Christianity 201

June 17, 2017

Heaven: There Compared to Here

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Whenever I see an article purporting to tell me ‘what heaven will be like’ I get nervous. Do they take an up there or New Earth approach? Does the article contain other eschatological ideas about the timing of events with which everyone might not agree?

I turns out I need not have worried. This article is by author, pastor, radio teacher and Turning Point television host David Jeremiah, no less; and appeared at Crosswalk.com. You can click the title to read at source.

What Will Heaven be Like?

by David Jeremiah

Many people picture heaven as a never-ending church service in the sky. Or they think we will all become angels who float around on clouds playing harps for the rest of time. Neither of these make eternity seem very appealing. And both are completely inaccurate according to the Bible.

In fact, heaven will be glorious and full of grandeur. We will experience fullness of joy as we live in the presence of God and fellowship with each other. There are so many reasons to look forward to heaven, I want to give you a glimpse of three.

For one, our friendships will be richer. One of the most fascinating glimpses we have of heaven is in Hebrews 12:22-23, a passage that provides a list of heaven’s inhabitants.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.

Now, who in that group is boring? We’re going to spend eternity with God, with His angels, with the Old Testament saints, and with Christians through all the ages. Can you imagine being in an environment like that?

There will be no misunderstandings or tiffs or tension among us. Our relationships will be so much healthier in heaven than here. Down here we have problems even with our closest friends. You know what that’s like. Someone says something to you, and you aren’t sure how to interpret it. You react to it— perhaps overact. You say to yourself, “I wonder what he meant by that? I wonder why she said that?”

In heaven there will be none of that. Our relationships will be open, honest, interesting, loving, and uncomplicated by sin or our sinful natures. We will dwell with God, the angels, and one another in perfect compatibility and refreshing intimacy.

We will all be together in heaven. It won’t make any difference when we lived on earth. Imagine being best friends with people whom we’ve only read about in the Bible or in books. I’m eager to meet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Imagine having all the time we wanted to talk to Augustine, George Muller, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale. We’ll be great friends with our missionary heroes—William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, and Eric Liddell, the Olympic champion who left it all to go to China for Christ.

Heaven is going to be such an incredible time of unlimited fellowship with people who have lived in all ages that I can’t begin to comprehend it, but I know it’s true. The Lord Jesus even gave us a glimpse of this on the Mount of Transfiguration when He stood there talking to Moses and Elijah, as the twelve disciples listened to the amazing conversation.

And don’t get me started on the fellowship we’ll enjoy with the angels! In heaven, we’ll be part of it all; and all our mentors, heroes, friends, ancestors, and descendants—all who know Jesus—will be there with us!

Our work will be sweeter. Many people don’t think of heaven as a place of work but rather as a place of rest; but in heaven, the two go together. I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with nothing to do, for God made us to be productive.

The idea of service pervades the book of Revelation. The most glorious verse on this subject occurs in the last chapter, in Revelation 22:3: “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” That tells us what we’ll be doing forever— serving Him!

All of us will be serving in the fullest expression of the capacity God has given us and the giftedness with which He has blessed us. We will discover new gifts, new interests, and new pursuits. We will have new responsibilities and exercise positions of authority.

Whatever we do in heaven will have eternity stamped all over it. Think of that! Would your attitude toward your work change today if you knew everything you did, every ounce of energy you expended, every product you produced, every building you designed, every poem you wrote, every investment you made, and every lesson you taught would last forever? What a legacy! That’s the heritage we’ll have in heaven. Heaven won’t be boring because our work won’t be boring; it will be exciting.

Finally, our longing for home will be filledRomans 8:22-23 says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

There is a hunger with all creation and even among us who have God’s Spirit within us. It’s a yearning and an anticipation for the coming day of ultimate redemption. The redemption process unleashed at Calvary isn’t finished. God won’t be finished until all creation is redeemed and we yearn for that day. The decaying world around us will be replaced at the end of time by the new heaven and the new earth and the city of New Jerusalem. That’s what we truly crave.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us God has placed eternity in our hearts. He created us with a space in our souls that can’t be satisfied by anything except things of everlasting duration. We need permanence. We need transcendence. We try to cram temporal things in the empty space with us, but they don’t assuage our spiritual appetite.

When we get to heaven, that ache is going to vanish. When we get to heaven, everything we do will bring us perfect satisfaction and lasting reward. When we get to heaven, we will never again engage in anything that will leave us feeling even a tad empty. When we get to heaven, everything we do will bring joy. We’ll be home.

It’s safe to say we won’t be bored in heaven. Heaven is going to be the most exciting, adventure-filled place your mind can imagine, multiplied by trillions.

For more on what the Bible says about heaven, check out David Jeremiah’s new book, Revealing the Mysteries of Heaven.

