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Archive for the ‘Heaven’ Category

Is Heaven Worth It?

SOURCE:  Simon Goulart/Tollelege

“God is the fountain of all good things”

“The eternal and blessed life with God in heaven, accompanied by rest and unspeakable glory, is the goal of the faith of Christians.

This is the harbor of their hope, the refuge of all their desires, the crown of their consolation that they will certainly enjoy, having escaped from the travails of this miserable and fleeting earthly life, indeed, from death itself.

They will receive in heaven glorified bodies, healed of all evils, no longer afflicted by sin, ignorance, errors, illness, sadness, worry, fear, anguish, or enemies.

They will be delivered from all pain and suffering.

They will enjoy fully and completely the Lord their God, the fountain and inexhaustible treasure of all good things, who will pour out on them all His goodness, His infinite joy, with which He will satisfy all their thoughts and desires.

They will see Him and contemplate Him face-to-face, without any clouds to obscure Him.

They will learn of God’s wisdom with regard to the creation and redemption of His elect by means of Jesus Christ, and the reasons for all His all-powerful and wondrous works.

The eternal Father will disclose His burning and unspeakable love for them, which He demonstrated by sending His Son into the world to draw them from death into eternal life.

His children will be moved by His gracious work, filled with wonder, contentment, and ineffable delight, and will love their heavenly Father with a burning love, submitting themselves fully to His wisdom with eager joy.

And they will submit to Him as their only sovereign and greatest good. And they will rejoice with continuous joy in His presence, magnifying His glory, singing of His goodness along with the holy Angels and the entire Church triumphant.

There they will see Jesus Christ, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the faithful who have preceded them, including their family members and friends who died in repentance and faith.

This entire company together, with one heart and voice, will recall the goodness and infinite blessings God has shown them, celebrating with songs of thanksgiving the praises of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thus eternal life is the end and fulfillment of all good things for which God has purchased us through His Son.

This is the goal on which our gaze should be fixed throughout our earthly pilgrimage.

This is the treasure that we should unceasingly desire.

This is the hour and the blessing to which all the plans and efforts of our lives should be inclined.

This is our true country, our permanent city, in which our citizenship has been acquired by the merit of the death of Jesus Christ.

This is the home that we long for, amidst the banishments, the weariness, the dangerous fears of this valley of misery and the shadow of death.

This is the safe refuge and the beautiful harbor toward which we sail amidst so many waves and storms that constantly trouble the world.

This is the blessed land where we will dwell by means of death.”

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–Simon Goulart, Christian Discourses XXVIII, 322-327. As quoted in Scott M. Manetsch, Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 297-298.

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A True FRIEND Even In Death

SOURCE:  J. C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“The Friend of sinners”

“We should notice how tenderly Christ speaks of the death of believers. He announces the fact of Lazarus being dead in language of singular beauty and gentleness: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’ Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love.

He is thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. He has an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over his interests.

The world may despise him, but he has no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast him out, but Christ having once taken him up will never let him go. He is the ‘friend of Christ’ even after he is dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the sorest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The death of true Christians is ‘sleep,’ and not annihilation. It is a solemn and miraculous change, no doubt, but not a change to be regarded with alarm. They have nothing to fear for their souls in the change, for their sins are washed away in Christ’s blood.

The sharpest sting of death is the sense of unpardoned sin. Christians have nothing to fear for their bodies in the change; they will rise again by and by, refreshed and renewed, after the image of the Lord. The grave itself is a conquered enemy. It must render back its tenants safe and sound, the very moment that Christ calls for them at the last day.

Let us remember these things when those whom we love fall asleep in Christ, or when we ourselves receive our notice to quit this world. Let us call to mind, in such an hour, that our great Friend takes thought for our bodies as well as for our souls, and that He will not allow one hair of our heads to perish.

Let us never forget that the grave is the place where the Lord Himself lay, and that as He rose again triumphant from that cold bed, so also shall all His people.

To a mere worldly man death must needs be a terrible thing; but he that has Christian faith may boldly say, as he lays down life, ‘I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is Thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety.'”

