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Having the kind of hope that allows for a life of perseverance, endurance, and faithfulness to God is affected by our view of heaven and the afterlife. As Todd explains, "When you don't have the right view of heaven you will not live in the way God wants you to."
Why The Bible Can Be Trusted
Why There is Hope
Why The Church
Why Change is Possible and Necessary
Why All the Passion
Why There is the Law
Why the Jews
Why We Are Here
Why There is Evil
Why the Story You Live in Matters
Lord, we do want to be led on. The way you tell us that we're going to be led is by responding to light you've given us, which is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path. So lead us on. I pray that we would run after truth, that you would engage our hearts this morning, and draw us out of the deadness of some of our misunderstanding that drags us into lucidity and to lukewarmness, into worldliness and emptiness. I pray this morning we would have our hearts stirred to run hard after you to as a result of the Word of God which you've revealed to us as true. In Christ's name, amen.
We are making our way through, in fact, wrapping up primarily the focus of our walk through the story. The story that we have made a claim answers every major question you will ever be confronted with. Why are we here? What is my purpose in life? Why is there evil? If God is good and God is sovereign, then there shouldn't be a world as we have it today, or so we would suppose.
If God is good, he would defeat evil. If God was sovereign, he could defeat evil. Some would say, "Because there is evil, God is either not good or not sovereign. We would tell you, "Nope. That's not a good deduction." The Scriptures explain how there can be a sovereign good God and still evil in this world. We've talked about that.
Where am I going? What happens after the grave? This story that is in the Scripture, we have said answers every major question that philosophers have been wrestling with for millennia. We've made our way through it. We're going to break, as I've said, for next week, and in two weeks, we're going to come back and close this whole thing up with Why the Bible Can Be Trusted. Specially, why you know the Bible is unique among books that claim to be divine.
How can we know it's true? How can we know that every word in there is pure, God-breathed, and profitable for correction, for reproof, for instruction, and for training in righteousness? How do we know that this book is God's book? How do we know that this story is the story that should inform our systems of truth and understanding?
That's what we'll do in two weeks. That'll be the way we wrap up this Why series. We just made a claim that if you know this story, every major question and longing is answered in it. Every major problem that men wrestle with is handled in it. How do we know that this is the right story to base our truth on? That's two weeks from now.
Today, we want to take you back and walk you through how we got to today. The why we're going to answer today is why we have hope. Why, in the midst of this world that is beating us down, that is not as it should be, we continue with a sense of perseverance and endurance and faith and hope.
If I do my job today, I will have stirred your hearts in such a way that you will be more eager to live until that time as you experience the rest that your hero intends to deliver you toward. You have been freed up from the claws of the Enemy who has captured your heart and oppressed you and stolen your joy. If I do my job, you'll have hope, and you'll be stirred to live in reckless abandon with it.
Let me walk you back through, though, the big story, the big idea. It started with us talking about who the author was of it and who was sovereign over it. We said that God existed eternally, glorious, satisfied, complete, lacking in nothing except others to share his goodness with. God did not create because he was lonely. He's eternally existed in the context of community love.
All that he lacked was an ability to express his own nature. His nature of love compelled him to share what was perfect in himself with others because love, by definition, is not selfish, self-driven, or self-protective. So he created others who would enjoy the love that had eternally existed in who he is (the strength, the glory, the weight of his presence).
We talked about how first God created the angelic realm, and we said this. God created the angelic realm and called them to live in relationship and community with him. In the midst of that, there was a rebel who turned away from God and said, "I will not participate in the glory that is a relationship with God, but I will establish glory on my own." There was treason, there was a rebellion, in the heavens.
Then God created the human realm. The Enemy, who had been cast out of heaven, the story tells us, challenged God's word, challenged God's justice, and God's goodness to the humanity that God created to reign for him and to glorify him on this earth that was to be subject to him and was perfectly made for him. The Enemy challenged God, challenged whether or not he should be followed, and whether or not humankind should walk in relationship with him, and the earth and humankind was corrupted in it.
Thirdly, we found out that God restored, by grace, the human world. He gave humans a conscience to remind them of right. He built in them now a sense of right and wrong. They no longer live by faith alone, and what God says was good. The Scriptures tell us we did, in fact, come to understand good and evil, but unlike God, who was good in his essence, knowing the difference between good and evil we don't always choose that which is good. Can you relate? Yes, you can.
God gave us a conscience to remind us of right, but we ignored God's inner voice. We still followed after evil and brought further judgment to the world. Was God done with us then? No. He did bring about judgment, he did say, "There's going to be a consequence for turning from me," and he destroyed the world through a flood. Then he restored the world and bestowed authority on humankind that was left in the form of government in order to further restrain evil to punish man as he rebelled.
But humans corrupted government because they did not believe in God's word or God's justice or God's goodness. We ignored our conscience, and we followed evil by attempting to establish our own greatness and glory outside of God. Was God done with us then? No. God elected them to work specifically with a new group of people, we know them as the Shemites, the Semites, the Jews, who he touched for no other reason than his sovereign kindness and goodness towards the people that he might reveal himself through them.
He elected to reveal his greatness and his glory through one man who would become one nation which would have a unique relationship with God resulting in the nation's blessing and causing the rest of the world to take notice. Guess what happened? That one man's conscience, that one man's government, and that one man's decedents, though, informed by the revelation of God decided still to follow after evil, and they became a corrupt people who were then driven into bondage and slavery.
