Purposeful Phrases

You may not have heard of purposeful phrases before but I want to introduce you to them as they are a helpful way to study the Bible.  A purposeful phrase is a condensed collection of words that answer the question, why.  It can be a short phrase or even a few sentences or even a bit longer, but it is a short explanation of the purpose behind the action.  Generally it is just a verse or two, or even just a part of a verse.  Quite often, it will begin with the word, “that”, but it is not always the case.  It reveals the thinking or purpose of something that may not be obvious at first glance.  It is particularly helpful to understanding the purposes of God in His working with and on man.

In the book of Ephesians, there are five purposeful phrases (1:4, 1:12, 2:7, 3:6, 5:27) and we will look at each of them.  Collectively, they give us a picture of the thinking of God in His creation of man and how He intends to bring it to pass. 

Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  The purposeful phrase is the last part of the verse that I have underlined.  The first part of the verse gives us the setting of that purpose which is His choosing us and that it was before the foundation of the world.  In other words, God knew us before he created time and space and that His plan has always been that we should be holy (a separated people) and without blame (does not mean never to have sinned, but having no sin charged to our account) before Him (abiding in His presence) in love (our character and nature has been fully conformed and fashioned like He is).   That was His overarching plan for man, that is why He made man.  Simply put, to fellowship with him.

Eph 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  It can be argued that verse 1:10 is another purposeful phrase but I do not list it as such because it does not answer the question “why”, but rather the question, “how”.  The real purpose is found in verse 12 as I have underlined.  His purpose for us may include our vocation here but that is not his primary purpose.  God’s purpose for us is not just temporal but eternal.  I suspect that it matters little whether you are a doctor, statesman, craftsman, etc. except to the extent of how it enables you to take on God’s purpose of properly reflecting His image and being conformed to His likeness and values.  Everything God does is with the view of its Eternal outcome.

Eph 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  This verse is the answer to the question why would God go to such a great expense for the likes of me?  His return is not monetary, nor is it for any gain for Himself as He already owns everything.  His return is us.  Our victory over sin, our transformation into His image and likeness, our final state of the full realization of what it means to be the children of God are all part of the revelation of who and what God is.  In the end it will all be understood as to why He loves us so.

Eph 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  The mystery of the ages was how did the Gentiles fit in to the plan of God since the Jews were the chosen people of God?  God has always planned for all people to be a part of His plan as children of God.  God is not a respecter of persons that He loves the Jew more than the Gentile for He loves them the same.  The Jews were chosen to be the priest nation to all nations and that will yet come to pass, even though they have not fulfilled that role yet.  Nothing has taken God by surprise and nothing has thwarted His plan.  It is not a favoritism to be chosen for a particular service, for we have all been chosen by God, even before the foundation of the world.  The hammer is not a better tool than the saw for both are necessary.  Verse 3:10 would be an example of a purposeful verse that didn’t begin with the word, “that”, except for the fact that it is a further explanation of how the eternal purpose is realized; which makes it a commentary on the purpose instead of being a purposeful phrase.

Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  The question that precedes this purposeful phrase is “Why is it important that the church be sanctified?”  The church is a great mystery to the world.  They neither understand its purpose or its function.  To them it is just another organization when it is actually a living organism with eternal purpose.  It is the bride of Christ and must meet His standards.  We are in the word but we are not of the world.  Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:  God is not content to just get us out of the world and free from sin and its influence but is at work in displaying through eternity His great love, great grace, great salvation, in and for us.  He is not just interested in getting us to heaven, but is even more earnest in preparing us for heaven, so that when we do finally get there we can call it home.

The Riches of the Glory of His Inheritance In the Saints

Eph 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

In my last blog I wrote about the Hope of His calling.  Please note that I did not exhaust the topic but only introduced the concept.  For further study research the idea of your body as the temple of God. 

Now we turn our attention to the second thing that Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would receive, their inheritance.  Notice that the receiving of this treasure is received in the same manner as receiving the hope of His calling.  It cannot be taken, but it has to be received.  By that, it is clear that God desires for you to have it but it is not ‘free for the taking’ but that it can only be received in the manner that God chooses for you to have it.  So, let’s look at those conditions.

You must first receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  In other words, knowing God comes by the spirit of wisdom and revelation which is given by God.  He does not hand out the spirit of wisdom and revelation to just any person, or even to every Christian.  A person must first become a Christian and then, when his heart has grown to the place where it longs for righteousness and seeks the ways of God, then it is rewarded by the Holy Spirit opening the spirit of wisdom revelation that is required to know God.   The spirit of wisdom isn’t just smart but it is the application of truth in the light of God’s will.  The longer you walk with God the more you come to know Him and His ways.  Truth alone is not enough for we are finite and carnal so the addition of revelation to know what we could never guess or apprehend is also required.  Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  We could never know God at all until He reveals Himself to us.  We catch glimpses of God in our growth and our walk and marvel at the wonder of who He is.  We read Scriptures that tell us of His Holiness and Splendor and our mind goes to TILT.  We then begin to project what it might mean – and still we have only a glimpse.