[–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 21. Ryle is commenting on John 11:7-16.]

“Choose life”

SOURCE:  Jonathan Edwards as posted by Tolle Lege

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God!

The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him.

The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

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–Jonathan Edwards, “Dying to Gain” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 (The Works of Jonathan Edwards Series) Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 588-589. Edwards was 19 years old when he preached this sermon.

We Are at War

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Notes:  Yes, as the author of the article below states, “We are at war.”  That is a fact of life this side of heaven.  At the same time, we, who have a personal faith in Christ, are aligned with and belong to the One who has overcome Satan, death, sin, and the world and is the Victor in the war (Rev 3:21). 

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? I mean, he says them in one breath. And he has his reasons.

By all means, God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn’t just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. Why won’t we face this? I know so few people who will face this. The offer is life, but you’re going to have to fight for it, because there’s an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.

There is something set against us.

We are at war.

I don’t like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner we come to terms with it, the better hope we have of making it through to the life we do want.

This is not Eden.

You probably figured that out.

This is not Mayberry, this is not Seinfeld’s world, this is not Survivor.

The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death.

I am sorry if I’m the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth.

Where did you think all this opposition was coming from?

(Waking the Dead , 12-13)

Judgment of Christians by Christ: Utter Horror or Contribution to Joy?

SOURCE:  John Eldredge 

Gratitude And Awe

We know a time will come for us to look back with our Lord over the story of our lives.  Every hidden thing shall be made known, every word spoken in secret shall be uttered.

My soul shrinks back; how will this not be an utter horror?

The whole idea of judgment has been terribly twisted by our enemy. One evangelistic tract conveys the popular idea that at some point shortly upon our arrival in heaven the lights will dim and God will give the signal for the videotape of our entire life to be played before the watching universe: every shameful act, every wicked thought.

How can this be so? If there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), how is it possible there will be shame later? God himself shall clothe us in white garments (Rev. 3:5). Will our Lover then strip his beloved so that the universe may gawk at her? Never.

However God may choose to evaluate our lives, whatever memory of our past we shall have in heaven, we know this: It will only contribute to our joy.

We will read our story by the light of redemption and see how God has used both the good and the bad, the sorrow and the gladness for our welfare and his glory.

With the assurance of total forgiveness we will be free to know ourselves fully, walking again through the seasons of life to linger over the cherished moments and stand in awe at God’s grace for the moments we have tried so hard to forget.

Our gratitude and awe will swell into worship of a Lover so strong and kind as to make us fully his own.

(The Sacred Romance , 190, 191)

Heaven: The Great Beyond

Randy Alcorn answers questions about heaven.

SOURCE:  Kyria/Randy Alcorn

1. When a believer dies, when does she go to heaven?

At death, the human spirit goes either to heaven or hell. Christ depicted Lazarus the beggar and the rich man conscious in heaven and hell immediately after they died (Luke 16:22-31). Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul said to die is to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

These passages clearly invalidate the notion of “soul sleep,” or a long period of unconsciousness between life on earth and life in heaven. Every reference in the Book of Revelation to humans talking and worshiping in heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates we’re conscious after death. Our spirit’s departure from the body ends our existence on earth. The physical part of us “sleeps” until we’re resurrected, while the spiritual part immediately relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Daniel 12:2-3).

2. Will I know my husband and children in heaven? Will they know me? And why can’t we be married in heaven?

Christ’s disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection: when he cooked breakfast for them on the shore (John 21:1-14); when he revealed himself to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29); and when he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). And at Christ’s transfiguration, his disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they couldn’t have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33). If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

Many people misunderstand Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The Bible doesn’t teach no marriage in heaven, but onemarriage, between Christ and us, his bride. Our marriage to Christ will satisfy more than even the most wonderful earthly marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins at the Lamb’s wedding feast, all human marriages will have served their noble purpose of foreshadowing this one great marriage.

The God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), is both the giver and the blesser of our earthly relationships. My wife, Nanci, is my best friend and closest sister in Christ. I’m convinced we’ll be closer in heaven, not more distant. Receiving a glorified body doesn’t erase history; it culminates history. According to 1 Thessalonians 4, we’ll be together with the Lord forever, so we’ll doubtless pick right up in heaven with relationships from earth.