Then God, in his kindness, sent prophets to them and sent deliverers to them. They went through a series of cycles of relationship and rebellion and repentance that took them through thousands of years of their history until, finally, God satisfied his wrath and justice by sending his Son as the final messenger, the final prophet, to ransom his people from evil.
Evil, though, waited for this Son that came, rejected him, crucified him, and danced at his death, only then to find out that through his death became the means through which God's victory was secured, and the Enemy's judgment was cemented. For the time being, evil was allowed to continue its vain rebellion.
Do you remember in the movie The Passion of the Christ there was one scene where all throughout the movie that androgynous representation of evil that had smirked and smiled and delighted in the betrayal of Christ at the moment that it was finished? The director showed that Evil One spinning off with terror like, "Oh, what I thought was my greatest moment in history has turned out to be that which seals my defeat. Now the satisfaction, the wrath of God, has been satisfied in the sacrifice of himself on the cross for these people who I've drawn away from him. He has rescued his lovers."
The story continues, though. We see that God called out another nation of people. We talked about this last week. Not made up of a single race anymore. Not Barbarian, Scythian, circumcised or uncircumcised, not Jew or Greek, not male or female, but another race of people, another nation. People who were now identified as by a people of a single faith. God called them the called-out ones, the church, and the ecclesia.
It says that they were corrupted, they were deceived, and while often the church has been defeated, it is never destroyed because God has sovereignly said that the gates of hell will not stand against it. So there is a remnant in the church always doing the work that God intended the church to do. Though there are many "churches," groups of "called-out ones" gathering today. There is much deadness into morality running rampant through them, much irrelevance, not very much light, not much salt.
The true church made up of folks who fully follow Christ and participate with him by surrender to his Spirit and abiding in his word is still salt and light in this world. God is prevailing with them. He said, "The gates of hell will stand against their work until I'm done with them." The world, however, is confused about God's goodness because evil destroys God's credibility through the many who follow the evil that is in their hearts, that is in the world, and that is still in that angel of rebellion that seduces them.
So they ask themselves, "How can God be there if the church is not working as it should? I don't see much love and light coming from these people who say they know God. Then, in the world that runs amuck around it, if I was God, I wouldn't let that go." The Scriptures continue that God is not done.
He's going to remove, one day, the true church and allow the world to suffer great judgment and unequaled wrath that history has never seen, using his great deliverance of the true church and great suffering in the world to open the eyes of many descendants of his chosen nation, Israel, that he said the gift and calling of Abraham and his people is irrevocable.
When the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, when this age of grace, this mystery of the kingdom of God that is the church, when he's done with that and removes the remnant, he will (through a series of great suffering and tribulation) open the eyes and drop the scales off those who he's called into relationship with him, specifically of the nation of Israel, but with many others.
He will miraculously deliver that nation from death, and he will return to rule over them in peace after restoring all who follow after evil and bind the angel of rebellion for 1,000 years the Scripture says. After that, even though Christ himself will rule on the earth with a rod of iron, it says descendants of people who moved into that glorious time, that kingdom age, will be tested again. The angel of rebellion will be released one last time.
He'll seduce people again into believing that life only exists outside of submission to God, and yet God's patience at that moment will be complete. Only when his program is completed, and only then will he consume the Evil One in final judgment. People will ask this question. "Why has God not defeated evil? Why doesn't God do something about evil?" The answer is, "He already has."
The reason we don't see that enacted now is because he is waiting. His kindness towards us, it says, is that he would allow others to still come to him. The answer is this. "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance [before that terrible and awful day of the Lord] ."
I'm going to show you today why we've got hope, and I'm going to show you today what is ahead of us. Let me tell you what is true of every nation that has ever existed. Sociologists and anthropologists will tell us this. Every society that has ever existed has three inherent beliefs. First, there is an inherent belief in a supreme being. There is no such thing as a society which is atheistic at its foundation. There will be men who will rise up within every civilization that will scoff at the common impression of the people, but there's no such thing as an inherently atheistic society.
Likewise, they have never found an inherently relativistic society. Every society has a set of moral absolutes, of right and wrong. They are not always consistent, though there are many that are. It's wrong in every society to murder because Pete has a chicken you want. You can't just go cut Pete's throat so you can have his chicken. There is not a society that has ever existed that thought that was right. So right and wrong is there. There is no inherently relativistic culture.
There is also no culture that has ever existed that didn't have some sense that there is life after the grave. There is no inherently annalistic society, civilization, or culture. Anthropologists and sociologists will tell you that men always hold to those three things.
Now, left to their own speculation and in the darkness of their mind, they've come up with all different interpretations of what that supreme being might look like, what right and wrong is, and they will invent all different reasons that evil is in the world, that sin exists, what to do about it, and how to remedy it. At the end of the day, they all hold to these ideas.
Some of the more spectacular concepts that are inherent to everybody is in the idea of what happens in the afterlife. Some believe that you go through a series of lives until you get it right (in the East). Others believe (as the American Indian did), and what you'll find in most civilizations, in fact, is that most people's view of the afterlife is just a glorious extension of the world as they know it.
