Tuesday, January 31, 2017

on the edge of forever

The Word for today:
Revelation 22:6-21
mark this: Revelation 22:21
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
The Bible came out of eternity past to enter Genesis 1:1.
Today the Bible, at Revelation 22:21, enters eternity future.
This transition generates a lot of curiosity and many questions. In a three-day series which concludes today, we've done our best to answer some of these FAQs. We hope you'll look back over the last couple days if you haven't already.
And we'll see you tomorrow in Luke 1, as the rain just keeps on pouring.
Q. So, what are the conditions of hell?
Ungodly. That's all we need to know. Take God completely out of the equation, and from there hell plays itself out. Things could conceivably be OK for a while, but then it's going to hit the fan.
Q. Do heaven and hell have anything in common?
Both are eternal. Both have a physical dimension; the people in heaven and hell will have bodies.
Q. I mean, is there anything good about hell?
There is nothing intrinsically good about hell, but God has used hell to motivate many a lost sinner right into heaven. I know because I am one of those who went to the cross more to avoid hell than to gain heaven. So in my case--as is often the case--God used something bad for good (1). Therefore, we should not stop talking about hell. Jesus certainly didn't; in fact, most of what we know about hell comes from the lips of Jesus himself (Mark 9:3; Luke 16:28; Matthew 25:30).
But there is something even more important to say in regards to "hell" and "good" and "bad"--
We must never consider hell apart from the cross. The Judge of the universe stepped forward to take his own judgment upon himself. Because Jesus Christ knew the reality of hell, he went to the cross. Hell is as real as the cross.
Q. Who's in hell right now?
Nobody. Hell will not be open for business until the judgment at the Great White Throne. At that judgment unbelievers will be thrown into the lake of fire. And when Satan is ultimately defeated, he will be thrown into the lake of fire (which is what we're thinking of when we say "hell.") By the way, there is no scriptural basis for the idea that Satan "rules" in hell.
Q. Who's in heaven right now?
Believers from every nation, every race, every century, every gender, every description. The only thing they will have in common is their faith in Jesus Christ.
They have not yet received their resurrected bodies--they will meet up with them at the Rapture. And they have not yet received their rewards--"crowns"--to be received at the Judgment Seat of Christ (which they are just going to whip at Jesus' feet anyway.)
But the party is in full swing, believe me. They've got Jesus, and they aren't waiting for resurrected bodies, or for crowns--or for us--to get started.
Q. Party?
Without a doubt. The fatted calf, the best robe, wine that tastes like it was made by a miracle. And eventually, along with their new home, followers of Jesus will get their new bodies. (Luke 15:22-23 and John 2:6-10; 1 Cor.15:49; Phil. 3:21).
Many think that Adam and Eve were clothed in light, an echo of Old Testament Shekinah glory, which we see reflected at the Transfiguration. Well, that light's comin' back on! But we shall never forget that it is by God's provision, by his grace, that we are clothed in His righteousness.
Q. Does the party ever end?
Let's take a closer look at a few verses in the Bible's last chapter. First, they indicate that we'll have a job to do:
"His servants shall do him service" (Revelation 22:3)
People think I'm kidding when I tell them that I'm training right now--searching the scriptures, writing, and teaching--to be a Bible teacher in heaven. Scripture indicates that there will be infinite, eternal progression and growth (Isaiah 9:7). To me that indicates a high demand for Bible teachers!
"And they shall see his face." (Revelation 22:4)
This was the supreme desire voiced by Moses in the Old Testament and Greek travelers in the New Testament. This has ever been the desire of those who love Him.
"And they will need no lamp, nor light of the sun." (Revelation 22:5)
We will need no light sources such as the sun or light reflectors such as the moon. God will light the universe by his presence. Think "spectacular" and "exquisite" and then keep on thinkin'…
"And they will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22:5)
Earth is small, but creation is probably infinite. Who knows but that He will give to each saint a world or a solar system or a galactic system to operate. (Remember that Adam was given dominion over the old creation on this earth.)
So we get new bodies. We serve, and sing, and the visuals are surpassing, astounding. But that's not the essence of heaven. Those things are mere incidentals.
If you can remember when you were a kid, and Christmas was coming, and magic was in the air…
Well, at Christmas we speak of Immanuel (which means "God with us") because "God with us" is what Christmas is all about. (2)
But in heaven, it's "us with God." Fathom that. When you think heaven, think Christmas when you were a kid, only a billion times better!
Because Christmas is Immanuel. But that baby was born to die.
Heaven is Jesus, born again.
(1) see Genesis 50:20; (2) see Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23

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