3. If we already go to heaven or hell right after death, why does the Bible teach about another judgment?

When we die, we face the judgment of faith to determine whether we go to heaven or hell. When God judges those who’ve accepted Christ’s atoning death, he sees his Son’s sacrifice for us, not our sin.

But this judgment is different from the final judgment. The Bible indicates all believers will have to give an account of their life (Romans 14:10-122 Corinthians 5:10). Our works don’t affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward (2 Timothy 2:12Revelation 3:21).

Unbelievers also face a final judgment. The Bible says it will come at the Great White Throne, at the end of the old earth and before the beginning of the new (Revelation 20:11-13).

4. I lost my son in a horrible auto accident three years ago. What kind of body does he have in heaven?

My friend David O’Brien is a brilliant man trapped in a body that groans for redemption. His cerebral palsy will disappear the moment he leaves this world for heaven. And at his resurrection, he’ll have a new body forever free of disease. I picture David running through fields on the new earth. I look forward to running beside—and probablybehind—him.

I often think how paraplegics, quadriplegics, and victims of constant pain, physical trauma, violence, or catastrophe will walk, run, jump, and laugh in heaven. Believers now blind will gawk at the new earth’s wonders. The only body we’ve known is a weak, diseased remnant of the body God first designed. But free of sin’s curse, our resurrection body will be restored to its original design and purpose, even more glorious than Adam and Eve’s.

5. When a baby dies, does he remain young, grow up, or mature instantly in heaven?

Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff suggests, “Our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our 20s and 30s. … If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”

This hypothesis doesn’t necessarily mean children who die won’t be children in heaven. Isaiah 11:6-9 speaks of a place, presumably the new earth, where “the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. … The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.” Is it possible that after they’re resurrected, children will be at the same developmental level as when they died?

If so, these children would likely grow up on the new earth. Such a childhood would be enviable! Although I’m speculating, I believe parents whose hearts broke at the death of their children not only might reunite with them, but might also experience the joy of seeing them grow up … in a perfect world.

6. Are our loved ones aware of what’s happening on earth?

The Bible makes evident heaven’s inhabitants see, to some extent, what’s happening on earth. When Babylon is taken down, an angel points to events occurring on earth and says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you” (Revelation 18:20). That the angel specifically addresses people living in heaven indicates they’re aware of earthly happenings.

Hebrews 12:1, in telling us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” creates the mental picture of Greek competitions that attracted throngs of engrossed fans who watched intently high up in stadiums. The “great cloud of witnesses” refers to saints whose previous accomplishments on life’s playing field are now part of our rich history. The imagery suggests those saints, the spiritual “athletes” of old, now watch and cheer us on from the great stadium of heaven that looks down on the field of earth.

“There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Who’s doing this rejoicing in heaven? I believe not only God is rejoicing but also the saints in heaven, who obviously must be aware of what’s happening on earth.

7. Do pets go to heaven?

God created “the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Eden was perfect. But without animals, Eden wouldn’t have been Eden. The new earth is the new Eden—Paradise regained, where the first Adam’s curse is reversed and transformed into the last Adam’s blessing (Romans 5:14-15).

God entrusted animals to us, and our relationship with them is significant. Would God take away from us in heaven what he gave—for delight, companionship, and help—to Adam and Eve in Eden?

Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people. But God is their maker, and through them he’s touched many people’s lives. On the new earth, he easily could create brand-new animals, re-create old ones, or both. If restoring our pets in the new earth would bring us pleasure, our joy may be all the reason God needs to do so. He’s the giver of all good gifts, not the taker of them.

Christ proclaims from his throne: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5, ESV). He won’t renew just people, but also the earth and “all things” in it. “All things” includes animals. The entire creation will benefit from Christ’s death and resurrection.

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Randy Alcorn is the bestselling author of  Heaven (Tyndale) and founder/director of nonprofit Eternal Perspective Ministries.

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