Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What the Future Holds (7)

This is part 7 of chapter 10 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

In concluding this chapter, I want to address some final concerns about which all people wonder. What is heaven like? Can we know? God’s Word is clear that the glories of heaven are beyond our comprehension; but again, the Bible has given us some thoughts of heaven for our anticipation. We will look at examples in a moment. First, we need to revisit death.

Remember that death simply means separation. When we die, our souls will be separated from our bodies. This is the first death. The Bible says: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Now many questions can be asked about what happens the moment we die. Do we go directly to heaven or hell? Do we wait in a state of slumber until Christ’s second coming? Theologians vary in their answers to these questions, but they often point to something Jesus said while hanging on the cross. Speaking to the thief who repented while hanging next to Him, Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Reading this statement leads me to think that upon death believers go straight to paradise to be with Christ. However, if the comma is moved to the right by just one word in the sentence, Jesus’ statement could be interpreted differently. It would then appear that Jesus was speaking the truth today. The thief would accompany Him in paradise sometime later. This is the argument of several scholars.
Christian theologians also look closely at Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. Paul said: “We are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Do these verses say, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”? Some experts think so; others disagree.

While I have not yet gained enough confidence to answer with certainty whether or not, at the moment of death, we will be present with Lord, I am confident that it will seem to us like the transfer is instantaneous. Therefore, the believer should not fear this death, for he or she can be certain of salvation. Paul declared, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). He also said:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have
sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If
I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what
shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and
be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I
remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will
continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through
my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me
(Philippians 1:20-26).

Paul wanted dearly to die and be with Christ, but he knew that God was working through him to bring people to salvation by the message of Gospel, which he proclaimed so brilliantly. We believers may often yearn for God to take us out of this dilapidated world, but there are things for us to do here! We can win souls to Christ until God rightly decides to bring us home. The Bible says: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Now the first death is often the scariest thing imaginable for an unbeliever. Unbelievers cling to this life as if it is all they have. But six times, the Gospels record Jesus saying: “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33, among others). While it is understandable for people without the hope of eternal life to be terrified of the first death, the second death is what should cause unbelievers to tremble. Total separation from God in the lake of fire (hell) is unimaginable!

Now, what will heaven be like? Paul tells us we will get new bodies, incorruptible and perfect in every way. We will know others as Jesus knows us, more intimately than we can possibly fathom. John says, “We are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). We will be fully conformed to the image of Christ! We will know truth in knowing God. We will have answers to all our questions. Perhaps there will be a video of all the experiences on earth, including creation! Better still, maybe we will just know it. We will not have to watch a video to soak it all in; rather, the knowledge of all truth will be in us, just as Christ is in us. Perhaps we will know the past, present, and future as God does: Presently.

Consider this: We are four-dimensional beings; we exist in height (length), width, depth, and time. We generally think only in those dimensions. Perhaps we will be ten-dimensional in heaven!

As we exist presently, we can see colors, but perhaps in heaven, we will be able to smell them, taste them, touch them, and hear them. What would the color red sound like? Would its texture be smooth? Do you think it would taste like a berry of some sort? Consider its aroma.

As we exist presently, we can hear music and see the notes that describe how to make music, but perhaps in heaven, we will be able to smell music, touch music, taste music, and see not just the notes of music, but the actual sounds of music. Can you imagine the vivid sight of an angel’s chorus? What would Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony taste like? What would the music from a harp feel like? What would an organist’s tune smell like? It is exciting to think about these things, but for now, we can only imagine. The Bible says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

I often wonder if we will remember our fondest moments of this life when we are in the next. Will we remember growing up at the old house on such-and-such street? Will we recall our sixteenth birthday? What about high school football games? Will we remember our favorite concerts? What about that first kiss? Will we remember our anniversary? What about our marriage and the honeymoon? Will we remember the birth of our first child? Will these memories still elicit such joy and happiness?

If we remember the fond moments, will we also remember things we would rather forget? What about the terrible automobile accident that took the life of a loved one? Will we recall the death of a parent or grandparent? Will we remember getting into a fight with our spouse? What about the time we cursed our parents for not allowing us to do something we shouldn’t have been doing anyway? Will we remember the time we had to be hospitalized with a severe injury or disease? Will these memories bring feelings of anger, pain, frustration, or embarrassment?

We know that when the Lord returns, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Will we not mourn for our friends and family members who are not with us in heaven? Will there be no tears over their eternal damnation? I think the answer to these two questions is threefold: First, we will be filled with such awe at the presence of God that nothing else will occupy our thoughts besides Him in His glory. Second, the Bible says:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood
outside, wanting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, ‘Your mother and brothers
are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is My
mother, and who are My brothers?’ Pointing to His disciples, He said, ‘Here are
My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is
My brother and sister and mother’ (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke

This passage explains that our true family and friends will be those fellow believers with us in heaven! Our earthly friends and family may or may not be included in this group, the true Body of Christ. Third, we will be completely thankful for the mercy God has shown us, and at the same time, we will desire His complete and perfect justice in dealing with those who did not accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We will glorify God for His justice as He punishes unbelievers in the lake of fire. Therefore, we will see all unbelievers, whether they were friends, family members, enemies, or people we never met, as God sees them—debtors with an invoice not marked Paid in Full by Jesus Christ.

Some people cannot wait to get to heaven, because they envision unlimited golf at Heaven’s Gate Country Club or shopping at the Grand Mall of Heaven. I hate to break the news to these dreamers (myself included sometimes!), but neither golf nor shopping are going to satisfy us in heaven. God Himself will be our satisfaction. His glorious presence will be our pleasure for eternity, and we will be His pleasure too! We will forever worship and glorify Him in all we do. As I mention in the conclusion of this book, the lyrics of Amazing Grace speak wonders to the idea that we will forever worship God: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.”

Jesus said: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, KJV). He continued: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). I like to consider that God spent six days making all we see and more in His creation of this universe. What a creation! This universe is awe-inspiring indeed; yet, Jesus has been gone from the earth for nearly 2000 years, preparing a place for us. If He made our current universe in six days, what could He possibly be up to that would take 2000 years? I can hardly wait to find out!

No comments: