My friend and associate at Reflections, Dr. Ken Boa, has written an excellent
book on apologetics (the defense of the faith) entitled Faith Has Its Reasons.
Those four words summarize the point I want to make in this next message about
heaven. As we’ll see, faith in Christ is not a leap in the dark but a
step into the light though it ultimately takes faith to enter into a relationship
with God through Jesus Christ. Kierkegaard’s statement above is packed
with meaning. Biblical faith is not just mental assent to Scriptural truths
(the demons believe in God and shudder – but they don’t obey Him,
James 2:19). Faith is a passionate belief that motivates us to love God, to
seek after Him, to serve and glorify Him with all our hearts. Our faith is built
on objective truth but it still requires eyes of faith to trust in an invisible
God and live for an unseen Reality – the kingdom of God.
In Barry Morrow’s book, Heaven Observed, which I’ve mentioned
earlier, he cites eight signposts of truth from Blaise Pascal’s book Pensees
regarding the reasonableness of Christianity. I commend these books to you including
Ken Boa’s book mentioned above, as well as Ken’s book I’m
Glad You Asked, which deals with the twelve most frequently asked questions
about Christianity. I will give only brief comments on the eight signposts and
encourage you to read any of these books in light of Peter’s exhortation
in 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always
be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
Signpost #1 – The Human Condition – Dignity and Depravity.
Pascal speaks of the dignity of man created in the image of God and yet the
depravity of man after the fall – man’s goodness yet wretchedness.
The history of mankind is not a pretty picture – from the holocaust to Columbine
to Osama bin Laden to the sin and evil we have all seen in our own hearts. Restlessness,
discontent, bored, anxious with seemingly insatiable desires, this seems to
be our common lot. Solomon describes us all in the book of Ecclesiastes, which
I wrote on in my February newsletter: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything
is meaningless ..under the sun” i.e., apart from salvation and newness
of life in the Spirit (Romans 6:4) and the hope of heaven – Paradise Regained.
Yet on a positive note, Christians who live with this eternal hope and perspective
are willing to give and serve their friends and society and have had the greatest
influence for good in this fallen world in every sphere of life. Child labor
laws, women’s rights, abolition of slavery, religious freedom (as opposed
to Islam), education, healthcare, orphanages, music, art, literature, architecture
and the influence of morality in general has been led and championed by Christians
throughout history. Of course, the greatest good is sharing the good news of
the gospel – the answer to man’s greatest need and hope- God’s
redemption and restoration of people created in His image.
Signpost #2 – The Bible – The Definitive Divine Revelation.
As Barry points out, there are truths in other religions, but in Christianity
we have the complete revelation of God’s plan of salvation and redemption.
This revelation includes the true, but increasingly unpopular claim (in a pluralistic
society), that Jesus Christ is the only way for sinful man to be reconciled
to a holy God. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) Yet God wants all to be saved and the
way of Christ is open to all that will receive Him. (1 Timothy 2:3-6; John 1:12)
Romans chapters 1-3 tell the drama of the human story from God’s creation
to man’s fall into idolatry and depravity and God’s redemption in
Christ. In Romans 1:16 Paul says the gospel is the power of God for salvation
to all who believe both to save us and change us from glory to glory into the
image of God’s Son. 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:16 assure us that God’s
Word is inspired by God (God-breathed) and written down by men moved by His
Spirit to correct us and guide us in the way of truth and right living. Romans
10:17 says that knowing God and His truths begins with faith and that faith
comes from hearing and reading God’s Word both for salvation and on-going
spiritual growth and life change. And in light of God’s great mercy to
reveal Himself to us through His creation, His Word and especially His Son,
we are urged to offer our lives in sacrificial love and service unto Him, for
His will and purpose for our lives is “good, pleasing and perfect.”
Signpost #3 – The Supernatural Preservation of the Jewish People.
No other nation in history has been dispersed across the world, absorbed into
other cultures and yet kept its distinct heritage and, after 2000 years, been
regathered in a newly created nation. This happened when the United Nations
in a united sympathetic response to the holocaust, (the brutal murdering of
six million Jews for being Jews) established the State of Israel in 1948! God
surely does cause all things (even the worst atrocity we’ve seen in our
lifetime) to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according
to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) And since the inception of this tiny nation their
surrounding neighbors and other nations have sought to destroy them. But against
these incredible odds they have survived and now thousands of Jews from across
the world are coming back home just as Scripture prophesied over two thousand
years ago. (Isaiah 11:11-12; 43:5-6) Note that in verse 11:11 it says that they
will be regathered a “second time” as they were first regathered
from their captivity in Babylon. In Romans 9-11 Paul says that God is not through
with the Jewish nation and that “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.”
(11:39; Genesis 12:3) The error of replacement theology says that the church
has replaced Israel and is the “new Israel”. This is not in the
Scriptures. God will again raise up Israel to consummate His end-time purposes
which is prophesied both in the Old and New Testaments, especially in Daniel
and Revelation. As all the prophecies for Christ’s first coming were literally
fulfilled so will all the prophecies of His second coming be literally fulfilled.
This includes Christ’s reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem over
a geo-political kingdom of worldwide peace and prosperity for a thousand year
period. (Isaiah 2:1-5; 9:6-7; 11:1-16; 65:21-23; Jeremiah 3:17; Ezekiel 39:27-29)
If God doesn’t keep His promises to Israel then we have no basis to trust
His promises to us. But as we have seen, especially since 1948, He is doing
exactly what was prophesied and we see it and hear about it in the news every
day. We are exhorted to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and that those who love
her will prosper. (Psalm 122) Surely this is a major reason God has so blessed
America. May we continue to pray for and stand with God’s people for their
protection and that they may come to know Messiah Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Signpost #4 – The Messianic Predictions. “For
such a great number of prophecies to be uttered by so many people over such
a vast time span (4,000 years) and for them to find their convergence in the
person and life of Jesus Christ, demands a significant explanation.” (Morrow)
Peter Kreeft in his book on Pensees says the probability of any one person fulfilling
all the messianic prophecies are as astronomical as winning the lottery every
day for a century. Some 300 Old Testament prophecies were literally fulfilled
in the life of Jesus Christ including many that no imposter could possibly engineer
such as His sinless character, miraculous ministry, and His bodily resurrection.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 written seven hundred years before Christ is one of the most
powerful and explicit of all messianic prophecies.
Next month we’ll look at the existence of miracles, the bodily resurrection
of Christ, the testimony of the disciples and Christ’s claims of Divinity.
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen