Is Heaven Real?

In 1998 a country song was released which declared, “There’s holes in the floor of Heaven.” Through these holes in Heaven’s floorboards the deceased can see their loved ones on earth andwatch over them. Songs like this seem to accuratley capture the popular beliefs about heaven. Thoughtful consideration of what many think about Heaven makes it sound like a fictional place. Heaven can seem like a fantasy offered to comfort grieving people. Parents tell misbehaving children, “Santa Clause is coming” and well-wishers tell grieving friends, “She’s in a better place.” For many heaven is in the same category as Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. The Bible treats Heaven as a real place, inhabited by real beings and really reserved for Christians.

Little is said in Scripture about what Heaven looks like, but much is said about Heaven. The Bible declares that Heaven as a real place created by God on the first day of creation. (Genesis 1:1) Heaven is the native home of angels. (Matthew 18:10) Heaven is the resting place of deceased saints. (Revelation 7:9, 14) Heaven is the place where God dwells. (Isaiah 66:1) God descends from Heaven to answer the prayer of his people. (Psalm 18:6-9) Jesus left Heaven from to become a man (John 3:13) and He returned to Heaven after his resurrection. (Eph. 4:7-8) Jesus sent the Holy Spirit from heaven (1 Peter 1:12) to dwell in the Christian. (John 14:17) The Christian’s rewards and treasures are kept secure in Heaven. (1 Peter 1:4) God sends out His judgment from Heaven to fall upon the world. (Revelation 15:5-7) Jesus will descend from Heaven to destroy wickedness and establish His righteous kingdom. (Revelation 19:11)

Heaven is not a fantasy land. Heaven is not another name for Valhalla, the Happy Hunting Grounds, Elysium, Shangri-La or Nirvana. Heaven is not a fool’s paradise. Heaven is a real place created and inhabited by God, described in the Bible and promised to all who receive Jesus as salvation. The assurance that believers go to heaven when they die is not an empty platitude designed solely to make people feel better. The promise of Heaven is unshakable truth on which all can build their lives.

Heaven is for real. God told us so.

Why does God sometimes refer to Himself as “Us”?

In Genesis 1 the Bible quotes God as saying, “Let us make man in our own image.” The next verse says, “So God created man in His own image.” Why does God speak of Himself in the plural but other places in the Bible refer to Him in the singular? This is seen in other places in Genesis. In Genesis 3 God said, “ Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” In Genesis 11 God says, “Let us go down, and there confound their language.” Why does God sometimes refer to Himself in the plural when the Bible says there is only one God?

Two answers can be suggested for this question. First, God is using the “royal we.” Kings and Queens sometimes referred to themselves in the plural. Wikipedia gives an example of this, “Now, we, Edward, by the grace of God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. . .” Queen Elizabeth once proclaimed, “Know you that it is Our will and pleasure . . .” The royal we also shows up in literature. In the book Prince Caspian King Peter proclaims, “It is our pleasure to adventure our royal person. . .” This formal way of speaking could be the reason God is referred to in the plural, but it does not seem likely.

The Bible contains few plural references to God, though it contains many direct quotes from God in which He refers to Himself in the singular “I”. If God was using the royal we in Genesis, readers would expect to find it appear in later Scriptures and more frequently throughout the Bible. The small number of plural references to God suggests another reason for God saying “we” and “us” in Genesis.

The other suggested answer to this question is that God is both singular and plural. Which is what the Bible teaches. God is One God who is Three. He is One God in Three persons. This is known as the doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible teaches that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are each fully God and each are three separate persons, distinct from one another in their being, work and intellect. The Bible does not teach that God is three Gods, or a three part God. The Bible teaches that God is One, who is made up of three persons. This is a incredibly difficult concept to understand, but the Bible’s teachings are clear. There is One God, who is Three.

The Bible teaches that God is One God. “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:34) “There is one God, and there is none other but He.” “I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me.” (Isaiah 46:9) “There is one God; and there is none other but He.” (Mark 12:32) “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

The Bible also clearly teaches that the Father is God. “There is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.” (1 Corinthians 8:6) The Bible teaches that Jesus is God. “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30) “In the Beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Bible also declares the Holy Spirit is God. “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost . . . thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” (Acts 5:3-4) Scripture says there is One God and there are Three who are God. This is not a contradiction, but a declaration that God is a Trinity- One who is Three.

The God who created the universe is God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. Genesis records that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, creating the land and all that is on it. Colossians, John and Hebrews declare that Jesus, God the Son, created all things. Isaiah, Psalms and Jeremiah proclaim that the Father created all things. When God said, “Let us make man in our own image” He was speaking to Himself. These plural pronouns for God in Genesis are not proof of the Trinity, but when read in light of the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity it becomes apparent that God’s plurality and singularity is reflected in the pronouns in Genesis. God refers to Himself as “us” because He is One God in Three Persons.

