What Does God Say About Your Heaven?

The universe as it exists in time is finite. The life you live in this universe is the same. Then what? What happens next? This question has plagued mankind since it was aware enough to ponder it. But, it is only the children of God who possess the truth of the matter. Why? Because the Creator of this universe and all that is in it, the Author of truth and truth personified, has revealed it to them.

The urgency of that revelation was instilled in the identical messages of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ as each began their ministries:

Repent (change your mind for the better, heartily amend your ways, with abhorrence of your past sins), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Mt. 4:17 AMP (see also 3:2)

The coming of this same kingdom was prophesied 600 years prior by the prophet Daniel:

…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed… Dn. 2:44 NKJV

The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is biblically interchangeable with the ‘kingdom of God.’ It is a spiritual kingdom, an inner kingdom that can only be entered through one’s change of heart (through earnest repentance and by choosing Christ for salvation) – a spiritual state to be lived out on this earth and shared with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a kingdom on earth composed of God’s children: a family dedicated to forwarding that kingdom by lovingly attempting to gather as many others into that family as possible.

Yet it is also a kingdom that we aspire to spend eternity in, when we transition from our life on this present earth to our heavenly destiny.

And this kingdom is personified in Christ.

So, the kingdom is here now and at the same time it is coming in its full eternal manifestation:

For the outward form of this world (the present world order) is passing away. 1 Cor. 7:31 AMP

But the end and culmination of all things has now come near; keep sound minded and self-restrained and alert therefore for [the practice of] prayer. 1 Pt. 4:7 AMP

Don’t panic! This transition is going to be a good thing!

For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off. Pr. 23:18 NKJV

A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. Eccl. 7:1 NASB

In fact, Jesus Himself has already prepared for your arrival:

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Jn. 14:2, 3. NASB

Jesus also forewarned us of the urgency to get right with God now because if we don’t do that before we take our last breath or if Christ returns first (and we don’t know the date and time of either) we will have lost our chance to do so:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only…Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Mt. 24:36 & 44. NKJV

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Lk. 21:34, 35. ESV

When we get right with God, (repent and receive Christ and do our best to live by His word) the coming of the ‘Day of the Lord’ will hold no terror:

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jn. 2:17 ESV

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” Jn. 8:51 NKJV

…a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” Mal. 3:17 NASB

…since you have been set free from sin and have become the slaves of God, you have your present reward in holiness and its end is eternal life. Rm. 6:22, 23. AMP

…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Rm. 5:9 NASB

God will pour out His wrath in that last Day; yet His wrath is not like the mindless vengeance of a rabid dog. It is instead a ‘sifting’ that comes from the tender love of a merciful Father – that He must apply after having given a multitude of chances to His creations: a profusion of pleas to return to His love. God can only save those who come to Him through Christ:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” Mt. 23:27, 28. NASB

Before this world as we know it comes to an end, tumultuous events will transpire because of the continual spiritual degradation of the inhabitants in it:

…in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. 2 Tim. 3:1 – 5. ESV

Thus, we see the cesspool that the majority of earthlings will become. God has told us that bad things will come against those who rebel against Him; and as usual, God does not leave us guessing. He reveals them to us in sequence:

The first thing we learn is that many of the churches will have lost their way. (Rv. 2:1 – 3:21.) The second is that tribulation (the wrath of God / Day of the Lord) strikes the earth. The Bible strongly suggests that those who have already chosen Christ as their salvation and took on a godly life will be spared from these events. (1 Th. 4:16, 17 & 5:9; Rv. 3:10.)

The tribulations begin with the coming of the Antichrist, Israel being invaded by an ‘army of the north,’ (which God Himself thwarts) and a series of partial disasters set upon the earth to try to motivate the rebellious to return to their Creator – consisting of a burning of a portion of the earth, pollution of a third of both the seas and the fresh waters, darkening of a third of the sun, moon and stars and demonic mental and physical torment. (Rv. 8, 9 & 11:15 – 19.)

Following these ‘plagues, an ‘army from the east’ marches towards Jerusalem for the battle of Armageddon, killing 1/3 of mankind during that journey. (Rv. 9:13 – 18.) These are the last warnings the strays will get. There will be no salvation available for those who have not come to Christ by this point of the tribulation period.

The devil then wages war against those who did choose to become children of God during the first half of the tribulations. He acts through the Antichrist (who was aligned with a ‘church’ of false religion but then destroys it) who claims to be God and has a false religion built around him by Satan’s ‘false prophet.’ And yes, the rebellious worship him – all of whom will be cursed to damnation. (Rv. 12:10 – 12; 13:3 – 8 & 11 – 18; 14:9 – 11.)

