Sunday, January 25, 2009

Heaven - Part II

Yes I have heaven on my mind. Especially as I have been studying the subject for the past month. This week we will look further into what it is like. First of all we need to know who is there. By definition, God is there at the center. He is almost always depicted as sitting on a throne. Is this just a human way of describing it or for our benefit does He limit Himself so we can visualize Him. Obviously He is not limited to a throne since heaven itself cannot contain Him. Of course Jesus is seen there at His right hand. He is described in various ways, from a lamb to having crowns on His head and eyes of blazing fire. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned as being there but as part of the trinity you can count on it. Next are the four living creatures. We really do not know more about them other than they praise God continuously. Around them are the 24 Elders who sit on 24 thrones and have crowns that they cast down at God's feet. Do they represent the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles? Who knows? Not much more is said about them. Then of course are the angels who apparently can come and go between heaven and earth. There are lots of them - 100,000,000 if in fact Rev. 5:11 is correct. Something you might not know, expect or like is that at this time Satan (and possibly other fallen angels) still have access (see Job 1 and Rev. 12:10-12). And last but not least are believers.

Yes believers go to heaven. We all believe that, but do they go immediately or do they live in a "sleep" until Jesus returns. There are numerous Scriptures that suggest we go there immediately: Rev. 6:9, 7:9, 14:3-5, 15:2-4, Luke 23:43, 20:37-38, 16:19-31,I Cor. 5:11, Matt. 17:3. Of course we will not have our resurrection bodies (more on that later), though we may have some type of body, for we seem to be able to recognize others - even those we have never seen before.

We have already mentioned the throne in heaven as well as the 24 thrones of the Elders. In addition there are seven lampstands, a golden alter and a sea of glass. I am not certain what all of these are for of what they represent (except the lamps are the seven spirits of God - whatever that means). Lastly we see that there is a temple with an ark in it. We are reminded that the temple of Moses and David/Solomon was a type of the heavenly temple, so it is no suprise. Of interest is that every mention of the heavenly temple in Revelation uses the word for the innermost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies.

Lastly I want to mention a little of what heaven is like. First of all it is described multiple times as being holy. In it there is also great joy and pleasures forevermore. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne. There are treasures and riches (though probably not what we are used to). There is incense which represents the prayers of the saints. There will be no death or marraige, but I don't want to get ahead of myself and speak of the new heaven.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heaven - Part 1

Heaven is something that we all mention a lot but rarely do a lot of thinking about it in any serious way. And most of us have a pretty bizarre and distorted view of what it will be like. To make matters worse, because of that distorted view, most of us if we were honest are not really in any hurry to get there. It just seems so boring to float around in the clouds singing praises for all of eternity. Am I right? Well let me try to shake up your image a little and I think you might just like it.

First of all let me say that all of my information came from reading the Bible and studying all of the Scriptures related to heaven. Then through prayer I asked the Holy Spirit to teach me and guide my study, and to not allow me to teach anything untrue. Obviously in a topic like this there is a lot of ambiguity and I will indicate where things are a little more uncertain. I did not consult other books or references on the subject till after I was finished. I will mention two books that are helpful, neither of which I agree with completely. The first is "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn. The second is "Surprised By Hope" by N.T. Wright.

But why study heaven at all? There is plenty to occupy our time here. The first reason is that God mentions it a lot in His book. It is mentioned 667 times in the OT and 284 times in the NT. Then there are numerous references to heaven without mentioning it by name. Secondly, heaven is our hope and if our hope is what drives us then we should have an accurate view of what we are getting into. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. The hope of heaven can allow us to endure various trials that come our way. Paul says in I Cor. 15:19 that if for this life only we have hope then we are of all people most to be pitied. And lastly in Eph. 1:18 Paul wants us to know the hope to which He has called us.

So what is heaven? In its most basic sense heaven is where God dwells or where the Presense of God is. We need to be careful to not be confused with two things. Often the Bible speaks of the heavens (the heavens declare the glory of God) when in the proper context it is referring to the sun, moon and stars ect. Then in the NT there are references to the Kingdom of heaven. This is referring to the rule and reign of God here on earth - essentially the church universal. But is heaven a real physical place or is it some state of mind or conscience existence? The Bible speaks of God creating heaven (Gen. 1:1) and so it must have physical properties. Numerous references to things going on in heaven all suggest that it is a real place. But I do not think that we can go to it in our current state. I do not know but suspect that it operates in different dimensions than what we have to work with. Are there different levels? Despite Paul's journey to the third heaven (II Cor. 12:2), there is little evidence of levels. And the Paradise referred to three times in Scripture is probably equivalent to heaven.

That is all I will cover this week, but stay tuned and I will cover who is there, what it looks like and its characteristics. Then I will write on our resurrection and what happens to us when we die before Christ returns. Lastly I will discuss the new heaven and the new earth and I think what I say may knock your socks off, but may have you more anxious than ever to be there.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trouble in Camelot

I have always thought of my life kind of like a little Camelot. Not in a proud way but just that God has blessed our family so immensely. Of course there have been problems but overall things have been so good - four wonderful children, three great in-laws, all of whom love the Lord passionately, one cool grandson with two more on the way, an incredible wife whom I continue to love more each year, a stable job which is fulfilling, a great church, multiple friends, ect. You get the picture.

Well there is now a breach in the wall. As many of you probably know, just before Christmas my sweet wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She has been having problems with her memory for a year. We initially thought it was stress and did some things to relieve that, including quitting her job. It seemed to get better for a while but has gotten worse, and I took her to a neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis. At least as much as one can with this disease. Since then it has been an emotional roller coaster for us. We decided early on not to keep it a secret because we wanted people to pray for us. So over the past few weeks we have been telling friends and family, as many as possible face to face. This has been emotionally draining, but we have been so encouraged and supported by all.

Our stand from the beginning has been that we feel very confident that God will give us the grace to handle whatever He has in store for us down the road with this. On the other hand we also feel very strongly that we serve an awesome God who is powerful and can heal, and so we are praying for God to intervene and work a miracle. So if you read this please take a minute and stop and pray for her. We want as many people praying because we do not want to miss out on God's blessing, plus we do not want others to miss out on being a part of God doing a marvelous thing and in turn being blessed.

We do not know where this road will lead, but we still have been blessed beyond measure. So as the song says, every blessing He pours out we will turn it into praise; but when the darkness closes in, still we will say "Blessed be the name of the Lord".

Sunday, January 4, 2009


This was to be our down year for Christmas as the kids were going to be with in-laws and or working (downside of the medical profession). And in fact Christmas day was pretty quiet as it was just the two of us and Mary Beth. We ended up doing some house cleaning. But the rest of the time was a hub of activity over 7 days with a total of 18 people coming in for various periods of time. WE ended up getting to see all four kids and their spouses, my whole extended family and a surprise visit from Luana's sister and her husband from Denver. It was a great time of visiting, fellowship and encouragement. Most everyone is a believer and we were able to share the blessings of the birth of Jesus, His life, death and His gift of eternal life. I pray that 2009 is a great year for you and your family.