Christianity 201

April 29, 2019

In My Father’s House are Many Big Houses

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

2 Cor. 5:1 .NLT For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.

The title of today’s devotional is meant to cause a double-take. More on that later.

Like many of you, there were key Bible passage I was asked to memorize as child. One of these was:

CEB John 14:1 “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

and a quick overview shows four primary statements in these verses:

  1. Don’t be afraid
  2. Trust Me
  3. God’s house contains many ‘mansions’
  4. I would have told you if anything were different

Today my plan was to explore the fourth of these, the phrase “If it were not so I would have told you.” However, as I began to study this, my thoughts were redirected. We did actually look at that phrase a few years ago here.

Instead, I found myself looking at the “many mansions.” For me this verse was always contrary to the direction my personal theology has been heading: From an “up there, somewhere” heaven to a “New Earth” view of eschatology. However, for some reason I found this verse problematic, as I kept seeing the “up there” being described therein.

In Barnes’ Notes we read:

Jesus was consoling his disciples, who were affected with grief at the idea of his separation. To comfort them he addresses them in this language: “The universe is the dwelling-place of my Father. All is his house. Whether on earth or in heaven, we are still in his habitation. In that vast abode of God there are many mansions. The earth is one of them, heaven is another. Whether here or there, we are still in the house, in one of the mansions of our Father, in one of the apartments of his vast abode. This we ought continually to feel, and to rejoice that we are permitted to occupy any part of his dwelling-place. Nor does it differ much whether we are in this mansion or another.

It should not be a matter of grief when we are called to pass from one part of this vast habitation of God to another. I am indeed about to leave you, but I am going only to another part of the vast dwelling-place of God. I shall still be in the same universal habitation with you; still in the house of the same God; and am going for an important purpose – to fit up another abode for your eternal dwelling.” If this be the meaning, then there is in the discourse true consolation. We see that the death of a Christian is not to be dreaded, nor is it an event over which we should immoderately weep. It is but removing from one apartment of God’s universal dwelling-place to another – one where we shall still be in his house, and still feel the same interest in all that pertains to his kingdom. And especially the removal of the Saviour from the earth was an event over which Christians should rejoice, for he is still in the house of God, and still preparing mansions of rest for His people.


Then we come to the meat of the today’s study, in the writing of Howard Snyder. This is somewhat abridged; click the header below to read in full.

Father’s House — Many Mansions

“Many mansions.” In King James’ day, a “mansion” was a room, not a huge, fancy house. Today most translations say “many dwelling places” (NRSV), or “plenty of room,” as the TNIV helpfully puts it. Jesus’ central meaning is this: There is plenty of room with God. (It apparently has not troubled many Christians that “In my Father’s house are many mansions” is nonsensical as “mansion” is popularly understood.)

“My father’s house.” This does not mean heaven. Heaven is not mentioned once in the whole chapter. What then is the “Father’s house”?

Jesus speaks out of the context of the whole Old Testament revelation. In the older Testament, the Lord’s “house” or “dwelling place” is an immensely rich idea. It essentially means the place or places where God’s presence is manifest. Often in the Psalms God’s “house” or “dwelling” is the temple in Jerusalem. Other times it refers to the whole creation, or even the whole universe. Some Psalms describe God himself as our “dwelling place” (Ps 90:1, 91:9).

The point is: God’s “house” or “dwelling place” is wherever God is and wherever his presence is made evident and his will is done. Jesus assumes this in many of his discourses. The meaning of John 14:2 is, “There is plenty of room with God.”

“I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus assures his apostles that in going away (through his crucifixion and death), he is accomplishing the next step in God’s plan for his kingdom to come in fullness.

This verse echoes God’s word to Israel in Exodus 23:20, “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” Jesus very self-consciously fulfilled all the Old Testament promises concerning himself. In Exodus, the reference was to the Promised Land. In the New Testament, in fulfillment of the promises, the Promised Land becomes the whole earth, recreated as “new heavens and new earth.”  …

John 14:1–3 is not about heaven. It is about our “dwelling place” being eternally with God—beginning now on earth and in “the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3, 2:6) as we love him and keep his commandments; for awhile in heaven before Jesus returns; and finally in the new creation—the new earth and heaven.

