Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Better Country

After seeing some rather heavenly photos the past few days, today, as promised, we are being visited by Dan Schaeffer, author of A Better Country. Several of you posed questions to the author after last Thursday's post. Dan has responded to them as follows:

Question #1 from Pearlie: Will there be a sense of time in heaven?

This is a really good question, unfortunately there’s not a really good answer. Some scholars and philosophers say in essence that since time will no longer have any meaning, it simply won’t exist. 2nd Peter 3:8 reminds us that “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” A popular hymn even says, “time shall be no more.” Yet in Revelation 6:10-11 we hear the martyrs in heaven told to “wait a little longer,” when they are questioned about when the Lord will judge the inhabitants of earth. Waiting is a measurement of time. In Revelation 7:15 we are told that the saints in heaven serve him “day and night” in His temple. In Revelation 22:2 we are told that the New Earth (earth that has been restored to its new condition for all eternity) has a tree of life and that tree “yields it fruits every month.” In other words, it appears that those people in heaven now are operating within the confines of time. Why should that cease? Time is not our enemy, death is our enemy. When we remove death, time ceases to be something that causes us stress or worry. Because we live in a world of deadlines and sickness and pain, time is a measurement that often causes us stress. But time will not distress us in heaven, we will not worry about “getting things done on time,” or feeling sad that the joy we are experiencing will fade away within a period of time. I believe that time will continue to exist in heaven and we will “sense it,” however all the negative aspects of time will be removed. Not long ago I went on a wonderful and much needed vacation. I do not ever remember being so weary both physically and emotionally before a vacation. One of my great joys was enjoying “time” as it passed without stress and without deadlines. Time was simply helping me measure sunrise, morning, noon, and twilight, all of which brought me great peace and contentment. I think that is the way we will experience time in heaven. Does this help? I hope so.

Question #2 from Sharon: I'd be interested to hear comments relative to "equality" in heaven. Example: Mother Teresa verses Joe Christian Average.

The Bible teaches that all are equal in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This eternal truth will not change when we enter eternity, in fact, it will for the first time be fully realized. Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that the “average Joe’s” might fare much better than those who are famous and well known here on earth. Jesus said, speaking of the coming Kingdom, “Many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matthew 19:30). When Jesus said these words, He was saying them as a caution to those who might think that the way things appear (and people appear) on earth is the same way God sees them. Many people do externally impressive things (and even apparently selfless things) for very selfish motives which are hidden from our eyes. God alone knows these things. Honor will be given to those who have earned it, not to those who have bamboozled us here on earth. I have been incredibly impressed by the actions of people that no one will ever hear about. This is not to imply that there will be no special rewards for service rendered, the Bible makes it very clear that our lives here are the place we earn those eternal rewards. However that does not deal with the issue of equality. One can be an honored son, but one cannot be a superior son. Someone may have lived a life far more honoring to Christ than I do upon earth and receive greater honor than I do in heaven, but that does not close any doors to me. Christ will treat me the same, and I will have full access to all the benefits of being His child. All the joys of heaven, all the experiences of eternity; a glorified body, mind, and renewed earth, the entire creation will be just as much a part of my eternal inheritance as theirs. Being a son or daughter is conferred by your relationship to the parents, in this case our Heavenly Father. Since we were all equally adopted into the family of God, and were equally in need of the mercy of God, there is nothing that could make anyone in heaven better than anyone else. In other words, there will be no second class heavenly citizenship. I hope this encourages you.

Question #3 from Skip: Do our loved ones in heaven have a view of what is still happening on earth? Are they able to see their family?

