“I Go to Prepare a Place for You”

We are continuing to meditate on the thought that God has called out of the world a people from all nations to be in a marriage relationship to Himself. This relationship is one that is brought about by the greatest of loves, that of agape love, self-sacrificial love. Jesus came to express His love by dying in place of guilty man. The judgment of sin was, “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). God has made a way of escape and sent His Son to take man’s punishment upon Himself—self-sacrificial love. God raised Him from the dead, and now He waits for man to respond to His act of love. In this act of love, He has betrothed those who accepts His death as theirs, into a marriage relationship. When Christ comes, then will begin the festivities. Until then, we are in an engagement or betrothal relationship. We are to live in purity for Him and Him alone. Christians are those who have entered into a covenant of marriage.

I borrow from the words of C.H. Spurgeon here:

“The marriage of the Lamb is the result of the eternal gift of the Father. Our Lord says, “Yours they were and you gave them to Me.” His prayer was, “Father, I will that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am. That they may behold My glory, which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” The Father made a choice, and the chosen He gave to His Son to be His portion. For them, He entered into a Covenant of Redemption, whereby He was pledged in due time to take upon Himself their nature, pay the penalty of their offenses, and set them free to be His own.

Beloved, that which was arranged in the councils of eternity and settled there between the high contracting Parties is brought to its ultimate end in that day when the Lamb takes unto Himself in everlasting union the whole of those whom His Father gave Him from of old.

Next—this is the completion of the betrothal, which took place with each of them in time. I shall not attempt elaborate distinctions. However, as far as you and I were concerned, the Lord Jesus betrothed each one of us unto Himself in righteousness when first we believed on Him. Then He took us to be His and gave Himself to be ours so that we could sing— “My beloved is mine and I am His.” This was the essence of the marriage. Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, represents our Lord as already married to the Church. This may be illustrated by the oriental custom by which, when the bride is betrothed, all the sanctities of marriage are involved in those espousals. Yet, there may be a considerable interval before the bride is taken to her husband’s house. She dwells with her former household and has not yet forgotten her kindred and her father’s house, though still she is espoused in truth and righteousness. Afterwards, she is brought home on an appointed day, the day which we should call the actual marriage. Yet, the betrothal is, to Orientals, of the very essence of the marriage.”[1]

That is what we will talk about next, the home that the Lord has been preparing for us. He said, 1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3). I’m looking forward to being with Him in that place, I hope you are too.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

[1] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons35.xxxv.html

He Will Wipe Every Tear from Their Eyes

We are continuing from yesterday (scroll further down) our meditation on the thousand-year reign of Christ. Let me be clear regarding the difference between heaven and the millennium. Although the Millennium will be a time when we experience God’s kingdom on earth, there is more to come! We are told that, at the end of the Millennium, will come the New Jerusalem and that there will be no more death:

1Then 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. 4He 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” (Revelation 21:1-4).

The theme of the whole of Scripture is of a picture of redemption. When Jesus died for sin, He did not just cancel the penalty of sin. He paid for it in full. Since Divine justice was satisfied, He has every right to restore things to their intended purpose, their intended glory. When He comes to reign, He will set things in their place, and we will see the full deliverance of the earth. He has ransomed the earth, and the earth will finally experience the knowledge of the Lord.

Many nations will come to Jerusalem, the capital city of all the earth, to seek the Lord and worship Him.  No more will there be different religions. All men will finally realize that one of the strategies that Satan used to divide and conquer them was religion. All the people will realize that there is only one God, and His knowledge will be universal. Jerusalem, the city itself, will be changed. The Lord Himself will be there:

2In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised 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 house 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 (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Imagine living on planet Earth where the Lord Jesus Christ is reigning on His throne in Jerusalem. There will be no economic need for tanks, guns and weapons of war, it will be a time of great economic prosperity, because man will not train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:4). Christ Jesus will set up His government on Earth composed of those who have been redeemed. Every nation will be at peace with one another with King Jesus sitting on His throne. Those that are reigning over nations, territories, states, cities and towns are those who have been counted worthy because of their faithfulness in resisting evil and caring for God’s people.