Jesus does not say in verse 3, “I will take you to heaven.” He says, “I will take you to myself.” And Jesus promised to return to earth, once for all.

The point in John 14:1–3: Not the place. Rather, the Person and the relationship. In the end, Jesus establishes the perfect relationship of shalom between himself, human beings, and the whole creation. For now, Jesus “must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21).

Jesus’ words here thus mean: “I go to accomplish the next step in bringing the complete fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation and creation healed.”


Tangentially: I found his parenthetic comment in the first paragraph rather interesting. We often skip over familiar passages without really considering what we are reading. Basically, in the English translations, Jesus is saying:

In my Father’s this:

There are many of these:

which of course you are free to suggest doesn’t make any sense. For this reader anyway, the problem is not the splendour of the mansions, but a misunderstanding of what is implied by the “house.”

Of all the various translations out there, I most love how The Voice Bible renders John 14:2

My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival.


A concluding verse:

Revelation 21:3 NLT I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 

September 11, 2016

Where is God’s Heavenly Kingdom?

by Russell Young

   The location of the kingdom of heaven may not seem important, however knowing its setting might bring clarity to some important issues.  Due to lack of understanding people have entertained, and do entertain, all kinds of fanciful thoughts concerning heaven itself. The imaginations of many allow them to consider an eternal utopian existence somewhere in the grand beyond.  Most people have probably developed their own impression of God’s eternal kingdom.

The Bible reveals some truths that should impact our lives.

There are two locations revealed that apply to God’s heavenly kingdom. At this time, he is both building his kingdom and has a kingdom. He manages or reigns over his creation from heaven and will continue to do so until his Son has perfected his creation.  “Then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24-25 NIV) When the reign of Christ is completed and the kingdom given to the Father, God’s heavenly kingdom will begin.

The second location for God’s heavenly kingdom is revealed as being on earth.  Heavenly, in this case, means heaven-like, or as existed in heaven.

John testified that he saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev 21:2 NIV) He had a vision of the Holy City descending to the new earth.  Some take this to mean a newly formed earth, however “new” in Revelation 21:1 comes from the Greek kainos and refers to newness–especially in freshness and not properly in respect to age. (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #2537) The new heaven and the new earth will bring glory to God.  The Lord is making everything new (Rev 21:5), including the hearts and minds of those who will dwell with him.

The prophets wrote of a renewed earth. Isaiah has recorded, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” (Isa 40:4 NIV) Zechariah revealed: “The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah.  But Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place, from the Benjamin Gate… to the royal winepresses.  It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.” (Zech 14:10, 11 NIV) Further description can be found in Isaiah 35:6─10. “Those passing through will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden.’” (Eze 36:35 NIV) And, the Lord revealed that “there is no longer any sea.” (Rev 21:1 NIV)

Paul stated that “this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor 8:31 NIV) Further he taught of the “frustration that God’s creation is enduring as it waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed … in hope that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.” (Rom 8:19…21 NIV)

The purpose for a new earth must be put into perspective.  God had created and had declared his creation to be very good.  He had a purpose and had exercised his power to accomplish his good pleasure.  The evil inclinations of humankind (Gen 6:5) had prevented the fulfillment of his objective, but one day it will come about.  When those who have honored him through their own free will are chosen, his creation will be liberated and his heaven-like (heavenly) kingdom will be established on earth.  All things will have become new.

Everyone needs to recognize that God loves his world (Jn 3:16), not just humankind. The Lord prophesied that at the time of the sounding of the seventh trumpet the time had come for “destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18 NIV) The earth is intended to be preserved for the future.

The revelation of a new heaven and a new earth, and the teachings that accompany it should give humankind pause to think.  It is not just a pardon that God’s people require; it is a transformation of their souls, hearts and minds into those whose imaginations are not constantly evil (Gen 6:5); they must become an offering acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16) Those who are chosen will be in the likeness of his Son (Rom 8:29), “a new creation.” (Gal 6:15) When his creation is refreshed to the state he had called “very good” his plan for creation will be completed. His heavenly kingdom will be on earth. This time, however, “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Mt 13:41 NIV) will be weeded out of his kingdom and it will be eternally righteous.