 

 

January 9, 2017

Where God Dwells There are No Clocks

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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And He Shall Reign Forever

Today we pay a return visit to the Lutheran pastor Paul Willweber at the website, The Three Taverns. Click the title to read at source.

The Timelessness of Eternity

NLT John 16:15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

16 “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”

17 Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”

19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.

What do you think heaven is going to be like? We know heaven is perfect, but what will it feel like? What will you do for all eternity? Will you get bored? Will you be aware that you are in heaven forever? Will it seem like it’s taking a long time? Can eternity take a long time?

Heaven is what God wants for you for eternity but it’s impossible to comprehend eternity. You can only think in terms of time. You know when events begin and when they end. Sometimes they fly by, sometimes they drag on. If someone tells you not to think in terms of time, you can’t do it. You are bound by time. You cannot remove yourself from time. The closest to it is being asleep or in a coma. But even so, when you wake up you are aware that time has elapsed. Time continues when you are not in a conscious state.

God, however, is not bound by time. He is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. Things don’t go slow for Him or take a long time. He is outside of time. He created it.

But He did something remarkable, perhaps even strange. He placed Himself into time. He bound Himself to it. He became a man, a human being. He was born in a specific moment in time. He lived in a particular era of history; He lived for a certain amount of years. He who is not bound by time was now having to wait 365 days to turn a year older.

We know God did this to save us. But did He have to save us in this way? Why would God submit Himself to what we endure in this life? He’s God, He can do anything. What moved Him to bind Himself to time?

Jesus shows us with His words to the disciples in the Gospel reading. He told them He would be leaving them. But then He would return to them. They had no idea what He was talking about. They were trying to figure it out.

He was referring to the fact that He would be going to the cross where He would die. He would be leaving them. But then He would come back to life and so He would be with them again. This is what He was talking about. They didn’t get it. And they continued to not get it until He rose from the dead.

He said they would fall into deep sorrow. They wouldn’t come out of it until they saw Him again and they would rejoice in seeing Him alive. They weren’t getting it when He was telling them, but afterward they would remember that He had told them beforehand. And that was a comfort to them.

But the apostle John was not writing this down out of historical interest. The apostle John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this down for you. What Jesus told His disciples has meaning for you. It applies to you because what He said to the disciples shows you why God saved us in the way He did, humbling Himself to become a human being, to be bound by time, to suffer and die.

He is showing you how He uses time to save you. Jesus wasn’t just telling His disciples what would happen. He was saying that He would be leaving them in a little while. And then it would be a little while when He would return to them.

When you are experiencing sorrow it doesn’t seem like a little while. It seems like it won’t end. Jesus uses the example of a woman giving birth. She’s not thinking that this is a brief moment of difficulty. She must endure it because her baby is not coming right away.

But Jesus’ words are what determines what is. When Jesus was gone the disciples despaired in sorrow. But in the light of eternity it truly was a little while.

And now you experience a similar thing to the disciples. Jesus went away from them when He died, but then He returned to them when He rose. But then He left again, ascending into heaven. The disciples were left without Him but then He returned. You are left without Him and it seems anything but a little while until He returns to you.

And you know why this is? No, it’s not because two thousand years since Jesus ascended is a really long time. You are bound by time. You are viewing what Jesus says through your limited understanding. You need to see time from His perspective, not yours. You need to view your life the way He views your life, not in a way that makes sense to you. You need to see your life not as your own but as what God has given you to live and to see yourself not as who you are but who you are in Christ.

As a Christian you are not bound by time. You are not waiting around for God to save you. You aren’t in a holding pattern until God brings you to heaven. As a Christian you have eternal life. That’s life outside of time. It’s without end. It is life with God whether you are awake or asleep. You are not in a state of grace one moment and then apart from Christ the next if you have an evil thought. You are either in Christ or you’re not. If you’re in Christ you have eternal life, not salvation that will be given at some future point.

Jesus speaks of a little while because there is no long while with Him. Time is at His disposal. You can’t make time do what you want. You have only so much of it and it’s the same as what everybody else has. But Jesus? He uses time, something He is not bound by, to bring eternity to you. Since you cannot bring yourself out of time, He comes to you, in your life, in time, to give you eternal life. You now have life that is timeless, it is not here and then not, not flying by or dragging on interminably. It is life with God in Christ, forever.

Now, if you’re thinking, Okay, I have eternal life but I’m still here, aren’t I? I still have to set an alarm clock and be at meetings and appointments on time, don’t I? If I tell my boss that I have eternal life and so am not bound by time, he’ll tell me that if I’m late again I’ll be fired. Right?

Yes. You live in time and you should. God has given this to you to do. Having eternal life doesn’t remove you from your life here; your time, your vocations, your duties and responsibilities. The beauty of God giving you eternal life now is that it frees you up. And what Peter says about that in the Epistle reading is, Live as people who are free. You are a Christian, live like one. Don’t use your being freedom to just live as everyone else does, where they are constricted by time and cannot see beyond it.

