Category: Heaven (page 1 of 5)

The New Order

“The old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  ~Revelation 21:4-5

The last two chapters of Revelation contain very familiar descriptions of heaven. These are the phrases that make it into our church songs and our popular lexicon: streets of gold, pearly gates, book of life, river of life, crystal sea, no tears.

There are some descriptions of the City of the Lamb in these verses that are not as familiar. Some of the descriptions are even surprising: coming down out of heaven to earth, the bride, Jerusalem, gates never shut.

These final two chapters show us where all things are headed. We see the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s goals. We get a picture of the finish line. And my favorite phrase is about the old order of things passing away and the new order being eternally established by our victorious Lord.

The old order — the broken way that things run in this world. Sin and death, power and threat, violence and division and strife — that’s the old order of things. That’s the way the world works. We know that’s how it works. But God says I am making everything new!

The old order is grief and loss and heartache and tears; the new order is no more death or mourning or crying or pain!

The old order is wealth and power and poverty and despair; the new order is access to the springs of life without cost — God’s everlasting blessings are free!

Right now the world operates by division and exclusion, racism and discrimination; the City of the Lamb has gates on every side and they’re never shut; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from, men and women from every tribe and language and people and nation are welcome; everybody’s invited, nobody’s left out, and the doors are always open!

Today we live under constant threat and fear and dread and anxiety; but nothing impure will ever enter the City of the Lamb — no bad people, no night, nothing to be afraid of!

Today we’re all impacted in some way by sickness, disease, and disabilities; tomorrow we all drink freely from the water of eternal life and the tree of life heals us and all the nations!

The old order is isolation and loneliness, separation from God and distance from each other because of our sins and failures and brokenness and guilt; in the beautiful City of the Lamb we will  see his face; his name will be on our heads; God will live with us; we will be his people and God himself will be with us and be our God; and we will reign in perfect love and joy and peace for ever and ever! Amen!

Peace,

Allan

Putting It On the Line

“Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” ~Hebrews 13:13-14

In this world, just about all we have as Christians is faith, hope, and love. That’s it. As followers of Jesus, we really don’t have much status or security. We don’t mean a whole lot in the eyes of this world. We know as disciples of Christ we’re going to face opposition and accusation and persecution. That’s where we live. All we have is faith, hope, and love. And we put those things on the line every day.

We put our faith on the line every day. Think about it. We’ve never seen God. We live in a world where everything can be seen and studied and weighed and measured and explained and subjected to psychological analysis and scientific control. But we insist on making the center of our lives a God we can’t see or touch. That’s risky.

We put our hope on the line every day. We don’t know one thing about the future. We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen between now and tomorrow morning — we’re not guaranteed there will be a tomorrow morning. We don’t know about future sickness or pain in store for us, loss or rejection we might or might not experience. Still, despite our total ignorance about the future, we say with confidence that God will accomplish his will and nothing can ever separate us from his love and promises. That’s dangerous.

We put our love on the line every day. There’s nothing we’re less good at than love. We’re much better at competition. We’re better at responding by instinct and ambition and selfishness than at trying to figure out how to love people. We’re trained to go our own way. Our culture — the whole world! — rewards us for trying to get our own way. Yet, we make the decision every day to put aside what we do best and try to do what we’re not very good at: loving other people. And we open ourselves wide to hurt and frustration and rejection and failure. That’s tough, huh?

We declare our words of faith in an unbelieving world. We sing our songs of victory in a city where things get messy. We live our joy among a people who don’t understand us or encourage us. But this isn’t our home. Not this current city with the current structures and current methods of doing things and current ways of judging failure and success.

We have been made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ. We belong to God in Christ — where there’s a whole lot more happening than meets the eye.

Peace,

Allan

The Ultimate Feast

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of God.” ~Luke 13:29

Jesus is talking about heaven when he says Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets will be around that table. John’s Revelation tells us that heaven will be the ultimate gathering of “every nation, tribe, people, and language,” the ultimate feast around our Lord’s banquet table.