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 tar from their eyes.  There will be no more crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4 NIV) God will finally have the created kingdom that he had envisioned and it will be on earth.

August 13, 2015

Things Not Present in the Age to Come

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. -Rev. 21:4 NASB

This is from David Murray, author of The Happy Christian and Jesus on Every Page at the blog Head•Heart•Hand. You’ll want to use these links to Revelation 21 and Revelation 22 (links are to NIV, you may select a different version). Click the title below to read at source.

8 Things You Won’t Find in Heaven

Heaven is so heavenly that it’s often hard for earthly creatures to understand what it will really be like. That’s why the Bible often describes heaven in terms of what will not be there. For example, the last two chapters of the Bible tell us eight things that will not be there:

1. No Sea (Rev. 21:1): Does not necessarily mean that there will literally be no sea. Rather “sea” is a common biblical metaphor for the storms of life, the mysteries of life, and the barriers and distances that separate us in life.

2. No Tears (21:4): Why? Verse four tells us, there will be no more pain or death. Imagine, we will never cry or hear a cry ever again.

3. No Temple (21:22): “Yes! No churches!!” says an unbeliever. But it’s no churches because everything is church; everything and everywhere is worship. Here we often experience churches without God. There we will experience God without churches. How? Because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”

4. No Sun or Moon (21:23): Again, not necessarily literal but a biblical symbol for time. No more time pressure, no more stress of having too much to do and too little time to do it. No sun and no moon also means no shadows, no fluctuations in life, no ups and downs. How can this be? “For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”

5. No Locked Gates (21:25): Because no threats and no thieves. All is at peace and all is at rest. Perfect and total security.

6. No Night (21:25): Meaning, no ignorance. The smallest child in heaven knows more about God than the greatest theologian on earth. No night also means no spiritual drowsiness and sleepiness.

7. No Sin (21:27): All the causes, acts, and effects of sin will be abolished. Impossible to even think a sinful thought.

8. No Curse (22:3): Not just no curses from men and women. Also, no evidence or experience of any curse of God on us or the environment. Because Christ became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13), not one atom in us or our new world will have any trace of the divine curse.

These eight things will not be there.

The question is, will you be there?

July 2, 2014

About That Mansion Over the Hilltop

John 14:3 (Phillips) It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am.

John 14:3 (The Voice) I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together.

John 14:3 (NASB) If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

Today’s thoughts are from Matt Appling at the always interesting blog, The Church of No People where it appeared under the title Heaven is not a Timeshare: How a Generation of Christians Have Been Tricked About Heaven.

What is the point of being a Christian anyway?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because it seems like we need a sales pitch to get people in the door. What will I get if I agree to this thing called Christianity?

Will Jesus make my life better?

Will I be a better person?

Will I get to go to heaven?

There are a myriad of promises that were made to us when we first accepted Jesus as our “personal” savior, a bunch of guarantees that we could be certain of. I don’t usually do this, but I love Micah Murray’s blog so much, if you haven’t read his Four Reasons I’m Not Going to Heavenyou should (right after you’re done here.) He’s done a great job and I’m not going to retread his points.

There are a lot of bait-and-switch jobs we do to get people to accept Jesus. They are the little Easter Eggs that we scatter around in the hopes of making Jesus more appealing. But I’ve got to think that the greatest trick that we have perpetrated, the biggest bait-and-switch of all time has got to be the certainty that if you accept Jesus, you get to go to heaven when you die.

Here’s what I mean.

 

The Sales Pitch for Christianity

I have never heard a sales pitch for heaven that was not absolutely glowing. I mean, come on, it’s heaven.

The streets are lined with gold and the seas are crystal clear. It’s a beautiful place.

We get to be reunited with all of our lost loved ones.

What do we do in heaven? There’s always something about whatever we like to do, we get to do it all the time. We get to eat constantly and never gain weight. We get to party all day. Heaven is a super duper fun place. I think the heaven sales pitch has been revamped over the years. These days, we want people to know that they will not be spending eternity floating on a boring old cloud playing a harp. 

Oh and church, that place that we endure our entire lives in order to get to heaven? Yeah don’t worry, heaven won’t be like that either. Heaven will be flipping sweet. All your best buddies will be there and none of the bad people. That girl who insulted you in high school? Yeah, you’ll be able to gloat as she burns in hell, which will also be flipping sweet.

