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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Forever Messages

Five "Matt's Messages" on Hell, Heaven, & an Eternal Perspective

1. Forever: Hell 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

2. Forever: Heaven 2 Corinthians 4:8-5:10

3. Forever: Eternity Revelation 21:1-22:21

4. Forever and Ever

5. The End Is Near 1 Peter 4:7-11

Matt's Messages - The End Is Near

“The End Is Near”
November 27, 2005
1 Peter 4:7-11

Next week, Lord-willing, we will begin a series of sermons on the Gospel of Mark. I’d appreciate prayer as I prepare for this series. We are going to go through the shortest and most action-packed of the four gospels and rivet our attention to the person, messages, and work of Jesus Christ, hopefully, in such a way that we are better motivated and equipped to follow Him as His disciples. Beginning next week, the Gospel of Mark.

This week, I have decided to call us to think some more about how we are to live in light of eternity. We have just spent the last four Sundays thinking about Forever. Forever in Hell, Forever in Heaven, Forever in Eternity, Forever and Ever.

We can get to thinking that Forever is coming, yes, but it’s still a long way off. But the Bible says that it is coming soon. Sooner than we expect. Forever is near. In our passage for today, the Apostle Peter says that the “the end of all things is near.”

Now, we expect that kind of talk from fruitcakes and nuts who wear signboards on street corners in big cities, but this is the Word of God. “The end of all things is near.” And we need to listen. The end of all things is near. How should we then live? 1 Peter, chapter 4, verses 7 through 11.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)
The Apostle Peter says that “the end of all things is near.”

Be warned: time is limited. Time is short. Human history is a finite line. It had a beginning point. And it will have an ending point. And the end is near.

Peter knew that the end of history is imminent, impending, ready to unfold, close at hand.

The next great event on the calendar of God is the consummation of history and the triumphant return of Jesus Christ!

“The end of all things is near.”

Do you believe that this morning?

Very often, Christians like you and I make the major mistake of living as though this world and our lives were going to go on and on just like they are (now) forever.

But Peter says that is not true. And that is not the right way to live.

“Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.”

Up a couple of verses, verse 5, says that the judge of the living and the dead is “ready.” He’s set. He’s prepared. He’s ready. Like we saw last week, God is only waiting in His patient, perfect timing to tie up the loose ends of history.

Now, Peter didn’t set a date. He didn’t set a time. But he knew and taught that the Lord Jesus could and will usher in the end of history at any time.

“The end of all things is near.”

Do you believe that? Do you live like that is true?

What if you knew that the end of your life was near? Today for example.

Let’s say you knew on the authority of God’s Word that by 6:30 this evening you would be dead.
What would you do? How would you live? What would your priorities be if you knew that you would soon be seeing the Judge of all the Earth?

Peter says, not only is the end of your life near, the end of all things is near. As REM would say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

We are living in the last days, and the last of the last days is coming soon. And knowing that, you and I should live with a certain set of priorities.

However...you might be surprised at what those priorities are supposed to be. What should we being doing if the end of all things is near?

Last week, we said, “Get Right With God, Get Ready for Eternity, Get Busy Sharing Christ, and Get Thankful and Worship God.”

And those are right and biblical. But they aren’t exactly what Peter says.

Peter gives us four different but complementary priorities.

“The End is Near.” Therefore, #1. KEEP YOUR HEAD. V.7.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

Peter says that the end of all things is near, so therefore keep your head. Keep your wits about you. Don’t get frantic or manic or out of control.

Now, I don’t know about you, but instinctively I get a little nervous when people talk about the world ending! My first reaction is to panic. Chicken Little, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” My first reaction is to lose my cool. My first reaction is to think about all of the wrong things.

I think the Lord graciously gave us a taste of what it feels like for the world to end on September 11th, 2001. How did you respond when that crisis hit?

I was in Mercer, two hours away from my pregnant wife and toddler daughter. Robin was Isaac’s age. And my mind was going a million-miles a minute in every direction. As I drove home at 75 miles an hour, I kept thinking that a plane was going to fall out of the sky right onto the middle of Route 80. I was almost beside myself for a good bit of the trip home.

How did you respond to the crisis?

The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear-minded and self-controlled. Get a hold of yourself. Don’t go off the deep end. Focus. Focus on what is important.

Why? V.7 “So that you can pray.”

If the world is ending, if you are going to see the King, then you better get close to Him now. Talk with Him. Trust Him with all things. The important thing is to remain close to the One who is coming soon.

Keep Your Head so that You Can Pray.

It’s a focus issue. Too often, we get caught up in focusing on this world and not the world that is going to break in on us soon.

It had happened to Peter personally. Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus told Peter, James, and John to keep watch and pray? What did Peter do? He started sawing logs! He lost focus and got a muddied-mind and lost self-control and slept. He lost his head and didn’t pray. I think he remembered that night and that’s why he cautions us against living like that.

The holidays are coming. It’s so easy to get consumed by the frantic pace of shopping and preparations and busyness. It’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness of Christmas, especially the purchase of material things, of stuff.

But you know what? Prayer is so much more important than stuff!

Stuff is all worthless compared to knowing God intimately. It’s all going to pass away! It’s all going nto melt like wax some day! But whatever relationship I have built with God will last forever.

What’s got your attention right now? Are you being clear-minded and self-controlled and prayerful? Or are you manically chasing after this world?

The King James says, “[B]e ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”

That doesn’t mean be long in the face and watch people praying. It means: calm down and pray.

The end of all things is near so keep your head about you and pray.

#2. STRETCH YOUR LOVE. V.8

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Peter prioritizes this one at the top, “Above all,” he says, “love each other deeply.”

That word “deeply” could also be translated, “fervently, earnestly, intensely.” It comes from a Greek word that means to stretch something to its fullest length. Like a rope. The word was often used to describe an athlete or a horse running and straining at full stretch.

“Go all out in love” is what Peter is saying. Don’t just play at love. Don’t just go part way. Go the distance in love!

Stretch yourself. Stretch your love.

Stretch your love with people who are hard to love. Peter says, “love covers over a multitude of sins.”

That doesn’t mean “Condone sin.” It means love someone through their sin. Cover sin with ready forgiveness. Forgive 70 times 7. Cover over sin by sheltering someone from the exposure and condemnation that their sin would normally yield. If you can, cover sin by overlooking faults and offenses.

Go the extra mile in loving someone who has sinned against you.

Stretch your love for those who sin against you.

The end of all things is near, so ratchet up your love! There is no time to focus on quarreling. The body of Christ needs to be exercising deep love because time is short.

Now, I wouldn’t have thought of this one. I would have thought of preaching the Gospel because time is short, but I would have thought that loving each other would be a lower priority. I would have been wrong. God puts a premium on love for one another.

This Fall, we’ve had two sermon series. The second was on Forever and Eternity, Heaven and Hell. What was the first one on? The local church. The importance of the local church.

Loving each other in the local church is vital because of Forever!

Living in light of eternity means stretching our love for each other right now.

How are you doing at that? How are you doing at loving your brothers and sisters in Christ?