To the American Indian, to move onto the afterlife was to go to that great hunting land in the sky where there are plenty of buffalo, plenty of deer, and you're never in want. Harsh weather and poor conditions don't leave you hungry, cold, and deprived. So most societies have this idea. You don't just die and become food for the worms. You have some significance that was given to you by some supreme being that you must live in a certain way (many would tell you) in order to move to this next life and experience the glory that is to come.
We know many of the Eastern religions have a view of eternity that maybe can be likened unto a fraternity party. We know that much of what motivated the men on 9/11 was a promise of a certain bit of glory in heaven. It reminds me of a story I heard recently. I was told with tongue in cheek about Osama bin Laden when he meets his end (if he hasn't already). That when he goes up to his view of eternity, he would get there and walk through and making his way through the heavenly realm.
He won't take more than five to ten steps before all of a sudden he'd run into a guy by the named of George Washington who will just crack him in the jaw and drop him. He'd say, "How dare you attack the nation that I conceived." Bin Laden gets up and takes about another five steps, not knowing what happened, and all of a sudden there's Patrick Henry who takes off his nose with a sweeping right hook, and said, "You wanted to end the American's liberty, so we gave you death," and drops bin Laden to his knees.
He starts to get up, and James Madison just knees him in the jaw, dislocates his jaw, and he spits out a few teeth. James says, "Bin Laden, this is why I allowed the federal government to provide for the common defense of the people for folks like you." So Osama has now experienced a bunch of severe beatings.
After that, a guy by the name of James Randolph of Roanoke shows up and hits him in the solar plexus. James Monroe shows up and gives him a rabbit punch behind the ears. Bin Laden is just stunned. So he starts to make his way back, and all of a sudden Thomas Jefferson picks him up by the scruff of his shirt and the britches and fires him right back towards those "pearly gates," slides him towards a different end, saying, "That'll be enough of you."
When bin Laden bumps into the angel that he had heard from that gave him his revelation of what heaven might be like, he said, "This is not what I expected. This is not what I was promised, to which the angel said to him, "If you'll listen closely I said you will meet up in heaven with 72 Virginians."
That one doesn't preach as well in the Middle east, but my point is, everybody has this idea of what eternity would be like. Some of them have invented this wild frat party, this Animal House, Girls Gone Wild perpetually with you and your own 72. That's their view of heaven. What is yours, and why does it matter? I'm going to tell you something.
The reason this church, the reason that you as a follower of Christ don't have more hope, don't have more heart, is because you have had and bought into a perverted view of what eternity is like. It leaves you cold and wanting. If you ask most folks, "What is heaven like? What do I have to hope for?" they will say something like this.
They will say, "Well, heaven is a time when we will sing praises to God." I hear that, and I go, "Forever? Really? You mean to tell me that what I'm going to run up against is this eternal church service? Forgive me, but that sounds more like…than heaven to me." Doesn't it to you? Think about this. We sing songs with great gusto. "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun. We have no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun."
I go, "Oh. Wow. Okay. Ten thousand, and we're just getting started. It's an eternal sing-along. I quit Boy Scouts and youth sports because we sang "99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall." I can't imagine… Ten thousand, and we've just begun? How many verses are in this hymnal? Think about it. What is your view of heaven? Most of us have this Warren Beatty, gelatinous, dry-ice feeling, floating, empty, cold, and unstirring view of heaven. It's killing us. It has nothing to do with what's in the Scriptures.
When you think about what they've told us that heaven's going to be like when you get to heaven… Jesus has one little story where he's describing the sheep and goats, and at the very end of it, he says, "Welcome. Come into the kingdom which I have prepared for you," but we've made it sound like this. "Welcome. Step into the choir robe which I have sewn for you." I go, "Really?"
"Welcome. Have the harp I have fashioned for you."
"I don't play the harp."
"You do now, buddy. Forever. Forever." Or, "Welcome to the fairy wings that I've spoken into existence for you."
I don't want robes, harps, or fairy wings. There's nothing about that that stirs my soul. In no way in saying that do I disrespect God or disilluminate the Scriptures. What I want to do is jerk you out. Gary Larson has more integrity than most pastors and theologians do. This is what Larson came up with. He understood this, and this is what he came up with when he realized this. He just sat there, and he said, "This is it? This is why I didn't join the KA fraternity? For this?"
When you don't have a right view of heaven, you will not live in the way God wants you to. You'll sing songs. "God give me one pure and holy passion because this world is empty, pale, and poor." Do you know what? Do you know why most of us are more materialistic than we should be? Do you know why most of us are more worldly than we should be, most of us indulge more than we should?
We think, "I have to do a little bit here because I get issued a robe, a harp, and a hymnal and my own little cloud. I'm going to eat some chocolate right now," and you plug in your chocolate. For a guy, let's be honest, it's just one big sexual bonanza. Isn't it? For a girl, it's one long, meaningful conversation. That's what you think it is. It's the truth, isn't it?
Both fall short of what God says we're going to experience as something far more glorious. Here's the deal. There was a guy who God allowed to have a little insight into what that's going to be like. He's going to say, "It's so much better than what you think, Wagner, in your fallenness with you and the Girls Gone Wild video team. And you ladies and this intimate, caring, love who is eternal and never runs out of his words. There's something so much more. Don't limit it to even what you think of as good."