The King, the Lord Jesus Christ, will teach us of His ways and settle any remaining disputes between nations. The Scriptures tell us that the New Jerusalem does not come down to Earth from above until the 1000 years are over (Revelation 21:1-2). Until that point, the throne of King Jesus is in Jerusalem, where many peoples will come to praise and worship King Jesus (Isaiah 2:2-3). Isaiah the prophet says, “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17). Can you imagine sitting at the feet of Jesus while He teaches us His ways? He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3). Heaven on earth at last!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

A New Earth and New Heavens

We are continuing to meditate on the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth (scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts).  Under the inspiration of the Spirit, the prophet Isaiah (65:17-25), writes a second time about the time when there will be great changes on the Earth:

17“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. 23They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. 24Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord (Isaiah 65:17-25).

The Lord says that there will be a new earth and new heavens, too. What is meant by these words? At first glance, we could interpret the passage as saying that we will all be moved to a new planet, but that is not the meaning. Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, says that the expression “Heaven and Earth” is a biblical designation for the entire universe. He says:

When Revelation 21:1 speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth,” it indicates a transformation of the entire universe. The Greek word kainos, translated “new,” indicates that the earth God creates won’t merely be new as opposed to old, but new in quality and superior in character. According to Walter Bauer’s lexicon, kainos means new “in the sense that what is old has become obsolete, and should be replaced by what is new. In such a case the new is, as a rule, superior in kind to the old. It means, therefore, “not the emergence of a cosmos totally other than the present one, but the creation of a universe which, though it has been gloriously renewed, stands in continuity with the present one.” Paul uses the same word, kainos, when he speaks of a believer becoming “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The New Earth will be the same as the old Earth, just as a new Christian is still the same person he was before. Different? Yes, But also the same.[1]

The way the Earth has been for centuries will be changed and hardly remembered (v.17). It will be a time of complete renewal and restoration. The new heavens, perhaps, refer to the destruction of the enemy’s habitation in the invisible realm where he has waged his campaign against humanity. Up to that point, Satan is called the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Luke in writing the Book of Acts, says that Jesus “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). The earth will be restored to its pristine beauty and fertility. Those who are alive during the Millennium will long enjoy the fruit of their work, what they plant they will harvest. What they build will be theirs in which to live.

After the rapture and resurrection of the saints, and the wrath of God is poured out, the angels will weed out of Christ’s kingdom all evil. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Matthew 13:41). This is a period of restoration before the final judgment. It will be a blessed time with people living, in most cases, many hundreds of years as they did in the book of Genesis. Adam lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:5), Seth lived for 912 years (Genesis 5:8), and Methuselah lived for 969 years (Genesis 5:27). The saints, those born again by the Spirit of God, will never die. They are imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52). I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to that!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

[1] Randy C. Alcorn, Heaven, published by Tyndale Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2004, Page 149.

The Thousand Year Peace.

We are continuing from our study yesterday on the topic of the Millennium. The thousand-year reign of Jesus on Earth. In the third study of Insights into eternity (In the middle column), we talked about the resurrection of the saints at the return of Christ. Those who are born again and walking with Christ will receive an imperishable body, a body of power that is immortal. This body will be like Christ’s resurrection body, a body that had been sown in dishonor, but raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:43). The saints are given authority to reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4; 1 Corinthians 6:2) and Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).

1And 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 for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his 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 have part 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 (Revelation 20:1-6 Emphasis mine).

Theologians and scholars call this thousand-year reign of Christ, the Millennium. The word millennium means a thousand. There are three beliefs about the Millennium. The first is called Amillennialism. An Amillennialist believes that the thousand years mentioned five times in the passage above is not a literal number but a symbolic number and represents the time we are in now, the church age. Secondly, there is postmillennialism.  Postmillennialists also believe that the 1000-year period mentioned in the passage above, is not literally 1,000 years. In their view, the church will bring in a golden age of Christian ethics and that Jesus’ Second Coming will come after that period of time. Thirdly, there is premillennialism, to which I personally hold. A premillenialist believes that Jesus’ coming will be after a time of tribulation, that He will raise the saints, those who have been born-again of the Spirit, and that the saints will rule and reign with Him in a literal thousand-year reign on the earth.