So now we look at our inheritance.  You must be an heir in order to inherit so God moves us from being a child of Satan to a child of God through regeneration.  We don’t immediately feel changed but we are changed.  When a man is married to his wife, he may still feel like he did only moments before, but he will never be what he was prior to the marriage.  When a man joins the military, he is a soldier the second he signs the papers, yet he still needs the training and disciplines that will cause him to order his conduct as a soldier.  It is not how you feel that makes you different, but who you Lord is.  When we surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, He then takes full responsibility for you in all that you do and what you become.  He also, seals you with the Holy Spirit and you are changed.  (II Corinthians 5:17)  As a child of God, you now are an heir to all the treasures of God.  I am not talking about gold and silver and precious stones, but about the fullness of God.  The real treasures are those of eternal qualities, such as eternal life, a love that never fails, goodness, righteousness, etc.  Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  We are being transformed into creatures that are identified as God’s children and are made in His image, His likeness and with dominion.  A fantastic study is what heaven is like.  We see through a glass darkly but there we shall see God face to face.

This inheritance is glorious in several respects.  First, it is glorious in that it is a reflection of the glory of God, Himself.  His glory is magnified by itself.  Take for an example, a bright light that is shined in a mirror and reflected back on itself.  If you were to behold the bright light, it would appear even brighter when the reflection was added.  So it is with God’s glory, His wonder is only enhanced by His works and He appears even more marvelous.   Our inheritance is beyond the sphere of material value; beyond the sphere of personal value; and encompasses our value to God. 

Our inheritance is for only in the saints.  In the Scriptures, saints are the Christians or the born again, the believers in Christ.  This knowledge is only know by the saints and God and cannot be known any other way.  It is important to know who you are and who’s you are.  You are the love of God, the bride of Christ, the church, the Children of God.  He died for you and will spare no cost to see you completed as He planned.  He promised that He would never leave you and would be there for you to do whatever is required to complete His promise to you.

The Hope of His Calling

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

I was recently asked the question, “how do we train (equip) church leaders?”  This question was asked by one of the leaders in China in light of the Chinese government oppression to the church in breaking up the larger churches into smaller groups of 25-30 people.  I have pondered this question and in prayer I have sought an answer from the Lord.  I believe that He has answered me by directing me to the passage in Ephesians 1:14-23, and more specifically verses 15-20.  I will attempt to answer it in three consecutive blogs of which this one is the first.

The first point that needs to be made is that the answer has two sides, like a coin.  On the one side we are wholly inadequate to equip anyone.  God alone is qualified to equip the believer.  The Scriptures declare    Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  It is God, Himself that calls us, qualifies us and empowers us to do His work.  He is busy completing His image in us as we attempt to follow His Spirit by faith.  Notice in Paul’s prayer in  verse 17, that it is God who gives the spirit of wisdom as well as the revelation of knowing God personally and opens the eyes of your understanding to spiritual truths. 

The second side of the answer is that we are also part of the working of God.  It is in our response to God to know Him and to receive from Him those gifts that He chooses that we are used by Him to equip the saints so that they are enabled to do the work of ministry.   We are created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works.  Simply put, Christ is the head and we are the torso of the body which acts under the lordship of the head.

Paul prayed that there would be three things that God would grant to the believers in Ephesus.  The first is found in verse18, that ye may know, what is the hope of His calling.  Ponder with me for a few moments and try to answer to yourself this question, what is the hope of your calling?  Why you created and what is it that you hope for?  A common thought is that I might go to heaven, but that is only a destination.  Getting there is not a hope, only a destination.  Then what?  God is not nearly as concerned about getting you to heaven as he is about fitting you for heaven.  When you do arrive it should afford you all of the fulfillment that you seek. 

Another common answer is that you will be rejoined with your loved ones and with Jesus.  It is true that we will be rejoined with some of our loved ones, but not all of them will make it.  Jesus declared that the way to destruction was a broad way but the way to eternal life was a narrow and restrictive way and only a few will enter there. 

