Everyone wants to know what heaven will be like. It is one of those questions that sparks our thoughts and imagination. Countless books, movies, and television shows have tried to answer this question with their own spin. Many times heaven has been pictured with people walking on clouds, and men in white robes. At other times it has been depicted as a place where the pleasure of our imagination is fulfilled. In this case heaven becomes a place where each individual’s thoughts of pleasure come to life. For a long time this was one of my personal favorites. After all, the Bible seems to describe heaven as a place just beyond the imagination.
Heaven is described as a place of rest (Heb. 4:9-11). It is described as a place where there will be no more tears, pain, sorrow, or death (Rev. 21:1-4). John physically described it as a place where the gates were twelve pearls, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:21). There was a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life (Rev. 22:1-2). There was no need for lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light (Rev. 22:5). We know that the Book of Revelation is full of signs, and symbols, but I believe that we are supposed to understand heaven as a place of unimaginable beauty.
I have given you the common things that are considered when giving a Biblical description of heaven. Now I want to give you a few to think about that are not so commonly considered. John gives several other pictures of heaven that are found throughout the Book of Revelation. For instance in chapter four John gives us a throne room scene where the living creatures and the twenty-four elders are pictured offering constant worship to God (Rev. 4:6-11). In chapter five the same are pictured again this time offering worship to the Lamb (Rev. 5:8-10). In verse eleven the voice of many angels joins in the praise and in verse thirteen every creature in heaven and on earth join. In chapter seven a great multitude is pictured offering praise to God and to the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-12). Again in chapter fourteen, praise is being offered through a new song (Rev. 14:3). John pictures praise being offered to God again in Revelation 15:3-4; 16:5-7; and 19:1-8.
If we are going to make anything of what is said of heaven in the Book of Revelation it is hard to miss all the worship that is taking place. Perhaps, that is exactly what heaven will be like, a place where people are found in the presence of God worshipping him for eternity. If this place does not sound like heaven to you then you probably need to take an evaluation of your life. What is most important to you? Are you really living your life for God? Is the reward of being with God enough for you, or are you hoping for something else? If you have difficulty worshipping God in this life how will you be prepared for heaven? Jesus said that the thing that God wants the most is for us to love him with all our heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). If this is true of you then being in God’s presence will be enough.
Moses and Joshua were two great leaders during the Old Testament days. Moses led and interceded for the Israelites for over forty years. Moses death is recorded near the end of the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 34). He led the people out of Egypt and during their years of wilderness wandering, but now he is gone. The late Johnny Ramsey said that one of the saddest statements in the Bible is found in Joshua chapter one, “Moses my servant is dead (Josh. 1:2a).” Moses had done a great deal for Israel, and he would be missed. However, Joshua is their leader now, and his passing proved to be even sadder.
Joshua was such a great leader that it is said that the children of Israel served God all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which he had done for Israel (Josh. 24:31). What other man in the Old Testament had such a great influence? In the book of Judges we find out how serious this loss was. The conclusion is given in Judges Chapter two. Judges 2:7-10 retells the death of Joshua, and verses 11-23 tell us that the Israelites turned away from God and worshipped false gods and provoked God to anger against them. It would be about 450 years before another great leader would arise in Israel (Acts 13:20). Truly, the work that Joshua did was missed.
We probably are not going to be a leader on the level of Joshua or Moses, but there is work that each of us can do (1 Cor. 12:15-26). Ask yourself this question, “If I was to die today, or to simply leave the church, would the work that I do be missed?” Would someone need to be recruited to pick up the load that you carry? Would a Bible class be missing a teacher or a correspondence course left in need of being returned. If the honest answer is no, then you have some work to do (pun intended).
God has given us his absolute best by giving his son to die in our place (John 3:16). He must truly love us with all of his heart. That is what he asks of us in return (Matt. 22:37). If you claim to love God, yet you don’t even do enough work to be missed you need to make some changes. If you go to work for God out of love it will not be a burden. It will truly be a blessing.
