Heaven (Part Six)


For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17).

At home in the Father’s house

Our eternal home is a city. God develops his plan in taking his new humanity (those in Christ), not to a garden, but to a city. Cities are marked by density and diversity. The New Jerusalem has both (Revelation 5:9-14; 21:15-17). What will the eternal city be like? Let’s think about our eternal destiny.

  • It will be a new place (Revelation 21:2, 5). It is part of the new creation, suitable for the habitation of those who are new in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:15).
  • It will be skillfully designed and built (Hebrews 11:10) by God (Revelation 21:2, 10), the master builder of all things.
  • It will be beautiful (Revelation 21:2, 11). There will be no ugliness, no urban blight, no slums, no neighborhoods to avoid, and no pollution.
  • It will be pleasant and joyful in the city. The curse of sin and its consequences will be totally removed (Revelation 21:4, 6-8; 22:3).
  • It will be a place of safety (Revelation 21:12). The only fear will be a holy reverence for the majestic God.
  • It will be the meeting place for all God’s people (Revelation 21:12, 14; cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) with God (Revelation 22:23; 22:4). We will always be near those that love the Lord and enjoy him
  • It will be an immense city, about 1,400 miles cubed (Revelation 21:16), if this is intended literally or a figurative way of pointing out its enormity.
  • It will have immeasurable wealth (Revelation 21:18-21). All poverty will be forever removed. There will be an plentiful supply from the God of all grace.
  • It will shine with the splendor of God’s surpassing brilliance (Revelation 21:11, 22-23; 22:5).
  • It will be a place of great human creativity, as we reflect the glory of likeness to Christ (Revelation 21:24-26; 22:3).
  • It will have all we need for life and eternal renewal (Revelation 22:1-2).
  • It will be marked by eternal victory and celebration (Revelation 22:5, 14).

How then should we live, since we have such a glorious destiny?

  • We should worship God (Revelation 22:9).
  • We should focus on the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:12-13, 16).
  • We should invite others to join us there (Revelation 22:17).
  • We should look for Christ’s return (Revelation 22:20).
  • We should rely on his grace until he comes (Revelation 22:21).

So then, let’s do these things!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Five)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17).

In our previous article, we examined two truths about heaven as a world of love. First, the great cause and source of love in heaven is God himself. Second, we saw three characteristics of the people who will know God’s love for all eternity. Now, let’s continue with three more truths about heaven and love.

The exchange of love in heaven will be threefold.

  • The Triune God will share his infinite love among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as they have from before the creation of the universe. And out of their Triune love will be love for all they have chosen to be the objects and beneficiaries of their love.
  • The holy angels and the redeemed will respond to God’s love with perfect love. In this we will experience the fulfillment of the First Great Command, as a spontaneous, delightful desire. We will love God as Father, Redeemer, Spouse, and Friend.
  • The holy angels and the people of God will love each other perfectly. We will be sincerely united in love. There will be no loners or outcasts or enemies in the holy city. And since all are fully lovely, we will experience perfect joy in loving each other.

The principle of the love shared will be agreeable to the character of those sharing it.

  • Love in heaven will be totally holy. Most of the love in this world has some mixture of sin. But love in the eternal state will be free from corrupt principles or selfish motives. It will not be directed toward low or evil purposes. But it will be a pure flame, consistent with God’s glory and happiness. We will love God for God’s sake and one another for God’s sake, and for their relation to him.
  • In its intensity, this love will be perfect. There will be no remaining hatred toward God, or distaste or coldness or deadness of heart toward God. There will be no envy towards others. Those who have a lower position in glory will suffer no thoughts of loss by seeing others in glory above them, but they will rejoice in the happiness that each one has attained. True love delights in seeing the prosperity of another, and a satisfaction in seeing another perfectly happy. There will be a pure, sweet and fervent love among the saints in glory, and we will agree in the position that each one occupies, as to the rightness and beauty of it. Those who have a superior position in glory will not be proud, because they will have a perfect humility, and will have an abundant love to all.