God wants to give us a picture of that. Which when we understand what hope and heaven is like, this world does become empty, pale, and poor. This is what Jesus said. "Do you know why the Word of God doesn't take root in your life? Because of the deceitfulness of riches, because of the worries of the world that you're not going to get all that you need, and because of the concern for many things. It's because of your improper view of the hope that God wants to give you."
There was one guy who went through all kinds of horrors. His name was Paul. Paul was a guy who beaten by rods, was shipwrecked, was bitten by poisonous snakes, was beaten to the point of being left for dead more than once, and been scourged. You know what you saw happened in ThePassion of Christ to Jesus that one brutal time happened to Paul more than one time?
How did he continue to endure? Second Corinthians 12 gives you a little insight. This is what it says. "I know a man in Christ…" Paul writes in third person,. "…who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak."
Paul says, "There was a moment in my life that God allowed me to experience something that is now enabling me to endure the hardship I have been called to endure for the sake the church. God has made me one who is going to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth and experience sufferings and persecutions and beatings that no one really has matched in the course of human history."
As God sovereignly chose to preserve Paul through all those hardships, Paul had to ask himself again and again, "Is this really worth it?" I have a sense if God had shown him his cloud, his robe, his harp, and his hymnal, he wouldn't have said to you, "…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain…" He'd have said, "I'm not sure it's worth it. Sneak a little on the side before you get there."
But that's not what he says. "It's so good," he says, "that I am forbidden to tell you except to call you by faith to that time when you can believe that your King, your rescuer, your lover will restore you and deliver you from the life that is to come. Believe me, if I showed you what I know, you wouldn't want to stay there. You would run there in an irresponsible way."
By the way, God does not want to give us visions of heaven that we might escape the reality of trouble on earth. He gives us a description of glory that we might endure with perseverance and hope in the world that we're in and endure faithfully until the end. Now, let me just say this.
I mentioned and read this little verse in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul was called up to the third heaven. You might go, "He was good. He got to CLEP out of Heaven 1 and Heaven 2. I don't know why he didn't get to the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh heaven, but he at least got to three. I wonder where I'll go, or how long I'll have to work before I make my up through the little grades of heaven." Let me clear that up for you once and for all.
Paul was a Jew, and because he was a Jew, he spoke in a way that other Jews would understand. In the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Old Testament, and really all throughout the Bible, the word heaven appears over 500 times. It's used in three specific ways. In the Old Testament, the word shamayim is the word for heaven. In the New Testament, it's ouranos. It's where we get Uranus from (the planet). It comes from that Greek word.
In the Old Testament, whenever you see heavens,it means one of three things. First, it means the atmosphere or the sky. This is how the Bible uses the idea of heaven. For instance, in Genesis 7:11, watch this. "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky [exact same word as the heavens] were opened."
** ** It is the atmosphere that we have with cumulonimbuses and mares' tails and all those different things that are up there that we call the heavens. They're just there above us. They didn't have a word for sky in Hebrew, so they used this word.
Secondly, they would use the word heaven sometimes to refer to the planets, the planetary heaven. Let me show you this. In Genesis 1:14-17, "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth'; and it was so."
The idea here is: This is the sun. This is the moon. This is above the earth's atmosphere into the heavens that are out there. They would use the exact same word, and context would describe if they were talking about the heavens that are in the earth's firmament, the earth's atmosphere, or beyond the earth's atmosphere to the planetary heavens.
But there was a third use of heaven to the Jew. It was this. It was the dwelling place of God. Jesus would use it this way. He would say in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in [ouranos] heaven." Jesus says, "Pray that the kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven where God is."
We know God is omnipresent. He is not limited to one geography or location, but they would speak specifically about central command; one specific place where things were as God intended them to be. People live in subjection to him. There is no darkness to impede the light. There is no sin to threaten which is right.
That was the use of heaven that Paul is referring to when he said, "I'm not talking about the first or second heaven, but the third heaven." There is not, in that sense, a seventh heaven for Billy Graham and Mother Teresa, and you and I might sneak into half heaven and work our way up.
Paul is saying, "I have been, by the grace of God, brought to the very presence of God, seen the glory of who he is, and what he's preparing for us. I'm telling you it's inexpressible, and I've been forbidden to tell you, other than that all you can imagine in being in the presence of the divine lover that he is and the divine rescuer and King is, it is good." That's the idea of the third heaven.
Let me walk you through this. Are you ready? Isaiah 49. This is what the Lord wants you to know. This is so great. He says, "Shout for joy, O heavens!" Just anything in all of God's creation is the concept there. "Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted."
If you were there a couple of weeks ago, we talked about what we wanted to build over there on LBJ as a resource and tool to minister to and serve our friends in the years ahead, you saw the way we started that process is by grabbing 10 adjectives, 10 verbs, and 10 nouns. It's on the DVD that we gave to our architect and said, "We want this to be warm, we want to be inviting, and we want this to be comfortable. We don't want to churchy. We want it to be clinical. We don't want it to be cold. We want it to be these other things, have this other kind of feel."
We gave them verbs like relax, relate, celebrate, enjoy. We gave them nouns like wood, stone, and climbing walls. Just life that was there. We said, "Design something that fits these words." What you need to see as I describe to you now what Jesus has described the hope that we have before us, is the adjective, verbs, and nouns he is describing in this place he is preparing for us.