Live, as Peter says, as one who freely gives of your time, because you are not subjugated to it. It’s not your time. You have eternal life! What is using your time to help someone when you’re tempted to think that you’ll be inconvenienced. Jesus freed you up from such a shortsighted and constricting view. You are freed up to help others. To serve them. To give of yourself to them. Your time, your resources. What are these in eternity? They are nothing more than as Jesus describes, a little while.

In a moment of time Jesus took in Himself the sin if the world. In that moment there was no time, Jesus brought eternity to earth. In Him God was reconciling the world to Himself. When you are reconciled to God, there is no time, only eternity. Time is momentary. Eternity is forever.

That’s why you need to stop thinking of God and what He does for you in terms of time. In a moment of time you were Baptized and you were no longer bound by time as you were brought into eternal life with God, you were and are now in Christ, who is above time. When He gives you His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, it is in a moment of time but there is no time. You are feasting with the angels and the archangels and the whole company of heaven. This is the Eternal Feast, the Feast of the Lamb. It has no ending; you are brought into this eternal Feast as you commune at this altar.

Heaven is not a place. It does not start and go on for a period of time. Heaven is being with God, without time, forever. He gives you heaven, eternity, in Jesus. He gives you Jesus right here, in this place, in this moment, at this altar. No time, no ending, just eternity. Amen.

December 19, 2016

Will Broken Relationships With Other Believers Be Reconciled in Heaven?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Once again we’re paying a return visit to the website Blogos which features a variety of writers. Today’s author is Christopher Schwinger. Click the title below to read at source, and then click the banner at the top to see other recent articles.

Relationships in Heaven

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
 -Revelation 21:4 NLT

I recently got a question asking whether heaven will be painless and have perfect reconciliation of relationships with others who belong to Christ. The simple answer has to be yes, but there are complexities which are troubling. I have heard it said that all of God’s wrath was poured out on Christ, so Christians who are unkind still are good in their ultimate standing with God. Does that really mean there is no such thing as God “disliking” a Christian who is unkind? That sounds like our painful experiences with other Christians are invalidated. An equal source of concern is whether everyone will get to have equal rewards in heaven even if they were ungracious to other people, as long as they believed in Jesus. I’ve often thought about whether we are supposed to expect the past to be nonexistent in our relationships when we get to heaven, because even though it’s unhealthy to want other people to suffer like we have, it just doesn’t seem fair that everyone would be on the same degree of perfection in heaven, from those who got only a little progress made (the thief on the cross by Jesus), to those who went backward or became stagnant, to someone who suffered because of other Christians’ lack of mercy.

Some people think it undermines the fullness of what Christ accomplished if we desire to have all our pain understood by the people who caused the pain, and I think that depends on whether they are trying to reconcile or trying to use pain in a vengeful way. The only way for that to feel right is if the Christians who are more obedient get more privileges in eternity than those who are more selfish. But as Jesus said to Peter in John 21:21-22, don’t worry about how God wants to bless someone else, or who is more or less deserving.

A further source of anxiety about heaven is whether our sins will be publicly exposed if we don’t confess them between our conversion to Christ and our death. Being ashamed for our previous spiritual immaturity can only be a factor in heaven if we didn’t heed the warnings God gave to us in our lives. For those who struggle with “feeling” clean after confessing their sins to God throughout their lives, that shame will be gone.

As a lot of our hope about the afterlife is just hope, not something we can know in a carefully defined way, it’s almost like we have to make heaven a philosophy more than a precise theology. Even the term is philosophical, because characteristics of God are evident in the cosmos and it’s the opposite direction of where people get buried. I used to try to visually imagine heaven and how it could be better than my current life, and I always wound up unsatisfied with the courtroom and music concert imagery, and that was probably because I missed that the emphasis in the Book of Revelation is that every group of people finds unity under God.

It’s not the luxurious description of heaven which should inspire us, but the relational healing. tweet

I have 3 sources of comfort about heaven:

1. What has convinced me that heaven even exists, besides Jesus’ fulfillment of specific Old Testament prophecies, is the poetic and wisdom literature of the Old Testament. The Old Testament passages in Job and the psalms which express hope about eternal life after death, with no more pain, happen after the writers have experienced sufferings and reflected on the meaning of it all, and God gives them hope as they continue to do the right thing. I have learned from this to not expect faith about a better hereafter to be something I can force on myself. Faith can’t be just forced, but is partially the natural outcome of making good choices. Another way of putting it: God gives hope/faith as a gift to those who pursue virtue.

2. The story of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11, from the most personal of the four Gospels, is important to me because Jesus actually identifies with the sorrow as they’re going through it, even though He knows it’s not going to continue after He raises Lazarus from the dead — until Lazarus eventually dies again, that is. Jesus felt their pain and cried even though He knew it would be short-lived pain. Until the amazing restoration actually happens, there is going to be pain, but somehow even the pain feels meaningful when we know God is feeling the pain with us. Gaining the confidence that He feels the pain is a difficult thing, though. Sorrow is not something to hide from, even if we hate it, because it actually is meaningful in its own way when we know God feels the pain.