The dragon, that ancient serpent that appeared in the Garden of Eden, also called the devil and Satan, will be bound, verse three tells us, in the Abyss (Greek word is Abussos, a word that means bottomless, unfathomed; enormous; unbounded; immeasurable depth). There will be no more war until the 1000 years are up, and after that Satan must be released for a time. Imagine what our world will be like with Satan bound. What changes do you think will come about for those living on earth in total freedom from satanic influence?

For the saints, the Body of Christ, in their new resurrection bodies, there will be no temptation towards evil and sin, and no more deception at work on the earth (Verse 3). Our resurrection bodies will take away all fear of harm. There will be no fear of death. From the point when Jesus returns, the saints are immortal. Our sin nature, also, will be taken away, and there will be no desire to sin at all. Because we will be operating in a totally free capacity, our creativity will be unleashed. We will see our bodies, souls and minds operating at a totally different level, free from constraint. We will experience life as God intended us to know it. Oh, how I look forward to it! I hope you are too.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas

Hell: A Subject not to be Avoided

We come today to study the subject that is most avoided by pastors and teachers, and one that we would all rather avoid if possible, that is the topic of Hell. The story has been told of C. S. Lewis’ listening to a young preacher’s sermon on the subject of God’s judgment on sin. At the end of his message, the young man said, “If you do not receive Christ as Savior, you will suffer grave eschatological ramifications!” After the service, Lewis asked him the question, “Do you mean that a person who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to Hell?” “Precisely,” was his response. “Then say so,” Lewis replied.”[1] Even though we may be uncomfortable in studying it, the topic is important for all of us.

Some would say, “Can’t we just bypass the topic of Hell?” Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said, “Think lightly of Hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Savior who delivers you from them.” It is possible that some people avoid the issue of Hell because they want to view death as the end, when it is just the beginning. When we truly understand what is at stake, i.e. what was our destiny without Christ, we will much more appreciate what Christ has done for us at the cross.

There is a great deal of interest today in the topic of life after death and near-death experiences. It is not hard to find a book on the subject. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, in his book, To Hell and Back, researching near-death experiences, reports that some people experienced Hell, but had the memory of it repressed in a few days’ time. He said that, as a general rule, people remember that which is good and forget that which is bad, and so, if the interview is delayed just a little bit, days, weeks or months later, only the positive experiences will be found.

Dr. Rawlings tells the story of a young man who recounted his experience to him after an operation to insert a pacemaker into his heart. He told Dr. Rawlings what he saw and experienced, which he considered to be hell. He states that he saw a tunnel which led to light, then the tunnel caught fire. He had the sensation of moving fast toward a lake of fire, which looked to him like an oil spill on fire. He saw elongated shadows of people that were moving back and forth, like animals do that are caged in a zoo. The man called out “Jesus is Lord” and then suddenly, he was aware that he was back in his body.

Dr. Rawlings also gives an account of giving CPR to a patient who had also had a pacemaker installed, and who was in the throes of death. The patient kept coming back, slipping in and out of consciousness, and pleaded with Dr. Rawlings to pray for him, as he cried out that he was in hell. Dr. Rawlings did not want to pray for the man because he was not yet a believer himself, but finally because of the man’s distress, he did give the man a prayer to pray. He asked Jesus Christ to keep him out of hell. The man immediately calmed. He was no longer a screaming lunatic. Dr. Rawlings states that this incident impacted him so much that he gave his life to Christ. Dr. Rawlings is not a theologian or a minister; rather, he is an unbiased doctor who has written the findings of the patients he has resuscitated.

There are many people who claim to have had near-death experiences, but there is no way that we can really know for sure which ones are valid. It is reasonable to assume that, if God allowed Paul to be caught up into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), and if Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father before he died (Acts 7:55), then there may be those today who have been permitted to have a glimpse of what lies beyond this life.

Our faith, however, must rest on God’s Word and not an experience. After all, there are those who would have us believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs or regardless of the life they lived, will be welcomed by brilliant light and ushered into a peaceful eternity. However, this does not agree with what we are told in Scripture. Jesus personified both love and truth. He did not hold anything back from His disciples, and we should not avoid this topic, for none of us wants to go there. Over the next few days we will talk about what the Holy Scriptures say about this topic.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Taken from: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/Hell.html