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Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX

Heaven- Part 1

November 2012

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM

 

This week on the Ministerial Alliance program, Iíd like to talk about "heaven" and the after-death life. In nearly 8 years of preaching and teaching, I have never focused specifically on this subject. Iíve certainly crossed over it many times and I spent right around a year preaching and teaching on the various views of "hell" during which "heaven" came up, but Iíve never focused directly on "heaven" and what happens to us after we die. Last time I was here on the Ministerial Alliance, I talked about "eternity" but what I was trying to do then was make us look at the significance of our acts in the face of eternity. I was trying to get us to take "the long view", if you will. This week, I want to look closely at what the Bible actually says about heaven and what happens to us after we die.

Rather than just repeat what I think happens or what Iíve heard or what I want to believe, I made a real effort to clear my mind and start from scratch. I wanted to build "heaven" from the ground up. I also wanted to pull from secular resources and see what they say about our existence after we die. Even though the Bible is the final authority that doesnít mean we have to ignore other sources. Sola Scriptura means "Scripture alone" but it is not necessarily a Scripture that is alone. The truth of the Bible should be reflected in the world. However, note that order very carefully- what weíre doing is interpreting the world thru the glasses of the Bible. This is very, very different from interpreting the Bible thru the glasses of the world. Iím going to pull from all these sources during this week-long study and probably spend a lesson on each one of them before drawing them all together.

The first thing I want to do here is go to the Bible and start building a picture of heaven. Iím going to start in Matthew to see what the New Testament says. Our first passage is:

Matthew 3:1-2 NKJV In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (2) and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

From this passage we can see that John the Baptist is preaching repentance and he is doing this because the "kingdom of heaven is at hand." What this tells us about Heaven is that it has a kingdom associated with it. A kingdom, by definition, involves subjects, a government, and a king. I canít necessarily say just yet that the "heaven" spoken of here is a specific place. After all, if I were to say "the kingdom of the world", that world would include many different nations and places. This could also be a state of mind. For instance, a kingdom can be a specific place but send representatives to foreign countries. While those representatives are in the foreign country, they live there, but their heart or nationality belongs with the homeland. Thus, their kingdom is- temporarily- a state of mind. But that brings up the point that these subjects do indeed belong to their kingdom. And so it is with the kingdom of heaven. It has, by definition, subjects, a government, and a king. John tells us to repent, because this kingdom is not only coming, but "is at hand", meaning very close to us.

The next passage is:

Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. (17) And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

In this section, we see that a voice came from "heaven". Furthermore, the Spirit of God descended; therefore this heaven must be above Jesus and John. That establishes the fact that heaven is above us.

Next, we see Jesus doing the same thing as John did earlier:

Matthew 4:17 NKJV From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

After this, we have a few more passages mentioning "the kingdom of heaven"

(Matthew 5:3 NKJV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 5:10 NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Then some new information comes up:

(Matthew 5:12 NKJV) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This tells us that we have a reward and it is in heaven. Now we have "heaven" as a specific place. It also seems that weíll go to that place to claim our reward. But maybe not- letís not jump to conclusions yet- maybe our reward is just stored there for us. Letís be cautious for now and just take the passage literally in that some people have a reward in this "heaven" place.

Oh, but waitÖ hereís something new:

(Matthew 5:16 NKJV) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The people to whom Jesus is speaking have a Father and he is in Heaven. This seems to be firming up the idea of "heaven" as a specific place and it furthermore tells us that the Father is there. Our reward is there and our Father is there.

(Matthew 5:18 NKJV) For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Now this is interesting because it implies that heaven and earth will pass away. I know itís commonly taught that heaven is permanent, but letís file this passage away and refer back to it in awhile. The next passages tell us a little more about the kingdom of heaven:

(Matthew 5:19-20 NKJV) Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

First, we see that there are classifications of people in the kingdom of heaven. There are those who are called "the least in the kingdom of heaven" and those who are called "great in the kingdom of heaven." We also see that one must "enter" this kingdom. The word enter tells us that there is a place outside the kingdom. When Jesus says that "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven", this tells us that there are qualifications for entering the kingdom. Evidently, not everyone can just waltz right in, but only those who meet certain qualifications. We can find more about these qualifications in the parables of Matthew 13, but letís just note this point and move on.

