Thinking Out Loud

April 29, 2019

Math Question: How Many Mansions = 1 House?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:59 pm

Despite my continuing computer crisis, I am keeping up to date with our sister blog, Christianity 201. Unlike this one, it hasn’t passed the ten year mark, which means I haven’t granted myself permission to skip a day here and there yet; I want to be faithful to having provided a decade’s worth of devotional, if God wills. Here’s what readers there are seeing today.


2 Cor. 5:1 .NLT For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.

The title of today’s devotional is meant to cause a double-take. More on that later.

Like many of you, there were key Bible passage I was asked to memorize as child. One of these was:

CEB John 14:1 “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”

Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

and a quick overview shows four primary statements in these verses:

  1. Don’t be afraid
  2. Trust Me
  3. God’s house contains many ‘mansions’
  4. I would have told you if anything were different

Today my plan was to explore the fourth of these, the phrase “If it were not so I would have told you.” However, as I began to study this, my thoughts were redirected. We did actually look at that phrase a few years ago here.

Instead, I found myself looking at the “many mansions.” For me this verse was always contrary to the direction my personal theology has been heading: From an “up there, somewhere” heaven to a “New Earth” view of eschatology. However, for some reason I found this verse problematic, as I kept seeing the “up there” being described therein.

In Barnes’ Notes we read:

Jesus was consoling his disciples, who were affected with grief at the idea of his separation. To comfort them he addresses them in this language: “The universe is the dwelling-place of my Father. All is his house. Whether on earth or in heaven, we are still in his habitation. In that vast abode of God there are many mansions. The earth is one of them, heaven is another. Whether here or there, we are still in the house, in one of the mansions of our Father, in one of the apartments of his vast abode. This we ought continually to feel, and to rejoice that we are permitted to occupy any part of his dwelling-place. Nor does it differ much whether we are in this mansion or another.

It should not be a matter of grief when we are called to pass from one part of this vast habitation of God to another. I am indeed about to leave you, but I am going only to another part of the vast dwelling-place of God. I shall still be in the same universal habitation with you; still in the house of the same God; and am going for an important purpose – to fit up another abode for your eternal dwelling.” If this be the meaning, then there is in the discourse true consolation. We see that the death of a Christian is not to be dreaded, nor is it an event over which we should immoderately weep. It is but removing from one apartment of God’s universal dwelling-place to another – one where we shall still be in his house, and still feel the same interest in all that pertains to his kingdom. And especially the removal of the Saviour from the earth was an event over which Christians should rejoice, for he is still in the house of God, and still preparing mansions of rest for His people.


Then we come to the meat of the today’s article, in the writing of Howard Snyder. This is somewhat abridged; click the header below to read in full.

Father’s House — Many Mansions

“Many mansions.” In King James’ day, a “mansion” was a room, not a huge, fancy house. Today most translations say “many dwelling places” (NRSV), or “plenty of room,” as the TNIV helpfully puts it. Jesus’ central meaning is this: There is plenty of room with God. (It apparently has not troubled many Christians that “In my Father’s house are many mansions” is nonsensical as “mansion” is popularly understood.)

“My father’s house.” This does not mean heaven. Heaven is not mentioned once in the whole chapter. What then is the “Father’s house”?

Jesus speaks out of the context of the whole Old Testament revelation. In the older Testament, the Lord’s “house” or “dwelling place” is an immensely rich idea. It essentially means the place or places where God’s presence is manifest. Often in the Psalms God’s “house” or “dwelling” is the temple in Jerusalem. Other times it refers to the whole creation, or even the whole universe. Some Psalms describe God himself as our “dwelling place” (Ps 90:1, 91:9).

The point is: God’s “house” or “dwelling place” is wherever God is and wherever his presence is made evident and his will is done. Jesus assumes this in many of his discourses. The meaning of John 14:2 is, “There is plenty of room with God.”

“I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus assures his apostles that in going away (through his crucifixion and death), he is accomplishing the next step in God’s plan for his kingdom to come in fullness.

This verse echoes God’s word to Israel in Exodus 23:20, “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” Jesus very self-consciously fulfilled all the Old Testament promises concerning himself. In Exodus, the reference was to the Promised Land. In the New Testament, in fulfillment of the promises, the Promised Land becomes the whole earth, recreated as “new heavens and new earth.”  …

John 14:1–3 is not about heaven. It is about our “dwelling place” being eternally with God—beginning now on earth and in “the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3, 2:6) as we love him and keep his commandments; for awhile in heaven before Jesus returns; and finally in the new creation—the new earth and heaven.

