Tuesday, August 15, 2017

“Heaven” – Part 5 – Rev. 21:1-5

I want you to use your imagination with me for a few minutes and I want you to picture this meal.  You sit down to dinner, hungry as you can be, and on the big plate in front of you is a wonderful, healthy combination of raw cabbage, raw broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  How’s that look?  To me it looks like I’m going hungry tonight but maybe you like raw veggies.  Good for you.

But then, before you can even decide whether you are going to eat those veggies or not, there is placed in front of you a big plate of those 14-layer brownie – cookie things that Bunnie makes.  They are hot out of the oven.  The chocolate is melting.  The coconut is mouth-watering.  I don’t know how she does it but they are incredible!

Now, imagine that nobody else is around.  Nobody will see.  Nobody will ever know.  What happens next?  If you are anything like me, those 23-layer brownies are history.  I will eat those until I’m sick.  I may just stick my head down in them and eat them like an animal.  I might roll around in ‘em, just eating and rolling and loving life.  Bunnie knows I love those brownies.

I would have a hard time eating those vegetables if Bunnie’s brownies were sitting there.  I don’t know if I could do it.  Well, I think Heaven is sort of that way.  If we knew everything there is to know about Heaven, I think we would have a hard time concentrating on what we are supposed to do here in this life for thinking about what the next life had in store.  Also, I’m pretty sure Bunnie’s brownies will be in Heaven but that’s not the point.

There are lots of things we don’t know about Heaven but I believe God gives us enough to keep us motivated to do what needs to be done here but also to look forward to what lies in store for us as believers when we get there.  I have to admit I was encouraged this week when I read a sermon by the late, great W.A. Criswell who said, and I quote, “Preaching on Heaven is hard.”  That made me feel a little bit better.  I feel the same way and that’s probably all that great expositor and I have in common when it comes to preaching.

It’s hard to preach on Heaven because there is a lot we don’t know and some of what we know is to be taken literally and some of it is symbolic.  Timing is also an issue.  Great theologians will argue over what happens when and what comes next and what happens after that.  Sometimes finding application for a sermon on Heaven can be difficult if you just lay out a bunch of facts but even though it can be difficult, I believe it is important.

Yes, I’m curious, as you probably are, about what Heaven is going to be like.  But we are told that all scripture is God-breathed and is useful. (2 Tim. 3:16) We are told to set our minds on things above. (Colossians 3:2) We are told to store up treasure in Heaven (Matt. 6) so we have to prepare for it.  Putting on our helmet of salvation means, in part, meditating on our eternal home in Heaven so we should at least know a little bit about this place where we are told to think about and prepare for.

So far, we have stayed away from an intensive eschatological study.  This isn’t everything you need to know about the end times.  My purpose is just to see more about what Heaven is going to be like.  I say all that and yet we still haven’t technically made it to Heaven yet.  We have talked about what happens when we die and where we go and why we go there and how long that is going to last but today – finally – we get our first glimpse of Heaven as we will know it.

So, turn to the Book of the Revelation; the last book of the Bible, and let’s read chapter 21, verses 1-5.  The Apostle John wrote this book on the Isle of Patmos where he was exiled for preaching the Gospel.  Little did the authorities who put him there know that this is right where God wanted John so God could reveal some incredible things to him; things that have blessed and encouraged every generation since.

We saw in the previous chapter last week about the Millennium – the period after the Rapture and after the Second Coming of Jesus where we, as believers in Jesus, will reign and serve and live with Jesus on this earth as we know it but without the presence or influence of Satan.  Jesus called it a time of refreshing and it will last a literal 1,000 years and it will be wonderful and great as we live in our glorified bodies.

After that thousand years, Satan will be set free but quickly thrown into the lake of burning sulfur and all of us will then go up to Heaven and live with God for eternity in Heaven.  Right?  Well…not exactly.  Let’s read Revelation 21:1-5 and we will see exactly what happens.

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Poor John!  Can you imagine Jesus telling you to “Write this down!”  I’d be a nervous wreck.  That would be just the time my pencil lead would break or my pen would run out of ink.  “Excuse me, Gabriel.  Can I borrow a pen?”  How embarrassing.

Anyway, hey, let me ask you a question.  Are you tired of this life and this world yet?  Especially after reading that passage, are you still in love with this nasty, old world and the problems caused by sin in this world?  Maybe you are young and in the prime of your life and this world still looks fun and exciting to you.  Well, enjoy your youth because it won’t last long.  Enjoy that flat stomach and that wavy hair.  Enjoy good sleep and the ability to work hard and play hard.  As some of us with a few years under our belts know, it’s not going to last forever.

These bodies, these relationships, these minds – they are all meant to wear out.  Yes, youth is wasted on the young but getting old stinks for a reason.  God created us with a longing for something more than this earth can provide and that longing grows stronger as our bodies grow weaker.  The older I get, the readier I am and the readier I want to be for eternity in Heaven.  The older I get and the more I study it, the more real Heaven becomes and the more I want to store up treasure there.

When we are young everything seems to take so long to happen but as we get older we look back and it seems like just yesterday that we were young.  How many of you know what I mean?  I remember when I was a kid and I would hear my dad make that grunting noise when he bent over to pick something up.  You know the sound.  I wondered why he did that.  Then I remember the first time I heard myself do it.  Oh no.  I’m old.

Old age is not for sissies, that’s for sure.  But we have been given in this passage something incredible to look forward to and after studying it carefully, I am surprised, excited and encouraged by what I read.  Maybe you will be too.  In fact, the first sentence has two ideas that may surprise you.  Look at verse 1 again. Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

"A new heaven and a new earth.”  What does that mean?  Well, we know from several other passages that this earth as we know it will be destroyed.  In Luke 21:33 Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  2 Peter 3:10 says, “But the day of the LORD will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”  The psalmist says in Psalm 102 that the earth’s foundations will be discarded like clothing.

Now, this could get really complicated.  Whole sermons have been preached on this and complete books written about how earth will be destroyed but not completely and how “forever” doesn’t always mean forever.  But here is my simple explanation of it.  In Genesis, God used water to destroy the earth and everything on it except Noah and his family, right?  Well, similarly, after Satan is done away with, God will destroy the earth again, only this time with fire.

John Piper argues that God did not create matter to throw it away. He writes, “When Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:10 say that the present earth and heavens will pass away, it does not mean that they go out of existence, but may mean that there will be such a change in them that their present condition passes away.” (Heaven – Randy Alcorn, page 152) Then he compares them to a caterpillar and a butterfly.  The old is destroyed and the new emerges.  Think of it this way.  We will live in glorified bodies on a glorified earth in a glorified Heaven.

My point here is that so many people think of our eternal home in Heaven as being “up there” where God is now but really, Heaven will come down from “up there” and will forever be on this earth.  For most of us, I don’t think it will ultimately matter, but it’s good to see the truth. 

The other thing interesting about this verse is that it says there will no longer be any sea.  How many of you are like me and are bummed out about that?  I love the water.  I love being at the ocean.  Well, I have, what I believe, is good news about this.  I have read literally dozens of commentaries about this because I wanted to know the truth.  I know this bothers people every time we read it and while I know we aren’t going to be disappointed with Heaven, there is something about this that bothers people.  I completely understand.

Now, this verse plainly says that there will no longer be any sea and I will always err on the side of taking the Bible literally BUT first we have to take it in context.  For John and everybody else in those days, the sea or the oceans were places of terror and separation.  They didn’t have compasses and if it was cloudy or they lost sight of land, they were lost.

They didn’t have scuba gear and all they knew about ocean creatures was what came up in their nets when they were fishing.  If you have ever been deep sea fishing or if you ever watched those Jacques Cousteau specials, you know that some of that stuff is just plain scary.  So, when they thought of the sea, they thought of cold, treacherous waters that separate nations, destroy ships and drowned loved ones in poisonous waters.

But also, we know that in other places like Isaiah 60, speaking of the New Jerusalem, it says, the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.”  (Verse 5) Then it says, “Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish, bringing your children from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honor of the Lord your God.” (Verse 9)

Even if there are no more oceans and no more sea, we do know that there will be plenty of other water.  Revelation 22 tells of a great river that flows right through the capital city and flowing rivers go somewhere.  If not oceans, then large lakes, so, don’t worry.  If fishing and boating and snorkeling are part of your idea of what Heaven will include, I think you’ll be very happy.

Now, let’s get to something with a little more meat on it, if you will.  While it is going to be great to go fishing or swimming or boating on this new earth that we are going to be on for eternity, and while we hope that Heaven will have dogs and Mexican food and we can’t wait to see old Aunt Bessie again, I want to skip to verse 3 and let’s look at something that will fulfill all of our wants, needs and desires in Heaven.

"Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  Let’s stop right there for a while.  What does it mean for God to dwell among the people?  Is that any different than it is right now?  Isn’t God everywhere and the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts?

Let me ask you something.  How do you know God exists?  Have you ever seen Him with your eyes?  Have you ever heard His voice audibly with your ears?  Have you ever touched Him with your fingers or even smelled Him with your nose?  No.  We only know that God exists because the Bible tells us and it has been proven to be true and we sense His presence with us and feel His guiding hand through the Holy Spirit that does live inside of us.

But John continually says, “I saw…” over and over again and so will we.  We will see God.  We will be with God; touching Him and knowing Him and spending time with Him and THAT is what makes Heaven heavenly.  I’m not just trying to be spiritual here either.  God is the Creator of all things including the Creator of our wants, needs and desires so it only makes sense that He will be the one to satisfy those as well. 

Since the beginning, man has wanted to see God.  In Exodus 33, Moses asks and is allowed to see the back side of God.  Job said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27I myself will see him with my own eyes-I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27) 

The psalmist says in Psalm 63:1, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”  We may think we want lots of things but our real desire, our God-given desire is found only in God Himself.  That’s why acquiring stuff in this world never satisfies.  You can never get enough money or fame or power or anything else.  None of that will truly satisfy.

Our longing for Heaven is a longing for God.  (Heaven – Randy Alcorn, page 171) Being with God is what is what gives us satisfaction in this life.  Think how much more satisfied we will be when “God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

In Psalm 27:4 David says, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”  Asaph understood when he wrote in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

Father J. Boudreau wrote something along these lines, “When we see the face of God we will become beautiful with His beauty, rich with His wealth, holy with His holiness and happy with His unutterable happiness.”

I can’t wait to get there like I can’t wait to eat Bunnie’s cookies.  Phooey on this life like phooey on raw vegetables.  I can’t wait to go swimming and running and riding motorcycles on golden streets and seeing my loved ones and having a perfect body but even all of that won’t satisfy forever if the One who provides it isn’t there.

As some of you know, I have a problem with most of these books and movies written by people who have supposedly died and gone to Heaven and seen Jesus because the focus of them always seems to be on seeing Uncle Jake or how beautiful the sky is or having their body healed.  When John saw Jesus in Heaven in Revelation 1:17 it says he “fell at His feet as though dead.”

Paul heard Jesus speak on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and just hearing His voice made Paul fall down, go blind and nearly killed him for three days.  The problem is, as it says in Hebrews 12:14, “without holiness no one will see the LORD.”  But we don’t get to Heaven on our righteousness, do we?  1 Corinthians 1:30 says, It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”  Philippians 3:9 says, “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

We ought to wake up every morning and go to sleep every night thanking God that one day, maybe today, but someday soon, we will see God face to face not because of anything we have done or ever will do but only because of what Jesus has done for us by dying on the cross to pay for our sins and all we have to do is have faith in Him.