(Matthew 5:34 NKJV) But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;

From this passage we glean some more information about heaven and Godís position in it. We learn that heaven is Godís throne. A throne is a place where kings and rulers sit. Since heaven is Godís throne (which is different that if it had said "Godís throne is in heaven"), it should follow then that God is an authority of this heaven place. Now maybe this is something you already knew, but I think itís valuable to build our picture of heaven from the ground up, carefully. Real quick-like, we get this image confirmed in several passages, all of which describe the "Father in heaven":

(Matthew 5:45 NKJV) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

(Matthew 5:48 NKJV) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

(Matthew 6:1 NKJV) "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9 NKJV) In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

(Matthew 6:10 NKJV) Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

(Matthew 7:11 NKJV) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

I skipped one passage in the middle of these, so letís bring it up now:

(Matthew 6:20 NKJV) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

This confirms the earlier passage that our reward is in heaven. It also tells us that heaven is a safe place, a place where there are no thieves or rust or moths. Thatís the first time weíve seen this distinction. Up to this point, heaven might have been a place just like earth where God lived and ruled his kingdom, but maybe we were worse off than we were here. We havenít seen anything yet that says this heaven is a good place, but when we read that in heaven there are no moths, rust, or thieves, suddenly weíve got a description of a place that is definitely not like the place where we live now.

(Matthew 7:21 NKJV) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Here again is a passage describing the qualifications needed to enter the kingdom of heaven- "he who does the will of my Father in heaven." Oneís righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees and one needs to do the will of Jesusí Father. This may seem like an impossible task- and by ourselves, of our own will and efforts, it is- but there is a way, and that way is thru the imputed righteousness of Jesusí own righteousness. This is described quite well by Paul in:

(Philippians 3:9 NKJV) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Letís sum this up before we run out of time today. We have seen so far, using Scripture alone to build our picture of heaven, that:

    Heaven is associated with a kingdom.

    a. A kingdom requires subjects, government, and a king.

    This kingdom is different from the world in which we currently live. There are no moths, rust, or thieves.

    There is a reward and a treasure waiting in heaven. Presumably, one needs to desire this reward and treasure.

    There are entry requirements to this kingdom.

    b. One righteousness must exceed that of scribes and Pharisees

    c. One must do the will of God the Father.

    Heaven is Godís throne.

    d. A throne is a position from which kings rule.

    i. Therefore, God is the ruler of heaven;

    ii. there may be other rulers, but we havenít read that far, yet.

    e. In any case, God is in heaven.

See you tomorrow at 9:45!


 

Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX

Heaven- Part 2

November 2012

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM

Yesterday we started working on building a picture of Heaven from scratch, using Scripture alone. Hereís what we found out:

 

Heaven is associated with a kingdom.

a. A kingdom requires subjects, government, and a king.

This kingdom is different from the world in which we currently live. There are no moths, rust, or thieves.

There is a reward and a treasure waiting in heaven. Presumably, one needs to desire this reward and treasure.

There are entry requirements to this kingdom.

b. One righteousness must exceed that of scribes and Pharisees

c. One must do the will of God the Father.

Heaven is Godís throne.

d. A throne is a position from which kings rule.

i. Therefore, God is the ruler of heaven;

ii. There may be other rulers, but we havenít read that far, yet.

e. In any case, God is in heaven.

Letís keep moving thru the book of Matthew in the New Testament to see what else we find. The first passage for today is:

(Matthew 8:11 NKJV) And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

This adds a little information to our picture of heaven in that it tells us a little bit about the subjects or the inhabitants of this kingdom of heaven. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are there. These men are, of course, the patriarchs of the Bible and died long, long ago. Yet, Jesus says that many will come and sit down with them. Those that sit with them will come from the east and the west, implying that the kingdom of heaven draws from a large group of people and is not limited to just those from the east or just those from the west.

Following these are many passages which reinforce things weíve already learned. There are gleanings of information in them, but Iím going to move past them for now, looking for brand-new things to add to our developing picture of the kingdom of heaven. Hereís one:

Matthew 13:10-11 NKJV And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" (11) He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

This tells us that certain things about the kingdom of heaven are mysterious. Itís not something thatís known to everyone and like all mysteries, needs to be investigated and studied which is what I hope weíre doing here! Following this statement, Jesus presents several parables about the kingdom of heaven. They include the parable of the sower, the wheat and tares, the mustard seed, the leavened bread, the hidden treasure, the pearls in the field, and the fishing net all of which tell us about the nature of heaven and all of which deserve their own in-depth examination. Briefly, though, the parables talk about those who gain entrance in heaven and why they do so. In the parable of the wheat and tares and in the fishing parable, itís shown that someday there will be a judgment which separates the wheat from the weeds and the good fish from the bad. The desirability of kingdom of heaven is emphasized in the parable of the pearls in the field. These parables give us more information to flesh out our picture of heaven.