Jesus does not say in verse 3, “I will take you to heaven.” He says, “I will take you to myself.” And Jesus promised to return to earth, once for all.

The point in John 14:1–3: Not the place. Rather, the Person and the relationship. In the end, Jesus establishes the perfect relationship of shalom between himself, human beings, and the whole creation. For now, Jesus “must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21).

Jesus’ words here thus mean: “I go to accomplish the next step in bringing the complete fulfillment of God’s promises of salvation and creation healed.”


Tangentially (unless you count the fact I made this today’s title): I found his parenthetic comment in the first paragraph rather interesting. We often skip over familiar passages without really considering what we are reading. Basically, in the English translations, Jesus is saying:

In my Father’s this:

There are many of these:

which of course you are free to suggest doesn’t make any sense. For this reader anyway, the problem is not the splendour of the mansions, but a misunderstanding of what is implied by the “house.” I’m deliberately leaving that open for your consideration. 

Of all the various translations out there, I most love how The Voice Bible renders John 14:2

My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival.


A concluding verse:

Revelation 21:3 NLT I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 

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April 25, 2019

Things Better Left Unsaid

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

This was submitted by someone whose writing has appeared here a few times in the past, but requested anonymity this time around. What do you think? 

…I mentioned my Aunt who is dying from pancreatic cancer. Guess what the first question was?

“Is she a Christian?”

Why do people ask this question when you have just let them know a loss is imminent? My reply was “nominally” so I would not have to hear sighs and recriminations.

This is one of the rudest questions to ask someone. And arrogant, and presumptuous. Is Heaven the only reason we are on this journey? What about the three years of teaching Jesus gave us?

Questions like this and their “certain” responses are not what faith is about. A better question would have been “How are you all managing this time?”

Even, “What can I pray for?” may have been better.

I have seen this certain belief that only Christians have real estate in the afterlife take a person to terrible lows, disrupt the grieving process and offer no closure at all, nor a celebration of a life well lived. It is a question that does not really deserve an answer. As if I can see inside a person’s heart. Externals are meaningless in the Christian faith.

My Aunt is well loved, and loved well…if there are any questions allowed at all, maybe these two would be better.

March 1, 2019

“It’s the Rapture!” “No, It’s Not!”

Two forthcoming titles take two different paths to explore a similar theme. I thought it was interesting that both of these have a scheduled release date of March 19th. For the record, I did not receive review copies from either publisher.

First, Herald Press offers Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong by Zach Hunt, available in both hardcover and paperback.

Are you rapture ready? As a teenager in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Zack Hunt was convinced the rapture would happen at any moment. Being ready meant never missing church, never sinning, and always listening to Christian radio.

But when the rapture didn’t happen, Hunt’s tightly wound faith began to fray. If he had been wrong about the rapture, what else about his faith might not hold water?

Part memoir, part tour of the apocalypse, and part call to action, Unraptured traces how the church’s focus on escaping to heaven has it mired in decay. Teetering on the brink of irrelevancy in a world rocked by refugee crises, climate change, war and rumors of war, the church cannot afford to focus on the end times instead of following Jesus in the here and now. Unraptured uses these signs of the times to help readers reorient their understanding of the gospel around loving and caring for the least of these.

Then, releasing on the exact same day, Chosen Books releases Not Afraid of the Anti-Christ: Why We Don’t Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture by Michael Brown and Craig Keener in paperback.

Despite the popular belief that Christians will be raptured before the start of the Tribulation, Scripture paints a very different picture. Nowhere does the Bible promise that believers will escape the revelation of the Antichrist and his war on the saints. In fact, God tells His people to expect tribulation–and to persevere through it.

In this eye-opening text, acclaimed scholars and authors Michael Brown and Craig Keener offer encouragement and hope for the approaching dark times. Together they walk you through an intensive study of Bible passages, helping you gain a better understanding of what the future holds. Through it all, there is no need to fear; God has a plan. He will not abandon His people in the terrible days ahead.

Take comfort in the words of Jesus: He has overcome the world. Even in the midst of great sorrows on the earth, we live in Jesus’ victory until He returns at the end of the age.