Is that a good description of you?  Do you have faith?  Oh sure.  Everybody has faith, right?  But the proof of faith is a changed life.  The proof of repentance is a changed life.  The proof of thankfulness is a changed life and if that does not describe you, then I need to talk and pray with you right now as the music plays.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

“Heaven” – Part 4 – Revelation 20:1-6

Well, it’s official.  I can’t watch the news anymore.  I just can’t.  I try sometimes and I know it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the world but it has just gotten out of hand.  For months now, they start off talking about how the Russians affected our elections, then they go on and on about something stupid Trump said and I can’t defend the guy sometimes.  Yea, he’s a clown but we knew that when the country elected him knowing that even a clown was better than another politician.

Then it goes downhill from there.  “One of the Dukes of Hazzard stars got arrested.”  “What Kim Kardashian is wearing today will shock you.”  “9 Ways Ice Cube Trays Can Help You Make Dinner Faster”  “The best video games for your phone” and here is the one that tipped me over the edge, “STUDY says Pets play 'significant role in causing 'global warming''...   Those are real headlines.

It makes me physically and mentally tired to watch the news.  I’m pretty sure I lose brain cells; I get dumber by watching what people call news today.  When there is real news, it’s too horrible to watch.  Babies are being shot.  ISIS is still killing Christians.  The chubby little dictator in North Korea evidently wants to go to war and to top it off, Pizza Hut earnings are way down!  What are we gonna do?

Do you ever dream about what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden?  Can you imagine Adam coming home after working in the garden all day and kicking back in his La-Z-Boy and watching the 5:30 news?  “Not much to report today.  But it will be perfect weather for a stroll with God tomorrow.  Back to you, Bob.”

I heard that Cain and Abel were walking through the woods one day and came upon a wall.  They climbed up and looked over and then went running back to Adam and said, “Daddy, Daddy, you won’t believe what we saw!” Then they described all the beautiful flowers and trees and the different kinds of fruit and they said, “Daddy, do you think we could ever live in a place like that?”

Adam said, “We did once.  But that was before your mother ate us out of house and home.”

Well, I have good news for you.  YOU will see something very similar to the Garden of Eden but maybe even better.  Did you know that there will be what Jesus calls in Matthew 19:28 “the regeneration”?  Acts 3 describes this time as “times of refreshing” and “the period of restoration of all things.  There are probably a dozen Old Testament passages that refer to it as well.

Imagine a time of no more poverty.  I could stop right there and it would be pretty incredible but not only do we, as Christians, have everything we need, there will be no more prisons.  Sorry, Speedy, but you’ll have to find somebody else to minister to and you will!  There will be no more war.  You’ll have to go to a museum to see an army tank.  People will live to be hundreds of years old – like Troy.

It will be a time of great peace like we have never seen before.  Even the animals will all get along.  The wolf and the lamb and the calf and the lion and the little child and the serpent will all live and play together.  Some of you may be thinking this is probably the next time the Cowboys win a Super Bowl.  Others of you may be thinking I’ve been reading too many comic books.  But it’s true and it is all found in the Word of God in the Book of the Revelation.

Turn to the last book of the Bible and go to chapter 20 and verses 1-6 and let’s read about what we call the Millennium.  After the Rapture, the Tribulation will happen here on earth.  At the end of the Tribulation, the Second Coming of Jesus happens and we all come back to earth and Jesus will separate the Christians from the unbelievers.  Then while we are still here on this earth, Jesus will set up His royal Kingdom.  Let’s read what happens in Revelation 20:1-6.

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

A little boy asked his dad, “Daddy, what’s the Millennium?”  His dad said, “It’s just like a centennial except it has more legs.” (Mark Hitchcock) So, there you go.  Thanks for coming.  All your questions are answered.  Seriously, for as long as there have been records, man has dreamed of Heaven on earth or Utopia or Xanadu, whatever you want to call it.

Do you ever think this would be a great place to live if it weren’t for all these crazy people?  Well, the Millennium is for you.  Now, some people have a hard time believing all this and I understand because on this earth as we know it, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, right?  But this won’t be earth as we know it and we will talk about that some more in a minute. 

But some people will have a problem with this passage because it says it only lasts a thousand years and we know from many other passages that God’s reign will be eternal.  Well, both of those are true.  Think of the Millennium as being the front porch to the rest of eternity.  It’s a really nice place but it’s not the best part and not where we will live forever.

Now, if you remember from last week, we will either die or be raptured but either way we will have our cool and awesome, glorified bodies when we come back to earth with Jesus.  Jesus will separate the believers from the unbelievers and then we all look up and see an angel coming down from Heaven with a key in his hand.  What’s the key go to?  A brand-new car? No.  It is the key to the Abyss and with it a great chain.

The Abyss is not Hell but a temporary place of incarceration and torment.  Later on, Satan gets thrown into the Lake of Fire which is his eternal place of torment.  It’s like Satan goes from county jail to state jail.  Here he literally “catches chain” and is thrown into the Abyss.  Now, imagine this world as we know it…without Satan or his demons or any of his influence.  That is what we find in the first paragraph of our passage.  That is what this world will be like at the Millennium.

So, where is Satan right now? 1 Peter 5:8 says he’s prowling around like a roaring lion looking to see who he can devour.  This is not the Millennium and until it is, we have to be prepared, waiting and watching for the Lord to rapture us and making sure we have on the full armor of God (Eph. 6) and knowing that our battle in this world is not against flesh and blood. But one of these days, that old lion will be chunked into the Abyss for a thousand years.  So, then what’s going to happen?

Well, look at verse 4.  4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.”  What does that mean?  Who is going to be on those thrones and why do we care?  Well, I’ll tell you why you should care.  It’s because it may be you.  Seriously.  Now, look at this.  In Daniel 7:27 it says that the Old Testament saints will reign in the millennial kingdom.  Jesus promised His apostles that they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel in Matthew 19:28. New Testament believers are also promised that they will reign with Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:2 which says the saints will judge the world. 2 Timothy 2:12 declares that if we endure, we will reign and judge with Him and Revelation 2:26 and 5:10 have similar wording.