What would have happened if Adam and Eve had of eaten from the tree of life?

When God created humans He made two people. He named the man Adam and the woman was named Eve. God also planted a special garden for them. He put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them all kinds of fruit trees from which they could eat, including the Tree of Life. God also placed in the garden a tree which they were forbidden to eat- the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God warned Adam and Eve that if they ate of the forbidden fruit they would die.

Some have viewed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as possessing some special quality that had the ability to grant knowledge previously unknown to Adam and Eve. The fruit itself did not give knowledge of evil, but the act of disobedience did. By disobeying God they learned evil and thus, to their sorrow, they learned the difference between good and evil. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God He punished them. This punishment included death as God had warned them. Because Adam disobeyed, God told him, “From dust thou art, unto dust thou shalt return.”

What if they had eaten from the Tree of Life? We do not know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden before they sinned. Some Bible scholars think it could have been as long as one hundred years. If they lived in the Garden of Eden for much time at all then it seems probable that they ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life. They were not forbidden to eat from that tree. They could eat it’s fruit just as readily as they could eat an orange or an apple. Though they may have eaten of the Tree of Life before their sin, it did not protect them from the wages of their sin. Because they sinned they fell under the curse of death.

The Bible says what would have happened if Adam and Eve continued to have access to the Tree of Life after they sinned. God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and placed an angelic guard outside the garden lest they, “take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:” (Genesis 3:22) If they had been able to eat of the tree of life, Adam and Eve would have lived forever, which would have been tragic.

In His mercy God prevented Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of life, otherwise they would have been condemned to an unending life in sin cursed flesh. Even worse, they would have been without hope of salvation. Jesus’ death on the cross saves by taking the punishment of man’s sin. Christ died because we are condemned to death. If man could have unending life without Jesus by simply eating from the Tree of Life then Jesus’ death would be worthless. Eternal life without Jesus would be Hellish. Existing without God is one of the torments of hell, “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9) If Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Life after they sinned, they would have been able to live forever but the Tree of Life would not take away their sin. The tree on which Christ died is required. Without the cross there is no forgiveness of sin. Without forgiveness, there is no relationship with God. Through Jesus we can have eternal joy because in Jesus is forgiveness of sin and a right relationship with God.

Merry Christmas

“O amazing condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stoop to such low and poor things for our sake. What love is this, what great and wonderful love was here, that the Son of God should come into our world in so mean a condition, to deliver us from the sin and misery in which we were involved by our fall in our first parents! And as all that proceeded from the springs must be muddy, because the fountain was so, the Lord Jesus Christ came to take our natures upon him, to die a shameful, a painful, and an accursed death for our sakes.”
-George Whitfield

Merry Christmas! May you have joy and rejoicing in the celebration of the birth of our Savior and God.

Repost: In what way is Jesus begotten of God?

“For God so loved that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus. His birth is of paramount importance because He is God who set aside His Divine prerogatives, clothed Himself in humanity and suffered the punishment of man’s sin so men could be saved. John 3:16 famously describes Jesus as the “only begotten Son.” That Jesus is begotten of God may seem to be at odds with the Biblical doctrine that Jesus is the eternal God. If Jesus is the eternally existent God in what way is He begotten of God?

Psalm 2:7 presents a powerful promise of the coming Messiah. God comforted His servant David with the promises He would establish His own Son as King of Jerusalem. The Son of God would reign from Jerusalem over all the earth. God’s promise to send a King was certified by the Divine decree, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” In the New Testament Paul declares that Jesus is the Son who was promised by God in Psalm 2. The begottenness of Jesus is the eternal decree of God to establish God the Son as the Messiah of Israel who would reign as King over the entire earth.

John 1:14 connects the incarnation- God the Son’s taking upon Himself humanity- with His being begotten. Jesus was begotten of God in His birth into the world. Jesus was not conceived by natural means but by the power of God uniquely working to generate a child. Jesus’ begottenness is the working of God to miraculously create a body for the Son within Mary’s womb. Jesus is begotten of the Father thorugh the work of God to send make the Son of God the seed of the woman and the Savior of man.

God the Son is the eternally existent God who created all things. He is fully God and equal with the Father in existence, eternality, infinity, majesty, power and glory. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply any inferiority of person or existence. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply a point in eternity in which the Father existed alone without the Son or the Spirit. Jesus is begotten because of the Divine decree that the Son would take upon Himself humanity. Through His humanity Jesus became the Savior of those who trust Him. He is the conquering King who will one day rule all the earth. Jesus is begotten in His human personage and in His Messianic work.

God the Son did not spring into existence on Christmas day (or nine months before His birth). God the Son has no source nor origination. Jesus is the Son of God. He is fully God, the second person of the Trinity, who shares entirely in the identical, eternal essence and existence of the Triune Godhead.

Repost: What’s so important about the virgin Mary?

