We hold on so tenaciously to life in this world because we haven't really been convinced of the glory that the Father has established in heaven for His people. Our greatest moment will be the moment that we walk through the door and leave this world of tears and of sorrow, this valley of death and enter into the presence of the Lamb. We can find ourselves so distracted from what really matters as we live life in a world that has breaking news every hour and smartphones that beep or vibrate every minute and as a result not spend enough time considering our future as Christians and the reality of eternity.
You're listening to Renewing Your Mind and I'm glad you're with us. Even if we do think about heaven, there are so many misunderstandings. What will it be like? Clouds? White robes?
Harps? As we come to the final message of R.C. Sproul's 60-part overview of systematic theology, we come to a message on the believer's final rest and because this is the final message, it's also the final day to request the complete DVD set at renewingyourmind.org. So what will heaven be like?
Will there be streets of gold? Well to help us set our minds on eternity, here's Dr. Sproul. Today we come to the end of our 60-unit series, our overview of Christian doctrine and it's only appropriate that when we come to the end of our study of the things of God that we should be studying what happens to us at the end, at the end of our lives. And the glorious hope that we as Christians have is that of entering into our rest in heaven. Every Sunday we see God's sign of the promise of rest that is before every believer as the Sabbath day is God's established sign of His promise that we will enter into our rest in the future. But there are those in our day who doubt that there's life after death and who say to us that our hope of heaven is just so much pie in the sky, it's a direct result of our ability to project our wishes and our desires into the future.
And they will ask on what basis do we have any real confidence that the next world will be better than this one. And of course our answer to that as Christians is from the testimony of Christ, not only by virtue of the proof of His own conquest over death, by the resurrection from the grave, but also from His teaching. We remember His words at the home of Mary and Martha at the time that He visited Bethany when their brother had died before Jesus could get there, before Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead. And we remembered Jesus saying, I am the resurrection and the life. And though a man dies, yet shall he live. Now in the upper room discourse on the night of His own betrayal, in John chapter 14, Jesus makes this observation. Let not your heart be troubled.
You believe in God, believe also in me. Now when Jesus begins this discourse that is so popular among Christians, He begins with a commandment. He begins with an imperative. When He says, let not, He is using the form of the language that implies an obligation.
We are commanded not to have our hearts troubled about these matters, about our future in heaven. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you, and I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
And where I go, you know, and the way you know." Now here's Jesus, the Last Supper, sitting there with His disciples, that they know that the crisis is upon them, that He is about to be removed from their midst. And they're concerned.
They're anxious. And Jesus said, calm down. Don't let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, don't you? Well, believe also in Me, because in My Father's house are many mansions. Now here's what He says, if it were not so, I would have told you. Now this is the rabbi teaching the disciples, the master teaching his students, and he's saying before he leaves, I would not let you continue on in false hope, pie in the sky, wish fulfillment and psychological cripples in this regard. If this were a false hope, if this were simply a projected paradise, I would have corrected your error.
If it were not so, I would have told you. But not only is it so, but that's exactly where I'm going right now. I'm going to My Father's house, and I'm going there with one of the purposes I'm going for is to prepare a place for you. I'm going ahead into heaven and make sure that when I get there, there will be a place for you when you die. That's the promise of Christ to His people, that everyone who puts his trust in Him, Christ has prepared a place in His Father's house for us. And God doesn't make idle preparations.
I think we've all had the experience of preparing dinner for guests, and then at the last minute we get the phone call that's saying that they've been sidetracked and they're not able to make the appointment. Well, that doesn't happen when Christ prepares a place for His people. His people will make use of that place. And so the first thing we want to say about heaven is that we have every reason to be confident of its reality. But usually where our concern is about heaven is, what's it going to be like? And the Scriptures have much to say about heaven, but John also, in his first epistle, gives some insight into our future state, which I think is extremely important to us. In chapter 3 of 1 John, we read these words, "'Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God.'"
Now, we've looked at this from another perspective elsewhere. "'Therefore the world doesn't know us because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.'" This text, I think, is one of the most important eschatological texts, if not the most important eschatological text in all of the New Testament, because what it promises the believer is the zenith of the felicity that we will enjoy in heaven, which is found in what is called technically in theology the visio dei, or the beatific vision. The first phrase, visio dei, simply means the vision of God. Which vision is called the beatific vision?
