Servant of God, Well Done!

Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare’s past;
The battle’s fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last.

Of all thy heart’s desire
Triumphantly possessed;
Lodged by the ministerial choir
In thy Redeemer’s breast.

In condescending love,
Thy ceaseless prayer He heard;
And bade thee suddenly remove
To thy complete reward.

Ready to bring the peace,
Thy beauteous feet were shod,
When mercy signed thy soul’s release,
And caught thee up to God.

With saints enthroned on high,
Thou dost thy Lord proclaim,
And still to God salvation cry,
Salvation to the Lamb!

O happy, happy soul!
In ecstasies of praise,
Long as eternal ages roll,
Thou seest Thy Savior’s face.

Redeemed from earth and pain,
Ah! when shall we ascend,
And all in Jesus’ presence reign
With our translated friend?

Come, Lord, and quickly come!
And, when in Thee complete,
Receive Thy longing servants home,
To triumph at Thy feet.

-John Wesley

Absent from flesh! O blissful thought!

Absent from flesh! O blissful thought!
What unknown joys this moment brings!
Freed from the mischiefs sin has brought,
From pains, and fears, and all their springs.

Absent from flesh! illustrious day!
Surprising scene! triumphant stroke
That rends the prison of my clay;
And I can feel my fetters broke.

Absent from flesh! then rise, my soul,
Where feet nor wings could never climb,
Beyond the heav’ns, where planets roll,
Measuring the cares and joys of time.

I go where God and glory shine,
His presence makes eternal day:
My all that’s mortal I resign,
For angels wait and point my way.

-Issac Watts

Secret Rapture?

“It bugs me when people refer to a ‘secret rapture.’ The use of the term is outmoded and ambiguous.  It stands like a scarecrow with a target painted on his chest, inviting straw man attacks. The secret rapture moniker is used by some Premillennialists who reckon that only believers will be aware of the return of Christ. Unbelievers will be left perplexed at where their ‘religious’ neighbor and bus driver suddenly went.

The secret rapture idea posits that Christ returns with a shout of an angel that only believers can hear (and maybe dogs), an appearance in the sky that only believers can see, a physical resurrection of deceased Christians, which only believers can witness, and then a sudden catching up of all believers into the sky, to accompany Jesus back to Heaven while the seven year tribulation ensues. The image in Premill pulp fiction views the “left behind” world as utterly confused as to the ‘mysterious disappearances’ of a goodly slice of earth’s mostly amiable and cheerful population.

This ‘secret’ concept of the return of Christ is not based on the descriptions in the NT, but rather it is an odd way of envisioning the rapture event in a way that explains the persistent unbelief spoken of in Revelation. (To be fair, some do cite 2 Thess 9-10 which states that Christ’s return will cause him “to be marveled at by those who have believed.” But this text could easily be taken simply to mean that it is only believers who will truly marvel, though others will also see and still not capitulate in their stubbornness).

I suppose the rationale of Premills who call it a secret rapture is to try and make sense of why the appearing of Christ doesn’t result in the belief and repentance of the whole world. We who believe in Jesus without having seen him, cannot fathom how a person could not believe in him after seeing him come in the clouds while simultaneously proving the Bible’s prophecies to be true.

But this attempt to explain the unbelief, I believe actually does a disservice to the cause. It opens up the accusation that we are exegeting the white spaces. I agree with my Amill friends (yes, we are actually friends), that if the rapture were to be secret, then Paul certainly did a poor job at articulating that notion when he wrote, in 1 Thess 4:16-17,

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Sounds pretty unmissable to me.

A better way to understand how there can be pervasive unbelief in light of such incontrovertible evidence, is by noting that the NT demonstrates over and over how it is neither sight nor proof that convinces people, but always requires the intervention of God’s grace on man’s willfully darkened mind.

