The ‘House of the Nazarene’ is an international non-denominational movement and is an evangelical part of the Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
Therefore, the most enjoyable things and, indeed, the most significant things, are quality relationships. The most painful thing is a broken relationship. That is just the nature of things. Check out any Country and Western song and you know right away it is true. You’re the Fingernail Scrapping on the Blackboard of My Heart and all those kinds of songs like that. When the Phone Don’t Ring, You’ll Know it is Me; How can I Miss You if You Won’t Go Away; I Don’t Know Whether to Shoot Myself or Go Bowling; all kinds of wonderful songs of that sort. I have told you this before, but my favorite is I’m so Miserable Since You Left Me, It’s Almost Like Having You Here. The fact is, though, those songs capture the joy and the pain of relationships. Relationships, then, are the most wonderful and also the most painful things on the planet and it depends on what animates the relationship, whether you are walking in the Spirit or walking in the flesh.
If we understand that, then He is telling us that heaven is highly relational. It is, in fact, interpersonal. It is also an interdependent, not co-dependent, environment where we enjoy interdependent relationships and where there is a context of community, a corporate dimension. That is why the image of heaven is other-centered love. There is the idea, then, of actually enhancing forever, by knowing one another more and more through other-centered love, the intimacy that we enjoy with one another.
One of the things I see in heaven is that it is not a dynamic-static process, but rather it is an on-going process of change and transformation. I think I have told you this before, but it bears repeating, that when a loved one dies, someone you knew intimately, part of you dies with them. When my dad died, part of me died, because there was something he brought out of me that no one else could bring out. I have friends who died and there was something that only they could bring out of me. You see where I am going with that?
Now, it would be a rather a depressing thing unless we understood that actually we will be layered by new relationships. Not only in the maturation of old ones but also, may I stress, in the new relationships of millions of people you haven’t met yet. Some of whom have been gone for thousands of years. That is an intriguing notion; that there have been people, long ago in space and time, who will become more intimate with you than anyone you have known on the planet. The greatest moment of intimacy you have known on this earth is only a shadow of what will be true of all relationships there.
So, it is really going to be better than you suppose. Understanding that, we actually have a picture, in Revelation 21 and 22, of this love and this joy that is even beyond John’s symbolic descriptions there because he often talks about what it is not. If you look at chapter 21, verses four and five, he says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne says, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’.” That is exactly what He said to His mother in the Passion, “Woman, I am making all things new.” Continuing, “He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true’.”
So, it really doesn’t describe what it is, but it describes what it isn’t. Do you notice that? There will no longer be this, that, or the other. I want to tell you, if He did tell you what it would be like, you wouldn’t have the capacity to process it. We do not have the imagination now, or the cognitive categories to imagine it. Remember what it says in 1st Corinthians? “No eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination or consciousness, the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” We do not have sufficient understanding to grasp what He has in store.
But, I will say, it will be more than worth your while. That will be home. So, going back to our text, He says, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places.” The word ‘monḗ’, from the word ‘ménō’, doesn’t mean mansions, like the King James Version mentions. You get crazy ideas this way. Some people see Manor Houses that would take up half the earth! And some see small one room cottages. However, it is the same word that is translated as ‘lodging, dwelling-place, abode,’ in verse 23, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our ‘monḗ’ with him.” See the idea? It has only to do with abiding. It is not talking about various sizes of anything. Instead, each place will be beautiful. During His earthly life, what was Jesus doing? He was a carpenter. Now He is building a home for His earthly church in heaven. He is the One who builds. He is also the bridge builder.
So, He says, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you will be also.” Recall that in first century Israel, the custom was going to be that the betrothed would go off to his father’s house and there he would prepare a ‘monḗ’, or dwelling place. It might be a separate place or simply a special room. That is where he would bring his bride.
So, he would go off and prepare a place and then he would come back and receive her to himself. You see the idea? Part of the fun was that he would come at a time she would never know. It would often be in the middle of the night and he would often bring his friends with him. There would be the shout of a trumpet and she would come out and it looked almost like a sanctioned elopement. I believe that is why He is using this imagery because the Church is the bride of Christ.
So, His passion is this: He is preparing a place for you and He will come again and He will receive you to Himself. What is His intention and a deep longing for us? “Where I am, you may be also.” That is a pretty big deal. He is saying He wants intimacy with you. That is a very, very major thing, indeed. He goes on to say, “And you know the way where I am going.” But then Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How do we know the way?” Jesus’ response, this idea of heaven being a real place, and a loving place is also a place that doesn’t just happen to anyone. This is where the doctrine of Christ being the only way, the One way, is offensive in our culture.
But, the Gospels have always been offensive in every culture. Scripture has always been, and will always be, counter-cultural. You have to decide what your authority is. You can decide, ‘I don’t like this verse’, for example, in answer to Thomas’ question, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” Now, I can’t get around that. And if I look at another text, as well, 1st Timothy 2:4-6, it says something quite similar. “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Though He desires all to be saved, not all will be saved, because they must desire to know Him. Many will freely elect not to know Him. Continuing, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”
God, then, has made the way available to all, but not all will elect to know Him. There are those who seek Him and there are those who seek to avoid Him. At the end of the day, we can try and say, ‘is there another way’, but every other religion I know is a working system of salvation. That is to say, they have the illusion that God is not as holy as He is, or we are better than we are. The only way I can figure for you to earn your way is for God to ‘dumb it down’ in His holiness or for us to have the illusion that we are utterly holy beings.