Oh and we’ll probably get to fly too. And we’re going to have totally ripped abs.

You know, stuff like that.

The Money Back Guarantee

Of course, none of that sales pitch comes from the Bible. We just made them up, because that’s what we do when God is silent about stuff like this.

If you press people, they have to say that we really don’t know what heaven is like. But they counter with “But whatever you can think of, it’s BETTER than that!” It’s like a money-back guarantee.

Tricky, tricky. You know, this is starting to sound like a timeshare presentation. It doesn’t make things any better that there are now scores of books, full of testimonies from people who “visited” heaven. They can tell us just how amazing the place is! Now who wants to make a commitment right now?

Yes, heaven is a magical place where we become angels (we don’t) and fly around and look down on the people of Earth (we won’t do that either, the rich man and Lazarus was a parable).

The Fine Print of Heaven

Okay, so what’s the harm of everyone believing all the heaven hocus-pocus?

Because it takes away the reason Jesus died for us. Jesus did not die so that we could go live in a gold mansion. He died so that we could be with God.

Jesus did not promise heaven. He promised himself. He promised to be present with us, Immanuel.

The point of heaven is not all of the stuff we get to do and have. The point of heaven (whatever it is) is that we will be with God. God is what makes heaven heaven. And the point of being with God is that we have to want God more than we want everything else. We have to despise our lives. We have to despise our stuff. We have to despise even our families. We have to even despise whatever idea we have about what heaven is and just want God for who He is. 

Otherwise, heaven is just another idol, another shiny thing that we want.

And God is just a means for us to get that idol. We turn into the whiny toddler at the store, manipulating mom into buying us that new toy.

It’s almost like we opened the biggest present on Christmas morning, and it turned out to be a big box of underwear. Someone found out that the whole point of this Christianity thing is God himself. And that was a huge disappointment. How could we have gone through all this believing and all this worship and all we get is God?

I know, it’s a scam isn’t it? You sit through the whole presentation, the whole sales pitch, and this is what we get?

God almighty.

What say you? Have we tricked a generation of Christians?

January 13, 2014

There Will Be No Sea in Heaven

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. ~ Rev.21:1

This article is from popular Biblical writer R. C. Sproul. I have heard teaching previously about the aquaphobia (fear of water) that characterized people in the times and places where scripture originates. It is actually helpful to understanding a number of Bible passages and narratives. To read this at source, click this link.

Scripture often speaks of the entire creation awaiting the final act of redemption. To destroy something completely and to replace it with something utterly new is not an act of redemption. To redeem something is to save that which is in imminent danger of being lost. The renovation may be radical. It may involve a violent conflagration of purging, but the purifying act ultimately redeems rather than annihilates. The new heaven and the new earth will be purified. There will be no room for evil in the new order.

A hint of the quality of the new heaven and new earth is found in the somewhat cryptic words, “Also there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). For people who have a love for the seashore and all that it represents in terms of beauty and recreation, it may seem strange to contemplate a new earth without any sea. But to the ancient Jew, it was a different matter. In Jewish literature, the sea was often used as a symbol for that which was ominous, sinister, and threatening. Earlier in the Revelation of John, we see the Beast emerging from the sea (Rev. 13). Likewise, in ancient Semitic mythology, there is frequent reference to the primordial sea monster that represents the shadowy chaos. The Babylonian goddess Tiamat is a case in point.

In Jewish thought, the river, the stream, or the spring functioned as the positive symbol of goodness. This was natural in a desert habitat where a stream was life itself. If we look at a relief map of Palestine, we see how crucial to the life of the land is the Jordan River. It cuts like a ribbon through the heart of an arid and parched land, connecting the Sea of Galilee in the north with the Dead Sea in the south.

The Mediterranean coast of western Palestine is marked by rocky shoals and jutting mountains. The ancient Hebrews did not develop a sea trade because the terrain was not suitable for much shipping. The sea represented trouble to them. It was from the Mediterranean that violent storms arose.

We see this contrasting imagery in Psalm 46. The psalmist writes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (vv. 1–3). Then he adds, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4).

