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

Two Choices Contrasted

IMG_1105Ruth 1:14-15

Two young women had to make a choice one day, a choice that affected their eternal destiny. Orpah made the sensible choice according to the wisdom of this world and turned back to Moab. Naomi’s arguments convinced Orpah. In Moab there was hope for a new life with a new husband, and probably children to love and care for. Wanting a husband and children is very normal and a good, God-given desire for women. But there is more to see in her situation than that! Orpah saw two alternatives: (Ferguson)

  • Yahweh plus nothing in Bethlehem
  • Everything minus Yahweh in Moab

And so, Orpah made her choice according to human sight and opinion. Orpah looked at her situation in life in exactly the same way that Elimelech had used earlier. The fields of Moab looked greener than the land of Israel, at least from the standpoint of marriage and family. And so with a sensible choice, she walked off the pages of the Bible and into the oblivion of countless others. The living God was missing from all her sensible calculations. “She rejected the road to emptiness, but at the same time unknowingly turned aside from the one road that could have led to a life of lasting significance and meaning. The world’s wise choice to avoid emptiness leads in the end to a different kind of oblivion.” [Duguid]

Someone might object, “Poor Orpah, she didn’t know what God could do!” I’m sorry; that is simply not true. She had only to look at creation to tell her about the God who is there (cf. Romans 1:18-25). But not only is that so, but she had also heard a good word of testimony about the living God. Don’t forget the message of verse six, which is the reason Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah decided to return to Israel! My friend, God is under no obligation to give you overwhelming testimony of his love and kindness. If you only hear once of how the Lord Jesus Christ has changed the life of one of his people, you have a treasure that millions never received. Don’t play games with the goodness of God to you!

Ruth made the godly choice and clung to Naomi. The Holy Spirit choose a word (“clung”) that he used other places in the Old Testament Scriptures to indicate a deep, personal relationship (Genesis 2:24; Deuteronomy 10:20). God then used the words of troubled Naomi to test Ruth’s faith; that is, to draw out from Ruth the reality of her trust in God. God uses this way in the lives of his people (cf. Abraham, Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17).

  • Naomi’s words revealed the true nature of Orpah’s choice. By leaving Naomi, she was “going back to her people and her gods”. Orpah might have made the “sensible choice” in the world’s opinion, but it was also an ungodly, unkind choice! Why unkind? It was unkind because she left her mother-in-law, who could have used her help.
  • Naomi urged Ruth to go back with Orpah. This is not the preferred way to try to win people to the Lord! But it tested the reality of Ruth’s faith.

What would Ruth do? Her peer in the world said by example, “There’s no hope in the Lord! Let’s grab what we can of the good life now.” And her only friend in God’s people told her “to go back to the world, because the Lord’s hand might make your life as bitter as mine!” But more importantly for those reading this article, what will you do? Will you follow the Lord Jesus Christ, if all you can be sure of in this life is suffering? Will you trust Christ that eternal glory will far outweigh all that you might suffer in this world? Please, please let the challenge of Christ ring in your heart!  Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38).

Grace and peace, David

Hope Builder’s Diet

IMG_0719Hebrews 10:23

The God who makes promises is the ground of hope (confident expectation). The writer of Hebrews presents God as “he who promised”. The emphasis at this point is not on the content of what God has promised, but it is on the God who makes promises to his people. Remember this idea: We must exalt the One who promises and not the promises in themselves. We do not worship the Bible, but the God who has spoken in the Bible. His faithfulness to his word is the crucial matter. Many people say wedding vows, but it is the character of those who repeat the vows that gives any substance to them.

Knowledge of the living God is more important than the promises, and it is the basis of our interaction with God’s promises. This is not to disparage the promises but to put them in their proper place. We will not evaluate his promises correctly unless we have a proper estimate of God and his character as God. John 3:16 is a beautiful verse, but it means nothing to the one who knows little or nothing about the God who loves the world. For this reason, seek to gain a greater knowledge of God. It is gained through daily communication with him. Therefore, to strengthen us, let us consider God as the promising God. You can review how God interacted with his people by giving promises:

  • Noah (Genesis 6:11-22)
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:11-15)
  • Elijah (1 Kings 17:2-6)
  • Abraham (Romans 4:16-25)

All this important to grasp, because hope “feeds” on the promises of God. As your body is nourished by physical food, so your hope is sustained and strengthened by God’s promises. The way to an unswerving profession of hope (confident expectation) is to lay hold of God’s promises and to “make them your own”; that is, put them into your world and life view and act accordingly. The inner person of the heart especially needs to be refreshed with God’s promises in the good news of Christ. Think of their incomparable greatness and glory. When we enjoy their fulfillment, then we will be eternally happy.

How are you feeding your hope? If you have a feeling of hopelessness, perhaps you can trace the problem back to an improper diet. Try a “hope builders” spiritual diet (a good diet helps you build strength) for a few weeks. (Yes, it might interrupt your current “Bible reading plan”. I know it’s shocking to suggest such an interruption. But isn’t hope of great value to the true Christian way of life?) Here is a sample that I suggest for people who desperately need to strengthen their confident anticipation in the Lord.

As you pray for God to strengthen your hope, read and think about and then pray based on the following passages:

Read one section from one of the following each day:

  • The Life of Abraham (Genesis 12-22)
  • The Life of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-50)
  • The Life of David (1 Samuel 16-31; 2 Samuel 1-24)

Read one or two sections from one of the following each day:

  • The Gospel of Mark
  • Romans

Read one of the following each day: [Repeat as necessary]

Psalm 6; Psalm 13; Psalm 23; Psalm 27; Psalm 37; Psalms 42-43; Psalm 73; Psalm 107; 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 11; Revelation 1:12-18; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 19; Revelation 21:1-22:6

Conclude by thanking God for his word that builds your hope by the power of the Spirit.

We need to arrive at the full confidence that we can depend upon God, the faithful God. We can trust him with our lives now and forever. The Christian life is a walk of active faith. We dare to trust the invisible God in the all too visible challenges that we face. The life of a follower of Jesus is not intended to be a pleasant stroll in the park while you sip on free lemonade. For this reason, we must have confidence in the faithful, promise-making and promise-keeping God.

Grace and peace, David