloud of witnesses as we run life's race." And he said, "That seems to suggest to me that perhaps the saints in glory who have already finished the race, have some aspect of understanding."

We also read in Revelation that I've learned as I've grown up, I've studied this, that we see in the book of Revelation that we have the saints there asking 'God, how much longer before you do this?' And that it seems that they have awareness of things on earth, or how would they ask how much longer? So I think there is some awareness, perhaps as we read the scripture, I've still been meditating on this. How much do the saints know about what's going on on earth?

As I was reading Dr. Gary Black's book on Dallas Willard's last hours, he was sitting by his bedside recording his final words. Here's what he said, 'At times, when he would look at me, it was as if his eyes weren’t able to see what he was looking at. Yet on this occasion I could tell he was able to focus on me directly. He said, “I need to tell you what’s happening so you can be prepared.” He started by saying he was in a hallway—in between this life and the next. And in this hallway, there were people who love us more than we can imagine. He said that he really couldn’t quite understand what to believe about the Bible’s description of the great “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). “But now,” he said, “now I do . . . I really do believe. I know they are here.” He also said his eyes were being opened and that he was seeing things… He realized that he was going through a doorway from this earth to glory and that in the “between” space, in “the hallway” that connects this world to the next, there was much for him to learn that was captivating his mind.'

Then Dr. Black says, Dallas Willard got quiet and he asks him, “What are you seeing?” “It isn’t a strain,” he responded, and after pausing to cough for a moment, he continued, “It isn’t an effort . . . or a strain . . . to believe what Jesus said, ‘He that keeps my word will never taste death.’” After that he slept for a few hours before waking to ask for help adjusting his pillow. His last words to me were, “Thank you.” A few hours later, he was gone. It was a good death”

Did you know there's such a thing ad a good death?  Paul says, Philippians 1:21 (ESV), For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Oh, I pray that for each of us.

Come to Jesus. Believe in Jesus. Look to Jesus. He is our life. And those who believe in Him will never taste death. Are you prepared?

Let's pray. Lord, thank You for Your word.

Thank you for Jesus. I pray for the person in my hearing. Maybe you're watching at home. Maybe you're in our gathering place next door. Maybe you're in this room.

Wherever you're at, Jesus is listening. He's listening to your heart. He says, "Come to me." Have you ever done that? Have you ever come not for what he offers, but for Him?

Have you ever come to Jesus? You can do it right now through prayer. Prayer is an expression of your faith. Pray like this. I'm a sinner, dear Lord, I'm a sinner.

But I believe You died on the cross and paid for my sins, that You were raised from the grave and that You live today. I believe that. Come and live in me. I invite You to come and take up residence in my life, to take control. Forgive me of my sins.

Adopt me into Your family. I want You to be my Lord and my Savior. I surrender my life to You. If you're praying that prayer of faith, believing, He'll save you and He'll make you begin that journey of preparation. You'll take the most important step of being prepared for eternity. Others are here today.

You've done that. You're a Christ follower. But you've been stumbling into making the things of this earth your priority. You haven't been living out the life of Christ. You believe in Him.

You're a follower. But you're not laying up treasure in heaven. You're not focused and setting your mind on things above. Would you repent right now and say, Lord, forgive me. I want to follow You in all things.

I want to be prepared. I look forward to Your return and I'm ready. In Jesus' name, Amen.