Creeping and Drifting…

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From the Preacher’s Pen… I once heard of a mayor who firmly believed that traffic warnings were overdone. He was elected just because he felt it excessive to always be telling people how to run their lives and what not to do. So, his solution was to get rid of all the traffic control in his city. No more stop lights, no more stop signs, no more yield signs, no more signs preventing people from driving however they wanted.

As you might expect, things didn’t go well in that town. As traffic snarled and accidents abounded, pedestrians were increasingly run down and people eventually became so angry that they replaced their mayor with one that promised to put the rules back in place and restore order.

Hopefully, you realize the lesson has important parallels for us in God’s word. Let’s look a moment at…

Creeping and Drifting

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about the salvation we share, I felt the necessity to write to you urging you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

Jude presents an important reminder of the fact that sin does not appear to us dressed up with horns and a pitchfork. Satan and his false-teaching followers know how to creep in without our notice. The warning from God is clear; we must always be on the alert, watchful lest the Devil and his ungodly companions sneak in and cause us to also do wrong.

The NIV renders verse 4 like this: For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Watch out for the dangerous, unnoticed, secretly slipping in ungodly people who are perverting God’s will! Do we get the point?

What is amazing in light of God’s clear teaching is how often someone will suggest that we “let them talk and have their say. After all, won’t everyone recognize false teaching?” Do we really have a God-given responsibility to protect those babes and immature ones in Christ? Let’s check with God on that: Reject a factious [divisive, Paul literally calls them a heretic] person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11) Paul also warned the elders of the Ephesian church that savage wolves were going to be a threat to the church and that they would be leading people away from salvation (cf. Acts 20:25-30).

God’s lesson for us is important: There is danger out there and it will sneak in and destroy our lives and the Lord’s church if we let it. Be careful, always watchful, always devoted to the truth in God’s word! Okay, as soon as we observe the big bad wolf huffing and puffing at our door, we will immediately stop him and never allow ourselves to be led astray!

The problem with this boast is that God also warns us of another danger… that of drifting. The Hebrew writer warns: …  we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:1-3a)

Danger does not always come with a sign and a warning. Indeed, it is especially deadly when it creeps in. We miss the signs when they are almost unnoticeable. We drift ever so slowly away. It is dangerous simply because it is insidious, easily missed until it is too late.

All the warnings in the world are useless without us first knowing God’s will. Reading your Bible daily is a beginning. Studying intently on your own and with your fellow Christians will help even more. James puts it like this: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22–25)

Be careful not to allow either creeping or drifting into your life for the Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

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low either creeping or drifting into your life for the Savior!

— Lester P. Bagley

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11/25/18 ~ I can sing of heaven

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Worship is about honoring our God, remembering His promises until our Savior comes again, teaching and encouraging one another. We see that principle in our singing, in the Lord’s Supper, in our prayers and in our reading and study of God’s word.

Because of this purposeful service to our God and our fellow Christians, we remind and encourage each other to be faithful as long as we live. That goal ought to be clearly remembered in the Lord’s Supper, in prayer, in Bible study, and in song.

Let’s consider for a moment the importance of singing the lesson and encouragement of heaven.

I Can Sing About Heaven

Yes, heaven is our goal! Heaven is much more than just a reward or treat for being good. Heaven is often compared to the Promised Land, and rightly so. It is home for the weary homeless, it is the ultimate safe place that is free from danger and worry. But above all else, it is the home to share with our Heavenly Father and Savior.

So what do we know about heaven? Well, as we so often remind ourselves, it is a prepared place for a prepared people. Okay, but what is it really like? And it is here that both language and our knowledge fail us completely.

One thing that God clearly tells us about heaven is that there will be singing! John speaks of the singing in heaven, especially of the joy of the “New Song” (cf. Revelation 5:9; 14:3; 15:3). The songs tell of our Savior, the Lamb of God that was slain, and the praise for all the works of the Lord.

There’s an old earthly song that begins with these words:

  • There’s a promised land untouched by man 
  • Prepared for the saved and the blessed
  • A city built four square far away somewhere
  • As a home for the saints to rest
  • So many have tried but they couldn’t describe
  • All the beauties on that bright shore
  • For it’s never entered in to the hearts of men
  • What the Father has in store

Wait! I’ve read chapters 21 and 22 of the book of Revelation and I know exactly what heaven looks like and what it will be like!