I live in central Florida. Our area is sometimes described as “the lightning capital of America.” The summer months bring severe electrical storms. My grandchildren are frequently frightened by what they call the “booming.” The loud thunderclaps are not a part of what they would envision heaven to include.

But the Jews feared other problems from the sea besides turbulent storms. Their traditional archrivals, marauders who beset them countless times, were a seacoast nation. The Philistines came from the direction of the sea.

The Jew looked to a new world where all the evils symbolized by the sea would be absent. The new earth will have water. It will have a river. It will have life-giving streams. But there will be no sea there.

This excerpt is taken from Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul.

Bonus reading: At the end of the article there is also a link to this related piece.  Click to read Creation Freed From Decay.

“Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (vv. 20–21).Romans 8:18–25

In our study of the biblical theme of creation, we saw yesterday that what seems to be chaotic is actually under the control of our sovereign Lord (Job 38). The presence of such “chaos,” however, is not God’s ultimate design for His universe. He subdued the raging waters when He took what was unproductive and made it into an environment suitable for plant, animal, and human life (Gen. 1:1–2:3). The fact that nature can be a danger to us today is due to the curse this environment suffered when our first parents fell (3:17–19). Our creator is sovereign over the chaos, but this chaos is not the ideal, biblically speaking. Instead, Scripture looks forward to a new heavens and earth that will no longer pose any threat to His people.

The prophet Isaiah is the first one to speak directly of a new heavens and earth (Isa. 65:17–25), but it is the New Testament that explains how the renewal of creation will come about. Today’s passage tells us that all will finally be set right in the day that “the revealing of the sons of God” occurs (Rom. 8:19–21). Paul is talking about that final day when Jesus will return to finish what He started and vindicate His people, separating the sheep from the goats to show to the world those whom He has purchased with His own blood (Matt. 25:31–46). This is the day for which the entire creation is longing, for it will be on that day that the effects of the curse will be totally removed from the creation (Rom. 8:22–25). Christ has already done all the work necessary to cancel the curse (Gal. 3:13–14), but the Holy Spirit has not yet applied the benefits He won for His creation to the fullest. Sin’s power is broken but its presence remains to war with us until the day of the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).

Jesus came not only to save us spiritually but also to redeem our physical bodies and, indeed, to redeem creation itself. He loves the world that He created (Gen. 1:31; John 3:16), and He is unwilling to let it fall by the wayside. Proof of this is seen in His promise to resurrect all those who are in Christ to live forever in God’s presence in the manner in which we were designed — spiritual and physical creatures. Likewise, the earth will be transformed and made new so that we will be able to look on the world and understand clearly the Lord’s goodness and glory in all things, which is why He created everything in the first place (Col. 1:16).

Coram Deo

Non-Christian environmentalism can be really a form of nature worship that elevates the creature over the Creator. Christians are to be good stewards of creation and look not to misuse it because they know the damage that pollution and other such things create makes it harder for others to see the glory of our Lord. We care for our own little corner of God’s world so that His glory can be seen readily in it.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 30:1–10

Both articles reproduced with blanket permission from the source.  From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org

June 25, 2013

Destination: Heaven Verses in Light of New Earth

Heaven

As we’ve mentioned before here, in the book Heaven, author Randy Alcorn makes it very clear that we need to unlearn the idea of “going to heaven” in terms of a “place up there” kind of location or destination, and think more in terms of new earth.  So what do we do with the verses that seem to support the idea of a destination, like John 14: 1-6?

John 14:1-6 (NIV)

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jim McGuiggan has a website called Think Noble Things of God, wherein he deals with possible issues in interpretation of this passage at an article titled What of John 14: 2-3.  C201 readers are encouraged to read these articles at their original source and then look around the rest of the authors’ websites or blogs.

Does John 14:2-3 teach us all the saved are going to heaven when the present phase of human history closes with the return of Jesus?

That’s certainly the prevailing view and it has a long history but I’m not sure that that’s what the passage is meant to tell us.

I don’t doubt that those who die in the Lord “go to heaven”. I think that’s the clear implication of passages like Philippians 1.23 but that text isn’t talking about the post-resurrection experience—it’s speaking of “life after death” rather than “life after the resurrection”. In any case, it’s obvious that Phil 1 and John 14 may not be making the same point.