At communion, we get a small heavenly glimpse of that great eschatological feast. We come together around our Savior’s table. In the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup, we connect not only to our Lord, but to every person in history — past, present, and future — who’s been saved by the blood of the Lamb. Past the barriers of time and space, we’re united as one

Different people. Different ages. Different cultures. Different languages. Different backgrounds. Different viewpoints. Different habits. Different genders. Different denominations. Different jobs. Different haircuts. Different beliefs. Different likes and dislikes.

Same sin. Same need. Same Lord. Same baptism. Same forgiveness. Same salvation. Same commitment. Same table. Same loaf. Same cup. Same body. Same Church. Same Spirit. Same hope. Same faith. Same God and Father of us all who is over all and through all and in all.

Our communion meal points us to the heavenly meal. It gives us a peek. The way we eat and drink and share the Lord’s Supper must be shaped by our great anticipation of that day when all God’s children will be home, gathered around our Father’s table.

Peace,

Allan

Central’s Resurrection Video

(Here’s the link to the video — “We Believe” — that goes with the following thoughts from the end of our sermon here at Central this past Sunday. Thank you to everyone who participated.)

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” ~Revelation 21:3-4

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Some of us are battling the challenges of old age. Some of us are bravely struggling against cancer. Some of us are mourning the death of loved ones. Some of us were born with disabilities that have impacted every single minute of our lives. Some of us have been limping for years because of something that happened a long time ago. Maybe your life is marked by some kind of tragedy, some past event. Maybe something really dark. And it still impacts you; it’s shaped your whole life. Some kind of violence or abuse, I don’t know. But there’s a wound in your soul, a deep scar. It’s this cloud that’s hanging over you every day — it’s there when you wake up in the morning and it’s there when you go to bed at night. For years. It’s always there.

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice in what I will create… the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more.” ~Isaiah 65:17-19

No more fight. No more struggle. No more disappointment or depression. No more battling every day trying to forget and move on. Perfect healing forever. The Lord says, “Write this down. These words are trustworthy and true. It is done!”

We put undo hope in things that can’t deliver. We don’t rely on God like we should; we put more trust in ourselves and our stuff. It’s not because we purposefully downplay or reject the promises of God in Scripture. I think it’s because we don’t slow down enough to allow ourselves time to really reflect.

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Imagine your own resurrected body. Perfectly healed. Inside and out. Top to bottom — body, spirit, soul, heart, mind — all of you, made perfectly new, completely whole. Can you see that? Whatever the ailment, it’s gone. Whatever the physical limitations, whatever the emotional issues, they’re gone. Whatever walls there are between you and your spouse and between you and your children are gone.

Imagine sitting across the table from that loved one who died years ago and eating and drinking together. And laughing. Imagine introducing me to your grandmother. I can’t wait for you to meet mine. Imagine all the cancer and all the worrying about cancer gone. Imagine the guy in the wheelchair running and jumping and rejoicing. Imagine the friend with Alzheimer’s looking right into your eyes and knowing exactly who you are and remembering perfectly everything you’ve ever done together.

Imagine my daughter not wearing hearing aids and hearing my voice clearly, her almost-surgically-repaired feet made completely whole and not killing her every day, being able to communicate everything she wants to communicate to me, and me being able to understand everything about her the way I want.

And imagine nothing between any of us.

“He said to me, ‘It is done!'” ~Revelation 21:6

Peace,

Allan

Where is Jesus? Part Two

RightHandJesusCloudsOne of the very first things Jesus did when he “sat down at the right hand of God” was send us his Holy Spirit. Christ Jesus our Lord is in heaven — his physical body, resurrected and glorified, his human-self is in heaven. But because of his Holy Spirit, our Lord is also present with all of us right here in this world today. He’s right here with us.