When I ask you what an ideal place on earth is, there is a certain adjective that we have created to describe what we say paradise on earth is. The culture has adopted a Genesis 1 language for this. When something is glorious, we say it is paradise, or specifically, if we're going to give it a name, we say it is Edenic. Right? It is an Eden.
Think about that. God, when he first created man and put him on earth that was perfectly suited for him, put him in this place we know as Eden. It took him six days to get that ready for Adam before he created Adam into it. Jesus, 2,000 years ago, said, "Don't let your heart be troubled. I'll go to prepare a place for you."
The Scriptures tell us in Hebrews that Abraham was looking for a city whose architect and builder was God. If your view of perfection and paradise is Eden that God made in 6 days, and Jesus tells us he's been hammering away for 2,000 years to create this new thing that you and I are going to live in, you can get a hunch that the original Eden won't even hold a candle to it, literally.
He says, "This is something to celebrate." It will be defined by, when you go to this place whose builder and architect is God… That's the general contractor and architect who are on this assignment. It will be a place where there will be joyful shouting and celebration. There will be comfort. You will be comfortable there. There will be compassion for those who are afflicted.
But Zion, which is the people who will inhabit the celestial city, says this. "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. He has left me here as a prisoner to this one who has taken my heart captive. What am I to do about it?" This is what God says to them. Watch this. This is so poignant for today.
"Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb?" What do you guys think is the answer to that question? Is it possible for a woman to forget the child she nurses? See Andrea Yates, see Tyler, see Susan Smith, and see Rockwall. What's the answer to that?
You take the height of human love, the way a mama cares for a newborn that she is letting nurse at her breasts, that she carried and gave birth to through her womb, and the love that is there that we celebrate rightly on this day and others and God says, "Don't you ever dumb down my love to that."
Do you know that over 600 times a year in our fallen world, a mother forgets the child who nursed at her breast? That doesn't even count the number of times mothers and fathers forget the children who are conceived in their womb. We know that's in the hundreds of thousands every year.
There are hundreds of moms who let that child come forth, care for that child for a season, only to drown it in a tub or stab it with a knife or drive it into a lake. We are horrified, and God says, "You take the highest form of tenderness and intimacy that humankind knows, and don't you ever accuse me of that little of love towards you." This is what he says he has going on. He says, "Your walls are continually before Me…"
Meaning, "I don't ever forget what you need to be protected. I know where you are right now. I know all about the Enemy. I know all about the fact that your heart has been taken hostage. I know all about the death and disease that has come upon you. I know all about the loneliness and heartache. I know all about the fact that you have been taken captive by the Evil One, and I haven't forgotten you."
Isaiah 65 then says this. "For behold…""I'm going to do something about it." "…I create new heavens and a new earth…" Now, watch this. In the movie The Passion of the Christ, if you guys can remember, there was a scene when Gibson had Jesus in the Via Dolorsa (the way of the cross). He was making his way up, and he fell. There was the flashback where Mary saw him as a child running up some steps and falling. She ran to him, saying, "My son…"
As she ran towards Jesus, who was carrying this burden and had fallen, it was the only time in the movie that they had Jesus speak on that way up. Mary scoops down, and what does Jesus say to her? Do you remember? You haven't seen the movie eight times like I have with all of you. But, what he says is this. "Mama, I make all things new." In other words, "It's okay. This is a horrible price to pay, but what I'm going to do is worth it. I make all things new."
He didn't say, "I'm going to make all new things." When you ask me where heaven is going to be, you could rightly say it's going to be in a sense here and also in a sense coming. What God will do is he's going to do create a new heavens and a new earth. I'm going to talk to you some more about that and what that will look like.
It's like you ask me, 'What will my body be like in glory?" The answer, "It's like the one I have and yet not at all like the one I have." It's like the world that we're in, heaven will be, and yet not at all like the world that we're in. This body that is mortal will be made immortal. This body, which is temporal will be made eternal. This body which has the smell of death on it will be given something completely redemptively different.
It will be glorified and restored in a way that God intended me to have it be. In the same that earth, when men fell, when we rebelled, all of creation fell with it. I'm going to show you a little bit later what it says there will not be something of in heaven. If we didn't have our Bible, it would make no sense to us why that's not there and why earth today is the way that it is.
He says, "I'm going to create new heavens and a new earth." Watch this (adjectives and descriptors). "And the former things will not be remembered…" We will not even remember rebellion. We're going to have to take it by faith that somebody could ever have turned their backs on the God who we are in fellowship and unity with.
"But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness. I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; and there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying."
Chapter 66. "For thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I extend peace…'" That's another word that will come there. "…and the glory…" Imagine this. Glory is where we'll be. "And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees." He's going to share with you, "You take the highest understanding of what human intimacy and care and protection and tenderness is, and I'll let you equate it here."
He says, "I will nourish you and carry you on the hip and fondle you on my knee. I'll bounce with you, and I'll play with you. In that effect, I will delight in you, and you will delight in me." Isaiah 66 says, "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem." Watch this. Something else will happen.
"Then you will see this, and your heart will be glad… But He will be indignant toward His enemies. For behold, the LORD will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the LORD will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the LORD will be many."
Let me tell you what God's says is going to be in heaven. What do we all long for right now when we see horrors on this earth? We go, "Where is there justice? When will it come?" God says, "There will be justice in that day." Let me tell you what one of my favorite little pet heresies is.
