“Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.”
– Joe Louis
My good friend, Tom Klope, starts every book by reading the last chapter first. I was baffled when he first explained this, as I could not imagine wanting to know the ending of a book before you read it. Tom quickly pointed out that knowing how the book ended helped him enjoy it as he read. And if he didn’t like how it ended, he might not read it!
For those of you who haven’t yet read the Bible (Genesis to Revelation), I’m going to play Tom Klope here and go right to the end of the story. No matter what, you need to know how the Bible ends.
“Read that Book”
In April 1990, my wife Marla and I attended our first church service in Northern California at Peninsula Bible Church (PBC) in Palo Alto. We were newly married and had just relocated to northern California from Orange County. The church we attended in Newport Beach (Mariners Church) was modeled after PBC, so it was logical that we would give them our first visit to find a new home for our Sunday worship. I can remember feeling quite out of place, settling into an uncomfortable wooden pew at the very back of the church. Looking around, it felt strange not to recognize a single person.
The worship music seemed fine and a little bit familiar. Then, a pastor by the name of Ray Stedman was introduced. Ray slowly stepped up to the podium, appearing as an older stately-looking gentleman wearing a sport coat and tie. Neither Marla nor I knew a thing about Ray Stedman and his profound legacy as a pastor at PBC. What we did know was that this entire scene looked quite different from what we had become familiar with in Newport Beach.
Mariners was led by a 30-something pastor (Kenton Bashore) full of blond hair, sun-tanned skin, and donning the casual dress you would expect in Newport Beach, as if the surfboards were on the car as soon as the service let out. Best of all, they had comfy cushioned chairs!
Only several months later did we discover that we had attended Ray Stedman’s final sermon after forty years at PBC. One of the great pastors and leaders of our generation (1) was calling it quits on the day we showed up for a test drive at his church. He had retired and was moving with his wife to Oregon. Ray preached over eight hundred sermons and authored twenty-eight books over those forty years. His final message that day was on the final two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21 & 22). I had never read Revelation. All I knew about Revelation was that it covered the end times when Jesus returns to Earth. (2)
I would like to tell you that Ray’s sermon was so remarkable that I can remember his specific details. (3) I only remember three words. However, those words have stuck with me, like gorilla glue on wood for over thirty years.
Toward the end of his sermon, Ray paused, held up his Bible at the pulpit, and called out to us (to me, it seemed), “Read that book!”. Then a couple of minutes later, he did it again, thudding the Bible down on the pulpit:
“READ THAT BOOK!”
His eyes seemed to look my way as if he were telling me to listen up! I assume everyone else felt the same way, but I never asked since we didn’t know anyone.
I was convicted. I needed to read that book.
That was the first and only time Marla and I saw Ray Stedman preach. He was taken home to the Lord by cancer two and a half years after that sermon and just two days after his seventy-fifth birthday. “That Book” Ray referred to is the final book in the Holy Bible, Revelation. Ray’s sermon that day was titled “The City of Glory.” It was all about Heaven. As it turns out, Heaven is the end of the story of the Bible. Yet it is also the beginning of our eternal future with God. This incredible story of the Bible ends with the very best part – Heaven comes down to a renewed Earth, and eternity with God begins!
Thank you, Ray Stedman. I soon read that book.
Even for a theologian, studying the book of Revelation can be like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the dark. It is a complex set of messages and symbolism for humankind to digest. I don’t plan to go there.
I want to focus on the simple fact that the book of Revelation does provide a “lived happily ever after” ending in heaven. That is the end of the story. Those who believe are in Heaven with God for eternity. In the words of Ray Stedman,
“it [the Book of Revelation] is indeed good news!”.
The primary purpose of Revelation is to provide hope and encouragement to believers of Jesus Christ that He will come again. It is often referred to as the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the book’s central figure and the central figure of all history. In it, the powers of evil are defeated once and for all. God promises a miraculous future in Heaven for all who believe. Forever.
It is no accident that Revelation is the last of the 66 books of the Bible. The book gathers essential themes from the entire Bible and brings them into focus in its final pages. It has a lot to say about Heaven. The concluding two chapters of Revelation (21 & 22) end the Bible with amazingly descriptive details about what Heaven will look like.
The story ends on a renewed Earth that is free of all sin. Heaven and Earth are united as one where Jesus reigns for eternity. Blessings abound without any pain, tears, or death. Best of all, we are living with God!