That is an interesting question because we actually have evidence in the book of Revelation that those in heaven are aware of what is happening on earth. In Revelation 6:9-11 we are allowed to witness a scene in which the martyrs (those who had been slain because of the Word of God and the testimony they had maintained) in heaven called out in a loud voice, “How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” In other words, they knew and were somehow aware that this had not yet occurred. While it does not say in the scripture that those in heaven can see what is transpiring upon earth, it certainly seems reasonable that this might be true. It seems very possible to me that we might be able to see, or be made aware of, special events transpiring upon earth while in heaven. However, we must not think that our lives will be like those in books and movies who peer continually into magic crystal balls that are so popular in fantasy literature. Our existence in Paradise will not be spent totally engrossed upon earthly realities. Remember, we will be in Paradise, the city of the Living God. We will be fully immersed in the greatest joy, contentment and excitement it is possible for a glorified human to achieve. If we can see what is happening on earth, it seems unlikely we will see all things at all times. Frankly, that would become, at the very least, tedious. I would pity the poor soul who was constantly fixed upon me as I spent hours devouring books, or sleeping. Possibly we will be privy to special events upon the earth, or by special grace, special events in our human family, or those of close friends in our Christian family. I want to hasten to add that this is nothing more than an opinion based upon a possible understanding of the above passage, however it does seem a reasonable idea to me. Hope this helps!

Question #4 from Cathy: When someone hurts someone else, I often hear "When that person meets their Maker, they will be held accountable for that." I hear that about Christians and non-Christians alike. It conjures up the image that when someone reaches heaven, he will have to explain to God why he did something "bad". I picture having this interview with God where I am judged one more time before I am given the gift of eternal life, and the gift of never being separated from God again.That conflicts with my understanding of grace and forgiveness. It conflicts with the peace I feel when I think about being in God's presence away from earthly influences and sin.Is this a Biblical perspective that we will be judged by God one more time "when we meet our Maker"?

This is a very good question because it gets to the heart of our faith. The Bible makes it clear that there are two judgments in eternity, one for the saved, and another for the unsaved. The better known judgment is called the Great White Throne judgment and is the judgment at the end of all things. At this judgment the unbelieving world will be judged for their sins and their rejection of God and His rule over their lives. The judgment for the saved is called the Judgment Seat of Christ, or the judgment that Christ gives to His own. It can be found in 2nd Corinthians 5:10, and alluded to in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15. This is the only judgment that Christians will undergo, and it is not a punishment judgment. It is very important to understand that when Jesus died on the cross for sins, He died for ALL sins, for ALL time for ALL people. This is why Paul can say in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Or, as I like to paraphrase, “God is not mad at us anymore, forever.” To be “in Christ Jesus” does not mean you are in the top level of spirituality, but that you are in the Body of Christ, literally, that you are a Christian. All of our sins, past, present, and future, were paid for by the death of our Lord on the cross. As a result, we can NEVER be condemned again for our sins by God since that sin has already been condemned and punished. Sins we have yet to commit were already seen by God who is omniscient and knows all things past, present and future and were included in Jesus death. This is why the Bible says that God is “propitiated” or satisfied with the death of Jesus. His perfect life and death satisfied God’s righteous judgment against sin for all people everywhere. Since God has been propitiated, or satisfied, there is no longer any condemnation for those who have placed their faith in Jesus and what He did for them on the cross.

At the judgment seat of Christ we see that every Christian will be rewarded for their deeds, but those actions and deeds that were not good, or that appeared good but were done for improper and deceitful motivations, will be “burned up.” In other words, there will be no reward. We will not be judged, or punished for our sins, as those sins have already been punished on the cross. So the judgment of Christ for believers is a judgment of rewards. We will be rewarded for those things we have done which truly glorified Christ and honored Him. Some will reap much greater rewards, and some, quite frankly, will have little or even nothing to show for their lives, but their faith has still saved them. In short, your understanding of grace and forgiveness is rightly placed, and your peace is real and not imagined. I hope this helps. Blessings to you.

Cathy & Sharon were the winners of the drawing. The book is available at Discovery House Publishers or by calling 1-800-653-8333.


Cathy said...

Thanks Dan for the very thorough answers. I look forward to enjoying your book.

Anonymous said...

I love his thoughts about passing time in Heaven without stress or worry of deadlines or getting things done. I have to say that the few days I'm able to just be and relish the moments are some of the most memorable, nicest, and luxurious days of my life simply because they were mine to do with what I wanted.

Jewels said...

That is so true!

Sarah Bray said...

What an incredible post! Thanks, Dan. I'm taking this one with me. :)