Thursday, April 08, 2010

THINKING ABOUT HEAVEN

One of the funny things about people is our desire to know what we cannot know and speculate about it. When we do this, we often ignore the knowledge we do have. Heaven is one of those topics that inspire speculation.

Movies have portrayed heaven in terms of clouds and harps and people wearing white.

People even write books claiming they have gone there and returned to tell the tale. This is particularly sad, since the one person we can believe this happened to is the apostle Paul, and he said we cannot do that. He did not use his own name, but referred to one who had been taken into the third heaven, which is Biblical terminology for what we call Heaven, the abode of God.

Interestingly, Paul did not say what he saw there. In fact, he said it was not allowed!

Paul told the story in 1 Corinthians 12. He was caught up to Paradise, the third heaven. "He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." 1 Corinthians 12:4. If God would not let Paul, the last apostle, speak of the things in heaven, why would he let someone today, even if they could go and return (which I do not believe).

In addition to all this, a person who claims more knowledge of heaven than is revealed in Scripture is denying the authority of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture. God chose to reveal some things to us, but not all. Hebrews 1 tells us God has spoken to us in these days by the word of Christ. That word is contained in the New Testament. The New Testament is closed. To claim direct revelation is to dispute the canon of Scripture and claim the status of the Old Testament prophet, receiving direct revelation from God outside of Scripture. Although there are a few Pentecostal leaders who claim this privilege, in effect elevating themselves over Christ and the Bible, orthodox believers, mainstream Evangelicals, do not not.

In case I cannot say it clearly enough, let me quote one of my favorite theologians.

"There is no need for us to speculate about the precise nature of heaven. We are assured on the authority of Jesus Christ that it is the house and the home of his Father and ours (there are twenty-two references to the Father in John 14), that his home is a prepared place containing many rooms or resting places, and that he himself will be there. What more do we need to know? To be certain that where he is, there we shall be also should be enough to satisfy our curiosity and allay our fears." John Stott.
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