I think just about every radio station in the country has some type of spot where they tell about dumb crooks or crimes. If I am not mistaken there is even a television show called America’s Dumbest Criminals. These shows and stories are usually based on the actions of criminals who were either bound to get caught, or they did something to harm themselves in the process of their crime. I just heard one this week where the man stole a radio, and was arrested when he returned thirty minutes later to get the remote that he forgot. Many of these criminals will look directly at a camera, or do a very poor job of concealing their identity.
This “dumb crook” mentality is something that is also found in small children. Children assume that when their parents are not looking they can do things of which they know that their parents would not approve. The smallest of children can often be easily caught in their transgression. I have a clear picture in my mind of a child peeping out from their hiding place to see if their parents are watching. Much to the surprise of the child the parents are usually able to figure out what is happening.
God must think that many of us are “dumb crooks,” or perhaps he wonders if we will ever grow up. An honest person will admit that at times in their life they have acted in ways that they should not have because “no one” was watching. In fact there are some who likely follow this path on a regular basis. This person puts on the disguise of a Christian on Sunday and Wednesday, but when “no one” is looking they behave in a completely different manner. Much to our surprise, “someone” is always looking.
The Bible describes God in ways that are nearly beyond our imagination. He is eternal, all powerful, all knowing, and always present. At least two of these attributes should tell us that he always knows what we are doing. There is no curtain big enough for us to hide behind to prevent God from seeing. The Hebrew’s writer describes it this way, “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4:13).” Near the end of his life the aged King David warned Solomon that God is able to search the heart and understand the intent of the thoughts (1 Chron. 28:9).
We can be certain that every transgression we commit will be recorded. It may not be our face in a picture or on a surveillance video, but it will be recorded. In the Book of Revelation John records that he saw the dead, small and great standing before God, and they were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books (Rev. 20:12). Therefore, we can be certain that our actions are recorded. Yes, God is forgiving and merciful, but we should remind ourselves that he is always watching. If we wear the name of his son we should live accordingly.
I have written a lot of different articles about Bible study. Earlier in the year I wrote an article encouraging people to not only read their Bible this year, but to study it. I encouraged people to take the time to track down references, and dig deep into God’s word. All of those things are great, but there is something else that most of us need even more than study. It is to put to use the things that we already know. I believe that most of us are already smarter than we act.
We certainly need to study God’s word. It is good for us in many different ways. In fact it has been commanded (2 Tim. 2:15). However, I am afraid that most of us do not even put to use the knowledge that we have. Use this question to test yourself. Do you do everything that you know God expects of you? I doubt that very many of us really hold up to the test of that question. I realize that everyone is going to sin. In fact John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).” I am not talking about the occasional slip up, but I am talking about the things that shape our lives. Do we really allow God’s word to shape our lives?
Consider the following. If you study God’s word do you encourage others to do so also? Do you take time at home to teach God’s word to your children? If you attend worship services do you encourage others to do so also? How many people did you ask or invite to worship services last year? How many will you invite this year? Do you run away from sin when it appears, or do you wink at it? If you claim to love God do you give him all your heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37)? God expects us to give him our best, and according to Jesus the test of our love for God is our obedience to him (John 14:15, 23; 1 John 5:3). How many other things could we list that we know should be done, but often are not?
Make your own list. I bet if you are honest you will admit that you are smarter than you act. I would say that most of us do less than we know God expects of us. Therefore, when we commit to study our Bibles let us also commit to doing the things that we know we should. I pray that each of us will commit to showing our love for God.
I am always amazed at the fact that I can read the Bible again and again, and still find something that seems new or something that I had missed. I believe that this is one of the many proofs that the Bible is exactly what it claims to be, given by the inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). There are other books that we possess that after reading two or three times we can master. This is simply not true when it comes to studying the Bible. You can spend a lifetime studying the Bible and always find something new. This should not be surprising, since we would not expect our minds to be on the same level with God’s.