During the second half of the tribulations, God gathers up all of His children who accepted their salvation, to keep them safe from His ‘final judgments’ that He unleashes upon the earth against those who have kept their hearts hardened against Him. (Rv. 14:14 – 19 & 15:1 – 3.) Thank God we don’t have to experience the plagues against the flesh, the loss of fresh water and all amphibious life, severe earthquakes and other topographic destruction. (Rv. 16)

On the last day of the tribulations, Christ leads His saints into battle against Satan’s armies at Armageddon and He vanquishes them with the word of God. Afterwards, He imprisons Satan for 1000 years. (Rv. 19:11 – 21; 20:1 – 3.)

Jesus then sets up His kingdom with His saints on a new earth and reigns for a thousand years with all of the resurrected children of God. (If there are any unbelieving people who survive the tribulations, they too will inhabit this new paradise and propagate over this millennium.)

At the end of that time, Satan is released once more to try to convince those who will listen to follow him and gather for war against the saints. Yet just as they begin to pounce, God takes the devil and his followers out of the picture forever – lining up all who followed Satan since the beginning of time in front of the judgment seat of Christ to receive their eternal condemnation. (Rv. 20:7 – 15.)

But that’s not what’s waiting for the children of God is it? No…

Next time.
Goodnight and God bless.

Finishing The Race For Jesus: The Book of 2 Peter

In the mid 60s A.D., there was a fire in Rome; and the emperor at that time (Nero) blamed the Christians. Subsequently, he launched a murderous campaign against them.

The apostle Peter writes a letter during this time, to the same churches in Asia minor where he had sent his previous one (now known as 1 Peter). This new letter has come to be known today as the biblical book of 2 Peter. In it, Peter intimates that he is imprisoned yet again, and that he is certain he is about to be executed. Indeed, this would be his last letter.

Yet, Peter is finishing his race for Jesus in full steam – writing now to encourage the church to stay committed to godly ways, and to resist any false teachers who try to distort the pure doctrine of the church of Christ.

Peter begins by describing some of the gifts that God bestows upon His children to help them reach that godliness: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Pet. 1:2 – 4. NASB

God empowers us, through Christ, to be able to live a godly life; and we advance that empowerment when we continue to walk in the word of God – becoming more Christ-like daily.

Peter then tells us how to hang on to our divine gifts:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:5 – 8. ESV

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:10, 11. NKJV

Peter is asking us to run our race for Jesus until we take our last breath, or until He returns, whichever comes first. Jesus will be waving the checkered flag, congratulating you, saying ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

Peter continues to encourage his audience by reminding them that Christ Himself conferred apostolic authority and the wisdom of God upon him. So, they can take everything that Peter says right to the bank:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet. 1:16 – 21. NKJV

We can see then that all of the authors of the books of the Bible were Holy Spirit-inspired, so that they could receive and reveal the pure, unadulterated word of God…

At this point in his letter, just like the apostle Paul, Peter warns the church about satanically driven false teachers, who will try to destroy it. This will be a continual battle that will be fought right up until Jesus returns:

But also [in those days] there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines (destructive heresies), even denying and disowning the Master Who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

And many will follow their immoral and lascivious doings; because of them the true Way will be maligned and defamed. 2 Pet. 2:1, 2. AMP

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment…for them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.  2 Pet. 2:3, 4, 6, 9 & 17. ESV

Peter is saying that we must always be alert, discerning the godly from the ungodly – following God’s righteous path so that we do not fall prey to the darkness that awaits the sons and daughters of disobedience. Regardless of what they may spew from themselves, we are to stay firm in the true hope of Christ’s return:

…you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Pet. 3:3 – 4. NASB

Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape you, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should return to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:8, 9. AMP

God has a plan; and He promises that all of it will come to pass. It will be fulfilled when He decides that it is time for time to run out, and not a second earlier. God is not stretching out the time for your heavenly transition because He’s sadistic. He does so because of His great love for the human race. God wants everyone to have a chance to latch onto his or her salvation.

God made that promise over two thousand years ago. However, if you look at how old the universe is, (believed to be over sixteen billion years), 2000 years is just a flash in the pan.

God is a promise keeper. He will send His Son for us. How will that look?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works upon it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Pet. 3:10 – 15. ESV

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:17, 18. NKJV

When Christ returns, He’s going to help His Father do a major universal re-do; and it will be a wonderful, marvelous new beginning for the children of God – who have been doing their best to live holy lives, rejoicing in the fact that Jesus makes up the difference when they have fallen short. Hallelujah!

Good night and God bless.