Down in Matthew 18:10 we find some new information:

Matthew 18:10 NKJV "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

For the first time we see that angels are also in Heaven and that these angels see the face of Jesusí father. As an aside, this is probably where we get the notion of "guardian angels" for little children. But, this is new information that we can add to our list of things about heaven- angels are there.

At this point, much of our picture of heaven is sketched out. The remaining passages in Matthew fill out this sketch, using more details and several more parables. Toward the end of Matthew, we get a little more about angels:

Matthew 28:2 NKJV And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Note that this angel was "of the Lord" which tells us a little bit about angels; they do the work of the Lord. This angel descended from heaven, again telling us that heaven is up and away from us. He rolled back a huge, heavy stone, which tells us that angels have some serious power. Maybe some angels are cute little things with butterfly-like wings, but this one wasnít:

Matthew 28:3-4 NKJV His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. (4) And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

Weíve picked up a bit more information now about angels and confirmed a few things about Heaven. Passages from Mark echo and confirm all of the ones from Matthew. I wouldnít say that they donít add any new information because they do, but their main value seems to be to bolster the information weíve already gotten. Several passages from Luke, however, need to be brought up.

Luke 10:18 NKJV And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

This one tells us that Satan was, at one time, in heaven. We know from other places that Satan is a fallen angel, so this again shows us angels as being in heaven.

Remember that heaven is a place which must be entered and entrance is not automatic. Luke 10:20 tells us a bit about this:

Luke 10:20 NKJV Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

Someplace in heaven is a place where names are written. We definitely get more of this from Revelation- letís go ahead and look at those passages now:

Revelation 20:12-15 NKJV And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. (14) Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (15) And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:23-27 NKJV The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. (24) And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. (25) Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). (26) And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. (27) But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

To be fair about this, the Bible doesnít explicitly link them, so we have to make the link between "your names are written in heaven" and "written in the Lambís Book of Life." I think thatís a valid link but even if itís not, thereís no question that there are some books and there are names written in them and that fact determines who escapes the lake of fire. Lukeís passage makes it clear that this fact is a cause for rejoicing, too.

Iím now going to skim thru the rest of the New Testament looking at passages on heaven and asking myself if they add anything brand-new to our sketch of heaven or if they flesh out the sketch we already have. When we get to Acts, there are a couple of passages I want to bring to your attention. The first is this passage after Peter has been brought up before the Jewish council of judges and released:

Acts 4:24 NKJV So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,

We can see from this that God has made heaven (and everything else). Thus, this is not some place that existed before God and which God took in a hostile take-over. Instead, heaven was created by God, thus He has every right to rule over it.

The second passage from Acts is the ending of Stephenís defense in which heís hauled up before the Jewish council of judges and questioned. At the end of his defense, we read:

Acts 7:54-56 NKJV When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. (55) But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, (56) and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

The heavens have opened, Stephen has looked into them, and seen the glory of God along with Jesus standing at the right hand of God. We already know that heaven is Godís throne so for Stephen to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God tells us that Jesus is in heaven too. The fact that Jesus is standing at the right hand tells us that he is Godís appointed ruler- this is where we get "right hand man". Weíve already been told in Acts that Jesus is in heaven, but to see him along with God is new information for us.

Skipping on to 2 Corinthians, we find an interesting phrase:

(2 Corinthians 12:2 NKJV) 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.

Paulís probably talking about himself in the 3rd person here. There are at least 2 interesting points here. One is that Paulís not sure whether he was in the body or not. That is, he may have been conscious of having a body or he may have a different sort of consciousness. When we get to talking about near-death experiences later in the week, Iíll bring this passage up again. Next, Paulís phrase "caught up to the third heaven" is very interesting. This is the first weíve heard of levels of heaven. If I have time this week to compare heaven with the tabernacle and the temple, Iíll bring this passage up there. For now, just color on your sketch of heaven with this information.

There are two passages from Philippians to consider now.

(Philippians 2:10 NKJV) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,

(Philippians 3:20 NKJV) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

The first passage shows the superiority of Jesus Christ. Every knee should bow at his name. This passage also gives us "in heaven", which we already know is up above the earth, then "on earth", and finally "those under the earth". This could mean the dead or it could mean hell. I kind of lean toward the dead myself since hell may be somewhere else rather than under the literal earth. But, we definitely see the inhabitants of heaven kneeling in subjection to Jesus Christ. The second passage makes it very clear that believers belong in Heaven. The letter to the Philippians was written, after all, to the church in Philippi and not to the general populace of the world. Note also that it is in heaven "from which we also eagerly wait" for Christ. This is another indication that heaven is temporary. Yes, you heard me correctlyÖ heaven is temporary. Weíll get more of that tomorrow at 9:45 when we move into the Revelation and see the ending of this story. For now, just remember that every knee will bow- whether willing or unwilling- to Christ. May yours be willing. May your name be found in the Lambís Book of Life.


Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX

Heaven- Part 3

November 2012

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM

 

Over the past 2 days, weíve been working on building a picture of Heaven from scratch, using Scripture alone. Hereís what we found out so far, using Scripture alone to build our picture of heaven:

Heaven is associated with a kingdom.

a. A kingdom requires subjects, government, and a king.

This kingdom is different from the world in which we currently live. There are no moths, rust, or thieves.

There is a reward and a treasure waiting in heaven. This reward and treasure are extremely desirable.

There are entry requirements to this kingdom.

b. Oneís righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees

c. One must do the will of God the Father.

There is a record of who has been granted entry to heaven.

d. Our names are written in heaven

e. Lambís Book of Life

Those not granted entry to heaven are cast into the lake of fire after the Great White Throne judgment.

Heaven is Godís throne.

f. A throne is a position from which kings rule.

i. God rules heaven and earth

ii. Jesus co-rules with God the Father, from the latterís right hand position.

g. Both God and Jesus are in heaven.

There are angels in Heaven and they see Godís face.

God made heaven.

There are levels of heaven or at least different aspects of it.

Heaven is temporary.

Well, thatís quite a bit of information about heaven and I got it all from passages in the Bible, using as little interpretation as I could. Letís keep going on this, and hopefully weíll get to Revelation before we have to quit today.

Thereís a set of passages in Colossians that are very interesting:

Colossians 1:16 NKJV For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Colossians 1:19-20 NKJV For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, (20) and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

What strikes me about these passages and what I see as adding to our knowledge of heaven is the fact that all things were created by Christ. These include things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, thrones or powers. From there, we move to the second passage which says that all things are reconciled to him, again stating "whether things on earth or things in heaven". This information will really come into play when we get to the end of Revelation and find out about the new heaven and the new earth, and the removal of the curse. This passage in Colossians says that Jesus will reconcile all things to God. The word reconcile is the key word here. The need for reconciliation means that some separation has occurred. It means that without Christ, you are estranged from God.

The next passages from the book of Hebrews are a little hard to jump straight into w/out some background explanation, but letís see how it goes.

Hebrews 9:24 NKJV For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

This passage is talking about the tabernacle and temples and note how it calls these earthly holy places "copies of the true". The passage says that Christ has not entered into the copies, but into heaven itself. From the book of Hebrews as a whole, we see that everything done here on earth in worship is a copy of the real thing, that which is currently present in heaven. If you will consider and dwell on this passage, you might see something interesting. I think that we generally tend to think of this life here and this earth as the real thing, with heaven as a wishful thinking sort of thing. But this passage, and others like it, flip that thinking around. This is the copy and heaven is the real deal. This is pretty much what I was driving at when I discussed eternity last time I was here. We should be focusing on the long term, not the short term. So, what we learn about heaven itself from this passage is that the real temple is there.

Letís pick up one more passage from Hebrews. This one quotes an Old Testament passage which is also quoted in Acts.

Hebrews 12:25-27 NKJV See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, (26) whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO HEAVEN." (27) Now this, "YET ONCE MORE," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

The Old Testament quote says that God will once more shake not only the earth but also heaven, and our New Testament writer interprets this to mean that the current earth and heaven- being things that are made- will be removed. This doesnít necessarily mean "destroyed", it just means that the earth as we know it and the heavens as they are now, will be changed. Weíve already had some indications that heaven is temporary and this passage adds to that evidence.

Finally, weíre into Revelation. In our first passage, Jesus is speaking to the angel of the church of Sardis and says:

Revelation 3:12 NKJV He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Jesus tells us here that the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God. This is starting to fit pretty well with the notion that heaven itself is temporary or, more correctly, the separation of heaven and earth is temporary. Keep this in mind as we go on.

Revelation 4:1-2 NKJV After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." (2) Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

This is John speaking and we see "a door standing open in heaven" which suggestsÖwell, it suggest a door into a different world. In the Spirit, which I think means that heís out of the fleshly body and into the heavenly mode, John sees a throne and One sitting on it. We already know that heaven is the throne of God, so this must be God.