Last time I checked, my motivational structure just wasn’t that way. The point is that you have to think that God is going to grade on the curve. The context we use is comparing ourselves with other people and we figure we are better than most, so He has to let us in. That is a dangerous way of thinking. If God is as holy as Scripture reveals, then the only way to be saved, apart from Christ, is by being perfect in thought, word, and deed. He will not abide a presence that is inconsistent with His own character.
Now, that is why He offers us a way, and that is why, by the way, Jesus had to die. If there was another way in which people could have a right relationship with God, then Christ died needlessly. That is too dramatic; then Jesus’ death, Galatians 2:21, was needless. It took that radical a step for us to be able to do it. My conviction is that God holds us responsible for the light we have, not for the light, we do not have, but if we respond to the light we have, He will respond to the light we need. It will always be done through Christ, and how much we have to know I will leave up to Him. The Scripture never speculates about those who have never heard. You understand that Idea? So, I am not going to go beyond that. Instead, it always focuses on our need to get the message out. I am going to trust God for the outcome. Surely, if He provided this offer, at such a great price, and He surely knows the human heart, He will make the message available to those who wish to know Him.
But, just suppose, He says everybody gets into heaven. Actually, that would not be heaven. It would be hell for those who don’t want to be with God. We sometimes suppose He’s a Universalist, and everybody gets there. If a person doesn’t want to be with God in this life, the presence of God in the next would be pure hell. Heaven, in a way, is an acquired taste. It is not something that we naturally pursue.
It really is the presence of a person rather than simply an enjoyable place. A place it surely is, but it is more than that. It is the presence of a person who transforms it. If God were simply just, then no one would enter into His presence. You have to understand, from His point of view, no one should come. If He were just, we all fall short of the glory of God. All have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God. God is more than fair. He is gracious. He extends better than our due, but only if we want that.
He will not cram it down our throats. There is a response that we must make. The assurance of heaven, the assurance of being with Him, after this life is over and then seeing His face, you will realize that was the joy you were looking for all your life. I want to tell that can give you joy in the midst of obstacles and battles on the way to the true home. In Hebrews 12:2 and especially Romans 8:18, where, “I consider the sufferings at this present time not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We all will suffer. All of us have suffered in some ways. Some have suffered more than others. I do not claim to understand why that is. Some do suffer more than others.
But, live long enough, and the suffering will continue. That is just the nature of it. But, Paul tells us that the sufferings of the present time and they are short, are not even worth comparing with what He has got in store for us. With that perspective, you can be more than a conqueror.
Now, the second assurance we have is the assurance of knowing the Father. You can know the Father right now. We don’t have to wait to enter heaven to know Him. Jesus is the One who reveals Him. So, going on in the text, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Now, I like Phillip’s response, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Actually, that was not something that He did, but it is a good thing to desire to know the Father. That should be our burning desire. The word ‘know’, by the way, is used 141 times in John’s Gospel.
An Ordained Anointed Minister of Jesus Christ to Minister His Gospel, to this online Church; House of the Nazarene, To spread the Good News of Salvation to the four corners of the Earth.
All Christians have, in profession at least, received Jesus Christ the Lord, consented to him, and taken him for theirs. We cannot be built up in Christ, or grow in him, unless we are first rooted in him, or founded upon him. Being established in the faith, we must abound therein, and improve in it more and more. God justly withdraws this benefit from those who do not receive it with thanksgiving; and gratitude for his mercies is justly required by God.
There is a philosophy which rightly exercises our reasonable faculties; a study of the works of God, which leads us to the knowledge of God, and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful; and while it pleases men's fancies, hinders their faith: such are curious speculations about things above us, or no concern to us. Those who walk in the way of the world, are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law. All the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by his complete sacrifice for sin, and by the revelation of the will of God.
To be complete, is to be furnished with all things necessary for salvation. By this one word “complete,” is shown that we have in Christ whatever is required. “In him,” not when we look to Christ, as though he were distant from us, but we are in him, when, by the power of the Spirit, we have faith wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are united to our Head. The circumcision of the heart, the crucifixion of the flesh, the death and burial to sin and to the world, and the resurrection to newness of life, set forth in baptism, and by faith wrought in our hearts, prove that our sins are forgiven, and that we are fully delivered from the curse of the law.
Through Christ, we, who were dead in sins, are quickened. Christ's death was the death of our sins; Christ's resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The law of ordinances, which was a yoke to the Jews, and a partition-wall to the Gentiles, the Lord Jesus took out of the way. When the substance was come, the shadows fled. Since every mortal man is, through the hand-writing of the law, guilty of death, how very dreadful is the condition of the ungodly and unholy, who trample under foot that blood of the Son of God, whereby alone this deadly hand-writing can be blotted out! Let not any be troubled about bigoted judgments which related to meats, or the Jewish solemnities.
The setting apart a portion of our time for the worship and service of God, is a moral and unchangeable duty, but had no necessary dependence upon the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath of the Jews. The first day of the week, or the Lord's day, is the time kept holy by Christians, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. All the Jewish rites were shadows of gospel blessings.
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