The excellent circumstances in which this perfect love will be exercised and enjoyed.

  • Love in heaven is always mutual. Love will always be returned with love, which will be much different from life in this age. When we reach out in love, our love will be accepted and prized.
  • We will know the greatness of God’s love for us, and we will have the capacity to express appropriate appreciation to our Sovereign Redeemer. At that time, the truth of our loving because he first loved us (1 John 4:19) will be deliciously comprehended.
  • The joy of heavenly love will never be interrupted or cooled by jealousy. When we share love in heaven, we will have no doubt of the love of others for us. “Everyone will be just what he seems to be and will really have all the love that he seems to have.” We will have no fear that God or others will withdraw their love from us, and we will not withdraw our love from others.
  • There will be nothing to hinder the mutual expressions of love. Here, we can feel dull and heavy in spirit, and our flame can flicker or smolder, but there it will be forever new, vibrant and fresh. We will not lack correct words to tell others of our love, and we will feel freedom in expressing it for God and others.
  • Love will be expressed with perfect decency and wisdom. There will be no false steps, no poor decisions, or lack of discretion. There will be no indecent, impure or dissonant actions or voices. No passion will run out of control.
  • We will not be separated by distance or time. We will become fully acquainted with one another, and not able to come to misunderstandings or forgetfulness. We will agree in truth, and so in our opinions, worshiping the ever-glorious Lord. We will be employed together in serving God and helping each other in the joy of that employment.
  • We will be united to each other as very near and dear relations, as children of God and brothers and sisters together in his family. All will be closely related to Christ, the Bridegroom as his beloved Bride.
  • All will belong to each other. We are God’s, God is ours, and we are one another’s forever.
  • We will enjoy eternal prosperity and blessing together, sharing in God’s eternal riches.
  • All things will promote our love, because all things will show forth the beauty and loveliness of God and Christ by the Spirit (Revelation 21:22-23). The beauty and glory of the city will be an eternal testimony to the glory of God that we share in love.
  • There will be no lessening or end to the enjoyment of love together (1 Peter 1:4).

Let us all meditate on the glory of God in Christ that we will share!

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Four)

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17 NIV).

How will we live in heaven?

What will life be like? We will live in love, fulfilling a great purpose of God in our salvation. Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 CSB). When all things pertaining to the present state of the church pass away, love will continue. Love will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8); cf. Edwards, Heaven, a World of Love. Let’s think of two aspects of the love that will be shared by God’s people forever.

The great cause or source of love in heaven is the presence of God himself, who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). God will reveal the majestic greatness of his love in heaven (Revelation 7:17; 21:4). Having determined to live eternally with his chosen people, God will make known to us the riches of his love and grace (Ephesians 2:7; cf. 3:18). Since God is all-sufficient and infinite, it follows that he will be eternally the overflowing and inexhaustible fountain of love.

  • We will be with the Father, who is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). We will see the fullness of the love of the One who loved the world so much that he gave his Son for it.
  • We will live with the Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain and resurrected, the Prince of peace, who so loved us that he gave himself for us (Ephesians 5:25). The great Mediator will see the results of his atoning work and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:10-11).
  • We will be with the Holy Spirit, who has poured out God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and whose great task is to produce love in us (Galatians 5:22).

The people who are the objects of God’s immutable, unending, inexhaustible love have three characteristics.

  • They are completely lovely, because no one who is unlovely has any admittance into the Holy City (Revelation 21:8, 27; 22:15). No one will have any moral deformity, but all will be beautiful to look at and wonder at the power of God’s grace in Christ. The church will be a radiant church, without any blemish, but it will be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). False professors or hypocrites will not mar that company. No one will have a hateful, malicious spirit, or will have any motive to dislike anyone. Everyone will draw forth love from each other.
  • They are perfectly lovely. Too often now there is in the best of believers some defect of character or attitude or conduct that damages what is otherwise quite attractive. But there will be nothing sinful or foolish or weak in that city. No words will disturb the perfect harmony of love that will reign there.
  • They will be able to set their hearts upon what they have always desired and delighted in without hindrance. Many great realities of the faith have captivated their minds on earth, and they were willing to suffer the greatest loss for what they held in prospect. Yet what we desire to know now, too often the presence of sin, suffering, death, or the simple weakness of the flesh keeps from our full apprehension.

