In our second part of the series on heaven, we look at one of life’s unavoidable realities: death. After all, you can’t go to heaven unless you die first! How do we prepare for death, if we want to go to heaven? We look at 2 Corinthians 4.1-18 to find out. You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.
At St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’m preaching a series on heaven right now. In a few weeks, I’ll be talking about the concept of heaven as “rest”, but that theme is on my mind right now, so I thought I’d share a little bit about that as a ‘teaser’ for our people, and as encouragement for everyone else!
The Bible talks about heaven in a number of ways, and one of those is “rest”. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way:
Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later.But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.
That is why the Holy Spirit says,
“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,
when they tested me in the wilderness.
There your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
So I was angry with them, and I said,
‘Their hearts always turn away from me.
They refuse to do what I tell them.’
So in my anger I took an oath:
‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says:
“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled.”
And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him? So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest. (Hebrews 3.5-19, NLT)
I gave you that long passage to afford you some context. The author cites Psalm 95 in his discussion on heaven, and uses that reference to “rest” to talk about eternity.
Summer is often a time for rest, when we step back from our daily labours to be rejuvenated, doing things we most enjoy with the people we most love. I hope you are taking some time in these warm months to do just that.
Vacation time is like an extended Sabbath. And so too, says the writer to the Hebrews, is heaven. This has been reiterated in church music over the years. Peter Abelard, a twelfth-century French theologian, wrote an anthem (translated into English much later by John Mason Neale) in which one verse states:
O what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessèd ones see;
Crown for the valiant, to weary ones rest:
God shall be All, and in all ever blest.
(You can listen to Healey Willan’s setting of this piece here.)
In one sense, then, vacation time is truly a taste of heaven! Make sure you get some rest. If you are a follower of Jesus, it’s part of your eternal future!
Last Sunday, Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Airways and many other enterprises, fulfilled a lifelong dream: he went to space…on his own craft.
Granted, he didn’t get very far, galactically speaking: he soared to 50 miles above the surface of the earth, which doesn’t quite reach the definition of “outer space”, but he proved that some form of space travel does not have to be the purview of only astronauts. Branson proved that anyone can go – provided, of course, they have the cash to make it happen.
This got me thinking: the curiosity of the human mind is amazing. Inventions come to pass because people believe there might be a better way to do something, and they do the work required to bring it to fruition. There was Alexander Graham Bell with the telephone, Schaffer with the washing machine, Ford with the assembly line, etc., etc. These people had the ingenuity to invent, but they first had the curiosity to explore the possibilities. It is a gift from God.
Your curiosity is a gift from God. What are you doing to glorify him with it? You don’t have to go to the outer reaches of the atmosphere. Maybe your curiosity will do something to help your small group. Maybe it will build the church. Maybe it will help missionaries do their work. Whatever it is, let your God-given curiosity bring him praise.
“It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them” (Proverbs 25.2, NLT).
Today, I encourage you to spend a few moments meditating on God’s Word. The word “meditate” has been hijacked in contemporary society, and sometimes, Christians are afraid to use the word for fear that they are practising some sort of eastern religious act. Not so! Meditation has been part of church life since the earliest days of the Christian faith. One of the ways we practise meditation on the Word of God is through holy reading, what the ancients called lectio divina. In this practice, we read a passage of Scripture to get familiar with it; we pause, and then we read it again to discern a word or phrase from the passage that the Lord may be highlighting for us; again we pause, and read it a third time, taking time to hold that word or phrase before the Lord to know why he has highlighted it for us; and finally, we read it a fourth time and rest in God’s care and provision, thinking prayerfully about how we might respond to what the Lord has said to us through his Word.
Try it with this passage:
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
4 Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you. (Isaiah 43.1-4, NLT)
How did the Lord speak to you through this passage? How can you respond?
I had an interesting experience this week…I went to jail.
Don’t worry, though: I wasn’t remanded in custody for a crime.
I was in Facebook Jail.
It seems that the digital robotic algorithm which constantly monitors posts for things it has unilaterally decided are hateful, offensive, or against its ‘community standards’ picked off a meme I reposted from someone else and decided that it violated ‘community standards’.
I thought it was funny, and so did several other people. In fact, I can’t imagine who would have found it anything but funny. But the algorithm doesn’t share my sense of humour, apparently. So I couldn’t post for 24 hours (probably not a bad idea anyway), and I can’t go ‘live’ or place an ad on Facebook for 30 days. I guess this is the equivalent for getting 2 minutes for roughing and a game misconduct…from a blind referee.
Thankfully, I don’t rely on Facebook for anything except mild entertainment and the opportunity to post spiritual encouragement, so the repercussions are not life-altering for me.
It’s almost impossible to hit a moving target – which I deem Facebook’s algorithm to be – so I will have no idea whether what I post in the future will be targeted. So I will have to be much more judicious in what I post. It will mostly be ministry-related. (Hopefully, they won’t start targeting Christians for spiritual things!)
I couldn’t find a means for appeal, but if I could, I would encourage Facebook to alter its algorithm so that it has at least a mild sense of humour. After all, if we can’t laugh, especially at ourselves, life is not as rich.
Make sure you get in a good laugh today, even if it’s not at something I post on social media, because, as the Bible says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17.22, NLT).