Hoping for Heaven - through the eyes of Paul
by Joyce Jamerson
Because of Paul’s
prolific pen, It is a little harder to encapsulate his thoughts on heaven into one article as we did Peter, in the last article.
Both men had their eyes toward heaven, although in very different ways and with very different backgrounds. Hope
permeated their thinking.
Saul was an Israelite, born in Tarsus and brought up in Jerusalem, having studied at the school
of Gamaliel, a respected Jewish Rabbai, Acts 22:3. The first we learn of Saul
in the N.T. is at the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:58 and 8:1. He stood by and approved while guarding the clothes of
those who did the stoning. Christians were experiencing a lot of persecution and Saul was one of the ring leaders, persecuting
the church; entering every house, dragging off men and women to carry them to prison. Imagine being a Christian during
that time, fearful in your own home; fearing for your life. Jerusalem
had undergone many challenges and believing in Jesus was not easy for the strong, let alone the weak and struggling.
The name Saul means significant or sought after.
Saul’s religious experience was on the road
to Damascus, Acts 9, 22 and 26. Damascus was an ancient city with many synagogues, serving between 10,000 and 20,000
Jews. He was going to the synagogues with letters of permission from the High Priest, hunting down Christians, so he
could take them to Jerusalem as prisoners. We know the story - after a vision, the intense light and hearing the voice
of Jesus, he was blinded for 3 days and led to the city to the house of Ananias. He was baptized, filled with the H.S.
and set out to do the work of His Lord, with a new name as well as a new outlook. Now his name, Paul, means little
and we know he was chosen to be an apostle “out of due season.” He, as an eyewitness, now qualified to be
an apostle. Notice there was no what’s in it for me? attitude; no bargaining and no
asking what the future would hold. In fact, in the vision, Jesus told him very little of what to expect.
There was no argumentation;
no ploy to hold onto his Jewish traditions. In that, look at what he was admitting. He was schooled in the best
of Jewish education. To acknowledge that Jesus was resurrected was to admit that God was with the Christians and with
the Jews only if they accepted Jesus. Had the Sanhedrin been wrong all these years? Yet,
Paul went willingly, in complete submission. In there, lies a lesson for us. Our response to truth should be the
same, even if it means we have been wrong in the past. It may be necessary as well, to inspect our own traditions.
There was no bargaining
or excuses from Paul, and he didn’t ask a bunch of questions before he would go to Damascus. He was compliant and willing.
He didn’t need to have all the answers but sorely needed to know the One who DOES have all the answers. Paul was
not concerned with specifics. He was perfectly happy to know Jesus and the freedom that came because of His death.
Paul said he would
discipline his body to bring it into subjection. Gary Henry wrote that self-discipline is a form of courage and courage
is always born of hope, so here we see both extremes; lack of hope and Paul’s focus because of his hope. (From
Reaching Forward - Jan 17.) (I like his books - Reaching Forward and Diligently Seeking God - good devotional material.)
And lastly, Paul
didn’t claim he was saved on the road to Damascus. Yes, he definitely had a religious experience when Jesus appeared
to him in a vision, but it didn’t include salvation. Because of his blindness, he was led into Damascus to meet
with Ananias, who restored his sight and revealed to Paul that he had been chosen to be a witness of Jesus. At this
point, he was a believer and was baptized for the remission of his sins, Acts 22:16. Spend some time with Romans 6 to
understand how baptism is in the likeness of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Our body of sin has died.
Dead things are buried; this body will be buried in baptism and then arise, just like Jesus. Baptism corresponds to
His death, burial and resurrection. We arise to a new life, being alive to God, in Christ Jesus, 6:11. We
receive grace through our faith. Notice how 1 Peter 3:21 reads: “Baptism, which corresponds
to this, (the “this” is Noah being saved by the flood waters), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt
from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Otherwise, we would never be assured of our salvation and Paul understood that. (I was amazed to hear that the
new pope recently said even atheists could be saved if they believed with a good conscience.) If that were true, why
did Jesus appear to Paul at all? He was killing Christians with a good conscience!