In the rest of Johnís vision, we see confirmation of what weíve already determined about heaven- angels, thrones, power, governments, elders, and people of all kinds. There is even a war, right there in heaven:

Revelation 12:7-9 NKJV And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, (8) but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. (9) So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

This certainly dovetails nicely with what we read on Monday where Jesus says he "saw Satan cast down from heaven" and it also fits with Job where Satan tells God that he has been going "to and fro on the earth". Satan is here on earth. Other war passages include:

Revelation 19:11-14 NKJV Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. (12) His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. (13) He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. (14) And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Also in heaven we see the ark of the covenants (Rev 11:9) and the temple (Rev 14:17) which we just read about in the Hebrews 12 passage. Finally, we get to the end of the story:

Revelation 21:1-5 NKJV Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. (2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (5) Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

Hereís where we get the reconciliation of heaven and earth. Letís be careful not to read too much into this passage and start inserting our wishful thinking and preconceived interpretations. The passage says that John sees a new heaven and a new earth for the first had passed away. It doesnít really tell us whether the old ones are destroyed and the new created from scratch or if the new replace the old. We have to infer those things. Personally, because Godís creation is originally called "very good" back in the Garden of Eden, Iím inclined to think that the old earth is restored, not recreated. This seems to fit with the whole idea of resurrection in which we donít get all new bodies, different from the old ones, but our old ones are restored to their intended glory. The idea of "reconciliation" and "restoration" seems to fit better with the salvation of the current earth than it does with the idea of recreation. But, whichever happens, Iíll be happy.

Whatís important is that there is a new earth and a new heaven. Itís important that the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (and remember that Jesus talked about this back in Rev 3:12). Itís most important that God will dwell with men and be with them. On this new earth, there will be no more death, no tears, no sorrow, and no pain. All things will be new and the one on the throne says "these words are true and faithful".

Revelation 22, the last book in the Bible, describes not heaven, but this new earth and New Jerusalem.

Revelation 22:1-5 NKJV And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (2) In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (3) And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (4) They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (5) There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Well, letís end here today on this wonderful picture of restoration. Just remember, though, there are entrance requirement for this new earth. Oneís name must be written in the Lambís Book of Life. One must have the righteousness of Christ applied to his own sins and those sins removed. Do you want to be part of this new earth? The river of life is available to all who thirst.


Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX

Heaven- Part 4

November 2012

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM

[Introduction]

Weíre back and this is day 4 of our study on heaven and after-death. As I mentioned on Monday, what Iím trying to do here is take a fresh look at heaven and the after-death life. Iíve tried hard to push aside all of my pre-conceived notions and build the framework of heaven from the foundation up. So far, Iíve used only the Bible to build our picture of heaven. What Iíd like to do today is use some non-Biblical sources to demonstrate the possibility of after-death life. Iím not trying to prove anything, you understand, because proving something beyond reasonable doubt is a pretty tough task. No, I just want to demonstrate the possibility, and the reasonable possibility at that, of existence after death. To do this, Iím going to use several sources including:

Life After Death: the evidence, by Dinesh DíSouza. This book is well-researched and thoughtful. It is written from a Christian perspective, but draws from nearly all non-Biblical sources, which is kind of what Iím doing here today.

Science and the Near-Death Experience by Chris Carter. This one is definitely non-Christian and the introduction spends quite a bit of time slamming religion and particularly creationists, calling them "silly". The challenge of this text for Christians is to try to explain some of their results from a Christian perspective. This book is quoted in DíSouzaís book and thatís why I sought it out and read it myself.

Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This book is written from a distinctly Christian and Biblical perspective. It doesnít incorporate as many non-Biblical sources as the others, but it is certainly aware of them.

DíSouzaís "Life After Death" is probably the most applicable book to what I want to cover today and Iíll be using much of his outline and findings. What I personally was curious about was whether or not non-Biblical information supports existence after death. I was aware of near-death experiences and I was aware of anthropological findings which show ancient cultures having a belief of existence after death. In my former life as a biologist, I did quite a bit of reading in whatís sometimes termed "New Science", that is, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, physics, astronomy, the holographic nature of the universe, and so on. And then thereís philosophy and various philosophical based writings; Iíve sampled those, too. Iím certainly no expert in any one of these but sampling and browsing them quickly showed me the complexity of our world and the vast amount of "stuff" that we just donít know about. All of this comes together when we start thinking about what happens to our existence when we die. DíSouzaís book is probably the best Iíve seen at digging thru this pile of disciplines and applying them to our Christian beliefs. Iím going summarize some of his points, along with points from the other books, as best as I can in a 15 minute talk.

