Christianity 201

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.

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