As we continue our series on heaven, we pose the question: What will the end of the world as we know it be like? We look at 1 Thesslonians 4.13-18 and Revelation 20 to get some answers. 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!
A friend of mine was living and studying in Toronto in 1992, when the Blue Jays won the World Series for the first time ever. I remember speaking with my friend and mentioning this. I got a quizzical look back.
My friend had no idea that Toronto’s franchise had won baseball’s biggest title. I was gobsmacked!
Maybe you’ve heard the pejorative phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.” Perhaps you can think of someone who fits that description pretty well.
And it’s true: it can be challenging to deal with people who have no significant awareness of their surroundings or their culture.
At the same time, though, there are many people who claim to be followers of Jesus who are so focused on this life that they have no grasp whatsoever on the future for which Jesus has ransomed them.
It’s possible to be so earthly minded as to be (dare we say it?) no heavenly good.
Granted, there’s a lot about heaven that we don’t know. All we can know is revealed to us in the Bible, and a lot of what people actually believe about heaven bears no resemblance to anything Scripture tells us about it. Even in the church, there’s a lot of “folk religion” that’s held tightly, at least when it comes to the afterlife.
The key, I suppose, is balance. As God’s people, we want to be focused on what Jesus has promised for us. And we want to live in the world in which God has placed us in the here-and-now. We need to ask the Holy Spirit, who dwells within each believer, to help us bring about that balance, so that people will take us seriously when we do point them toward heaven.
I invite you to do that today: ask the Holy Spirit to help you balance the delights of heaven with the needs of the world. When he helps you achieve that balance, who knows how many people may look to you to have the same hope for the future that lives in you!
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3.1-3, NLT).
Happy new year! I hope that 2016 has gotten off to a great start for you.
This past week seems to have been a big week for the passing of famous people. I must admit that I don’t pay a lot of attention to famous people, but one’s use of the Internet seems to make them a trifle hard to ignore.
I was especially intrigued by a quotation from David Bowie, who died this week, who apparently said this: “I don’t know where I am going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
I’m sure many people found that humorous, in that in this life, David Bowie made sure it was never boring. What saddens me is that he had no sense of what his future destiny was. “I don’t know where I am going from here.” Isn’t that sad?
The whole of the Christian life is not just about “knowing where we’re going”, but the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ certainly includes that. In fact, “knowing where we’re going” is, in part, our impetus to share our faith, and to make a difference as Jesus would have us make in the world.
“Knowing where I’m going” is a big reason I’m not afraid to die. That’s probably true for you, too. But not everybody understands this. Let me encourage you to live your life in Christ in a way that makes others long to have the same confidence you have in where you’ll spend eternity. Because eternity is a long time, and I want everybody to experience ‘forever’ in the presence of the Lord. Don’t you?
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John 14.1-7, NLT)