People who are strong adherents of traditional Evangelical eschatology may be offended by both books (!) but there are those who have misgivings about that end times model which may welcome these two books.

November 13, 2018

Happy Birthday, Mom

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:35 am

Today would have been a celebration my mother’s birthday, and a significant one at that. (Don’t try to do the math, it doesn’t work well in my case.) Instead, she left us just over two years ago.

My wife would have made a chocolate cake and we would visit her, if not on the day, on one at least close to it. There would be a singing of “Happy Birthday” over the telephone.

So can she see the words which form today’s headline? I almost hope not. If she can see that, she can see the mass shootings and the California fires. I don’t wish that on anyone.

Here’s what some say on the topic of whether or not people in eternity can see what’s happening here:

Billy Graham

…Do those in Heaven know what’s happening on earth? The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about Heaven—but it does indicate that those who have already entered Heaven may be aware of events on earth. The book of Hebrews, for example, pictures life as a great arena, with those who have gone before us cheering us on in our daily spiritual struggles (see Hebrews 12:1). Once when Jesus’ appearance was changed and His heavenly glory shone through, Moses and Elijah spoke with Him about events on the earth (see Luke 9:30-31)…

Greg Laurie*

…There are two trains of thought on this topic. For some it would seem like that once we’re in heaven we will be so preoccupied with worshipping God that the last thing in our mind would be what’s happening on earth – besides, with all the tragedy and sadness in this world, heaven would just not be heaven if we were made aware of it.

Then, the other train of thought is pretty much the opposite of that. People would think that folks up in heaven are sitting and watching our every move almost like it’s their form of entertainment. They would even think that sometimes those in heaven might be intervening in our lives and directing our steps and helping us to know what to do.

You might be surprised to know that I believe both views are actually incorrect.

The question might be well, why would you even care about this? The answer is you will care if you have a loved one in heaven,

…Let me take it a step further. I think people in heaven know a lot more about earth than we may realize.

Randy Alcorn

The answer is yes, at least to some extent.

[He then lists twelve instances in scripture which point to this taking place in particular circumstances involving particular people. Also a different video answer here.]

A Catholic Answer

The living often say they feel the dead present and watching them. Is this illusion or fact?

It is fact. The Bible says we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses”. The context is speaking of the dead. They are alive. For God is “not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him”.

Reason confirms revelation here. Does their love for us cease? Does it not rather increase in purity and power? And do not their vision and understanding also increase?

“The Communion of Saints” means not only (1) love and understanding among the blessed in Heaven and (2) love and understanding among the redeemed on earth but also (3) love and understanding between those two groups, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, temporarily separated by death…

John Piper

[Part 2 of a 5-part answer to the question]

If the saints see, they see with new eyes.

I would say that if God grants saints in heaven to see the suffering and misery, as well as the good on the earth, we may be sure that they see it not with their old, imperfect eyes and that they understand it not with their old imperfect minds and that they assess it not with their old imperfect hearts. Rather, we may be sure because the Bible says that they have been perfected in heaven (Hebrews 12:23).

They will see and understand and assess all things in a perfectly spiritual way that takes into account everything they need to know in order to make sense of it and to keep from making any mistakes. And so, they will not in the least doubt the goodness of God in what they see or the wisdom of God in what they see. That may be as important as any surety of whether they can come and see.

So there you some dominant views.

And, for what it’s worth, Happy Birthday, Mom.

 

[*quotations from an article in The Christian Post]

February 25, 2018

Billy Graham in His Own Words

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, Jesus — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:32 am

Two days ago on the devotional blog we honored Billy Graham with an excerpt from his final book. Then yesterday, we added Rev. Graham to a select group of people who have been part of a quotation series at Christianity 201. Quotation columns at C201 always run the danger of being pithy — such as the shorter ones found here — so I’ve tried to include some more substantive quotes as they were available. Preparing this was an amazing opportunity to learn more about a servant of God who was willing to be obedient to the call of God. His presence and influence will be missed.


The greatest need in our world today is the need for hope. We thrive on hope, we rejoice in hope, we witness in hope, knowing that experience works hope. ‘Happy is he . . . whose hope is in the Lord his God (Psalm 146:5).’ There is hope for the future. It is centered in the Person of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose from the grave and is alive now. I have staked all that I am or ever hope to be on Him.


