I hope that you're enjoying this series, and that it's making you think about heaven in a new way. More specifically, I hope it's helping you to explore what the Bible actually says about heaven and not just the images that our culture offers.
Yesterday, we explored more of what it means that heaven will actually be the new earth in the future, and I hope that makes you begin to long for it and imagine what it will be like, but to fully understand the wonderful and amazing hope of the earth being made new, we have to first understand where it all began.
In the beginning... I'm sure you know where I'm going... God made everything and he spoke it into being. When he made the earth, it was perfect, and he proclaimed that it was good (read Genesis 1 and 2). God made mankind in his image, and he made the first woman from the first man only after giving the man a responsibility over God's creation. The first woman and the first man walked in the garden with God. It was perfect. Perfect relationships. Perfect community and communion with God. They saw God face-to-face.
But then the serpent tempted Eve and she ate the fruit of the one tree that she was told not to eat in the garden. She offered the fruit to Adam, who ate it as well. Their minds were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, but they were now separated from God and from each other. They were filled with shame. With one choice, the first sin, their perfect relationship with God, and their perfect garden-home was lost.
I think we're so familiar with this story that it's gravity is often lost on us. Imagine paradise, living and dwelling with the Maker of the Universe, being perfectly loved and cared for by God, enjoying daily fellowship with Him, a perfect relationship with your spouse, fruitful and rewarding toil with your work, and in one moment it is all taken away because of eating a piece of fruit that you were told not to eat.
Paradise is lost, and it seems like there is no hope to recover it. But God has a plan, and it began in the garden and led to a cross.
Paradise was lost, but it will be remade.
Yesterday, we looked at how heaven will actually be on the new earth in the future, and this might raise some questions in your mind. Growing up, I always thought of heaven as an etherial place that is more spiritual than physical. I've heard others talk about heaven as a place where "we'll all just fly around with the angels and just sing to God for eternity." I can't emphasize enough that this is not what heaven will be like, and the Bible testifies to this.
I recently read a book by Randy Alcorn called Heaven, which is like an encyclopedia of references in Scripture to what heaven will be like. While there are many things that we do not know about heaven, there is much that the Lord has revealed to His people. Randy Alcorn does an excellent job answering questions that many have about heaven, such as "Will I recognize those that I love?" It's a helpful book for those that have a lot of questions, and it actually inspired this series.
One thing that Alcorn does an excellent job explaining from the Scriptures is that the image that most people have of heaven is that on the intermediate heaven - it's the place where those that die will go to be with the Lord BEFORE the earth is made new. When most people think of heaven, they are actually thinking of the intermediate heaven.
This is why heaven is not what you think. Heaven will not just be a spiritual place outside of earth. One day the new earth will literally be heaven, and the earth will be as it was always intended to be: perfect.
Can you imagine a perfect earth? A place where work and relationships are no longer tainted by sin? A place where God dwells with man, and we will see him face to face? It will be greater than we could ever imagine.
As I write this series, I hope that you're starting to get a fuller picture of what heaven will be like, and that it makes your heart long for it more and more. I am convinced that a right perspective of heaven and eternity with the Lord helps us to live a life focused more on the Lord than on what this current world has to offer.
Again, heaven is not what you think. And if you want to learn more, I would recommend reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn and even It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die by Jefferson Bethke. They both offer helpful perspectives on heaven from the Scriptures.
One of the first blog posts that I wrote almost four years ago was a reflection from my time at the Biltmore Estate called: America's Largest Home to God's House in Heaven.
After sharing yesterday's post (Home) for this thirty one day series, I realized that this topic is one that I already shared about a few years ago, and it's a topic that keeps coming full circle - heaven will be greater than even the most spectacular and luxurious home we can imagine.
The earthly comforts of this world pale in comparison to the glory to be revealed by God when those that worship him will join him in eternity.
Let that sink into your mind today.
Also, take some time to check out my reflection from visiting the Biltmore.