Have you ever wanted to be a judge?  Years ago, my neighbor had a new fence put up and in the process, my dogs got out while I wasn’t home.  I found them at the city dog pound along with a summons to face the judge at the city court.  So, I went to the judge and he listened to my story for a while and then interrupted me to proclaim, “The only good dog is a dead dog! $50 fine for each one!  Next!”  That’s a true story.  Not only did I have to pay to get my dogs out of the pound, I had to pay extra because this judge didn’t like dogs.  I wanted to tell him that my dogs said that the only good judge is a dead judge but I didn’t.

But one of these days…I’ll be the judge.  I don’t know who or what I will judge.  It may be a city or a nation or a group.  Who knows? I may come back and be the judge of Lake Bridgeport and if I do, we will be able to pop firecrackers, walk our dogs without leashes and put up fences without a permit.  Don’t you worry!  Life will be good then!

According to scripture, we will all be judges over something.  In Matthew 25, we find the parable of the talents.  You remember the story.  The master is going to be gone for a while so he leaves his estate with three of his men and when he comes back, two of them did well and invested what they had and made more.  Do you remember what the master said?  “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things.  I will put you in charge of (or the KJV says ruler over) many things.”

God has placed within all of us the need and the desire to be in charge of something.  He told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 to go and have dominion over the earth.  We were designed to work and designed to rule and we will be judges or rulers over something; a nation, a state, city or group of people.  Maybe if you haven’t been real faithful, you will just rule over, I don’t know, a preschool or something.  That’ll teach ya.  Then 1 Corinthians 6 tells us that some of us will even judge angels.

I mentioned something about us being judges the other night at Bible Study and somebody brought up something I hadn’t thought about.  They said they didn’t really want to judge because how could they judge people and sentence them for things that they themselves had gotten away with?  That’s a great question and I understand and appreciate that attitude but listen to what Isaiah said in Isaiah 2:2-4.

“In the last days, the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

That passage is talking about the Millennium and it says that Jesus will be Lord of all the earth and His throne will be in Jerusalem but we will learn from Him.  He will be charge.  Satan won’t be around to tempt or distract and if we have questions or problems all we have to do is ask Jesus.  We will judge fairly and justly and with grace and mercy just like Jesus would.  How cool is that?

Something else that I noticed in that passage and just fascinates me is that verse that says, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”  Now, why will we need plowshares and pruning hooks?  Because there will still be work that needs to be done.  We will reign with Christ and be judges over things but there will still be manual labor that needs to be done as well.

That will be good, though, because that is what we are made to do and with our glorified bodies, it won’t hurt.  We won’t get tired like we do now.  The grass will still need to be mowed but the weather will be nice and we will have the best tools for the job and at the end of the day, what a great feeling of accomplishment we will get from a job well done.  Especially if Jesus swings by and says again, “Well done!  Good job, my good and faithful servant!”

Now, going back to Revelation 20, verse 5 tells us that there will be a first resurrection at the Millennium.  This is not a resurrection of everybody.  The Bible gives us the analogy of a harvest with three steps to it.  The first step is the first fruits harvest.  This was Jesus at His resurrection.  1 Corinthians 15 calls Christ the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Then comes the general harvest which happens at the rapture when the dead in Christ will rise first and then those Christians that are still alive.  We talked about that last week.  Then there is the gleanings part of the harvest.  The third and last phase of the harvest is spoken of in this passage, talking about the resurrection of the Tribulation saints – those that were left behind at the Rapture but came to know Jesus during the Tribulation.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says, Or do you not know that the LORD's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

Those verses pertain to the Tribulation but also have application for us today.  If the church will have the future responsibility of judging angels, doesn’t it make sense that we can resolve problems in the church today? (Adrian Rogers) 

Satan thought he pulled a good one at our church last Sunday and he almost got away with it.  He caught two people at just the right time and there was a misunderstanding which led to anger and it could have been a real problem in our little church.  But I saw both parties show great biblical wisdom and through prayer and biblical understanding, both parties met and talked like family members do and realized that their battle was not against flesh and blood.  So, they decided that instead of being angry, they would both ask and grant forgiveness and left praying for one another and loving each other like only wise disciples of Jesus can do.

I thought when they left that those will be great judges right there.  That’s what a great judge will do.  They see both sides.  Through biblical knowledge, they know what is truth and above all they show grace and mercy and love because they have been shown great grace and mercy and love. 

Romans 16:20 says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”  While today may or may not be that day, it will happen soon, oh glorious day, when the devil is in prison, the bride is with the bridegroom and the King is on His throne.  I may not know or understand every aspect of it, but from what I do know, I can’t wait and I am encouraged because I know that day is coming soon.  It makes me want to run out into the street and stop traffic to tell people about Jesus.  It makes me desperate for our neighbors to come to have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus right now.

It’s not about coming to church.  It’s not about coming from a Christian home or being a Baptist or being a really good person.  None of that gets your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, only faith in Jesus can do that.  Faith in Jesus will always manifest itself in a changed life.  Jesus works every day to make us more like Him and if He is not working in your life everyday then maybe it is because you are not a true disciple of His.

If there is any question in your mind today, I want nothing more than to talk and pray with you right now.  Don’t take a chance on missing out on your inheritance which is every good thing Heaven has to offer.  It’s an eternal choice but you have to make here.  Do it right now as the music plays.

Monday, July 31, 2017

“Heaven” – Part 3 – Matthew 25:31-46

You know what bugs me?  You know what drives me crazy?  Railroad crossing arms.  You know how it is.  You’re driving along, minding your own business when you come up to a railroad and the crossing arms are down and the lights are flashing and a bell is ringing.  Sometimes there is even a train going by but I can’t go where I want to go because those stupid arms are blocking my way.  Who does the railroad think they are to keep me from going where I want to go, when I want to go?  I’m a licensed driver and I deserve to be able to drive where and when I want to!  Don’t you agree?  No?  Why not?