One response was given by the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph wanted to find a room where the Child could be born. The innkeeper was not hostile; he was not opposed to them, but his inn was crowded; his hands were full; his mind was preoccupied. This is the answer that millions are giving today. Like a Bethlehem innkeeper, they cannot find room for Christ. All the accommodations in their hearts are already taken up by other crowding interests. Their response is not atheism. It is not defiance. It is preoccupation and the feeling of being able to get on reasonably well without Christianity.


God proved his love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’


Jesus was not a white man; He was not a black man. He came from that part of the world that touches Africa and Asia and Europe. Christianity is not a white man’s religion and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people; He belongs to the whole world.


Ruth and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but we have a great one. How can I say two things that seem so contradictory? In a perfect marriage, everything is always the finest and best imaginable; like a Greek statue, the proportions are exact and the finish is unblemished. Who knows any human beings like that? For a married couple to expect perfection in each other is unrealistic. We learned that even before we were married.


The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.


The happiness which brings enduring worth to life is not the superficial happiness that is dependent on circumstances. It is the happiness and contentment that fills the soul even in the midst of the most distressing circumstances and the most bitter environment. It is the kind of happiness that grins when things go wrong and smiles through the tears. The happiness for which our souls ache is one undisturbed by success or failure, one which will root deeply inside us and give inward relaxation, peace, and contentment, no matter what the surface problems may be. That kind of happiness stands in need of no outward stimulus.


There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.”


Although I have much to be grateful for as I look back over my life, I also have many regrets…I would also spend more time in spiritual nurture, seeking to grow closer to God so I could become more like Christ. I would spend more time in prayer, not just for myself but for others. I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth, not only for sermon preparation but to apply its message to my life. It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages.


The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took them upon himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.’


The men who followed Him were unique in their generation. They turned the world upside down because their hearts had been turned right side up. The world has never been the same.


The cross shows us the seriousness of our sin—but it also shows us the immeasurable love of God.


I have a certainty about eternity that is a wonderful thing, and I thank God for giving me that certainty. I do not fear death. I may fear a little bit about the process, but not death itself, because I think the moment that my spirit leaves this body, I will be in the presence of the Lord.


Like Joseph storing up grain during the years of plenty to be used during the years of famine that lay ahead, may we store up the truths of God’s Word in our hearts as much as possible, so that we are prepared for whatever suffering we are called upon to endure.


The message I preach hasn’t changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn’t changed.


“What is the greatest surprise you have found about life?” a university student asked me several years ago. “The brevity of it,” I replied without hesitation. … Time moves so quickly, and no matter who we are or what we have done, the time will come when our lives will be over. As Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).


When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.


I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it, and for all He has given me in this life. But I look forward to Heaven. I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone on before. I look forward to Heaven’s freedom from sorrow and pain. I also look forward to serving God in ways we can’t begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is not a place of idleness. And most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace–just as I am.


Sources:

December 1, 2017

Short Takes (5): As It Is In Heaven

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:34 am

We’ve prayed it many times:

Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

But how is God’s will done in heaven?

I see two things, but perhaps you can think of others:

(1) There is constant worship. The KJV of Rev. 4:8 says “they rest not.”  The NLT reads:

Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty — the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

So if you want to see a bit of the will of God done here on earth, while it may not be non-stop, there’s going to be an element of worship.

(2) There is instant compliance. God simply speaks the word and it happens.   “And God said…” is the constant theme of the creation narrative, giving new meaning to the old phrase “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Except the missing middle part wouldn’t be “I believe it;” but something closer to “I’m obeying it.”

Unlike at creation, God cannot always simply make things happen unless we’re willing to be used as partners with him; he has chosen in this time and place to work through willing people.


Go deeper with this topic at Christianity 201

August 27, 2017

The Mysterious Melchizedek: Who’s Blessing Who?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:41 pm

At the beginning of the month we launched something new at Christianity 201 called Sunday Worship; a subset of articles dealing with the theme of worship but not limited to the musical aspect of it. This was the kickoff article. Later today (5:35 PM EDT) there will be another new one.

NIV Genesis 14:17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Melchizedek blesses Abram. Isn’t that the opposite of where we should be looking to consider worship? Isn’t worship about us blessing God through our worship?

I was drawn to this passage through a chapter in Rob Bell’s book, What is the Bible? I know Bell is controversial, but hear him out on this. He writes that Abraham has been promised that God is going to do a new thing through him. He begins a covenant with Abraham. Something that has not existed prior.