3. The Apostle Paul’s expectation about the 2nd Coming, based on Jewish apocalyptic literature about Judgment Day, was that everyone who belongs to Christ, even from before the time of Christ in the first century, would be reunited and forever be together. It’s hard to know how much of the imagery we have of the End Times is symbolic and how much will really come true in the exact way described, but the Biblical writers are convinced that heaven is not just an idea we hope for, but a reality which Jesus already made possible.

Reconciliation of hurts in heaven does not mean the past never happened, but the fundamental relationship problems we have with other Christians will be gone in heaven because the atonement of Christ will be complete then. The atonement of Christ helps us become free from sin during our lives, but it’s still a struggle because we have our “sin nature” which we’re born with, what Paul calls “the flesh.” But when we make it to the next life, which you can call heaven, God’s transformation of us will be complete and we’ll have new bodies. The reason I can believe this is because the Holy Spirit’s work in my life right now is proof that there is more to come, what Paul called a pledge, like a deposit which proves there’s more where that came from. The Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, when we sense it going on in ourselves, proves to us that we’re not being defrauded by God, but are given a trustworthy deposit, with the promise that the deposit will be completed later. The Holy Spirit didn’t just give me hope in my struggles only for it to all end in nothingness. Thus I can view even death as a gateway to a brighter future if I belong to Christ.

April 13, 2016

Resurrection: Yes, There Will Be One

••• by Clarke Dixon

Click this link to read this at source.

When we Christians talk about the afterlife you might get the impression that we do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Asked what happens when we die, there is often a reference to either going straight to heaven or hell, or of being reunited with loved ones in a spirit world. I imagine that my favorite bass player thought he was capturing Christian theology when he penned these words for a song by the Who in the 1960s:

On top of the sky is a place where you go if you’ve done nothing wrong
If you’ve done nothing wrong
And down in the ground is a place where you go if you’ve been a bad boy
If you’ve been a bad boy
Why can’t we have eternal life
And never die, never die?
In the place up above you grow feather wings and you fly round and round
With a harp singin’ hymns
And down in the ground you grow horns and a tail and you carry a fork
And burn away
Why can’t we have eternal life
And never die, never die?            (Lyrics by John Entwhistle)
There is something we can refer to as “pop theology.” That is, many people believe and say things that fit more with what popular culture believes and says, or what popular culture thinks Christianity believes and says, than what the Bible actually teaches. Often Christians will echo the belief that when it comes to the afterlife you are a disembodied soul or spirit for the rest of eternity. Pop theology is far from Biblical theology here. Those who believe pop theology today are not far from the Christians in Corinth who also had a pop theology problem. The Christians in Corinth had come to believe the Gospel and that Jesus rose from the dead. But it seems they continued believing the common theology of the culture they lived in, a Greek culture which tended to believe that when you die, your soul is freed from your body, never to have a body again. The apostle Paul addresses their pop theology:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:12)

In other words “why do you say the future is only about being disembodied souls and deny that we shall be bodily raised?” Instead of taking their theology from Greek thinking, they really ought to be taking their theology from Jesus Himself, the fact He rose from the dead, and from where Jewish theology had been pointing all along.

Paul’s argument begins in verse 12. We might interpret “Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead” as meaning He was raised from a state of being dead, but the Greek behind it is quite explicit; “Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead ones.” So if Christ is raised from among the “dead ones” we ought to expect the same for all the “dead ones.”

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. (1 Corinthians 15:13)

The line of reasoning is easier to see if we think of it this way: “If we are not expecting the dead to be raised but rather to be disembodied souls, then why didn’t Jesus appear following his crucifixion as a disembodied soul? Why was the tomb empty?” 

Paul goes on to point out the logical consequences of not believing in the resurrection of the dead and therefore of not believing that Jesus rose from the dead:

and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

ResurrectionThere is much to be said about this, but suffice it to say that the resurrection of Jesus was many things including the confirmation of who Jesus is and what God was doing through Jesus’ death. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, history may have recorded that he was simply a miracle worker and teacher who said some quite blasphemous things about himself. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is confirmation of who He really is, and that in His death God really was doing something about our sin.

