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Setting Your Mind On Things Above? Part IV

We have looked at the four Biblical views of heaven; Eden ; Hades; the Intermediate Heaven; the New Heaven and New Earth. We recognized that heaven is secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ that had just as far reaching an impact in the scope of redemption as sin did to the fall. We looked at the preparations of God as He has by His word caused the earth to undergo massive change three times already and yet a fourth is about to come. He created the World, He cursed the World, He purged the World with water and He will in days to come purify the World with fire before finally bringing Heaven to Earth, the New heavens and the New earth. Today let’s look at the Transcendence of Heaven and the ‘Recession’ of Hell.

There’s an old Valvoline commercial that went something like this:  “You’re born, you die, in between you work on cars.” Sounds like some form of sagely wisdom doesn’t it, yet it is the exact opposite. It is a statement of unbelief that seems to be saying this life is all there is. It misses the truth that there is not just one world, but three. Consider how the 18th century writer Jonathan Edwards put it:  “There are three worlds. One is this, which is an intermediate world — a world in which good and evil are so mixed together as to be a sure sign that this world is not to continue forever. Another is heaven, a world of love, without any hatred. And the other is hell, a world of hatred, where there is no love…” This present world, where there is such mismatch, is the doorstep into either Heaven or Hell. What is done here has an almost unimaginable . . .

We have looked at the four Biblical views of heaven; Eden ; Hades; the Intermediate Heaven; the New Heaven and New Earth. We recognized that heaven is secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ that had just as far reaching an impact in the scope of redemption as sin did to the fall. We looked at the preparations of God as He has by His word caused the earth to undergo massive change three times already and yet a fourth is about to come. He created the World, He cursed the World, He purged the World with water and He will in days to come purify the World with fire before finally bringing Heaven to Earth, the New heavens and the New earth. Today let’s look at the Transcendence of Heaven and the ‘Recession’ of Hell.

There’s an old Valvoline commercial that went something like this:  “You’re born, you die, in between you work on cars.” Sounds like some form of sagely wisdom doesn’t it, yet it is the exact opposite. It is a statement of unbelief that seems to be saying this life is all there is. It misses the truth that there is not just one world, but three. Consider how the 18th century writer Jonathan Edwards put it:  “There are three worlds. One is this, which is an intermediate world — a world in which good and evil are so mixed together as to be a sure sign that this world is not to continue forever. Another is heaven, a world of love, without any hatred. And the other is hell, a world of hatred, where there is no love…” This present world, where there is such mismatch, is the doorstep into either Heaven or Hell. What is done here has an almost unimaginable follow through into either of the two to come. Why is that, why should so much hang on this limited time and influenced perspective? Perhaps the answer lies in this quote, for it’s been said, ‘that above all else, all sin is cosmic treason, a rejection of God’s moral authority that will absolutely incur His wrath’. The treasonous properties of sin are like an acid upon the character and heart of man, it corrupts his will and knowledge, impairing his ability to move towards God. In effect man becomes an habitual breaker of God’s Laws… will he lie, will he lust, will he steal, will he swear, will he kill… the Law of God exposes the existence of sin, but it doesn’t take it away. The only antidote to sin known to mankind comes from outside of mankind’s existence. It comes from God, who in Christ Jesus, is manifested in the flesh. By His blood, the essence of life, He becomes our ransom. His life for ours, one at time, the action of His provision and then extended to each by invitation. The hostage of sin must agree through an act of faith to let this sinless son of God die in his place, and then there is freedom. This is the stepping point, from this act of a persons will responding to God’s grace, Heaven is secured. Apart from this act of faith in Christ, the hostage remains in their sin and it’s legal guilt… the next step can only be Hell.

 I. Consider the Design and ‘Recession’ of Hell. 

 I. Consider the Design and ‘Recession’ of Hell. 

In using the word ‘Hell’ let me be clear that I’m referring to the final place of judgment that happens after the Great White Throne judgment. It would be more accurate to call it the Lake of Fire of Fire but for our purposes I refer to it by this name. Hell was originally designed by God for Satan and his demons as the place for their final judgment and confinement, a place of eternal consequence for eternal beings (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Yet Hell will also be a place for the judgment of the sin of mankind who refused the rescue of Christ (Matthew 13:41,50). Hell is a place of conscious torment, a place described as being ravaged with flame and in which there is a gnashing of teeth. Jonathan Edwards adds this description to the concept of torment, “In hell all those principles will reign and rage that are contrary to love, without any restraining grace to keep them within bounds. Here will be unrestrained pride, and malice, and envy, and revenge, and contention in all its fury and without end, never knowing peace.” Here will the demonic be in torment as well as the human, a torment that has no relief and no end. The Recession of Hell is the isolation and separation from God that results in ever unrestrained expressions of sin in the midst of endless turmoil. Revelation 14:11 says “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever and they have no rest day and night”.  This is but a brief description of the doctrine of hell, yet the essence of it… the essence of hell… is separation from God. John 3:19 says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Man has said to God that he wants to be his own moral authority, he wants to be self determining apart from God.  C.S. Lewis stated that "the doors of hell are locked from the inside." The doctrine of hell is not about a cold hearted God that is vengeful… it is about the stubborn and prideful heart that comes from a sin nature and will get what it has perseveringly demanded… separation from God.

II. The Transcendence of Heaven Is Built Into All That We Know.

Think of all that we have known emotionally, sensually, spiritually… contentment of heart and stomach, the wonder of love, of a gentle touch, a faithful friend, encouragement, longing and the ties of hope… the list is endless yet it all is but a foretaste of what Heaven’s experience will be. You see in each of things there is a tiny component called ‘Transcendence’. It seeks to lift us beyond the limits of mortality and specifically sin. You’ll see transcendence in a believer who suffers for their faith, the pleasure of a hymn quietly sung in the darkness or the touch of a friend that takes them beyond the curse. Jesus spoke often about this aspect of transcendence, the experience of something here that is but a shadow of it’s fullness in heaven. Do you remember the words of Jesus in John 17:13, “But now I come to Thee and these things I speak in the world that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” When did Jesus expect that people would have the joy that He Himself knows, be made full in themselves?  There will be brief moments when we streak through the depths of this joy, like a rifle round fired into the air, but the fullness of the moment will be in heaven. You see in Heaven there is nothing to restrain the experience of being righteous in Christ. The accuser of the brethren is gone, the depravity of sin removed, the influence of a fallen system neutralized. But then there’s more, look again at John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me …”. What is the center of joy in Heaven, what is the height of Heaven… it’s close, personal, intimate, eternal, UNION with God. It is the very opposite of separation. What do you think it will invoke in you to see the glory of Jesus Christ, not only see it but be there with Christ at His request to share in the wonder of that before Him…Holy, Holy, Holy… that’s how Isaiah described it.

One last thought in John 17:26, look what Jesus says about transcending love, “and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known, that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them.” What was the degree of the love of the Father for the Son, that’s the degree of transcendent love that God purposes to place in our hearts now through faith in Christ. It’s the love that He means to have emanate out of us to each other and to the lost but ultimately that love will know it’s zenith in Heaven, in the presence of the glory of Jesus Christ. Randy Alcorn in his book ‘Heaven’, makes this insightful statement, “The best life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.”May the wonder of Heaven always manifest in us an alerting soulful cry of anguish about Hell.

Rev. Spence Laycock pastors at Church of the Open Bible, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.
www.churchoftheopenbible.ab.ca