But then along comes “a priest of God Most High.” So there’s already a thing. An ongoing thing. A thing that’s been taking place long enough for there to be a priesthood. And even though we’re only 14 chapters in, the writer of Genesis assumes we get what that means. Long before the birth of Levi, there is already the notion of an ecclesiastic structure; within it a group that is set apart — by the designation priest — to serve in some capacity related to the sacrificial system which, in chapter 14, is just beginning. I think that’s Bell’s point.

So Melchizedek is part of that priestly class then, right?

Maybe not. Many believe that this is a theophany, a place where God himself breaks in and makes a post-Eden appearance. Perhaps even a Christophany, an Old-Testament appearance of the Son. (We’ve written on this subject a few months ago in this article.) Really, how can anyone ignore the mention of bread and wine in verse 18? So shouldn’t Abram fall on his face and worship Melchizedek? That’s what often happens in theophanies, where the term “the angel of the Lord” is used to describe the one making an appearance. Instead, Melchizedek blesses him.

So let’s instead go back to the idea that this priest is in every sense a human like us; the idea that there is a designated structure that involves a set apart, priestly class. We have a reference to him again in Psalm 110:4 and also in Hebrews. Who does he serve? What does he do?

Remember, by the time the book of Genesis is recorded, it’s a given that we know something of the meaning of the word priest. Part of the sacrificial system was to offer animals and the fruit of the land in hope of God’s blessing. But part of it was also as an act of thankfulness for blessings already received. It meant honoring God’s place, God’s position, God’s status, God’s authority, God’s power, God’s involvement in the everyday, God’s predisposition to bless, God’s prerogative to withhold blessing. A calendar cycle would evolve which represented the intersection of God’s work and our lives.

There was a role for the priest in all of this, as overseer of that system. In facilitating that worship.

The people didn’t worship 24 hours a day. There were fields to cultivate, animals to feed and children to tend to. But where they set apart their time, they did so with the aid and direction of one set apart to lead. In other words, before the establishment of the singers, we could see the priests as worship leaders. Just not in the sense we use that term today.

But this priest “blessed Abram.” Is that backwards? (There’s an interplay going on here between the giving and receiving of worship and the giving and receiving of blessing.)

It depends how you were raised. In a Roman Catholic context, there’s nothing surprising about a priest blessing children or even blessing objects. If our modern day worship leaders are some type of parallel or equivalent, do they, in addition to facilitating God-directed worship, ever bless the assembled worshipers? Or does that tread into the murky territory of responding to God in hopes of receiving something in return; i.e. a blessing.

I want to raise the possibility then that Melchizedek is part of something larger, and something ongoing, and something that Abraham is going to be a part of, but in so doing, he is plugging into something long-established. Something that pre-dates the new thing God is doing with him. Something that has already been taking place…

…in heaven. That is to say beyond the time constraints of this earth. In eternity. We see visions of angelic worship in Revelation but that heavenly worship is, to use a common phrase today, a pre-existing condition. In other words it follows through in Revelation but it also precedes Genesis.

And the notion of being a “priest of God Most High” is an extension of what has already taken place in heaven, is already taking place in heaven, and will continue to take place in heaven: The worship of God.

June 11, 2017

What Will We Do in Heaven (Part 3)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

…From there, the discussion moved on to look at the question of why “do things” now?

I think the answer to that question is because we were commanded to.

Luke 19:13b:
“Engage in business until I come back.” CSB
“See what you can earn with this while I am gone.” GNT
“Occupy til I come” KJV

— the KJV, in today’s context hasn’t got the business-specific reference. We obviously use occupy differently today but in its contemporary vagueness it makes allowance for creative projects as well.

It’s odd because sometimes we talk in terms of “doing great things for God” and yet his mandate in these verses has more of a “carry on” tone to it.

The apostle Paul talks about making good use of the time: (there’s that word again!)

Eph 5-15-16
Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

It strikes here that we’ve been given a stewardship, not of the earth but of days, to use our talents; for God to see how we glorify him (this is, you’ll remember, the chief end of man) through labor and vocation with the gifts we’ve received.

A chapter later he writes:

Eph 6:7 NLT
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

This is where we get the idea to “do everything as unto the Lord;” the KJV translation.

The Bible is also clear that things don’t have to continue even within the confines of a lifetime. Things can be for a season.

