Friday, November 8, 2013

More than a Mansion

Some of my favorite hymns are the ones about heaven.  From "I'll Fly Away" to "When We All Get to Heaven," I love singing about the inheritance God has for us.  After a week of seeing the sin in the world, I need a recharge. Singing about peace in the valley helps me remember Peter's inspired words: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)

What I'm looking forward to most is not the mansion over the hilltop or the streets of gold or crystal sea.  No, what I am eagerly anticipating is the Presence of God.  

We have talked a lot on this blog about the fact that God is present with us all the time. He is not only an omnipresent God, but a personal one whose Spirit makes His home within us (1 Corinthians 6:19). But there is no doubt that His Presence will be more awesome in heaven. 

Immediately I was in the Spirit ; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance ; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God (Revelation 4:2-5) 

This image alone should shift our focus from the heavenly stereotypes of harps and clouds to thrones and praise. We cannot deny, though, that the Presence of God in heaven will also be more intimate than it is here on earth.  

Before Adam and Eve sinned, God walked with them in Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8-10).  After sin entered the world, that level of intimacy was severed. Through Jesus' sacrifice, we are able to have His presence at all times (Matthew 28:20). As fleshly humans, though, it is hard to feel his presence as personally as we will when God will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). In heaven, God's presence will be more immediate, and with that level of presence comes many blessings.

In the presence of God, there is no sin.  This is not to say that God never allows sin in his presence at all.  We know from Scripture that isn't true, but we also know that in heaven, he will eternally separate us from sin and its consequences (Revelation 21:4,27; Luke 19:26).  It sounds obvious to those of us who grew up hearing about heaven, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means?   I will never again hurt the people I love by saying an unkind word.  There will be no unkind words.  I will never even be tempted to displease God.  Worshiping him will be easy and feel right all the time.  All of the problems that sin has caused in the world will be gone.  No more death. No more sickness. No more hatred. No more class envy. No more poverty. No pollution or natural disasters.  We will no longer fear losing the ones we love for any reason.  The darkness of sin will be gone and we will bask in His light for all time. 

In the presence of God, there is true unity.  You know those jokes about Fill-In-The-Blank church members being separate in heaven because they think they are the only ones there?  Not funny.  How can we even joke about there being disunity in heaven?  When I read about heaven, I just can't picture any disharmony

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night ; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:3-5).

I eagerly look forward to the time when everyone will know the same truth and be united in praising Him.

That praise will be my first priority.  The eternal presence of God means I never have to stop thanking Him for what He has done for me.  The first thing I will probably do in heaven is fall down on my face in worship, but I'd like to think that the next thing I'll do is give Jesus a hug, a personal thank you for his sacrifice.  No amount of thanks and praise on earth will ever be enough, but maybe in an eternal heaven I can get started on thanking God in earnest.  Then I might just join the angels for one song I know they'll be singing in heaven (Revelation 4:8).

Let me ask you a question. What are you looking forward to most about heaven?
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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