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In the last chapter we covered the different characteristics of Heaven that are revealed in the Bible.  We know that Heaven will be perfect and eternal.  No one will feel as though he doesn't belong.  And all of us will work and serve God and eachother joyously.  The experience will be so grand that we will never want it to end and guess what?  It will NEVER end!  Let us remember the inspiring words to "Amazing Grace":                  

"And though we be there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise then when we first begun."                    

Nevertheless there are still questions that people, saved and unsaved, have about Heaven.  I'm sure if we could get a panel of people representing a cross-section of society and asked them, "What questions do you have about Heaven?", I'm sure that there could be more questions than we have members of Congress.                  

Of all the questions that could be asked about Heaven, I've choosen the four that I think are the theologically most important coupled with my answers.  Feel free to agree or disagree.                        

QUESTION 1                        

How do you respond to critics and atheists who have said that all of this "Heaven talk" only serves to tempt unstable people to end their lives, much like the members of the People's Temple cult committed mass suicide because of the preaching of Jim Jones?                   

It is perfectly natural and even expected for us as believers to look forward to our all expense paid trip to Heaven.  Paul wrote:                      

"For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also   eagerly  wait for the Saviour, The Lord Jesus Christ."   (Phil. 3:20)                       

Paul the great missionary even admitted that he looked forward to seeing Heaven.  In an earlier verse he told the Philipian Christians:                     

"If I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from  my labor yet what I choose I cannot tell.  For I am   hard pressed between the two, having a desire to    depart and be with Christ, which is far better."   (Phil. 1:22 and 23)                      

But read what Paul wrote in verse 24.                  

"Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful  for you."                        

Paul was admitting that he had a desire to see Heaven but he also realized that he had responsbilities here on Earth.  He must have known that when God was done with him God would call him home. What we can learn from this passage is that God values heavenly work but He also values earthly work.  There is business here in this life that just must be done.  We still have to take care of ourselves, get an education, provide for our families, pay our bills, help those who cannot help themselves, and of course proclaim the Gospel to a dying world.                 

Think of our situation this way.  Imagine being a war-weary American soldier fighting in the far away hostile  and humid jungles of Vietnam.  Almost daily he secretly yearns to leave that awful killing zone behind  to be back home with his family.  He so much would crave a delicious home cooked meal, a chance to hold his young children, and a evening or two to take his wife back to the many local places they went during those early days of courting. But he has a job to do, an enemy to fight, and commanding officers to answer to.  He must put his wants and emotions aside and focus on the task at hand.               

We Christians are like that soldier.  We very much look forward to seeing  our beautiful heavenly home.  But we have a ruthless spiritual enemy to fight and unsaved people who need to hear the Gospel.  Clearly those are important tasks that only Christians down here can do.               

It has been said that "A man can be so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good."  That may be true in some cases such as the Family Radio May 2011 prophecy-mania when some Christians  quit their jobs and quit paying their bills only to have Jesus NOT return.  However if a believer is properly heavenly minded, he can be MORE earthly good than a person who is just earthly minded.  Compare foreign missionaries who are preparing people for eternity versus atheistic  communist oppressors who live only for today.                       

Many of us remember the November 1978 Jonestown tragedy.  Some years later it was made into a TV mini-series with Ned Beatty playing the role of Congressman Leo Ryan.  In the scene when the People's Temple members were gathering to drink the poison, Jim Jones said to the effect:                          

"We are not committing suicide but rather we are    leaving an unjust and corrupt world under protest."                

Since our world is so unjust and corrupt how can anyone hope to improve it by leaving it?                  

Furthermore suicide violates God's moral law (Exodus 20:13).  In December 2005 Barbara Walters did a news special on the subject of Heaven.  In it she talked with followers from a variety of different faiths.  She even had a private audience with the Dalai Lama.                   

Towards the end of the program Barbara interviewed Ellen Johnson who at the time was the head of the American Atheist Center based in Austin, Texas.  Johnson, as one might expect, rejected the possibility of past lives and life after death.  But what stood out in the interview was when Johnson made the crude statement saying to the effect:                      

"Since this Heaven is so great then maybe we should  all go out and hang ourselves."                     

What Ellen Johnson and her atheist friends don't understand is that our God is as moral as He is real.  The command, "Thou shall not commit murder." applies to suicide as well as homocide.  It is playing God.                  

When we kill another person we are playing God with that person's life.  When we commit suicide, even if it's to gain an early entrance into Heaven, we are still playing God with our own lives.  We have no moral right to do that.  God has given each of us the gift of life, therefore only God has a sovereign right to take life.                            

QUESTION 2                        

Will there be a believer's judgment in Heaven?                             

Yes the New Testament does mention a judgment that is meant for believers only.                      

"...we (the church) shall stand before the judgment  seat of Christ." (Romans 14:10)                   

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of  Christ." (2 Cor. 5:10)                     

These verses are not written to the world at large but only to true Christians.  The "we" in both verses refers only to the elect.  This judgment is very different from the White Throne judgment mentioned in Revelation 20.  There God is judging the sins of the unsaved.  But in this judgment God has an entirely different purpose.                

God has no need to judge the sins of the true Christian.  When we became saved God forgave all of the believer's sins past, present, and future.  He separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.  He promises never to hold them against us.  As I've said earlier, when God looks at me He doesn't see my imperfect righteousness but the perfect righteousness of Christ.                 

Paul goes on to describe the nature and purpose of the believer's judgment.                      

"...that each one may receive the things done in the  body according to what he has done whether good or  bad." (2 Cor. 5:10)                      

Salvation will not be the issue. That issue was settled at the moment of conversion.  This judgment here is concerning the believer's works.  Paul describes a system of rewards and loss of rewards.                   

"...each one's work will become manifest for the Day  will declare it,  because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work of what sort it is." (I Cor. 3:13)                      

Verse 12 mentions six types of "building material" for our works: gold, silver, precious stones,  wood, hay, straw or stubble.  Paul of course is speaking metaphorically.  The first three "materials" (gold, silver, and precious stones) can endure fire.  The second three (wood, hay, straw or stubble) cannot.  The mature Christian who builds with the right motives and only for God's glory is using gold, silver, and precious stones.  The carnal believer who builds with wrong motives and mostly for his own fame is using wood, hay, and straw or stubble.                         

Now here comes the big test:                    

"If anyone's work...endures (the fire) he will receive  a reward.  If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer  loss but he himself will be saved." (I Cor. 3:14 and  15)                         

Here God is rewarding faithfulness.  Those who serve Him faithfully and honor Him faithfully will be rewarded faithfully.  Those who drag their feet, dabble with worldly values, and have little or nothing to show the Lord will be rewarded sparingly even though they still will remain saved.                       

What these rewards will be we can only speculate.  For now we must follow our Good Shepherd and lay up treasures in Heaven where rust and moths cannot corrupt and thieves cannot steal (Mat. 6:20).                                                

QUESTION 3                                     

Do believers who have since died and are now living in Heaven have any knowledge of world events or even family events down here?                                    

This question has sparked no small number of opinions and movie plots.  All theologians don't agree on the same answer.  Some believe that the righteous dead do have knowledge of the goings-on of this world.  Others claim that they do not.  Still others claim that the righteous dead still "soul sleep" so it is impossible for them to have any knowledge of events in our lives.                  

What does the Bible say?  First I need to point out that we are not to try to contact the dead.  This is spiritualism.  Evil spirits can pretend to be the spirits of dead relatives in an attempt to send messages contrary to what is in the Bible.                     

Second the only Bible verse that might give a hint that the dead have knowledge of earthly events is Hebrews 12:1.                         

"...since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of  witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin...  and let us run...the race."                    

Some might contend that the "cloud of witnesses" is the crowd of saved souls who are looking down at us from Heaven. The word "cloud" usually denotes a spiritual setting.  However if we look at the verse as a whole the author is telling us that since we are being watched by unsaved people we should allow our Gospel light to shine.               

It could be argued that since unsaved people notice our words and deeds, we should be testimony conscious.  We are to run the race without being accused of hypocrisy.  Hence the cloud of witnesses would refer to the people we meet each day.  Therefore there is no concrete proof from the Bible that the dead have any knowledge of events down here.                    

However if we change the question around and ask, "Is it possible that the dead at least have access to such knowledge?", my answer is YES.  With God all things are possible.  It is my belief that the dead can be given such knowledge if they wish to have it.  It is much like I can choose whether or not  to watch the evening news.               

Admittedly for some this knowledge will bring some Christians grief.  Imagine working with someone as a spiritual mentor only to pass on and see from Heaven that person leading a life of sin.                    

But let's emphasize the positive.  For some such knowledge will bring joy.  Imagine the parents of John and Charles Wesley seeing from Heaven the impact for Christ that their sons made in the world  Imagine Hudson Taylor today rejoicing in Heaven when he sees how much the Gospel is spreading in modern China.  Imagine our Founding Fathers, many of whom were Christians, rejoicing that our country abolished slavery and is now serving as a beacon of prosperity and freedom in our world.                

Years ago I heard the amazing true story of a young man.  He was a football player of average performance and skill who had a Christian father who was blind and dying. Just before the last game of the season the father died.               

Instead of being overwhelmed by grief, the young man took to the field in the last game and had his best player performance ever!  When asked "What made the difference in your performance?"  He replied to the effect, "For years my dad was blind and couldn't see me play.  But today, for the first time ever my dad from Heaven with his new working eyes could see me play the game.  That's what made the difference!"                                            

QUESTION 4                                     

In Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20 Jesus was asked a question by the religious leaders " whose wife would a certain woman be in the resurrection since more than one man had her as a wife?"  Jesus answered by saying that in the resurrection people don't marry.  Hence it would be easy to conclude that there are no marriages in the afterlife.  HOWEVER Isaiah 65:23 says that in the new heaven and new earth the elect will be present plus all their offspring.  The offspring will be born "not unto trouble" meaning that they will be born without a sin nature.  Given that there can be no procreation without sex and there can be no sex in God's sight without holy matrimony, how do you reconcile Luke 20:35 with what is found in Isaiah 65:23?                                   

This is a complex question.  I've asked for answers from other people including our Adventist brethren who are lightyears ahead of everyone else's understanding of the afterlife, and even they were stumped.  So what is the right answer?                       

First let's point out that Jesus was being questioned by a Jewish sect called the Sadduccess.  Unlike the Pharisees the Sadduccess did not believe in an afterlife.  Jesus cut to the heart of the real issue and quoted Exodus 3:6 where God first spoke to Moses and declared Himself as the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.  Here God was speaking of the late patriarchs as though they were still alive - that is alive in Him.  Hence there   will be an afterlife.                     

Now concerning the question on marriage, Matthew 22 and Mark 12 say basically the same thing.  To answer our question we must read the exchange as it is recorded in Luke 20.  In Luke 20:34 and 35 Luke uses a Greek word that in the KJV is translated "world".  However that same Greek word can also be translated "age".  In Matthew 28:20 we can see another instance where that same Greek word is found.                        

"...I am with you always even unto the end of the   world/age."                       

Apparently "age" is a better choice of words since most contemporary Bible scholars use it in today's newer translations.                         

Why is this important?  Because an age is defined as a limited span of time.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Enternity is not an age.  Eternity does not have a beginning, middle, and an end.  Eternity simply is.                           

In Bible history there was the Old Covenant also known as the age of the Mosiac Law.  Since the death and resurrection of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost in 33 AD, we are now living in the New Covenant also known as the Church Age.  The Church Age will end at the Second Coming when Jesus returns in power and glory for His elect.  He will then take His elect to Heaven for 1000 years.  This will mark the beginning of the Millenial Age (Rev.20:4).               

Since an "age" cannot refer to eternity, then is it possible that the "age" mentioned in Luke 20:35 refers only to the 1000 year Millenial Age?  Yes that is very possible.                         

"...those who are counted worthy to attain that age  and the resurrection..."                     

Those who are worthy, that is born-again, will attain that limited age.  Those who are not worthy will be judged when the plagues mentioned in Revelation hit the Earth one after another.                     

So what happens after the 1000 year reign, the last defeat of Satan (Rev. 20:10), and the White Throne judgment?  The answer is found in Revelation 21:1 and Isaiah 65:17-25.  There will be the creation of new heavens and a new Earth which will last for an eternity.  There will be no more ages.  Isaiah 65:22 tells us:                            

"For as the days of a tree so shall be the days of  My people."                       

This is a poetic way of saying that the elect will live forever.  Just as a tree can stand strong for many years, so will the elect live for an infinate number of years.  This will be a complete restoration of Eden in EVERY way including families.  Isaiah 65:23 tells us:               

"For they (the elect) shall be the decendants of the   blessed of the Lord..."                   

Verse 23 doesn't stop there.                    

"And their offspring with them."                   

Why include those last five words?  Why mention offspring?  Because in the new Earth the elect will have offspring.  There is the elect and the offspring of the elect, two groups.  This at least raises the possibility  that the abolition of marriage mentioned in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20 might apply only to the 1000 year reign but not to the new Earth.                      

At the resurrection all marriages especially marriages that never should have been, will be abolished.  But in the new Earth the gift of being a husband and father or a wife and mother might be made available to those who desire it.  Isn't that a pleasant thought!                  

I realize that not everyone will agree with what I've written.  But I also realize that Luke 20:35 can cause Christian young people considerable grief.  That is understandable.  What I am hoping is that my answer to the afterlife marriage question might take away some of that grief.  When God says that He can bless us above all that we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20), He really means it!                           

Let us bear in mind that life in Heaven will be so much more different than life on this Earth.  For God to explain life in Heaven to us would be like us trying to explain life on dry land to a fish.                   

A fish cannot appreciate the beauty of a glowing sunset.  A fish cannot appreciate the artistic quality of a classical symphony.  A fish cannot enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey feast or the thrill of a rollercoaster ride.  A fish can only understand life underwater.  It swims, eats, reproduces, and avoids predators in its aquadic enviorment.                          

Likewise we who are Christians only can understand life on this Earth.  But when we see the glory of Heaven and realize that we will be able to enjoy Heaven forever, I don't think the English language has the words that will adequately describe our reaction.

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