Those crossing arms are there for a warning, aren’t they?  They are protecting me from being hit by a train and that would sure ruin my day, wouldn’t it?  In fact, if those crossing arms weren’t there, life would be a lot more dangerous, wouldn’t it?  I’m amazed at some of the warning labels I see sometimes.  Everything has a warning label on it.  I saw this one the other day on a child’s sweater.  It says, “Wash in cold water.  Remove child from sweater first.”  I really thought they should have put the second sentence first but what do I know?

Why do we have warning labels and crossing arms and lights and sirens and signs that say, “Stay Out”?  It’s for our protection, isn’t it?  Do you know that the Bible has some warning signs in it?  As we continue our look at what Heaven is like, we have come to an intriguing passage in the Gospel of Matthew that tells us something about Heaven but it also encourages us and gives a warning.  Turn to Matthew 25:31-46. 

We talked last week about the Rapture and what we can expect on that day.  What is the Rapture?  What is the difference in the Rapture and the Second Coming?  In simple terms, the rapture is when we, as Christians, meet Jesus in the air.  He will come back for us but He will not come all the way back to earth.  At the Second Coming, Jesus, along with all the angels and all of us that are with Him in Heaven, will come back to earth after the Tribulation.  That’s the simple difference.

Now, my goal in this sermon series is to see what Heaven is like and what we can expect to find and do and see.  My goal does not include a thorough study of eschatology which is the study of end times.  We did that a while back and we saw what happens when and what happens to unbelievers and so we are just focusing on Heaven for a few weeks so don’t get bogged down in too many details about the stuff that won’t affect us as believers.

But the Second Coming will affect us in that we will be there as Jesus leads us from Heaven back to earth for what is called the Millennium which happens right after the Tribulation.  Make sense so far?  Good.  So, here’s the timeline and a set-up for the passage we are about to read.  The rapture could happen at any second.  All true believers will go to the present Heaven while the Tribulation goes on here on earth.  Then after seven years, Jesus will lead us back to earth at the Second Coming.  That’s what is happening in our passage in Matthew 25:31-46.  Let’s read that now. 

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'LORD, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44"They also will answer, 'LORD, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45"He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Last week I mentioned that there are two ways to get to Heaven, either through death or the Rapture, but either way, there is only one ticket and that is by grace and through faith in Jesus.  There is only one ticket but did you know that ticket is a round-trip ticket?  Yep, we are coming back to earth and that is what this passage is talking about.  But why are we coming back to earth with Jesus?  So He can dole out judgment.

I recently read the story of a woman who walked into a Haagen-Dazs ice cream store in Kansas City.  After she made her selection and received her ice cream cone, she turned around and suddenly found herself face-to-face with the legendary actor Paul Newman.  He smiled and said hello to her, but she froze up and was unable to speak.  The woman finally managed to pay for her ice cream cone, and she left the store with her heart pounding and feeling embarrassed at being unable to speak.

After she regained her composure, she realized that she didn’t have her ice cream cone, so she went back to the Haagen-Dazs store.  As she opened the door, Paul Newman was walking out, and he asked her, “Were you looking for your ice cream cone?”  Still unable to speak, she just nodded her head yes.  He smiled at her and said, “I happened to notice that you put your cone in your purse along with your change.” (Jeff Lasseigne, Unlocking the Last Days, page 74)

Now, can you imagine the look on people’s faces when this day comes and they look up and see Jesus?  Every nation on earth, every city, every family, every person on earth from the youngest to the oldest; every unsaved church member, every atheist, every agnostic, the kings and presidents, the smug and secure congressmen, the filthy singers and entertainers; every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.  But I think at this moment when they all look up and each one recognizes Jesus coming with His bride and the angels; I think the first word that comes to mind is probably going to be… “Uh-oh!”

“Uh-oh, we have made a big mistake!”  But it’s going to be too late.  Jesus will start separating the sheep and the goats, the believers from the unbelievers, those whose names are written in the Book and those whose names are absent.  He will judge right then and there with heavenly, holy and righteous judgment and He will start with the believers.

In the ancient Middle East, as in much of that land still today, sheep and goats were often herded together during the day.  At night, they would usually be separated because they didn’t get along in close quarters because the sheep are pretty much gentle and docile and the goats are rambunctious and unruly.  Similarly, when Jesus comes back, He will separate the believers from the unbelievers by putting the believers on the right and the others on the left.  This, too, is symbolic because the right side has always been a symbol of favor and blessing and the left side of disfavor and rejection.

Now, look at verse 34 again. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  Have you ever inherited anything?  Maybe when your parents passed or some other family member passed, you inherited something from them.  It might have been money.  It might have been bills.  It might be a good name or a bad name but when Jesus tells us to take our inheritance, what do you think it means?

In 1 Peter 1, Peter says our inheritance is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away and reserved in Heaven for you and ready to be revealed in the last time.  That sounds pretty good, right?  It’s kind of vague but sounds nice.  I’m looking forward to it just because Jesus says it’s going to be great and we know that ultimately the inheritance is Heaven.  We will see in more detail in the next few weeks about what that means but here Jesus says that it is the kingdom that has been prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Now, it’s as if Jesus anticipated the argument that we are saved by doing good works instead of by grace and through faith because before He mentions the good works, He stresses that this inheritance is not for doing these good works but was determined at creation.  We do not get there by our good deeds but because we are blessed by the Father.  Typically, a child doesn’t earn an inheritance but receives it on the basis of being in the family.  In exactly the same way, a believer does not earn his way into the Kingdom of God but receives it as his rightful inheritance as a child of God and a fellow heir with Jesus.  (MacArthur Commentary, page 122)

It’s the amount, the size and the prestige of the inheritance that is affected by the good deeds.  I have mentioned before that not everybody’s Heaven is going to be the same.  All believers get to go to Heaven but some people are going to have better experiences – eternally better experiences – than others.  Jesus lists six areas of need.  Do you want to have some idea of your rewards in Heaven?  Do you want some idea of how big your part of the inheritance is going to be?  Then how well do you do in ministering to those with these needs?

Hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and in prison.  You know, I wish I knew of a place that really specialized in ministering to those kinds of people.  I wish I knew where I could go to be part of that kind of ministry because that is how we store up our treasures in Heaven and I don’t have a lot to give but I want my time, talent and treasure to be invested in something that will last forever.  Does anybody know where I can go to find that?

What?  Christ Fellowship?  Why, isn’t that the place that is called to minister to the poor, the addicted and the incarcerated?  Isn’t that the place that the guy in jail once told me is the place that “really cares for people”?  That’s the place that has a food pantry that gets used every week and a long list of inmates that would love an encouraging note.  It’s a church in a community that has lots of people who need a ride to church or to the doctor or to the store.

Now, I know that Christ Fellowship isn’t for everybody.  No church is perfect for everybody. But I believe that one of the reasons that this church stays small is that so many people want to just go to church and blend in to the wallpaper and not have to do anything and not be noticed and be able to get a little pick-me-up on Sunday morning and not show up but once a month and nobody will notice.  That’s not us and I don’t make any apologies for that.

But if you want a place where you can store up real treasures in Heaven; if you want a place where you can serve and make a difference for eternity by ministering to who Jesus called the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and in prison and who we call the poor, the addicted and the incarcerated, then Christ fellowship is the place to be.

I Corinthians 3:12-15 says God will test our good works by fire.  12”If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved-even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

So, if you want to just barely squeak into Heaven with clothes that smell like smoke, then that is your eternal choice, but if you want to really be blessed for all of eternity, then Christ Fellowship is a good place to be a member and a good place to volunteer and serve.  I will quote Ephesians 2:8-9 again.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Good works do not get us to Heaven.  The Bible makes that clear.  But it also makes clear that the evidence for assurance of true salvation is not found in a past moment of decision but in a continuous pattern of righteous behavior. (John MacArthur)

I’ll tell you what fascinates me about this passage.  First off, Jesus calls us “righteous” in verse 37 but then He goes on to list a bunch of common, everyday needs that have been met.  He doesn’t say, “Because you donated the money for the hospital to add on a new surgical wing…” or “because you and Billy Graham led thousands of people to Christ…”  No.  It’s because you had compassion on people who would never be able to pay you back and because you did it without telling anybody else and because you got no earthly glory or reward for it that you will get an eternal reward and eternal glory from Jesus Himself.

I think that is awesome news and a really good deal for us as believers.  But here’s the bad news.  Here’s the warning, the flashing lights and sirens that I told you about.  Look at verses 41 and 45-46.  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Jesus will turn to the masses on His left and tell them that time is up.  It’s too late.  You had your chance and we know that Jesus doesn’t want any to perish as it says in 2 Peter 3 but He is talking to those who refused to truly believe in Him and trust in Him.  Some of these may very well have been doing these good works that He is talking about.  This isn’t punishment for not doing good works any more than we are saved by doing them.

I’m sure this is painful for Jesus to have to say.  It’s painful for me to say but I have to preach the whole council of God and I wouldn’t be a good shepherd if I didn’t warn the goats along with the sheep about the danger that lies ahead.  Hell is a real place just like Heaven is a real place.  Jesus describes Hell as eternal fire.  It is eternal separation from God.  It is being eternally without His goodness, love, wisdom, patience and forgiveness.

I’m not a “hell-fire and brimstone” kinda preacher but truth is truth and I know that just like the righteous will be amazed at the Lord’s words about Heaven, the unbelievers will be shockingly amazed as well at His words about their eternity. 

Again, just like Jesus rewards the common, everyday good deeds, there is punishment for not doing them.  He doesn’t say, “All you mass murderers, rapists and bank robbers are going to Hell.”  Just like earlier in this chapter the five foolish virgins who had no oil for their lamps were shut out of the wedding feast, not because they were horrible people but because they were unprepared for the Bridegroom.  The reason people go to Hell is not for being bad people, but because of their lack of faith in Jesus as being the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one gets to the Father but through Him.

Heaven is going to be greater than we can ever imagine and Hell is going to be worse than we can ever imagine but you make the choice here in this life and you may not have another day.  Maybe today you feel Jesus drawing you to Himself.  You don’t have to understand everything.  Nobody does.  All you have to understand is that you are a sinner.  Romans 3:23 says we are all sinners.  Romans 6:23 says because we are sinners we deserve eternity in Hell.  All sin will be punished.  Either you suffer the punishment or you accept the punishment Jesus endured on the cross for you.  Make the decision today.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Heaven – Part 2 – 1 Thess. 4:13-18

“It doesn’t get any better than this!”  Have you ever thought or even said those words?  Maybe you were with family or friends.  Maybe in the city or in nature or maybe you were sitting at the dinner table at my Mama’s house.  I would sure believe that!  Maybe it was some chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and gravy.  That’s pretty good right there.

Not long ago, I went with my two sisters and their husbands down to Port Aransas.  We rented a little place not far from the beach and we spent the days swimming and laying on the beach and eating good seafood.  It was so relaxing just watching the waves roll in.  Then in the evenings after dinner we would go back to the hotel and play board games or card games and we would give each other prizes for no good reason and every night we would end up laughing so hard at something or another.  You know, it was the kind of laughter where you can’t breathe and your side hurts and your head hurts and your saying, “Stop it.  Stop it.”

The older I get, the more I enjoy spending time with family and friends just doing nothing but laughing and joking and visiting.  That’s about as good as it gets with me right there.  We don’t have to be spending money.  We don’t have to drink alcohol or do drugs.  All we have to do is be together and we start having fun.  Sort of like the party our church had at the RV park a couple of weeks ago.  I felt like I was hungover the next day just from laughing!