How about the ones that are hard to love? It’s easy to love those that love us. It’s not so easy to love those who are difficult.

Someone has wisely said, “To live above with saints above, that will indeed be glory, to live below with the saints we know, now, that’s another story!”

But we need to. We need to love as Christ loved us.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Stretch your love. Stretch it–even to strangers and those who need a meal or lodging or some other kind of material assistance. V.9

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

Peter calls us to stretch our love in hospitality. Some of us are good at hospitality, others of us run from it.

Thankfully, my wife is good at it because I like to invite people over!

Notice here, however, that it is not an option. All Christians are called to use their homes to influence others for Christ. To show love through hospitality.

And we aren’t allowed to do it grudgingly or with complaint. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

That’s a stretch of love. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by company. Heather is in the early stages of preparing the food for our annual Open House. She makes like a dozen pans of her secret-recipe fudge and bakes with some girlfriends from our Link Group for a whole day to get ready for it. It’s a lot of work. And she does it without grumbling.

The end of all things is near. There is no time for whining about a little discomfort! We need to stretch our love.

How about you? Where is your love level right now? Are you at “full stretch for the body of Christ?” Are you using your home in ministry? The end of all things is near, so “above all” stretch your love.

#3. USE YOUR GIFT. V.10

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Notice that it doesn’t say, “If God has given you a gift, use it.” It says, “Use whatever gift you have received.”

That means that everyone here who is a Christian has a least one grace-gift from the Lord to use in service to others “within and without” the body of Christ.

It’s not just pastors and church leaders who are gifted! Everyone is! You are!

Are you using your gift in ministry? Would you ever have thought that this would be an End-Times priority? It is. The end of all things is near so use your gift in service to others. Again, we have the priority of the local church.

Use Your Gift.

I have a pastor friend that loves to say, “Life is short, live for God.”

Use your gift in service to others. Use it faithfully, as a steward (a manager). God has given you some grace (Peter calls it grace in various forms). God has given you some measure of grace (not to hold onto but) to pass on to others. Don’t bury it; put it into practice.

“Life is short; live for God.”

What do you want to be found doing when the Lord Jesus returns?

Some people have made the mistake of setting a date and then putting on white robes and hanging out on rooftops waiting with arms outstretched for Christ to come for them.

That’s not what God has asked us to do in the last days! He has asked us to be busy using our grace-gifts in ministry so that he find us living for Him when He comes back for us.

That’s what I want to be doing when Christ returns. Heart longing for Him, hands and feet active for Him. I would love to be preaching when Jesus comes back!

But I better do it God’s way. Not my own. V.11.

“If anyone speaks [like I am doing now, speaking in ministry to others], he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.”

Brothers and Sisters, time is short. There is no time for messing around with God’s Word. My job (and anyone’s job who is gifted in speaking in ministry) is to speak God’s words after Him. Words that fit with the Scriptures. Words that accord with sound doctrine. Words that are Cross-Centered and communicate the Gospel. Words that God can use in people’s lives as if they were His very own.

Of course, not everyone is a teacher. Many labor behind the scenes. Those gifts and ministries are just as important and must be done God’s way, as well. V.11 continued.

“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength that God provides...” Stop there for a second.

This is the way to avoid burn-out in ministry.

If God is the One burning in the bush, it is not consumed. If God is the One burning in the servant, the Servant will not burn-out.

God’s strength for ministry. Not our own.

Use your gift, but use the Holy Spirit empowerment that comes with the gift to do ministry. Anything else will be virtually worthless. And you will suffer for it, too.

I have many times made the mistake of trying to do ministry in the strength that Matt provides. Ugh. Don’t go there.

Answer: “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides...”

How about you?

Are you using your gift(s) in ministry right now? Time is short, and Church is not a spectator sport. Everyone needs to get off the bench and use the grace that God has given us to serve others.

Let me know if God is speaking to you about getting more involved in ministry. I’m sure we have things here we could put you to work in doing.

Time is short. Live for God. The end of all things is near. So use your gift.

Why?

#4. To MAGNIFY YOUR GOD. V.11 again.

“[Use the strength God provides], so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

John Piper likes to say, “The Giver gets the glory.” If we use God’s power for ministry, God will get the glory! God will be praised if we use the gifts He gives with the energy He provides.

And that praise, glory, and dominion are the bottom line in life.

We exist for God’s glory.
We should live for God’s glory.
The end of all things is near so we should magnify the Glory of God!

As the end draws near (and it is 2000 years nearer now than when Peter penned these words!), we should position our lives to maximize the magnification of God through Jesus Christ!

Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 10:31, I shared this with the Kids for Christ last week: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

“So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Those are not just religious words! Those are words that describe ultimate reality.

God wants us to magnify His glory. Not like a microscope. Not making something small bigger. But like a telescope, making something unimaginably huge visible to the fallen human eye.

Are you living for the magnitude of God?

If God wants anything from you and me, that’s what He wants.

The chief goal of mankind is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Is your life a telescope of the glory of God? Are you living for the magnitude of God in all things? So that He gets the praise, He gets the glory, He gets the power?

Friends, time is short. The end of all things is near. But the glory of God through Jesus Christ lasts (v.11) “forever and ever. Amen.”

Do you want to give your life to something that lasts forever?

Magnify Your God!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Birthday Party Animals



A fish, a duck and Drew.

My oldest son, Andrew, turns 4 on December 6th. We got to have a party for him and his cousin, Anna (1) today. Posted by Picasa

Caught!



Gotcha, Peeda! Posted by Picasa

Wild Outfit, Cutie Girl



Who picks out her clothes? Must get her fashion sense from her Dad. Posted by Picasa

Where's My Chocolate Doughnut?



Poor, Distressed Isaac. Posted by Picasa

Munch, Munch

Chocolate Smile



Mommy made some doughnuts for breakfast this week. Yum! Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2005

Heather's Health Update

Dear praying friends & family,

We had Heather to our family doctor today. The test results from her heart monitor have not yet come back from the hospital. However, the results of the EKG taken before the heart-monitor was hooked up did appear to show some kind of irregularlity. The doctor listened to her heart and has referred her to a heart doctor. So, that's the next step. Heather is continuing to feel pretty good without any serious disturbances like she had on Sunday the 6th.

Thanks for your prayers.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Matt's Messages - Forever and Ever

“Forever and Ever”
November 20, 2005


Today is the last part of a four part series on the subject of FOREVER.

The Bible says that there are only two final forever destinations for all people. Every person who has ever lived, is living, or ever will live, will “end up” in one of two places: Heaven or Hell. Both of those final destinations are FOREVER. They are eternal. They last for eternity. They are forever.

Endless, interminable, eternal, everlasting, unending, unceasing, perpetual, abiding, incessant, unstopping, forever and ever. “Forever and Ever.”

Three weeks ago, we studied the biblical teaching on our default destination which is Hell. We learned that Hell is eternal justice from God, eternal destruction by God, and eternal exclusion from God. Forever and Ever! Unless we repent and follow Jesus by faith, we will go to Hell forever and ever.

Two weeks ago, we began studying the biblical doctrine of Heaven. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God’s glory. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of life in a new body, guaranteed. And we learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of the presence of the Lord. Forever and Ever!