Here are a few observations that presently come to my mind when I reflect on John 14:2-3 and the entire section.

1. My Father’s “house”. I haven’t looked into this for so long that I’ve forgotten what conclusion I drew when I did. I can’t off-hand think of any text that speaks of the Father’s [or God’s] “house” as heaven though there may be one or two somewhere. Certainly the NT seems to speak of God’s “house” as the temple or the church. At this point I’m simply saying that this needs to be cleared up or at least seriously checked before we construe the phrase as “heaven”.

2. It is easily conceivable that “the place” he goes to prepare is a place in the kingdom. Daniel 7:13-14 speaks of the Son of Man as going to God on the clouds of heaven to receive a kingdom which he receives as the representative of his people to whom the dominion is given [note 7:22, 27].

3. This would work well in a context of disappointment [14.1] if they construed his departure as failure of their hopes of the kingdom being restored to Israel in the Messiah [compare Acts 1:6 and Luke 1:32-33].

4. Wherever he’s going doesn’t seem to be a “location” so much as a “meeting” since he says of his going “and you know the way I’m going” [John 14.4-6]. Jesus himself is the essence of the “way” to “where” he is going. “Where” he is going is to his Father [14.28] and this doesn’t suggest to me a “location” so much as a relational type situation that carries out a purpose. When God brings Israel out of Egypt he brings them to himself [Exodus 19:4]. It is true that he brings them to a place [Sinai] but the issue is more a relational event than a location. I suspect this is the case in John 14. In going to the Father, Jesus is obviously not going to Rome but “to heaven” where his Father “is”. But if what I’m thinking is correct the “location” is not at all the issue [again, see 14.28].

5. Later in the section he mentions again his “going away” and his “coming” again but he isn’t talking about his final coming; he refers to his coming in and as the Holy Spirit which would be with them without a parting [John 14:16-29—this entire section needs to be read].

6. He speaks again of their being troubled at his going away but assures them that they should be rejoicing because he goes to the Father. Again, not to a “location” [though we can’t speak of his departure without using spatial and other terms]. Though they don’t fully understand it yet they do know that the Messiah’s dominion is to come from God and we know that Jesus was going to gain dominion.

7. Then in 14.29 he tells them that he has told them of his departure and coming before it would happen so that they will know this was no ad hoc arrangement, it was an integral part of the development of the divine drama and purpose. He tells them that when they see it happen they will know and believe. This suggests to me something they would experience. I think that putting this together with his return in/as the Holy Spirit [mentioned earlier] and their experience of Acts 2:1-36 offers a more coherent understanding of John 14.

In summary I think Jesus has in mind his going to the Father to receive the Messianic dominion and that he [in and as the Holy Spirit] returns to give them their place in God’s kingdom and to dwell in and with them without a parting [do note John 16.7 and that entire section in view of what I’ve suggested here].

Jesus speaks the content of chapters 14—16 in a time of great sorrow [16:4-6] for them, a time of shaking faith and a time of confusion but he is calling them to trust and assures them that their pain will end in joy [16:16, 20-22].

March 14, 2013

Given a New Name

This is from a blog,  Into The Foolishness and appeared earlier this year as A White Stone and a New Name.

One of the things I find beautiful in the book of Revelation is when Jesus says,

“To him who overcomes I will give a white stone and on that stone is a name known only to the person who receives it and to Me” (2:17).

The white stone signifies victory and could very well hint at purity. The significant thing to me is there is a name on that stone that is the name Jesus knows me by. My mother does not know me by that name. My friends don’t know me by that name. No one in this world, including myself, knows who I really am. I think that when we see ourselves in the light of Jesus, which will only happen when we give up ourselves and begin to seek Him wholeheartedly, then we will eventually grow into the person that He meant for us to be. When we see our name on that stone we’ll say, “Wow, thats me! How did You know me when I couldn’t even know myself?” For me, that’s part of the goal of spiritual maturity.”

~Rich Mullins

This verse in Revelation is one of the most intriguing and beautiful passages in all the Bible for me, and one of the most mysterious. A white stone with a new name? One that is uniquely ours that no one understands but God and myself? To think that God knows me in a way I don’t even know myself and will reveal that identity to me one day gives me goosebumps. Whenever I read this passage I think “I want to know what my stone says!” Imagine your most true self summed up in a name and handed to you by Christ Himself. It staggers the imagination.