You know, I think God is laughing right along with us at times like that.  I say that because in lots places in the Bible, God is referred to as our Father and is there a better sound for a typical father to hear than his kids laughing?  Sure, God gets glory when we worship Him in church but I think He gets a kick out of watching His kids sing karaoke or play a game that makes them laugh.  He loves us and enjoys it when we are happy because He is a good God.

Now, while we live here on this old earth, God is not as concerned about our happiness as He is about our holiness.  Again, going back to our earthly fathers, does a good parent give his child everything that child wants to try to make him happy?  Of course not.  A parent’s goal is to raise children into fully developed adults capable of making good decisions on their own so that they live happily as adults.  God works in a similar fashion.

He allows or even causes difficult things to come into our lives so that, as James 1 says, we become mature and complete, not lacking anything.  But…can you imagine…when these trials and tests are over…and our work on this earth is done and we finally get to see Jesus and He welcomes us into Heaven with “Well done, my good and faithful servant!  I know it was hard, my precious one, but you did it and I am so proud of you!  Now, let me show you around.  You are going to love this!”

I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a line over here that starts the chicken fried steak buffet with mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits and all the other fixins.  Then over here is the Mexican food buffet and there’s the chocolate swimming pool and the…okay, I need to quit or we’ll spend all morning talking about food.

But when we get to Heaven that’s when we can truly say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  But from here, it seems like we are a long way off from that life sometimes, doesn’t it?  Sometimes it’s hard to imagine but God wants us to imagine it.  He gave us information about it in His Word and even commanded us to keep our hearts and minds set on things above, like we looked at last week. Also last week, we talked about how if we were going to go on a trip to Australia or somewhere far away that we would prepare for that trip.  We looked at why we should go and basically how to pack for the trip by storing up our treasures in Heaven.  This week, I want us to think about how we are going to get there.

If you were going to Australia, you would get there by plane, most likely.  I guess they might have a ship that you could get on somewhere but at some point, a plane will most likely be involved.  Well, similarly, if you are going to Heaven, did you know that there are two ways to get there?

Now, these two ways are only for those who have a ticket and our ticket is by grace and through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  But once you have that ticket, there are two ways to get there.  Paul tells us about it in a beautiful passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  This passage makes me happy.  It gets me excited so if I get a little loud or do a little happy dance, don’t be surprised.

1 Thessalonians is in between Colossians, where we were last week and, obviously, 2 Thessalonians in the New Testament.  The church in Thessalonica had written Paul because they had some questions for him and he is writing this letter to answer some of those questions.  One of their concerns was about their loved ones who had died.  Paul had taught them that Jesus was going to come back and get them soon and so they expected it to be while they were all still alive but now some of them had died and they were worried that they had somehow missed the rapture that Paul had talked about.

So, let’s read Paul’s response to them as he describes the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who fall asleep, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

All over the Northeast, half a million Adventists -- disciples of New York evangelist William Miller -- awaited the rapture on April 3, 1843. Journalists had a field day. Reportedly some disciples were on mountaintops, hoping for a head start to heaven. Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend in union with their departed loved ones. Some high society ladies clustered together outside town to avoid entering God's holy kingdom amid the common herd.

It was to happen on April 3rd but what do you think happened?  Nothing happened, of course.  April 4th came and has come and gone many times since.  It’s foolish to try to guess the date when Matthew 24:36 says, 36"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

We don’t know when and we don’t need to know when.  All we need to do is be expecting it.

Paul tells us there are two ways to get to Heaven; either through death or through the rapture.  Now, when I say the word “rapture” you may notice that this is not a word that Paul used.  We get the word “rapture” from the Greek word “harpazo” which means to snatch away. 

Some of you may remember playing jacks as a kid.  I remember you rolled the dice and bounced a ball and before the ball hit the ground you had to pick up a certain number of playing pieces and so you snatched those pieces off the ground real quick.  That’s “harpazo”.  That also makes me sound ancient, talking about playing jacks.  “Harpazo” is the same word used to describe a wolf snatching a sheep in John 10:12. In Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch.  It is a strong, almost violent act that is irresistible.

In verse 13, Paul says, “We don’t want you to be uninformed” and I think he is speaking for himself but also for God.  God doesn’t want us to be uninformed so He revealed some things to Paul so he could tell us.  In verse 15, it says, “According to the Lord’s word…” and I believe Paul has been given this directly from God in some way or another.  The Lord has given this to Paul to share with us.  He wants us to know and doesn’t want us to grieve.  So, Paul is saying it but he has the authority of God Himself.

Now, I want to get to the really good stuff.  This passage is used to comfort people at funerals all the time and it is perfect for that but that’s not our focus this morning.  Let me just tell you that we are also not focusing on all the Bible prophecy that is mentioned. This sermon series is focused on Heaven.  We went through a series on Bible prophecy in general a while back and we saw what happens to the unbelievers after the rapture but I’ll be honest.  Most of that stuff is not going to affect us as Christians.

In fact, most of the book of Revelation is not written to us nor will it affect us because I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that the rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation that is so prevalently talked about in Revelation.  We can argue about that later if you want to – and you can be wrong later if you want to - but this series is not meant to deal with all that.  This is meant to help us prepare for the trip.  So, if we are going to be prepared for the trip, we want to know how we’re going to get there.

Paul says in verse 16, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven.” At the rapture, Jesus is coming for us who are still alive.  He is not sending His angels or drawing a map and hoping we get there.  He’s coming to get us.  Now, don’t mistake the rapture for the Second Coming of Jesus.  That comes later.  You can tell the difference because at the rapture, Jesus meets us in the sky and at His Second Coming, He actually comes all the way back to earth but we will talk about that a little later on.