And last week, we read the last two chapters of the Bible. And we saw what will not be in Heaven: Any Chaos, Any Death, Any Mourning, Any Crying, Any Pain, Any Sinners, Any Temple, Any Impurity, Any Curse. And we saw what we will do in Heaven forever and ever: Shine in the New Creation, Serve the King of Kings, and See the Face of God.

God is what makes Heaven Heaven. “When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” God is what makes Heaven Heaven. Forever and Ever.

Has this been a helpful series of sermons for you? I hope so.

The question I want to ask this morning is “What difference is this teaching going to make in our lives?”

Does “Forever and Ever” make any difference in your life or mine?

Does the biblical teaching on eternity shape our conduct, our choices, our attitudes, our lifestyles, our values, our priorities, our actions, our lives?

Does the biblical teaching on Forever and Ever make any difference in our lives?

You know, we could all enjoy hearing about Forever and Ever this last 3 weeks and then live as though Forever and Ever were not on the way!

What difference is this teaching going to make?

I want to suggest four points of practical application as we close this series. Four points to make sure we do something about what we have learned. So that we are doers of the word and not just hearers.

Here is #1. GET RIGHT WITH GOD.

Forever and Ever is coming, therefore, get right with God.

Now, we’re going to jump around the Bible this morning, but let’s start in 2 Peter chapter 3. 2 Peter chapter 3, starting in verse 3. The Apostle Peter is trying to set some people straight on a few things. Verse 3.

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. [We are living in these last days.] They will say, ‘Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ [This sounds familiar doesn’t it? Some people scoff at the idea of Forever and Ever. They think it’s a fairy tale. “O, the world has always existed as it is and will always exist as it is.” But that’s not true. V.5] But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. [Noah’s time.] By the same word [God’s word!] the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. [This world is going to pass away.] But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. [What seems like a long time to us doesn’t seem long to Him.] The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

How ironic! Some people scoff at the idea of Forever and Ever because God hasn’t brought it yet. But He hasn’t brought it yet out of patience and longsufferingness for many of them. God is waiting for the full number of His people to turn and trust Him.

What the scoffers scoff at (God’s seeming slowness to bring about Forever and Ever) is their only hope (God’s patience)!

But He will not be patient forever. The Day of Judgement is coming. It is certain. It is on the way. Therefore, get right with God.

Repent. Turn. Put your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of eternal life forever and ever. V.10

“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 in it will be laid bare.”

No one knows the day or the hour. Like a thief. You know, thieves don’t call ahead and tell you when they’ll drop in for a little stealing! They drop in when you don’t expect it.

Some of you here may be thinking that you will wait until you are a little older and a little more ready to “settle down” before you get right with God. “I’ll have time for that later.”

How do you know that? You may slip into eternity before I’m done preaching this message. Life is a vapor.

The day of the Lord will come like a thief. Get right with God! Repent.

God is being patient with you. You are an object of His wrath. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord, your Rescuer and your Master, you are in trouble. Hell is coming for you, and it is Forever and Ever.

God invites you to receive His offer of forgiveness because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on your behalf. He invites you to confess your sinful rebellion against Him and to lay down your arms in surrender. He invites you to turn from your sin and to put your trust in Jesus Christ and His Cross.

You cannot get right with God by doing good things or trying to make up for the bad things you have done. You cannot get right with God by bribing Him or trying to be a good little boy or girl. You can only get right with God by trusting in Jesus Christ and the full payment He made for your sins. He invites you today to trust in Him.

Don’t wait. Do it right now. Right where you sit, you can get right with God.

I can’t say this too strongly. Eternity rides on it. Forever and Ever is coming, so get right with God!

#2. GET READY FOR ETERNITY.

Those of us who are right with God through faith in Jesus Christ are now being readied for eternity. We don’t just say, “Thanks God for the salvation, now I’ll live how ever I want. Thanks for Heaven, God, now I’m going to live like Hell!”

No. If you are going to Heaven, you need to live like it. Get Ready for Eternity. If you are still in 2 Peter 3, look at the next verse. V.11

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? [That’s a good question. That’s the question we are asking today.] You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

Get Ready for Eternity.

That means holiness. If we are looking forward to eternity in the New Heavens and the New Earth (verse 13 calls it “the home of righteousness”), then we ought to begin looking like our new home! Righteous!

We need to purify ourselves. Not to be worthy of heaven, not to earn it, but to begin looking like our Home. Our true Home is holy, and so should we be holy.

1 John 3 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

Are you going to Heaven, but you are living like Hell?

Are you harboring some sin? Some habit? Some relationship? Some secret in your life that would not fit in the “Home of Righteousness?”

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

It’s a mark of Forever and Ever Christian that he or she purifies themselves.

Confess your sins and receive cleansing from God and restored fellowship and begin to look like your true Home. Get ready for eternity.

That also means regular thought about Eternity.

Notice in these verses it says, “looking forward.” Three times in the last three verses.

V.12 “As you look forward to the day of God.”
V.13 “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth.”
V.14 “Since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” Looking forward.

Are you looking forward to Eternity?

That takes regular thought. Disciplined thought. We don’t think about Heaven by default. We think about Earth. This Earth (not the one to come).

It takes disciplined effort to think about Eternity.

The Bible calls that “setting your mind on things above.”

Colossian 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

1 Peter 1:13 “[S]et your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
That means think about it! Meditate on Forever and Ever. Don’t let this just be another sermon series, but let it become the start of a new habit–dwelling on Heavenly things.

What would that look like for you?

Read or listen to one of the Forever Resources out on the table in the foyer?
Set aside some time to do your own study of Eternity in the Bible?
Make a journal to write out your thoughts as they come to you about Forever?
Form a small group of friends to talk about it and discuss questions. Maybe use Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven” and the study guide that we can download and print for you to go through it.

What would setting your mind on Eternity look like for you?

How about when you get up in the morning? Is there something you can do then to highlight Heaven? Maybe a prayer that would orient you towards Forever and Ever at the beginning of your day?

How about at the end of your day? Is there something you could do to remind yourself of eternal things when you go to bed? Some practice or discipline that you could get yourself into?

Randy Alcorn asks himself these questions:

“Do I daily reflect on my own mortality?

Do I daily realize there are only two destinations–Heaven or Hell–and that I and every person I know will go to one or the other?

Do I daily remind myself that this world is not my home and that everything in it
will burn, leaving behind only what’s eternal?

Do I daily recognize that my choices and actions have a direct influence on the world to come?

Do I daily realize that my life is being examined by God, the Audience of One, and
that the only appraisal of my life that will ultimately matter is his?

Do I daily reflect on the fact that my ultimate home will be the New Earth, where I will see God and serve him as a resurrected being in a resurrected human society, where I will overflow with joy and delight in drawing nearer to God by studying Him and His creation, and where I will exercise, to God’s glory, dominion over His creation?” (Alcorn, Heaven, pgs. 453-454).”
Are you looking forward to Eternity?

Are you thinking about seeing Jesus?
Having a new body?
Living in our new Home?

