Heaven

When discussing heaven it is important to recognize that the only true source we can reference that has any authority on the subject is the writing in the Scriptures. Most people when asked about heaven default to the Hollywood notion of pearly gates, humans who graduate to a higher level by receiving their wings and becoming angels and all white and gold everywhere. One of the most important points that many miss is how heaven should effect how we live on Earth. When a person experiences something extraordinary, he may physically respond in some spontaneous frenzy or have an uncontrollable physical experience. For example, when touched by an outstanding vocal performance, one may feel a physical tingle, when watching a football game and someone lays out an impressive hit a spontaneous bodily jerk may be prompted. Exercise promotes endorphin release, sexual activity can result in temporary loss of physical control, and a good meal can incite an array of physical pleasures.  Isaiah, Daniel and John physically responded in an overwhelmed manner beyond any of the experiences we experience on earth. Their noted inability to appropriately describe heaven along with their physical response to seeing it implies how magnificent it truly must be.

The author rightfully assumes that there is a heaven, which is the place that we go directly after death. The Bible cites heaven 276 times and as a believer in the Bible, its existence is not in question, however its qualities and details are curious. The Bible uses the best of our earthly treasures to give a visual of heaven. It tells us that heaven is a beautiful place where there will be spectacular homes for each of us, where the streets are paved with real gold, where its gates are made of gigantic pearls, the foundation stones of precious jewels like sapphires, emeralds, and topaz and it is lighted with God’s presence, which is brighter than the Sun. The inability to appropriately describe it along with God’s presence lead me to understand that it is fantastic, and like many things, we simply have to believe that existence in the presence of God will satisfy in ways we cannot imagine, therefore to attempt to describe it is an exercise beyond the capabilities of human language.   We do not have the facility to describe it appropriately.  Just as someone in the 5th trying to describe a television to its peers, one would have nothing to compare it to and one would be challenged to describe it.

Luke 22:28-30 states, to those who had stood by Him in His earthly trials, Jesus promised to place them “on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” in His future kingdom, as well as to seat them at His side at His table. Our faith while on earth determines what if any rewards we receive in heaven. The implied message here is that heaven is fantastic, and all in God’s presence will have indescribable joy, but some will receive greater rewards. I have been to sporting events and sat court side, in box seats and in nose bleeds where I needed binoculars to see the on-field action. I have enjoyed each seating for different reasons, but court-side seating is best. It is best because you are closer to the “reason for the event.” In heaven, we are there to experience the unfiltered, unobstructed, pure holiness and majesty of God. Therefore, sitting by Jesus’ side at His table will uncertainly be greater than sitting in the proverbial nose bleed seats.

One of the gifts that Jesus left was hope. There will be no more sin, no more tears, no more stress, no more pain. Heaven is the hope that our post-flesh existence will be glorious and beyond our ability to describe. The absence of these and other maladies must shape an environment unknown to man and beyond our greatest comprehension.

About Jesus

Jesus has a dual nature, he is fully man and fully divine. Jesus is the Word who became the flesh. He was sent here to save humanity. His divinity was not lost when he took on a human form. The addition of his human form to his divinity is called the hypostatic union. He will always be fully God and totally human, two separate natures in one being. Though he has two separate and distinct natures, he is one person with one personality.

Kenosis means emptying of self, which is what Jesus did in his incarnation. The term kenosis comes from the Greek word for the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying in His incarnation. Philippians 2:7 and Isaiah detail the making of God, a servant in human form. Jesus did not cease being divine as evidenced by his many miracles, healings and resurrection. Similar to the discussion on the Trinity, it is difficult to understand how one could be both man and God, however that is what the Word became God with a human shell. Nonetheless, Jesus covered his divine and glorious nature in a human form and restricted certain attributes.

The hypostatic union describes the union of Jesus’ two natures. It was completely intertwined, inseparable and consistent.   The hypostatic union does not make logical sense. There is no way that a human and divine nature can co-exist. God is omniscient, no man is. God is all knowing, Jesus was not as was indicated by Mark 13:32, where he indicates that not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father know about the day or hour of His return.

