Tag Archives: Heaven

Up

“As they were looking, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”       Acts 1:9

Whenever the Bible speaks of God and heaven as being “up,” it is using a figure of speech, just as when it says that God walks on the wind, etc.  If God is up above Chicago, for example, His is straight down from Australia.  We talk about the North Pole as “the top of the world,” but the earth has a no more top or bottom than any other ball.

Neither are we to think of heaven as a place surrounding the clouds and the stars like the layers of an onion, so that “up” is over everywhere.  Such sensual ideas are a discredit to Christianity, and they reduce God to space, for Solomon reminds us that even “the heaven of heavens” cannot contain Him.

When the Bible says that God is “up,” it means that He is far above us in power and all other virtues; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts; His care is constantly over us; and we are always under His watchful eye.

As a matter of fact, God is closer to us than our own hands and feet.  We know that the angels are often standing right beside us.  And likely our loved ones in glory surround us “like a cloud of witnesses,” just as TV pictures and radio music fill our rooms constantly, even if we are unable to see or hear them with our natural eyes and ears.

When Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives He did not go up and up until He was lost from sight.  A cloud came between Him and His disciples while He was still comparatively near them, demonstrating by means of an acted-out parable that He, though unseen, is never far away.  If we really thought of this more often it would change our lives radically.

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Laughter

“….There is a time to laugh….”     Ecclesiastes 3:4

Laughter is not only mentioned frequently in the Bible but it is even the name of one of the most important characters in the Bible, Isaac.  This name constantly reminded his mother of her scornful laughter when God first promised her a child, and it commemorated her joyful laughter at his birth.

And so we see that there are various kinds of laughter.  Likely most of our laughter on earth is of the wrong kind.  One thinks of the way we laugh at other’s misfortunes.  Children should be taught that it is wrong to make fun of others.  A great deal of the laughter generated by modern entertainment is what Proverbs calls the crackling of thorns.  Proverbs also speaks of the insincere laughter which tries to camouflage sorrow. And Psalm 2 describes as laughter God’s supreme contempt of man’s puny efforts to frustrate Him.

Although much of what we call laughter on earth will not be present in heaven, for nothing there is absurd, incongruous, or ridiculous, there will be much laughter in glory. Jesus promises it to people who find it hard to laugh in this present vale of tears.  By contrast, there will be no laughter whatsoever in hell, except for the fiendish derision of the devil as he mocks those who were duped by his false promises of finding happiness in his service.

A certain dour individual  once took a dim view of humor, because Jesus is called a Man of Sorrows.  A wiser Christian was quick to point out that it is just because Jesus was a man of sorrows that we can be people of joy.  But let your laughter, like everything else in life, be godly.  Rejoice, to be sure, but “rejoice in the Lord.”

Give

“…Freely you have received; freely give.”         Matthew 10:8

Someone has said that when a doctor examines our physical health he feels our pulse, while God tests our spiritual health by feeling our purse.  Bible commentators claim that Jesus talked much more about money and personal possessions than He did about heaven.

The entire Bible is replete with passages that have to do with giving.  Here are some of the more familiar ones.  “Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” (Luke 6:38)  “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)  “He that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully…. God loves a cheerful giver.”  (II Corinthians 9:6,7)

When we read the parables of Jesus about the Rich Man and Lazarus or the Rich Fool, we imagine that we are not in a financial class with that kind.  But likely every one who reads these [blogs] is far better off than anybody of Jesus’ day.  We enjoy luxuries that Solomon never dreamed of.  And while it is true that we may give good amounts of money to church and to kingdom causes, it is not done at sacrifice to ourselves.  Like the rich men whom Jesus watched contributing to the temple service, we still have plenty for ourselves.  We give only of our surplus.  Frightening is the thought that that same Jesus knows exactly how much (or how little) we are giving today.  All of us are going to regret, at the end of life, how little treasure we really stored up in heaven.

Lose

Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward.        II John 8

To lose something, whether it be money, a job, reputation, health, or a loved one, is a most unpleasant experience.  That is why it is so surprising that the Scripture speaks very frequently of loss (especially of things that we think important) as something to be desired.  Here is the most familiar, quoted no less than six times in the Gospels:  “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  (Luke 17:33)

The explanation for this strange statement is that when we give up anything for the sake of our spiritual welfare or for God’s service, it is not really lost any more than we “lose” money by putting it in the bank or exchanging it for a piece of real estate.

When Betty Elliot perused her martyred husband’s personal papers she came upon this remarkable confession, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, in order to gain what he cannot lose.” And so it is.  The man who strives to gain the whole world will end up by losing his soul and the worldly possessions that he gained as well; while the person who seeks first the kingdom of heaven will gain “all this and heaven too.”  This is the wonderful way, the only way, in which it is possible for a person to “eat his cake and have it too.”

Try it.  Try real soon to forget about yourself for a change by losing a little money, a little effort, a little time in serving God or somebody else.  See what happens, as God dares us to do in Malachi 3:10.

Sing!

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.            Psalm 104:33

It is strange that we attach much more importance to some commands of Scripture than to others, and for no apparent reason.  The Bible urges us to sing God’s praises as frequently as it tells us to pray.  Every Christian feels it his duty to pray daily, but how many sing a hymn or a song every day, as the Bible repeatedly enjoins us to do?

