Archives For April 2015

[Enter the Gospels]

The book of Matthew gives us some great verses on heaven. Let’s start with John the Baptist, who was the forerunner and herald of Jesus.  His sermon to the masses came from a different perspective than people were used to and it caught them off guard. Jesus used this sermon as His first one too.  One could almost charge Jesus with plagiarism but He could always pull the ‘I’m the Word and have been around from the beginning’ card!  Matt 3:2 (NASB) “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This verse points out three things to us.

  1. Repent“.  John and Jesus actually believed people should change their thinking and behavior based on what heaven wants.  The earth is to yield to the desire of heaven.  We are the ones to adapt. Heaven sets the standard.  We are incompatible with heaven without change or proper alignment.  We can become the visible and tangible will of heaven on earth…just like Jesus.
  2. the kingdom of heaven”  It is a kingdom, not a free-for-all.  A kingdom has boundaries, laws, subjects, culture, language, purpose, and most of all, a king.  This sounds very organized to me!  There are many parables and verses that start with “the kingdom of heaven is like…”. One could come away with the idea that the gospels might be just as much about the appearance and movement of the kingdom as the cross.  You actually need both of these elements for the narrative to make sense.  John and Jesus conveyed several things here.  They reminded the people of their original calling to be the people of the one true God – maker of heaven and earth.  It was also an invitation to defect from the current climate and live for a higher one.  Immigrants need to learn the language, culture, values, laws, etc. of this new realm and swear allegiance to the King.  “Kiss the Son”, it says in Psalms 2.
  3. at hand”  This was a shocker!  The Jewish people had endured 400 some years of silence from God and had been through many difficult times. To hear that the ‘distant and somewhere-out-there’ God was now close was both exciting and scary.  Maybe heaven wasn’t way out beyond the stars after all.  I’m told early Jewish thinking about heaven wasn’t so much about distance as it was about another plane.  In reality it was very close… there all the time.  To say that something is “at hand” means it is very near…within grasp.  Paul had this same idea when he preached in Athens.  Acts 17:27 (NASB) “that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though he is not far from each one of us.”  We can live with an awareness of the nearness of heaven.

To be continued…thanks for reading!

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I hope over the next several blogs to stretch you in your ideas of heaven.  There are a lot of things written about it, that are,…well honestly, just uncertain.  Lets talk about what we know.

We know that there are millions of opinions of heaven. Every religion and philosophy had its theories and ideas.  Many groups claimed it to be a place of pure spiritual existence, separated from the evils of anything carnal or worldly.  Others claim annihilation.  And others spoke of happy hunting grounds and virgins galore.  What we see in every religion is the idea of what happens after death and where you go, thus, some form of heaven.

The Christian perspective must go back to our Jewish foundation received  from scripture for our understanding of heaven. Heaven was here in the beginning.  Here on this planet.  Heaven and earth occupying the same space at the same time; they overlapped each other.  They were one.  Our ancestors believed this because of the reference in Genesis about God walking with Adam in the cool of the day.  Heaven wasn’t the place of departed spirits in the beginning, but of the place where God was. It is God’s personal space, the zone, His kingdom.

 Heaven and earth were made for each other.

When sin entered into the world through man’s disobedience, there came the great separation.  The connection with heaven was cut and as a result the earth and mankind have suffered death and dysfunction.  Romans 3:23 (NASB) “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  Some have suggested there was a compartment of heaven called “Abraham’s bosom” where saints of God went when they died during the time of the Old Testament.

We have a few references to heaven in the Old Testament, but nothing real detailed.  Here is one from Daniel 12:13 (NASB) “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into your rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”  Death was referred to as rest or sleep, making the idea of heaven very “dreamy”.  The mind-set of this time wasn’t the goal of going to heaven.  They believed that God would take care of them after death, whatever that would look like.  They simply trusted when death came that they would be raised again in the last day and judgement would follow.  God would put everything right in the end.  The emphasis was on resurrection, rescue, and reward (or judgement)!  Job 19:25-26 (NASB) “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my flesh is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.”  They believed that God would come and redeem all His good creation and the victory would be here,…not there.  Heaven would one day be here again with God dwelling with man.  That is the picture we are given in Revelation 21.  It is the summing up of all things in Christ!

I don’t think the title is exaggerated at all.  Nope, not one bit.  The most important day of all human history, without a doubt, is the day that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.  Everything changed from that day on.  It is the pivot point of redemption.  We go from B.C. to A.D.  We go from distant promises to a kingdom now.  We go from outcasts to family.  This day punched a hole through death.  It wiped the hard-drive of sins against us. We get to enjoy eternal life with Jesus NOW!

This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24 (NASB)

This is about a specific day, not some other day, or even everyday.  It speaks of one day in particular; “a day”.  What day is it talking about?  We have to look at the two verses that come before it.  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes” Psalm 118:22-23 (NASB)  The day that God laid the chief corner-stone was the day we are to be glad and rejoice in.  The religious “movers and shakers” of Jesus’ day looked Him over and said,” We will take any piece of garbage over you (like a robber named Barabbas), and you can go straight to hell (crucify Him)!”  Jesus was rejected by men but hand-picked by God.  Jesus was to be the foundation and standard for all new creation.  He sets the level, the angles, and dimensions of it; that is what a corner-stone was to do.  That happened the day of Christ’s resurrection.

We shouldn’t have to hype an emotion this Easter because that’s the “Christian thing to do”.  If we don’t have rejoicing and gladness of heart over this day, it is because it isn’t marvelous in our eyes anymore.  That would be unacceptable – Christians bored with Jesus?  Really?  Maybe we need a fresh look and a new insight.  There’s an understatement.  We need to explore again our great King and triumphs until they are marvelous to us.

I pray the realities of our resurrected King and glory of His kingdom would invade your little world until it becomes, by your will and desire, a part of His greater world.  Enjoy the kingdom and get crazy with it.

Monk Tim