Background is important, in order to
understand Paul’s new outlook. When Paul went back to Damascus, it was quite
a surprise to the Christians there because of his reputation. You can imagine their conversation! “Isn’t
this Saul of Tarsus?” “What is he doing here?” “Isn’t this the one who killed so
many Christians?” He was forgiven but all was not forgotten. As he went about teaching, the Jews were
planning ways to kill him and that’s when he escaped from Damascus with a quick basket ride over the wall. His
mission is stated in Acts 20:24. “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself,
if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace
of God.” That is a dedicated and thankful teacher and preacher.
We find more reasons for Paul’s
hope from one of the journeys. Paul evidently has one of those “near death
experiences.” We read of it in 2 Corinthians 12:2-6. (He seemed to be saying this “incredible thing
happened to me, but I can’t tell you about it!”) He’s speaking of himself when he said he knew a man
who was caught up into the 3rd heaven 14 years ago. He didn’t actually know if he was in his body or out of it,
but was caught up into Paradise and heard those inexpressible words. Some connect this experience to his visit to Lystra
on the first journey in Acts 14:19, when he was stoned and left for dead. And it would fit. That visit to Lystra displays
both sides of teaching. Sometimes they love you; sometimes they don’t. First they wanted to worship him
and Barnabas, thinking they were gods and then, because of the influence of Jews from Antioch and Iconium who came down to
Lystra; they wanted to stone him (and did), and left him for dead.
The Jews recognized three different
heavens which I believe is still correct. The first is air or atmosphere where birds fly. Second
is firmament (that’s the Star Wars area), the outer space of the sun, moon and stars. The third
is God’s home with Jesus and the angels. This third heaven (Paradise) was where Paul was taken in the vision. I suppose God let Paul get a glimpse of Paradise to embolden him for the future. It kind
of “sealed the deal” if we want to put it that way. I suspect if we could have a peek or a glimpse into
heaven, it would have an effect on us too. Think of what THAT would do for our hope!
Unlike those who claim near death experiences,
Paul did not boast about it or sign a book contract. Just google near death experience and all kinds of material will
come up; fantastic claims. Psychics love that kind of thing and some people would much rather look into these fantastic
claims than read their Bible.
Paul was not allowed to speak of these things, v. 4. and suffers a thorn in the flesh to keep
him from boasting. (Just think of our temptation if we saw such a scene! It would be on FB in a heartbeat!)
And what was the answer when Paul asked to be relieved of that thorn? “My grace is
sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s attention was drawn to heaven through hope. His unrelenting focus; his tireless drive was due
to gratitude for forgiveness, motivated by hope.
Our attention should be drawn to the hope that is before
us and drawn away from ourselves. The obvious lesson: You’re fine for right now, Paul. Remember,
death can be better than life because heaven is a prepared place. Jesus said it was: “Let not your hearts
be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told
you that I go to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1,2. That message
is not only for Paul but for us: Keep your eye on that goal. Paul had hope. He knew his life of sin and
the mercy received because of the sacrifice of Christ. Through God’s Word, we see hope created and as Jesus
came, hope sustained. Our hope will be completed when we see hope realized.
For Heaven - through the eyes of John
Aren’t we glad that Jesus chose 12 very different men to be apostles, so we can learn from each of them?
Noticeably, John’s remarkable insight into heaven is very different from that of Peter and Paul (for reference, please
see the two previous articles). John remained in the background; never in the limelight as were Peter and Paul.
John was a rugged and hard-working fisherman with a lot to learn about love. Three years of being with Jesus obviously taught
John some important lessons in order to be called “the apostle of love”.
Since both he and his brother were known as “the
sons of thunder,” love gave him the balance he needed, He was in the debate about who was the greatest (Luke
9:48) and his mother wanted to make sure her two boys had a place in the Kingdom, which resulted in Jesus’ teaching
about the first being last and the last being first. Point well taken. There was too much tendency toward self-importance.
John is rather modest in that he doesn’t name himself in his writings (except for Revelation) and never boasts
that he was related to Jesus; nor does he boast of being an apostle.
