WHAT WILL WE BE DOING IN HEAVEN?

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In Luke 23:43, Jesus declared, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.” The word Jesus used for “paradise” is paradeisos which means “a park, that is, (specifically) an Eden (place of future happiness, paradise)”. Paradeisos is the Greek word taken from the Hebrew word pardes which means “a park: – forest, orchard” (Strong’s). Jesus said, “Today you shall be with me “en paradeisos,” not “en nephele” which is Greek for “in clouds.” The point is that Jesus picked and used the word for “a park.” Not just any park but “the paradise of God” or park of God (Revelation 2:7) which for us will be a place of future happiness. Does this sound like a boring place? When you think of a park, do you think of boredom?

Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not say “praise and serve.” Even the briefest examination of the word praise in the Bible quickly shows it’s a verbal thing and is for the most part singing. Worship, however, is from the heart. Worship manifests itself in praise. Serving God is worship, and Scripture is clear we will serve God in heaven. “His servants will serve Him” (Revelation 22:3).

We are unable to fully serve God in this life due to sin, but in heaven “every curse will no longer be” (Revelation 22:3). We will not be under the curse of sin any longer, so everything we do will be worship in heaven. We will never be motivated by anything other than our love for God. Everything we do will be out of our love for God, untainted by our sin nature.

So what will we do? My favorite thing is to learn. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Romans 11:34), “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). God is the “the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). God is bigger than forever, and it will take eternity “to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18-19). In other words, we will never stop learning.

God’s Word says we won’t have to be in His paradise alone. “I shall fully know even as I also am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). This would seem to indicate that we will not only know our friends and family, we will “fully know” them. In other words, there is no need for secrets in heaven. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing to hide. We will have eternity to interact with “a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). No wonder heaven will be a place of infinite learning. Just getting to know everyone will take eternity!

Any further anticipation about what we shall do in God’s eternal park, heaven, will be far surpassed when “the King shall say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'” (Matthew 25:34). Whatever we will be doing, we can be sure it will be wonderful beyond our imaginations!

Prophet Nathan Emol

GOD’S FAMILY:

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The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ and the Father are One (John 1:1-4), and that He is also the only begotten Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-4). This familial term indicates God regards Jesus as a family member. Born-again believers are told that we, too, are members of this family (Romans 9:8; 1 John 3:1-2). How do we become a part of this family of God? When we hear the gospel, confess our sins, and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we are at that moment born into God’s kingdom as His children and become heirs with Him for eternity (Romans 8:14-17).

While Jesus Christ is referred to as the only begotten Son of God, believers are referred to as children born into God’s family who need to grow and mature in our faith (Ephesians 4:11-16), and as sons and heirs adopted into His family (Galatians 4:4-7). God’s infinite grace and mercy are revealed in Ephesians 1:5-6, which says He redeems sinners, whom He has “adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

As children of God, what do we inherit? Nothing less than the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 12:28)! Ephesians 1:3 tells us that believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. These spiritual blessings are infinite, eternal, and reside in Christ, and by God’s grace we are given these blessings as His children. As earthly children we eventually inherit what our parents leave behind for us after their death. But in God’s case believers are already reaping the rewards of our inheritance by having peace with Him through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Other rewards of our inheritance include the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the moment we believe in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14), which empowers us to live for Him in the present, and the knowledge that our salvation is secure for eternity (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Being a part of the family of God is the greatest blessing bestowed upon believers and one that should drive us to our knees in humble adoration. We can never do anything to deserve it for it is His gift of love, mercy, and grace to us, yet, we are called to become sons and daughters of the Living God (Romans 9:25-26). May we all respond in faith to His invitation!

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT SHOULD I DO TO LIVE LONG LIFE?

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“‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:3–4). In this passage, the apostle Paul is quoting from the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:12 specifically: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” This represents the only instance of God connecting long life as a reward for something we do. Is this promise of long life for honoring your parents true? And, if so, why is honoring your parents so highly valued to God that He rewards it with long life?

First, yes, the promise is true, but not in a universal sense. There are people who honored their parents but died young. And there are people who did not honor their parents but lived a long life. Therefore, it is a principle that is generally true. If you honor your parents, God will, generally speaking, reward you with a long life. However, this promise does not override other decisions we make that impact how long we live. For example, if a man honors his parents, but then decides to commit suicide, the act of suicide “negates” the reward of long life. The same can be said of those who engage in reckless and dangerous activities. God’s reward of long life for honoring parents does not miraculously make you immune from serious injury or death.

Again, the reward of long life for honoring your parents is a general principle, not a universal truth. God considers the way a child treats his/her parents so important that He usually rewards those who honor their parents with long life. Solomon urged children to respect their parents (Proverbs 1:8; 13:1; 30:17). Jeremiah 35:18–19 describes how God blessed the Rechabites for obeying their father. Disobedience to parents is a trait of those who rebel against God (Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2). This brings us to the second point. Why is honoring your parents so highly valued to God that He rewards it with long life?

There are at least two reasons for the value God places on honoring your parents. First, God entrusts parents with the responsibility to raise their children in a godly manner. The task of parenting is not easy. It is painful, stressful, expensive, and often unappreciated. For a child to not recognize, and be grateful for, the sacrifices parents make on his/her behalf is an affront to the position of authority and value God has given to parents. It is similar to how we are to respond to the government (Romans 13:1–7). If God has placed us under authority, to rebel against that authority is to rebel against God Himself.

The second reason God desires us to honor our parents is because our relationship with our earthly parents is an illustration of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. For example, Hebrews 12:5–11 compares the discipline a child receives from parents to the discipline believers in Christ receive from God. Just as our parents are our biological progenitors, God is our Creator. We are children of God and children of our parents. To dishonor our parents is to distort the picture of what our relationship with our Heavenly Father is to be.

Do you want to live a long life? Honor your parents. Why? Because God placed you under their authority and guidance, and because your attitude toward your parents is illustrative of your attitude toward God. While this reward is not universal—and while it does not override every other decision you make—it is still generally true. If you want to live a long life, honor those who gave you life in the first place.

Prophet Nathan Emol

OLD AGE:

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The Bible presents growing old as a normal, natural part of life in this world. There is honor involved in the aging process, because growing old is normally accompanied by increased wisdom and experience. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31; see also Proverbs 20:29). God wants us to remember that life is short (James 4:14) and that the beauty of youth is soon gone (Proverbs 31:30; 1 Peter 1:24).

Ultimately, the question of growing old cannot be separated from the question of the meaning of life and the concept of the legacy we leave. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon provides a sagacious look at aging and the issues related to it.

We are born with a natural tendency to “live for the moment,” but the ultimate futility of that approach is the subject of Ecclesiastes 1–7. As people grow older and begin to feel the increasing impact of their mortality, they typically try to invest their waning resources in projects that to them seem to hold more promise of lasting meaning in life, especially the hope of perpetuating their “name” in a lasting legacy (Ecclesiastes 2). Unfortunately, no one can predict what projects will have lasting value and significance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15), and this normally leads to varying levels of disillusionment and even despair over life’s brevity and apparent injustice “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3:16–7:29).

With the growing realization that satisfaction in such activities is invariably fleeting, Solomon’s hope is that people will grow wiser in the use of their God-given “portion” or allotment before they die (Ecclesiastes 8–12; see also Psalm 90:12). This wisdom grows in relation to our awareness of “time and judgment”—we need a divine perspective in the face of life’s brevity and apparent injustice (Ecclesiastes 3:15c–17; 8:5b–8, 12b–15; 9:11–12; 11:9; 12:14). The Hebrew notion of time in these passages combines the concepts of opportunity (the right time to act expediently when the occasion arises) and limited lifespan (only so much time before all opportunity is gone). The Hebrew notion of judgment in these same texts presupposes complete freedom in the use of our God-given “portion” in life as our desires lead us, yet with a concomitant accountability to the One who distributed our allotted portions. The New Testament counterpart to these concepts can be found portrayed vividly in Jesus’ parables of the ten virgins and the talents (Matthew 25), the two sons (Matthew 21:28–32), and the unjust steward (Luke 16:1–13).

Among the most disturbing aspects of growing old—especially in cultures that set a high value on rugged individualism—is the increasing frequency of senile dementia as human lifespan increases. It seems eminently unfair that people so afflicted should be robbed of their intellectual, emotional and social vitality while their physical bodies continue to survive. Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly difficult pill to swallow because the cause is unknown and it does not seem to be related to any particularly bad health habits. While progression of Alzheimer’s can be stalled, in part, by continued active involvement in mind-stimulating and physical activity, progression of the disease is nevertheless inexorable.

The author of Ecclesiastes acknowledges this vexing unfairness from a human perspective (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18; 8:14–9:3), yet he offers wisdom to help us deal with it from God’s perspective, entailing the notions of “time and judgment.” With our inevitable disillusionment over the human condition—our universal depravity, uncertainty, and mortality—it is wise to remember that “for all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:4-6, NKJV). Knowing that they are accountable for their God-given “portion,” people should take joyful advantage of all their gifts, talents, wisdom, and opportunities in life sooner rather than later—before all opportunity to do so has ceased, before inevitable debilitation forecloses all opportunity (9:7-10; 11:9-12:7).

The thrust of this reflection from Ecclesiastes on growing old is that meaning in life is fulfilled in our God-given purpose, and our purpose is only fulfilled when we take advantage of our God-given portion in Christ, God’s promised Savior. While this portion may seem less fair for some than for others, life’s meaning will be consummated only at the final judgment when we receive our inheritance (Ecclesiastes 7:11) for the way we invest our portion, be it good or bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14; cp. 2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, we will see God as eminently fair in His rewards, regardless of how unfair or unevenly distributed our portion may seem in this present life.

Prophet Nathan Emol

JESUS IS THE ANSWER:

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“Jesus is the answer” is a popular slogan. Missing is the question. Jesus is the answer to what? What are people trying to convey when they claim that Jesus is the answer?

Jesus is the answer to our broken relationship with God. When God created Adam and Eve, they enjoyed perfect fellowship with Him. But Adam sinned by disobeying God, thereby bringing death into the world (Genesis 3:8–19Romans 5:126:231 Corinthians 15:21–22). A significant part of that death is spiritual death. Humanity’s relationship with God is broken. God provided a covering for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21) and promised a Redeemer who would defeat Satan and reconcile God and man (Genesis 3:15). The Old Testament narrative gradually reveals God’s plan to save people. The New Testament shows us that Jesus is the promised Redeemer. Jesus atoned for our sin and restores the possibility of relationship with God.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ). Jesus is the answer—the only answer—to our broken relationship with God. Apart from Him there is no salvation (Acts 4:121 Timothy 2:5–6). The biblical term for God’s act of making peace with sinful humanity is reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). Romans 5:10 reminds us that, in Christ, God’s enemies were made His friends and given life: “If, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Jesus is the answer to the problem of our estrangement from God. It is Jesus who makes it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be children of God (John 1:12–13). It is Jesus who mends our relationship with God so that we can fellowship with Him during our lifetimes as well as eventually live with Him for eternity.

Jesus is the answer to our guilty consciences. Even after we are saved, we still sin and experience the temporal consequences of sin. Sin keeps us from fellowshipping with God fully. But we have God’s promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus is the One who “washes our feet” of daily impurities, even after we have been “fully bathed” (see John 13:10). Jesus is the reason we can receive forgiveness and be purified. He is the answer to our sin problem both now and for eternity.

Jesus is the answer to our broken relationships with each other. When Adam and Eve sinned, not only did they break their relationship with God, but they also damaged their relationship with each other (see Genesis 3:1216). Humans have been struggling in relationship to one another ever since (see Genesis 4:8). This relational breakdown manifests in various ways, including the walls we erect between races. In the New Testament era, there was a major division between Gentiles and Jews. Jesus is the answer to all types of disharmony: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jew and Gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you [Gentiles] who were far away and peace to those [Jews] who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:14–18; cf. Galatians 3:26–29).

Jesus instructed His followers to love one another humbly and sacrificially (John 13:34–35). Jesus prayed for unity among His followers (John 17), a unity embraced by the early church (Acts 8 and 10). Because we have received forgiveness in Jesus, we can forgive others. Jesus is the answer for our relational turmoil.

Jesus is the answer to a meaningless existence. The writer of Ecclesiastes bewails the meaninglessness of worldly pursuits apart from God. When we are spiritually dead, life is ultimately empty. Nothing in this world will fully satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts (see Psalm 73:25). But, in Jesus, we have purpose. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The Christian life is a fruitful life. We are invited to be part of God’s work in the world, tasked with sharing the gospel and making disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). We can do nothing apart from Jesus, but in Him we bear much fruit (John 15:5).

Jesus is the answer to our worries and doubts. Life involves hardship, and with hardship come worries, fears, and doubts. Jesus told His followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus reminded us of God’s love and care (Matthew 6:24–33). Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit to live with us forever (John 14:15–2116:7–15). Jesus is the reason we are not alone. Jesus is the answer to our fears and heartaches. He is able to sympathize with us because He has lived a human life in this broken world (Hebrews 4:15–16). Jesus gives us peace and equips us to endure, and even rejoice in, the hardships of this life (James 1:2–5).

Jesus is the answer to the problems of the world. Experience tells us that the world is broken and in need of repair—sometimes its brokenness is rather obvious. Jesus is the answer. He has a plan to fix this broken world: “The government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6–7). World peace has proved an elusive goal in our war-torn world, but one day Jesus will set all things right, and the Prince of Peace will rule in true justice, ushering in a time of blessing and bounty the world has never seen (Isaiah 11). Revelation 21 predicts a new heaven and new earth: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3–5).

A day is coming when the world’s problems will be solved; everything will be made new, and peace will reign. This is because of Jesus. We eagerly await His return, trusting that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

No matter what our individual needs, Jesus is the answer for our lives today, and He promises a better future to come.

Prophet Nathan Emol