So Paul’s main point to the Christians at Corinth? Move from the pop theology of the society around you and move into theology that comes from God Himself. Does this have anything to teach us today? Very much so as our views of the afterlife can often be informed by pop theology also. Consider the following:

  • We can focus too much on people, substituting our own sense of greatness for the greatness of God. While it is not wrong to long to be with our loved ones when we die, it becomes too much when the afterlife becomes all about that reunion, and not at all about being with the LORD. When I die I suspect my wife and children will miss me, they may even pine for me. But my hope for them is that their heart’s cry will be not for my presence, but the presence of the Lord. My prayer for them is that their longings to see the LORD face to face will overwhelm their desire to see me again. As John the Baptist put it: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). If we find it hard to let our loved ones take a lesser place in our longings when they pass on, or if the fact we will not be married in eternity disturbs us, then perhaps we do not have a great enough glimpse of the greatness and glory of God. We fall into pop theology when our focus is too much on people and not enough on the LORD. 
  • We can think our bodies are bad. If we think the goal is to become a disembodied soul, we might come to think of our bodies as something awful to be discarded ASAP. When we recognize that the future points to a bodily resurrection, yes a changed body, but still a body, then we can more clearly see that when the Lord gives us a body, it is a gift, it is a good thing. He already has given us a body, and it is not something awful, but rather a gift, one we will want to take care of.

Unfortunately, not only is pop theology messing with the minds of Christians, it also affects those who do not believe. Too may people think they are rejecting Christianity when in fact they are rejecting pop theology. So when people say things like “Christianity teaches that if you are a bad boy you go to hell” then we need to remind them that we are all bad boys and girls and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) When we hear people say things like “if you are good you will go to heaven” we need to remind them that Jesus teaches “No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:18) Salvation is made possible by God Himself in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is by His grace. And salvation does not mean becoming disembodied souls with wings and harps. Salvation means the effect of sin that has separated us from God has been dealt with. It means life in the full presence and glory of God becomes a reality and will be most real when we are raised from the dead.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away
(Revelation 21:1-4)

(All Bible references are taken form the NRSV)

 

February 21, 2016

The Cost of Living A Lie

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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•••by Russell Young

In light of current teaching, living a lie is an easy practice. This is a serious and is costly for the uninformed and for those who promote it. John wrote: If we claim to have fellowship with him [Christ] yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (1 John 1:6, NIV) “Walking in darkness” is failing “to walk in the light.” It is the Holy Spirit who provides light, so walking in the light means walking as led by the Spirit. Think about this! Do you walk seeking, and in obedience to the Spirit’s leadership, or do you give no conscious thought to His call upon your life. It is those who walk in “obedience” to the light who will dwell eternally with their Lord. (Hebrews 5:9)

What about those who don’t follow the Spirit? There is a place for those who love to live a lie… “walk in darkness.” Blessed are those who wash their robes (“do his commandments” KJV), that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. [the New Jerusalem] Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood [“love to live a lie.”, NLT] . Rev. 22:14-15, NIV) Those who “love to live a lie” or “walk in darkness,” who are not Spirit-led, will dwell apart from Christ OUTSIDE the walls of the New Jerusalem.

Some have said that such an understanding is not revealed in the Word of God, but a careful study points clearly to this reality.

The revelation of Christ reveals the presence of an outside and an inside of the Royal City. Those inside will have obeyed the Spirit, while those on the outside are the redeemed who, although they have confessed Christ as lord/Lord have not subjected themselves to His rule. They have denied the Spirit and have lived on their own terms… they will have lived in darkness, have loved to live a lie.

In considering this portion of Christ’s revelation, some claim that the outside references hell. However, the Word reveals that the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it [the New Jerusalem].” (Rev. 21:24) There will neither be kings ruling hell, nor will there be any splendor there.

Perhaps the best way to understand this teaching is to examine those who are to dwell outside the city walls. They are the “dogs,” those “who practice magic arts,” the “sexually immoral”, “murderers”, “idolaters,” and “everyone else who loves and practices falsehood.” The “dogs” are the evil of the house of Israel (Philippians 3:2), the sexually immoral may have committed adultery with their eyes (Matthew 5:28), murderers are those who have hated their brothers (1 John 3:15), the idolaters are the greedy (Colossians 3:5), and those who practice falsehood may be those who walk in darkness (1 John 1:6) after having proclaimed Christ as their lord/Lord.

Will there be a separation of the redeemed according to their walk? The NLT of 2 Thessalonians 1: 8-9 reads:He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who do not know (appreciate/see) God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. In Malachi the LORD revealed, And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who don’t.” (Malachi 3:18, NIV) Daniel 12:2 also referenced some who following the Great Tribulation will be resurrected either to eternal life or to shame and contempt: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (NIV) This is the first resurrection and precedes the rule of Christ on the earth…the resurrection of the redeemed.