John, along with Peter and James, was an eyewitness
of the transfiguration and we talked about Peter’s responses in an earlier article. The glory John witnessed made a
lasting impression. In John 1:14, he wrote: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have
seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,”
(John 1:14). Those words came from his heart; he had witnessed the glory. Surely, when writing Revelation,
this scene came to his mind, when he was describing the Jesus he saw in a vision.
John was the youngest of the apostles and lived the
longest; probably dying around 98 A.D. In 1st John 1:4, he writes so “our joy
may be complete.” In 2:1 why is he writing? ” “My
little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. He’s pretty straight forward - no
misunderstanding there. He had heard Jesus say, “Go and sin no more.” He
had learned that God wanted them to: Have joy and be holy. Then in 5:13, “I write these things...that
you may know that you have eternal life.” Joy - no sin - eternal life.
That’s assurance. His theme throughout his writings? “That you may believe.”
Joy - no sin - and eternal life
sadness - sin - doubt - anxiety.
wanted them to know holiness, assurance and eternal life. What did he say in John 3:15,16? “Whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God
so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Joy - Holiness - Assurance.
John wants them to look back in 1 John 2:24. “If what you heard in the beginning abides in you,
then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He made to us - eternal life.” You can
see John’s sights set toward heaven! And
he is SO filled with that, he continues teaching and preaching.
He likes the word
abide. I think he uses it 10 times in his gospel and 6 times in 1st & 2nd John. Abide means to continue
in a particular condition; to stay; to wait. “Abide
With Me” is a beautiful song - “Lord with me abide.” Hold my hand. Stay close. Help me to overcome.
John said: “For everyone
who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God,” 1 John 5:4,5.
Keeping our minds directed helps us to overcome. Worldly things were just as much a distraction to them as they are
to us. Our distractions are just updated.
To overcome is the theme of John’s book of Revelation. He is seeing hope revealed and gains even
more assurance. John received a vision while exiled on the isle of Patmos, off the coast of Turkey, as we know it today.
The letter was addressed to 7 churches in Asia and contains a lot of symbolic language that Christians of that time would
understand but evil forces would not. There are differing opinions about when the book was written and the meaning of
all the symbolism but we need not get bogged down in all of that. We can know that it has been fulfilled because it
tells us God gave the revelation to John because it must soon take place (v. 1) and the time is near (v. 3).
The important thing
to take away from the book is that those who overcome will be rewarded. A great distress was to come. Some think
that refers to 70 A.D and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and some think it refers to a later distress under the
persecution of Romans. Whatever the case - the key is to overcome. To be diligent. To wait. And suffering
will come; they can count on it. We can count on it. Waiting requires self-discipline. We all know how difficult
is just to wait! In 1 John 3:2,3, John had written, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when
he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as
he is pure.” John had hope and knew how to instill it in others.
He was told by an angel,
to write what he saw into a book to send to the seven churches in Asia. One of the first visions was of Christ in His
glory and in chapter 4, he saw the throne in heaven in all its glory. God was seated on the throne and all around Him
was a rainbow that appeared like an emerald. There was jasper and carnelian, which are red stones. Surrounding
God were 24 thrones with 24 elders, wearing white robes and golden crowns. There was lightning and thunder and torches
of fire and a sea of glass was before the throne. Creatures were glorifying God, continually saying, Holy, Holy,
Holy. You get the picture. This throne scene must have been more magnificent than a big epic movie.
In his gospel, John wrote what Jesus said (14:1-4) about preparing a place for believers; a house with many rooms
and now, along with many symbols and prophecies, he is getting a glimpse of that. It is promised to those who
overcome, and I believe it includes those who overcome, regardless of the time in which they lived. We should be longing
for heaven. Or are we too comfortable here? Does heaven seems unreachable? We should like our life here
but not to the point of rejecting heaven. Paul made a comparison between choosing to remain and choosing to depart.
Life here is good; life in heaven is better. We, as Christians, can already see persecution and God only knows what is to
become of this country with its current decline.
This may be a good time to look back into the archives for
encouraging articles written at the beginning of this series; lessons showing heaven to be a place of awe and safety and the
rest that will be available there. Keep heaven in your mind; it’s beauties grow more each time we conquer the difficulties of life.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a icing hope through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven
for you…” I Peter 1:3-4.
