Decay

Wash your hands and say your prayers, cause’ Jesus and germs are everywhere.

I was at my son’s home earlier this week and he has the above statement framed in their kitchen.  I’ve read it many times before and could just hear my mother giving us kids those instructions.

As I thought on the slogan and its meaning, I began thinking about the basic things that we do that regulate our lives in this world.  I thought about how things are in a constant state of decay.  Food will spoil when left out; metals will rust; soil will erode; everything living dies; wood rots; and everything ages.  These are all forms of decay.  The Bible states that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35,Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33)  That is when I noticed the one thing in this world that was constant, was the Scriptures.  Even though change is the order for this world that we presently live in, it will not be so in eternity.

In Eternity there is no decay or spoilage.  This lead me to several thoughts on what will it be like after this life.  In these three verses we catch a glimpse of eternity.  The concept of an eternal existence means that there is no change.  Nothing ages, or rusts, or spoils, or dies, or rots or ages.  These changes that we collectively call decay are nonexistent in eternity.  That would also include changes of growth, maturing, transformation and learning.  What you are and have become when you die, is what you will remain when you enter eternity.  There is no second chance or purgatory as it is decided in this world by the choices that we make.

God never designed a place to send the people who reject him.  Hell or the Lake of Fire is the place that was prepared for the devil, his fallen angles, the beast, and the false prophet.  It is where those not found in the book of life go because they have rejected what God had prepared for them and there was no other place to go.  God doesn’t send us to hell, rather we are making that choice ourselves by our choosing to follow Christ or to rejecting Him.   That choice is made now while we are in the place where change is possible.  If we go to Hell, it is because we chose to reject God’s will to transform us into His image, likeness and dominion.

Preparing for a Journey

Just one more day until I set off to an adventure that has been 74 years in the making.  As I sit here and contemplate everything I need to include for the trip, my thoughts seem endless.  What do I need to pack?  I even found a three page list of things to consider.  I printed it off and highlighted the items I needed to include from it.  From past experience, I know that there are always things that I wished I would have brought but didn’t, but I will be totally out of my familiar territory and won’t necessarily be able to just pick up what I might need.

It seems that everyday something else pops up that I hadn’t thought of.  Just two days ago I got an email from my church, needing for me to fill out an information form for my health insurance to cover me in a foreign country.  As it worked out I had a visit from my health provider and found out that my present insurance wouldn’t cover me in a foreign country.  Just another reason to be a part of a team that is experienced in making such trips.  Even as I am typing this blog I just got a note from my trip insurance Company for additional information they need for the insurance.

Since I am going to a part of the world that I am totally unfamiliar with, I decided to look up the area and learn something that would make my trip richer.  I discovered that this particular area is the center of produce (fruit and vegetables) for China.  Its importance goes back for thousands of years.  That piece of information may not seem important to you but it rang a bell to me.  You see I was raised in Palisade, Colorado which was the peach capitol of the world at one time.  It is an oasis of fruit and vegetable because of its 300 days per year of sunshine and its irrigation system and I worked in it all year.  My day operated the 4 largest produce outlets in the valley and I became spoiled with the best that was available.  I pruned the fruit trees, irrigated plowed, thinned picked and even bought and sold it.  Now I get to see how they do it in another culture and I am so looking forward to tasting it for myself.

When I arrive there in a couple days from now, I will be much like a new born baby.  Little hair, few teeth, can’t speak the language, and won’t know my way around. Yet babies make it and so can I.  I was thinking about the journey a baby makes in its arrival to this world from the world of the womb.  It is all so strange and takes a lot of adjustment.  I was also thinking about our arrival into the spiritual world.  It doesn’t begin after physical death but after the death of the old man that Paul referenced in Romans.

Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

This new life begins at our salvation when we become the new creation of God. (II Cor 5:17)  Just as a newborn has to learn how see, hear, speak, etc., we also have to learn how to operate in the spiritual life.  That spiritual existence actually begins here in this world where God is transforming us into His image, likeness and dominion.  That process is know as sanctification and isn’t completed until we receive our new body and we meet the Lord in the air.  It is much like the gestation period of a pregnancy in which the fetus receives its body for this life.  Our physical death can also be compared to the child’s birth when it physically moves from the world of the womb to the world of time and space which we live in now.

As I contemplate the final destination of my trip to China, it only enhances my expectation of my final destination of being with the Lord through eternity.

Preparation

When thinking about what goes into making a trip all it can be, I think that preparation is one of the most important things you can do.  It will enhance your trip in many ways; it will expand it, it will enrich it, it will extend it, it will enable it and it will preserve it.

In planning for my trip to China, I have already begun to experience it in many ways.  First, I have had to plan where and when I was going.  Since I am going with others there was the necessity of coordinating all our schedules and finding a time that would fit all of us.  Then there was the destination.  In this case, I will be traveling with the others for much of the journey, but then I will be separated from the others for several days and traveling alone to a place that I have never been.  That can be daunting to some and exhilarating to others.  In my case it is some of both.  Fortunately, I will be meeting with someone I know and He knows the place, customs, etc.  I will literally be in his hands.