First, there is the evidence of near-death experiences. This is where people are pronounced clinically dead and yet have some kind of conscious awareness from which they return back to their body. These people are in car wrecks, have heart attacks, surgical emergencies, and so forth. Chris Carterís book "Science and the Near-Death Experience" examines these experiences critically, looking for commonalities and differences in cases from around the world. Thatís the real value of this book for me- how do I, as a Christian, explain the pleasant near-death experiences of a Hindu in India? I canít discredit the Hinduís experience simply because heís not a Christian and yet, as a Christian who believes Jesus when he says "No one comes to the Father except thru me", I need to account for this non-Christianís experience. That was a challenge and, frankly, Iím still working on it. I have a hypothesis but Iím still checking it against the Bible and thinking about it. Anyway, the near-death experience is a powerful support for the existence of consciousness after death. DíSouza thinks so and so do the secular scientists in Carterís book.

Second, physics offers us some interesting possibilities. Many people are skeptical of "heaven" and the after-death existence because itís so unlike life here on earth and because, well, itís unknown. They figure that if itís unknown, itís not worth wasting time on. In fact, in a recent online discussion with an atheist, my opponent stated just exactly that- "We canít know anything about it, so itís not worth wasting time on". DíSouza points to black matter and black energy as two mysterious and unknown things that are nonetheless fairly well accepted in the science community. Basically, there is not enough matter or energy in the universe to explain its behavior. For instance, we know that if we roll a ball across the floor that it will eventually stop rolling. If the universe was created by a Big Bang, then its expansion will eventually slow down. But the opposite is true. The expansion of the universe is increasing. In order to continue to accelerate, there must be- according to all that we know- a force behind this acceleration. Physicists have labeled this unknown force as "black energy". Likewise, there is not enough known matter in the universe to explain the gravitational forces we observe. So, we have "black matter", an unseen, unknown hypothetical matter to balance out gravitational equations. Furthermore, physicists are currently considering what is called "string theory", the hypothesis that there are up to 10, 11, or 26 dimensions, depending on what aspect of the theory weíre talking about. These again are hypothesized in order to help explain currently unexplainable observations.

The point here is that scientists and physicists are willing to accept unknown and barely observable explanations for unexplained phenomena, yet when the subject of human existence after death is brought up, itís often pushed off into the round file folder of "religion". Not always- as evidenced by Chris Carterís book- but all too often. Yet, if string theory is correct, there are many currently unobservable dimensions out there. So, why canít our human essence- our soul- exist in a different dimension? If you recall from our previous Bible study, both Stephen and John saw "the door of heaven" opened. People describing their near-death experience frequently mention a tunnel or a door or a port into which they go and thru this opening they find a different realm. Again, this is interesting material that should be laid on the table and discussed and which- if it doesnít actually prove existence after-death- certainly allows for or supports it.

Third, weíll look at philosophy. One of the most common debates in philosophy is the idea of dualism vs materialism. The dualist says that man is both spiritual and material. The dualist says that our conscience, our thoughts, our emotions- all the things that make us "human"- exist in a soul and are expressed thru the materialistic body. DíSouza compares this to a radio; the physical radio is a transistor for the radio waves. Smash the radio and you donít eliminate the radio waves; you just eliminate the mechanism by which they are translated. Youíre probably heard Sartreís famous saying "I think, therefore I am"? Thatís a dualistic statement- I think, I have a conscience, therefore, because of that, I exist. Without a conscience, I donít exist. The materialist, on the other hand, says that our thoughts are a result of cellular activity, synapses and nerve endings firing, and nothing more. Our thoughts, emotions, and conscience are all produced by our brain. When our brain ceases to function, whatever is "us" is no more. To them, the radio produces the sound. Smash the radio and you eliminate the message. Thereís not much question what the Bible supports; body, soul, spirit. The new man vs the old man, yet still in the fleshÖ the Biblical view is dualistic.