Since His ascension back into Heaven after His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus has been sitting at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3) but when the Father says it is time, Jesus will leave Heaven with a loud shout; a command like He gave to Lazarus when Jesus stood at the tomb (John 11:43) and called Lazarus out.  When Jesus gives the command it will be like a military commander calling his troops to fall in.            

Now, I wish I could see this.  Can you imagine the scene?  The King of all kings, the Creator of the universe, God the Father is sitting on His throne and one day He is going to look to His right at His beloved Son, Jesus, and say, “It’s time!”  Then Jesus will stand up from His throne and say, “Michael!  Let’s go get my bride!”  Then the archangel will shout the command and a trumpet will echo over all the planets in the universe and at the sound of that trumpet, graves all over the world will burst open and the Christians that have already died will rise first with their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ. (John MacArthur, Jr. commentary)

1 John 3:2 says, 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Romans 8:38 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death.  So, those that have died will go first. 

Now, that’s another picture.  Can you imagine what that’s going to look like?  Some gardener is going to be weedeating around the graveyard and all of the sudden every casket holding a Christian is going to blast apart and the dirt and headstones will go flying leaving those graves empty with just the word of the Father.

Now, let me throw this in really quick.  I know some people are concerned because their loved one has been cremated or they were lost at sea or dismembered in an accident of some kind.  They worry that God won’t be able to put them all back together again at the rapture and I have to say that’s almost funny.  You mean to tell me that you don’t have a problem believing that God can restore to a glorious new body somebody that died naturally and whose body is now dust but since Aunt Becky lost her foot in a car crash, she’s gonna limp for all eternity?  C’mon.

I don’t know how but if God can speak the universe into existence, I’m pretty sure He has this little problem figured out as well.  Philippians 3:21 says, “God will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” and 1 Corinthians 15:52 says we will be changed “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

We will be rescued from Satan and sin and temptation.  We will be snatched up out of this nasty old world and away from all of the greedy and corrupt politicians, the impure and cowardly leaders, the hurt and the pain that so many live with every day physically, mentally and more.  Our lowly, weak and impure bodies will be transformed into glorious bodies in an instant.

Now, let me ask you a question.  How many of you have computers?  Now, on these computers, does there ever come up on the screen a notification that an app or a program or a system of some sort needs to be updated or upgraded?  Sure, those things happen all the time, right?  Now, do you ever wonder while you are downloading that update what the new system is going to look like?  Are you ever afraid that it might not be recognizable or that you aren’t going to be able to use it? 

No, not usually.  Most of the time those programs are updated and the changes are nice.  It may have some new features but the overall system is very familiar and easy to use.  Our glorified bodies will be very similar to getting a much-needed upgrade.  When we get our glorified and resurrected bodies, we will, no doubt, have some unexpected surprises but we will certainly recognize our new bodies as being ours.  (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, p. 116)

Do you know how I know this?  We’re told in scripture that our bodies will be like the glorified body of Jesus.  I read that verse in 1 John 3 that says, “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him.”  We are also told in several places in scripture what His body was like.  After Jesus was resurrected, it says He appeared to hundreds of people and they all recognized Him.  Mary had a hard time at the tomb for a few minutes but even through her tears she finally took a good look and knew right then.

The disciples saw His scars.  They touched Him and He ate with them.  He called to them and they recognized His voice.  Yes, He walked through a closed and locked door in the upper room and that will be pretty cool if we are able to do that but we don’t know for sure.  We aren’t told explicitly that we will be able to walk through walls but if so, I bet after a few thousand years we will get used to even that.

1 Corinthians 15:49 says, “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man”, (speaking of Adam) “so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” (Speaking of Jesus)  My point is that, while we don’t know everything about these cool and glorified new bodies we are going to get, they will be familiar to us and to others.

Now, with all that being said, “glorified bodies” is not the main focus of this passage.  The rapture, with all its power and glory is going to be great and awesome but bodies flying up and around is not the main point of this word from God through Paul.  Paul tells us at the end that these words should be encouraging and what does he say just before that?  The words at the end of verse 17 are the encouragement.  Look at them again with me, if you would.

And so we will be with the Lord forever.”  Now, there’s your encouragement!  I don’t know about you but that makes a lot of people say “Amen!”  I don’t know everything about our glorified bodies or everything about what Heaven is going to be like.  We have some ideas and that’s good but this is the best news of all.  We will be with Jesus.  We will share as co-heirs with Him to all the good things Heaven has to offer.  That is truly when we will say, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

I was driving around the other day sort of in the middle of nowhere when I saw something on the side of the road in the tall grass.  I couldn’t tell at first what it was but it was moving around and so I kept my eyes on it as I passed that spot.  When I got up to it, I saw that it was a young dog laying on his back scratching his back in the grass and just enjoying life to the fullest.

He jumped up about the time I got to him and tried to race me for a second, gave up on that and found something obviously incredible to sniff in the weeds.  It made me laugh at first how much this dog was obviously enjoying himself there on the side of the road with no plan and nobody else around him like only a puppy could do.

Now, being a preacher, everything I see is filed into my “Future Illustrations” file in the back of my mind and so that puppy illustrates so perfectly the typical unbeliever.  They are having fun, running free and wild with no plan for the future and no care about anything but right now and the fun they can have in this field of so-called dreams.

I’ve been there.  I’ve had fun running free and living easy.  The problem is that this is a mean and nasty world and it’s full of problems that hit all of us.  How much is peace and joy worth to you in this world, plus the assurance of eternal life in Heaven if we get hit by a car and die today?

Do you know for sure that if you died that you would go to Heaven?  The Bible, God’s Word, tells us plainly that all we have to do is believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no man comes to the Father but through Him. (John 14:6)  That belief will be proven in our lives by changed lives that every day look more and more like Jesus.

Repent of your sins today.  Turn away from that lifestyle and ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of your life today and to forgive you of all your sins and He will.  Today is the day of salvation.  Don’t wait.  We aren’t guaranteed another day.