Scriptures and Thoughts on Sovereignty

Defining Sovereignty:

 The Hebrew, Greek, and English words all convey the idea of a kingly reign.

 (Psalm 103:19) The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

 (1 Chronicles 29:11-12) Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

(2 Chronicles 20:6)  and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

 (Psalm 115:3) Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

(Psalm 135:6) Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

 (Job 42:2) I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

(Daniel 4:35) All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

How can modern Americans grasp the concept of sovereignty?

 (Romans 13:1-6) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

 If God is sovereign, why do men perish when God does not will for any to perish?

 (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

(Matthew 7:13) “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.

(Matthew 23:37) “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.

 Why does God allow bad things to happen?

 (Romans 8:28) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 (Proverbs 16:4) The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

(Genesis 50:18-20) 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Consider the end of the Romans 9 passage. What effect might the larger context of the book of Romans have on our understanding of this excerpt?

 Can God make a rock so big that He cannot pick it up?

 Can God tell a lie?

(Numbers 23:19) “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

(2 Timothy 2:13) if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

(Hebrews 6:18) Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged.

If God is sovereign, does mankind have free will?

(Proverbs 21:1) The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

 (Isaiah 46:9-10) Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

(Proverbs 19:21) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

(Proverbs 16:9) The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

(Lamentations 3:37) Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

(Proverbs 16:33) The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

(Ephesians 1:11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Distinction of causation vs. control

 Does God predestine people to heaven or hell?

 (Romans 8:29-30) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

(Romans 9:10-24) When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

(John 6:44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

see verses on “Why do men perish…?”

Does God harden people’s hearts for His own purposes?

(Exodus 4:21) The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

(Exodus 9:12) And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

(Exodus 10:1) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them,

(Exodus 10:20) But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go.

(Exodus 11:10) Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.

(Exodus 14:8) The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly.

(Exodus 9:7) Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

(Exodus 8:15) But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

(Exodus 8:32) But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.

(1 Samuel 6:6) “Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed?

 

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How Beautiful Heaven Must Be

What do you look forward to in heaven? Here are some things that we know will be wonderful about the eternal home of the redeemed.

  • We will get new, glorious bodies that do not suffer from corruption.
    (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49) “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body,it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body… Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.”
  • We will find healing from all of our ailments.
    (Revelation 22:1-2) “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds offruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
  • Sin will no longer dwell in our bodies.
    (Romans 7:21-25) “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
  • A great marriage feast together.
    (Revelation 19:7-9) “‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright andclean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”
  • Not having to deal with the harmful effects of sin.
    (Revelation 21:8) “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
  • Every wrong will be avenged.
    (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) “For after all it is onlyjust for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.”
  • Joyfully worshipping God forever.
    (Revelation 5:11-14) “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

“Oh, my God!”

It isn’t uncommon for a child to be taught certain things not to say as they grow older. One of the phrases that might frequently be taught against, in a Christian family, is “Oh, my God.” As a child, the meaning of this commandment may not hold the same significance to the individual as it would when he or she was older. It’s when the individual is older and more mature in their faith that a comprehension and fulfillment of the commandments noticed in Scripture can be done. This particular commandment is one that we read of in the Old Testament, yet remains to be one of the most kept from our youth today.

In Exodus 20:7 we can read that, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain (NASB).” The context surrounding this verse is of course the Lord giving the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In the previous chapter, it can be read that the Lord’s presence on the mountain was so bold that the only visible thing was the smoke from fire which God came down in. As Moses and the people were approaching the mountain, the people were afraid of the absolute power that escaped through flashes of light and roaring sounds from within the smoke. Descriptions such as this capture what the essence of God is intended to sound like from the mouths of man. From scenarios like this it is also deducible to notice the difference between declaring the Lord’s name in vain and simply declaring His excellence.

‘For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. (Hebrews 6:13-16 NASB)’ This Scripture adds to the idea of the Lord’s name carrying such a significance through time, that even the Lord swears by His own name. Having no entity greater than He, He was forced to swear by His name.

The sanctity of the Lord’s name alone is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the strongest men. In the account of the Exodus 3, Moses asked the Lord what he should say when the people of Israel ask Who sent him to them. The Lord’s reply is one that fully encompasses the identity and longevity of His existence. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. (Ex. 3:14 NASB)’” Because of God’s nature, there was no other description needed. When taking into consideration the thought at large then, to say with adoration and respect for the power He has over life, “Oh, my God,” would not be an unacceptable phrase. Within certain situations one may find him or herself, the only words that seem fitting to say, when expressing the feelings that are stirring inside, are just statements declaring Who He is. In regards to a being that had no beginning, no boundaries, and no body adequately described by physical or worldly things, mankind can’t create a phrase special enough to match His attributes. Therefore, saying in vain the name of such a being would not a follower, worshipper, or glorifier make. His creation is to admire His handiwork and glorify His greatness.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)” This is verse is known by many and is referenced often when anyone is looking for the right words to describe what might be in their mind. When the psalmist wrote these words, the overall attitude surrounding this verse and the verses following it was astonishment. When reading things such as this it reminds us that the name of our Creator is one to be in constant fear of! This is not to say that we should be scared of His power, but that we should be in a constant state of humility and respect. If the spirit behind the phrase is one that centers itself around moods such as these, then there should be no fear or odd feelings about saying “Oh, my God!” This crucial difference is what marks the separation between the words of adoration and the words that we teach our children not to say.