Along with dualism and materialism, we have the concept of experience vs reality and the question, "what is real?" We like to think- and my atheistic opponents will frequently say this- that whatís right now, is real. But how do you know that? Okay, so you can reach out and touch something and you can pinch someone and you say, triumphantly, "Thatís real!" But how do you know that your brain hasnít just created an illusion for you to experience? Before you think Iím totally crazy here, let me point out that philosophers have debated this topic for millennia. Furthermore, if we go back and visit physics, we find something interesting. Look at something in front of you- letís say a desk. That desk is made of something- wood, plastic, or a composite, but something. That something is composed of molecules. Molecules break down to elements, elements break down to atoms which are composed of protons and neutrons. Protons break down into quarks. All of these have a mass, but the mass is about 5% of the total space of the atom. DíSouza has us imagine a baseball in the middle of Wrigley Field- this is about the amount of mass in the atom. So, that desk in front of you has a mass only about 5% of its space. It is 95% electronic impulses. Why, then, canít you push your finger thru it? Thereís not much actual mass there! Is this an illusion created by the brain sensing electrical impulses? Guess what? We donít know how it works! Yet, how quickly accept our world here as "real" and the supernatural or the after-life as "weird" or "not real". If you live to the ripe old age of 100 here on earth and spend eternity somewhere else, which was "real"? One more time- this line of thought from philosophy regarding reality and experience does not prove an after-death existence, but it certainly allows for it.

Finally, we have the question of morals. Not necessarily the exact morals such as "cookies are good but stealing cookies is bad", but simply the existence of morals. Where do we get and why do we have a sense of right and wrong? The existence of the sense demands the reality of such. In other words, the fact that we have morals at all means that they come from somewhere. Something cannot come from nothing. The existence of morals is going to take us back to the dualism vs materialism argument. We are dualistic creatures according to the Bible; we live in both a spiritual world and a material or fleshly world. Likewise, we have to deal with the way things are vs the way things should be. This is where our morals come from. There are facts and there are values, and the former have to be interpreted and evaluated by the latter. For instance, suppose I tell you that I ate a cookie. This is a fact. For you to do anything at all with this information, you have to impose a value on it. No matter how you respond, you do so with a value. Suppose you reply "Was it tasty?" Well, what is "tasty"? Thatís a matter of value in that it requires for some things to be not-so-tasty and others to be "tasty". Morals- "Was the cookie good?"- are based on values and values automatically require a dualistic nature, one that deals with how things are vs how things should be. Therefore, the mere existence of morals demands a non-materialistic nature and weíve already shown that if our conscious being is separate from the material being, then it is not dependent upon the material being for existence. And if thatís the case, then there is nothing to stop the conscious being from continuing to exist after the material body dies.

Well, thatís an awful lot to bite off in 15 minutes. I didnít use much Scripture today, but I hope I used enough of it in the previous days to build a good foundation. What weíre doing here is testing the Scriptural view of heaven against the world of science and human thought. If Scripture is true, we should find that truth outside of it, and I think we did. We may not have proven the truth of Scripture via science and philosophy but we certainly did not exclude it and we found lots of room for it to exist.

Tomorrow, Iíll do my best to sum up everything weíve learned this week. May God help me! To his glory, in Jesusí name- Amen.


Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX

Heaven- Part 5

November 2012

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM

[Introduction]

AlrightÖ letís wrap up this week. Iíve been looking at what the Bible says about heaven and I tried to start from scratch and build a framework first, then flesh that out with information solely from the Bible. I didnít cover 1/100th of the verses that apply, but I think we built a pretty good picture of heaven. Then I went outside the Bible to see if science and human thought might support the idea of an after-death existence of the human soul. We looked at near-death experiences, physics, and philosophy and Iím very comfortable with the idea that these things all- at the very least- allow for the continuation of the human consciousness after the death of the body. Some of them may even require it. I didnít even begin to cover as much as I would have liked to cover, but maybe I gave you something to think about. Maybe I planted some seeds, watered some others, maybe even some fruit was grown.

Letís sum up the Biblical information first:

Heaven is associated with a kingdom. Scripture frequently uses the term "kingdom of heaven".

a. A kingdom requires subjects, a government, and a king.

This kingdom is different from the world in which we currently live. There are no moths, rust, or thieves.

There is a reward and a treasure waiting in heaven. This reward and treasure are extremely desirable.

Heaven is Godís throne.

b. A throne is a position from which kings rule.

i. God rules heaven and earth

ii. Jesus co-rules with God the Father, from the latterís right hand position.

c. Both God and Jesus are in heaven.

There are angels in Heaven and they see Godís face.

God made heaven.

There are levels of heaven or at least different aspects of it.

There are entry requirements to this kingdom.

d. Oneís righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees

e. One must do the will of God the Father.

i. These are accomplished by the imputation of Christís righteousness to our account, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which allows us to do Godís will.

There is a record of who has been granted entry to heaven.

f. Our names are written in heaven

g. Lambís Book of Life

h. These may be the same records or not. I assume they are, but that is only an assumption.