Where is Jesus right now? Those of you who know your Bible, what would you say? You would tell me that Jesus, we know (if you've learned the Apostles' Creed or quoted it enough times) is where? He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father. I'm going to tell you that he is not. Why does it say in the Scripture that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, the Father?
By the way, this is what it says in Psalm 110. "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" In Mark 16, Jesus is getting ready to go away. It says, "** So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God."** Yet, I tell you he's not seated at the right hand of God? Yes, and I'll tell you why.
The idea of Psalm of 110 and the idea of Mark 16 is that Jesus, as our High Priest, has no longer a need to offer sacrifices in the temple. The high priest in that day would go once a year into the Holy of Holies, which was a replica of the Holy of Holies in the true heavens. He would go in there, and he would offer a sacrifice for the people.
There was never a chair for him to sit down in because the sacrifice was never complete. It was a prediction and a symbol of a final sacrifice that would one day come. The high priest never sat down because his work of offering a sacrifice to cover the sins of the people was never done until the perfect High Priest came to offer the perfect sacrifice.
Not in a remnant of the Holy of Holies, but in the actual presence and throne room of God, Jesus showed up as a high priest for his people, offered himself as a sacrifice and then he sat down because there is no more need to offer any sacrifices. It is finished. Got that? But it gets better because he isn't sitting anymore. Daddy is coming.
I can remember a story when I was a kid. I was down at the park, and I was playing tennis. There were about six or seven bullies three times my size who came over and took my tennis balls, took my racket, knocked them up into the woods, and then they started playing with my stuff that was left and said, "Just shut up." I said, "I'll be back." Arnold wasn't around yet, but I didn't mean I'll be back alone.
I ran home, and I got my dad, who is 6'7" and about 260 pounds with an attitude. I said, "Dad, you won't believe what just happened." He said, "Where?" I said, "Down there at the park." He said, "I'm getting my Boondockers." He put on his size 13 Boondockers, and we jogged. You have never seen five boys run into the woods so quickly as when that skinny kid had the Fonz jogging behind him, screaming to them that he is coming. The reason I don't find and visit my father in jail this day is because those kids could not be found.
How do you think that made me feel? I go, "I'm valuable. I have dignity. Evil will not have its way with me. Somebody loves me. Somebody cares for me. Somebody will deliver me from the oppression that is all around me. It is good," and things were restored. My racket was put back in my hands, the court was once again mine. I played with my father, and we had a joyful day. As a kid, I walked home and thought, "That's so good." It's a picture of what Jesus says is coming.
I want to tell you something. Jesus is not seated anymore. He is being held back like a pit bull on a leash. Look at Revelation 19. It says this. It says Jesus is going to come one day. "After these things…" These things are the horrors of the tribulation period, the seals, if you will, the trumpets, or the bowls of wrath (for those of you who know the Bible).
"After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…'" He has strapped on the Boondockers, and he is coming. "'…BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER.' And a second time they said, 'Hallelujah!' ['Time has come. Let's get moving.'] "
Verse 6, "'Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.' Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.'" And he is running towards the wicked city. Then it says this in verse 11.
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself."
Then it says this. "He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses." See also, the delivered church. Keep reading. "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty." And his truth goes marching on.
Do you know that every time our country gets together and sings, "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! […] His truth is marching on" what we are celebrating is a God who comes in severity and wrath to judge wicked people. You're singing your own death sentence if you are not a person who is reconciled to God by faith. We say, "Glory, glory. Here comes judgment. Bring it on God." Are you ready? Do you know why judgment will pass over you, or are you inviting him to come in the way he's described right here?
Look what it says. "And on His robe and on His thigh…" Being a guy, let me tell you what I see right here. I am a victim of my generation. I don't see Rocky Balboa, I don't see some guy coming out with the Italian Stallion, but I see a King. I see the heavyweight champion of the universe coming out. On his robe, it says, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
On that little white steed is a big ol' quad slapped over it, and there's a tattoo on it. It is the most arrogant tattoo anyone has ever gotten. It says, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." In effect, "Deal with it. Get a load of this." He's coming to deal with those of us who have had our rackets stolen, our hearts stolen, our character stolen, our dignity stolen, and to restore us and to deliver us and to enjoy us forever.
Now, watch. It gets better. In Revelation 21, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…" He didn't come to make new things, but he's restored it back to better than it was. "…for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea." You go, "Why in the world is there no longer any sea?
If we don't have Genesis 3 and Genesis 9 in our Bibles, we as believers are in a really tough spot. I told you that God made earth specifically for his highest creation: Man, who was going to rule for him on this earth that was built as a beautiful little crib for his baby. But think about it. Of our earth, do you know that 71 percent of it is not built for man? It's built for fish. Of the 29 percent that is left of our earth, 12 percent of it is polar ice caps. Another 7 percent of that is desert.
You go up to somebody and say, "Tell me about this earth that God created for you, that he loves you and puts you in a perfect place. You can't even live on 90 percent of it. Of the 10 percent that is left, you have artic region, mountainous areas, and Amarillo." You're going, "Where do you live?" You have Siberia. It's not like you have this great earth that you're on."
Do you know how we explain that? We explain that by saying, "That's not the way it initially was." The Scriptures tell us how we got to this earth. This great earth that was prepared for you, there are reptiles here that if they bite you, you will die. There are little viruses floating around that if they get in you, they will kill you, they will take you away. There is food on this earth that if you don't mix it well and you eat it, you'll die, or you'll get sick.