Could part of that experience in Heaven include a little surfing?
Revelation reveals four things about this New World that I would like to use to support the idea that surfing is very much in the realm of possibilities.
#1 – Heaven will be a physical place.
Revelation describes this New World as a physical place with physical objects like trees, crops, rivers, houses, mountains, and more. It even describes us feasting on good food and well-aged wine. (4) Our resurrected Earth will be “like new.” (5) The author of Revelation (the Apostle John) describes in detail a solid, physical world we will live in. From everything I know, it will be Heaven on Earth!
Before his death, Jesus told His disciples that His Father’s house has many rooms. (6) He promised to go and prepare a place for them and to return to take them there. The point is that a designated home is waiting for us in Heaven. It sounds to me like there might be a Master Architect who is customizing the construction of it to exactly what we would enjoy. I like the sound of that!
Even the Book of Isaiah (written hundreds of years before Christ) speaks of the creation of New Heavens and a New Earth so breathtaking that no one will even think about the old Earth anymore. (7) My wife and I traveled to Israel this year, and one of the highlights of the trip was viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered in 1947 after being in a cave near the Dead Sea for over two-thousand years. One of those scrolls was the Book of Isaiah, which was nearly 100% preserved. It is hard to argue with that!
There does not seem to be much debate here – we will be in a physical world with physical objects doing physical things. I like how the late Roger Williams described it at a Mount Hermon Family camp on the shores of Lake Tahoe: (see: 13. The 2X4)
“Folks, we can count on God’s promise that Heaven will far surpass this beauty we see now.
If you think the colors are good now – wait till you see them in Heaven.
If you think the sunsets are good now – wait till you see them in Heaven.
If you think this is a beautiful place to live now – wait until you see it REDEEMED in Heaven!”
#2 – We will be physical beings.
The Bible clearly states that we will be reunited with our physical bodies in Heaven and walk the renewed Earth as physical beings. There are more Bible passages on this than I can track. One example is verse 5 of Revelation 21, which states, “I am making everything new.” (8) God’s rebirth of His physical creation also applies to the new resurrected bodies we will receive when Jesus returns.
The Bible describes how our Heavenly bodies will be transformed, just like Jesus’ resurrected body was when He appeared to the disciples following His death on the cross. (9) From all accounts, the physical appearance of Jesus after the resurrection was no different than before His death. (10) People recognized Him and felt His physical body to validate that it was Him. He was not a ghost.
We also will be doing things we do today on Earth, like eating. There is a scene in the Gospel of John (John 21:1-14) where Jesus shows up on a beach in His resurrected body and cooks a fish breakfast over a charcoal fire with the disciples. (11) My wife and I visited this beach on our trip to Israel on the Sea of Galilee (called “The Place of the Coals”). Sitting at the water’s edge, it was remarkable to visualize Jesus enjoying a meal with the disciples over a hot coal-burning fire. This scene shows us that our bodies will be capable of eating and drinking and doing activities we do today, like having a BBQ on the beach with our friends.
What would stop us from paddling out for a few waves?
#3 – There will be water.
The Book of Revelation speaks of a great river flowing right through the main street in heaven. (4) This passage, among many others, assures us that water will be abundant in Heaven. Surely that river has a source and a destination which starts or ends in a large body of water. It seems reasonable to speculate that there will be large lakes like we have on Earth today. Remember, this is the Earth we live on today, in a renewed state. These lakes could very well act as freshwater oceans on the New Earth.
The Great Lakes region in North America contains over 20% of all the fresh water on planet Earth today. Because of that, there is a thriving community of surfers on the shores of Lake Michigan. The movie “Step into Liquid” (by Dana Brown, son of famed surfer and filmmaker Bruce Brown) has a fun surfing scene showing these guys getting stoked catching waves on the shores of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which is a thousand miles from the nearest ocean.
Who would say we could not have something even better on a renewed Earth? Again, I ask, if Kelly Slater (11-time world champion surfer) can create a near-perfect 6-foot barreling wave in a desert in California’s Central Valley (kswaveco.com), could not our great God fulfill the promise of Heaven with something even better? I believe the room Jesus is preparing for me in Heaven could include waves and a surfboard! If you see that as far-fetched, read on to #4.
#4 – We will be living with God.
Let’s be clear, aside from Jesus, nobody on Earth has ever lived with God. (12) The book of Revelation ushers in a new era when the name “Immanuel” (“God with us”) will be fulfilled. Living with the creator of it all in Heaven tells me we are in for a few surprises. Big time!
