Monday, March 20, 2017

Heaven's View of Easter - Heaven Itself

Henry Ford had an idea. There must be a better way to produce automobiles. He didn’t invent the automobile. He invented the method by which automobiles could be made more efficiently, quicker and at less cost. He created the assembly line.

He began with the concept of the car he wanted built, divided that car up into segments and established stations along a motorized path where each segment would be completed and attached to the car as it passed along.

His vision was the entire process even though workers only saw a small part of that process. They didn’t see the full picture, only their piece of the puzzle. It wasn’t until they saw a finished car with all the segments put together that they appreciated how their segment fit into fulfilling Henry Ford’s dream.

God started the world with an idea. All that He planned within that idea was revealed in segments along the way. In God’s mind was the total picture, but that picture was too big for man to comprehend. Man couldn’t hold the immensity of God’s thought in his human mind. To let us know He was working a plan, He would give glimpses of segments of the plan.

In ancient days there were Seers – one who sees beyond the obvious in order to gain insight into the unknown.

Later that changed to Prophets – one who tells – foretelling or forth-telling – one given the words of God so he can relate the message of God.

Typical of the Prophet was the introductory phrase: the word of the Lord came unto…and he spoke. God gave him insight, a glimpse of the idea, then granted him a way to communicate that insight. He spoke or he did something in response to God’s revelation. God told a prophet to go and do or go and say…that’s what he’d do. Never hear a prophet say, “I need more details than that.” – you can’t handle the truth.

God would reveal to these prophets pieces of the picture of what He was doing. They would see there piece and then share details of what they saw. They didn’t see the finished product, only what He showed them in that moment.

Like being handed a single piece of a jigsaw puzzle to describe without the picture on the box, that one piece doesn’t always make sense on its own. But when that piece fits together with other pieces the whole picture begins to make sense.

Often looking back we can see how each piece fits into the whole picture.

Like Micah being given a glimpse of Jesus’ birth. Like Daniel given a glimpse of the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem. Like Isaiah being given a glimpse of Jesus’ death. Like John given a glimpse of the Second Coming. Though they didn’t fully grasp the significance of these glimpses they trusted God that when connected to the big picture they would all make sense.

It’s a bit like living through difficult times. We don’t know all that’s going on or what it means, so we take what we’ve been shown and trust that somehow it fits into the bigger picture of what God is doing.

Heaven’s View of Easter – To many, Easter is a sad story of circumstances gone wrong but turns out okay because of the resurrection. Heaven saw it quite differently.

Heaven itself: The Place

Throughout the OT God gave glimpses of Heaven. A few prophets saw it, but, without having any picture to compare their glimpse with, their piece of the puzzle didn’t always make sense. But they believed what they saw. That’s why God gave them glimpses. He knew He could trust them with what He showed them.

Same with us: trust in what God shows us and He’ll show us more.

In the Psalms, David describes three levels of the heavens:

The Atmospheric Level: The birds of the heavens. (Ps 8:8)
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, (Ps 18:13) Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth… (Ps 147:8)

The Astronomical Level: When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; (Ps 8:3) the expanse that is declaring the work of His hands. (Ps 19:1)

Heaven Itself: The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven; (Ps 11:4)
The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. (Ps 103:19)

God directed our attention upwards but never said how far up.

But early on, there was separate understanding about a place for the dead after life – Sheol. Again only a glimpse, but no one saw it as connected with Heaven. It seemed to be a separate holding place for the dead – Hades.

Solomon had all the dead collecting in a single place – an assembly of the dead. A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead. (Pr 21:16)

David saw a separation within that assembly of the ungodly dead from the righteous dead: The heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. (Ps 89:5)

When David said of his baby that died: he will not come to me but I will go to him. He was confident he and the child would go to the place of the holy ones distinct from just an assembly of the dead.

This assembly of the ungodly dead was further explained in the NT when we learn of Hell: a place of torment, a prison of the unrighteous, created for the devil and his demons—a place to be held until final judgment.

Jesus made the two distinct when He said: The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' (Luke 16:22-24)

So, from early glimpses we learn there is life after death, and separate places, separate circumstances for those who die.

But even David’s view of what went on in Heaven was blocked. His said: Will You perform wonders for the dead? Will the departed spirits rise and praise You? (Ps 88:10) The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence; (Ps 115:17) So don’t let me die. Keep me alive because only then can: we… bless the LORD from this time forth and forever. (Ps 115:18)

Since earth was all David had experienced, being alive was the greater good for David. Which we pretty much believe today.

But later, in a larger view of the picture, in the Revelation to John, God showed him: Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." (Rev 5:11-13)

The assembly of the righteous dead is in the presence of God and they are praising Him.
Yet we still don’t have the complete picture.

Jesus showed us more when He called Heaven: Paradise.

Paradise actually means “the garden.” A reference as much to the place of beauty as to the location.

"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

Paul used the same term when in a vision, he was: caught up to the third heaven, caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.  (2 Cor 12:4)

Though not mentioned as such, I’m convinced the Garden of Eden was a type of Heaven. In the Revelation to John, Jesus said: 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.' (Rev 2:7)
Wasn’t that same tree in the Garden of Eden?

Ezekiel calls Eden, the garden of God; God's garden… (Ezek 28:13)

The Book of Revelation gives us the greatest details, but even in those descriptions, all we can say is it is a place beyond description, beautiful and welcoming. Anyone who gives more descriptions of Heaven is generally making up what they want Heaven to be like. And that is a glorified earth. Heaven exists in its own indescribable category.

Lady buried with her fork in her hand.

Jn 14:1f

My Father’s house – Heaven – Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt 6:9-10)

A place but also a platform from where God orchestrates His activity in the world.

Dwelling places – abiding space

Mansions is a most unfortunate translation

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (Jn 14:23)

The abode is the dwelling place. We’ll enter the abiding space of God.

Heaven is the realm where God is. That’s where Jesus was going. So that Where I am, there you will be.

And Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb 1:3)

But being full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55-56) He is there.

Prepare a place for you. Heaven is the place prepared for us where we go after we die.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:6-7)

How do we get there? Little kid was asked: how do we get to go to heaven? Die.

Yes and no. Remember, there are two destinations – one for the righteous dead and one for the ungodly dead. Righteous – people with a personal relationship with God. Ungodly – people without a personal relationship with God.

Vs. 5-6 – Who was Jesus talking to: His own people.

Those who know the way: into what? Eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

The only way. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (Jn 17:3)

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

God bases entrance into Heaven, not on some subjective—who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. It is a holy place that He created for Himself and has invited us to join Him there.

You might call Heaven restricted air space we have permission to enter.

But from Heaven, God’s will exists and is sent out to the world.

1.                           Heaven exists and is beyond description.
2.                           It is where God’s throne is.
3.                          From that throne God directs His intentions in the world.
4.                          He reserves space for us there in response to us accepting His invitation of salvation.

5.                         The decision to receive that invitation is made here, on this side of death, not on the other side.

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