This week, meditate on the coming glorious love that followers of Christ will share forever. Since we’re headed for this destiny, walk in love together on this earth.

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Three)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:3).

What will be some of the essential features of the future happiness of God’s chosen people?

We will have an intimate knowledge of God. Though God is everywhere present, he will reveal himself especially in the eternal city, where he will live with his people forever

  • This will be the fulfillment of all the covenant promises (Leviticus 26:12; Ezekiel 37:27; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10; 13:5).
  • At that time, we will be permitted to see God (Psalm 17:15; Matthew 5:8), not that we will see God’s spiritual essence, since that is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16), but that we will be able to see God as revealed through the Mediator, Jesus Christ the Lord (John 1:18). He will communicate the glory of God to our senses (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 17:24; Revelation 21:23). “The glory of God is the illumination, and the Lamb is the luminary from which it emanates. Jesus will still be our teacher there, and through him we shall acquire our knowledge of the perfections and counsels of God.” [Dagg, Manual of Theology, p. 359]
  • Our knowledge of God and God’s ways will always increase, as those in fellowship with each other continually grow in knowledge of each other, as we will not have anything to hinder its progress, and we will have an inexhaustible subject for study.
  • What will we learn of God? We will be able to study his works (cf. Psalm 111:2), his government of history, and his deep plans of redemption (cf. Romans 11:33). Perhaps in the eternal state, we will be able to see how truths that now seem disconnected form one harmonious whole and perhaps many other things beyond our current understanding.

We will have perfect moral conformity with God (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). In Christ, this is already begun (Ephesians 4:24), but then it will be perfected. Being free from sin forever and always thinking righteous thoughts will be a new and very enjoyable experience. “In being conformed to God, who is love, we shall love the display of divine perfection, of which we shall obtain increasing discoveries… As our knowledge enlarges, our love to the things learned will become more intense, and the new developments which will be made at every stage of our endless advancement will be increasingly ravishing” (Dagg, p. 361).

We will have a full assurance of God’s approval. Now in this world, we grieve because of our sin, even though we know the truth of justification (Romans 5:1-11; 8:1; etc.) But in that day, the assurance of Christ’s word of welcome (Matthew 25:34) will govern our hearts and banish all fear (cf. 1 John 4:18).

We will have the best possible society (Revelation 21:3; Hebrews 12:22-24). Since our eternal home is a city, we should think in terms of residing in fellowship with beings sharing the exceeding riches of the eternal God.

  • God will live with us.
  • We will be with Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.
  • There will be an innumerable company of angels.
  • The full assembly of Christ’s chosen people will be present (Hebrews 11:39-40). We will sit down (Matthew 8:11) in perfect fellowship with the people of God from all generations. We will be with believers from before the Flood and before the giving of the law. We will meet those believers like Moses, Joshua, David, Hezekiah and Daniel, who lived under the law. We will fellowship with the apostles, prophets and many others whose names are written in the New Testament Scriptures. We will share life with those who suffered martyrdom in the earliest days of the church, with those who lived during many dark years, with those who rejoiced during times of great awakenings and the spread of the gospel to all nations, with those from other places and times, and those who sat in church buildings and homes with us, and with those who will make up the last generation when Christ returns.

We will have delightful employment. We are told simply, and his servants will serve him (Revelation 22:3). This service will occur in an atmosphere where the curse because of sin will be removed, and so we will be released from wearisome toil that characterizes our work now. What kind of service is not revealed, so it is useless to speculate. But we will be doing the will of the holy, wise and loving God, and we may sure that it will be significant and fitting for us. One of our activities will include worship.

