Part of my sermon mentioned that Jesus mentions Hell, but not as a place of eternal punishment and torment. He was actually talking about a real place that existed in his time, a valley called Gehenna. During my sermon, I only mentioned it as a trash heap like a city dump, but now I've done a little more research and discovered the imagery and metaphor Jesus was using goes even further.
I know Wikipedia isn't always the greatest source of information, but It gives a quick overview of what Jesus meant by "Gehenna": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gehenna. So, this Valley was a place that had historically seen Child Sacrifice and Human Sacrifice. Bodies would be burned there. Animals would come and gnash their teeth on the bones. It smelled bad. And people probably wept at the loss of life: their family, friends, sons and daughters. Basically, the worst think on earth. Something you would never want to see or experience...but people did.
Does your life have experiences like that? Where suffering, grief, injustice and pain overwhelm you? Where you know things are absolutely wrong, and no one seems to care? Where it seems impossible for things to be made right? If so, I have Good News! JESUS CAME TO BE WITH YOU THROUGH THAT, AND TO RESCUE YOU FROM IT to ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN! One day, everything will be made right. Jesus' resurrection--being raised from the dead--was the first sign of the new life that is to come. Jesus was victorious over Death and Sin and Evil, and when he comes again, that work will be complete. That New Life can begin in you today through faith in Jesus Christ!
That is the Good News of the Gospel. That is why I am thankful for heaven. Jesus rescued me and carried me through my darkest moments, and I have hope for the future--the best days are yet to come! Heaven is beginning now as Jesus and his body, the Church, live out God's purposes here on earth. The Holy Spirit is at work in me and the Church bringing heaven and New Life, helping God create "The New Creation." I'm excited! Are you?