Impeccability deals with the question of whether Jesus could have sinned. Peccability is the belief that He could have sinned. Col 1:19 states that For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. This means that Jesus was in fact God. God cannot sin. Therefore Jesus cannot sin. Jesus could be tempted just Satan tempted him, however, Jesus cannot sin.

The Trinity

The Trinity is so controversial because it is truly beyond human comprehension. I have heard several analogies, about water and steam, eggs yolks and shells and other objects, all of which do not fully embody the existence of God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit as one being. The Bible teaches that the Father is God, that Jesus is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God and it teaches that there is only one God. As simply as can be stated, the Trinity is ONE God existing in three Persons. Deuteronony 6:4 and Galatians 3:20 as well as other Scriptures explain that there is only one God and God is only one. There is however indication of the three Persons of God in Genesis in the creation story of Genesis 1:1, Genesis 26 and in Jesus’ Baptism in Matt 3:16-17.

God the Father is distinguished from God the Son in Psalm 45. In John 14:16, Jesus speaks to God the Father about sending a Helper, the Holy Spirit. This demonstrates that Jesus who was God, was not God the Father and the Holy Spirit who is also God is another. Above and beyond anything, Jesus prayed regularly during his earthly walk. He was praying not to Himself, but to His Father.  To those that contend that Christians believe in three gods as the Jehovah Witnesses contend, one can simply respond that the Bible speaks of God in three different beings, however it also speaks of their being only one God. To claim to understand God’s capabilities is quite arrogant and silly. He created us and the Creator is greater than that which he created. We may not understand it, but believe it based on faith. The doctrine of the Trinity is represented in the Bible, we know that God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is indicative of his great power and capacities greater than our understanding.

 

Jesus’ Bodily Ressurection

Jesus Christ’s resurrection is at the core of Christianity, without the resurrection there is no Christianity. Each of the gospel’s speaks of Jesus’ resurrection, and Paul states, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” 1 Cor 15:14. Though Christians may disagree on many topics, the belief in a resurrection is synonymous with Christianity. Despite this common belief there is dissent regarding the details of this core belief. Disagreement arises from not from believing in a resurrection, but in what form he arose. Craig argues that Christ’s body was resurrected and He left the tomb. He counters the numerous conspiracy theories, (the idea that the disciples stole the body), the apparent death theory (Jesus did not die on the cross), and the wrong tomb theory (the women went to the wrong tomb) are untenable in light of the historical evidence. His position is that the resurrection is the best explanation for the empty tomb.

Many cults including Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus rose in the flesh, but that he merely rose spiritually. Craig dedicates this writing to disputing this incorrect point of view. Among the many reasons he proffers that every gospel appearance of Jesus is narrated is a physical appearance and the contemporary use of the term resurrection during early Christianity meant physical burial and rising, therefore it stands to reason that Paul’s use of the term would refer to the same. Craig stated that, “it must be said that despite the disdain of some theologians for the gospel’s conception of the nature of the resurrection body, it is nonetheless true that like Paul the evangelists steer a careful course between gross materialism and the immortality of the soul. On the one hand, every gospel appearance of Jesus that is narrated is a physical appearance.” The Gospels confirm this position in John 20, where Jesus shows His hands and feet where the nails had been driven. Jesus ate in Luke 23. The story of doubting Thomas is renowned because Jesus allowed him to put his hand into His side. These as well as other Scriptures detail instances post resurrection that require a physical presence.