Nothing will be present that can damage our happiness. God will remove our sorrows and all that accompanies them. Everything will be new (Revelation 21:4-5). No sinners will be present to disrupt the joy we will forever experience (Revelation 21:8).

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part Two)

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world (John 17:24 NIV).

Since heaven is not presently accessible or visible to us, we should expect many honest questions on the subject. All that we can know is what God has chosen to write in the Scriptures, and in his word, we are not told many details. This can be somewhat frustrating, but this is the will of our Father in heaven. I think it is useless to speculate about God’s reasons, but since he is holy and wise, I’m sure that his reasons for not telling us more are best for us and most for his glory. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:3-4. The apostle Paul said by the Spirit, And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell (NIV). God does not permit knowledge about heaven outside of what is written in the Bible. For this reason, do not be led astray by these supposed accounts of people that claim to have seen heaven’s glories. In this and a couple posts to follow, let’s consider various questions sincere questions that believers in Jesus have about heaven.

Is heaven a place or a state of mind?

Many outside the sphere of Bible-believing Christianity deny that heaven is an actual place, and they consider it to just be a state of mind. However, we do not determine truth by the opinions of people, but on the authoritative word of God. We have clear evidence from the Scriptures that heaven is an actual place that can be inhabited by physical beings.

  • The Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven in his resurrection body (Acts 1:9-11; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 9:11-12, 24)
  • The Lord Jesus was seen in heaven by Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:55-56)
  • The Lord Jesus promised to prepare a place for us to be with him (John 14:2-3; cf. 17:24)
  • The Lord Christ will come from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

Where is heaven?

The Bible nowhere states where heaven is, and we have no way of finding out. In addition, we have no way of knowing how the universe will be formed after the reordering of all things in the new creation. Avoid empty on these matters.

Will we know one another in heaven?

Yes, we will. Why would we not? An example of personal knowledge is found in the account of Christ’s transfiguration (Luke 9:30-33). Peter could recognize Moses and Elijah, though he had never met either man. If we were not able to recognize one another in heaven, how could the words of hope and joy of the apostle be true (1 Thessalonians 2:19)? Clearly, the apostle expected to recognize his converts and to rejoice with them to the glory of Christ. Paul comforts us with the assurance that those who have died with Christ will be brought with the Lord at his return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Where would the comfort be if we were unable to know one another? The point of his comment is that we are not parted in fellowship forever. We will be with one another again!

Grace and peace, David

By Faith Joseph (Part Two)

Genesis 50:22-26

In our previous post, we saw how Joseph completed his earthly pilgrimage with joy. We conclude this series on his life with this: By faith Joseph spoke about the future. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones (Hebrews 11:22 NASV).

For their immediate future, he encouraged them to rely on the Lord. He comforted them with the same comfort that he had received from his father (48:21). This is a pattern for our lives. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV). They who believe God’s promises are desirous of persuading others to believe also. That which had sustained him for over ninety years, he now leaves as a heritage of faith to his family.

Joseph had been the means of God’s support and protection for the family. Now that the means was passing away, what would become of the family? He directed them to the actual source of their security: The God who had made covenant promises to his people (50:24). “God’s gracious visits will serve to make up the loss of our best friends. They die; but we may live, and live comfortably, if we have the favor and presence of God with us” (Henry).

For the more distant future, he encouraged them to hope in God. God’s people must journey through this world with their hope (confident expectation) on what God has promised. We don’t look for satisfaction in this present world but in the world to come. Joseph’s family, which would become God’s covenant nation at Sinai, was not to look for satisfaction in Egypt. God had a better place for them, a place where they could flourish as his people. But they would not reach that land for many years. Until then, by faith Joseph spoke two messages of hope.

First, Joseph told them that God would come to their aid. Their way would eventually turn out to be bitter slavery. The people themselves would even turn to idols (Joshua 24:14). But God’s grace is greater than his people’s sins and sorrows. Hear the word of the Lord, “But God will surely come to your aid.”

