And the Life Everlasting, Amen!

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, November 4, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I once read a wonderfully written story called “Life After Birth." You can find a version of it here. The gist of the story is that two babies are in the womb and are having a conversation about whether there is life after delivery. One baby is sure there is nothing else out there, while the other baby hangs on to a belief that there is something more where they will actually get to meet “Mother." The story ends with the unbelieving one essentially mocking the believing one.

Since we are all living and breathing outside of our mothers’ wombs, we can say we know with certainty that there is life after birth. But I want to talk to you here about something that not everyone believes and for which there is not yet any irrefutable proof. I’m talking about life after death. The question of what happens after we die is one of the 7 questions that all worldviews have to answer. Christians are often ridiculed for the belief that we will be resurrected into eternal life with Jesus, and we’re told that it’s just something we’ve made up to make ourselves feel better about what we don’t know. This view, of course, ignores the evidence from Scripture.

Many of us first learned about life everlasting from the most popular Bible verse of all time. As children, most of us heard the King James Version of John 3:16 at some point: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The issue for many believers is not IF everlasting life exists, but more so what that life will look like. Some of you are probably completely freaked out by the concept of eternity. When I was a child, I always thought about how long of a time eternity is and what we’d be doing with it. I remember my mom once saying that we’d be worshiping God all the time. I equated worship with church at that time, so needless to say I wondered who in the world would want to be in church ALL the time. At that age, I didn’t even want to be there once a week! vThe truth is that if heaven were based on what “I” want, it wouldn’t be heaven at all. Bishop T.D. Jakes said, “As a Christian, Christ died so that we will have eternal life with him in heaven. What it looks like doesn’t matter, what it smells like doesn’t matter, as long as Christ is there it will be heaven to me." I think he’s right. We all have our mental pictures of what heaven “might” be like, but no one knows for sure. Since we all picture different things, the most important thing to know is that Jesus is present there.

It’s interesting when we start talking about the physical characteristics of heaven that we have traditionally come to expect. Those characteristics include “streets of gold” and “pearly gates." It’s interesting because those descriptors actually apply to another place and not heaven. The word heaven is first seen at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:1, but the Hebrew word used there is shamayim and is the same word translated as “sky” in Genesis 1:8. That’s because the Hebrew word basically just means “the waters above." Therefore, heaven is not a proper name, or a place you find on a map. It’s just a reference to the skies above and that’s why when it pours down rain, we say “the heavens opened up."

So, the logical question to ask then is why do we call the place where God dwells “heaven”? Quite simply, it’s because Jesus did and we follow him! In Matthew 6:9, as he teaches his disciples how to pray, he says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name." Later, he called the place by a different name. As he responded to the criminal on the cross next to him in Luke 23:42-43, he referred to the place as “paradise." The word for “paradise” there, when translated back to the Hebrew, is the same word used for the Garden of Eden, or God’s idea of a perfect place. We don’t know much about the rebel on the cross next to Jesus. Scholars believe he was either a murderer, a thief, or both. Either way, this is the essence of everlasting life. That man, who had lived a mess of a life, at least to some extent up until that point, was now told by Jesus that he was about to have eternal life. Jesus knew his heart was sincere and if we think about it, it’s amazing that Jesus was willing to say this to the criminal despite the agonizing suffering Jesus was in, which would’ve made it painful just to speak and breathe.

The best descriptors of the place we have been taught to believe is “heaven” can be found in Revelation 21. In verses 1-5, we see that Christ is making everything new and the new city is coming down “out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." This tells us that the “city” we’re about to read about can’t be heaven because it’s clearly coming OUT OF heaven. Then in verses 9-27, the characteristics of this perfect “place” are mentioned. This is where we find references to the streets of gold and the pearly gates, among other descriptors. The crazy thing is that this section begins with an angel showing John “the bride, the wife of the Lamb… the Holy City, Jerusalem." Now, we know from Ephesians 5:32 that the bride of Christ is the Church, the universal body of believers.

The big question for many of us, then, is how does this impact our lives right now? Some people just want to be woken up when everlasting life gets here. But the reality of these passages is that they seem to indicate that the “city” made up of God’s people is actually what we often confuse for “heaven." Yet, the passage says the bride is “prepared." How do we prepare ourselves to meet the bridegroom, Jesus Christ? It just so happens that he does a good part of the preparing in us. Take a moment and read Mark 10:17-27. I was blown away when I read this passage with a renewed understanding. Jesus had just talked to his disciples about having faith like a child and in walks this man who does just the opposite. He has heard about everlasting life and wants Jesus to give him the bullet points of what he has to DO to inherit it. The truth is he had already done what is most necessary - he fell at Jesus’ feet. But as soon as he opened his mouth, it all went down hill for him. He called Jesus “good” and Jesus questioned this, not because he’s not good or not God, but because he wanted the man to understand that it doesn’t matter how many good things are done; no one is “good” except God. Therefore, to call Jesus “good” was to call him “God," and Jesus wanted to make sure there was no getting around it.

The problem for the man was that he was not asking Jesus to be his Savior. Rather, he was asking Jesus to tell him how he can be his own savior, which of course is impossible for any human being no matter how “good” they are. For us to be prepared to be part of the city that IS everlasting life with God, we have to be willing to admit our need for Jesus and get ourselves out of the way and let him do the preparing. This attitude is exemplified by Paul in Romans 7:24-25. The humility required to say I am wretched without Jesus but rescued with him is a prerequisite for getting prepared for everlasting life. Have you been trying to earn your way to everlasting life and getting frustrated because of your failures? Let Jesus change you. After that discussion with the rich young ruler, Jesus’ disciples were dumbfounded and wondered who the heck could possibly be saved. Jesus famously replied, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If you haven’t already, surrender your life to Christ and allow him to begin to do the impossible in preparing you for the gift of life everlasting. Amen and so be it!

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