Then there is the securing of my passport (which I already have), the visa (which came in last week, and the plane tickets which have been purchased.  These are extremely important as they allow access to this part of the world and determine a lot of your schedule.

Another thing I have done is read up on the places that you will visit and the customs and culture that you will be experiencing.  The more you know about your destination, the more that you will enrich the experience.  It was enlightening to discover some of the history and current activities where I will be going.  One highlight for me is that my destination grows some of the greatest produce in China.  Since I have a lot of experience in produce (both growing and eating which I love), this will be a treat for me to taste some of God’s treats that I have never had the opportunity to enjoy before.

Planning on what you will take with you is also important.  What you will wear will be affected by the climate you will be in and the customs of the people.  Things that you will need like medicine, personal items (make a list and update it regularly), and things that may not be available there that you have need of.  Preserving your experience is also important.  Your camera, pencil and paper, gifts, etc  Think it through and then rethink it again.  Don’t fret about it but your anticipation will enhance the actual experience.  It will also give you a sense of preparedness that will allow you to enjoy the trip to the fullest.

One of the things that I am looking forward to is the actual flight.  I will be flying nonstop to Seoul, Korea, then an hour and 10 minute layover, then another nonstop flight to Guangzhou, China (near Hong Kong), an overnight layover and then on to my final destination (another 5-6 hour flight).  Altogether it will be about 24 hours flight time plus layovers.  So who in his right mind would be looking forward to such a grueling flight.  Me, of course.  I have the choice to suffer through it or turn it into an experience that will be of benefit. I simple made the choice to not suffer but to allow myself to be stretched to the point that I will be able to contain the blessing God is giving me.  It is a choice, you know, so I plan to spend some time getting to know those with whom I travel with.  I plan to do some exercising on the plane so that my legs don’t develop problems that you get on long flights.  I also plan to watch the terrain and the people to notice the changes in the land we fly over and to pick up on anything that will help me once I get there.  I plan to do some writing while in flight and anything else that will keep my mind occupied.  When I have exhausted all other avenues, I may even get some sleep – though it is hard for me to sleep on a plane.

We all have a trip ahead of us that these thoughts could help us prepare for – from here to eternity.  We should secure the proper credentials (salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ).  The trip won’t take long (a moment, in the twinkling of an eye) so we won’t have to fill time because time will be no more.  There are some things that we will want to take, such as our works of faith, our testimony, our hope, our eternal body, etc. that we will need when we get home.  We should study the Word of God to teach us about our final destination to make our arrival even more enriching.  It will help us to understand what is happening.  We won’t need to pack because we will be given a robe of righteousness that will never wear out and everything will be ours to serve our Lord with.  There will be no more sorrow or tears and all will be glorious.  Don’t you want to meet me there?  All aboard!!!

 

 

Thinking of Eternity

I was just thinking of God and what it will be like when we stand before Him in Eternity.  I have heard a thousand thoughts of what others think it will be like.  Some think that they will still be in charge of something and will ask God their deepest questions about why did He  —-?  Others have the idea that Eternity will be linear, like it is here and our existence will be much the same.  (Example: Ten thousand year)  Another idea is that all our loved ones will meet us there and they will be much the same but just stop growing old.  One of the most popular is that it is”a better place”, without any explanation as to what that means.  Many understand that there will be no more pain and sorrow but do not understand why.  Most think that there will be memories and even regrets of what could have been but never was.  Sadly, most of our concepts are just wild guesses, carried out to several decimal places or just simply figments of our imagination.

The Bible gives us many clues as to what it will be like but they are meaningless until they are seen through the eyes of faith and the record of God’s Word.  Last week, I preached a message out of John 6, entitled I AM the Bread of Life.  The “I AM” is the same as what God told Moses when he asked God what His name was.  God replied, I AM that I AM.  Tell them that I AM sent you.  When Jesus said, “I AM the Bread of Life” He used the same phrase, claiming Himself to be very God.  He did not give His name but one of His attributes, His self existence.  The reason is that a name is used to distinguish one from another of similar features or specifics.  When you come to God, there is no other like Him.  He is one of a kind, unique, different from all others.  So to know Him is to know His attributes.  In this case it is His eternal self existence.  No other living being has eternal self existence so the identification is made by that characteristic.  Because he is self existent, He is not subject to time.  The conclusion is that in Eternity, time does not exist.  We, who exist in linear time, do not think of a timeless existence so we superimpose our understanding of time into Eternity and come to a false conclusion of what Eternity is like.  To truly know what Eternity is like is to know it from an eternal position which still awaits us.  We see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.

