Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reasonable Expectations

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”                                    1 Corinthians 2:9  NKJV

“What is Heaven like?”  Have you ever heard that question from someone and stumbled over the answer?  Did it cause you to think seriously about what you truly believe waits for us in the future?  Have you spent time in the Word looking for answers as to what is in store for all those who have made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?  I’m sure most of us who have made that choice did so knowing that we were choosing between eternity in the presence of God as opposed to eternity in Hell, yet exactly what does the Bible tell us about our heavenly home?  The answer to that question might surprise you.

Why?  Because the truth is that we are not told very much at all concerning what we can expect life to be like in our eternal state.  I look at it much like I do the presents under my Christmas tree; I know I’m going to like and enjoy them, but I don’t yet know exactly what they are.  Now I can try to guess what they might be based on clues dropped by my kids but at best these are just hints at what the reality might be.  If you study the subject of Heaven, you will soon find that there is a lot of wild speculation about what it will be like but the truth is that any ideas we might have must be based on what the Bible says and not wild speculation as a result of our personal desires.  

Of course, the first thing we can do is ask someone who has already been there such as Paul the Apostle.  In his second letter to the church at Corinth he had this to say about his trip;

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.                    2 Corinthians 12:2-4  NKJV

To be perfectly honest, my first reaction to reading these words was something along the line of “thanks for nothing Paul”,  yet it is here that we find our first clue as to what life will be like in Heaven.  Paul heard what he described as “inexpressible words”.  The Greek word used here is arrētos which translates as “unspeakable” with the idea that they are unspeakable due to their sacredness.  I think it interesting that the first thing Paul describes is what he heard and not what he saw.  I believe what Paul heard was all of the heavenly host giving praise and glory and honor to God.  Does that sound familiar as we approach the Christmas season?  Notice what occurred when the Son of God first appeared on earth.

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”     Luke 2:11-14  NKJV

Let me ask you a question.  What do you think your reaction will be when you leave this earth, this body, this life, and instantaneously find yourself in the presence of God the Father?  I think it rather reasonable to assume that all of us will sing and shout praises to God in ways we can’t even imagine as a result of experiencing the emotions of gratitude, relief, joy, etc.  I can’t help but think of the phrase “words can’t describe” when thinking about what our reaction will be when we find ourselves standing before our Father in Heaven.  There is a famous quote from the author C.S. Lewis about heaven which goes like this; “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”  I believe that what Paul heard, and what we will do when we arrive in Heaven, is shout for joy.

Although finding ourselves in the presence of our Father is reason enough to shout with joy, I think Paul also gives us another clue as to why we will be so happy when we arrive in Heaven and this is found in his first letter to Corinth.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.          1 Corinthians 15:50-51  NKJV

If you are like me and have noticed the odometer on your body is about to roll over because of the high mileage, in this passage Paul gives us the best news we could ever want to hear about what to expect when we get to Heaven.  I think most of us would agree that this is found in the two words “changed” and “incorruptible”.  “Changed” in the Greek is the word allasso, which means “to change, to exchange one thing for another, to transform”.  The other word, “incorruptible”, is the Greek word aphthartos, which  is translated “uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable, immortal”.  

Now like I said, this verse means more to me now than it did when I was in my twenties, but the fact remains that the body we now inhabit will never see the light of Heaven.  “In the twinkling of an eye,” which is the same as instantaneous to my way of thinking, we will exchange the body we now have for a completely new body suitable for life in Heaven.  Suitable how you ask?  Well, perfect for one thing, which will finally answer the question we all have wondered at one time or another, “what does the perfect body look like?”  When we get to Heaven, everyone will have one.  Isaiah has this to say about Heaven;

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.                    Isaiah 35:5-6a  NKJV

None of the physical problems we experience here on earth because of the fall will have any place in Heaven.  Also we see we won’t ever get sick, “no corruption or decay”, and as a result, we will never grow old, “imperishable and immortal”.  Best of all, because our new bodies will be perfect, and because it is impossible for sin to be in the presence of God, it follows our new bodies will not have a sin nature.  In Heaven, we will never again be tempted to sin, and because Satan and his angels will be banished from Heaven for good, we will finally be free from the burden of temptation.  For me, this is one of the things I simply can’t imagine as we have all been born with a sin nature and have no idea at all what it might be like to not have one.  All I can say is that I am sure that one of the biggest reasons there will be so much joy in Heaven is a result of experiencing the reality of finally being free from sin.

To be continued.

Keep watching.