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you,” John 14: 2.
The Battle For Heaven
by Joyce Jamerson
God’s superior love and power led Him to create our
beautiful surroundings, with everything He knew we would need…and enjoy. Water? He gave us lots of water,
not only for sustenance but also for pleasure. Food? Everything that can be desired is available - so many different
tastes and textures. Animals to love and enjoy. Countryside? He displayed rocks, hills, valleys and cliffs
in such magnificent and awe-inspiring hues and colors that we cannot help but see His hand in creation. (This
is being written in Spring - have you ever seen so many different shades of green?) All mankind will notice unimaginable
varieties of flowering plants and trees that shout every color, shade and hue of the rainbow - and then some. God spoke
it all into existence, Genesis 1. All things were planned and created by Him.
Then He formed and placed Adam in these
brilliantly happy surroundings and from his rib, formed Eve, his helper. They were in beautiful surroundings and total
happiness with everything they wanted or needed. UNTIL - Satan appeared.
Satan? Who is he? How did this enemy
of all things good come to this scene of bliss? And why? Since God is the creator of all things, there are two
possibilities for Satan’s existence.
As we’ll study in another lesson, God created angels to worship and
serve Him. They are capable of error (2 Peter 2:4; Job 4:18) and can rebel and leave their appointed place, Jude 6.
Scripture describes Satan as a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5); an adversary (1 Peter 5:8); an accuser and a dragon
capable of great destruction (Revelation 12:9,10); prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and the god of this world,
2 Corinthians 4:4. It’s probable that Satan is a rebellious and fallen angel.
The second possibility is that God created
Satan as an element to separate those who truly love Him and the plan He has for mankind from those who have no deeper appreciation
for such things. God wants only those who will serve Him well and we were created with the ability to make such choices; Satan
cannot and does not overrule our choices. The latter possibility is inconsistent with the God of the Bible, who causes
all things to work together for our good, Romans 8:28. God wants the best for me; Satan does not. We see in the
great controversy between God and Satan concerning Job, how God permitted Job to be tested by Satan but protected him from
being conquered fully. God prevailed. Satan failed to learn and Job was rewarded for his steadfast faith. God
always has the upper hand.
After his fall, it was (and is) Satan’s mission to portray God other than as He truly
is and to cast doubt in the minds of not only Adam and Eve, but everyone in his path. Throughout history, we see the
effects of his deceit; how his evil spreads and the resulting devastation to homes, families and to the church. Just
as with any false teacher, he causes a progression in our thinking that leads to departure from God. As with Eve, he
creates discontent, which grows into irrational thinking. “God just wants me to be happy” is a common excuse
for disobedience and Satan presents the forbidden as something to be desired and coveted. Mark Copeland expresses it
this way: Satan is saying “Let’s Make A Deal!” If it feels good, do it! If it looks
good, take it! If it sounds good, go for it!
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil
walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same
sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world,” 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV).
James speaks of
a wisdom that is not from above, calling it earthly, sensual, and devilish with jealousy and confusion and every vile deed
(James 3:15,16), but then contrasts wisdom from above as “pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of
mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy,” 3:17.
Satan, however, did not foresee the
power of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose coming was prophesied hundreds of years before His appearance on earth to bring
salvation to all men. His efforts to tempt Jesus failed; glory belonged to God. Peter had his issues
but walking with Jesus snatched him from Satan’s grip. The thorn given to Paul failed; Paul overcame and rejoiced.
As Jason Hardin recently wrote, “Satan wants to use you for a stumbling block (Matthew 16:21-23; Romans 14:13;
Matthew 18:1-7), God wants to use you as a building block, 1 Peter. 2:1-5. Satan want to drag you into
hell with him (Matthew 25:41); God wants to lift you up to heaven with him, Colossians 1:13-14; 2 Peter 3:9;
Satan’s tools - worldliness, indifference, false teaching - take a toll on the church
but we too, can overcome and remain steadfast. As Paul said, we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices,
2:11. We, as Christians, are seeing persecution now - an outcome of Satan’s influences. We too, can prevail.