Second, Joseph prophesied that God will surely take them to the land of promise. Egypt was not to be their home, and as a testimony to them, Joseph ordered that they take his bones out with them in the Exodus. Famous men often want to build monuments to their own honor in this world. Joseph was of a different spirit. Let Egypt do as it wished for the present; he had his sights set on a better country.

God’s people in all ages must keep their eyes on God’s promised rest for them. Let us remember where our home is. We are only strangers and pilgrims here. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13 NIV). We are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

Let’s focus on some lessons we can learn from Joseph’s life.

  • What made Joseph tick? He had surely seen God do great things for him and through him! But was his experience his consolation in the end? No, it was the word of God. His hope was in what God had “promised on oath” (50:24). Two unchangeable things sustained him at the end, God’s promise and oath (cf. Hebrews 6:18). We will do well to pay attention to the word of the prophets made more certain, for it is the word of God (2 Peter 1:19-21).
  • Let us not be weary of repetition. Joseph repeated that God would surely come to their aid. Weak minds continually lust after new, exotic, spicy spiritual and intellectual dishes. Strong minds are content to feed on meat and potatoes. Make God’s word your delight and rely on it; beware the opinions of people.
  • Joseph endured thirteen years of suffering, but he also enjoyed eighty years of honor. Let us not lose heart concerning any present suffering for Christ. He can abundantly reward us. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV).
  • A godly man may die in the Egypts of this world. That matters not. All the godly will share perfection together someday (Hebrews 11:40). O that it was today!

Grace and peace, David

By Faith Joseph (Part One)

Genesis 50:22-26

We come now to our final posts about the life of Joseph. He could say that God intended his sufferings for good. Our own souls can benefit as we meditate on what God did for him, leading him through the lowest depths to the highest honors. Trials may come to the child of God, but the Lord is with him through the trials.

While it is God’s purpose always to work for the ultimate good of his people (Romans 8:28), it is our responsibility to trust him as he works toward that end. Suppose you have car with engine problems, and you take it to a good mechanic for repairs. How does he fix the car? By taking the engine apart. You must rely on his wisdom and good intentions.

By faith Joseph completed his earthly pilgrimage. God blessed him with a long life. In the old covenant, the first command with a promise (Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:3) promised a long life. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation (Psalm 91:16 ESV). My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity (Proverbs 3:2 NIV). We must read verses within, not only their context, but also the context of the progress of redemptive history. Prior to the old covenant, we find that several of the godly (no record of the ages of the ungodly) attained very great years: Abraham, 175; Isaac, 180; Jacob, 147; and Job, 140+. Yet though they were loved by the Lord, sin’s partner, death, at last laid hold of them. We should daily thank the Lord for the gift of life and all that is necessary to sustain it and make it enjoyable. Now is the time to remember him. Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 NIV).

God blessed Joseph with a growing family. The text can be interpreted as either grandchildren or great-grandchildren. In either case, he could bless God as he saw the promise to Abraham begin to be fulfilled. Genesis 12:2. The enjoyment of grandchildren is a blessing from God. May the Lord bless you from Zion, so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life and will see your children’s children! Peace be with Israel (Psalm 128:6 CSB; cf. Job 42:16). I was joking with another grandfather yesterday that grandchildren are new and improved versions of children. We laughed, but I think that perception lies more within the grandfathers than the grandchildren, since we can love them and hand them back to our children after we have “spoiled” the grandchildren with kindness.

Note well that Joseph could rejoice in the mercies of God to him. He did not embitter his own life by obsessing on the suffering that he had had to endure because of his brothers’ cruelty. Since he knew that God had intended everything for the good of his family, he accepted his place in the plan of the Sovereign God. This required faith. God’s people must always live by faith.

Grace and peace, David

Intended for Good (Part Two)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

To restore relationships, we must act according to God’s word. To approach situations in conformity with God’s word, we must understand it. We need to be convinced that the leading person in the God’s plan is God himself, and not ourselves or the other person. This God-focus is often alien to how we act. But observe Joseph’s good and godly reply.

First, Joseph brought God into their problem. He directed them to replace their fear of retaliation with a fear of God. It is like Joseph said, “Make your peace with God, and then you will find it an easy matter to make your peace with me” (Henry). I think you will find that most believers will have a responsive heart to requests for forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35), though granting forgiveness might not happen without an internal struggle. As a godly man, Joseph knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord, and he was content to leave that to God. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21 NIV). It is very tempting to want to even up the score a little, isn’t it? Even when you’re right, you must resist the desire for personal revenge.

Joseph had already forgiven them, but had they made things right with God? There is a scene from Chariots of Fire, which is almost certainly fictitious, and used by the script writer to express Eric’s inner struggles. Jenny said to Eric after he missed a service, “It’s not me you have offended.” God was in his thoughts. While it is good to seek a restoration of relationship with another human we have offended, we must seek God’s favor above all. Do not make an idol out of your relationship to another man.

Second, Joseph explained God’s providence to them. They had intended evil; they truly had sinned. Notice that Joseph didn’t minimize their sin. When you counsel someone, don’t minimize their sin, but maximize God’s grace. Yet, Joseph made it clear that God had intended good. He can use a bad situation to produce a good end. Remember Peter’s words. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23 NIV). God and people can intend two contrary purposes in the same incident, but God’s ultimate purpose will prevail (cf. Proverbs 16:1, 9). Joseph also reflected God’s character to them. He promised to provide for them (cf. Matthew 5:44-47).

We ought to imitate Joseph’s excellent attitude and actions. Learn to return good when you have received evil. And so, Joseph spoke words of assurance and kindness (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10). When we speak this way, we keep the instruction of the Lord Christ. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

Grace and peace, David

Intended for Good (Part One)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

We come to the climax of our study about God’s providence in the life of Joseph son of Jacob. Through many twists and turns, God planned the events of Joseph’s life for the Lord’s goals in the great story of his glory in Jesus Christ. It is this section that provides God’s viewpoint on all that has happened.

We should approach this with more than a casual interest. It is one thing to say that God intended good in the events of Joseph’s life. It is quite another to make that same affirmation about our own lives. The way to begin is not to hope for or to wait for some crisis in our lives, and then to hope that we will see that God is working for our good. Instead, we must see God involved in our lives today, and every day and night. Wise military commanders prepare their troops for battle before they ever enter into harm’s way. God’s instruction about his story prepares us to serve him in all circumstances of life.

The account begins with the brothers’ misinformed plan (50:15-18). People, especially men, have the tendency to approach problems as “the fixer”. We listen to someone’s difficult situation for a couple minutes, and then spout out solutions to fix the other person or their circumstances. We try this with ourselves constantly by seeking advice from supposed experts or reading self-help books or surfing the internet. This approach is a recipe for disaster, and it could have made things much worse between Joseph and his brothers. Let’s think through their proposed solution.

  • It arose from uncertainty in their hearts: “what if.” They were trapped in guilt producing fear sequence. Guilt so awakens fear that a person will not feel secure. Cain became ruled by guilt and fear after he murdered his brother (Genesis 4:13-14). Joseph’s brothers lacked insight about Joseph’s character. Godly people are often misunderstood. The Lord Jesus was misunderstood by his family, Paul by the Corinthians, and David by his wife Michal.
  • It showed a mixture of worldly-wisdom and spiritual wisdom. They hid behind their father’s coat tails. They told a doubtful scenario from our perspective, but it might have happened. Did Jacob know about the sin of the ten against Joseph? Did they mislead Joseph that Jacob did? Would Jacob doubt Joseph’s intentions? The brothers took advantage of the grieving process, when a tender heart would be even more sensitive to an appeal like this. They did ask for forgiveness. Perhaps they should have used a better approach, but they did attempt to correct their problem.
  • It was presented in an inexact way. We have the advantage of possessing the Scriptures, and so we should do better. They spoke through a messenger instead of personally. Fear, rather than love was controlling their hearts. The brothers appealed to Joseph with a legal attitude: “we are your slaves.” Compare the lost son in the parable (Luke 15). They wouldn’t claim the relationship that was theirs. How do you approach God after you have sinned? Do you attempt to pay your way back into his favor, or do you ask for cleansing because of Christ’s atonement? Christians don’t make light of their sin, but they exalt the preciousness of the blood of Christ. The brothers’ plan to fix their relationship caused Joseph more hurt. While he could be glad about their repentance, their distrust of him after years of kindness would hurt (50:17).