Eccl. 3:1
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens

I’ve found Skye Jethani’s writings and podcast episodes to be helpful here in two different ways. First, he’s written and spoken at conference on the idea of “the theology of work,” but it wasn’t in the sense here, but rather the opposite, that the Millennial generation is obsessed with it. (Search his name also with respect to vocation.)

Second, he has written on “the myth of continuance;” the idea that things will always be as they now are; and I think that mindset may be creeping into the question of wanting to see things we do on earth carry forward into eternity. Personally, I see the next life as operating on an entirely different paradigm, with an entirely different set of measurements for fulfillment, accomplishment, etc. I think heaven should come with a welcome disclaimer: ‘Any similarity between this and your past life is purely coincidental.’

So we try not to read Ecclesiastes too often or become too philosophical about our current projects vis-a-vis what comes after this life. We carry on. We work hard. We rest well. We create beauty. We pursue excellence. We seek truth. We treasure friendships. And we try to honor God in all of these things. 

At the end it’s all measured. Some of it is wood, hay and straw, but hopefully some of it is gold, silver and precious stones. While “it’s all gonna burn” may be discouraging to some, trying to hold on to a sense of what we’re doing here and now as “taking it with us” then and there I think will seem rather silly. You can’t take it with you because in a glorified body in the presence of God, you wouldn’t want to take it with you.

 

 

 

June 10, 2017

What Will We Do in Heaven? (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:36 am

…So the conversation continued:

I find it kinda weird to think of heaven as not having growth or progression to it, in general and in regard to the new creation having a fixed population in the end apparently. I find it difficult to get excited about a place where things don’t continue to unfold.

Of course, the first thing I thought about was the article by the late Christian musician Keith Green, “Will You Be Bored in Heaven.” You can read that online at this link. Here’s a sample:

The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all – for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us…

Be honest, would you be thrilled for the Lord to come back right before you get that college degree, or if you had your choice would you prefer He wait until right after graduation day? Maybe you’re engaged to be married. How would you like to go to heaven the day before your scheduled wedding? See what I mean? Paul really desired more than anything else to go to be with the Lord. We desire long, fulfilling “Christian” lives on earth – but we’re willing to die and go to heaven … when we really have to!

As the discussion continued however it occurred to me that some of the problem is that we’re currently trapped in linear time.

Progression = distance traveled (literal or figurative or incremental) over time.  OR  d/t
where the distance could be referring to a journey including accomplishments, learning, etc.

I then continued:

But if time as we know it — linearly — has ended, then the whole notion of progress collapses. If you “find it difficult to get excited about a place where things don’t continue to unfold” then your vision of the next life is too stuck in linear time. 

C. S. Lewis’s analogy of a train is helpful here. I tried to find the exact quote, but essentially it concerns the difference between being stopped at a level crossing waiting for a very long freight train to pass. One by one, the cars click by; you’re counting them; there’s been 150 so far. But up above someone is watching the entire scene from an airplane. They have a very large picture in front of them, and they are aware that there is a train on the tracks, but from that height, it does not appear to be moving at all.  

The person on the ground experiences the train linearly, but to the person in the plane the train is perceived differently; they see the first car and the last car all at once.  

Speaking of Lewis, our oldest son got involved in the discussion by email and noted, “C.S. Lewis would not concur with the idea that there isn’t progression in Heaven (see The Last Battle).”

One website offered this:

The linear nature of time can be summarized by the concept of the “arrow of time,” a phrase coined in the 1930’s. It turns out that there are many obstacles to overcome when studying the arrow of time, the first of which is to figure out why it exists to begin with. Why do people recognize a past separated from a present time, which is, in turn, separated from the future? So far philosophers and physicists have not established a definite reason.

Why does it exist to begin with? I think the Bible addresses that:

Gen 1:4 “Then he separated the light from the darkness God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” — this where John Walton says we can read this as “And God created time.”

I shared an email with John Walton once about this:

…When you were a guest [on the Phil Vischer show] you mentioned the distinction in Genesis 1 with the words used, “And God called the light day;” and said basically this verse could be read, “And God created time.”

And then took it one step further:

In one of the ‘heaven’ verses, there is a reference something like, “We do not need the light of the sun…” because God is that light.  (Sorry, I’m writing this in a hurry!) I’m wondering if in that verse we’re witnessing the end of time; that the sun is extinguished and things return to the original order.