As he’s ascending, Jesus promises his disciples:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8

And then it happened. Peter and the apostles experience it on the Day of Pentecost and then they proclaim it:

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” ~Acts 2:32-33

Jesus could not send God’s Spirit until he had returned to the Father. He could not be present with his followers and live inside his followers until the ascension. And what it means for us right now is that Jesus is right here with us!

Before the ascension, you had to go where Jesus was. If you wanted to be healed, if you wanted to ask for something, if you wanted to eat with him, if you wanted to be taught or to be in his presence, if you wanted to be saved, you had to go to Jerusalem or Galilee; you had to go where Jesus was. But now he ascends to his throne in heaven at the right hand of God and he rules in a cosmic, universal way. Jesus is still in his physical body, but because of the Spirit, he’s no longer restricted by the barriers of time and space and matter. Our Lord Jesus is everywhere!

RightHandGoingUpChristians do not have a mecca. We don’t believe there’s a place on earth where God’s power and the presence of Christ is more concentrated. We don’t believe the power of God resides in stronger ways or better ways in some places than in others. Not even at ACU, no matter what people from Abilene may tell you. Christ Jesus is no more present with you in the mountains of Angel Fire or at the temple mount in Jerusalem as he is right now at your desk or your kitchen table. Or inside your soul. Jesus is both reigning physically at the right hand of the Father in heaven AND reigning spiritually, and just as real and powerfully, inside us. Here with us. It’s both.

Now, there’s a lot of theology to be done here. This is physical AND spiritual, it’s right now AND future. There’s a lot of deep thinking and reflecting that needs to happen. The ascension of Jesus is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, and what we believe about where Jesus is and what he’s doing has far reaching implications for us. What we believe about this will truly impact how we behave. It’s vitally important.

We’ve talked this week about where Jesus is and what he’s doing. Now, where are we in this? What are we doing? Let’s address that tomorrow.

Peace,

Allan

God’s Perfect Presence

NewRecreation

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.'” ~Revelation 21:3

What really makes the New Creation “new” is the immediate presence of God. In Act Six of the Story of God, the perfect presence of the Creator fills all the earth with his radiant glory. God with us. Finally. Face to face with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Finally. When all evil is destroyed, when God’s Kingdom arrives in its fullness, God’s holy throne comes down here. God finally does what he’s promised to do all along: He makes his dwelling with us. He lives with us.

“They will see his face.” ~Revelation 22:4

Imagine life in the physical, visible, intense presence of God. No more fear. No more guessing. No more doubt. This is life in the fullest sense of the word, eternal life joined together with its eternal source. All sorrow and suffering, pain and death, are banished forever in God’s presence. And God himself “will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Isaiah predicted this. John sees it happen. God will wipe every tear from their eyes. How could you ever more vividly depict the love of God for his people?

How does the Story end? This is exactly how it ends.

“These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” ~Revelation 22:6

Icon6It’s going to happen. This perfect ending to the Story of God is coming. And this final act peppers us repeatedly with instructions in light of the certainty of God’s Perfected Kingdom: keep these words, do these words, don’t add to this, don’t take away from this, keep your robes washed and clean, because Christ is coming. These words and images are intended to inspire us and thrill us; they’re supposed to teach us and assure us. But this is also an invitation. This last part of the Story begs us to get into it. This is a call to discipleship because of it. This is an invitation to join the Story, to jump into the Story, to set your GPS on “New Creation” and go to it!

Act Six gives all of us a great hope. And, by hope, I want to very clear on this: I mean knowing that what our God has started, he will finish. What our God has promised, he will deliver. Our faithful God is bringing this whole thing to completion.

“Behold! I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” ~Revelation 22:12-14

Our hope is not about wishing this true. It’s knowing how the Story turns out.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

God in Christ will take his people to himself. He will. God will bring us to himself, he will take us in with him, and he will live with us. Act Six will never end. God’s Story will never end. Your story will never end.

This is what we believe. This is why we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” ~Revelation 22:20

Peace,

Allan

 

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