Some reasons I believe that seeing is not always believing…

  • John 12:37 says as much.
  • Luke 16:31 reminds us that “Even if one is raised from the dead they will still not believe.”
  • The prophecies of Christ’s resurrection which were fulfilled fully did not convince all the Pharisees, but they instead paid the Roman guard to fabricate a tale of bodysnatching.
  • Judas and many others witnessed the miracles of Jesus and were convinced of his claims, and yet did not place saving trust in him.
  • In John 12: 42 we are told of Jews who believed in Jesus but feared the religious authorities and loved acceptance enough to opt out of confessing him as their Lord.
  • As did the parents of the newly healed man born blind, in John 9.
  • We also see in the Millennial Kingdom, a physical reign on earth with unbelievers still present (Rev 20:7-10).

The human heart is too dark to convince by sight, evidence, and reason. It is a supernatural work wrought in the heart of the elect by God’s sovereign grace, so that he gets all the glory.

So, no, the rapture will not be secret. According to 1 Thess 4:16-17 it will be a very conspicuous event. It will be loud, visible, and undeniable. There will be widespread repentance and belief, but the majority of the population will still reject Christ. And just like everyone else who ever rejected him, they will have no excuse (Rom 1:18-21).

And if you disagree with me, one day one of us will be vindicated in a twinkling of an eye.”

-Clint Archer, http://thecripplegate.com/secret-disservice-problem-with-the-term-secret-rapture/

Christ the Greatest King

“…we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles   —content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph. Such is the nature of his rule, that he shares with us all that he has received from the Father. Now he arms and equips us with his power, adorns us with his beauty and magnificence, enriches us with his wealth.

These benefits, then, give us the most fruitful occasion to glory, and also provide us with confidence to struggle fearlessly against the devil, sin, and death. Finally clothed with his righteousness, we can valiantly rise above all the world’s reproaches; and just as he himself freely lavishes his gifts upon us, so may we, in return bring forth fruit to his glory.”

-John Calvin, Institutes, 2.15.4

What Heaven Is Missing

“Ask your average man-on-the-street what he thinks about “heaven,” and he’ll probably describe a place where just about everything people enjoy in this life is completely missing.

In the minds of most, things like vibrant colorgood foodloud musicclose friendships, and physical activity are all absent from heaven. They envision a place where everything is white, sterilized, and generally quiet—like a cosmic hospital or giant library in the sky. Heaven’s inhabitants float around like disembodied spirits with little halos, wearing white choir robes, sitting on clouds of cotton balls, and playing tiny harps for all of eternity. It’s like something out of a Precious Moments catalogue — the very opposite of anything exciting, enthralling, or eternally enjoyable. (No offense to those who collect small, winged, ceramic figurines.)

The sad reality is that too often, we as Christians can allow our own understanding of heaven to be tainted by the culture around us. But Hallmark must not define heaven for us. Hollywood must not define heaven for us. Centuries of monastic tradition must not define heaven for us.

Instead, only God’s Word can rightly inform our understanding of heaven. And when we go to the Scriptures, we find that our future home is anything but bland, boring, or quiet.

In particular, the eternal heaven (which Revelation 21–22 describes as a new earth) will be a place of vibrant color (Rev. 21:19–21; cf. 4:3), good food (22:2; cf. 19:7–9), loud music(cf. Rev. 5:8–13), intimate fellowship [with God Himself] (22:3–4), and joyous physical activity (21:24–26; cf. 1 Cor. 15:35–49).

The best this life has to offer cannot compare to heaven in any respect. The best thrills, the best joys, the best memories in this life are but shadows; our most wondrous, most profound, most heartfelt, most emotional, most fulfilling moments in this world, cannot hold a candle to the brilliant sun of heavenly experience.

Ironically, many of the wonderful things people enjoy in this life and assume will be missing from heaven, will in fact be part of life on the new earth—only in an infinitely better, eternally-perfected form.

So why write a post entitled “What Heaven Is Missing?”

Because there actually are some significant aspects of our current experience that will be absent from heaven. If we are to rightly understand just how wonderful heaven is going to be, we not only need to know what will be there … we also need to know what will be missing.