For the time being, we are citizens of a fallen world, but it doesn’t change who we are. We all have a true self that God created us to be. We strive and work to become better people in many ways, but I think growing into who God actually made us to be is one of the holiest things we can do. It’s not about becoming perfect or working harder – it’s about embracing our weaknesses and faults and handing them all over to a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. What if we stopped trying be so many different people and focused on discovering more about our unique calling?

We have an identity in Christ that is unique. This should be an encouragement to all of us to seek only His will for our lives and let everything else fall to the wayside.

I actually like that no one is able to figure out the exact meaning of this passage. There is an excitement and wonder in it that should make us long for the truth of who we are in Christ. We get a taste of it here on earth and see the fulfillment of it in heaven. For now it is, as CS Lewis once wrote, “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” 

I try and instill in my kids that they need to be who God has made them to be, no more and no less. I need to remember that myself. Find your identity in Christ and you won’t need to find it anywhere else.

“To him who overcomes I will give a white stone…”  What an unbelievable gift!

February 8, 2013

The Sea Was No More

The Sea

Appropriately enough, today’s study is from the blog Cindy By The Sea. That sounds so relaxing right now, doesn’t it?  This is her third selection at C201 — see below for other links — and appeared recently at her blog under the title And There Was No More Sea.

And, I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and, there was no more sea.”  Revelation 21:1

No more sea! Can you imagine that! For those of us who live on or near the ocean, it’s a hard concept to imagine. No more sea. But, that’s what the Bible says.

With three-quarters of the earth made up of water, it’s hard to imagine life without these beautiful and petulant bodies of water; a particularly disappointing thought to those of us who enjoy swimming, surfing, fishing, sailing on or just sitting beach side along one of their beautiful shores.

So, why, no more sea?

I was talking to my daughter Seven Stars the other day, when she brought the subject to my attention. For some reason, she had been giving it some serious thought and had a number of insights with which to share with me.  After our discussion, I suddenly understood, why, there will be no more sea. Something I had never really understood or thought much about before.

The Bible has a lot to say about water – both rivers and seas. And, there seems to be a clearly defined differentiation between the two.  For you will notice, while there is no more sea in the new heaven and earth, there is a river. A crystal clear river that flows from the throne of God.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb.” Revelation 22:1

Now, why might this be, rivers, but, no seas?

Let’s look at a few examples.

Moses was drawn out of the water in a basket which was floated on top of the waters of the Red Sea.

Jesus walked on the water at the sea of Galilee.

Noah’s ark was lifted up and floated on the waters, which covered the earth.

Where does Leviathan reside?  In the sea.

Where does the beast of Revelation rise up from?  The sea.

Do you see a pattern developing? There appears to be a clearly defined difference in the Bible between that which is in the sea  from that which is on the sea?  A difference, which, I believe is key to understanding, why, in heaven, there will be no sea.

The Abyss

There was a movie by this name a few years ago, The Abyss.  The abyss referring to the deepest, darkest part of the sea. But, in the Bible it is a word which refers to the bottomless pit, the underworld, the deepest part of the ocean or hell. This is the place where in Jude 1:6,7 the angels who left their first estate are held in chains. And, it is the sea that is the burial place of the wicked, who died in Noah’s flood, as well as the Egyptians who pursued Moses and the Israelites as they fled Egypt.

It is against this backdrop that we see and understand the importance of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. For in walking on the water, Jesus demonstrated his power not only over nature but, more importantly over the sea itself.  For to place feet on is to claim dominion. And, in this instance, Jesus clearly demonstrates his power over the sea and over everything in and under it, including the abyss.

But, rivers are something else. Rivers begin high in the mountains (mountain heights are always synonymous with the dwelling place of God).  And, streams like God’s grace flow downward until they reach the hills and valleys below providing life to all living things as they rush along their course.  Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river and it was this same river that Joshua and the Israelites passed over in order to come into the promised land.

Yes, the sea teems with life and, we glorify God for his stunning creation. But, for all their beauty, they will not be found in heaven – for nothing sin stained will  – and while, the sea in and of itself is not evil, from what we are told in scripture, those found within the confines of her deepest regions are …..