The word "home" brings to mind many different images and feelings for people. Some of you did not grow up in a loving or welcoming home. Many have painful memories that are connecting with "home", while some have fond memories for "home". However, most long to either have or create a home where they feel loved, cared for, and known.
As my husband Brandon and I start out in marriage, creating a warm and inviting home is a priority for us. Even though we've only been married for a year and a half, our home has become a key part of our marriage and ministry, and we view our home as a means by which we get to offer others a glimpse of heaven.
Jesus himself tells the disciples before he is to be crucified that he will go ahead to prepare many rooms for his disciples in his Father's house:
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 14:2)
Jesus explicitly uses the image of a house to describe where he is going. While heaven might not be our typical construct of a house/home, Jesus uses this image to convey something to the disciples, that heaven is like a home, a place where you belong and are loved, cared for, and known.
In many ways, the desire to create a "home" is connected to a longing for an eternal home. A home that will be warm and welcoming for eternity.
In this life, when we work towards creating a warm and cozy and welcoming home, we are giving others a glimpse and a shadow of what our eternal home will be like. In many ways "home" is a great way to describe heaven, but it's a home that will be far greater than the most welcoming or even the most luxurious home we have ever known.
My family enjoys camping. From my middle school years on, my family regularly took camping trips. We started out as most people start out in camping, with tents.
I remember those first few years of camping in tents. We never slept on the ground but always on air mattresses, and in the morning, the dew on the outside of the tent would seep through the vinyl tent lining. While my family enjoyed a night or two in the outdoors, we always enjoyed coming home after the end of a camping trip to a nice warm bed and a hot shower.
Over the years, my family's camping experience has changed. While we started out with a tent, we ultimately upgraded to a pop-up and then eventually to a camper. The comforts of home traveled with us.
Here's the thing I've learned about camping: for most people, the amount of time you stay away from your home while camping is directly proportional to the comforts of home you bring with you. What do I mean by this? Most people don't like staying in tents for long periods of time, and the longer you camp in a tent consecutively, the sweeter it is when you return home.
Now, I might be making assumptions about people, but I have never met a person that would prefer a long night's sleep on the cold, hard ground to a nice warm bed. Most people would prefer their home to a tent.
Now, did you know that the Bible actually compares our time on earth to that of living in a tent? Check it out:
For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to him.
(2 Corinthians 5: 1-9)
In this passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul is seeking to encourage the Corinthian church and remind them that this earthly dwelling is not their permanent home. He compares their live on earth to living in a tent, but their heavenly dwelling will be their ultimate home with the Lord. However, Paul's main point is that whether away or at home, their goal is the same: to be pleasing to God.
The same goes for us. Whether away from the Lord or at home, our aim should be to please the Lord, but we must remember that we're all just camping. This world in its current state is not our true home. Let that encourage you in the midst of hardship and suffering. This world is just the tent, and there are far better things to come in our heavenly home.
My mind raced as the tempo of my heart began to increase. My palms began to sweat and I felt lightheaded. My body felt like it was in the middle of an intense cardio workout, but I was just sitting in my kitchen. I could feel the fear rising within me, and the only thing I could think to do was go to my bedroom and lay on the bed and breathe, which is what I did. I thought I was dying, and the fear of not knowing what was going on led to one thought, "God please help me." I was having a panic attack.
I laid there for an hour and the only thing that helped my heartrate and breathing slow was thinking about heaven - paradise with the Lord.
This time last year, I was just beginning to walk through one of the hardest seasons of my life. After so many life transitions (marriage, moving, new job, and new community), my mind and body were on overdrive, and it lead to a season of internal and external anxiety which led to a rapid decline in my mental and physical health. Months of stomach issues, doctors visits, panic attacks, misdiagnosis of issues, and medications later, my stomach doctor found that what I actually had was an acute case of gastritis caused by internal stress and anxiety.
I was relieved to find out the root cause of my symptoms - anxiety that had led to gastritis, but long before I was physically healed the Lord started spiritually healing me.