This scenario that I am speaking of happened to me last week. I found a character in the Bible that I had not noticed before. This character’s name is Joanna. If you had asked me before last week if the name Joanna was in the Bible I would have probably said, no. However, Joanna is in fact in the Bible. Her name is mentioned in Luke 8:3 and 24:10. I guess the thing that was more amazing to me is the fact that this woman was not tucked away in an Old Testament book that does not get much attention, but she is right there in one of the gospel accounts. How could I have not remembered seeing her name before? The fact remains that I did not. The Bible is truly an amazing book!
I want you to know that just because I have titled this article series “Obscure Characters” that does not mean that Joanna is unimportant. She is listed among a group of women who were healed at the hands of Jesus in Luke 8:2-3. The response of these women was to provide for the needs of Jesus as he traveled through their area. I would say that should raise a person out of obscurity. She was healed by Christ, and then had the opportunity to provide for his needs. Joanna was also a woman of high rank in Herod’s court. She was the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3). This would have put her in a position to have a great amount of influence.
The account of Joanna in Luke 8 is not the only mention of her that makes her important. She is mentioned in Luke 24 as being one of the women who witnessed the resurrection of our Lord (Luke 24:1-10). She would have also been in the group of women who took news of his resurrection to the apostles (Luke 24:10). I would say that would make her an important character. Her reputation as the wife of an important official in Herod’s court offers character that would not be easily discredited by those who would deny the resurrection. There are many great treasures like this waiting to be found in God’s word. Most of all the light that leads to eternal life is waiting in those sacred Scriptures (Psalm 119:105; Rom. 1:16; 10:17). Don’t waste the opportunity, get your Bible and dig in!
When I was a kid I loved collecting baseball cards. I would check the back of those cards to see what the guy’s stats were depending on whether or not he was a pitcher or a fielder. Then I would check the value of the card in the Baseball Card Price Guide. I imagine I talked about those cards and what they were worth until my parents were sick of hearing about it. My dad would always tell me that the cards were only worth what someone was willing to pay for them. I guess that is true with most things.
This weekend we were talking about toys from the movie Frozen. Apparently, Disney underestimated the popularity of the movie, and now the toys are impossible to find. People are even paying ridiculous prices for them on EBay. My son Logan made the comment that those toys are like diamonds. When he said that I kind of laughed inside, and started to inform him of how much more valuable diamonds really are. However, I stopped myself. I was reminded of what I was told about the value of baseball cards. I begin to try to reason in my mind why a diamond or gold is more valuable than most other things. Yes diamonds are fairly rare, but in reality they are only valuable, because people are willing to pay a high price for them. They look nice, but they do not do anything that adds value. They are simply worth what someone is willing to pay. Therefore, if the Disney toys look nice and people are willing to pay a high price for them, they are really no different than a diamond.
Diamonds, gold, toys, or any other possessions do not really add any value to our lives. They don’t feed us when we are hungry (unless we sell them), take care of us when we are sick, and they do not improve our lives spiritually. No one has ever been able to take one with them. If you think about it from that standpoint it seems silly that much of the world’s financial system is based on things like gold and diamonds.
The interesting thing is that our Lord has been trying to teach us this for hundreds of years. In the Old Testament God allowed Solomon to build him a temple that was made out of all kinds of precious metals and stones, but none of this improved the Israelites relationship with God. In fact that very temple was later looted and destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Chron. 36:18-19). Yet none of this had any effect on God. In the Old Testament physical things were pictures of spiritual things that are of true value in the New Testament (Heb. 8:3-5). They were not the real thing. In fact, Stephen made the point God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48).
So what is valuable? In God’s eyes we must be of the greatest value. After all God was willing to purchase us not with corruptible things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of his son (1 Pet. 1:18-19). This should move us to take his advice, and lay up treasure in heaven not on earth (Matt. 6:19-20). Silver and gold will not purchase our way into heaven, and we will not take it with us. One day all those things will even disappear from earth (2 Pet. 3:10-11), at that point spiritual things will be the only ones that matter.