Why? Well, you may not be familiar with the term beatific, but you are familiar with the term beatitude. The beatitudes are those sayings that are recorded in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus begins each of the beatitudes with the prophetic oracle of blessing. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and so on. That is a promise of blessedness, a degree of happiness that transcends any pleasure or any kind of earthly happiness when God gives blessedness to the soul of a person.
That is the supreme level of joy and fulfillment and of happiness that any creature can ever receive. And that is called, this blessedness is what is in view here when we talk about the beatific vision. A vision that is so wonderful, a vision that is so fulfilling, that the vision itself brings with it the fullness of the blessing. And what is that vision?
It's the vision of God. For what John says here in this chapter is we don't know yet what we're going to be. He says, I don't know all the details of what heaven is going to be like. But one thing we know is that we will be like Him, for we shall see Him in, say, est in the Vulgate, in the Latin version. We will see Him as He is in Himself. We're going to be able to see and to behold not a theophany, not an indirect manifestation of God, not a burning bush, not a pillar of cloud or a pillar of smoke, but we're going to see Him as He is. We're going to see Him in His unveiled being.
Now, wait a minute. In the Old Testament, all of the joys and blessings that people experience by the nearness of God have a limit, and the limit is this. No man shall see God. No man is allowed to see the face of God or they will perish. Even Moses, who begged with the Lord that the Lord would let him see his face, God said, no, Moses.
I'll let you get a backward glimpse of my passing glory, but my face shall not be seen. That kind of intimate vision, face-to-face looking directly at God, is what is absolutely forbidden every mortal in this world, and it's what makes the living of the Christian life so difficult because you are called to pursue a life of obedience and holiness and devotion and dedication to a God you've never seen. That's the hardest thing of the Christian life, is that we serve a Master who is invisible to us. Never heard His voice, never seen Him, and yet the promise is that someday we will see Him. Well, the immediate question that comes up at this point theologically is, now wait a minute.
How are we going to see God as He is when God is invisible? And yet we go back to the Sermon on the Mount. Who is it that is promised that they would see God? It's not the peacemakers.
It's not the poor. It's not the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And you see, the reason why we can't see God is not because there's something wrong with our eyes. The reason why we can't see God is there's something wrong with our hearts. But when we enter into glory and receive the fullness of our sanctification, that present barrier that makes this impossible to have a direct and immediate perception of God will be removed. But again, you say, but still, even in heaven, God will not have a body. He will be a spirit. How can you see a spirit? Well, I don't know the answer to that.
This is one of those things where God has not told us, although some of the best minds in theology have speculated on it a little bit. Just yesterday I was writing, working on a book on philosophy, and was dealing with one of the philosophers in explaining the whole business of mediated knowledge. And in my illustration, I talked about watching basketball games on television. And we say that when I watch the basketball game on television, am I really watching the basketball game? Obviously, I'm not live and present at the event. The basketball game is taking place miles away from where I am. What I am watching is an electronic broadcast and reproduction of what is taking place miles and miles and miles away. There is a medium between the game and me, and so I am made aware of what's going on in the basketball game through the media.
What is a media but an intermediary that communicates something that's going on over here to someone who is over here. Now, why do I say that? I said, well, I didn't see the game. I was only looking at pictures of the game.
Well, if I were at the game, what would I be looking at? Images that are reflected in front of my eyes, and light then illumines that image so that light sources hit my eyes and the lens of my eyes, my optic nerve, and through this whole process of sight, I say, ah, I see it. I see it. This whole process of sight, I say, ah, I see it. But all kinds of things are taking place here in the transmission of the sensory activity that I am perceiving with my eyes, and I couldn't see anything. If I had the best vision in the world and you locked me in a room without any light, I wouldn't see anything.
I still need light, and I need those images to be able to see them. So even our present sight is mediated. And what Edwards said was this, that we are going to be in such a state where our souls, without the advantage of our eyes, will be able to have a direct and immediate apprehension of the invisible God. Now again, soul, spirit to spirit communication, I don't know how that works.
That's pure speculation. But one thing we know for certain through the revealed Word of God is that the light of our souls in heaven will be that we will see Him, and we will see Him as He is. Now in our series on the overview of the Bible, Dust to Glory, where we went through from the beginnings of Genesis and gave an overview of the whole scope of biblical history and Revelation ending up in the book of Revelation, we titled that series Dust to Glory. Obviously, the glory was found in the zenith of Revelation that comes to us in the last couple of chapters of the New Testament in the book of Revelation, where John records the vision that he received on the island of Patmos in which Christ Himself showed him things, including a vision at the end of the apocalypse of the new heaven and of the new earth that come down from God.
And let's just take a moment to look at some of these elements. Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God will be with them, and He will be their God.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, no more pain, for the former things will have passed away. Now notice that when the Bible gives us a description of the coming of heaven, it focuses on some startling dimensions of what heaven will be like and what it will not be like. It tells us what will be there, what will not be there. If you go on and read this text, it does talk about streets of gold, gold so fine and so pure that it is translucent. It talks about gates constructed with magnificent pearls, and the foundation established and adorned with precious jewels.
Now knowing the nature of apocalyptic literature, what is so imaginative, we assume that these are symbolic representations about what heaven will be like. But let me just say, I wouldn't put it past Him. I would not put it past God to have a city that is paved with streets of gold and to have it look just exactly as it is described right here.
I wouldn't put it past Him at all. But He said, there's no sea there. I say, oh, wait a minute. That's what we live for every year is to go on vacation, go to the beach. We love the sea.
No, no, no. For the Hebrew, the sea is the symbol of violence. They didn't have sandy beaches in Israel.
Their sea coast was the source of marauders coming who attacked them and violent weather that came off the Mediterranean. In all of Hebrew poetry, the sea is a negative symbol. It's the river.
It's the fountain. It's the well that serves as the positive image in the Hebrew poetry, not the sea. And so He says the first thing, folks, there won't be any violent, natural catastrophes that you have to worry about in heaven because the sea won't be there.
And He said, here's what else won't be. There won't be any tears. There's no room for tears unless they're tears of joy. But we associate tears in our language with sorrow, with sadness, with grief. And every child remembers what it was like to be overwhelmed with being upset and having a fit of crying and having your mother come with her apron and wiping away the tears.
And what a comforting thing that is. However, you cry again tomorrow. But when God wipes away your tears, they never come back. They will be no more.
Why? Because the things that make us cry will be removed. There will be no more death. There will be no more sorrow. There will be no more pain.
These former things will have passed away. Well, we jump down to verse 22, and we find out what else won't be in heaven. There will be no temple there. And we go on and we see, oops, there will be no sun there. There will be no moon there. No temple? You mean there will be no church?
And there will be no sun, no moon? What is this place of desolation? Thought it was going to be heaven. Why won't there be a temple there? Because the temple is the visible symbol of the presence of God. And when the reality is there, you don't need the physical temple there. And why will there not be any sun or moon or stars?
These are artificial sources of light. And what we're told about that in heaven, the radiance, the refulgence of the glory of God and of the Lamb will elude us to the gloom and the whole city. There will never be night because the glowing, brilliant, radiant glory of God never stops.
It's not a 24-hour cycle. I mean, the sun of righteousness does not set ever. And so heaven will be a place that will be aglow with the unvarnished, unveiled radiance of God. And there are other beautiful things that are said here about heaven. But think of it, friends.
What are you living for? Jonathan Edwards said, you know, can you imagine somebody saving to go on a journey on a vacation for ten years? And in order to get to their destination, they had to travel, and that the first night they stopped at a wayside inn. And the next day, instead of continuing their travel to get to their desired destination that they had hoped and saved for for all this time, they decided to forgo it all and to stay in the inn.
That's the way we are. We hold on so tenaciously to life in this world because we haven't really been convinced of the glory that the Father has established in heaven for His people. But for all eternity, God has established this place which is the end and the destiny of all of His people.
It doesn't get any better than that. And again, every aspiration, every hope, every joy that we look forward to will be there and then some in this wonderful place. Our greatest moment will be the moment that we walk through the door and leave this world of tears and sorrow, this valley of death, and enter into the presence of the Lamb. What a perspective, and to contemplate that truth often changes how we live and what we prioritize.
That was R.C. Sproul on this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and Dr. Sproul experienced that moment for himself almost six years ago. We give thanks for how the Lord continues to use His teaching and preaching ministry. For more than a year, we have been hearing messages from Dr. Sproul's series, Foundations, an overview of systematic theology. And today was the final message of that series, which means it's also the final day and the final time that you can request the entire series on DVD with digital access to the messages and study guide with your donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org.
This is a study that you'll want to revisit and a valuable resource for any church library. So request your copy today at renewingyourmind.org. This offer ends at midnight, and it won't be repeated next Saturday. As we approach Christmas and the Advent season, next Saturday, you'll hear a story about a special Christmas message from R.C. Sproul that has never been released publicly before and learn about a new Advent resource that has just arrived. So join us next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-25 03:29:48 / 2023-11-25 03:38:32 / 9