Dear Friends,

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth (today, in my life) as
it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) As I conclude this series on Heaven,
Our True Home, I want to tie together some Scriptural perspectives on living
each day on earth in the kingdom of God (under God’s reign) in light of
our accountability and our deepest hopes that will only be realized in heaven.
(2 Corinthians 5:9-11) Scripture calls us to be heavenly minded and the more
heavenly minded we are (Colossians 3:1-4) the more earthly good we will be for
the kingdom of God. (Colossians 3:5-4:18; Book of Acts) We need to seek and
encourage an eternal perspective by personal study, speaking about and thinking
about our heavenly home which Jesus and the apostles did. As John Eldredge says
in his book on heaven, The Journey of Desire, “We can only hope
for what we desire.” If we are hoping for earthly things more than heavenly
things we have a sub-Biblical understanding of our Christian faith. As Paul
says, “If only in this life we have hoped in Christ we are the most to
be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) Paul argues in Romans 8:18-25 that the
hope that came to us at our salvation is nothing less than the restoration of
all things (the natural creation and all of God’s sons/children, vv.19-21)
to the glory of God. This means our full redemption to Christ-likeness –
nothing less than a sinless state of perfection of our spirit, soul and body.
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not have, we
wait for it patiently.” (vv. 24-25) Also, note the words “eager
expectation” and “groaning” indicating Paul’s and our
longings for eternity – Paradise Regained. This is to say that if our
hopes as a Christian is for anything less that Jesus’ Second Coming and
His reign of righteousness over all the earth (2 Peter 3:13; Isaiah 11:9) then
it is far less than what Scripture and our deepest longings call us to hope
for. (2 Timothy 4:7-8) It is important to take the time to sit before the Lord
and examine our hopes and longings and make sure they line up with what God
tells us to hope for or we will have unfounded, misplaced hopes and can become
disillusioned and apathetic in our journey to the Celestial City. (Peter contrasts
a living hope to a fading hope. 1 Peter 1: 3-5) Scripture tells us that nothing
on this earth will ever meet our deepest longings as Christians, except our
Lord Himself. (See Solomon’s experience in Ecclesiastes in my February
newsletter; also see Psalm 73:25). Even if we are deceived and think we are
satisfied by earthly things, we need to heed the Scriptural admonitions regarding
the fear of the Lord and steward all that God has entrusted to us in order to
avoid suffering loss at the judgement seat of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
An old rock song said it like this: “What am I living for, if not for
you?” What are we living for, if not for the Lord?

Yet, Eldredge says that the vision of heaven many Christians have is so vague
and unreal that longing and living for heaven – That Day – has no significant
motivation for us. In his book he greatly clarified the character of heaven
and inspired us to be “watching and waiting” for the Lord’s
Second Coming – for heaven. (Luke 12:35-40)

Eldredge uses three metaphors to describe heaven and make it as real for us
as we can grasp on this side of eternity. 1) The Great Restoration – heals
the curse of a fallen creation – the decay and barrenness of “winter”
in the natural creation and the decay and demise of our physical bodies –
“the outer man” (2 Corinthians 4:16). 2) The Grand Affair –
heals the curse of loneliness and isolation through intimacy with our Lord,
the Lover of our souls and intimacy with each other. 3) The Great Adventure
– heals the curse of futility and frustration of the “thorns and thistles”
in our work with joyful, meaningful, creative work for all eternity. Doesn’t
this sound more exciting than sitting on a cloud and playing harps? Let’s
look at these more closely.

The Great Restoration – Eternity will include a new
earth and all the good things of earth we are familiar with and greatly enjoy-
but a purified and perfect earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new
.” “Behold, I am making all things new.” “See!
The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The
fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.”
(Revelation 21:1,5; Song of Songs 2:11-13) Imagine the most beautiful spring
day you have ever experienced, especially after a particularly long, cold, gray
winter season. The “new earth” will be like an eternal spring –
“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought
into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” “The mountains
and hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap
their hands.” (Romans 8:21; Isaiah 55:12) The greenest grass, the greatest
variety of flowers, colors and aromas we can imagine; the majesty of the mountains
and the bluest skies of the new heavens. And no more strip malls, strip mines,
or strip joints. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim
the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1) Every day all of God’s renewed
creation will proclaim the glory of our Great God. But even more, we will be
a new creation, fully redeemed with new resurrected bodies (like our Lord’s
– 1 Corinthians 15:42-49) to fully enjoy God’s new creation. “Then
the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for
joy.” (Isaiah 35:5-6) Our human brokenness in every way, body, soul and
spirit will be healed, made whole, perfected. (That should make us jump up and
shout hallelujah!) Sin, death and disease are forever destroyed. The kingdom
of God brings restoration, fruitfulness, harmony, beauty and all that is beautiful,
true and good. “The days are coming declares the Lord, when the reaper
will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading the grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.” “The
wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf
and the lion and the yearling together. The cow will feed with the bear, their
young will lie down together and the lion will eat straw like the ox. They will
neither harm nor destroy on all of My holy mountain, for the earth will be full
of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Amos 9:13;
Isaiah 11:6-9)