He is still active (1 Peter 5:8-9) but has no power over death.
We get the full meaning of Jesus’ statement about receiving
ALL authority in Matthew 28: 18. After His resurrection, Jesus, the Son, was given complete control and put ALL things
under His feet, having been set in authority over demons and angels and all creation, Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:22.
was resurrected, the battle was won. Satan still has an influence but we can “read ahead” to the end of
the book and know the outcome! What comfort! There is a vast array of anxieties and disappointments of daily life
with political concerns, illness, financial upheaval, child-rearing and church difficulties but our sovereign God has unending
and limitless power to bring about our salvation and the fear of death and separation from God has been removed, Romans 8:
Satan has his tools and uses them well but God has equipped us with better
Christ has pre-eminence.
We have the benefit of His providence.
have an avenue of prayer.
HIM, we have purpose.
The Angels In Heaven
by Joyce Jamerson
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living
God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled
in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a
new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel,” Hebrews 12:22-24.
“Every time a bell
rings, an angel gets his wings” may be a familiar phrase to you if you’ve ever watched the movie classic “A Wonderful Life.” Clarence was the name of
the angel in that setting. Do the names Gabriel and Michael
“ring a bell”?
The Greek word for angel is angelos, which means messenger. It indicates that they are sent by God to perform designated tasks. Even though there are myriads (a
myriad is 10,000) and hosts (multitudes) of angels, only two are mentioned
by name; Gabriel, which means strength of God and Michael, who is like unto God. Michael is the only one
designated as the archangel, indicating that others are under his charge. Gabriel appeared to Daniel in chapters 8 and 9 of Daniel (8:15-27; 9:21-22), to give him insight and understanding
concerning a vision. After Gabriel’s appearance, Daniel, overcome by the visit and the meaning of the vision, fainted and was sick for days, 8:27. Gabriel gave him skill to understand (9:22) and refers to angels in his vision as watchers. Michael, while watching for others, contends with the devil in Jude 9 and Revelation
In Psalm 91, David points out that God has given angels charge over those
who dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. This comfort is deepened
in Hebrews 1:14 as the writer points out that angels are ministering spirits for those who will inherit salvation. Again, in Hebrews 12, the writer contrasts Mount Sinai and the old law with the
Kingdom we know today, that cannot be shaken. This coming to
Mount Zion includes innumerable or myriads of angels. Revelation
mentions “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands
of thousands,” 5:11 NKJV. It’s quite comforting
to think there are numbers of angels ready and willing to be our support and come to our defense when needed. It must have been an amazing sight when a multitude of heavenly hosts joined
the angel of the Lord, when appearing to the shepherds after the birth of Jesus, Luke 2:10-14.
One can only imagine!
Our lack of study concerning
angels causes confusion as to their purpose. Details in scripture
are really quite interesting, seeing that angels are mentioned somewhere around 300 times.
They are eternal, spiritual beings, created by God (Psalm 148:1-5; Colossians 1:16) and Job tells
us they were present at creation, Job 38:1-7. Matthew mentions
they do not marry, hence they do not reproduce, 22:29,30; Mark
12:25. Apparently, they have freedom of choice because “God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell” (2 Peter 2:4) and are capable of error, Job 4:18. Jude 6 also tells us some “did not keep their
proper habitation.” Pride and ambition were probably the sins which caused Satan’s fall. God, in His wisdom, did not create us - or
angels - as robots. We all have free will and can make the
choice as to our service.
But what do they look like? Do they really have wings? Angels are referred to as cherubim, seraphim, sons of God and watchers. Seraphim, noted as God’s agents for the purification
of God’s people, are described in Isaiah 6:2 as having three
pairs of wings and are mentioned only twice in scripture, while Cherubim have four wings and are mentioned many times. Their wings are described as covering the mercy seat in Exodus 25:20. All are instruments of God’s judgment, serving God as needed. Angels ate a meal
with Abraham in Genesis 18, and appeared in human form to Lot, giving protection to him and his family, Genesis 19:24-25. They also appeared to Hagar, Jacob, Balaam and many others. Remember an angel attending to Elijah after he ran from Mt. Carmel? After the resurrection of Jesus, the guards at the tomb became as dead men after the appearance of an angel. A detailed description of an angel is in Daniel 10: 5,6. (Isaiah,
Ezekiel and Daniel all had visions of angels.) They are never described as women, debunking the many figurines produced of
supposed angels; all with very feminine characteristics.