The world was created to the accompaniment of song. (Job 38:7)  The biggest book of the Bible consists entirely of songs.  Music played a large part in the Old Testament service of God, and we know that Jesus sang with His disciples, and that they continued to do so with one another after He left them.  Heaven is often described in terms of continual music, so that every one who hopes to go there should spend a great deal of time rehearsing for that perfect praise.  A person who does not care very much about singing will have to undergo a radical change if he is going to be happy in heaven.

God’s people sing together in worship on the Lord’s Day and on other occasions.  Unfortunately, we forget that singing is a Christian exercise that we should enjoy everyday, not just on Sundays or only in the house of God.  Psalm 108 tells us to greet the dawn with singing.  Try it, the moment you rise from bed, and find what a difference it makes in the whole day.

God through the whole day with a song in your heart if not on your lips.  Sing at least one song today as a family.  By means of song we edify one another (Colossians 3:16), witness to others, glorify God, and chase the devil away.  If we would sing more we would sin less.

Origin of Sin

All of us take it that God made this universe perfect.  “Behold it is very good.”  God must be incapable of making  anything imperfect.  Here is the problem – Why didn’t God leave well enough alone?  None of us would go so far as to say, “Why did God make sin?” And yet we say, “Why did God let it happen?”  We say, “God allowed it.”  Whether he commanded, or planned it, it is not just a theological thing; we must think over this meaning.  It involves our will.  If it isn’t our responsibility we can say, “Well, we can’t help it.  God is responsible.”  That is why we have to answer this question to see if God is responsible or not.  When we say “Why didn’t God leave well enough alone,” we think that Adam was apparently perfect, but he wasn’t.  For example, a pediatrician would say about one of the babies in the nursery, “This baby is perfect,” and not one of the parents would say, “I hope this child stays this way.”  This is a relative thing.  They wouldn’t want that baby to stay a perfect 2 months old, but would want it to become a perfect 4 month old, etc.

Adam was spiritually a child.  If you will permit an illustration:  Our high school and local colleges recently had their examinations, and they aren’t particularly pleasant for the student or for the teacher.  It means a lot of extra work for both the teacher and pupil.  Why do it then?  It is by means of these tests and examinations that they grow and learn more — so it is by means of the possibility of failure that Adam would grow and become a man.  I think every one of us feels that a person who has resisted temptation is a better man thereafter.  I don’t know whether one can logically speak of more perfection, but Adam would have become more perfect if he succeeded in this temptation.  If he had not sinned he would have been confirmed in holiness.  Even the least thought of evil would not have entered his mind, just as the Lord Jesus while he was here on earth – like the angels, who are finite creatures, are incapable of the least sin, they would have worked out their claim to heaven, eternal salvation.

We often speak of paradise as a picture of heaven, but that is just what it is; a picture.  Heaven would have been a step ahead.  They would have gained glory.  That is what God arranged.  Adam and Even were completely capable of that.  They could have said to Satan, “Get thee behind me,” as Christ had done.  Let us not blame God for what he is not responsible.

That is all good and nice, but you are just talking, “Might have been.”  “Why didn’t God make it so that they couldn’t have sinned?”  If God had done that there would not have been free choice, and man would have been merely a puppet in God’s hands.  The very fact that man did not do what God wanted him to do shows how free and independent he was.  Otherwise God would be like a ventriloquist.  An English writer says that sin or failure in the garden of Eden is the risk God ran in order that God could make a creature like himself, self reliant.  The problem of free will as over against predestination comes in here, and the answer is that man is free.  The Bible says that deliberately, lest some people escape their responsibility.  The fact is that there isn’t a soul here that doesn’t act deliberately.

It is true that God knew that man would disobey, and allow me to say, that God planned it that way, but God planned beyond that too, that out of this tragedy would come something better.  The Chicago fire long ago was a blessing because it was through this that better and stronger buildings were built, etc.  Out of the fall came a saved saint, which is an advantage.  If the first Adam hadn’t fallen, Jesus would have never come.  We wouldn’t know anything about the wonderful attributes of Jesus.  We wouldn’t know that we are on a higher level then Adam and Even were in Paradise.  We have eternal life in our hearts.

 

Different Degrees of Glory

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of the Lord.      Matthew 25:21

Sometimes people ask how it will be possible to be perfect in heaven and still keep growing in knowledge and in likeness to our Lord.  Well, Jesus was perfect from the moment that He was born, and yet the Bible says that He grew not only in stature but in wisdom.

Similarly, when we reach heaven we will be perfect.  But every “day” in heaven we will also keep on growing and learning, and heaven will never become dull because that growth will have no limits.

This means too that there will not be monotonous uniformity in the hereafter.  Just as there are differences among us here on earth, so there will be differences among the citizens of heaven.

It is a strange fact that, while most people are eager to outdo the other person here upon earth and are rarely satisfied with present accomplishments and attainments, many Christians are quite content with the thought that they’ll get into glory, by grace, and are quite unconcerned as to what their station there will be.

Perhaps they are unconsciously thinking of the parable of the laborers who received the same wage at the end of the day despite the fact that some worked many more hours than others.  But this parable only intends to teach us that whether we are young or old upon conversion or young or old when we die we shall all be perfect and completely happy in heaven.  But the parable of the pounds is designed to tell us that our stations in glory will vary tremendously, and they are being determined right now by our degree of faithfulness here upon earth.  Why should anybody be satisfied with barely getting in?