 

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Hope”

What is hope?

Hebrew:
qavah and achal – both terms mean to wait or to hope.

Greek:
Elpis – confident expectation and anticipation of a good outcome. Joyful optimism and confident trust for the fulfillment of the promises of God.

(Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

How does hope differ from waiting?

Hope is distinguished from generic waiting by an expectation and an optimistic outlook.

(Romans 12:12) Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

(Hebrews 10:28) The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

How does hope differ from faith?

Hope carries an especially strong connotation of eager anticipation, and is generally focused on a very specific and positive outcome.

(Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Which promises of God do you find yourself hoping for most strongly, or most often?

            (His appearance, our revelation as His children)
(1 John 3:1-3) See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

            (Our inheritance in heaven)
(1 Peter 1:3-5) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

            (Wisdom bestowed)
(James 1:5) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

            (All things work for good)
(Romans 8:28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

            (Eternal glory)
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18) “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

(Romans 8:18) “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

            (No pain)
(Revelation 21:4) “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

How do we maintain hope during long and difficult times?

(It is a reasonable thing to have)
(1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

            (God has not left us)
(Psalm 33:18) Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love

(Psalm 43:5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

(Lamentations 3:21-23 ) “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

(Deuteronomy 31:6) Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

            (Read scripture)
(Romans 15:4) For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

            (Grow in patience)
(Romans 5:2-5) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(Isaiah 40:31) But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Is it possible to mistakenly hope for things that God has not promised?

(What about these passages?)
(John 14:13-14) “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

(Malachi 3:10) “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

(God does not promise Christians an easy life.)
(Matthew 10:22) You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

(James 1:12) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

(Revelation 2:10) ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

(Hebrews 11:32-38) 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

What experiences in this life most arouse in you a hope for better things in heaven?

(Psalm 120)In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me. Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue? Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree. Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak,They are for war.”

What things do you have hope for in THIS life?

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Heaven”

What does the word heaven really mean?

Hebrew:
Shamayim – 1) the sky where birds fly, 2) the heavens where stars are, 3) the dwelling place of God, the highest heaven.
Marom – a roughly equivalent word to Shamayim

Greek:
Ouranos – the space above the earth, or the place where God dwells.

Other terms include: “eternal life,” “new heaven and a new earth,” “the heavenly kingdom,” “the new Jerusalem.”

Since in both Hebrew and Greek the same word was used to refer to both the sky and to God’s dwelling place, and based on art and literature throughout history, we can see that God’s people perceived of heaven as a place that is above us. (Genesis 28 – Jacob’s ladder, etc.)

Whether this is true in a literal sense or not, it is certainly true in a symbolic sense, because God is at the height of perfection, is in a place of absolute authority, and calls us to better ourselves as we move toward Him.

Heaven is where God is (Deuteronomy 10:14, Revelation 4:2) and when we go where He is to be with Him, we will be in heaven, too (Revelation 21)

Jesus must be referring to heaven when he speaks of “a place prepared for us” in (John 14)

 What will heaven by like?

There is much that we do not know… (1 Corinthians 2:9) But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

(Revelation 21) says God will be among men, and there is no pain or crying, and includes an extended description of many fine gemstones, pearly gates, etc. as well as streets of gold (Revelation 22) continues be describing the river of the water of life and the tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit and leaves with the power to heal, and there is no night.

(Isaiah 25:8) appears to be echoed in Rev. 21: “he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.”

Rev. 21 mentions a marriage feast. (Luke 13:29) “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

(Revelation 7:14-17) “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

(Matthew 6:19-21) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(Colossians 3:3-4) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

How can heaven be perfect if not everyone will be there?

(Revelation 21:27) But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

 (Matthew 7:23) “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

This is a hard question to answer. But if we trust that God will do what is right, then we trust that we will agree with Him in His doing what is right.

Do we really get a mansion in heaven?

(John 14:2) My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

“Mansion” is an obsolete translation, the meaning is not specifically that of a giant, fancy house.

Will this earth be transformed into heaven one day?

Rev. 21 mentions a new heaven and a new earth…

(Romans 8:19-21)For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

(John 14:3) “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  This does not sound like a renovated earth.

(Hebrews 11:6) But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

(Revelation 21:1) “I saw a New Heaven; and a New Earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”

(2 Peter 3:10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

Will heaven be a physical place?

Some point out that Eden was both physical and perfect, but do we know enough about Eden to draw conclusions from it?