Angels always point people to God and give glory to Him,
refusing any attempted worship. Not only can we entertain angels
unaware (Hebrews 13:2), we have to realize that Satan and his angels are also present. We are warned in Galatians 1:8 to not accept any gospel that
is contrary to what was already received, even if it came from an angel. We are not to be fooled by those who recommend worship of angels, Colossians 2:18.
According to 2 Corinthians 11:14,15, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. We must not
forget that God dealt very sternly with those who sought advice from others without trusting in Him.
Modern day applications would be the zodiac, psychics and fortune tellers. Such things are trickery; designed to play on our emotions. Jehovah God is Sovereign; wiser above all others.
Why would we want to place our trust elsewhere?
Paul frequently wrote about the church
and the mystery of the Gospel. Even the prophets who foretold
the hope of glory didn’t understand their own writings, Colossians
1:26. Romans 16:25 says it was kept secret through the ages. Jesus told the disciples how blessed they were to see and hear the things taking
place before them, Luke 10: 23,24. Read 1 Peter 1 when you
can to get the complete picture. Through God’s great and loving mercy, we have the hope of salvation, through the resurrection
of Jesus Christ. Through Scripture, we can understand how to
accept this exceptional gift! The prophets didn’t understand and angels longed
to figure it out, 1 Peter 1:12. Angels do not receive
the same blessings so they are tremendously interested in the salvation provided for us,
rejoicing when one sinner repents, Luke 15:10. They're on our side, rejoicing! And yet, there are
those who fail to take advantage of God’s remarkable plan.
Angels provide (Elijah - 1 Kings 19:6), minister (Christ Matthew
4:11), protect (Daniel - Daniel 3 and 6), and deliver (apostles in prison - Acts 5 and 12).
God answered prayer through angels, Daniel 9:20-24; 10:10-12; Acts 12:1-17.
When we allow ourselves to meditate on what God has provided, not only for our salvation,
but for our safety and comfort as well, it’s almost too much to absorb. When confronting Syria, God saw the needs of Elisha and surrounded the city with horses and chariots, much to the
surprise of his servant. Only when revealed did the servant
see the extra forces that were not visible to him; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Do you see that protection for us too? Hebrews, which often notes the superiority of Jesus, also tells us that angels are ministering spirits sent out to
serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation, 1:14.
Our God is mighty. He can command myriads of angels for our defense if needed. We may have already been the recipients of such protection that wasn’t revealed to us at the time.
As comfort in our final moments, God sends angels
to deliver our spirits unto Him, as he did Lazarus, in Luke 16:22. When
Jesus returns, He’ll bring all the angels with Him and when
we’re found faithful, we can gather around the throne to sing
His praises forevermore with myriads of angels.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby some
have entertained angels unawares,”
My grateful thanks to Michael Hardin, whose workbook
Other Created Spiritual Beings” was a great resource for this study.
Heaven or Hell?
by Joyce Jamerson
Over the past two years, we have been “Looking
Within” to consider things of heaven; a place of awe and safety where we can see and enjoy the glory of God. We
have looked at heaven through the eyes of Peter, Paul and John to see that each had the same hope with different perspectives.
Heaven was forever in their mind; their future. They longed for it; planned for it. If
we are looking within as well as looking to the future, we will be anticipating this great reward.
As children, we
may remember certain promises that seemed so far in the future, we thought it would never come to pass. Does heaven
seem unreachable? How often does the promise of heaven occupy our minds? Do we think of it daily?
Weekly? Monthly? If we can adopt the anticipation of Peter, Paul and John, speaking of heaven and its glories
will actually embolden us for trials of today; the burdens we bear and challenges we face. If we have a reasonable understanding
of heaven and its beauties; the glory and peace that will prevail there, why do we hesitate to speak of it?