What will it be like?  I don’t really know what it will be like, but I know that it won’t be like now any more than the world of time and space is like the world of the womb.  There is even more difference between this present world and the world of Eternity.  I get a clue of something of what it might be like as I look at others who have been very close to God.  Moses saw Him from behind and his face glowed so bright that he had to wear a veil.  Jacob wrestled with an angel of God and it changed him forever and he had a limp the rest of his life.  The three Hebrew children walked with Him in the fire and it had no effect on them except to free them from their bonds.  Many saints came before Him and fell on their faces, unable to stand without His help.  When Isaiah saw Him on His throne in the temple, he saw himself as unclean and without hope until the Lord cleansed his sin.  Paul was knocked to the ground when he met the Lord and it change his life, permanently.  When John saw the Lord, He was the glorified Christ and he fell at His feet as dead.  The result of that meeting is the book of Revelation.  On thing is certain, when we find ourselves before the Lord our God, we will see Him as He is and we will be changed.

The Resurrected Body

Php 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

The Bible makes it explicitly clear that the body of the christian will be like the body of Jesus’ resurrected body.  We have already noted in my earlier post the the body of Jesus was at times recognizable and at other times it was unrecognizable.  Scripture records that prior to the Crucifixion Jesus body is described as flesh and blood (Heb 2:14,  Phil 2:7)  but after the resurrection he is described  as flesh and bones. (Lu 24:39)  Our life will not depend upon the blood of Adam that carried the sin disease but upon the blood of Jesus that washes away sin.  Since the life is in the blood (Lev 17:11), our life will be in the blood of Jesus.

Another difference will be that our present body is temporal and our future body will be eternal.  The flesh and blood body that we presently have cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. (I Cor 15:50) and we all shall be changed. (v. 51)  This transformation is already underway in our sanctification.  We are His workmanship; we are His Temple; and God is preparing us as His eternal dwelling place.

Since our bodies will be like His then it follows that the description of Jesus’ body and our resurrected body will be alike.  Here are a few more things that is true about Jesus’ resurrected body.  He was touchable and even asked Thomas to handle Him and see.  He could become invisible, which he did on at least two or more occasions.  He could eat such as at the sea side but it wasn’t required for sustenance.  He could suddenly appear in a room with closed doors.  He ascended into heaven and we will also be caught up and meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  This corruptible must put onincorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.

Viewing the Heavens

I was visiting with my pastor over lunch today and the subject came up of heaven.  It was noted that most people view heaven as simply a remodeled form of things of earth.  You hear statements at a funeral of someone who has died that go something like this, “He is up there doing what he always wanted to do.”  Rarely do we hear a description of heaven that actually depicts what the Bible teaches.  Even then, it may not be heaven at all but a place describe that we are not familiar with so it is understood as heaven.

There are several places described in the Bible that are often understood as heaven but are not heaven.  One such place is Paradise.  It is referenced three times in the New Testament in reference to the place of the righteous dead (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7)  In the Jewish concept of Hades had two compartments, a place of torment for the unrighteous dead and a place of rest for the righteous dead, called Paradise.  This picture is seen clearly in the story that Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31).  When Jesus was resurrected He gathered the righteous saints from Paradise and took them with Him and now the compartment of Paradise is empty.  Now, when the righteous die, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).  Only the unrighteous remain in Hades and are preserved to the day of Judgment.

Another place that is often confused as heaven is the millennium or 1,000 years.  This is in reference to the time that the Lord will reign over all the earth and establish peace among all people and living creatures.  (Isaiah 11:1-16,  65:17-25)  This scene is where the wolf and the lamb feed together and the lion will eat straw like the cow.  It a picture of perfect harmony and peace.  This is the picture of the righteous, but the picture of the unrighteous is a picture of terror and horror.  It is also known as the day of the Lord.

A third place that is often confused with heaven is “Heaven above“.  This is also know in different translations as: firmament, expanse, dome or vault and is understood as the spiritual dwelling place of God now, as opposed to earth as a physical place.  It includes the atmosphere and the expanse of space and is referred to being above.  It is also addressed as the unseen world.

The place that we know as heaven has several characteristics.  One is that it is an eternal place.  It is unending, which is a concept that our feeble mind has great difficulty grasping.   We exist in time and space and change.  In eternity there is not such thing as time or dimension or change.  Everything is: and it is without beginning or end; it is without measurement; and it is without change.

Another characteristic is that in heaven there is that the things that were necessary for our development have now ended and no longer have an eternal purpose.  Tears are gone, death is defeated, sorrow, crying and pain are no more, and the memory of all these difficulties cannot be found.  I think it is similar to a mother giving birth to a child.  She has pain that is necessary for the birth of the child, but once the child is born the mother cannot remember the pain.  Yes, she can remember that she had pain but she can no longer feel the pain.

In heaven, there will be a lot of rejoicing.  It will not be so much for our gain but because of the full realization of God and His glory.  Like a diamond that is uncut looks a lot like just another rock but when it is cut, the beauty and the magnificence of it is revealed.  It was there all of the time but now it is fully realized.  We are the workmanship of God and look just like other people but when the Lord is finished shaping and making us into His image we will appear like Him and so the glory of God will be seen in us.  This picture pales in comparison to the Glory of the Lord as we behold Him for who He is.

1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  It won’t be a remodeled world it will be the presence of the Lord with an eternal and spiritual existence.  Our activity will have eternal purposes and not for selfish or wordily reasons.