(1 Corinthians 15:42-49)  42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

I do not know the answer to this question. Are you aware of a clear answer in scripture?

Why is there no marriage in heaven?

(Matthew 22:29-30) Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.  30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

Will there be dogs in heaven?

(Isaiah 11:6-9) “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea”

(Romans 8:20-21) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

What do you think? If God’s plan of redemption is for God, wouldn’t that leave animals out of the picture?

Is there a hierarchy or various levels of reward in heaven?

(Matthew 5:19) Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven

(luke 13:29-30) 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

(1 Corinthians 3:11 – 15) For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,13each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

(Matthew 6:20) “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;

 

Why Do the Right Thing?

It is no secret that God asks us to give up our sins, some of which may be very dear to our hearts. He asks us to change our lives in ways that can be difficult or painful. He asks us to give up our pride. He asks us to step out in faith and do things that get us out of our comfort zone. He asks for a lot.

So why should we do what He asks? Why do the right thing? Here are some possible answers:

So that life will be better for us here and now. After all, God’s commands are designed to protect us from harm. There can be no question that following where He leads is beneficial. In Mark 19:30, Jesus says of anyone who gives something up for Him, “he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age.”

So that we can go to heaven. In Matthew 6:20, Jesus encourages us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Romans 2:6-7 tells us that God “WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” Some day we want to hear Him say “well done.”

So that we won’t go to hell. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says plainly, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” For those who really believe all that the Bible says about hell (and the Bible says a LOT about it) this is a real motivation to do the right thing.

There are many other possible reasons to do the right thing. To be a good example to those younger than us. To avoid hurting family and friends. To keep a clear conscience. To maintain personal credibility.

But there is one primary reason to do the right thing that we must not forget.

We do the right thing because, as Christians, we don’t have a choice. God owns us. We gave up our rights when we died with Him through baptism (Romans 6). We signed up to be slaves of righteousness (also Romans 6). It is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

We live in a society that esteems personal freedom over duty. Others may give us advice, but they are not to control us. No one can tell us what to do, we get to weigh the pros and cons and decide for ourselves. But the relationship between the Christian and his God is not this way.

God can and does tell us what to do. If you want to follow Him, you only have one choice: submit. We don’t get to pull out a list of pros and cons every time we want to sin, assess the situation, and decide whether discipleship seems personally advantageous. God either owns you or you do not belong to Him at all.

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

This World is Not Good

The account of creation in the book of Genesis is about the beginning of something good. After each day of creation, God sees that what He has made is good. At the end of the sixth day, God sees that His creation is “very good.”

Yet even though there is still so much that is wonderful and beautiful and inspiring in this world, it is no longer good the way it was. The third chapter of Genesis tells us what happened. It gives an account of man’s first sins. They were motivated in part by Satan’s lies (3:4-5). They resulted in difficulties in human relationships (3:16), difficulties in work (3:17-19), and separation from God (3:23-24).

Romans 8:22-23 says “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

This whole word has been subjected to futility. Satan’s lies are everywhere. Our relationships are strained or even broken. A part of us wants to dream big dreams, but the weeds choke them out. We try to make progress and we don’t.

The Bible acknowledges the not-goodness of this world in its present state, and we can, too. We do not have to pretend that everything is okay. Everything is not okay. Life is frustrating. It is painful. People hurt each other. It is “not good.” Even for the Christians whose lives seem to be going fairly well, there is a longing for something more than this world can give. Maybe that is why Paul was anxious for the day when he could go to heaven.

I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:23-24).

Yet Paul does realize that there is a reason why he is here.

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:25-26)

We, too, can trust God to use our lives, though our relationships and our work continue to be corrupted by life’s difficulties. We can trust God to welcome us into a better place some day.

As 1 Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

 What a day that will be.

Security of the Believer?

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most loved and quoted Bible verses of our time. Personally, I cannot remember ever attending a high school or college graduation at which this verse was not read aloud:

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

We know that technically the verse was spoken to Jeremiah and not to us. And we know that technically it does not promise to bless us with physical health or safety, or to protect us from difficult situations.

But we still love Jeremiah 29:11. Because we long to feel the peace and security of resting in God’s loving arms. We long for Jesus to comfort and protect us the way he wanted to comfort and protect Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37: “the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.

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Perhaps that desire for security is also behind the popular teaching of “once saved always saved,” often used to offer the Christian the false hope that a brief experience of accepting Jesus at one point in time guarantees us a spot in heaven no matter what we do afterwards.

It is not physical security that God offers, and neither is it the logic-defying proposition that we can somehow go to heaven even as we reject the God who illuminates it.

Rather, God offers us the security of knowing that no one and nothing can separate His love from those who would walk in it.

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:31-39

As Jesus states in His message to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8, “I have put before you an open door which no one can shut.

The door of salvation is open before us, and no one and nothing will shut it. The question that remains is this: will you walk through that door, and abide inside with God?