In order to receive
this reward, there must be a final judgment and that brings up the ugliness of hell. Because it’s an uncomfortable
subject, it’s not often that we hear sermons warning us of its perils. From the beginning of the Bible to the
end, we see how sin affected the lives of people and the terrible consequences that resulted. It affects our lives now.
Sin still has consequences, not only presently but for eternity. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and if there is no
consequence, then the death of Jesus was unnecessary. Some believe that hell is reserved only for the worst of the worst,
like Hitler or hardened criminals and terrorists. Others believe that hell is temporary; just to teach a lesson and
then all will eventually be joined together in heaven. Is it possible to have heaven without hell?
So we look to
Scripture for answers and more specifically, what did Jesus, who came to earth to redeem us, teach? The same Bible
that teaches us of heaven also teaches us of hell. If we accept one, we must of necessity accept the other. You
might want to do a word study on Sheol, Hinnom, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna to note how these words are used and their differences.
Some reason that
a loving God could not possibly send His children to eternal punishment. Why would a loving God punish so severely
for a momentary mistake? Or is sin a momentary mistake? Even if the punishment equalled the lifespan of the perpetrator,
it would be more desirable than eternity. We see the stern punishment for rebellion and disobedience in the case of
Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Numbers 16. God wants us to be holy (Leviticus 20:26) and He doesn’t tolerate rebellion.
It’s His right - because He is HOLY!
On the other hand, why would God wish to eternally reward His children?
Speaking as a parent, we often had to punish our children for some misdeed. Loving parents provide discipline because
they want to raise respectful children who will make valuable contributions to society. Rules are to be obeyed and obedience
or lack thereof will either bring praise or punishment. Think of the disaster without family rules; no expectations
as to behavior. No matter how much rules are disliked, one cannot live life without them. The result would be
wages of the righteous is life,
The income of the wicked, punishment,”
Since, in God’s eternal plan, it is His wish that all can be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), Heaven was
prepared. Only in a perfect world would all be obedient, so punishment was also prepared for the devil and his angels and
any who choose that path, Matthew 25:41. If there were no sin in the world, we could have heaven here, but sin was brought
to the world and we are all in need of salvation. Sin is a violation of the will of God, so the same fate can befall
us. Jude 6 tells us that fallen angels are in bonds and darkness, waiting for judgment.
Hell, or Hades, the realm of the dead, is divided into places for both the wicked and the righteous.
Upon passing from this life, the wicked will wait for judgment in Tartarus and the righteous will wait in Paradise.
We see this division in Luke 16, when the poor man was carried by angels to Paradise and the rich man was in torment.
Both were in Hades with a great divide between them. All will reside there until the day of judgment. Judgment,
in its eternal sense is referred to many times in the New Testament but 2 Thessalonians 1 and 2 Peter 3 may be the best discussions
of what happens when the “Day of the Lord” comes.
Jesus mentioned the judgment and the dangers of hell often.
It is referred to as outer darkness, fiery torment and lake of fire, in which there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,
Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50 and 22:15. The judgment scene is described in Matthew 25:41 as some must depart
into eternal fire and others will go into eternal life. 2 Peter 3 tells us that when Jesus comes, the elements of the
universe will dissolve, being burned with intense heat.
Almost every year there are wildfires in the West and this
year has been particularly bad in California. Seeing the recent destruction of these fires paints a visual picture of
how intense fire can be and how quickly this can take place. Fire is frightening. Families have to leave their
homes, wondering if they’ll ever to be able to return. Some never get to return but they can rebuild; it is temporary.
Destruction and separation are key words as we see in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Would punishment with eternal fire
provide enough incentive to seek eternal life? Actually, the worse punishment is not the pain, anguish and terror but
the separation from God. God is far away from this terrible place. More importantly, without salvation, we would
be forever separated from His love and glory, never to be able to enjoy the place God has prepared for His children.
Death is a separation of body and soul and this spiritual death separates us from everything with which God intended to bless
us. Fortunately, He gives us a choice.