That day that I laid on my bed and thought about heaven in the midst of a panic attack was a turning point for me. It was the moment my mind realized that my body and soul were longing for an eternal home, where the sufferings of this world would not longer affect me. That day, which actually was Valentine's Day, was the day I started truly longing for home.
Heaven - it's a topic that people bring up every now and then, but not something that many know much about. I was just talking with a friend the other day and she had a friend ask her what heaven would be like. This friend asked me this same question, and it was striking because heaven is a topic I have thought and read a lot about over 2017.
In many ways, this series has been years in the making, but the idea to write about heaven only came after a year of walking through health struggles which made me long for heaven even more.
If you were to ask someone what heaven is like, you would probably receive a number of different answers and most of them would not come from the Bible. While there is a lot that we do not and cannot know yet about heaven, there is much that the Bible does say about the eternal home and paradise for those who follow Jesus Christ. It's a topic that many wonder about, but few actually know what the Bible says about heaven.
The topic of heaven is what we'll be exploring over these next thirty one days as we ring in the new year, and I pray it helps us to start this new year with an eternal perspective in mind. I pray that it leads us to a greater love for God and a deeper longing in our hearts to see him face-to-face and to live with him into eternity.
Join me on this journey of Longing For Home - a 31 day series about heaven.
We've come to the end of this series, but we haven't come to the end of seeking God's kingdom. I've learned a lot from writing this series and looking at Scripture and what it says about the kingdom of God. Here are a few things I'm taking away from this series:
It's amazing how when we begin to seek God's kingdom and learn more about it, it seems to pop up everywhere. As I've been writing about God's kingdom, I've listened to songs that talk about God as King, I've heard sermons in which His Lordship is mentioned, and I've been reminded of how God brought a rebel like me into His kingdom to be His child. Glimpses of His kingdom are everywhere, and we learn more about God's kingdom and lordship while reading His word.
As we continue in our quest to seek His kingdom, my prayer is that you would find glimpses of God's kingdom and His lordship in your daily life and that you would desire to live your life more and more under the lordship of the King.
With the end of this 31 day series, I want to leave you with this...
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel.”
May we repent and believe in the gospel and may we seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness.
This post is part of a 31 day series called Seeking the Kingdom.
You can view the rest of the posts from the series here.
Reader Participation: What did you think of this series? Was it helpful for you in seeking God's Kingdom? What did you learn? What would you have liked to learn more about? I love reader participation and feedback, so feel free to send some love and drop a line!
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
If we believe in Christ, we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and delivered into a kingdom of light, the kingdom of Jesus Christ. My prayer for you is that you would be a part of this kingdom, that you would be reconciled to the ultimate King through Jesus Christ.
This kingdom is a kingdom that is far greater than any kingdom in the world, because our King is greater than any earthly king. He is a good and kind King. He is the most perfect and loving King. He is a King that protects His people and makes everything work out for good for those that love him (Romans 8:28). He is a King that gave up his life willingly for those that are rebels to His reign. He is a King that loves His enemies. He is a King that created all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).
This King is sovereign over a kingdom of light, and He welcomes you to join His eternal kingdom.
A King is not without allies and enemies. In the case of the King of the universe, God's enemies are His own rebellious creation. The truly beautiful thing about God's character is that He loves those that set their hearts against him. God loves His enemies, even though He is their maker, and they rebel against Him.
Apart from Jesus Christ, we are all at enmity with God and against Him. Paul's letter to the Romans has a lot to say in this regard:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Sin is an active rebellion against God. When we sin, we set ourselves against God and His call for our obedience. However, God shows his love for is own enemies in that while we were still sinners and enemies, Christ died for us.
The enemies of God are those that do not want to submit to His Lordship and obey Him. At some point in life, we are all enemies of God because of our sin, but Jesus reconciles us to God. When we believe in Jesus Christ and his completed work on the cross for rebels and sinners, God's enemies become His friends, servants, and children.
Welcome! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear