After the death of his son four years ago, evangelist Greg Laurie became a lot more interested in heaven, he said during his sermon at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., Sunday.
"Earlier this week was the four-year mark of the death of my son and that event changed my life," Laurie said. "I've never studied more about heaven like I have the last four years. The other topic is on hope.
"You can say that I am a student on [the subjects] of heaven and hope. I didn't say I was an expert on heaven and hope. I still have a lot to learn."
Christopher Laurie, who served as the art director at Harvest, was killed on July 24, 2008 at the age of 33 when his vehicle crashed into the back of a Caltrans truck on a freeway in Corona, Calif. He was on his way to Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside.
Laurie's wife, Cathe, who wrote on her husband's blog recently that she struggles to explain her grief, also stated: "Four years ago today, at 9:01 am, my firstborn son Christopher left this world and was ushered in (as Elizabeth Elliot so beautifully put it) 'Through Gates of Splendor.'"
Laurie preached that he is not the only one fascinated with the topic of the afterlife. "There are a lot of books that have been written on this subject. If you go over to Amazon right now and type in the word 'heaven' you'll find 200,000 options ranging from books to music to different things that you could purchase about the subject of heaven.
"My belief is everything I need to know about heaven is found in the pages of the Bible," he said.
Laurie's message on Sunday was a continuation of the series he is doing on the book of Revelation. He asked by way of the title of his sermon, "What do people in heaven know about what is going on here on earth and do they even care?"
"There are two trains of thought on this topic. For some it would seem like that once we're in heaven we will be so preoccupied with worshipping God that the last thing in our mind would be what's happening on earth – besides, with all the tragedy and sadness in this world, heaven would just not be heaven if we were made aware of it," Laurie described.
"Then, the other train of thought is pretty much the opposite of that. People would think that folks up in heaven are sitting and watching our every move almost like it's their form of entertainment," he said. "They would even think that sometimes those in heaven might be intervening in our lives and directing our steps and helping us to know what to do."
Laurie added, "You might be surprised to know that I believe both views are actually incorrect."
"The question might be well, why would you even care about this? The answer is you will care if you have a loved one in heaven," he said.
Pointing to scripture found in Revelation, Luke chapters 15 and 16, Laurie explained that he believes that people in heaven have knowledge of what is happening on earth.
"Let me take it a step further. I think people in heaven know a lot more about earth than we may realize," he said.
"People in eternity are aware of the fact that loved ones are not saved. This is based on Luke 16 … In the afterlife we are the same person with real memories of earth. You will know more in heaven than you will on earth, not less. We don't all get a collective lobotomy when we go to glory."
A second point he made during the sermon is that when people come to believe in Jesus it's "public knowledge in heaven."
"There is joy in heaven whenever one person repents," he said. "Whenever someone turns to God on earth they break out in applause in heaven."
His third point about heaven is that people there know about the time and place of events on earth as evidenced by passages in Revelation.
"I bring this up because people say that when you are in heaven you are not aware of time. We are just worshipping forever. That may sound appealing to some, but very scary to others, because you know what that sounds like? A really long church service," said Laurie, to laughter from the congregation.
"Heaven is not going to be a long boring church service. There will be worship and plenty of it, but the Bible says that we are going to serve the Lord. We will be working for the Lord. So, if you have ADD don't freak out. There's going to be a lot for you to do. Just trust God on this," he said.
Again, pointing to verses in the Bible, he added as a fourth point that there will be a connection between those in heaven and those on earth. Those in heaven will be aware of the spiritual status of their loved ones.
Laurie, who is well known for holding large stadium events, will be one of the speakers during a message on August 5 to volunteers and those interested in helping with the Harvest Ministry events held at Angels and Dodgers stadiums later in the month. One of the outreach events called Harvest America, is planned to be broadcast to more than 1,300 venues, including churches and other facilities.
Correction: July 30, 2012.
An article on Monday, July 30, 2012, reported that Christopher Laurie died in 1998. He died in 2008.