That’s why, in Revelation 21–22, the Apostle John spends as much time describing the new earth by telling us what will be absent from heaven, as he does telling us what will bepresent.

So what is heaven missing? Here’s a list of 17 items that John states will be absent from the new earth. Each of these represents some aspect of fallenness, rebellion, or divine judgment connected to this present world. And there will be no sign of corruption or judgment in the world to come.

1. No sea (Rev. 21:1) — In Scripture, the sea is often representative of evil, disorder, and chaos. Moreover, the ocean as we know it today is a result of God’s judgment in the Flood (Gen. 6-8). But all signs of evil and judgment will be gone in the new earth.

2. No longer any separation between God and man (vv. 2–3)

3. No tears, mourning, or crying (v. 4)

4. No pain (v. 4)

5. No death (v. 4)

6. Nothing that will not be made new (v. 5)

7. No spiritual thirst (v. 6)

8. No unredeemed sinner — whom John lists as the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, immoral persons, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars (v. 8); no one who practices abomination and lying (v. 27)

9. No temple (v. 22) — because God is the temple

10. No need for the sun or moon (v. 23; 22:5) — because God is the light

11. No need for a lamp (v. 23; 22:5)

12. No night (v. 25; 22:5) — and presumably no need of sleep for resurrected saints

13. No closing of the gates of the New Jerusalem (v. 25)

14. Nothing unclean (v. 27)

15. No one whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life (v. 27)

16. No curse (22:3)

17. No end to the eternal reign of Christ and His redeemed (22:5)

A short blog article does not permit us to go into detail on each of these items. But the point should be clear enough:

In order to underscore the wonder of the new earth, John contrasts the new earth with this one by emphasizing aspects of our fallen world which will be missing from heaven.Because sin and its corrupting consequences are such a normal part of this life, the apostle has to go to great length to emphasize the fact that absolutely none of that will be present in the life to come.

A Quick Illustration

There are times in our own experience, of course, when the best way to describe something is to contrast it with something that is familiar.

When I was in college, for example, I bought a used car.  It was a small four-door compact, and it suited my needs perfectly as a college student. The car was already seven years old when I bought it and it had 80,000 miles on it. But it ran great, and I kept it for another ten years.

By the time I finally got rid of it, it was in (very) bad shape. The engine still ran, but everything else about the car was clearly worn out. The struts were totally shot, so that I could feel every bump in the road. The air conditioning was broken; the paint was peeling; the seats were ripped and scarred. The doors were scratched; one of the side mirrors was broken off and being held on with duct tape.

The car would constantly fail its smog check, and was categorized by the state of California as a “gross polluter.” On multiple occasions, I had to go to the DMV and get a special permit to drive it around. It was too old to have a CD player, and the cassette player was broken too. One of the hubcaps was missing. Both the front and back bumpers were damaged; and at times the power steering wouldn’t work. Needless to say, the car was a mess.

I knew I couldn’t sell it. So I finally took it to a wrecking yard and said goodbye.   Then I went and bought a new car.

Now, if you had asked me to describe my new car, in the days after I bought it, I would probably have done so by describing as much about what it was missing as what it had:

“There is no longer any trouble starting the engine.”

“There are no more strange noises when I drive around.”

“I am no longer embarrassed when I see someone I know.”

Its paint was not peeling; its upholstery was not damaged; its hubcaps had not fallen off. No longer did I have to deal with a faulty suspension, a broken mirror, a damaged power-steering system, or the repeated frustrations of trying to pass a smog check.

Those were all things that characterized my old car. But they did not characterize the newone, because even though both are cars, the new car is exponentially better than the last.

Now that illustration is obviously limited. But it gives a sense of how the Apostle John uses contrast to describe the glories of heaven in Revelation 21–22. In the final two chapters of the Bible, he explains the greatness of the new earth by noting how different it will be than this sin-stained, broken-down, cursed and corrupt world system.

So what is heaven missing? A lot. But not in the way our popular culture thinks.

