Christianity 201

November 17, 2014

Heaven is Heaven Because There We Find Christ

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NIV Col 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

NIV Eph. 1:20 …he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

NLT Phil. 3:20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 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.

Today’s post was sourced at and is an undated devotional written by Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who we regularly refer to at this blog’s sister site, Thinking Out Loud. To read this at source, click the title below.

Russell D. MooreHeaven is the expectation of Christians that life does not end with physical death but, for the redeemed, continues eternally in the presence of Christ.

Theologian Jerry Walls has traced two understandings of eternal blessedness in the history of Christian theology: a theocentric view and an anthropocentric view. In the theocentric view, eternity is “a timeless experience of contemplating the infinitely fascinating reality of God in all of his aspects,” without much element of human fellowship. The anthropocentric view, by contrast, emphasizes “being reunited with family and friends” and sees eternity as the continuation of life without the mar of sin and suffering.

Both strands are seen from the very beginning of the Christian story, with Christian thinkers such as Origen and Augustine emphasizing heaven as beatific vision and spiritual reality and thinkers such as Irenaeus and Justin Martyr emphasizing the creational aspects of the new creation.

In biblical eschatology, however, the eternal state is strikingly anthropocentric but not in the ways found in much of popular piety. Eternity can be said to be anthropocentric so long as we understand that the anthropos referenced is Jesus of Nazareth. Eternity is not a timeless beatific vision or an endless choir practice. But neither is it merely a family reunion in which the circle is seen to be unbroken after all. Eternity means Jesus (and, by extension, those who are in him) finally receives his promised inheritance: everything.

Heaven is defined in Scripture as the dwelling place of God, a place inhabited by the angelic armies, the redeemed of all the ages, and the ascended Jesus himself as he awaits the consummation of his kingdom. At the moment of death, the believer is ushered into the presence of Christ in heaven. Since Jesus is now in heaven, this is where the inheritance of the church waits for us, where our mother, the heavenly Jerusalem, is located. Our inheritance, our Jerusalem, and even our Christ do not stay in heaven though-and neither do we.

Many Christians think of their future existence as heaven, in the kind of disembodied, unearthly abode they know awaits them immediately after death. And yet the time between death and resurrection–what theologians call the intermediate state–is far from permanent. It is itself a time of waiting for the full blessing of salvation: The resurrection of the body and the coming of the kingdom. Karl Barth describes John Calvin’s vision of this heavenly interlude for the dead in Christ with perfect clarity. Believers in heaven are conscious and active “but with the rest and assurance of conscience that comes with physical death, contemplating God and his peace, from which they are still at a distance, but of which they are sure.” These believers are “not yet in possession of the kingdom of God” but they can nonetheless “see what here we can only believe in hope.”

For believers, the intermediate state is blessedness, to be sure. But in heaven there is yet eschatology. The ultimate purpose of God is not just the ongoing life of believers but that his kingdom would come, his will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). That awaits the end of all ends, the return of Jesus and the final overthrow of death.

In Christian theology, the point of the gospel is not that believers should go to heaven when they die.  Instead, it is that heaven will come down, transforming and renewing the earth and the entire universe. After the millennium, the final judgment, and the condemnation of the lost, John sees a New Jerusalem coming down from the heavens to earth (Rev. 21:2).

He then describes an eternal order that, consistent with the rest of biblical eschatology, is surprisingly “earthy.” Eternity means civilization, architecture, banquet feasting, ruling, work-in short, it is eternal life. The new earth is not the white, antiseptic hyper-spiritual heaven some Christians expect as their eternal home. Nor is it simply an everlasting family reunion or the resumption of all the pleasures one enjoyed in this life.

It is the Christic focus of heaven that keeps Christian eschatology from veering toward a Platonizing spirituality or toward a secularizing carnality. The Scripture does indeed tell Christians to focus their minds on heavenly things, not earthly things. But this focus on heaven is precisely because the church’s inheritance is there-in Christ, seated at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20-21). Paul contrasts the Christian mindset with the appetite-driven mindset of “enemies of the cross” who have “minds set on earthly things” by reminding the church at Philippi that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:18-20). But he does not stop there.