The Second Coming of Christ: 1 and 2 Thessalonians

In our last post, Paul Takes Another Trip, we followed the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. At the end of his trip, Paul stayed eighteen months in the church of Corinth. It was at that time, (~ 50 A.D.) that Paul wrote the letters [with a little help from Silas (also called Silvanus) a prophet and elder of the church in Jerusalem) and Timothy – a Christian acolyte whom Paul was mentoring] that would become the Bible books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Paul writes the first letter in response to a report from Timothy; Timothy said that there was confusion in the church of Thessalonica. The congregants were afraid that if they died before Jesus’ return, they would lose their salvation. The church was also concerned about secular persecution that they were experiencing in their region.

Paul begins by commending the church for their exemplary walk in Christ: For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you; in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 1 Thess. 2:19 NASB

He also reminisces fondly of his prior ministry there, and speaks to his own method of preaching – one that sets a good example for all of us:

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 1 Thess. 2:4 NKJV

Paul is telling us that it is only God’s approval of our behavior that ultimately counts; and that approval only comes when we speak the truth (God’s word) and live by it.

He continues by telling the church that he had sent Timothy to them previously, to strengthen them in their faith, so that they may face their trials and tribulations with courage. Then he reminds them of their calling: For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 1 Thess. 3:3 ESV

(Jesus told us that we would be hated for following Him. We are the ‘peculiar people’ in the world who have chosen to walk the narrow path – the only path that leads to an eternity of complete love. It’s the path where we walk in love):

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thess. 3:12, 13. NKJV

Paul then reminds them of when he had previously taught them how to walk on that path:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these things…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man, but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thess. 4:3 – 8. ESV

Now, Paul gives them a few more pointers from God for staying on the love path:

Be at peace among yourselves…admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess. 5:13 – 22. ESV

Paul then addresses the main event – bringing clarity to their confusion over the return of Jesus Christ:

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest who have no hope [beyond the grave].

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death]. 1 Thess. 4:13 – 15. AMP

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

How cool is that? God is letting us know that we don’t need to worry about the followers of Christ who die before He returns – because they will be the first ones that Jesus will rally to Him. Those who are still living when He returns, get to become airborne to join the eternal throng.

Jesus’ ‘second coming,’ the ‘day of the Lord’ will be wondrous for the followers of Christ, but it will be decidedly disastrous for those who have chosen not to:

…the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and Safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains…and they will not escape.

But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith, and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thess. 5:2 – 8. NASB

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should be together with Him. 1 Thess. 5:9, 10. NKJV

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thess. 5:24 NKJV

Paul, again with some help from Silas and Timothy, sends off the second letter to the church, shortly after the first, because there was a false teacher in their midst who was circulating a counterfeit letter, supposedly from Paul, that said the day of the Lord had already come and gone.

He begins by encouraging them to endure in the face of persecution. Then he tells them that when Jesus returns, it will be a day that cannot be mistaken for any other:

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thess. 1:6 – 10. ESV

Paul is taking about the ‘great sifting.’ That’s the time to be on the side of Jesus.

He then instructs the church not to put any faith into this counterfeit letter in circulation, stressing that indeed the day of the Lord has not come:

Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. AMP

What Paul is saying is that there will be unmistakably distinct events that presage the second coming of Christ. One of those will be the revelation of the identity of the lawless one (the Antichrist) – who will be worshiped by most of humanity as he proclaims himself to be God. (This will be revealed in great detail when we visit the last Bible book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.) However, Paul gives us a few teasers now:

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… 2 Thess. 2:7 NKJV (i.e. there is already a force of evil at work in the world.)

And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming. 2 Thess. 2:8 AMP

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they have refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:9 – 12. ESV

Thus, the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself – to be able to work false miracles, bringing him the adulation and worship of a rebellious world. It is then that God will begin the extraction process of those who pandered to themselves – separating them from the children of God. We also see that when Jesus returns, the curtain is coming down for the Antichrist.

Paul then changes focus in his narrative to encourage the church (that would be us) to be steadfast in our faith:

…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught… 2 Thess. 2:13 – 15. NKJV

(God chose you before you took your first breath.)

Finally, the apostle writes his parting remarks:

Yet the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen [you] and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil [one]. 2 Thess. 3:3 AMP

…do not weary of doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess. 3:13 – 15 NKJV

God is always on your side. When you stick with Him, the devil hasn’t got a chance against you.

We see too that God is always about practicing love. Even if a brother or sister in Christ backslides, you are to distance yourself from them – not to punish them, but in a loving way that encourages their return to the arms of God through Jesus Christ. It’s always about the love.

If we remain at the side of God, ‘the day of the Lord’ is something that we can look forward to with rapt expectation…

Goodnight and God bless.