When we accurately understand the kinds of things that will be absent from our eternal home, it should only get us more excited to go there.”

-Nathan Busentiz, 03-22-12, http://thecripplegate.com/what-heaven-is-missing/

New Jerusalem

If words could describe
The longing in my heart
For the place prepared for me
When I think of Heaven’s glory
Awaiting the redeemed
All within me rises up
At the thought of what will be

How I long for the new Jerusalem
Just to see my Savior’s face
All my heart is in Jerusalem
My home my resting place

I’ve heard that the streets are paved with gold
And the light there never fades
I’ve heard of treasures to behold
That words could not explain
And the praise of the saints like an ocean
Holy is the Lamb that was slain

No more crying no more pain
Every tear will be wiped away
All suffering on earth will cease
Forevermore at peace
Jerusalem, Jerusalem

 

New Jerusalem, -Carol Cymbala, Onaje Jefferson and Jason Michael Webb
© 2009 Carol Joy Music/JasonNene Music (Both adm by EverGreen Copyrights)/ASCAP

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWgHeRJKQXA

Ready for Christ’s Return

“Wherever you may live, and whatever may be your trials; however great your difficulties, and however small your helps; nothing should prevent your aiming at the highest standard, to behave like one who believes that Christ is coming again! You should resolve, by God’s help, to live so that the day of Christ shall find you needing as little change as possible! You should seek to have . . .

your tastes so heavenly,

your affections so spiritual,

your will so subdued,

your mind so unworldly —

that when the Lord appears, you may be thoroughly in tune for His kingdom!”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Coming Events and Present Duties, Posted at: http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/01/25/behave-like-christ-is-coming-again/

The Glory of Heaven

“What is … amazing is that our Lord and Saviour will himself be thrilled as he looks at us in heaven. Gazing upon his people, he will be filled with affection and delight. ‘He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied’ (Isa. 53:11).

That will be true of his redemptive work in general. Christ will see all his sheep safely gathered in, everyone of the elect in glory. There will be no empty spaces, no one missing or lost. He will feel no sense of incompleteness or regret. He will be satisfied with the results of the labor of his soul.

But the Lord Jesus will also be satisfied with each of us individually. We may find that hard to believe, because we are far from satisfied with ourselves. All too aware of our weaknesses and limitations, we are often discouraged with ourselves, ashamed of what we are. We do not see ourselves as loveable, so how could Christ love us? A nagging fear enters our minds that, although he will be gracious and kind as he welcomes us into heaven, he will at the same time feel a distinct sense of disappointment. We may not be what he hoped for.

We need not be afraid, for we will by then be changed, conformed to his likeness. God’s work of grace in each and all of us will have been brought to such a pitch of perfection that the Lord will be ravished with love for his bride, ‘a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing’ (Eph. 5:27). We will be all he wants, everything he desires. We will be the people he chooses to be with him for ever. ‘Behold, you are fair, my love!’ he will exclaim (Song of Sol. 1:15). We will then be able to say with joyful assurance, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’ That will be heaven.

It is himself that Christ will see in us, himself that he will love in us. That is why we are promised that ‘we shall be like Him’ (1 John 3:2). For it is nothing other than his own holy beauty that he will admire.”

– Edward Donnelly, Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell, Banner of Truth, 2002
Complements of: http://www.challies.com/quotes/we-need-not-be-afraid

Entry into Rest

“Adieu, my dear relatives, my precious friends! I rise to God, I am going to my Father. The struggles are over, and I abandon my misery and exchange today the earth for the heavens. By faith, dry the tears from your eyes, banish from your hearts all bitter sadness, and if your love for me was ever sincere, reflect on my joy and be happy for me. Ah! but my lot is wonderful! It is worthy of envy. By death, I pass to the domain of life, and in dying lose nothing but mortality. Follow me, with vows of hope and zeal. If death seperates us for a limited time, God will unite us in eternal glory.”

-Pastor Drelincourt (1595-1669), as recorded by in D. A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson, 140

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5:1-8