A Taste of Heaven in the Midst of Hell

Sorry for the delay in posting.  I’ve been in Ecuador the last week or so and I have much to tell you about our trip to meet our two Compassion children, Mayra and Kevin (in this picture).  Amazing trip!  Wonderful kids!  They are truly a taste of heaven in this life for me.

But before I go down that path, I have something on my mind to share.  Many things, actually, so there may be quite a few upcoming posts on what is lingering inside of this pea brain of mine.  🙂

I listened to Sproul speak this morning on a live webcast for the 2010 Ligonier Conference on the topic, “Can we enjoy heaven knowing of loved ones in hell?”   An honest question that many Christians ponder but rarely have received any teaching on.  It is a question few teachers are brave enough to speak about on a Sunday morning.  In our day and age, we make the false assumption that people are good and that God will be gracious to all.  We don’t like to hear anything that goes against our false assumptions because more often than not, we inaccurately define God instead of allowing Him to accurately define Himself.

This post will follow some of the content of the wonderful sermon I heard this morning.  Much of what I say will be  attributed to Dr. Sproul with a few of my own thoughts sprinkled in between.  Obviously, I am no Sproul.   However, I completely concur with everything that he said — hopefully I completely honor his intent and purpose, which is my honest goal.  When they post his message at this site, I hope you will go and listen to it.  You will not be disappointed.

As a preface, this sermon came on the tailwind of learning that a Christian friend of ours had “de-friended” us on Facebook.  Why?  Probably because we are choosing not to attend the new church he is starting.  Why?  Because his new church is no different than the church he just left.  It is yet one more flimsy excuse for a church – lacking in solid teaching, seeking to be culturally relevant instead of faithfully teaching the deep, hard things of God.

I remain of the conviction that people come to church for one reason – to discover the one and only true God and to learn the deep things of Him.  Not to sing.  Not to be culturally relevant.  Not to party nor be social.  Not to hear the amazing band.  Not how to feel good.  Not to learn how to help their neighbor.  Not to hear how to be a better parent, steps one, two and three.  They come to discover who God is.  If called, they eventually come to worship God.  Church is for the worshippers of God.  Those who are not called do not understand worship.

I won’t lie.  These earthly “little things” hurt the mind and soul.  Though transformed, we are still flesh.  But they don’t hurt as badly as being denied the reality of true worship in the midst of what should be a dedicated body of believers.  If we had gone to this new church, there is no doubt we would have seen more of the same – a lack of an understanding of true worship.

Worship is so much more than raising your hands up to a contemporary worship song.  Worship is commanded by God — and it is not defined by us. God has asked us to “teach these things.”  What things?  Those things He has commanded – not just those things we choose to want to see or we think fallen people want to see.

Every time we come into true worship, it is a taste of heaven.  It is a glimpse of our Creator – the biblical Creator which we can only see when we understand his model for worship.  I’m leaving that topic for right now because there is so much more I want to say today.  I’ll try to get back to it later……

Albeit written about a previous generation, Judges 17 and 21, Deuteronomy 12, Proverbs 12, 26 and Isaiah 5, tell us something like, “everything they did what was right in their own eyes.”  God also warned that his spirit would not strive with the people anymore.  The wickedness of the entire world was judged by God then and I believe it is being judge by him now.  I want to share a couple of specific passages that relate to this discussion.

Isaiah 65:12
I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.”

Acts 28:27
For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

And now – the wonder of Dr. Sproul’s sermon comes into play.  Just when the pain of  Facebook de-friending and the weekly offense of the contemporary church wounds both the heart of God and man, God reminds us that He is making all things new! (Rev. 21). When we are discouraged with the state of the church today — when friends ‘de-friend’ us on Facebook with personal motives in play — when we weep because we don’t understand why our non-Christian friends and relatives will not be in heaven with us, we must remember the words of Revelation 21.

For the elect, those called by God, heaven is a place where God will wipe away our tears….and they will never come back.  Nothing will disturb our joy in heaven.  Our pain will be removed.  We will finally understand.  No more tears.  No more sorrow.

Romans 8:29-30 is often called the Golden Chain of Salvation.  Here’s the passage in context (ESV):

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing 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 will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because  the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 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. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God knows his elect from all eternity.  He chose his elect.  Those He foreknows, He predestinates.  But Sproul says we can’t stop here.  The end of predestination — the purpose of predestination — is that we be conformed to the image of Christ. (Sproul).  We are elected in Christ for Christ, to end up in conformity to Christ. (Sproul)

Thus, says Sproul:  Glorification is the end of the chain. He continues, saying that there are 3 things that cause us to worry:   1. We worry because we don’t know who God is (we also don’t know what it means that God is holy.)  2. We worry because we don’t know who we are.  We fail to grasp the heinousness of our sin.  We fail to see the depravity of man.  We think God is obligated to forgive us.  We simply don’t know who we are.  3. We worry because we don’t know what glorification means.  We will have a new body that won’t be made out of titanium.  Death will be gone.  Tears will be gone.  Still, we think about all the things that won’t be there.  We fail to see that GOD will be there!  The most conspicuous thing that will be absent in our lives is sin.  Can you imagine being in a place where there is no sin?

Sproul reminds us that in the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, Jesus prayed for glorification – his and ours. As hard as this is to accept for some people, Jesus prayed for his elect – not the entire world.

The final chapter of our redemption is our glorification.  Not our exultation – we will not be deity.  Glorification refers to the finalization and consummation of our sanctification. (Sproul)

This work is not finished yet, so we remain, in a sense — in a hell of sorts.  Not an eternal hell that some will sadly experience, but an earthly hell.  An earthly hell that feels separated from God.  When we are glorified, then Christ will count us on his side — you will be conformed, without sin, to our Savoir.  Sounds so wonderful to me…..

Until our glorification, we are in a predicament – until our glorification, our concerns and our sympathies rest more more with wicked human beings than they do with the glory of God. (Sproul)  Once sin is removed from our life (in heaven), our concern will be about the vindication of God’s holiness – not a fallen kinsman of ours who was in the flesh. (Sproul)  We cannot imagine being free from sin. (Sproul)

God said to Moses, “I will be regarded as holy by anyone who comes near to me.” If it means our friends, our family, must be sacrificed for God’s holiness and righteousness, though we can’t stomach this right now, God’s word tells us that the day will come that we will be so concerned about the glory of God and Jesus that we will rejoice in his judgment.  We aren’t there yet, but that is our destiny. Sproul

Thus, when humans fail us and God is confusing to us,  I can look to the future – that day when sin will not entangle us anymore.  That day will come when I will be so concerned about the glory of God that I will be able to rejoice in His judgment.” (Sproul)

Praise God.  He is just.  He is God.

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