Those not granted entry to heaven are cast into the lake of fire after the Great White Throne judgment.

There is a war in heaven.

i. Satan was involved but has been cast out, to earth.

j. God has His armies and will triumph, destroying Satan once and for all.

Heaven is temporary.

k. There will come a time when the earth is restored and the curse is lifted.

l. At this time, the veil between the spiritual world and the natural world will be removed and they will be one and the same. We know this because God will dwell with his people.

 

Looking into the world for confirmation of Biblical truths, we found that there is a lot of evidence which supports or allows for the idea of existence after death. This evidence includes near-death experiences in which people are pronounced clinically dead- no brain or heart activity- and yet have a very clear consciousness, usually seeing themselves in the car wreck or on the operating table. They usually move freely about but cannot draw the attention of the humans present. In the experience, people often report going down a dark tunnel into a place of light where they report feeling tremendous joy and peace. There is often a bright light source which they recognize as the cause for their peace. They frequently see people they knew in life and even some- like siblings who died young- that are associated with them but which they do not know they know. After returning to their body- often being sent back to their body- these experiences remain clear and sharp. Unless our definition of "dead" is incorrect, these people did indeed die, experience something, and then come back to life.

Next we looked into physics and saw that physics is full of unknown matter, uncharted dimensions, and unobservable things. Yet these things are readily accepted by physicists as they seek to explain the things that they can see. We used this to question why the concept of existence after death is so often ridiculed or ignored when science itself certainly allows for the possibility. We discussed the philosophical concept of dualism vs. materialism, a debate which has raged for as long as there have been philosophers. Dualism is the idea that humans are both spiritual and fleshly, while materialism says that the flesh is all there is and that it produces thoughts, emotions, and the like. The concept of dualism is required for the existence of humanness after death and the fact that secular thinkers discuss it means that they consider it a viable line of thought. We touched briefly on experience vs. reality and asked the question "how do you know whatís real?" This again is a line of thought going back thousands of years and it applies directly to our experience here on earth vs our existence as immortal souls. Finally, I brought up morals and tried to show that morals require values and values eventually require dualism. Dualism, again, allows for the existence of a consciousness apart from our fleshly body. All of these taken together as a whole provide a strong case for the reality of a human soul and the survival of that soul after the physical bodiesí death.

So, what happens in heaven? Some people think that heaven is like one great big church service and they cringe at that thought. Me, I think that seeing Godís glory and experiencing His presence will be enough to keep me enthralled for a couple thousand years, at least. I meanÖdudeÖ the Creator of the Universe and Everything In it? The God who not only created Stephen Hawking but created everything Hawking studied and put it all together for Dr. Hawking to study? I take that backÖ I think itíll take at least a few thousand years for me to pick myself up off the floor and then I can start to be enthralled. Hereís another thing Iím looking forward to: Right now, I canít sing at all. Here, I have a voice like a croaky frog. There? Iím going to be able to sing and I intend to use my voice well, often, and loudly. I know these things will happen because the Bible tells us so:

Revelation 5:9-14 NKJV And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (10) And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." (11) Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, (12) saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (13) And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (14) Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

In short, though, we go to heaven to be with God. If thatís not good enough for you, then you probably donít want to go there. If you donít want to be with God, you will get what you ask for, but be oh, so careful, that what you ask for is really what you want. After all:

Psalms 36:9 NKJV For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

1 John 1:5 NKJV This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

James 1:17 NKJV Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Do you really want to be separated from the fountain of life, the God of light, and from whom every good and perfect gift come? I sincerely hope that is not your desire. Why would you not want to live in a world like this one:

Revelation 21:1-8 NKJV Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. (2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (5) Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." (6) And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. (7) He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (8) But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Revelation 22:1-5 NKJV And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (2) In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (3) And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (4) They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (5) There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

God will give freely to whoever thirsts. Do you thirst for this, or do you still wish to be separated from God?

Finally, I have a personal interest in this topic, having experienced the death of my 11-year old son, David, this past Memorial Day. I did this study for me, over the past several months, and itís helped me tremendously. Frankly, I have no question that Davidís spirit is alive and well. Secular science and philosophy agree. But these only supplement the truth of the Bibleís teachings and thatís what gives me hope and confidence that not only is Davidís spirit alive and well, but we will someday get our resurrected bodies and live together, with God Almighty and Jesus Christ, on a new earth where there is no more curse, no more sorrow, no more sickness, and no more tears.; just peace and joy, forever and ever. Iím looking forward to that.