People will go, "This is your paradise? This is what your God made for you to live in? What kind of God do you have?" We're going to say, "We have a God who made an earth that was fine and perfect, but creation is fallen, just like we are fallen. When we went down, the world that we were in went down with it. He's going to come back, though, and he has promised that he will make all things new. He will restore it like it should be. You know that 71 percent of the earth that we can inhabit right now because we don't have gills? It's gone." That's the idea there in Revelation 21.
Think about right now there's about 6 billion people on the earth. You take all of humanity over all of history and then you take the redeemed of that. Whatever small percentage of the redeemed that is, and you get back 71 percent the earth, and you take away Siberia and Pampa, Texas, and you take away the artic cap, and you take away the mountainous regions. It will not be crowded. It will be glorious. Do you see the idea here?
Now, watch this. Jesus is pushed and pressed, and they say, "Jesus describe to us what eternity is going to be like with you." He goes, "Okay. Here's the best I can do. The day the kingdom of heaven is here, it's going to be like a wedding party." What most of you have to do, and I love the way one man said, "You have to get the Baptist wedding out of your mind." People standing around with Styrofoam cups with punch in it in the church gym, going, "They're a lovely couple, aren't they?"
"Yes, they're a lovely couple."
"Did you get some of the celery sticks?"
"Yes, I did. They were wonderful."
I just go, "All right, there we are again. Baptist wedding or a cloud? I don't know." Jesus says, "Here's the deal. Think wedding like I do weddings." Do you know this? We're going to have glorified bodies. We're not going to need food, but do you know that Isaiah 25 says there'll be feasting in heaven? Do you know why? Do you know that Isaiah 25 says there will be drinking wine in heaven? Don't give me this new wine, not fermented grape juice stuff. It says the old and aged wine.
In Matthew 25, Jesus is at the Lord's Supper, the last time he's with his disciples, and he says, "Whenever you drink of this cup, I want you to do it in remembrance of me. It's right here before you." He's going to say, "I will not partake of the fruit of the vine again until I enjoy it with you in the kingdom of heaven."
That's right. When you're in heaven, one of the very things that's going to happen is you're going to be sitting there with Jesus and all of a sudden…pop! You're going to go, "It's vintage Jerusalem 00. It's the good stuff. AD 00. Are you ready for that, or are you going to go, "Oh no. We don't drink in this church"?
Drunkenness? No. Dissipation? No. It says, "Feasting, dancing, eating, and glory. It is a party. You break the bank. Everyone gets together, and you enjoy one another. You celebrate. You love and share life together. It is a time when those who are there that rejoice that the bridegroom has found its bride, and there is love, and there is intimacy, there is bouncing on the knee, there is dancing, there is much rejoicing. That is heaven.
Jesus says, "Put that in your mind. Lose your robes, lose your hymnals, and lose your harps." Think Jewish, raucous, almost out of control but still okay party…with him. Now, I mean that. He says, "We're going to celebrate, and there's going to be no darkness. There's going to be no Enemy. I'm going to deal with your flesh because there is no sin.
What do you have to do to deal with the fact that there's no sin? You have to get rid of the flesh and its nature. No problem. New bodies. You have to get rid of the worldly influences which seduce your flesh. No problem. New heavens, new earth. You have to get rid of the agent which seduces the world and pulls you aside, which energizes the system of temptation. No problem. Satan is thrown into the lake of fire. It's done, and you will enjoy me forever."
When you get to heaven, you will worship. You're going to worship God. Do you know that? But get out of your sick, dead-churched mentality of what worship looks like. Of all my kids, and they all do in different ways, I have one little one who really worships me in a way I hardly can resist. My little 5-year-old curly-top Landry.
Right now, her little season of life, the last three of them, and she's just so sweet. She runs to me, she jumps in my arms, she holds me, she kisses me endlessly and makes me laugh and giggle. She worships her daddy like nobody's business. Do you know how disappointed I would be if I walked in the home, and she's in the corner singing like this? "Praise to my daddy. He's now home. I love you, daddy. You are good."
I'd go, "Put down your hymnal. Get over here. Hug me. Play Candyland with me. Bounce in the trampoline with me. Tickle fight me. Throw me on the bed. Jump with me. Enjoy me. Let's go eat. Let's get ice cream. Let's get Mint Chocolate Chip. Let's get Rocky Road. Let's get hot fudge. Let's enjoy each other. I love you so much. Come here. Let me embrace you." Do you know when she does that, she's worshiping me? She is completely delighting in me. She wants nothing other than to enjoy who I am, and she is satisfied right now. I'm a finite daddy a finite 5-year-old finds finite satisfaction in.
Think of your sweetest time when you were just stone-cold, drop dead in love, and you used to go, "I cannot wait until I see you again." You'd say stupid stuff like, "I will hold you in my arms. I don't care if I ever eat again. I will die holding you." You've said that. If you haven't, that's why you're still single. That's what you need to say so you're not single. But you've said that.
Here's the deal. I've embraced my wife. I've felt that towards Alex before. Eventually, though, I tire of her smell. Eventually, I tire of her touch. Eventually, I do get hungry. "I'm thirsty. Can we take a break? Replenish our saliva. Can we do something here?" But that's because I have a finite lover.
