Monday, February 23, 2009

February 23- Heaven and Hell

February 23

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes and their boasting about what they have and do—comes not from the Father but from the world. (I John 2:15,16)

Calvin: If heaven is our homeland, what else is the earth but our place of exile? If departure from
the world is entry into life, what else is the world but a sepulcher? And what else is it for us to remain in life but to be immersed in death? If to be freed from the body is to be released into perfect freedom, what else is the body but a prison? If to enjoy the presence of God is the summit of happiness, is not to be without this, misery? But until we leave the world “we are away from the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:6]. Therefore, if the earthly life be compared with the heavenly, it is doubtless to be at once despised and trampled under foot. Of course it is never to be hated except in so far as it holds us subject to sin; although not even hatred of that condition may ever properly be turned against life itself. (III. 9. 4)

What is 72 years in the face of eternity? Yet we work so hard to live as long as we can on this life, and neglect our entrance into heaven itself. In our culture we particularly like to hide our aging process. There are contacts so we won’t look like we have glasses (or laser surgery); there’s liposuction; there are “age spot” removal systems; hair growing systems for bald guys; Hair removal systems for hairy old women; there’s dentures, hearing aids, wrinkle creams (billions are spent on makeup and fashion to make us look better than we really are); Ted Williams and hundreds of other froze their bodies in order for them to be brought back to life when a cure could be found for their disease. Death is a part of life. Heaven can be a part of life if we believe.
When something goes awry, I often say, “That won’t happen when we get to heaven.” In heaven, I am convinced there aren’t any traffic accidents. There aren’t any arguments between Christians. There aren’t any greedy people. There is no more death or dying.
Yesterday a youth asked about whether people of other faiths or unbelievers go to hell. My missionary friend gave scriptural answers that were accurate. But while I and Calvin believe in hell, and that there are people who will go there, there is a sense in which it is better to concentrate on heaven than to focus on hell. Many don’t believe in heaven or hell. Jesus teaches a bit about both. I believe it is important to listen to one who has been there, seen that, rather than guess as human beings about what is in the next life. Calvin did not speak much about the devil (compared to Luther or the Roman Catholics or Greek Orthodox) or hell. Instead he focused much on God and heaven- a more positive way to look at things. There is no assurance of heaven if we do not believe in Jesus. Jesus removes from us the sting of death and hell, giving us hope even in this life.

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