Other evidences:

  1. The inside will be lighted by God and the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23) Outside it is darkness and a reference in the parables has been made to either the unrighteous invited (Matthew 22:13), to the worthless servant (Matthew 25:30), and some faithless Israelites (Matthew 8:12) who will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  2. Christ has referred of the necessity of doing God’s commands in order to be invited in. (Matthew 7:21, Revelation 22:14, KJV)
  3. Paul cautioned his readers not to be deceived because those who sow to please the sinful nature will be destroyed, while those who so to please the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
  4. The writer of Hebrews has presented that “eternal salvation” comes through “obedience.” (Hebrews 5:9)
  5. Hypocrites and wicked servants will be assigned a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:51)
  6. There is the possibility of “negative rewards” for at least some of the unfaithful redeemed. (2 Peter 2:13-19) for who blackest darkness has been reserved.” (v. 17)
  7. Without holiness no one will see [set eyes upon] the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) Holiness is developed from righteous practices. (Romans 6:19, 22)
  8. The writer of Hebrews records the pronouncement of God on the Israelites: And to who did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not those who disobeyed. So we can see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19)

Are you living a lie? Those who will dwell in the Holy City will have been led by the Holy Spirit into walking in the light. They will have learned to live as Christ did. (1John 2:6) And, they will have been conformed to the likeness of the Son of God. (Romans 8:29). My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.” (John 20:27, NIV)

September 13, 2015

How You Imagine Heaven

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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A shorter reading today for Sunday. We invited Debbie McCray to submit a devotional as we liked what she’s doing at the blog Snowdrops for Faith. Debbie is an Engineer by training, a breast-cancer survivor and a stay at home mom. Click the title below to read at source.

What Would You Name Your Little Piece of Heaven?

I enjoy the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan for the slower pace of life, the natural beauty and the friendliness of the people with a Yooper accent. The locals lovingly refer to their U.P. as “God’s Country.”

On the way to our destination in God’s Country, we passed a stretch of road dotted with houses bordering the rugged beauty of Lake Superior. You can’t see the homes, but their locations are marked with signs that identify their little piece of heaven here on earth.

The names have always caught my attention. Names that describe what they expect to do: Rancho Relaxo, No Rest Here II. Names of who they hope to see: Papa’s Camp, TheShores of Maggie Mae, Ruth’s Land. Names of what they look forward to: Foote Rest, Superior Times. Names that make their little piece of heaven feel like home. Superior Hut, End of Track. Names that try to capture the allure: Superior Reflections, Lake Superior Shangri-La. Names for its natural beauty: Thistle Dew, Loon Call Cove.

What would you name your little piece of heaven here on earth? As believers in Jesus Christ, one day we will experience the heaven God has prepared for us. If God were to put up signs marking heaven, I believe that He would name it for what can not be found there: No Sin, No Pain, No Illness, No Death, No Sorrow, No Harm, No Tears and No Evil. A simple description that fulfills the longing of our hearts for eternity. But wait, there is one more name I can think of for heaven: Promise Kept!

Revelation 21:2-4

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, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live 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.”

 Isaiah 11:9

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

 




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September 29, 2014

Traveling Home

Eternity

 

Today we are honored to have a guest post from Rick Apperson who blogs at Just a Thought. Rick and his wife are missionaries living in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada where he is the pastor of Main Street Christian Fellowship.

Traveling Home

Occasionally I will hear snippets of words or phrases when my kids are playing or chatting and they just resonate with me.  This past summer, the words spoken by my children had me thinking about eternity!

Not too long ago, my son was learning time and measurement. Holding his hands wide, he asked his sister if that was how long forever was.  My daughter’s response was, “You can’t measure forever!” Truer words were never spoken.

When you think about eternity, it is hard to measure with our finite minds. As a pastor, I speak of heaven and hell…but I do not know if I convey eternity in the way that my daughter did that day.  We live in a world of time and measure.  When we think of spending eternity with God in heaven, I do not think our minds can conceive the true reality of it all.  How do you measure the immeasurable?  How do you quantify the unquantifiable?  Eternity is a mystery we won’t completely understand until we stand before the Father!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

In fact, the Lord has set eternity in our hearts!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I think the joy is in the journey.  Which can be a problem for me!  I’m not a patient traveler.  I enjoy the destination but not the journey there.  I don’t know why that is.  I get in the car and I want to get to my destination. As we traveled on vacation this summer, my son kept asking how long it was to various destinations. As we talked about how long it would take to our next stop, he said, “No matter how long it takes, we will be there soon.”

Life on this earth is fraught with problems.  Some days it seems like you take 1 step forward and 3 steps back before getting hit by a bus. Perseverance is not a sexy word.  It sounds hard and–well,–hard!  My son’s words reminded me that life is short. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. My journey will be coming to an end. I will be there sooner rather than later. I am traveling home!

As I said, the joy is in the journey.  I have become more eternally focused.  Not in a maudlin, depressed sort of way but in an excited-to-sit-at-the-feet-of-Jesus kind of way.  I also want to see those around me take the same journey and travel home to the Father as well.

Traveling home…a road trip I can get excited about.

~ Rick Apperson

September 20, 2014

New Earth, New Bodies

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Heavenly PlacesIf you haven’t already, you really should read Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven. He introduces the idea that despite hundreds of references in scripture to the hereafter, only a couple of them seem to point to some place up there. Most talk about a new earth. This idea somewhat conflicts with some of the things we were taught in Sunday School, and like other doctrines, we often find ourselves having to re-learn things as we get older.

