FORETASTE

Eph.1:14 – TPT – He is given to us like an engagement ring is given to a bride, as the first installment of what’s coming! He is our hope-promise of a future inheritance which seals us until we have all of redemption’s promises and experience complete freedom—all for the supreme glory and honor of God!

It’s amazing to me how wrong the world paints true Christianity. Take the Puritans for example, they are painted as an austere bunch doting on rules and making life miserable for themselves and for everyone else. That is quite far from the truth. Puritans were actually what you could call Christian hedonists. In case you didn’t know, hedonism is a practice or belief that living your life in pursuit of pleasure is your purpose in life. Christian hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure in God as the purpose in life. True Puritans found their greatest pleasure in God and spent their life in the pursuit of that pleasure. Here is how the great Puritan pastor Jonathan Edwards describes it.

“If it be so, that ’tis worth the while to be religious if it were only for the pleasantness of it, then how exceeding great is the reward of the godly. What a reward have they in the world to come; what joys {in another life}. But yet this is not all; no, they have a reward in this life. In the very keeping of God’s commands, there is great reward (Ps. 19:11). The reward they have in hand, besides that which is promised, is well worth all the pains they take, all the troubles they endure. God has not only promised them a great reward, and exceeding great beyond conception; but he has given them a foretaste in this world of the world to come…”

Let me break down what Edwards said in everyday English; he says that the pleasure found in our Christianity alone in this life is worth it even if there was no heavenly reward. He also says that our life of faith even helps us enjoy the non sinful pleasures of this life more than the lost do. To top it off, the joy we receive from the Lord is a foretaste of the pleasures of heaven as well as a promise that heaven is our inheritance. So I think I will follow the example of the Puritans, I will pursue pleasure in God alone as the ultimate goal of my life.

WHY HEAVEN IS HEAVEN ?

Rev. 22:1 – Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

It always amazes me to hear what people think about heaven. The only time you really hear about it is when someone dies. That’s when you get the set answer, “we know he/she is in a better place”. Really? Do you really believe that? Why would you say heaven is a better place? I know very few people who really want to go there, I mean go there now. If we really, really knew why heaven is heaven we would have to say like Paul, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord”. Why would Paul believe that? Would he really rather die than live on in this world? Jonathan Edwards may help us with this, check out this quote describing heaven.

“There dwells God the Father, who is the Father of mercies, and so the Father of love, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. There dwells Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Prince of peace and love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for it. There dwells the Mediator, by whom all God’s love is expressed to the saints, by whom the fruits of it have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all the church. There Christ dwells in both his natures, his human and divine, sitting with the Father in the same throne. There is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, all flows out or is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the church. There in heaven this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love.”

Heaven is about the Lord. Heaven is the unveiling of God. Heaven is enjoying God. Heaven is heaven because we will finally feast for ourselves on true and lasting joy found in God Himself. Heaven is a world of love. Knowing Christ personally and enjoying Him is the prerequisite of heaven. In other words, know one will be there who didn’t want to be there. Its not just the alternative, it is life for evermore.

THE PLACE WHERE THE SUN DOESN’T SHINE

And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

This may come across as strange to you but one place the sun doesn’t shine is heaven. Now don’t take this the wrong way, heaven could never be a place of darkness. Actually it could be called the City of Light, the only place that never has shadows. No sun, no shadows, how is this even possible? The answer, if you haven’t guessed it yet, is that there is no need for a sun because Jesus Himself is the light of the city. After all, the natural sun is just a picture or image of the real light. The real light is Christ Himself, the light of the world. Heaven will not need a sun, or streetlights or lamps on the inside of any building. The light of heaven will penetrate every crack and crevice of every life. We will see the fulfillment of the last prophesy of the Old Testament, Mal.4:2 – “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall”. Here are some thoughts from R. C. Sproul on today’s verse.