The Grand Affair – “Happiness can be found neither
in ourselves nor in external things, but in God and in ourselves as united to
Him.” (Pascal) “And the people came together and the people came
to dance and they danced like a wave upon the sea.” (Yeats) Heaven will
bring intimacy with our Lord and a community of joyful, loving relationships
with true unity among every nation, tribe, people and language group. “Whom
have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.”
(Psalm 73:25) As delightful as a renewed earth, heaven and resurrected body
will be, heaven would not be heaven without the Presence of our Lord. If He
is not at the great Wedding Feast the celebration would quickly turn to sadness.
In fact, if He is not at our greatest party on earth it cannot be full of joy.
He is the Life of the party and the joy of heaven and earth. But He will be
there and we’ll see Him face to face. “Behold, the tabernacle of
God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people,
and God Himself will be among them.” They (we) will see His face.”
(Revelation 21:3; 22:4) The union that we crave, that we were created for, is
not sex but union, intimacy with our Lord. “We worship sex because we
don’t know how to worship God.” (Peter Kreeft) God calls us His
bride, His delight (Isaiah 62:3-5; Zephaniah 3:17) and Jesus is called our bridegroom,
and the consummation of all things is the wedding of the Lamb, Jesus and His
bride, you and me. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him
for the marriage of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready.”
(Revelation 19:7) Sadly, too many Christians neither know the passion the Lord
has for them nor do they have any passion for the Lord. The image of God as
the ultimate masculine Husband, Lover and Warrior pursuing us, wooing us and
fighting for us, His beloved is throughout Scripture. And it is also true that
He is our Sovereign King and deserves our humble, loving obedience. But we must
recapture the passion of our love relationship with the Lord. “Listen!
My Lover! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle or young stag. My lover spoke and said to me, ‘Arise
my darling my beautiful one and come with me.” (Song of Songs 2:8, 9a,
10) Though this is written about Solomon’s love and marriage of a young
woman, other Scriptures in both the Old and New Testament picture God as a passionate,
jealous lover and us as His people, as an unfaithful, adulteress wife that He
woos, chastens and dies for to buy us off the slave block of sin. (See Scriptures
above and Jeremiah 2:2-3, 20; 13:25-27; Ezekiel 16:8, 10, 13-14; Hosea 2:6-7,
14, 16; Matthew 9:15; John 3:29; 14:2-3; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22-32;
Revelation 19:7-9; 22:17, 20) Our union with God, which will only be fully realized
in heaven, is the deepest longing of our hearts. No person, no possession, no
experience will ever fill that empty ache until at last we see Him face to face.
But as we wait for Him to come and get us His bride, we must not try to fill
this sacred, holy place in our soul with lesser lovers, (idols – Luke
8:14). Holy longing for Him will expand our soul to its fullest capacity so
when He comes we can receive all of Him and thus know Him more fully for all

But our Lord is so gracious and generous that He shares His perfect love with
us by giving us others to love through the family of God – the communion
of the saints, an eternal, joyful community of friends. And as the song asks,
Will the Circle be Unbroken? The Answer is a resounding Yes! Reunion and no
fear of ever being separated by death again. “Death has been swallowed
up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54; Isaiah 25:8) And we shall recognize
and know each other even as Peter, James and John recognized Moses and Elijah.
(Luke 9: 29-31) The Scriptures speak of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Aaron being
gathered to their people, a picture of personal reunion. (Genesis 25:8, 35:29,
49:19, Numbers 20:24) “Then I will know fully just as I have also been
fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) We will know the Lord and see Him
face to face no longer with eyes of faith (as fully as a finite person can know
the Infinite God). And we will know each other with an intimacy that we have
never experienced in the deepest most intimate relationship we have ever had
on earth with anyone. To know and be known and loved is the deepest longing
of human relationships. Sin, shame, guilt, pride and all the barriers of intimacy
will no longer come between us. Brent Curtis called this “multiple intimacy
without promiscuity.” No more misfits or feeling left out. Each person’s
unique life in Christ (Ephesians 2:10) will be one great book of life for all
of us to know and see God’s glory through the story of how the Master
fashioned us on His Potter’s wheel. There will be dancing and feasting
on the mountain of the Lord Almighty with the best of meats and the finest of
wines. (Jeremiah 31:13; Isaiah 25:6; Luke 22:18) Hold on. He’s coming!