Eternity changes everything, doesn’t it?

If this is all true, it changes everything!

If it’s not, then “let’s eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” But if it is true, then we need to get ready for eternity!

It changes our priorities, doesn’t it?

It means that we need to live for the next world and not this one.

Everything we see is not going to last. It’s going to burn.

Our computers, our homes, our cars, our bank accounts, our businesses, our tree-stands, our four-wheelers–they are going to melt like wax.

But eternity will be forever and ever. We need to fix our eyes on what is unseen and not what is seen. Because what is seen is temporary. But what is unseen is eternal. Forever and Ever.

That means laying up treasures in Heaven. Turn with me to Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Randy Alcorn said in his little book, the Treasure Principle, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.”

What does your giving pattern say about what you believe about Forever and Ever?

Are you getting ready for eternity by storing up for yourself eternal rewards?

That’s a whole other sermon series, but the Bible clearly teaches that there are eternal rewards for obedience and faithfulness in this life that we will enjoy (or not enjoy!) forever and ever in the life to come.

If I believe in Heaven, I’m going to set my life on getting rewards then, not necessarily now.

“[S]tore up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy [cannot destroy!], and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Get Ready for Eternity!

The New Heavens and the New Earth are your real Home. Get ready to go Home. Live here as a citizen of Heaven. Walk by faith and not by sight.

That also means hanging on.

For some of us, the pain and suffering is so great, we just want to give up. It hurts. It really, really hurts.

But eternity will make it all worthwhile. One second of Heaven will be more than worth all the pain of this Earth.

Paul says that it’s not even worth comparing.

Remember the eternal weight of glory? It’s coming! Forever and Ever.

Your suffering will make sense! Hang on.

Get Ready for Eternity.

That means longing for Jesus’ return.

Do you long for the return of Christ?

Remember, He is what makes Heaven Heaven.

If you don’t want Jesus to Come, you don’t want Heaven to come.

Long for Christ. Cultivate a longing for Christ.

What can you do to cultivate a longing to be with Christ?

You can be with Him now in private worship and prayer.
You can join with others in corporate worship and prayer.
You can remember to pray that His will would be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

You can “watch.” The biggest biblical word for what we’re supposed to do while we wait for Jesus to return is to “watch.” That doesn’t mean to be passive. It just means that we are anticipating Him.

Will it be today? Is this the “Crowning Day?”

Will it be today? Will I get to see Jesus?

Turn to 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 7. Paul is at the end of his life and ministry. And he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [I’ve gotten ready for eternity.] Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Watch. Wait. Long for His Return.

Pray for His return! “The Spirit and the Bride says, ‘Come!’” “Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha!”

Get Ready for Eternity.

And help get others ready for Eternity.

#3. GET BUSY SHARING CHRIST. 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 1.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom [in view of Forever and Ever], I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.”

Get Busy Sharing Christ.

We are all to do this. We are all to share the Good News of Jesus while there is still time. In season (when we feel like it, when the circumstances are good) and out of season (when we don’t feel like it, when the circumstances aren’t going our way). We are all to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Because Forever and Ever is coming!

And everyone is going one of two places: Heaven or Hell.

We know the truth and we have responsibility to share it.

We have the antidote for something much worse than the Bird Flu. Everyone on this Planet has the disease of sin. And there is only one cure. And time is short.

We need to get busy sharing the gospel with others.

Who do you need to talk about Jesus with this week?

Write their name down. Do it. The holidays are here. Maybe there is a conversation that you need to start. Decide now and do it.

Don’t be afraid? What can they do to you? The worst they can do is kill you! And if they do, you get to go to Heaven! Far better! You get to go Home!

And you have a New Body on the Way.

Forever and Ever is coming. We need to get busy sharing Christ.

And number 4. GET THANKFUL AND WORSHIP GOD.

Turn to Hebrews chapter 12. Verse 22. This has become one of my favorite passages this Fall. Hebrews chapter 12, verse 22.

This is a description of what is going on in this room right now. This is a description of the full reality (unseen most of it!) of what church is. Verse 22.

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks [Get Right With God]. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ [Forever and Ever is Coming!] The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. [Forever and Ever is coming.] Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

“[S]ince we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe...”

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

How about Forever and Ever in Heaven with Jesus Christ?

Living happily ever after–for real!

Next month, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is coming out. A movie adaption of C.S. Lewis’ famous Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, Aslan, is a picture of Christ.

In the last of the books, The Last Battle, it ends with this great paragraph:

“And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Forever and Ever.

We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken!

Let us be thankful.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Strangelings



Yes, those are cereal boxes on their heads....Don't ask. Okay, yes, they are definitely my children. No denying it. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Matt Messages - Forever: Eternity

“Forever: Eternity”
November 13, 2005
Revelation 21:1-22:21

Today is “Part Three” in a four part series on the subject of FOREVER.

The Bible says that there are only two final forever destinations for all people. Every person who has ever lived, is living, or ever will live, will “end up” in one of two places: Heaven or Hell.

And both of those final destinations are FOREVER. They are eternal. They last for eternity. They are forever.

Endless, interminable, eternal, everlasting, unending, unceasing, perpetual, abiding, incessant, unstopping, forever and ever and ever and ever. Forever.

Two weeks ago, we studied the biblical teaching on our default destination which is Hell. We learned that Hell is eternal justice from God, eternal destruction by God, and eternal exclusion from God. Forever! Unless we repent and follow Jesus by faith, we will go to Hell forever.

Then last week, we began studying the biblical doctrine of Heaven. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God’s glory. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of life in a new body, guaranteed. We learned that Heaven is the eternal enjoyment of the presence of the Lord. Forever!

Last week, we focused a little of our time on what happens to us now when we die: what the “intermediate state” or the “intermediate Heaven” is all about. No limbo, no purgatory, no soul-sleep for God’s people, simply going to be “home with the Lord.”

This week, I want to take us to the end of the Bible to see what the final state will be like. What the “Eternal Heaven” will be like. “Forever: Eternity.”

Turn with me in your Bibles, if you would, to the Book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. The last two pages in your Bibles. Pew Bible Page #1230. Pew Bible Page #1230. The “Apocalypse of John,” Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

This is the very End of a very long story.

The Great Story began in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 on the first two pages of your Bible. God made a very good world and put very good people in it to enjoy it and rule it and to enjoy Him and serve Him forever.

But in the third chapter of this Great Story, everything went wrong. The very good people rebelled against their Creator and the very good creation was put under a curse.

And for the rest of 66 books, God has been pursuing a plan to return everything to how it was supposed to be...and even better.

And that plan was focused in Jesus Christ. His death for our sins and His resurrection for our new life–The Gospel.

And Revelation 21 and 22 are the End of the Great Story.

Jesus has returned!

Jesus has brought the Resurrection Bodies that we learned about last week (see 1 Corinthians 15). He has crushed His enemies. He has judged all mankind. He has ruled for a thousand years. He has tossed the devil, the beast, and the false prophet and death and Hades into the lake of fire.

And now Jesus is ushering in Eternity!