If the book’s 530 pages is intimidating, allow me to recommend Randy’s shorter version of it, 50 Days of Heaven: Reflections Which Bring Eternity to Light, which breaks down the larger book into 50 6-page devotionals. (That’s still 304 pages, but more bite-size for some of us!)

Whenever Randy posts things on his blog at Eternal Perspective Ministries, I always want to learn from him more about how this view reshapes some of the earlier perspectives I held. One thing remains consistent however, whether (as comedy group Isaac Air Freight put it so well) it’s ‘here, there, or in the air;’ we will have glorified bodies.  Randy dealt with this briefly on the blog yesterday, click the link to read this at source and then take some time to look at other subjects he covers.

Will our new resurrection bodies have new abilities?

The disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! —John 20:19

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! —Luke 24:31

He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. —Acts 1:9

He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. —Philippians 3:21

Christ’s resurrection body had an ability to appear suddenly, apparently coming through a locked door to the apostles. And “He disappeared” from the sight of the two disciples at Emmaus. When Christ left the earth, He defied gravity and ascended into the air. It’s possible that the risen Christ, who is man yet God, has certain physical abilities we won’t have. Appearing and disappearing could be a limited expression of His omnipresence, and His ascension might be something our bodies couldn’t imitate.

On the one hand, because we’re told in multiple passages that our resurrection bodies will be like Christ’s, it may be possible at times for us to transcend the present laws of physics and/or travel in some way we’re not now capable of. On the other hand, it’s our God-given human nature to be embodied creatures existing in space and time. So it’s likely that the same laws of physics that governed Adam and Eve will govern us. We can’t be sure, but either way it will be wonderful.

Our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. —1 Corinthians 15:53

Our resurrection bodies will never fail us. They’ll work in perfect concert with our resurrected minds. We won’t get sick, grow old, or die from either an accident or natural causes.

March 9, 2012

The Best is Yet to Come

Today’s contribution is from Sheldon Bungay, who not only happens to be the Captain of a nearby Salvation Army Corps, but is also someone I’ve gotten to know personally.  It appeared first on his blog under the title, More Tomorrows! and you’re encouraged — you get pictures — to read it there.  NOTE: This was originally published on Valentine’s Day.

On Saturday evening of this past week, my wife and I were watching a TV show in which an elderly man had taken ill. He was sent to a local hospital and then chose to go ahead with an elective surgical procedure which his family was totally against. Just before the nurses wheeled him to the Operating Room, his son tried in vain one last time to convince his father to not go ahead with surgery. “Dad, you are being unreasonable!” was his last attempted effort before his father put up his hand for his son to stop talking and then entered into an emotional discourse that immediately not only challenged the son, but also me the viewer. His words were these:

“But one day, you’re gonna wake up, and all the big stuff, all the milestones you’ve been looking forward to – graduation, wedding, having kids, your grandkids – it’s all behind you. It’s all over. All you got is a bunch of yesterdays, and very few tomorrows.”

I have replayed these words in my mind over and over again during the last three days and I am troubled!

I am sure the author of these words was trying to get the point across that this man had very few days left on this earth, and his son should let his father live his last days however he wanted, with a sense of enjoyment, fulfillment, laughter, and fun. But I was left troubled, I was troubled because of the reality that so many people in this world today live their lives thinking the exact same way as this elderly hospital patient. They believe, I must live my life now to the fullest, because soon it will all end and everything I looked forward to will be over, and then what? Nothing!

I am troubled because this couldn’t be further from the truth in my life and in the lives of so many of my closest friends and family members. While we enjoy the events of our lives, and while we may experience a sense of disappointment or nostalgia for the past highlights of our lives, these things pale in comparison to the life that is still yet to come.

What I am referring to is the reward that is referenced by Paul in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”

This is his goal in life, his one true aim is to have God smile at him upon their first encounter in Heaven. ”Whatever we consider to be a joy here on earth will be heightened millions of times beyond anything we can conceive when we get to heaven. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Today is Valentine’s Day, and my day started perfectly. I awoke to see three of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen in my life, that of my beautiful wife, my princess daughter, and my mini-me son all handing me chocolates, cards, and gifts that they had created. These three people have brought more joy into my life than I could have ever imagined. And It is because of this reality that I am absolutely pumped and can’t wait to get to heaven. Because if the joy that they bring me here on earth is heightened millions of times by God in heaven, then heaven is something I’m looking forward to.

Yes, my childhood, my high school graduation, my wedding day, my ordination, the birth of my children, are all things that are behind me and things that I cherish from my yesterdays, but I don’t just have a few tomorrows here on earth, I have many more in heaven, and I hope I’ll see all of you in those tomorrows!

“Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19

~Sheldon Bungay

December 22, 2011

Are You a Builder?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:18 pm
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…Or a wrecker?

I’m not the kind of guy who does heavy construction projects, but a few years back while “wrecking” the premises at a former real estate office and getting ready to “build” a new bookstore, I was reminded of this poem.    As we each try to find our place in the Body of Christ, this poem reminds us all (me included) of the importance of keeping our attitude right.    The comments following the poem itself were on one of the websites where we located this version of it.

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho, heave, ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
Like the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed as he replied, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I asked myself as I went away
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Oh Lord, let my life and labors be
That which build for eternity.

Why do so many of us find it gratifying to be sideline cynics smothering ideas in a relentless barrage of “what ifs” and warnings? As the poem points out, it’s much easier to be a wrecker than a builder.

Of course it’s wise and necessary to challenge assumptions, test theories and predict problems, but that should be the beginning not an end. We should measure our value by the number of balloons we helped launch, not the number we deflated.

A builder sees problems as challenges and seeks solutions; a dismantler sees problems in every solution. A builder sees flaws and tries to fix them; a dismantler sees flaws in every fix.

This is one of three “think” pieces today at C201

August 1, 2011

In Dying, Die Well

Julian Freeman is the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, Don Mills (Toronto) located just a mile west of where I grew up, and has been blogging since the spring of 2005.  This appeared at his blog under the title, Who Dieth Thus, Dies Well.

Last night as I was singing to the girls before bed, I decided to sing some older hymns we haven’t done in a while. I sang More Love to Thee and My Jesus I Love Thee and O Sacred Head Now Wounded. As always, it’s a time of worship and contemplation for me as I pray for my girls and hope that the songs will help communicate the gospel to them in meaningful ways as they grow older. It’s just one way I try to speak the gospel to my kids in all of life.

Anyway, as I sang those three hymns, something stuck out to me. All three hymns seamlessly move from the reality of Christ’s finished work to the hope that we have in the face of our own death. These songs sing freely of the unavoidable nature of death, but glory in the hope that we have in the Saviour who has already overcome death.

This is why I love singing hymns: they speak with the freedom of past generations. Our generation doesn’t like to think about death. The church has largely handed over death to doctors and funeral directors and cemeteries. There once was a time when death was an integral part of church life and worship, hence the cemeteries on church property. (Just imagine for a second what it would be like to come to church every week and walk past the grave of family members and church members who had died through the years. That’s a totally different experience than walking into a trendy café type lounge after having your car valet parked. But I digress.)

In any case, death being a part of the cycle of church life and something that people had to face and talk about brought greater freedom and natural impulse to sing about death. It also calls on the worshipper to cling to Christ, feeling the desperation of this life which will inevitably slip away. This is a far cry from singing ‘Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes, Lord…’. I’m so thankful to God for preserving these hymns for our generation. These hymns and those like them provide us with guidance on how to ‘die well’ — a concept almost entirely lost in our day.

More Love to Thee, Elizabeth Prentiss, 1856

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

(Two of four verses. Prentiss wrote this when she was ill and suffering as part of her private devotions. It wasn’t until 13 years later her husband encouraged her to have these words published. Thank God!)

My Jesus, I Love Thee, William Featherston, 1864

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

(One of four verses. Amazingly, Featherston was 16 at the time he wrote this.)

O Sacred Head Now Wounded, Bernard de Clairvaux, 1153

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

(These are just three of the original 11 verses. Click here to hear Fernando Ortega’s rendition of the hymn.)

~Julian Freeman

November 10, 2010

Taking the Message to the Streets (and Malls)

I’d seen this video embedded on other peoples’ blogs and didn’t really think about it a whole lot until this picture of the giant Wanamaker pipe organ got me curious enough to listen.   Apparently, it’s the largest pipe organ in the world.

I followed the link to Creative Minority where I learned more:

Just this past weekend, shoppers at the the Macy’s in Philadelphia (the old Wanamaker building) were surprised when over 600 choristers who were there mingling with regular shoppers suddenly burst into Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. It’s pretty awesome.

The Opera Company of Philadelphia was instrumental in bringing it together to perform one of the Knight Foundation’s “1000 Random Acts of Culture” which they’ll be doing over the next three years… The singers burst into song at exactly noon.

But it was thinking about the words they were proclaiming in a public space — okay, technically a privately owned, yet ‘public’ space’ — that really got to me:

Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever.

King of kings, and Lord of lords

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

That’s actually all there is to it in terms of unique lyrics.  But how powerful!

Musicians can and do try to analyze the piece musically.    But we know different.   The force of the song is in the lyrics, taken from Revelation 11:15

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (KJV)

Other translations — even the NLT and The Message (gasp!) stay with this overall form, but the New Century Version simplifies it for younger ears:

“The power to rule the world now belongs to our Lord and his Christ,and he will rule forever and ever.”

How do we end this consideration? How about with these words:

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.