Of heaven, Paul writes: “And from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20b-21). Christians lay up treasures in heaven, but the treasure does not stay in heaven. Christians focus their minds on heaven, but heaven comes down to earth.

Ultimately our hope is in new creation: transformation and glorification of our bodies and, with them, the cosmos itself.

May 10, 2014

Devotional Double Header

This week C201 joined another blog aggregator, The Fellowship of Christian bloggers. I hope to introduce a few of the bloggers here as I encounter material that fits our vision of devotional writing. To start, I was intrigued with the title of this first one: Done With Religion by Michael Donohoe. Click the title below to link.

Colossians 3:5, 9-11 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry…Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all…

As followers of Christ, our old nature has been killed and buried. We are new creatures in Christ. We no longer have to serve sin because Christ has set us free.

Our old sinful nature was crucified with Christ. It was dead and buried and now a new, holy and righteous creature has risen and is alive in Christ.

We have Christ living in us and we can rely on His power to overcome temptation by His strength. Because of Him we can live a life free from the guilt and punishment of sin. The sinful nature is still in the ground and a new person now lives as one with God. He put His Spirit within us and made us His dwelling place.

When God looks at us, He sees His child that has been changed by the grace of Christ. We are now holy and righteous in His sight. Not because of anything we have done, but because of the work Christ did. We no longer have to work to earn salvation. After accepting the grace of God, we no longer have to strive to keep the law. The law was good in that it was a tutor to lead us to Christ. The law was fulfilled by Christ and now that we are His, we live by faith in the grace He provided.

In Christ, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no upper level or lower level child of God. The is no Jew or Greek, male or female, clergy or laity. Each one of us make up an equally important and functioning part of the body. We are all saved by grace and living under the headship of Christ. Christ is our all in all.

May we continue to grow in Grace and let Him have the preeminence.

The second of our devotional double-header today was also from a blog with a title that grabbed me: Finding the Holy in the Mundane by Rachel Stephenson.  Click the title below to link.


Confident Hope

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.Ephesians 1:15-18 (NLT)

Paul begins his letter with a prayer that spills out in gratitude and praise. He writes of God’s greatness, grace and glorious purpose. Why did Paul begin with such resounding praise? So you can know.

Heavenly Wisdom

Paul continues his prayer asking God to give us wisdom—spiritual, God given understanding. It’s not the kind of understanding that is simply factual. Paul’s prayer is that we would know Him better. God reveals Himself in all creation; He wants to be known. God imparts on the believer a supernatural understanding of Himself. It’s a divine and glorious honor, reserved only for the believer.

Confident Hope

When I am trying a new recipe, I hope the finished product is yummy.  When I am learning a new skill, I hope I am able to produce the desired outcome. When I write, I hope you understand what I am trying to convey. There is an element of uncertainty in the hope I have in my skills and abilities. I may or may not be able to accomplish what I set out to do.

Paul prays that we may understand the confident hope we have in Christ. Christ is THE factor that turns a wish into a confident hope, a sure thing, and an absolute truth. Paul prays for our understanding of that hope.

The Inheritance

What is that confident hope? Read verse 18 closely.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.

God considers YOU an inheritance—prized, valued and purchased. Knowledge and understanding is what Paul prays for you and me. Can you begin to fathom that? The God of the universe, pure and holy, considers frail, sin-sick humanity as a valued inheritance.

To understand that you must understand the value God places on humanity. God sent His Son to die to reconcile us. That is value! Jesus’ blood purchased our redemption. That is confident hope—there is power in the blood of Christ—power to redeem and purify the sinful heart.

God invested Himself in His own inheritance—US!

Father, may I come to know You better! Illuminate my understanding of the hope I have in Christ. Let me come to understand the love You have for me and the desire You have for me to know and love you more.


What the Bible Speaks To

In addition to Bible Gateway and Bible Hub, devotions here are sometimes prepared using   I found it interesting to see their topical index; these are the things that the Bible teaches and speaks to, and it’s interesting to see these collected together in a single list:

Top Verses by Topic (The links are all live!)