Revelation 21 and 22 is the Apostle John’s last vision in the book of Revelation. It was a vision revealed to John by God Himself. It was a vision of New Heavens and a New Earth. It was a vision of Eternity.

What I want to do this morning is to slowly read these two chapters and point out details as we go along. And then I want to answer three big questions about Eternity. I can’t answer all of the questions or point out all of details, there just isn’t enough time. It would take weeks.

But I do want to answer these 3 questions from the Bible:

1. What Will Not Be In Eternity?
2. What Will We Do In Eternity?
3. What Should We Do About Eternity?

So listen for the answers to those questions as we read God’s Holy Word.

Revelation chapter 21, verse 1.

“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.”

This is John’s last vision in the Book of Revelation. It is a vision of a New Heaven and a New Earth. A new creation. A new universe. The old one that we are in now was destroyed, has passed away. The New one has come. We do not just have a new body, but we have a new Heaven and a New Earth, as well. V.2

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

We need to understand together that this prophecy is apocalyptic literature. John is seeing a vision that is full of symbol-laden reality about the future. He says that he sees a city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride! A city-bride! A New Heaven, a New Earth, a New Jerusalem like a bride–beautiful, radiant, ready–a bride.

Theologians call this the “Consummation of All Things.” All things in Heaven and Earth are being united under Christ (Ephesians 1:10). This New Jerusalem connects a New Heaven and New Earth so they are now unified. We don’t just get to go to Heaven. We get to go to a New Earth that is one with Heaven. The consummation of all things. V.3

“And 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.’” V.5

“He who was seated on the throne [God!] said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ [And now we can read them in our Bibles.] He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’”

He goes on with this vision of the New Creation. V.9

“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ [That’s us, brothers and sisters!] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me [...] the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. [We are, somehow, Jerusalem!] It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. [12 Tribes, 12 Apostles, the Totality of the People of God in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament.]”

“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length [1400 miles!], and as wide and high [!] as it is long.”

This is a 1400 mile cube! Here’s what it would look like if it comes (literally) overlayed on the United States. Almost 2 million square miles on each floor. Giving 12 feet for each floor, you could have 600,000 stories in this building. Jesus said, “In my house are many rooms. Billions could live here.” V.17

“He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick [about 200 feet], by man's measurement, which the angel was using [which makes it sound literal!]. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.”

What does that remind you of? Everybody who was with us this Summer? It’s a lot like the Tabernacle isn’t it? It’s beautiful like the Tabernacle. Magnificent and mysterious.

Was there a cube in the Tabernacle? The Most Holy Place was a cube. This entire city is the New Most Holy Place! And it is precious! V.21

“The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl [I’d like to see that oyster!]. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.”

The inhabitants of this city walk on gold. That’s how precious the city is and how little gold has value. God paves His streets with it! V.22

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. [It doesn’t say that there is no sun or moon. Just that they aren’t needed in the New Jerusalem. Because the Lamb is its lamp. And the glory of the God gives it light. V.24] The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there [in the city]. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

Is your name in that book? Chapter 22. Verse 1.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. [The river flows down the middle of New Jerusalem Boulevard.] On each side of the river stood the tree of life [It looks like it’s a grove], bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month [There is time in Eternity!]. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. [Just like Aaron the High Priest.] There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. [Wow.] The angel said to me, ‘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.’”

“‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’ I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’”

“Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book [publish it!], because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’ [Time is short.] ‘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. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. ‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’”

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.”

Now, I cannot play out every detail here. I can’t answer all of the questions it raises. I have to recommend that you grab some of the resources at the FOREVER table in the foyer. Last week, I recommended Joni Tada’s book on Heaven. It’s out there now. So are extra copies of the last two weeks’ messages. I also want to recommend this little booklet by Randy Alcorn called “Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions.” It’s based on this amazing book by the same title. I recommend it highly. It’ll be out on the table next week after I’m done with it for this series! There are other books by Randy Alcorn out there, too, including fiction ones. Alcorn has devoted years of his life to studying Heaven in the Bible and it comes out in his powerful writings.

I can’t answer every question. But let’s do three.

#1. WHAT WILL NOT BE IN ETERNITY?

We can get a sense of what will be by what it says will not be.

What Will Not Be in Eternity?

There will not be (v.1) Any Sea.

“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.”

Now, I don’t know if that is literal or not. There are going to be rivers and probably lakes. And maybe oceans. But it says that there will not be any seas.

The sea was for Ancient Israelites a symbol of chaos and evil. It was an unstable, uncontrolled, chaotic, killer that separated people. We are to think of the sea as the source of evil. The Beast of Revelation chapter 13 comes out of the sea.

Now, there is no sea.

And there is no (v.4) death.

Death has died. No more funerals. No more funeral homes. No more graveyards. No more sad goodbyes. Death is gone. Can you imagine?

And there is no (v.5) mourning. If there is no death, there is no mourning. No grieving. No bawling our eyes out that we have lost stillborn children or spouses or parents or grandparents. No more days of prayer for the persecuted church!

And there is no (v.4) crying.

The beginning of verse 4 says that God Himself [!] will wipe every tear from our eyes! “No more crying there, we are going to see the King!”

No more crying because (v.4) there is no more pain, “for the old order of things has passed away.”

No more pain. Can you imagine? No more suffering at all?

Our new resurrection upgrade bodies will not suffer pain! It’s beyond imagining. But it’s true. The old way of things has passed, the new has come. No more pain.

And no more sinners. No more unrepentant sinners. V.8

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place [will not be in the New Heavens and New Earth. It] will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Eternal Hell. Forever.

There will not be any sinners in eternity. Unrepentant sinners. There will be billions of sinners saved by grace.

What will not be in eternity?

Any sea, any death, any mourning, any crying, any pain, any sinners, any temple.

Verse 22 says that John “did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

There won’t be any church buildings either. We won’t need to be drawn into worship. We just will worship everywhere we are all the time with all of God’s people.

And there won’t be anything impure. V.27

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.”

Nothing impure.

And there will not be chapter 22, verse 3, any curse. “No longer will there by any curse.”

The curse of Genesis 3 will be completely undone and gone!

Everything will be pure and perfect and back to what it was supposed to be...and even better!

Will Not Be In the Eternity Heaven?

Any Sea, Any Death, Any Mourning, Any Crying, Any Pain, Any Sinners, Any Temple, Anything Impure, Any Curse.

Wow. What do you say about that?

In his book, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, Sam Storms writes this, “Think of the implications of what is being said! When we get to heaven there will be nothing that is abrasive, irritating, agitating, or hurtful. Nothing harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind. Nothing sad, bad, or mad. Nothing harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy. Nothing weak, or sick, or broken or foolish. Nothing deformed, degenerate, depraved or disgusting. Nothing polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid. Nothing dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading. Nothing blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted. Nothing faulty, faithless, frail or fading. Nothing grotesque or grievous, hideous or insidious. Nothing illicit or illegal, lascivious or lustful. Nothing marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed. Nothing nasty or naughty, offensive or odious. Nothing rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled. Nothing tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting. Nothing vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton.” (Storms, pg. 178)

That’s what Eternity is going to be for those who belong to Jesus Christ.

