Tag Archives: Heaven

Finished

“After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said….It is finished; and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”        John 19:28, 30

There are two senses in which the word finished is used in Scripture.  The first means simply that a certain thing is completed, as in the case of the tabernacle or the end of a journey.  The second way in which it is used is the same as when we speak of a given musical rendition as a finished performance, even if it is Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony.”

When Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” He did not merely mean that His life was ended.  He meant that He had perfectly completed the work which the Father had given Him to do.  Just think of it; for 33 long years He had lived without making a single mistake, once losing His temper, thinking a naughty thought, or making a careless gesture.  You and I simply bring our lives to an end; we quit living.  But when Jesus died His life was finished, the first and only one in human history.

Genesis tells us that when God concluded the Creation “the heavens and earth were finished,” that is to say, perfect.  God examined everything and said it was all very good.  “Finished is the glorious work,” sings the chorus of Hayden’s Creation.

By contrast you and I never finish a single thing here upon earth.  We just quit.  Today we come to the end of another month’s worth of meditations.  But as we leave it, it is far from finished.  And every saint confesses, the closer he gets to the end of his life, that there is nothing finished about anything he does.  That is why he longs with Paul for the perfection of the new life, for the day when he will open his eyes in glory and exclaim, even though he has an eternity of growth ahead of him, “It is all finished.  Finally I am finished.”

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Obedience

“…He became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.”      Hebrews 5:9

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

So goes an old gospel hymn that is familiar enough but frequently forgotten by us evangelical Christians.  If we are asked the question, How is a person saved? we immediately reply, By faith, not of works.  How can a person get to heaven? By grace alone.

And so it is, but the other side of the coin is the fact that people who are born again are going to live like it.  People who trust in Christ as Savior also acknowledge Him as Lord.  People who truly believe in Jesus also obey Him.

Thus Jesus Himself warns, “Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven; but only he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7: 21)  Again, “Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”  (Luke 6:46)  “By their fruits you will know them.”

It comes as quite a shock to our comfortable patterns of thinking to be told by the Judge Himself that at the last day, the redeemed will not be told, “Come, you blessed of my father, for you believed in me as Savior; you were faithful members of the Christian church; you prayed and read the Bible,” but rather, “Inherit the kingdom prepared from before the foundation of the world, for I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in.”  (Matthew 25:34)

The world is full of good people, splendid neighbors, people who give huge sums to charity and work hard for benevolent causes.  In some ways this makes it easier to be a Christian.  But in many ways it makes it harder, for Jesus said that unless our good works excel those of the unbeliever, we shall not enter the kingdom.

Name

“….And I will write upon him mine own new name.”      Revelation 3:12

The Bible attaches a great deal of importance to names.  Like many cultures even today, the people of Bible times gave their children names that had meaning, instead of mere labels chosen for their pretty sound or other reason.  Some names, as in the case of John the Baptist, were given by God before birth.  As one might expect, many Bible characters (Abraham, Jacob, Simon Peter) were given new names to commemorate a new situation in their lives or a change of character.

We sometimes speak of a person’s first name as his “Christian” one.  It is indeed an important matter and should be given careful thought by parent.  Lives have been affected radically because of the name that a child was given.  The choice should be made a matter of prayer.

The way we live brings credit or discredit to the name we bear.  There are certain names we heartily dislike because of the people we once knew who possessed them.  Others we are fond of for the opposite reason.

The same holds true of ones’ family name.  Children in school are often at an advantage or disadvantage depending upon those who preceded them bearing the same name — older brothers or sisters, parents, distant relatives.  Think of the difference it makes to bear a good name or a bad one.  Every single one of us is creating an “image” of our family name.

God, who calls every one of the billion stars by individual name, has a separate and special name for each one of us, no two of whom are alike.  In heaven we will discover just what that personal name is.  What would you like yours to be?  Will it fit us the way we are right now — in our thinking, doing and living?

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.

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.