The only problem is that we are depending on a mortal man seeing an eternal city prepared by our eternal God (cf. John 14:2)… and we are mortal with no understanding of what we will be like! John says it like this: Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2)

Yes, we have many passages telling us of a robe and crown, of being changed, of being just like Jesus… but nothing in our vocabulary can describe what that really is, and certainly not what all it means and implies!

Consider a simple illustration: Imagine that you have a friend who was born blind and has never seen anything at all. They don’t know what the world around LOOKS like because all they have to go on for looks are their other senses. Now, describe to them color. Describe a rainbow or a field of tulips in a multitude of colors. Describe the spectacular view of autumn leaves as they are ablaze with color.

See the problem? Without a common frame of reference, you simply cannot describe something that is completely outside their understanding.

Another example: Take someone out of a stone-age culture, say one of the isolated tribes from the Amazon. Remember that they have never seen anything of technology and they think only birds can fly.

Now, describe for them a modern jetliner. Tell them how it works, how they and dozens of other people can safely fly inside of it. Do you see the problem?

One final example: Remember that song? The chorus goes on to say:

  • I could sing about Heaven for a million years
  • and never get the story told
  • Of the jasper walls and the gates of pearl
  • and the streets made of pure gold
  • Even John the Revelator in a heavenly vision
  • could never really say what he saw
  • I could sing about heaven for a million years
  • and still, I could never tell it all

You see, John is not really telling us what Heaven is really like. He is simply telling us some words that we as backward, ignorant, temporal beings can understand from our experience.

Look at those songs about Heaven that we sing. They all remind us of its beauty, it’s eternalness, it’s appropriateness for our God and His now transformed eternal family to live in for all eternity. In 2 Corinthians 12:4 Paul confesses that he couldn’t even share the words he heard! John was commanded to write what he saw much like Ezekiel and still, we can never tell it all!

Because of our Savior, His love, His sacrifice, His mercy, and His grace all freely shared with us… we can not only sing about heaven but look forward to being there for all eternity.

— Lester P. Bagley

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11/3/18 ~ Degrees of Punishment and Reward

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

A few weeks ago a dear brother and fellow preacher and I were looking at what the Scriptures say about degrees of punishment and reward. It is an interesting study and one that, like everything God teaches us, points us directly to the importance of handling God’s word correctly.

There is really no point in giving the false arguments and wishful thinking of those who disagree with God. So, let’s look at what Scripture actually says about…

Degrees of Punishment & Reward

Reward

To begin with, degrees of reward has virtually no real support. 1 Peter 4:18 is not so much a comment on degrees of reward as it is on the difficulty of salvation, much like Jesus’ lesson of the broad vs narrow ways. It is thus fitting that Peter is also the one to remind us (2 Peter 1:11) that, because of our Savior, our entrance into heaven is NEVER just “barely making it into the pearly gates” but rather is an “abundant” entrance.

Yes, there are several times that Jesus refers to varying rewards. “The five talent man received five more but the two talent man ‘only’ received two more,” you say. On the other hand, Jesus plainly provoked the ire of those who believe in degrees of reward with his lesson in Matthew 20:1-15. There He tells of the one working only the last hour of the day as receiving the same reward as the one that worked longer hours.

The balance between teachings that seemingly suggest greater rewards is offset by those teaching equality of reward for all. So we must conclude, as with any other imagined contradiction in scripture, that the idea of greater rewards is our misunderstanding of God’s point. John describes many of the eternal blessings of heaven (Revelation 21:1-4). But never does he suggest that anyone in heaven receives only some tears wiped away or only some pain removed or only some eternal life. Like Jesus’s example of the talents, the real reward is the gift of God and not to be measured.

Yes, there are plenty of people that see various rewards, some rich and happy in heaven and some miserable, or even temporary punishments to further qualify one for heaven. Since those positions take a lot of work at misunderstanding what God says they rightly belong to the study of denominational doctrines and other false teachings.

Punishment

Degrees of punishment requires a bit deeper study, but again, we have to be careful about the meaning inserted by false teachers. Matthew 12:41–42; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 11:31–32; 20:47 are all passages in which Jesus speaks of “greater condemnation” for some people. Note that it’s not always the same people, so the exact reason for the comparison (hotter seats next to the fires?) is not really stated. We must be careful not to make more than is actually said, since in each case Jesus’ point is that it is worse for you (His subjects) than for everyone else in general.