Remember, this is the God who created it all in the first place. This last book of the Bible fulfills God’s commitment to dwell among His people. His grand plan of redemption for every one of us is accomplished. Imagine the infinite comfort and peace of living with God. It takes John Wooden’s “Peace of Mind” to a whole new level.
(See: 9. Peace of Mind)
I believe that once you place God into the picture of our home in Heaven, surfing becomes a slam dunk! (Pun intended, Mr. Wooden.)
God announces at the end of the Book of Revelation an emphatic,
“I am making everything new!” That signals me that those 1–2-foot ankle biters that Dana Brown filmed on the shores of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, could suddenly be transformed into the perfect waves his Dad filmed in The Endless Summer in 1966!
The End of the Story
The Bible tells the story of God creating the world as humanity’s perfect home. (13) Then Satan entered the world to destroy that. (14) We see Satan gaining the upper hand daily in the news today. He wants to ensure we believe Heaven does not exist. (15) Sometimes, it seems like everything that could go wrong is going wrong in this world.
Yet the book of Revelation records the glorious ending where Jesus returns to defeat Satan and shepherd in the New Heaven and Earth. It will not be a mystical paradise. Revelation describes a solid, physical world of eternity that very well could have perfect waves to surf.
Eternity is a real thing. Don’t miss that chance to catch your perfect wave.
You now know the end of the story. I want to encourage you to “read that book!” After more than thirty years of studying the Bible, I am absolutely certain about God’s plan for us to be in Heaven with Him when we die. 100%.
The Bible is a massively complex story. As a surfer who started this journey without any formal training in the Bible, it took me years of studying to begin to piece together the 66 books and nearly 1,200 chapters that make up the Bible. The journey for me is far from over. There is so much more to learn!
Without a formal Bible study, church group, or an organization like Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), it is a significant challenge to assimilate the story God has written. I recommend prayer for guidance by the Holy Spirit to get you started (See: “4. Mexican Miracle”). Please reach out to me at “surfingforbalance.com” (“contact Mike”) if you would like assistance with how to move forward with your education. I was very fortunate to have excellent mentoring and leadership to assist me. The lessons which I have learned in my life inspired me to pass that on.
As I look back on the journey of writing this book, I am struck by wonder at how it all happened. God Himself placed this book on my heart. I take none of the credit. I am confident that it is God’s work in me. I know I am in God’s will when this story has been so easy and joyful to write. It all flowed as naturally as spring water running down a creek. It is a glorious feeling to experience the work of God’s Spirit.
I believe God has used my surfing background to enable me to reach out to surfers who don’t yet know the end of the story. I have always said that if just one of them shows up to paddle out with me in Heaven, it will be an all-time best-seller.
In the words of a recent Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) study:
“To refuse to embrace Jesus as God’s Son is to fully reject God and lose the greatest gift of love ever offered in the history of mankind.”
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Portrait of Integrity (the book) by Mark S. Mitchell:
“Ray Stedman was one of the great pastors and leaders of a generation of evangelicals that is quickly passing away. ”
- Revelation 1:7 (NIV):
“Look, He is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” So shall it be! Amen.”
Revelation 22:6-7 (NIV):
“The angel said to me, ’These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.’”
1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NIV):
“For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
- “The City of Glory” sermon by Ray Stedman on April 29, 1990.
Revelation 22:1 – 22:21
Revelation 22:1-2 (NIV):
“And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manners of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Revelation 2:7 (NIV):
“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the One who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
Isaiah 25:6 (NIV):
“Here on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the Lord Almighty will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world—a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef.”
- Revelation 21:1-5 (NIV):
“Then I saw ‘a New Heaven and a New Earth,’ for the first Heaven and the first Earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ’Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6. John 14:2 (NIV):
“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?”
7. Isaiah 65:17-21 (NIV):
“See, I will create New Heavens and a New Earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in My people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”
8. Revelation 21: 5 (NIV):
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
9. John 20:27 (NIV):
“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”
10. Luke 24:39 (NIV):
“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV):
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”
11. John 21:10-14 (NIV):
“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.”
12. John 3:13 (NIV):
“No one has ever gone into Heaven except the one who came from Heaven—the Son of Man.”
13. Genesis 1:1 (NIV):
“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”
14. Genesis 3 (NIV):
“The fall of man.”
15. John 8:44 (NIV):
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”