Question #2. WHAT WILL WE DO IN ETERNITY?

Now we see what isn’t going to be going on, what will happen?

FIRST, WE WILL SHINE IN THE NEW CREATION.

Did you catch what this city stands for?

It may be a literal city, as well. I am not ruling that out. Randy Alcorn and others have made a good case for the New Jerusalem being a gigantic capital city of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

But it is first and foremost apocalyptic symbol. Who or what is the city in Revelation 21 and 22?

Us!

We are the city prepared like a bride (chapter 21, verse 2), “beautifully dressed for her husband.”

We are the bride of Christ. We are the New Jerusalem. Chapter 21, verse 9.

The angel said, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried [John] away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me...[a bride?] the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God.”

We are the bride-city. And we will shine. V.11

“It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

We could go into all of the details of this city-bride. It is magnificent and mysterious and unimaginably majestic.

And it is, amazingly enough, us! Corporately, perfectly knit together in a perfect community, a perfect society, a perfect people for God.

The Bible began in a garden and ends in a City. A Garden City. Remember the River that runs down the boulevard and the Tree of Life from the original garden that heals the nations. A Garden City.

That shines! 21:11 again, “It shone with the glory of God...”

We will shine in the New Creation. New bodies. A New Heaven. A New Earth. A New Jerusalem. Shining. Glimmering. Radiant with the glory of God.

21:23 and 22:5 says that God and the Lamb give the City its light.

We will shine with the very glory of God. Forever!

It’s too good for mere words!

When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

Second, WE WILL SERVE THE KING OF KINGS.

We will shine in the New Creation, and we will serve the King of Kings.

Chapter 22, verse 3.

“The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve Him.”

Heaven will not be passive. It will be eternal rest. But it will be active!

We will not sit around for all eternity. We will serve the King of Kings like we were made to!

I don’t know all of what that means. At least part of it is reigning. Chapter 22, verse 5. “And they will reign for ever and ever.” That’s us, too! Reigning with God over the New Creation!

God has many more plans for us in Eternity. There will be stories to write and adventures to have, and places to explore.

We will serve the King of Kings. We will never be bored.

If you are afraid of Heaven because you are afraid of being bored, you are afraid of the wrong place. Hell will be the most boring place every imagined.

Heaven will be the most exciting place that is conceivable (and then some).

And the biggest reason for that?

#3. WE WILL SEE GOD’S FACE. Chapter 22, verse 4.

“They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”

Now, this should shock us!

Remember old Moses back in Exodus chapter 33? “Show me your glory!” And God said, “No one can see my face and live.”

We’re going to see His face!

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

This is where our love relationship with Jesus Christ blossoms into what it is made to be! This is the ultimate love relationship with Jesus Christ!

Theologians call it the “beatific vision.” Seeing God face to face.

And it means the fullest, most awesome, relationship possible.

Chapter 21, verse 3 started with this declaration.

“And 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.’”

This is the consummation. This is where our love relationship has been going all along. Total intimacy with God.

The phrase “dwelling of God” in 21:3 is literally, “Tabernacle.” Now God is tabernacling with men. He will live with them. Just like at the end of Exodus when God comes down in glory and fills the tabernacle. Here, the entire city-bride is a Tabernacle. And God lives with us!

God is what makes Heaven Heaven!

And we will see God’s face.

Again, Sam Storms says, “Wherever you turn your eyes you will see nothing but glory and grandeur and beauty and brightness and purity and perfection and splendor and satisfaction and sweetness and salvation and majesty and marvel and holiness and happiness.

We will see only and all that is adorable and affectionate, beautiful and bright, brilliant and bountiful, delightful and delicious, delectable and dazzling, elegant and exciting, fascinating and fruitful, glorious and grand, gracious and good, happy and holy, healthy and whole, joyful and jubilant, lovely and luscious, majestic and marvelous, opulent and overwhelming, radiant and resplendent, splendid and sublime, sweet and savoring, tender and tasteful, euphoric and unified!

Why will it be all these things? Because we will be looking at God.” (Storms, pgs. 178-179)

I can’t wrap my mind around it. And I never will completely.

Even when we are there, we will never reach the end of our amazement at the glory of God. He is infinite. We will never see all that He is!

But we will see Him.

If we belong to Him. That’s question #3.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT ETERNITY?

And the first answer is: Come to Christ.

And come thirsty. Chapter 21, verse 6.

“To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” That is grace. Salvation is a free gift. “Without cost.”

Jesus died on the Cross to provide “the spring of the water of life” without cost.

And He gives it to those who are thirsty. Those who recognize their need and put their faith in Jesus Christ.

Come to Christ. Thirsty.

Overcome. V.7

“He who overcomes will inherit all this.” That’s a Book-of-Revelation-Word that means to persevere in faith. To hang on to Christ. To hold onto Him and overcome by faith.

All of Eternity comes down to whether or not (chapter 11, verse 27) our “names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

And the only way to know if you name is there is to turn from sin and turn to the Savior. Put your trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross on your behalf.

Chapter 22 verse 14 calls this, “washing our robes.” It means coming to Christ. Having Him wash us clean by His precious blood.

If our robes are “washed” then we have the “right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

That’s what I want for you. That’s why we are preaching this series on FOREVER.

So that you can enter those gates. Come to Christ.

#2. Worship God.

In chapter 22, verse 8, John has just tried to absorb all of these visions and he gets confused and falls down to worship the angel who has been leading him through these revelations. V.9

“But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

I don’t know how someone could read and study these two chapters without worshiping!

This is our God! This is what our God has planned! Worship God!

Don’t worship the creation. Don’t worship yourself, your friends, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your spouse, an angel, a false god. Worship God!

You are going to see the Face of God. Start worshiping now.

And #3. Long for Jesus.

How many times does it say, “Come!” in chapter 22?

Verse 17.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ [We’re the bride. We are supposed to say, “Come!”] And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” V.20

“He who testifies to these things [Jesus] says ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Come! We long for you, Lord Jesus.

We long for our new bodies.
We long for the New World.
We long for the New Jerusalem.

But most of all, we long to see your face!

Come, Lord Jesus.

Amen.

Heather's Health

On Sunday, my wife Heather experienced a racing heart and some other physical discomfort during the sermon. Afterwards and progressively during the week, her heart calmed down a good bit, but it is still not feeling as it normally does, and she has been feeling very run-down. We went to the doctor's office Friday. Her examination didn't turn anything up (which seems to rule out a valve problem). They have ordered a 24 hour heart-monitor for her on Tuesday/Wednesday of next week with results the following Monday. A next step could be a stress-test. She is feeling a good deal better today, but we would appreciate the prayers of God's people.

Thanks!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Matt's Messages - Forever: Heaven

“Forever: Heaven”
November 6, 2005
2 Corinthians 4:8-5:10

Today is “Part Two” in a four part series on the subject of FOREVER.

The Bible says that there are only two final forever destinations for all people. Every person who has ever lived, is living, or ever will live, will end up in one of two places: Heaven or Hell.

And both of those final destinations are FOREVER. They are eternal. They last for eternity. The are forever.

