Archive for May 2011

Everyone wins… sort of!   Leave a comment

When I was planning to complete the Why Believe series with yesterday’s sermon on heaven, I thought it was similar to the whipped cream and cherry on an ice cream sundae. It finishes it off and the dessert would not be complete without it, but the substance is in the ice cream. However, as I prepared, God showed me that I could not have been more wrong! In fact the message on heaven makes sense of it all! It is the fulfillment of God’s plan and the final glorious chapter in God’s story.

In my devotional time I have just begun to read N T Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope” and even though I have only read the introduction and first chapter (along with the section on Paradise as research for the sermon) he is able to express the things I have been thinking in a clear and coherent way which makes me want to say Yes! Yes! Yes! all the time I am reading !

He underlines the amazing ambivalence and confusion in most parts of our society about life after death. Street preachers are scorned for proclaiming hell fire and damnation and for selling what appears to be an “insurance policy” to avoid the flames. On the other hand, many of those who profess atheism, when it comes to the funeral of a loved one, reach for the thought that the one who has passed away is somehow watching over them in some alternate state of existence. Some Christians are secretly afraid that heaven will actually be boring as they become residents of the 112th cloud on the left and proficient harpists… for eternity?

So what can we know about heaven? Clearly I cannot do justice to this huge subject in this short missive, but there are a few things which seem to be clear from what scripture tells us. All the words used, both for heaven and hell, suggest that they are real locations. Whether they are up there, over there, or indeed down below is not clear, but they are spoken of as locations. Jesus made it clear that He was longing to return there, (if in doubt read John 17!) and that glory and the presence of the Father would be predominant factors. He also stated that he was going there to prepare a place for us! (John 14:2-3). Remember that in Genesis 1and 2 God prepared this magnificent garden (Gen 2:8) for man to live in and His presence was a daily reality for them. Adam and Eve had things to do (Gen 2:15) and a real relationship with God as they “ walked with Him in the cool of the day.”  (Gen 3:8). If that was God’s original intention, it is likely that these elements will be present when the relationship is finally restored and we inhabit the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21). As a consequence, a residence among the clouds does not seem likely!

But why should we be excited when the information we have on heaven seems difficult to understand and sometimes rather scary (the Book of Revelation). Firstly if Jesus was so excited to return to His Father and to have us join Him it has to be immeasurably better than our present experience.   It seems this world, with all its struggles and pain is merely a blip on the radar of eternity. As a result, our purpose need not be big retirement accounts, wonderful homes, and substantial bank accounts to pass on to our children. We can therefore lay aside so much of the striving and worry that come with that territory. We can enjoy our blessings so much more as a mere taste of what is to come rather than regret their brevity. In short we can stop pouring all our energy in something that will come to an end and instead invest in something that will last forever, life the way He intended. And of course, if we believe in and fix our eyes on the place Jesus has gone to prepare for us we have a real hope to share with our trouble stricken world. They too can know that sense of “eternity” planted in all our hearts (Ecc 3:11) was put there by the Creator and is a gift for them to accept

And what of those who cannot or do not choose to accept God’s offer; they will also get what they wanted all along, a world without God. I fear they will discover how different it is from a world where the hand of God is in control even if some of His actions (and inactions!) are painful and inexplicable.  Suddenly it will become apparent how many times His unseen hand prevented and protected us from the full consequences of our human nature. So they will get what they campaigned for, an existence where they can never again be offended by references to God. And those who have trusted the unseen and sometimes frustrating Creator of the universe will get to enjoy eternity with Him in the New Heaven and New Earth.

So you see every one wins… sort of!

 

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Posted May 25, 2011 by jolm15 in Uncategorized