WHY ANOTHER WORLD?
WHY ANOTHER WORLD? Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Why is God developing another world? Christians who have had near-death experiences, and have returned to tell us about what they experienced, leave little doubt that the spirit realm where the righteous dead abide is truly the most wonderful fairyland imaginable. On some occasions these saints have been reluctant to return to life on earth.
If the spirit world, Heaven, is so marvelous, and no doubt it is, what need is there for the restoration of the material world; for the Scriptures teach clearly that the Lord Jesus will return and establish righteousness on the present earth.
WHY ANOTHER WORLD?
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
Yesterday morning (March 24, 2002) when I awakened the spirit Paradise was present in my mind. I do not mean by this I could see clearly into Paradise. I wish I could. But Paradise was present, neverthelessmuch more than usually is the case with me.
Being seventy-six years of age, I was greatly blessed to realize some day in the not too distant future I will be there in the great fantasyland we call Heaven. No more worries! No more tiredness! No more bills! No more income tax to fuss with! No more pain! No more death!
I have always been one of those who hear the horns of elfland, as C. S. Lewis would express it. I do not dabble in occult practices but restrict myself to that which clearly is of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet I long for the day when I can live in that enchanting place.
I am an aficionado of books written by people who have had near-death experiences, or who actually have died and then been revived. There are several such books in my library. Every once in a while, when life becomes just too involved and tiring, I kick back in my mind and realize "some day I will be finished with these problems and enjoying myself in never-never land." This is wonderfully refreshing and renewing.
I have Rebecca Springer, Marietta Davis, Sundar Singh, and other such accounts in my collection. I hope you do too.
Yesterday, Sunday, as I "rose from the dead" (older people will understand what I mean), the consciousness of the next life was impressed on my mind. In fact, the impression continued through a good part of the day.
Now, the remarkable thing about this new awareness of the spirit Paradise is that I have been preaching with might and main for the last thirty-or-more years that our goal is not eternal residence in Heaven but life in and with Christ on this earth, when He returns, and then on the new earth at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
I am not one to haggle over details. So what if I have preached the Kingdom all these years! If there is a delightful wonderland to be had, I am ready.
Yet, I know from the Scriptures that our salvation is pointed toward the renewal of life on the earth. However, in my frame of mind yesterday I began to wonder if the renewal of life on the earth was such a good idea after all. If our next life in the spirit realm is all this marvelous, coming back to earth to fight the Battle of Armageddon, after having enjoyed the beauty of Paradise for a season, was becoming something less than attractive.
Why another world? If the spirit Paradise is so great, why fill the present earth with the Glory of the Lord? Why not just bring the saved to Paradise and be done with it?
A rule of thumb is, if something is working, dont try to fix it.
So on the one hand I am reflecting on the beauty of Paradise, with the little children playing in the orchards. On the other hand I am thinking about returning with Christ to drive sin from the earth, which at the moment did not seem to be that good of an idea.
So I asked the Lord, "How do these do concepts come together? Why am I preaching Your will be done on earth when it already is being done in Heaven? I believe there is room enough for all of us in Heaven! We really dont need another world!"
Why have I been preaching the Kingdom of God; that the goal of salvation is the resumption of life on the earth? I know this is scriptural, but I dont understand the reason for it when the spirit Paradise is so desirable.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday. As we drove to church I had in mind to continue with our study of the last chapter of the Book of Revelation. I never let calendar events, such as the nearness of Easter, interfere with what I think the Lord wants me to speak on. I am apt to preach on Joels army on Mothers Day.
I usually get my messages during the hour before the service. The Lord gives me the burden for the morning; and I often will tell the congregation as I begin: "This is what the Lord is saying to you right now!"
(I am using too many Is this morning. I this and I that. Perhaps it is because thus far this has been a narrative in the first person. I could say "he" or "Bob" thought and did so and so, but that seems weird. I could use "we" in place of "I," I suppose, but that sounds contrived. So I will continue. Oh well, please bear with me.)
As I stated, I remain in prayer the hour prior to the Sunday morning service to make sure I am hearing what it is the Lord wants to say to the people.
As I mused, my mind was drawn to the last chapter of the Book of Luke, where the risen Lord was talking to the Eleven, and to those with whom He had visited on the way to Emmaus.