This would give greater meaning to the phrase, “passing into eternity.”  That at a certain point time stops in the same kind of crisis moment in which it began.  If so, this would also give some help to the “Will I be bored in heaven?” people who are continuing to think of the ‘afterlife’ in terms of linear time, and therefore aren’t wrapping their heads fully around the new order that ‘life’ becomes.

Professor Walton wrote me back and said,

You are referring to Revelation 21:23 and yes, I believe you are on the right track

So from there, the subject drifted to, “Then why do anything now?” Why indeed? If there’s no permanence to it, if it [itself] doesn’t continue into eternity, what’s the point?

We’ll look at that tomorrow in Part 3.


Image: Last Days Ministries

 

 

June 9, 2017

What Will We Do In Heaven? (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:43 am

If you’re a Type-A personality, you thrive on busy-ness and activity. When you think in terms of heaven — by which I mean more accurately new earth — you want to know there will be projects, and programs, and goals; oh my!

This was the topic we were wrestling with in a one hour phone conference call last night involving my wife and myself and our youngest son.

Part of it had to do with the completion of things we’ve been involved in here and now; a carry forward of the things we enjoy doing or are gifted in doing.

When it started out, we were looking at the continuation of marriage in heaven. (Though the conversation later expanded to include vocation.)

“If marriage ends in heaven, what’s the point of marriage on earth”

I did some searching online and came up with these:

Focus on the Family:

Jesus did say that life in the world to come will not include “marriage” as we know it here on earth. When questioned by the Sadducees about this, He said, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Your friend may lack sensitivity, but her comment does have a strong biblical basis.What Jesus did not say was that “all earthly relationships will be nullified in heaven.” There is no good reason to put such a negative spin on His words. We will most certainly be together with those we love in the next life. We just don’t know precisely what form that “togetherness” will take.

Look at it this way. Human relationships will certainly be different in heaven. But they cannot possibly be less than what they have been on earth. They will have to be different in the sense of being something more, something better, something far more fulfilling and satisfying than we can presently imagine. That’s part of the glory of the resurrected life.

GotQuestions.org:

Most likely, there will be no marriage in heaven simply because there will be no need for it. When God established marriage, He did so to fill certain needs. First, He saw that Adam was in need of a companion. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18). Eve was the solution to the problem of Adam’s loneliness, as well as his need for a “helper,” someone to come alongside him as his companion and go through life by his side. In heaven, however, there will be no loneliness, nor will there be any need for helpers. We will be surrounded by multitudes of believers and angels (Revelation 7:9), and all our needs will be met, including the need for companionship.

Second, God created marriage as a means of procreation and the filling of the earth with human beings. Heaven, however, will not be populated by procreation. Those who go to heaven will get there by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; they will not be created there by means of reproduction. Therefore, there is no purpose for marriage in heaven since there is no procreation or loneliness.

I do prefer the first answer.

But then the conversation shifted to looking at things like works of art, writing, etc. Does any of that carry forward?

I thought of a couple of scriptures:

Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.   (Matthew 24:35 NIV)

Without exception every single translation in BibleGateway.com preserved the word words. Personally, I’ve always interpreted this as having to do with God’s laws and principles; so I read this as ‘but my truth will remain.’ (Apparently I’d make a bad Bible translator.)

The other scripture was:

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. – (1 Cor 3:12-13; KJV is how I learned this, you can substitute straw for stubble.)

The idea of this present world ending in fire is found in Revelation and has several interpretations, including a nuclear fallout resulting in a reordering of everything from plant life to continents, including even the tilt of the earth which causes the seasons. (As a Canadian, I want to be done with winter.)

Frankly, I think most of what I produce in a day falls into the wood, hay and stubble category. Especially when seen from an eternal perspective. But the original question had to do writings.

Now if we are “known as we are known” in heaven — which doesn’t actually mean what most people think it does, but let’s assume some identity carries forward — then as surely as I might walk up to David and say, ‘That was cool how you got Goliath on the first stone;’ someone might walk up to me and say, ‘I really liked that particular blog post you wrote about [subject]; it changed my life.’1

So in a sense our writings — if we are part of the one-third of the world which commits things to print — could survive in a sense.

Tomorrow we’ll get back more directly to the idea of progression in heaven; of building — I want to avoid the word working — toward a specific objective. Type A people stay tuned.


1 Maybe not this blog post.

 

 

 

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