“In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword — his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.”   Isaiah 27:1

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6

Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!   ~ Cindy

Previous articles here at C201  from Cindy By The Sea:

October 2010 — Two Headlines, Two Choices (The Dividing  Line)
June 2011 — After That He Took The Cup
April 2012 — Zombies In The Bible

Also, click through to the original link for this story to see a reader comment with a different interpretation of what is meant by sea in this verse.  There is a lot more depth you can get into on this particular word study; as you begin to explore more references it keeps getting more interesting!

November 7, 2012

Israel and Aquaphobia

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. (Rev. 21:1 emphasis added)

Other than the Beach Boys, probably the Vineyard churches have had more musical output on the subject of water. But quenched thirst, rains, showers, oceans and rivers have figured into the lyrics of both classic hymns and modern choruses, and the reference is usually positive.

Not so for the nation of Israel in scripture. They were not a water skiing bunch, and so we often see water cast in a negative sense.

I’m currently reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, by Skye Jethani (Thomas Nelson, 2011) and he makes the following observations:

…The sea is a source of endless recreation, whether on the beach playing in the sand; on the water’s surface boating, fishing and surfing; or beneath the waves exploring the alien underwater worlds.

But for all the sea’s joys and beauty, it is also an unrivaled source of destruction…

…The massive power and unpredictability of the sea is why ancient peoples saw it as a symbol of evil. The inhabitants of Israel, who were not a seafaring people, viewed the ocean as a realm of chaos, destruction and darkness… [T]o them the sea was a dark abyss to be feared…

…The opening scene of the Bible captures this contrast. In the beginning the earth is described as “without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” It is an ominous and disorganized world. But then we read, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The God of creation brought order out of the primordial chaos… …God declared the newly organized world “good.”

…Sadly, the onward progress of order and beauty was severely interrupted when the man and woman broke unity with God. Choosing to rule without him, they plunged the world back into chaos…

…But God has not abandoned his world to chaos. The Biblical narrative has more to say about the sea and God’s power over it. The story of the flood found in Genesis 6 … tells of the world being destroyed by water. But the Lord preserved for himself a remnant through the deluge…

…Moses was put into a basket and survived the waters — a retelling of the Noah story on a micro scale. Years later God rescued his people from the oppression of Pharaoh through Moses. With the sea on one side and Egypt’s army amassed on the other, the Lord separated the waters and led his people to freedom on dry land. Then, as in the story of Noah, the waters washed away those committed to evil…

Taking these stories and others, we see that the Old Testament acknowledges the unpredictable and chaotic nature of our world as captured in the imagery of the sea and flood, but it also speaks of God’s power to preserve us through it. These stories affirm that although the cosmos appears to be random, in fact it remains subject to God’s purposes.

Psalm 77: 16 When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.

Psalm 93:3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
    mightier than the waves of the sea,
    the Lord on high is mighty!

…When King David’s enemies overwhelmed him, he compared the situation to drowning… He cried for the Lord to rescue him.

Psalm 69: 1Save me, O God!
    For the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire,
    where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
    and the flood sweeps over me.

14 Deliver me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters.
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

…The imagery of God’s presence with his people in the raging sea may be metaphorical in the poetry of the Psalms and Isaiah, but it becomes vividly literal in the New Testament.  Traveling across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples awakened him when a fierce storm came on their tiny fishing boat. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they shouted.

Jesus spoke to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” and immediately everything became calm…

They did not fully understand who was with them in the boat. In time they would come to see that he was the one who separated the sea from the land, who preserved Noah through the flood, Moses in the Nile, and led the Hebrews through the sea on dry land. He is the one before whom the waters tremble. And if he is in our boat, we need not be afraid. We will surely arrive at our destination because the forces of evil cannot overwhelm him. With God there is hope even in a world that appears to be drowning in chaos.

The Biblical narrative ends with John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth. We are told in Revelation 21 that in the renewed creation, “the sea was no more.” This observation must be read within the larger biblical context. From the opening scene in the Bible onward, the sea has been synonymous with evil and chaos. The total absence of the sea in John’s vision simply means evil will have no place in the new creation. Beauty and order and abundance will fill the world, just as God intended from the beginning.

~Skye Jethani