Friday, July 27, 2012

Heaven and Eternity




People often ask the question, "What will heaven be like." Although the Bible discusses heaven, it is not possible to understand the full nature of heaven from a human perspective. Since heaven is where God lives, it must contain more physical and temporal dimensions than those found in this physical universe that God created. We cannot imagine, nor can we experience in our current bodies, what these extra dimensions might be like. Even so, we are given enough information in the Bible to understand many of the things that will be different in heaven compared to our lives today.

There is always hope, and the hope is in God. If you have put your faith in Christ, then you have the ultimate hope of heaven. One day, you will be with the Lord. And that should put everything in perspective. Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I've called the life after life after death — in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth.

Jesus' resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration that he will complete upon his return. Part of this will be the resurrection of all the dead, who will "awake," be embodied and participate in the renewal. John Polkinghorne, a physicist and a priest, has put it this way: "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves." That gets to two things nicely: that the period after death is a period when we are in God's presence but not active in our own bodies, and also that the more important transformation will be when we are again embodied and administering Christ's kingdom. Many evangelicals understand this future life to be divided into two distinct periods: first, the Millennial Reign of Christ (the one thousand years) on this earth, referred to in Revelation 20:1-10; secondly, the New Heavens and The New Earth, referred to in Revelation 21 and 22. This millennialism (or chiliasm) is a revival of a strong tradition in the Early Church that was dismissed by Augustine of Hippo and the Roman Catholic Church after him.



Not only will the believers spend eternity with God, they will also spend it with each other. John's vision recorded in Revelation describes a New Jerusalem which comes from Heaven to the New Earth, which is a seen to be a symbolic reference to the people of God living in community with one another. 'Heaven' will be the place where life will be lived to the full, in the way that the designer planned, each believer 'loving the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind' and 'loving their neighbour as themselves' (adapted from Matthew 22:37-38, the Great Commandment) —a place of great joy, without the negative aspects of current earthly life.
 
Heaven is the opportunity to develop and fulfill dreams bigger than anything on this earth. If we did not accomplish something on earth, it still can be accomplished later.

This is important to realize, because there are those who have very difficult lives. There are those whose lives were cut short. I can't think of anything more sad than when a child dies or when a young man or woman leaves us in what we perceive to be before their time.

But God promises to compensate. God promises to make it up to them. Death for the Christian is not the end of life, but it is the continuation of it in another place.

We will be better off eternally because we suffered temporarily. I think of the here and now, but God thinks of the by-and-by. I think of the temporal, but God thinks of the eternal. I think about what makes me happy, but God thinks about what will make me holy. He looks at the big picture. 

First things first: 

Heaven is a place of “no mores.” There will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4). There will be no more separation, because death will be conquered (Revelation 20:6). The best thing about heaven is the presence of our Lord and Savior (1 John 3:2). We will be face to face with the Lamb of God who loved us and sacrificed Himself so that we can enjoy His presence in heaven for eternity.

The apostle John was privileged to see and report on the heavenly city (Revelation 21:10-27). John witnessed that heaven (the new earth) possesses the “glory of God” (Revelation 21:11), the very presence of God. Because heaven has no night and the Lord Himself is the light, the sun and moon are no longer needed (Revelation 22:5).

So in this plan and purpose of God's, there may be things I have gone through that make no sense to me now. But when I get to heaven, I will realize that I was a better person for them. I will see that I was made more into the image of Jesus Christ as a result of them. I will discover that new ministry opportunities opened up that I would not have had otherwise because of these things.


Throughout life, there are things we do not understand. As we mature, we begin to understand. Likewise, we do not understand why the righteous must suffer. But someday, in heaven, we will understand.

There will be something about them that causes me to look back and say, "Now I understand why God allowed that to happen to me." So it all will be sorted out. And I think this argument for the greater good may be the strongest biblical case for why God allows suffering.

I think the best explanation of eternity is given by Pastor Greg Laurie.  Here is what he says: 

Gone So Soon.

"We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace."
— 1 Chronicles 29:15

We make so much of this life, but it comes and goes rather quickly. The Bible tells us, "We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace" (1 Chronicles 29:15). We think far too much of this life and far too little about eternity.

In his book, We Shall See God, Randy Alcorn writes, "Eternal life means enjoying forever the finest moments on Earth the way they were intended. Since in Heaven we will finally experience life at its best, it would be more accurate to call our present existence the beforelife rather than to call what follows the afterlife."

It is like the previews that are shown at the beginning of a movie. I have often found the previews are better than the actual movies they are promoting. Of course, you don't go to a movie to watch the previews. You go to a movie to watch the film itself.

In many ways, life on earth is like the previews that come and go rather quickly, while the movie is like eternity. That is the main event.
 
God has other times and places where our dreams and our hopes can be realized. We see things in a certain way here on earth. But that can change overnight. That can change in a nanosecond when we enter into eternity.

As Dinesh D'Souza said, "Heaven is the venue of cosmic justice. This is where the faithful servants of the Lord who came in last receive their due prize and reward."

Surely it is not wrong for us to think and talk about Heaven. I like to find out all I can about it. I expect to live there through all eternity. If I were going to dwell in any place in this country, if I were going to make it my home, I would inquire about its climate, about the neighbors I would have — about everything, in fact, that I could learn concerning it. If soon you were going to emigrate, that is the way you would feel. Well, we are all going to emigrate in a very little while. We are going to spend eternity in another world. … Is it not natural that we should look and listen and try to find out who is already there and what is the route to take? – D.L. Moody

For the Gospel,

Blessings,

Raj Kosaraju


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