Sunday, February 22, 2009

Heaven - Part IV (and last)

I'm sure you are either wildly anticipating these ideas about the new heaven or more likely wanting me to end the discussion. Well both of you win today. In Revelation 21 we see that after the 1000 year reign of Christ and Satan is thrown into hell that God does away with the old heaven and earth and creates these anew. No longer does Satan have access to heaven to accuse us and no longer does the earth groan under the weight of sin. And before you think that this is just apopolyptic imagery, look at II Pet. 3:13 and Isaiah 65-66. So what is the new heaven like?

First of all it is dominated by the new Jerusalem which will be 1400 miles cubed, approximately the size of the eastern half of the USA. The walls will be 200 feet thick with 12 gates and 12 foundations. Of note is that there is no temple because the dwelling place of God is with man. Thus it will be more like the old garden of Eden, with God walking with us in the cool of the morning. Think of the old hymn "I Come to the Garden Alone". There will also be no sun for God will be the light and there will be no night. The river of life runs through the middle and there are trees of life on each side with fruit each month, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Secondly, there will be no more death, no tears, mourning or pain. But will will not just be floating on the clouds with harps. We will be serving/ministering to God, planting vineyards and building houses. And of course the wolf will lie down with the lamb, meaning that they are both herbivores and that there are animals in heaven (I'm not sure about cats though). We see also that there are nations outside of the city walls and that the glory and honor of the nations is brought into the city. So in a word this means that there is a lot of activity going on in heaven and we are working as we were always meant to do, only now it is not with pain and difficulty and there are no weeds.

Thirdly, a word about our resurrection bodies. Since we only have one to compare so far, we will use the example of Jesus. He was recognizable at times and at times he was not. So I think we will have some recognizable features though exactly what age we will be is unclear. Peter recognized Moses and Elijah even though he had never seen them. And we will have a physical body though it might not be subject to the same physical limitations. Jesus could walk through walls and could transport Himself in a moment. We will be able to eat and drink also. And presumedly not get fat. Our bodies will not die or decay. And in Isaiah 65 we see that God will answer our questions or needs before it is even on out lips.

Two more things. First are the three differences between the new and old heaven. There is no temple, there is no Satan, and we have resurrection bodies. There may be others, mostly having to do with the new earth. Secondly I just wanted to give a picture of life in the new heaven. I Corinthians 13:13 says that faith, hope and love abide, meaning that they will be functioning in heaven. That means that relationships will be prominant there - both with other people and with God. These will not be tarnished with sin. Can't you wait to love each other with pure agape love? Then we will continue to grow in our relationship with God for eternity. We can never know Him completely. I even think that the level of our relationship with Him here on earth will be our starting point when we get to heaven. We will not all have equal relationships with God. Then as I said there will be work to do of various types so that we can use our God given abilities and possibly even some new ones. Certainly I am going to need to get a new profession. We will eat and drink and live in houses. And lastly of course there will be plenty of worship - and who knows but that maybe I will be able to sing on key.

If all of that does not get you excited then you need to see your doctor. Hurry because you will not need one there.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Heaven Part III

I hope you are not getting bored with heaven. Now we are moving toward the good stuff. Jesus has come and there are three things that are attached to that. The first of course is our own ressurection. Then there is judgement and lastly is the distribution of rewards. After all of this and a 1000 year reign of Christ comes the new haeven and new earth. But I do not want to get ahead.

Jesus of course was the first person to be resurrected, and to date is still the only one. When he comes the dead in Christ will rise first to receive their resurrection bodies. Does that also include the OT saints? I am not sure (see Rev. 20:4-6). After this those who are still alive when He comes will be changed into their resurrection bodies without experiencing the first death. Lastly, after the 1000 year reign, the nonbelievers will be raised to face judgement and eternity in hell.

So what about judgements? The Bible speaks of two. The first is the Great White Throne judgement of Rev. 20:11-15. This is where the righteous and unrighteous are separated, the former to heaven and the latter to the lake of fire (i.e. hell). This is the same separating of the sheep and goats in Matt. 25. Basically you want your name written in the book of life. There is only one way to do that. If there happens to be someone who does not know Jesus reading this then post a comment and I will make sure you know how to have your name written there. The second judgement is the bema seat judgement (named because of the Greek word used to describe it). This is found in Rom. 14:10-12, I Cor. 3:10-15, and II Cor. 5:10. Basically it means that we all will appear before God to give account of what we have done while here on earth. It is not for salvation for this is only for those already saved. Sounds pretty scarry doesn't it?

Let's move on to something more positive - rewards. Are there rewards in heaven? That seems kind of antithetical to the popular notion that we will all be equal in heaven. Maybe the notion is wrong. There is pretty good evidence for rewards in heaven, but not a lot of specifics on exactly what they are. Let's start with Heb. 11:6 where we are told that part of faith is that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. Obviously Jesus is our reward and that is enough, but the Bible suggests there is more. We see this from multiple passages including Matt. 5:12, 5:46, 6:4,6,18, 10:40-42, II John 8, and Heb. 11:26. We also are told in Matt. 6:19-21 to not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth but lay up treasures in heaven which can never be corrupted. So what exactly are these? We do not know. Some people think they are the crowns that we lay at the feet of Jesus. In the Beattitudes we see some possibilities - comfort, being filled, mercy, seeing God- and others are the lives of people we have touched here on earth, authority and ruling over nations. The point is not what they are but how to lay them up. That is beyond the scope of this text, but the answers are found in the same passages that I have listed as well as Matt. 25.

Next week we will look at the new heaven and new earth and I will conclude this series. It is the really exciting part and I think will get you thinking and possibly change your views. Till then.