Complimenting his thesis on the gospel’s agreement with a bodily resurrection, he discusses Paul’s writings. Craig states that Paul was a Pharisee before his conversion. He was educated as such and though he disclaimed those beliefs, he was none the less a product of Pharasiac education. Therefore it would follow that Paul would understand and use the term resurrection as the Pharisee’s of his time would have, in reference to physical rising. Jesus, a rabbi held that the tomb is the place where the bones repose and that the dead in the tombs would be raised (Matt 23.27; John 5.28). So Craig lines up Paul’s belief with the Pharisees and Jesus who all asserted that the resurrection was a physical action. Based on the details laid out in the Gospels and Paul’s writings one can definitively repute the contention that Jesus’ resurrection was merely a spiritual activity without flesh. Jesus said in John 2:19-22, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.” There are some who contend that the verses above do not prove that the resurrection was physical. Despite the above proof, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others contend that Christ was not raised alive in the same body in which he was put to death? (You Can Live Forever on Paradise Earth, pp. 143-144). They declare that Jesus, the man is dead forever and that the body he manifested himself to the disciples post resurrection was not the body with which he was nailed to the cross. They contend when pressed that the body was not found in the tomb because God dissolved it into atoms. A strong indictment against their position is the Gospels and Paul’s writings which Craig references. Further negating this position is the absence a single Scripture that supports their belief that God disposed of Jesus body in some way.

Craig concludes that Jesus rose as a body, not a disembodied soul. Paul’s evidence confirms the gospels’ discussions of Jesus’ bodily resurrection which is historically logically well-tenable.

Church Administration

I am for administration in the church.  I have first hand seen a church without organization and it is not pretty.  I have seen how efficient organization prevents potential issues, plans effectively for future events and most of all helps a pastor lead a congregation in a neat and tidy fashion.  Whether the church is small or large, organization is important.

A very simple example of church organization is on display once a person enters a church.  An organized usher board has the entry manned with friendly well uniformed greeters who can promptly escort an entrant to one’s seat.  I have unfortunately been to enough churches where one can walk in then have to seek out for oneself a place to sit.  This can be extremely disruptive particularly for those entering after a service has commenced.  As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.  In this instance, where an usher board delivers subpar service, a first impression is not a good impression and a visitor who was on the fence about joining the church may not return.  A non-believer who is uncertain about the church will have a bad first impression to reflect on.  Though this is a superficial evaluation, how the ushers operate as a unit can dictate how noisy and uninterrupted a service can flow.  The impression one takes from a service will in many instances dictate one’s impression of a church and unfortunately, for many perception is everything.  What one may perceive is a disorganized service, which becomes their perception of the church.

Organization facilitates efficiency and effectiveness.  It helps make the best use of resources which allows a church to best pursue its mission, making, marking and maturing disciples.  Disorganization facilitates waste of financial, and human resources. Organization is needed to achieve certain tasks.  Without organization, the ability to make the most of what God has bestowed becomes more challenging than necessary.  Though anything is possible with God, we can make certain things easier, but being organized.

Administration is there to allow the ministers to spread the Gospel.  As in Acts 5 , where the apostles had become overwhelmed having to handle the charitable services of the church along with the duties of making disciples, administrators allow the ministers and teachers, to minister and teach.  Administrators allow leaders to focus on the big picture without being over burdened by mundane details.  Administrators help to facilitate the action necessary to materialize a leader’s plan.  The competence of an administration can free up a leader to lead or its incompetence can be an anchor that weighs down one.  Despite the importance of the administration, I challenge administrators in a church to understand that its primary role is to serve, not to be served.

A Sermon Template

  1. ME (Orientation) – Introduce yourself and your topic – find common ground with your audience.
  2. WE (Identification) – Build an emotional common ground with your audience – build as many bridges emotionally as possible.
  3. GOD (Illumination) – God has a solution for us today – engage your audience with the text – Don’t just read it. Don’t explain it to death. Make it fascinating!
  4. YOU (Application) – Find one point of application everyone can embrace. Don’t ask them to make a life altering decision. Give them a measurable or reachable goal. Encourage them to try something for a week, a day or even a month.
  5. WE (Inspiration) – cast a vision – prompt a decision by briefly describing what would happen if this group of people would follow what has been taught. Tell them to imagine what WE could do together.