Two further passages make an interesting lesson as they are often seen as in opposition to each other: James 3:1 is used as a “popular excuse” NOT to teach the Gospel. In contrast, Hebrews 5:12 counters that interpretation by saying maturity in Christ requires ALL to be teachers. Is James perhaps using some of the same sarcasm Jesus often used to suggest that those rejecting Him felt that they “needed” less forgiveness than the “common” sinners? Certainly, James knew that failure to actually obey the “Great Commission” as part of our obedience to the whole of Christ’s teaching would NOT result in salvation!

2 Peter 2:21 is often used to “prove” a worse punishment for those that once were faithful. While they “could” have one of those “seats closer to the fire,” it certainly could also remind us that eternal punishment will certainly be a self-inflicted “worse” for someone knowing for all eternity that they had no excuse of ignorance to fall back on, while that same “ignorance” defense might allow others to feel a bit less tormented.

That last discussion also leads to the oft-debated “ignorance” plea. Will God actually condemn those that do not know His word? God never has accepted the “ignorance” plea as Leviticus 26:14, 18, 27; Deuteronomy 28:15; Romans 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:17 all show. His standard has always been much like that of a parent, “did you DO what you were told” and unaccepting of the “I didn’t hear you” excuse.

Jesus made an interesting observation and gives us a bit more to think about in the explanation of a parable dealing with being prepared for Jesus’ return (Luke 12:39-40). When Peter asks about the target of that preparedness parable, Jesus responds with a lesson contrasting faithful servants and unfaithful servants thinking they can get away with something (Luke 12:41-46).

The conclusion Jesus draws is three-fold. First, the slave that willingly fails to obey will “receive many lashes” (Luke 12:47). Second, the slave that did wrong out of “ignorance” will receive “few lashes” (Luke 12:48). Third, the Lord’s final comment on the matter is the reminder that the more we know and are given by God, the more God requires of us (end of Luke 12:48).

Putting all this together brings us to two important lessons:

1) Our reward is based on grace. Our “merit” is that of Jesus who gave His life for us. Thus, the abundance of that inheritance is enjoyed by all because they gave their all. Without giving God our ALL, there is no hope of heaven.

2) Punishment is dealt out to those who do not OBEY the will of Jesus, whatever the excuse. One might well receive a technically lesser punishment for ignorance, but it will never be anything like the reward for obedient service. Spending eternity cheering partial failure is no more a win than any other loss.

There is no second-place finish when it comes to salvation. Either we “fight the good fight… finish the course” and “keep the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7) and receive the same crown prepared for all, or else there is no crown, no win. God’s promises belong to those that faithfully DO His will. What are you doing when it comes to obedience to the Gospel?

— Lester P. Bagley

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9/30/18 ~ Worship In a Nursing Home

Worship In A Nuring Home

          Some shuffle, some lean on walkers, some are pushed in wheelchairs.  Arthritis-laden legs bend, backs strain, and with the aid of shaking hands, they sink down now into their chairs.  Racing heartbeats ease to a slower pace.

            After a little rest, some are given songbooks.  The others cannot see.  The first song is announced.  Quivering lips part, cracking voices begin, and heaven opens.  A chorus fit for the King of Glory rises through the ceiling of the little room, bursts into the universe, and swirls into the Divine throne room.  The voices of gallant warriors, torn and broken in body.  The voices of strong warriors, courageous to the very finish.  The halting voices of conquerors boldly reaching for the crown.

            A little later they hear the words, “We are gathered around this table to once again commemorate our Lord’s death.”  Once again.  Yes, once again as many times as it takes until the victory is reached.

Bent hands, stabbed still by throbbing arthritis and shaking with palsy, reach out to touch the first symbol.  The bread has already been broken for them.  Yet it is with determination that each forces fingers to close around the little fragment representing that crucified Body.  Slowly, slowly it is taken up to the lips.  Some fingers fumble at this point and the fragment drops into a lap.  The painful procedure is again repeated until completed.