Let’s look at what the Bible says is God’s plan for man.  Ge 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  This verse declares God’s plan for man prior to his fall into sin.  Man was to be made after the fashion of God in three ways:  In His likeness; In His Image; and with dominion.  This is a message by itself and many things can be said about it.  For now we will look only at the overall picture and that is that it is a description of God’s plan for man which will not be completed until we receive our resurrected body at the return of the Lord Jesus. God is a trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  We were made in the same likeness as God is and have a body, soul and spirit.  God’s plan wasn’t completed in the Garden of Eden and Sin did not catch God off guard and did not wreck God’s plan.  God’s plan is eternal so He planned ahead for the new creation of man mentioned in II Corinthians 5:17 that the new man would be created in Christ Jesus.  So we have a temporal body, soul and spirit which must go through a transformation for a new body, soul and spirit.  We can see this pictured in the process of a worm becoming a butterfly.  The order of completion is in reverse order: first the spirit is united with the Holy Spirit and then sealed for eternity so that the bond cannot be broken.  Who he is, is changed forever.  Then God goes to work on the soul so that he is transformed in his values, method of thinking and all aspects of his will.  We call this Sanctification, which means literally, separated.  Through this process which takes a lifetime, we move further and further from sin and its environment.  Finally, when the Lord Jesus returns in a cloud in the air, we will be changed and get our resurrected body and then our transformation will be completed.  This is our Hope and what we long for to not only be with the Lord but also to be like the Lord and to be separated from the power of sin (at regeneration), to be separated from the persuasion of sin (through sanctification) and to be separated from the presence of sin (at glorification); as so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Worship

Think back to a recent worship experience.  Was it enjoyable?  Was it memorable?  How about life changing?  Sometimes we leave the service with an “oh hum” attitude that leaves us examining the value of the use of our time. 

Your response to the worship service is quite revealing and it is worth noting how you left the worship service.  The first thing you notice is was it a positive experience or did it leave you with something missing.  It may be the service but it could also be because of what is going on within you.  Before we go criticizing the church for failing to bring you into worship, we should at least consider that it may not be their fault.  Worship is personal between you and God and must begin with us.  Worship is possible in any situation when we are focused on Him, rather than on ourselves.

Now look at the focus of the worship.  To what did the service call your attention?   Did it focus on life in the here and now or in the sweet by and by?  Did it emphasis individuals or the Lord?  Sometimes it seems as though the leaders are saying, “Hey, look at me” rather than “Hey, look at Him.”  Was the main emphasis the church growth, a program, a performance, or was it one of what God is doing and how He is leading.  Oh, and be sure to check out your own expectations.  Were you looking to be entertained or were you looking for some direction or answer from God?

Thirdly, Look at the message, itself.  Did you take notes?  Even if you never look at them again, taking notes are beneficial for you to digest the message and to organize your thoughts.  Can you tell about the message in a word or sentence or two?  What was the message about?  Another very important point is was the interpretation in agreement with clear biblical doctrine.  The message should be directed by its text.  Preaching should break open the hidden things of the text and expose it to be examined by the listener.  Where did you thoughts travel?  Did your thoughts travel heavenward or were they anchored here in this world by circumstances or needs.   Were they led by the speaker or was you focus on things of this life and you never caught the concept of what is beyond this life only. 

Fourthly, consider your vision of life, were you left with the feeling of times are getting worse and worse, or did you leave with hope in the end that God has a plan and He is in control.  There are needs a plenty and difficulty is common to all but how does God fit into all of life.  What is the purpose of God in allowing us to go through all of this?  How can we have peace in the midst of all of this turmoil?

Finally, as you think back over this experience, were your expectations met?  This may sound strange to you at first, but I hope that they were not.  Many people leave a church because their “needs” were not  being met.  The criticism vary and may include such things as the sermon was too long, the choir is always off key, so and so has this problem, and so on.   This type of criticism is selfish and focuses only on self.  It lacks understanding of the others and the point of worship.  Worship is a corporate event and includes everyone.  Though it is true that God is concerned about your every need, it is also true that He is concerned about everyone’s individual needs.  We all need to be loved and valued.  True worship finds us as a part of God’s plan that includes everyone and excludes no one. 

So, as you consider your own worship experience, consider that worship requires and investment of yourselves, a discipline to bring self under His control, a vision beyond this life into the next, a faith in God and not in something temporal such as a man or church or a plan, and  a surrender to the will of God rather than just your will. My prayer for you is that your worship will become richer and fuller with each experience. Since worship is at least a part of our eternal existence, we should be practicing it now.

I cannot take credit for this insight as it was outlined by David Jeremiah with the following thoughts:

                It is not about us – it is about Him

                It is not about here (the physical) – it is about there (the eternal)

                It is not about what is seen – it is about what is unseen

                It is not about now – it is about then      

                It is not about one person – it is about many people

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.