Endless, interminable, eternal, everlasting, unending, unceasing, perpetual, abiding, incessant, unstopping, forever and ever and ever and ever. Forever.

Last week, we surveyed the biblical doctrine of our default destination which is Hell. Unless we repent, unless we turn and put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of wrath destined for destruction in a “forever place” called Hell.

We saw last week that Hell is eternal.
Hell is eternal justice from God. Where sinners get what we deserve.
Hell is eternal destruction by God. God endlessly punishes us for our disobedience and unbelief.
And the worst: Hell is eternal exclusion from God. The worst part of Hell is being separated from the blessed presence of God for all eternity.

Hell is eternal justice from God, eternal destruction by God, and eternal exclusion from God. Forever.

Hard to swallow but true.

Now this week, we get to begin a study of something much more pleasant: The doctrine of Heaven. The biblical teaching on Heaven.

Heaven is the “other destination,” not our default destination, but if we know Jesus and obey His gospel, our glorious final forever destination. Heaven.

We are going to take the next three weeks to cover the biblical teaching on Heaven.

We are just going to get started today in 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5. And we’re going to be talking about (in many ways) the first part of heaven, that is, what theologians call the “intermediate heaven” or the “intermediate state.” What happens to us now when we die. (Which of course leads into the rest of heaven.)

Next week, we’re going to be looking at Revelation chapters 21 and 22 and what theologians call the “Final State” or the “Eternal Heaven.” The New Heavens and the New Earth. So, if you want to read ahead, read the last two chapters of your Bible for next week. And pray for me! There is so much material here, and it can be so confusing; I need help in sorting it out and putting it into a helpful package for us all.

And starting next week, we’re going to have a Forever Resource Table out in the foyer with resources for further study. I will not be able to answer all of our questions about Heaven in these next few messages. But there are several good resources that we’ll recommend for you out there.

Today, turn in your Bibles with me to the book of 2nd Corinthians (Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians) chapter 4, starting in verse 8. 2 Corinthians 4:8-5:10. You can find that on Pew Bible Page #1144. Pew Bible Page #1144. 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 8.

2 Corinthians is all about ministry. The apostle Paul’s apostolic ministry was under attack from many different sides. And he wrote 2 Corinthians to explain and defend his approach to Christian ministry. For our purposes today, we’re going to start in the middle of his larger argument about why he goes about gospel ministry in the way he does. Our verse 8 for today follows that famous verse about the treasure of the glorious gospel being found in jars of clay to show off the all-surpassing power of God.

Verse 8 begins a recital of how hard gospel ministry is for Paul right now. It sounds almost devastating! Let’s begin in verse 8.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Is life tough for you right now?

Is life difficult?
Are you hurting?
Are you in pain?
Are you going through something?
Are you suffering?

Paul was. Listen to the words he uses to describe his life: “(v.8) hard pressed on every side...perplexed..(v.9) persecuted...struck down...(v.10) carrying around in our body the death of Jesus...(v.11) given over to death for Jesus’ sake...(v.12) death is at work in us...(v.16) outwardly wasting away...”

Doesn’t sound like a party, does it?

Paul’s life and ministry were almost devastatingly difficult.

He was getting kicked in the teeth by people both inside and outside of the church. And it really hurt.

But he didn’t stop, did he?

He didn’t close up shop and get out of the gospel business, did he?

Why? Because of Heaven.

He says that he was hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.
He was perplexed but not in total despair.
He was persecuted, but he wasn’t alone.
He was struck down, but not destroyed.
He was hurting, but he didn’t stop.
He kept going in ministry for those people who needed to hear about Jesus.

He continued (v.13) to have faith and to speak the gospel boldly even though it hurt.

How could he keep doing that? Heaven. V.14

“[B]ecause we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” That’s Heaven!

Heaven kept Paul going in the Christian life and in Christian ministry.

Does Heaven keep you going?
What keeps you going in the Christian life and in Christian ministry?

I have three points this morning from this text (and amazingly, to me who didn’t plan it this way, they are all somewhat parallel to last week’s three points!). All three are things about Heaven that kept Paul going in the Christian life and Christian ministry.

#1. HEAVEN IS THE ETERNAL ENJOYMENT OF GOD’S GLORY. V.16

“Therefore we do not lose heart. [We don’t give up.] Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. [There’s something going on behind the scenes.] For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Paul says that he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t lose heart. He keeps on going. Why?

Because though outwardly we are wasting way, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Do you feel like you are outwardly wasting away?

Some of you are really young and you don’t know what this means.
Some of you are a lot older and you feel it every second.
Most of us feel it on some level.

We’re falling apart. We’re getting older. We’re suffering. We’re not what we used to be. For Paul, he was hurting because of all the persecution and travel and unfriendly business that he was going through. And it wasn’t getting better as he got older.

But on the inside, God was at work. God was sanctifying him. God was preparing him. And in Heaven, God was preparing a place for him. And a glory for him.

Paul says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Do you see the logic of that verse?

Do his troubles seem light and momentary? No, they are seem almost devastating and with no end in sight!

But in comparison with Heaven[!], they are light and momentary. And as Paul responds in faith, his troubles achieve for him a greater enjoyment of God’s eternal glory in Heaven that far outweighs his sufferings!

He says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

It’s not even worth comparing!

In other words, Heaven is worth it!

Are you hurting right now? It really hurts. I know it really hurts.

But compared to eternity, compared to Heaven, compared to Forever, your pain is light and momentary and if you respond in faith it is achieving for you an enjoyment of an eternal glory that far outweighs it all.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of God’s Glory. And it’s worth it.

Heather and I were engaged for 14 months, and for the last 7 of those months, we were separated by 2,000 miles.

That was a very difficult time of waiting. It seemed to last forever. It seemed like we’d never be together again. But it was necessary for my schooling, her health, and getting all the details of our wedding together. It was hard time.

But I knew that on June 18, 1994, I would be united with my wife. And we would be (Lord-willing) together again for a lifetime. And those 7 months are just a passing memory now. “Light and momentary affliction” compared to the glory that we enjoy in marriage today.

Now, my separation from Heather doesn’t compare, I’m sure with what you are going through.

But whatever you are going through doesn’t compare with Heaven.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of God’s Glory. Forever!

Hell is the Eternal Justice of God Forever. But Heaven is the Eternal Enjoyment of God’s Glory forever!

Application: Fix Your Eyes on Heaven. V.18

“So we fix our eyes [the eyes of our hearts] not on what is seen, but on what is unseen [not on what is felt, but on what is un-felt]. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Fix Your Eyes on Heaven.

Colossians 3:1 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Fix Your Eyes on Heaven.

I don’t think that it is really possible to be too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good. If we aren’t heavenly-minded, we aren’t any earthly good!

Don’t focus on what you see, hear, taste, smell, touch, sense. You can’t trust it.

Focus on what the Word says is coming: the eternal enjoyment of God that outweighs it all!

Fix Your Eyes on Heaven.

That’s how to keep going in the Christian life and in Christian ministry.

Two billion years from now. I mean that. Two billion years from now nothing that seems to matter now will matter then except how much we have trusted and obeyed the Lord Jesus. Heaven is eternal!