There's going to be a day I'm going to embrace one that's infinite. The smell will never grow old. The satisfaction of finding new wonders will never tire. We will dance, and we will celebrate with others who love him as well. He says, "It will be good. Lose your stinking harps. Put down your hymnals. Embrace me. Dance with me. Enjoy me. This is the kingdom I've prepared for you." Gosh, is that not good?
That's why he says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." He is a God, it says, that will repay those who have loved him. He says he will reward you, he will embrace you, he will celebrate the good memories. You will enjoy each other forever, and it will be good.
You have to get out of your weird, small view of heaven that drives you towards indulgence, materialism, and worldliness. It's killing you. Embrace what God has told you it's coming. You will be honored. You will be restored.
I sometimes look at (I don't mean this to be mean) 70- or 80-year-old women and go, "Oh, Eve. What happened? This isn't very good anymore." I had lunch with four or five guys who have really shaped my life. He was 77 on Thursday, and we had lunch on Friday. He said, "Physically, it was the worst day of my life. I felt 77 all day long." I want to look at him and go, "Adam, what happened?" Hearing aid in, scabs on his skin, repeat things a couple of times, eyes were dim, appetite waning, and strength weak. Adam, what happened?
I look at some of the 20- to 25-year-old guys right here who are virile and strong, but I look at you and go, "Adam, what happened? You've lost your courage. You've lost your manhood. You've lost your sense of adventure. You've lost your sense of bravery. You've lost yourself of meaning. You've been duped into thinking that this is where life is. You've lost your courage, your difference-making, your adventure. What happened?"
Jesus is going to say, "I'm going to make your heart. I'm going to deliver your heart from the one who has stolen it. I know all about that, Todd. I'm going to deal with. I'm going to give you the new heart. I'm going to protect it. I'm going to make it strong again. I'm going to put you back as you were meant to be with me. We will be intimate allies forever and reign over our kingdom forever. I will take that body of death, Eve, and I will make it glorious again."
I don't know what exactly it's going to be like, folks, but I know this. Stuff like the most sought after stuff here, what we think is the most magnificent, valuable stuff here, he uses words like, "You're going to walk on it." It's the most mundane thing in heaven. We kill each other for gold here. He says, "I paved the streets with it there."
I'm not going to be disappointed if the streets are paved with gold, but he's saying, "What you guys think is worth dying for here, we walk on it. The point is you don't have any idea. I'm there, and you will never tire of me." I don't know what it's going to be like. I can only imagine, but I hope you imagine something more than clouds, dry ice, harps, and ropes. It will drive you to a bad place.
Father, I thank you for my friends. I, today, just desperately want them to know why they can have hope. I want them to know, Lord, they should respond to you, why they should fear you if they have not yet reckoned themselves as protected at your coming wrath. If they have not found peace with you by faith through Jesus Christ, they will find justice at his sword.
So I pray for my friends who are here who have some cold, nominal, cultural, spoken understanding of you, that they would deal with that and they would do whatever work they need to do to see if the things I've said today are so. But they would not let it roll past quickly, lest your truth marches on them.
Father, I pray for those of us who by grace, have come to see you for who you are: a lover who has been patient with us, irresponsible, and reckless in his pursuit. Father, I pray that we would know what you have prepared for us. Not only do you sustain us now and hold us and give us the grace necessary for every call and every moment, but you tell us that it will be good. You will make it right. You will dry every tear. You will repay us a hundredfold and more. You are a God who will rule in righteousness and reign forever, and we will glory and delight in being with you.
We don't know what it's going to be like, but we can only imagine. I pray our imagination is informed by your word, that we might not be made vulnerable to the deceit and lies of what others have told us heaven is limited to. Would you quicken our hearts, open our eyes, and remind us that this world is empty, pale, and poor compared to knowing you as our Lord. May we live accordingly. Amen.
Shake your dead-churched, dry-iced thinking of worship out of your system. You will forever worship him, which means you will completely be satisfied in who he is and delighting in his goodness towards you. That is heaven. You won't need the things that we think we need on this earth to satisfy us. That is heaven, and it is glorious.
I can only imagine how wonderful it will be, and I can only imagine what the antithesis of that is. I can only imagine that I would be remiss in not calling you to a decision about who this Jesus is, and what you're going to do with him because your eternity depends on it. Your understanding of the hope that is before you will inform the life that you live right now in a way that you will rush towards him and not shrink back at his coming.
If you accept the shed blood of his Son and respond to it by faith in a life that doesn't seek to earn his favor but that gives itself completely in abandon to him because you know that he is good and worthy of praise and one who will more than reward those who love him and serve him. Will you remain steadfast, immovable with me, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain? Our image of heaven matters.
It's ours to go declare it, proclaim it, and talk about the King who will be there and to prepare to meet him. Will you let us know how we can serve you toward that end? Hope you have a great day with your mother's love, which is but a shadow of his love for you. Have a great week.
We all love a great story...one filled with rescue, romance, and unrelenting love...one filled with courage, heroism, and ultimate triumph. Stories like this resonate with something deep inside all of us. Why? Because there is a greater story that we are all a part of. A story so embedded in our beings that we find even a shadow of it irresistible. It is a story that makes the most audacious claims in history, and a story which uniquely and powerfully provides hope, meaning and answers to all of life's great questions.