Afterlife

Monday Miscellanies: Happiness in Heaven

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

95. Happiness in Heaven

When the body enjoys the perfections of health and strength, the motion of the animal spirits are not only brisk and free, but also harmonious; there is a regular proportion in the motion from all parts of the body, that begets delight in the soul and makes the body feel pleasantly all over—God has so excellently contrived the nerves and parts of the human body. But few men since the fall, especially since the flood, have health to so great a perfection as to have much of this harmonious motion. When it is enjoyed, one whose nature is not very much vitiated and depraved is very much assisted thereby in every exercise of body or mind; and it fits one for the contemplation of more exalted and spiritual excellencies and harmonies, as music does.

But we need not doubt, but this harmony will be in its perfection in the bodies of the saints after the resurrection; and that, as every part of the bodies of the wicked shall be excruciated with intolerable pain, so every part of the saints’ refined bodies shall be as full of pleasure as they can hold; and that this will not take the mind off from, but prompt and help it in spiritual delights, to which even the delight of their spiritual bodies shall be but a shadow.

Who do you want to be with when you go to heaven?

John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach, died yesterday at the age of 99.  John Wooden was a great basketball coach, but an even more incredible human being.  He was a Christian, and is now with Jesus.  Loving God was more important to him than Final Fours or X’s and O’s.  So we don’t mourn the loss of this person — we celebrate his life and rejoice that he’s with the Lord. 

At the same time, our thoughts are with the Wooden family — even when someone is 99 years old and their eternity is set, it’s still not easy when they take their last breath.  Until death is destroyed when Jesus returns, death will always be (as it should) strange.  We were created to live in constant, intimate fellowship with God. Sin ruined that. Death is not right and one day, Jesus will fix that.

Today, when I was watching ESPN’s coverage of Wooden’s death, I read a quote from Wooden’s children.  They were thankful for their father’s guidance and love and then they said, for me, the most discomforting thing they could have said: "Our peace of mind at this time is knowing that he has gone to be with our mother, whom he has continued to love and cherish."

That seems wonderful and spiritual.  But the sad part is this: as great as it might seem to be reuinted with loved ones gone before us, that is not our peace of mind.  Our peace of mind is this: "[Jesus said] ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’" (John 11:25-26).  John Wooden is with Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, Creator of the universe, Savior of the world, at this very moment.  No doubt he has seen his wife and had a conversation or two with her, but his true delight — truer than any day on this sinful earth — is to be at the feet of his crucified and risen Lord.

I realize that I’m treading deep water because many of you may have loved ones — even spouses — who are in heaven, and you want to be with them.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s just not the ultimate thing.  Remember that even Jesus said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matt. 22:30).  Why? Because Jesus will be our Groom, and we, the Church, will be his Bride. 

I love my wife, Carly, more than any person in the world. And I want to grow to love her more. She knows this, and I know she would say the same about me. But, as much as I love her, my prayer is that if I am on my death bed and she is already with Jesus, I would not say, "I can’t wait to be with her."  I pray that I would say, "I cannot wait to be with my precious Jesus."  And even more, I pray that my children say of me when I die, "Our peace and hope and joy is that our dad is with Jesus."

Sermon 5: How should I be thinking about hell?

How Should I Be Thinking About Hell?
Series: Debated: Answering Hard Questions About Christianity
Pastor Jeff Dart

  • What does the Bible say about hell?
    • Matthew 5:22 is a key text.  Jesus talks about Gehenna.  Gehenna (Gk.) was a valley (“Valley of Hinnom” in English) that was used by pagan kings and Hebrew kings to make sacrifices.  The most popular sacrifices were child sacrifices to Molech.  King Josiah eventually tore down the pagan altars and turned this valley into a large, burning garbage dump (see 2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 7:31-32; 19:2-6; 11-14; 32:35).
    • Heaven and hell are about relationship.  People go to hell because they do not know Jesus (Matt. 7:22; cf. John 17:3).
    • Hell is ultimately the separation of people from the presence of God (see 2 Thes. 1:8-10).
  • There are two choices people people: heaven or hell.  Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that the righteous will enter into eternal life and the wicked into eternal punishment.
    • Hell is for people who chose it.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
  • God’s final word on hell is the cross (see Rom. 5:8-11).  God has offered to us his Son because his desire is not for anyone to go to hell (2 Peter 3:9).  John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world.”  This shows us God’s great love for us, how much he loved us.

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Update: Make sure to see my follow-up post on some of my thoughts about hell and this sermon.

Near-Death Experiences and Hebrews 9:27

From a study on Hebrews 9:27.

There are great controversies in Christianity today about whether or not “near-death experiences” can happen. A near-death experience, from my understanding, is an experience a person has when they seem to have no breath in them and see to “another world” or into spiritual realities, possibly heaven or hell. Many people have said that these experiences turn them toward God or cause them to think about how they are living. These are very popular in the world today. According to Gallup, as of 1991, 5% of Americans had experienced a near-death experience. This number has almost certainly gone up in the last 16 years. The next two verses (Heb. 9:27-28), I feel, squelch any argument for these experiences. Now, I do not doubt the actual experience of any one person. Those visions and dreams can happen, but are they biblical? Are they a divine gift from God? Are they a tool of Satan to deceive people? The Scriptures should be our final source of truth.

The word “once” in Hebrews 9:27 is the Greek word hepax, which means “once, one time.” The author says very plainly right here: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once.” We only get one chance at life. Once breath runs out of us, we are dead, “and after that comes judgment.” This one verse would seem to shed light on these “experiences.” It would interpret those experiences as what they are: “near-death.” Not death. When a person’s heart stops, it doesn’t mean they have died. There are many examples in Scriptures about a person appearing “dead” but not really being dead (Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52; Acts 9:40, 20:10).

A person cannot see the afterlife of heaven or hell and then go back. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a prime example. In Luke 16, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to tell his family to change their ways of living, “lest they also come into this place of torment.” This seems like one of the “warnings” we hear from someone who just had a near-death experience. The rich man continued, “If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” We see from Luke 16 that after the rich man died, he was in a place of judgment. Revelation 20:14 talks about the lake of fire-which is hell. This is called the “second death.” If someone were to die once, and then die finally, and then be thrown into hell, that would be three deaths! The arithmetic does not add up according to Scripture. Therefore, on the issue of “near-death experiences,” we must say that they may be dreams, visions, or hallucinations, but we cannot say that a real death has occurred in which a person has seen the gates of heaven or the fires of hell. Furthermore, in John 3:3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless one is born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This verse tells us that unless you are a child of God and have a new life in Christ, you cannot even see the kingdom. So, it makes no sense that people who have had these experiences can say, “I saw the pearly gates” or “I was in heaven, talking with loved ones and Jesus.” It simply does not mesh with the word of God.