          Next, the cup is brought.  Blood symbol.  Symbol of death and life.  The little glass is so small it could embarrassingly spill.  A kind friend picks it up and places it into the palm of the awaiting cupped hand.  It is still shaking.  So two hands are used ~ one folded under the first to steady it.  The drink successfully reaches the lips and its contents triumphantly sipped.  Oh, what glory to still be able to honor the dying Savior after all these years!  The glass falls out of tottering hands.  It is caught by the tray.  But the mind has already started transcending this room for another far above.

            “Each week we give our contribution to a worthy cause,” they hear explained.  Presently the collection tray is brought around.  Dimes and quarters are brought out of coin purses, shallow pockets, envelopes, Bible leaves.  Some are wadded in cold hands.  Ever so slowly coins and dollar bills are carefully placed into the tray.  Not much?  It will help someone in need.

            The preacher now stands.  Many shift.  Seats are harder, circulation cramped, arthritis continues to distress aged joints.  He reads about being taken home to Glory some day.  Some watch him, some gaze at the floor.  He speaks of heaven.  They begin to feel left behind.  They think of those they ache to see again.  It has been so long.  They’ve fought so many battles.  A few tears slip down as due drops.  They dream of heaven in the morning….

            The sermon over, the last prayer said, they begin to leave.  Slowly….The room is nearly empty now.  They make their way down wandering halls to little rooms and resume their wait for the Mansions.  They sigh.  Battles of life have been met and fought.  Mountains climbed.  Desolations conquered.  So now it is a matter of waiting and encouraging those left behind to do the best that they, too, can do.  Tired.  Waiting.  But willing to go on until they touch the mark.  And then…. 

          And then….  they will start all over.  Only this time it will be different.  For this time there will be no pain, no foes, no failures, and never again will they grow old!   

~Katheryn Haddad

8/12/18 ~ A new body like Jesus’

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

A couple of Sunday’s ago we looked at Mark’s record of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8) and noted the fact that Jesus’ appearance was changed. Likewise, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him and Luke says (Luke 9:31) their appearance was said to be “in glory” or “splendorous.” It appears that what the Gospel writers are trying to tell us is that, for a brief time, Peter, James, and John saw something of the eternal “body” of eternal beings with God.

We obviously understand very little about eternity, being presently confined to this temporal world. At the same time, God does make several attempts to tell us more about what we are to be in eternity. So, let’s take a look at just what it means to have…

A New Body Like Jesus’

Let’s begin with Luke’s account of Jesus’ Transfiguration. You can read the entire account in Luke 9:28-36, but for the moment let’s focus on the appearance of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in verses 28-32: Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.

God tells us several significant things. The appearance of Jesus’ face and clothing changed. Matthew 17:2 describes it as His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. Mark simply sums it all up as Jesus was transfigured or literally that He metamorphized before them (Mark 9:2). Both Matthew and Mark describe the change to Jesus’ clothing into being extremely white (Mark remarks that no laundry on earth could make them that white while Matthew says they were as white as light).

Luke, however, explains that Jesus’ face became different (literally, became another face) and His clothing white and gleaming. While most translations simply combine the two words Luke uses to make it extremely or dazzlingly white, the precise word Luke used means to flash like lightning!

Luke also tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared in glory (splendor) using the same word that he uses for the apostles seeing Jesus’ glory in verse 32.

A safe conclusion is that the general appearance of Jesus was much like that of Moses and Elijah who are now eternal beings.

So what does all this have to do with us and our eternal bodies? For that, we must look at some later lessons from the apostle Paul. In Philippians 3:20-21 he reminds us of who we as Christians really are, and what we are going to be when Jesus returns: For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

As citizens of that eternal city, we look forward to going home to live. But our home is not a temporal, time-bounded place. Rather it is beyond time; it is eternal and that requires a body like God. So how do we get that new body of glory like His? By the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Our present bodies are described by Paul (verse 21) as humble (NASB), lowly (NKJV) or vile (KJV). While some may find the KJV term extreme, it is actually the one closest to Paul’s actual word! The term he used for our current body is literally the body of humiliation! He’s not insulting what God has created but rather recognizing that a body made perishable by the humiliation of sin and death, a body that will return to the dust from which it was made, is unfit for an eternal heaven.

Our new body will be transformed, remodeled, the outward form changed into a body conformed (sharing the likeness) to Jesus’ eternal body. Where humans were originally created in God’s image or likeness, now we are to be recreated into His image again. Just as Jesus created us before so now He will re-create us like Him for eternity!