When my priorities line up with the unseen eternity, I can make it through just about anything.

I’ve been reading a book by Joni Eareckson Tada on Heaven. You know who she is. She had a diving accident almost 40 years ago left her a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. How does she keep going in the Christian life? It must be crushing to be live like that 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Joni fixes her eyes on Heaven. And she says it’s worth it all.

Fix Your Eyes on Heaven.

#2. HEAVEN IS THE ETERNAL ENJOYMENT OF LIFE IN A NEW BODY, GUARANTEED.

Paul says that he fixes his eyes on what is unseen. What is it that he fixes his eyes on? It’s a new body on the way.

Paul thinks he may die. Chapter 5, verse 1.

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Stop there for a second.

Paul is using tents and buildings to talk about our bodies present and future. He calls this body an “earthly tent,” and it might be destroyed, it might die (and his did). But if his earthly tent is destroyed, he says, “we have a building from God” what is that? I think that’s a resurrection body that’s on the way. Not built by human hands. But by God. V.2

“Meanwhile [right now] we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, [right now, we suffer, we go through hard times, life is a “groaning” and we long for that day when we get our new bodies (v.3)] because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked [I think that means body-less (v.4)]. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

He’s saying, I think, that he doesn’t want to die. He wants Christ to return and give him a new resurrection-style body.

That’s Heaven. Remember what he said in his last letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.

“We will not all sleep [die], but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”

That’s what Paul is looking for! He is longing for the Return of Christ and new body.

He says it this way in Philippians 3.

“[O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Vv.20-21)

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of Life in a New Body, Guaranteed.

Are you groaning right now?

The Bible says that the whole creation groans right now. Katrina, Wilma, and Beta Hurricanes, Pakistan Earthquakes, and South Asia Tsunamis are groans.

And we believers groan, too. We are waiting for the a New Body to enjoy forever.

We are waiting for something better. We are not home, yet.

We are waiting (Hebrews 11, verse 10), “for a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

We are waiting for our New Bodies.

But they are coming. Guaranteed.

Did you catch all of the words that express certainty in these five verses? V.1 again.

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God [it’s as good as ours], an eternal house [a Forever Home] in heaven, not built by human hands.” V.5 “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of Life in a New Body, Guaranteed.

Who guarantees it? The Spirit of God who lives in us.

V.6 “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight.”

Do you see how faith is coupled with confidence and knowledge here?

We don’t see these new bodies. But we know by faith that they are coming.

Do you long for your new body?

Do you long for your Heavenly body?

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of Life in a New Body, Guaranteed.

Heaven is a very physical place. At least, it will be. Right now, Heaven may be more immaterial and “naked” to use Paul’s language here. But Heaven will be a very physical place. A New Heavens and a New Earth will be the topic of next week’s message.

Heaven is not just floating around on clouds and playing spiritual harps.

Heaven means new bodies. And new life in new bodies.

Did you see what he said at the end of verse 4?

“We do not wish to be unclothed (to die) but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling (our bodies on the way), so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by LIFE.”

Last week, we saw that Hell is Eternal Death. Eternal destruction by God. Eternally not enjoying anything that can be called Life.

Heaven is the exact opposite and so glorious!

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of Life in a New Body, Guaranteed.

Application: Live by Faith, Not by Sight. V.7 says just that.

“We live by faith, not by sight.”

That doesn’t mean to thrash around life blindly. It means to follow God’s voice even when you can’t see where you are going to end up.

You have a new body on order that you will enjoy forever (to see what it is going to be like, read 1 Corinthians 15 some time).

But you don’t get it, yet. Right now, you have to groan. But don’t groan in unbelief.

Groan in faith. Walk in faith. Fix your eyes on what is unseen. And live for that.

Do you see how this keeps Paul going in the Christian life and Christian ministry?

What’s the worst thing that could happen to Paul? They’d kill him, right? That would be bad.

But Paul knew he’d be getting a new body, anyway. So, why worry?

Paul could let “goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His Kingdom is FOREVER.”

Live by faith, not by sight.

Because the best is yet to come. And the best thing is...

#3. HEAVEN IS THE ETERNAL ENJOYMENT OF THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.

Hell is eternal exclusion from God Himself.

But Heaven is eternal enjoyment of God Himself. And it starts, even right now when we die. V.8

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

We’d much rather have the return of Christ and our resurrection-style bodies. We’d rather not be body-less.

But if Christ has not yet returned, then we would prefer please, to die, and be “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

This is what happens right now when a believer dies.

He or she leaves their bodies and goes to be with the Lord in the “intermediate heaven” for lack of a better term or “Paradise.”

Jesus told the believing thief on the Cross that that day, they would be together in Paradise. At home with the Lord.

There is no purgatory.
There is no limbo.
There is no “soul-sleep.”

There is just “home with the Lord.”

“Away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Never to be parted for all eternity. Someday to have a new body. But never to be parted. Always to be with Him forever.

This is Paul’s greatest desire. And it should be ours. In Philippians chapter 1 he says, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

Jesus Christ is what makes Heaven Heaven.

Being with Jesus Christ is what makes Heaven Heaven.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of the Presence of the Lord.

Do you long to be with Jesus, forever?

If that doesn’t sound good, then you either aren’t saved or haven’t grown much.

Heaven is not primarily about seeing our loved ones who have already died.
Though we will.

Heaven is not primarily about escaping the punishment of Hell.
Though we will.

Heaven is not even primarily about enjoying our New Bodies, though we will and the Bible makes a big deal out of it.

Heaven is primarily about being with the Lord Jesus forever.

We’ll see that more next week when we study what the Forever Heaven looks like.

But the temporary, intermediate Heaven that believers go to now is all about being with Jesus, too. V.8 again.

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of the Presence of the Lord.

Application: Make It Your Goal to Please Him. V.9

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
Make It Your Goal to Please Him.

You are going to be with Him for all of eternity. Make your life goal right now to be to please Him then.

There is a judgment coming even for believers. It says “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” And our works are going to be evaluated. They will be evaluated to make sure that we were, in fact, believers. Our works will be inspected to see if we truly believed. Because true faith always produces good works.

And they will also be inspected to measure out our rewards.

“That each one may receive what is due him...”

You are going to be with the Lord Jesus for all eternity.

Make it your goal right now to please Him and receive eternal rewards from His hand.

I see so many people who have different goals for their lives!

Make it your goal right now to please Jesus and receive ETERNAL, FOREVER rewards for His hand.

Heaven is much more than what we’ve seen today. But it is not less.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of God’s Glory. Hold on. It’s worth it.
- Fix Your Eyes on Heaven.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of Life in a New Body, Guaranteed. Your New Body is On the Way. Guaranteed.
- Live by Faith, Not by Sight.

Heaven Is the Eternal Enjoyment of the Presence of the Lord. You are going to be with Him forever.
- Make It Your Goal to Please Him.

Keep on going in the Christian life and Christian ministry.

Because Heaven is Forever.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

To Blog Or Not to Blog #10

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching."

- 1 Timothy 4:12-13 (NIV)