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May 15th, 2018

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26 ESV)

The Christian life should be one of a continual realization of heavenly realities. As I examine this passage above, here are the truths I see.

The Personal Savior on Earth

The psalmist said to God, “I am continually with you,” meaning you are continually with me. He described his life with God as one where God held his right hand – his favored and strong hand – and guided him with His counsel. He lived constantly in the reality of God, enjoying presence, fellowship, relationship, and guidance with God.

The Christian life is one lived in the reality of the Son of God. Paul said, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). God reveals Himself to us in the “face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), meaning that beyond the stories of Jesus, beyond the principles of God’s characteristics, beyond such things as holiness, justice, and mercy, is the personal Christ.

Someone may object that the psalm was written before Christ came, but the New Testament tells us that all of the images and experiences of the Old Testament depicted Christ, “For they drank from that spiritual rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Granted the psalmist had never seen Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh, but during the Old Testament times the Holy Spirit conveyed to their imaginations personal images that represented God. He was their Shepherd, their Father, and their King, that conveyed personality.

We walk with Christ in this life. The Christian life is primarily this reality. No matter how far we excel in life, in knowledge, in devotion, in success, or no matter how far we fail in this life, the Lord is our personal God. He is the One who walks with us and talks with us and encourages us. Oh, we need to be grounded in His word, otherwise we might imagine He is saying all kinds of things to us that He has not said. But still the personal reality of God is to be a constant experience of the Christian.

Is Christ your personal Savior and Lord today? Spend time talking with Him and listening to Him speak to you through His Word.

The Personal Savior in Heaven

The psalmist said of God, “And afterward you will receive me into glory.” God is the only one he had in heaven that really mattered, mattered in an eternal sense. “Whom have I in heaven but you?” he asks. No doubt we will be glad to see Christian loved ones and friends there. We will have our homecomings and re-acquaintances, but all of these are of secondary concerns. The main this is that our God is there and we are with Him!

The center of heaven is God the Son. In chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, John is transported to heaven and at first he sees someone on the eternal throne but that figure is personless and “had the appearance of jasper and carnelian” (Rev. 4:3), a deep green and a deep red precious stone, that depict the mercy and holiness of God. Around the throne was an emerald rainbow that symbolized mercy and grace (see Gen. 9:12-16). Since the rainbow completely encircled the throne, it depicted God’s mercy completely encircling His holiness. Chapter four ends with God being praised: “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

Yet as profound as these thoughts are, the one on the throne has no face – only His attributes of knowledge, will, intention, purpose, holiness and mercy are revealed. Then in chapter 5, suddenly the scene changes as a Lamb appears, looking “as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). There is no question but this is the Lord Jesus glorified in heaven.

And as we come to the end of the book, in the visions of the New Jerusalem, John wrote about heaven: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face…” (Rev. 22:3-4). We shall not see three “gods” but the face of our Savior in the one God. Heaven will be about our personal Savior and Lord – it shall be there as it ought to be here.

How We Should Live Today

And the psalmist comes full circle back to us on earth. What difference should this knowledge of the personal Savior make in our lives today? First, in blessing us with a holy sense of anticipation, this also taints everything that is mere earthly as inferior. It is all temporary and passing. No matter how stylish something may appear, in a short time it will be outmoded and old fashioned.  There is nothing that we ought to desire on earth more than the privilege of knowing God and walking with Him in fellowship. If you are dissatisfied with things on earth, then good. We should be dissatisfied with them.

Second, the psalmist reminds us that the heart and body will eventually fail. Everyone of our lives is fleeting and passing, our hour of death is coming and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. The best we can do is to postpone it a while, but we cannot change the ultimate outcome. But God can, and He gives true spiritual and eternal life. He promises a new body and a new heart and life.

Third, God is our strength today. We live in the constant hope and positive faith that we shall see our Redeemer face to face one day. And we live in the constant strength of God. These truths do not merely put our minds on those things of the future, they are not mere distractions from life here, like some fairy tale that makes us forget our problems for a bit. God is our life today, and He shows Himself strong.

He give us forgiveness, purpose, victory, joy, meaning, peace, acceptance, salvation, and love. He gives us all these things because He gives us Himself.

Heaven, Psalms

Something to Do in Heaven

May 21st, 2013

After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.”

Revelation 4:1

The biblical teachings on heaven are important to us. They are a treasure that provides peace and comfort for every believing heart, and though there are times in life when they are even more precious to our hearts, there is never a time when they are completely irrelevant. Once we have trusted in Christ, we realize that we are made for eternity, and eternity is much more interesting than earth.

In John 14 our Lord described heaven as a place – not just a concept, attitude, or idea, but as a real place. Here in Revelation 4, the Lord used John again to teach us that heaven is filled with events – things will take place after we leave this earth and enter into God’s heaven prepared for us. Later in Revelation 22:3, we read that we shall serve Him as well in heaven. The word is translated “worship” in some English translations, but the word latreusousin used here means service to God as well as participation in corporate worship. Worship always includes service to the will and purpose of God, so in heaven we will have something significant to do.

From the beginning of human existence, God created us to do something meaningful and important for Him, in His great and perfect plan for our lives. We are unsatisfied unless we are engaged in significant work, and in the eternity of heaven we will be busy doing things for God. The idea that we will sit around and play harps is not a scriptural teaching. We enter into our rest, that is true, and our future service will not have the sense of burden attached to it, but God will have something for us to do.

These truths should make us more excited about our future heavenly home. As long as God has us here on earth, we should serve Him here with all our hearts, but the time of our departure and release from earth will be a promotion into a better place with far, far better things to do for Him – and all of that is an understatement. Do not pity the believer who has passed away. Mourn their absence from us, mourn the loss of what they could have done on earth had God left them here longer, grieve with their family for the separation that will come to descend on them until God also takes them home, but do not imagine that their time of service has ended – just the opposite! It has only begun.

The future with God is bright and to die is gain for the believer. Be comforted and encouraged by these truths.

Heaven