Paul would give an extended lecture on this transformation process, its necessity and its implications to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). Apparently, from Paul’s forcefulness (You fool! of verse 36), some Christians were inventing all kinds of nonsensical stories much like today.

Changed we must be in order to belong to Christ on this earth. And changed we will again be in order to belong to Christ for eternity in heaven. That change will be just like the change He went through to return to heaven.

What does this all mean for us? Paul says it this way, Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

So, knowing who you really are as a Christian and who God intends you to be for eternity, how will you live your life this week?

— Lester P. Bagley

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6/3/18 ~ Hebrew words all Christians should know.

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Are you multilingual? Most of us would immediately say that we don’t know any language except English… and we would be completely wrong! Ask an English teacher how many words in our language are actually foreign words and you will be a bit surprised at the answer!

Have you ever ordered a filet mignon steak? That’s a French term (although we technically use it incorrectly as the French use it for pork tenderloin!). I suspect that, living in the Southwestern USA, you’ve also ordered tacos, enchiladas, and a lot of other Mexican foods and probably never once called them sandwiches or rolled flat-bread filled with… well, you get the point! English, like most languages, is made richer with the addition of words that, while technically foreign, are commonly used and understood by almost everyone.

Have you thought about the fact that as Christians our language is made richer by the use of words belonging to God and His people? Throughout the centuries, many of these terms and customs have been identified by God as special to us. If we lose the language of God then we lose the language of our family and our heavenly home! Let’s look at a few important terms that we should treasure and use if we really belong to God:

Hebrew Words All Christians Should Know

One that immediately should come to mind is Hallelujah. Every time we sing a song with the words “praise the Lord” and/or Hallelujah we are simply repeating the exact same thought.

Hallelu is the Hebrew term of encouragement to praise that is addressed to several people. Yah is a short version of YHWH, which is the personal, Covenant name of the Creator God, traditionally translated as Lord (English translations sometimes use Yahweh or Jehovah for this never pronounced sacred name).

So put together in English (in Hebrew it is actually a two-word phrase) it becomes Hallelujah. However, it really means much more than simply “praise God” as the “encouragement” in Hebrew carries the force of joyous praise in song or boasting in God. And when you remember that it is addressed to more than one person it becomes a direct command for us to together praise or boast in the Lord in song.

When we sing “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah” we are making a thoughtful statement about who we are and what we are doing as we acknowledge the one and only God!

Since Hallelujah includes “jah” or “yah” as God’s name, let’s also consider both El and Yah as they are important names and descriptions of God. El is a generic term used in several Middle Eastern Semitic languages. It can refer to any “god,” whether the one true God or a false god. Yah, on the other hand, is a very specific personal name (see above).

You should notice that MANY names in the Bible are compound words that include either of these two terms for God. For a few quick examples consider El-i-jah (my God is YHWH), El-isha (God helped), Dani-el (God judges or God is judge), Jo-el (YHWH is God, Jo being an alternate version of YHWH).

Since many names in the Bible were given with a special purpose or lesson in mind via God, it really helps to see the whole picture God is giving us when you use a good Bible dictionary to fully appreciate the names!

Every time a name in the Bible begins or ends with one of these forms of God’s name, there is a lesson waiting to be discovered. And seeing that lesson will enrich your understanding of what God is trying to tell you in His word!

Let’s look at one more word that’s very important to God and His people: Amen. In the Old Testament, it is used about 30 times and usually translated as amen or as truth. In the New Testament, it is used some 129 times and usually translated as verily or truly when used by Jesus in the Gospels and amen elsewhere.

In the New Testament, the word is borrowed directly from the Hebrew so it’s meaning is intended to be the same. The fact that the Holy Spirit repeatedly uses this specific Hebrew word in all languages and for all God’s people of every age ought to tell us that something important is going on. The Hebrew in its simplest meaning is, “so be it.” But it is used with much more force as an absolute affirmation of trustworthiness and certainty!

When God required His people to acknowledge all the curses that would befall them for failing to obey His commandments, this is the word that they had to use to acknowledge both the righteousness of God and their acceptance of it! (Read Deuteronomy 27:15-26)

Where today people might swear to solemnly affirm something, God’s people say, Amen. Where today people might cheer and clap to show approval of something really important, God’s people say, Amen.