Enter Jesus, the Savior of prophecy, who, sent from the heart of God, redeems
us (1 Peter 1:18-19) by shedding His blood on the cross; bearing our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:22-28) to give us
freedom so we may be presented holy and blameless, Colossians 1:22. Through the grace of God, we can be saved if we
accept the gift that is offered. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me,” John 14:6.
Peter said “there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12. When we hear His teachings and believe them, it will bring us to repent
of our sins and confess His name! What a glorious opportunity!
The atoning sacrifices of the old law have brought
us to Christ (Galatians 3); the blood that was shed through sacrifices was for cleansing of sins (Leviticus 16:30) and now,
Jesus is the sacrifice, once and for all - everyone!
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus represents our death to sin.
Both of us died. His death represents our death. Knowing that faith requires action (Hebrews 11:6) and the wages
of sin is death (Romans 6:23), we die to sin when we are baptized into the death of Christ, Romans 6. He died, was buried
and was resurrected. When we are baptized, we die to sin and are buried in likeness to His death & burial and then
are brought up - resurrected - to walk a new life; to live in holiness (sanctification) as God wants. Even though we
are totally undeserving, He, through His grace and mercy has provided for our salvation, a way to be cleansed from our sins.
Faith is shown by our actions (James 2:14-26) and in that faith, we will walk a new life. The Lamb of God has
taken away our sins!
Sin brings death.
The free gift of God is eternal life.
God’s eternal plan will be realized and
come to completion when we see the glories of heaven and we can praise Him for ever and ever.
Thank you for letting me study heaven with you.
Prayers of the Bible
by Joyce Jamerson
As we are “Looking Within” from month to month, we see this year come to a
close and with the approaching new year, comes a new study. In years past, we have looked into the Fruit
of the Spirit; we also examined our hearts. We have noticed the beauties of heaven as well, especially
through the eyes of Peter, Paul and John. Any articles you may have missed are safely located in the archives
of this site. For the coming year, we want to look into our prayer life.
book, “The Power of a Praying Woman,” Stormie Omartian said: “One
of the most priceless gems you will find in God’s Word is his voice. That’s
because he speaks to us through his Word as we read it or hear it. In fact, we can’t
really learn to recognize God’s voice to our soul if we are not hearing him speak to us first in his Word.”
In this new study, we want to hear His voice by learning from the prayers of the Bible.
Are you happy with your prayer life?
Do you want to pray faithfully?
Are you brave enough to ask God to show
you areas in which your prayer life can improve?
Have you ever wished you could hit the print button after hearing a prayer
that touched your heart?
Have you ever wondered if your prayers are good enough?
Prayer is more than reciting
phrases; it is pouring our hearts out to God. God’s people are praying people; prayer
has existed from the very beginning of time.
Some attribute Adam’s
comment, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she
was taken out of man,” in Genesis 2:23 as the first prayer, since he was talking to God but
the first time prayer is actually mentioned is in Genesis 4:26, when “people began to call on the name
if the Lord.”
Through Scripture, we learn of the power of prayer;
we learn how it has been done through the centuries and we see the results. Enoch is said to have walked
with God, Genesis 5. Even though no prayer is recorded, it would be hard to imagine that he was not doing
In the coming year, let’s see what we can learn from
prayers of the Bible and there are many!
I love learning from the prayers of Nehemiah; sensing
the emotion as Job prayed and identifying with the distress when Joshua’s prayer was not answered.
If you’ve ever felt alone or inadequate in prayer, this study is for you - and especially for me.
Praying enough and in the right way is a challenge for us all.
anxious to start the journey - will you follow along?
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Hast Thou Within
a Care So Deep?
Hast thou within a care so deep,
It chases from thy eyelids sleep?
Redeemer take that care,
And change anxiety to prayer.
Hast thou a hope with
Would almost feel it death to part?
Entreat thy God that hope to crown,
give thee strength to lay it down.
Hast thou a friend whose image dear
May prove an idol worshipped here?
the Lord that noght may be
A shadow between heaven and thee.
Whate'er the care that
breaks thy rest,
Whate'er the wish that sweels thy breast,
Spread before God that wish, that
And change anxiety to prayer.