Are you in need of restoring a relationship with someone? Are you tempted to follow worldly wisdom to find a fix to the situation? Make a fresh start by seeking the Lord in prayer. Call upon him in your trouble. He can act in the hearts of all involved (you and the other person or people). Humble yourself in prayer, asking him to act by his powerful grace and love.

Grace and peace, David

Heaven (Part One)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV).

One of the privileges of being a pastor or elder is the spiritual care of God’s people, especially as they approach the end of their earthly journey. Then, we see together what is truly important in this life, and it is not houses, cars, career accomplishments, victories by our favorite sports teams, vacations, entertainment, and gourmet restaurants. At the end, family and friends matter most, and if we are wise, our approaching meeting with the Lord. Our present purpose is to examine what the Bible says about life after death for believers, about what most people refer to in a general sense by the word “heaven”.

What do we mean by heaven? The term is used in two general senses in relation to God’s purposes of salvation. The first refers to the past ages and this present age. When we speak of heaven in the first general sense, the term is used in to speak of:

  • The sky (Matthew 8:20; 16:2-3)
  • The region of the stars and galaxies (Acts 7:42: Hebrews 11:12)
  • The place in the present age where God reveals his glory, where Christ resides in his glorified humanity, and where the angels and the spirits of the justified currently reside (Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:45; 18:10; Luke 22:43; John 12:28; Acts 1:11; 3:24; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 1:8; Hebrews 8:1)

When we speak of heaven in the second general sense, which is the primary subject of this study, we are speaking of the eternal destiny of God and his people. In this second sense, we refer to the new heavens and the new earth, and what the Bible reveals about them. “Heaven is the place where God most fully makes known his presence to bless” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1159).

Eternity is a most solemn and heart-searching subject. Our present life is but a very brief blip. Think on the following (cf. Ryle, Practical Religion, pp. 472-488):

  • We live in a world where all is temporary and passing way (2 Corinthians 4:18), whether beauty, strength, wisdom, or the worldly wealth we accumulate.
  • We are all going to a future where everything is eternal, whether for eternal happiness with God or for eternal misery under God’s wrath (Matthew 25:46)
  • Our state in eternity depends entirely on what we are in time (John 3:16-18, 36; Romans 2:6-7; Galatians 6:8)
  • The Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Friend to whom we must all look for help, both for time and for eternity (John 6:37-40; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:15; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18)

Next, consider the various terms used in the Scriptures to describe the future blessedness of the saints. Invest some of your time in reading and meditating on these verses.

  • Life, eternal life, live forever (Matthew 7:14; 19:16, 29; 25:46; John 5:24; 6:47, 54-58)
  • Glory, the glory of God, an eternal weight of glory (Romans 2:7, 10; 5:2; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 3:21; Colossians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:10)
  • My Father’s house, home with the Lord (John 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:8)
  • Peace (Romans 2:10)
  • Salvation, eternal salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 5:9; 9:28)
  • Paradise (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7)
  • The Jerusalem that is above, the city with foundations, the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22; Revelation 3:12)
  • A better country (Hebrews 11:16)
  • The kingdom, heavenly kingdom, eternal kingdom (Matthew 8:11; 25:34; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:11)
  • Eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4)
  • Eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9)
  • Glorious freedom (Romans 8:21)
  • To live and reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
  • Heaven (Matthew 5:12; 6:20; 19:21; Luke 12:33; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Peter 1:4)
  • New heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1)

Each of the above ought to stir the hearts of followers of the Lord Jesus. They tell us what to set our minds upon. Make room for heaven in your thoughts today!

Grace and peace, David