“Revelation 21 and 22 describe the holy city coming down out of heaven. Strangely, it is described as a place where the sun does not shine. There are no candles nor moon nor artificial source of light. You would think that such a place would be bathed in perpetual darkness, but the author of Revelation tells us there is no need of sun or artificial light in heaven because the glory of God and the radiance of his Son bathe the holy city in light perpetually. The glow from the face of God—the manifestation of his glory—illuminates every inch of the kingdom of heaven. The light of the glory of God is never extinguished, which is why the apostle says “. . . to whom be glory forever.” The glory of God began in eternity and will continue for eternity. When we come into God’s presence to worship him, the only appropriate response is reverence, awe, humility, and submission. The contemporary church all too often displays a cavalier approach to worship. Many have no idea about the one they are dealing with, the one for whom the angels themselves have to cover their eyes when they sing of his glory.”

Heaven is going to be better than any of us could ever know. It is the City of Light. As we finish our journey on earth we must remember, this life is almost over; the real life is about to start.

DELUGE OF LOVE

Rev.4:1 – After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”

Do you ever think about life after death? What about heaven, what is heaven really like? I think we have quite a few surprises in store for all of us. I think the first surprise will be who is there and who is not there. Jesus told a parable about heaven in the form of a wedding feast thrown by the son’s father. The terrifying lesson of the story, apparently some who thought they were invited to the party were quickly ushered out into outer darkness. The reason they were thrown out gives us a glimpse as to who will be there. The ones thrown out were not wearing the wedding garment. The garment is a picture of the righteousness of God given to us by faith in Christ. Those who do not believe in the saving power of the blood of Jesus simply will not be in heaven.

Another surprise will be the very atmosphere of heaven. This is where we get to the indescribable part; heaven will be an amazing unveiling of the beauty and glory of our three in one God. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this incredible place.

“There Christ dwells in both his natures, his human and divine, sitting with the Father in the same throne. There is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, all flows out or is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the church. There in heaven this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love.”

In other words the great surprise is that IT WILL BE BETTER THAN WE THOUGHT. We will see Jesus, the Father, and the amazing Spirit of God. So I would urge you to make your preparations to be there. The other alternative is unthinkable.

HEAVEN’S PORTAL

John 1:50,51 – Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these. And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

In this verse, Jesus is calling His disciples to follow Him. He is about to lead these men on a spiritual journey that will lead them into access into heaven itself. Christ came to become the portal, the doorway into life. He did what none of us could ever do, He lived a sinless life and became our sin offering opening the door into a new kind of life. He was calling Nathaniel in this verse to this incredible life; He is calling us in the same way. He is giving us access into the heavenly world through faith in His blood. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“What a glorious view does this give us of the Gospel dispensation! It is heaven opened to earth; and heaven opened on earth. The Church militant and the Church triumphant become one, and the whole heavenly family, in both, see and adore their common Lord. Neither the world nor the Church is left to the caprices of time or chance. The Son of man governs as he upholds all. Wherever we are praying, studying, hearing, meditating, his gracious eye is upon us. He notes our wants, our weakness, and our petitions; and his eye affects his heart. Let us be without guile, deeply, habitually sincere, serious, and upright; and then we may rest assured, that not only the eye, but the hand, of our Lord shall be ever upon us for good.”

Not only has He opened this portal for us, He is also watching us. Just as He saw Nathaniel under that tree, He saw you as you opened your eyes this morning. He is watching every move you make with interest and compassion. He is not far off and uninvolved in your life, He is involved in every minute detail of all you do. I think this is what struck Nathaniel, Jesus noticed him and cared for Him. Nathaniel had no idea the journey that was ahead of him as He followed Christ that day, He just knew he was following someone who had him in His care.

THE PLACE OF BLESSING

Ps.133:1,3 – Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.

Have you ever wondered what heaven is going to be like? What are the characteristics of heaven that make it so inviting? This scripture may actually hold the key to the answer to that question. This verse describes the dynamic that happens in the unity of brothers and sisters in Christ. The unity that we enjoy in Christian community is more than just a common belief and a common goal. Our unity flows from life itself. We were once “not a people” Hosea said, “but we have become “the people of God”. What is the basis of being called the people of God? We share a common life. We have the very life of God in our souls since we were born again. It is this life that we enjoy together that makes Christian community, or church, supernatural. This life of the church is a foretaste of what makes heaven heaven. It is the life of God in our souls. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes the blessing in today’s verse.

