This is a slightly edited version of part of a sermon I delivered in May encouraging the congregants that Jesus is preparing a place for us with him in heaven and highlighting a witness to Jesus’s presence in heaven.
The Apostle Peter tells us God gives us a free gift — an inheritance — and a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3-9).
Today, I seek to encourage you with something the Bible says about part of that inheritance, including that Jesus went to heaven to prepare it for us — for you and for me —, and with the testimony of someone who claimed to be a witness to Jesus’s presence in heaven.
Where and Why Did Jesus Go?
Not long before Jesus was arrested, taken to his trial, and then crucified, Jesus had a meal with his disciples. We often call it “the Last Supper.”
At the end of the meal, Jesus tells the disciples he will not be with them much longer. Surprised, they ask him where he’s going, and he tells them, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (John 13:33-36)
Jesus then tells them where he’s going and some of what he will be doing there.
Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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 ….” (John 14:1-4)
So, Jesus tells them that he is going to God’s house to prepare a place for them. And he promises that he will come back and take them to be with him.
(Jesus also says they know the way to where he’s going — more on that in a later article, but if you are curious you can read some about it in John 14:5-6).
Did Jesus Go There? … Stephen’s Trial
Soon after this meal, Jesus is crucified and then arises from the dead. (John 19-20) Around a month and a half later, he ascends into heaven (Acts 1:1-11).
About two weeks after that, one of Jesus’s followers, Stephen, after speaking out about Jesus as the savior and performing great signs, was accused by religious leaders of saying blasphemous things about Moses and God. Those leaders — the Sanhedrin, essentially an assembly of elders serving as judges — put him on trial. (Acts 6:8-15)
At trial, Stephen argues that everything leads to Jesus and asserts God doesn’t live in the Temple or anywhere else made by humans. (Acts 7:48) He quotes the Prophet Isaiah:
“‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things?”
(Acts 7:49-50, quoting Isaiah 66:1-2)
Stephen’s Closing Argument: Skipped That Day in Law School
Stephen ends his closing argument at trial rather heatedly:
“You stiff-necked people! … You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.… [N]ow you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given … but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-54)
This is not the way to win over judge and jury, by the way. Indeed, Stephen did not win them over. How did judge and jury react?
“… [T]hey were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.”
Then, Stephen really made them mad. Acts 7:55-60 explains:
“… Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'”
How did they react at that?
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. …”
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” Then he died. (Acts 7:60)
Should We Be Disturbed that Jesus was Killed?
Should it trouble us that Jesus was killed? Jesus — divine, God, savior of us all — was taken by human beings and killed. Died. Is that something that happens to the divine? Is that something that happens to the person that we think will save us?
Should that trouble us? Should it worry us that our faith in our promised inheritance of everlasting life is foolish?
Jesus addresses that, telling us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1) He tells us where he was going, to heaven. And he tells us there are many rooms there. OK, all that is good, but what about me? What about us?
Jesus tells us he is preparing a place. A place for you, a place for me, in heaven, with Jesus, with one another, with all of our brothers and sisters. That is where Jesus went. To prepare it. For me. For you. (John 14:1-4)
Can I Get a Witness?
Is Jesus true to his word? Is he in heaven?
Stephen said he is. Stephen “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55) And he didn’t stay silent.
It would have been in Stephen’s best interest to stay silent, to not make things worse for himself. He knew he was putting his life at risk if he said what he saw. But he said it anyway. He spoke the truth despite knowing it would hurt him.
Our inheritance from God, as God’s child, includes everlasting life with God. Jesus told us that he was going to go prepare a place for us, for you and for me. And Stephen serves as a witness, telling us that Jesus is indeed in heaven.
Jesus tells us that he “will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
We are promised an inheritance — of salvation, of forgiveness, of everlasting life — and a living hope.
For that inheritance and living hope, we rely on Jesus Christ.
Jesus promised that he was going to heaven to prepare a place for us, a place with God forever, promising we will join him—already forgiven of all our sins—to live forever with him.
Stephen, a servant of God, completely against his interest, knowing he was putting his life at risk, testified he saw Jesus at the right hand of God, in heaven. He is one of many witnesses described in the Bible. Today, I wanted to highlight for you the witness of Stephen.
My encouragement to you today is that Jesus has prepared a place for you.
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Sources & Notes
This is a slightly edited version of part of a sermon I delivered in May encouraging the congregants that Jesus is preparing a place for us with him in heaven and highlighting the testimony of a witness to Jesus’s presence in heaven.
All scripture from the NIV unless specifically mentioned otherwise.
Picture is from Free-Photos on pixabay.