Every Christmas, we are confronted with images of a manger, a little baby, loving parents, a few vague men in the background, an angel or two and a collection of miscellaneous farm animals. Otherwise known as the nativity scene. Of course, the baby in the manger is the central character, but one other person gets nearly as much attention. The virgin Mary gets nearly as much attention as the baby Jesus.

In our day of sexual freedom, being a virgin is not generally considered a praiseworthy thing. To identify someone as “the virgin Charlene” would most likely be viewed as an slur. So why do we call Mary “the virgin”?

The answer to this question is found in Biblical prophecy, in the angelic pronouncement and in the character of Jesus. Over 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The prophecy of a virgin birth is one of many prophecies in the book of Isaiah that describe the coming Messiah. God promised through Isaiah that the sign of the Messiah will be a son born of a woman who had never entered into sexual relations with a man.

About nine months before Jesus birth angels visited the loving parents from the nativity, Mary and Joseph. Luke 1 describes the angelic visit to Mary. The angel declared to her that she was going to give birth to a son. Mary responded with a pertinent question, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” “Know not” means “never had sexual intercourse.” Since Mary understood the process by which children are conceived, her question is very logical. Mary, being a virgin, knew she could not have a baby. The angel goes on to explain that God’s power would cause Mary to miraculously conceive a child without any human father.

Matthew 1 tells of the angelic visit to Joseph. When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant he intended intent to call off their impending wedding. Before he could act on his intention the angel declared that Mary was not pregnant through on immoral action, but “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” The angels declared that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin.

Mary’s virginity is not important for Mary’s sake, but to show the character of Jesus. Mary later conceived other children through natural means. Mary did not remain a perpetual virgin. Her virginity at the birth of Jesus is of importance because of what it says about Jesus. Jesus is God who became human, but He became man without taking on Himself the sin nature. Romans 5 teaches that sin has passed to all men from Adam. The implication is that the sin nature is passed from one generation to the next by the father. For Jesus to be born without sion, he must have been born without a human father.

Through Mary God kept His Word to give His people an unmistakeable sign of the coming of His Messiah. Mary is important because her lack of sexual contact makes plain that the child born of her was not Joseph’s or any other man’s. Mary’s viriginity leaves no room for the baby Jesus to be anything but the Son of God.

Should Christian’s Call God “Father”?

Mark Silk authored a recent essay in which he declared that the terms for God are metaphorical and can be easily replaced. Mr. Silk suggested calling God “they” to avoid patriarchal language. “A phrase such as ‘God the Father’ should be treated as a metaphor- and for those concerned about the embedded misogyny of the tradition, to say nothing of post-binary folks– a deeply problematic one.”

This is not a new suggestion. For many years some preachers and teachers have been using feminine pronouns to speak of God. For example, some have rewritten the Lord’s prayer to begin, “Our Mother which art in Heaven.” Is this an acceptable change? Given the many abuses that have been perpetrated by male church leaders, should Christian’s avoid masculine and fatherly terminology to describe God?

Mark Silk is accurate when he says the references to God as Father are metaphorical. God is not male in any biological sense. God is not a Father in any reproductive sense. God did not sire any children. Jesus is God the Son but that title speaks only to how members of the Trinity relate to one another. The name God the Son does not indicate that the second person of the Trinity is somehow the offspring or product of God the Father. God the Father and God the Son are equally eternal. Neither owe their existence to the other. Likewise, the description of the Christian as the child of God is a reference to a relationship that exists by adoption, not to any physical procreation on God’s part.

Since much of the Biblical language used of God is metaphorical, can we therefore replace problematic terms with ones less troublesome? No, Christian’s cannot call God by any extra-Biblical title or description they find most Biblical. God has revealed Himself in certain terms. Man dare not devise new descriptions of God. Biblical terminology about God is not literal, but it’s non-literalness does not imply inaccuracy. Rather, the metaphorical nature of many descriptions of God suggests truths greater than any one can understand.

The Bible is not the product of the mind of deeply religious men. The Bible is the product of God. Scripture was given directly by God the Holy Spirit through holy men of God. The human authors of the Bible wrote exactly what God intended. Every Word of God is true and accurate. Because the Bible is the Word of God it is the Christian’s authority. Because every Word of God is pure the Biblical language used to describe God must be submitted to. While God is not male in the physical human sense, He is undoubtedly masculine with a masculinity that transcends biological maleness. God is the Father of all creation and the Father of all saints in a way that transcends siring children. These terms are descriptions of God that accommodate the limitations of the human mind and they are also the only authoritative guides to understanding God.

Consider, not one time in the thousands of references to God does the Bible speak of God as “she.” Even in situations where mothering analogies are used, like the image of a mother hen sheltering her young under her wings, the pronouns for God remain masculine. “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.” (Psalm 91:4) Past experiences may cause some to be uncomfortable with fatherly terminology, but the corrective is not a change of the way we describe God. The corrective is to develop a right understanding of God that we may think rightly about God our Father.