“dwelling together in love we have begun the enjoyments of eternity, and these shall not be taken from us….This makes Christian brotherhood so good and pleasant; it has Jehovah’s blessing resting upon it, and it cannot be otherwise than sacred like “the precious ointment”, and heavenly like “the dew of Hermon.” O for more of this rare virtue! Not the love which comes and goes, but that which dwells; not that spirit which separates and secludes, but that which dwells together; not that mind which is all for debate and difference, but that which dwells together in unity. Never shall we know the full power of the anointing till we are of one heart and of one spirit; never will the sacred dew of the Spirit descend in all its fulness till we are perfectly joined together in the same mind; never will the covenanted and commanded blessing come forth from the Lord our God till once again we shall have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

This supernatural life is found in only one place, it is found in Christ. When we accept Him into our lives we begin to taste this life that He purchased for us. From that day on we are part of a new community, Jesus called it His church. Open your heart to His love, embrace this life found in the body of Christ, you too can experience the commanded blessing.

Come and Dine

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Luke 22:29,30 – And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom…

Most people really enjoy the holiday season. From Thanksgiving to Christmas all the way through the New Year we will find ourselves celebrating with friends and family. There is something inside of us that wants to be at home sitting around the family table. After all, there is no place like home. I believe that this is something that is part of our human makeup, part of what it means to be created in the image of God. This longing for community is actually a longing for the community that surrounds our Heavenly Father’s table. What a table that must be ! Can you imagine what that day will be like when we are actually in heaven, in our Father’s house, sitting at our prepared place at the table of the Lord? That is what our hearts are really longing for and that is why Thanksgiving and Christmas tables are so special. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the Father’s table.

“Heaven is the house where God dwells with his family. God is represented in Scripture as having a family; and though some of this family are now on earth, yet in so being they are abroad and not at home, but all going home: Ephesians “3:15, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Heaven is the place that God has built for himself and his children. God has many children, and the place designed for them is heaven; therefore the saints, being the children of God, are said to be of the household of God. God is represented as a householder or head of a family, and heaven is his house. Heaven is the house not only where God hath his throne, but also where he doth as it were keep his table, where his children sit down with him at his table and where they are feasted in a royal manner becoming the children of so great a King.”

What a day that will be! So this year as I celebrate from Thanksgiving through the New Year I’m going to reflect on the greatest of all celebrations that is just ahead. The marriage supper of the Lamb is being prepared, the invitations have been sent out, the table is prepared; Come and dine, the Master is calling.

A PLACE CALLED HEAVEN

Is. 60:19 ¶ The sun shall be no more
your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
I have been thinking about heaven recently. Actually, I am reading a book called “Imagine Heaven” which tells about many near death experiences. One of the often repeated themes in almost all the stories is a desire to stay there. No one wanted to go back to earth! It’s funny, we all look at death as such a horrible thing when it is actually the real beginning, it is where our real life will finally start. Something else I noticed from the testimonies of those who died and came back was this, their description of their experiences were strangely similar to the language and feel of someone who is describing being touched by the Holy Spirit. Of course it should be, the atmosphere of heaven is actually a person, the wonderful Holy Spirit. God Himself will be our eternal home. Here is a brief description of heaven from Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Heaven is a World of Love”.