The Great Adventure – “Enter into the joy of your
Master.” (Matthew 25:21) God is the ultimate creative artist, builder,
poet, designer who loves His work. “God saw all that He had made and it
was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) And we are created in His image and recreated
in Christ for good works, which He prepared for us to do. (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians
2:10) And our good works will continue throughout eternity. “Because you
have been faithful in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities”;
“and they will reign with Him for ever and ever”. (Luke 19:17; Revelation
5:10; 20:5; 22:5) This life is a dress rehearsal for our eternal vocation and
the main preparation is our heart not our performance. “Man looks at the
outward appearance but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:15) And we
don’t have to finish our list of “things to do”. Paul said
his ambition was to please the Lord and “finishing his race” meant
his faithful obedience to the end. He was still writing letters to correct the
churches as he died. “ The days of the years of our lives are few and
swifter than a weaver’s shuttle. Life is a short and fevered rehearsal
for a concert we cannot stay to give. Just when we appear to have attained some
proficiency we are forced to lay our instruments down. There is simply not enough
time to think, to become, to perform what the constitution of our natures indicates
we are capable of. But in God there is life enough for all and time enough to
enjoy it.” (A.W. Tozer) We don’t have to get it all done down here
and no one does or even comes close. Christian perfection is not perfect performance
but holy desire to please our great God and King like the little drummer boy
who said, “I played my best for Him”. Our best work is refrigerator
art that God proudly shows the angels because we did it for Him out of love.
(Colossians 3:24) But in heaven the curse of futility will be completely removed
and as Eldredge says we will finally hit our stride and taste the joy of getting
it right. As Americans we need to be a lot more like Mary than Martha. (Luke
10:38-42) Her extravagant act of love was considered wasteful to the disciples
but highly praised and honored by Jesus because it flowed out of her heart of
love and adoration which came from sitting at His feet. (John 12: 1-8)

Peter asks us in light of the reality of heaven and the end of all things how
then shall we live? Live in “holy conduct and godliness looking for and
hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11-13) This is what
Jesus meant when He said repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew
4:17) He was not just referring to salvation and changing our destiny from hell
to heaven. He was talking about changing our whole life from living for “my
kingdom” on earth to living for His kingdom which means doing the will
of God in and by the power of God in my little sphere of influence –on
earth. Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) in prayer, Bible study,
fellowship groups, church and share His “good news”- the gospel
everywhere we go – home, work and play. We need to personally, corporately
and frequently be encouraged and revived to be about the great work of the kingdom
of God. (Acts 2:42-47) This is what Jesus was talking about when He said repent.
The kingdom of this world is fallen and under the power of the evil one. (1
John 5:19) And Jesus says, “He who is not with Me is against Me.”
(Matthew 12:25-30)

The problem in doing this is serving an invisible God and an invisible kingdom
and being willing to delay the full realization of our hopes and desires until
that Day. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone
who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly
seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) This is why we must have a vision of heaven.
Knowing and serving the Lord brings much joy even now on earth. But as Christians
our deepest longings are to see Him face to face and see His glory cover all
the earth. Maturity means delaying our gratification for something greater and
more rewarding later. Young children are taught to save their money for a bigger
toy or discipline themselves to practice their sport for game day. Paul says
that the sufferings of this present life (including patiently waiting for our
greater reward) is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in
us. (Romans 8:18) James says, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s
coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and
how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand
firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8)

The true, beautiful and good is not a fairy tale. We will live happily ever
after – forever and ever. But we must keep the vision of the kingdom ever
before us. “Don’t read the Times; read the eternities.” (Thoreau)
Dallas Willard in exhorting us to live the “eternal kind of life”
now here on earth said the biggest rival to keeping a vision for God’s
kingdom is busyness. We must make time to read God’s story and find our
story in His story and bring His kingdom to earth through our time, talents,
treasures and truth-speaking. It’s a great and exciting work and the benefits
are “out of this world.”

Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Enter in by faith, by believing
in Jesus and personally receiving Him as your sin-bearer and Savior and your
Lord, Lover and King. (John 1:12) Surrender your whole life to be set apart
for His kingdom purposes in your life. (Romans 12:1-2)

Someday heaven. Just wait; keep hoping. It’s coming. He’s coming!
This is not a misplaced, unfounded, fading hope. “And they lived happily
ever after” is true.

“The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come’” and Jesus says
“Yes, I am coming quickly.” “Look up, and lift up your heads;
for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Revelation 22:17, 20; Luke 21:28KJV)

Until He comes,

Len and Kristen

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