In his book, Imagine Heaven, John Burke has done a fantastic job sharing insights into the afterlife from the Scriptures and from research into Near Death Experiences. His book has really resonated and even hit #1 on Amazon.com and hit #9 on the New York Times Bestseller list!
The Imagine Heaven series at Gateway Church in Austin led to an incredible response as we sold out of the book multiple times and grew by 40% in attendance!
- To go through Imagine Heaven at your church, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for message manuscripts and book discounts.
For the series notes and videos, go here: www.ericbryant.org
Here is his cosmic explanation for the world in which we live that answers life’s biggest questions about the presence of evil, suffering, and the afterlife:
Long before the earth was created, God eternally existed. God who is Love and Light and Life, is also a Creator. In eternity, God created eternal creatures, called angels – beautiful creatures of light, created to do God’s will, to experience God’s love, and to glorify God forever. Angels were given various tasks, some tended to all God had created, some were messengers, some were servants. The most beautiful and powerful angel was called Lightbearer. He walked among the fiery stones of brilliance there in the most splendid place in all Heaven – the throne of God. God loved him and declared, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created.”
But God created the Angels to love and serve which meant angels have a free will.
Something horrible happened in the heart of Lightbearer. His heart became proud on account of his beauty, and he corrupted his wisdom because of his splendor. He said in his heart: “I will rise above the throne of God. I will be like God.”
As a result of the wickedness found in him, God declared: “You were filled with violence, and you sinned so I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.”
Lightbearer, or Lucifer, was cast out of Heaven, but not before he convinced 1/3 of the angels that they could rule better than God, and these free-willed, eternal Angels made a Choice. They Chose to reject God’s will and ways, to go their own way. But a choice in eternity, is an eternal choice. When time is not linear or successive, there’s no such thing as a 2nd chance. They eternally chose NOT GOD! But there’s no place in Heaven where God is not—there’s no place where the Light, Love and Life of God does not rule. So God in His love, created a place where Lucifer and His fallen angels could have what they demanded—a place where they could rule apart from God—a place called Hell. A place where the Light, and Love, and Life of God gives way to the dark, prideful, self-centered evil rulership of the creature trying to play God.
Still, 2/3 of the angels had not eternally rejected God. So how could God lovingly teach them so the same would never happen again? God created again—He said “Let there be light—and a universe was born out of a great explosion from nothing – right inside Heaven came a universe of only 4 dimensions. The angels of God were puzzled—it’s so much less than Heaven, time only moves in one direction, instead of the Light of God that gives life to all—there was only artificial light, a dim, pale light called the sun—with a tiny spectrum of dull colors. Instead of the Living Water of Life flowing from God’s throne, there was far lesser imitation, H2O, that all earth’s life would require. The angels watched as God created humans in His own Image—people who could also choose to love, create, serve God.
God is teaching the angels as they serve us:
“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 3:10)
As the angels watched time unfold, they realized God had allowed Lucifer and his fallen angels access to this new creation—but why? Why would God allow them to follow Lucifer and be cast out of God’s presence, cast out of Eden? Why let this happen again? Then the angels began to see—God’s mercy, love. These humans could not experience but a fraction of the Joys of Heaven, but they also only experienced a fraction of the sufferings and evils of Hell. And God was hiding beyond their 4 dimensions, yet always near, drawing, beckoning them back to himself. This was a place between Heaven and Hell, greatly reduced in experience, where these humans (created to live eternally) began with the knowledge of good and evil. The angels marveled at God’s brilliant plan unfolding. God would not abandon humans for rejecting His will and ways, God would enter their world, disguised as one of them. He would pay His own price for Justice and righteousness to be done, so that He could forgive and take back all willing humans. God gave them a 2nd chance, and a 3rd, 4th, 70 years of chances to turn back, admit their rebellion, and forever return to God. Something impossible for eternal angels who made an eternal choice in God’s very presence. God was teaching the unfallen angels and humans the cost of rebellion and the power of love, so that all who choose Him could live eternally with him. Unlike the fallen Angels, Having the knowledge of both Good and Evil in their collective history, when humans were brought into eternal life, those who chose God on earth would forever choose to love and follow God eternally—knowing a small taste of life without God’s rule.
If you read Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, and Revelation 12 you see something close to this story.