“What joy may we conclude springs up in the hearts of the saints after they have passed their wearisome pilgrimage to be brought to such a paradise? Here is joy unspeakable indeed; here is humble, holy, divine joy in its perfection. Love is a sweet principle, especially divine love. It is a spring of sweetness. But here the spring shall become a river, and an ocean. All shall stand about the God of glory, the fountain of love, as it were opening their bosoms to be filled with those effusions of love which are poured forth from thence, as the flowers on the earth in a pleasant spring day open their bosoms to the sun to be filled with his warmth and light, and to flourish in beauty and fragrancy by his rays. Every saint is as a flower in the garden of God, and holy love is the fragrancy and sweet odor which they all send forth, and with which they fill that paradise. Every saint there is as a note in a concert of music which sweetly harmonizes with every other note, and all together employed wholly in praising God and the Lamb; and so all helping one another to their utmost to express their love of the whole society to the glorious Father and Head of it, and [[to pour back]] love into the fountain of love, whence they are supplied and filled with love and with glory.”
It is impossible to really know what heaven is going to be like, the Holy Spirit gives us glimpses and tastes here in this life. Have you tasted for yourself the goodness of God? If so that heavenly hope resides in you. Nurture that hope as you reflect on your eternal home. It will be far greater than we can ever hope or imagine.

WHEN WE GO TO HEAVEN

1Cor. 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

I have a feeling that heaven is going to be quite different from what any of us can imagine. Now don’t take me wrong, no one will be disappointed when they get there but it will be a different kind of place. Surprisingly, not everyone would like it there. How do I know that? Well, because the things you love here will still be the things you love on the other side. If Jesus wasn’t your passion here He won’t be the One you long for in the after life. Heaven will actually be a culmination and fulfillment of your loves here on earth. If all you know of heaven is living forever, having some sort of mansion, and seeing your loved ones you have missed the whole point. The only thing that really makes heaven heaven is that Jesus Christ will be there. He will be the focus of our love and frankly it will be quite impossible to take your attention off of Him. Jonathan Edwards spoke often about heaven; here are some of his thoughts.

“There is but a very imperfect union with God to be had in this world: a very imperfect knowledge of God in the midst of abundance of darkness, a very imperfect conformity to God, mingled with abundance of enmity and estrangement. Here we can serve and glorify God but in an exceeding imperfect manner, our service being mingled with much sin and dishonoring to God.

But when we get to heaven, if ever that be, there we shall be brought to a perfect union with God. There we shall have the clear views of God’s glory: we shall see face to face, and know as we are known. There we shall be fully conformed to God, without any remains of sin: “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”. There we shall serve God perfectly. We shall glorify him in an exalted manner, and to the utmost of the powers and capacity of our nature. Then we shall perfectly give up ourselves to God; then will our hearts be wholly a pure and holy offering to God, offered all in the flame of divine love.”

The atmosphere in heaven will be totally different from the atmosphere in this world. The Holy Spirit, the love of God, will be the very substance that we live in. Christ will be the Son (Sun of righteousness), the Holy Spirit the oxygen, and the Father will be the Fountainhead of life itself. Get ready for the greatest of all adventures, I can’t wait for that blessed day.

We will miss you Dr. Morgan. Can’t wait for that glorious day when we will all worship in total perfection.

HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE

Rev. 22:1 ¶ Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

The natural man cannot comprehend the things of God. Paul went so far as to say that spiritual things seem as foolishness to the natural man. Heaven is one of those things. The non born again person has no understanding of the place called heaven. All he can think of is the mansion and the gold streets, he has no concept of the real value of heaven. Heaven is heaven because Christ is there. It is knowing Him that makes heaven so heavenly. Beyond the Grave is a production about the tragedy of a shooting at a high school. The story goes on to describe the real tragedy, leaving this world unprepared for the next. Yesterday, I spoke about the horrors of eternal hell. Today, we will let Jonathan Edwards describe to us the pleasures that are available to us in heaven.

“There dwells God the Father, who is the Father of mercies, and so the Father of love, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. There dwells Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Prince of peace and love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for it. There dwells the Mediator, by whom all God’s love is expressed to the saints, by whom the fruits of it have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all the church. There Christ dwells in both his natures, his human and divine, sitting with the Father in the same throne. There is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, all flows out or is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the church. There in heaven this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love.”

How can you know for certain about your eternal dwelling place? Can you be certain that heaven is your final destination. I believe you can. It happens when the love of God actually comes into your life. From that moment, heaven becomes a real place to you. Something inside of you belongs in that other world. When your eyes close for the last time in this world you will suddenly awaken on the other side. That’s when you will say, “I know what this is, I’ve been waiting for this day all of my life!”