When we would show approval or want to underline the importance of something in a sermon, a song or a prayer, we say, Amen.

Let’s make a very important point here with this word and its meaning to God’s people. If you attend a secular wedding or graduation ceremony, the people of the world tend to whistle, clap, stomp their feet and yell all kinds of things.

Should we make the Lord’s church conform to our modern world? Should we show approval of Godly things by acting like the friends and followers of Satan? Or should we follow the pattern of God’s people for at least the last nearly 4,000 years?

Should we scream, whistle, clap and stomp for a Godly point made in a prayer or sermon? Should we do that for someone who has just put on their Lord in baptism? Seriously? Is THAT the response of God’s people or are we just imitating Satan?

No, we don’t have to follow Jesus. We don’t have to use God’s words… unless we really want to imitate God instead of Satan. Perhaps by serious Bible study and learning God’s words, terminology and meaning, we can learn to do things God’s way!

Yes, it’s that important!

— Lester P. Bagley

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March 5 ~ Selling Heaven Short

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From the Preacher’s Pen…

Isn’t it wonderful that brother (or sister) So-and-so is in heaven? They must be playing golf every day with all their old friends!

How many times have you heard (or been involved in!) a conversation like that? Do we realize what an outright lie that is? Do we really know what heaven is and what it is all about?

Take a few moments to consider how often we cheapen and outright pervert God’s great promise:

Selling Heaven Short

Heaven is a place that everyone talks about and everyone hopes to go to… provided they don’t have to actually DO something to get there!

The reality of heaven is that it is a prepared place for a prepared people. Unless we “store up treasures there,” unless we obey our Lord and God, then we will never live there. Let’s take a look at heaven as God presents it and see how that compares with the nonsense that people often imagine is heaven.

Heaven is NOT golf, hunting, fishing nor is it about visiting with friends and loved ones!

That is NOT to imply we won’t know or care about friends and loved ones: In the Old Testament, when a person died, biblical writers said he was “gathered to his people” (cf. Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:29; Numbers 20:24; Judges 2:10).

In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, David confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23). David expected to see his child again – not just a nameless, faceless soul without an identity, but that very child.

Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even though it had been centuries since they’d walked this earth, they still maintained a clear identity (Matthew 17:3) – Peter, James, and John evidently recognized them (v. 4), which implies that we will somehow be able to recognize people we’ve never even seen before.

We will be able to have fellowship with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, David, Peter, Barnabas, Paul, or any of the faithful. For that to be possible, we must all retain our individual identities, not turn into some sort of generic beings.

Describing the Lord’s appearing and the resurrection of the saints who have died: 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. and thus we shall always be with the Lord’.

Paul’s purpose was to comfort some of the Thessalonians who thought their dying loved ones would miss the return of Christ. He says in verse 18, “Comfort one another with these words.” The comfort comes from the prospect of reunion. Little comfort this would be if in the reunion we could not even recognize one another. Paul’s promise that we will all be “together” forever implies that we shall renew fellowship with all whom we have known.

We will be reunited not only with our own families and loved ones, but also with the people of God from all ages. In heaven, we will all be one loving family. The immense size of the family will not matter in the infinite perfection of heaven. Our eternity will be spent in just that kind of rich, unending fellowship.

If you’re worried about feeling out of place in heaven, don’t. Heaven will seem more like home than the dearest spot on earth to you. It is uniquely designed by a tender, loving Savior to be the place where we will live together for all eternity and enjoy Him forever.

But we will NOT remember the lost! This is an eternal home for victors NOT losers (also take note of Revelation 21:8):

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Heaven IS all about our God and our Savior!

Back to that first point above.  While heaven includes God’s family and all the joy that is a result of that blessing, the real purpose of heaven is NOT family, friends and loved ones. The real joy and purpose of heaven is being with our God and Savior!

Every vision of heaven that John or any other prophet had of heaven is ALWAYS centered around God.

If God is not your priority here on earth, if He is not your first and greatest love, then you won’t have to worry about not enjoying heaven. You won’t be there!

Yes, that is shocking to many human beings, but the least of heaven’s blessings are about us. The priority of heaven, like our lives here on earth, is the focus on God.

Don’t imagine heaven as the place where God will wait on you and give you your heart’s desire.

Make God your heart’s desire, serve Him and learn the real blessings that God has in store for His family.

— Lester P. Bagley

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