Then an inkling of how the concept of the spirit Paradise, and the Kingdom of God on the earth, are related, appeared on the horizon of my mind. The resolution has to do with the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The morning-reading from the Bible began to switch in my thinking from the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Revelation to the last chapter of Luke. This kind of change in what I have planned does not happen often and I always am suspicious of it. So I went up to the pulpit with some misgivings. Where is this going to go? But it is Palm Sunday, and I am burdened about the resurrection, so is helpful.
I began not certain of where I was going. Usually it is not a good idea to present questions to the congregation when you dont know the answers.
So we read together Luke, Chapter Twenty-four, verse 36, and continued to the end of the chapter.
And then I jumped off the cliff.
I began by informing the congregation (which is accustomed to my reminding them that our goal as Christians is to live in resurrection life on the earth) about how marvelous the spirit Paradise is. I pointed out that man was created in a garden and the garden of Eden is in the recesses of our memory. This is why most of us enjoy gardens and nature.
Actually, our hope of going to Heaven is based on our desire to get back to the garden that once was in Eden on the earth, and then was withdrawn to the spirit realm because of our rebellion against our Creator.
I spoke to the congregation about the different books I have read, the accounts of people who have seen the other side, and what a blessing these reports have been to me when I become too involved in the never ending problems of this life
I reminded the folks that the Bible does not present as taking place in Heaven any of these idyllic scenes we are picturing, but on the present earth or the new earth. Actually, with the exception of the description of the new heaven and earth and the new Jerusalem, there is very little in the New Testament about life after death. We have somewhat of a clue in the appearing of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. It appears at least some people are engaged in meaningful occupations.
We have the following three passages, and they are not especially comforting:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (Revelation 6:9)
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God (Revelation 15:2)
There may be other descriptions in the New Testament of life after death, but I cant think of any.
Notice that none of these three passages presents anything like what we picture life will be like after we die. There is no garden here! There is no indication of what we usually associate with "going to Heaven." The delightful world seen by those who have returned from the shadow of death is absent.
So I told the congregation that right while I was standing in front of them the spirit Paradise was strongly in my consciousness, and represented a very desirable destiny, even though I could not back up the impression with passages of Scripture. However, I went on to say, the fact of the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus tells us that God is interested in perfecting another world, the world of flesh and bonethe material realm, in other words.
I said also that I do not understand why God wants to establish a physical world when He already has a spirit Paradise. The only explanation I can come up with is somehow the material world, once God has made it the way He wants it, will be a better realm than the spirit Paradise. God certainly is not going to have His Son pray for the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth unless they compose a desirable inheritance.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." (Psalms 2:8,9)
Are you following me? Do you see the question in my mind? If the spirit Paradise is so marvelous, what is all this about inheriting the nations and the ends of the earth? Why return from Paradise and start bashing people with an iron scepter?
Does this make sense to you?
I can understand Christ would come from the ivory palaces into this world of woe in order to save sinners and bring them to Paradise. But having done that, why return and fight with the devil over the earth?
Can you see from what I have said thus far what the congregation I pastor has to put up with on Sunday morningand Palm Sunday at that?
We turned to the last chapter of Luke and considered the resurrection.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." (Luke 24:36-39)
If it werent for the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Christianity would be a totally different religion. It is the return of Christ to the world of flesh and bone that reveals Gods plan to restore Paradise to the earth.
Apparently, from what the Lord said, the nail prints were still in His hands and feet. He did not ask them to look at His face.
We too are to be raised bodily from the dead.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice And come outthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
Whether we like it or not our body will be called up from its place in the grave.
Some will rise to live. Werent they alive prior to their resurrection while they were in the spirit Paradise?
I suppose we are going to have to get used to the idea that man comprises spirit, soul, and body; and we are not considered to be truly alive until we have regained our body from the dead. The souls in the spirit Paradise are not alive in the manner in which the Lord desires man to be alive. Something to think about!
Some will rise to be condemned. Where were they in the spirit realm prior to the time their body is called up from the grave?
Because our life and our condemnation are established when we are raised from the dead, it seems to me that the most important exhortation in our teaching and preaching ought to be concerned with our preparation for the day in which we are raised from the dead.
In current preaching the idea is that we are saved so when we die we go to Heaven. But what if the actual issue is that of salvation in the day of resurrection? I think this change of emphasis deserves the most careful attention.
It certainly is important that we go to the Lord when we leave this earth. But how much more important is it that we receive life when we are raised from the dead; and not only receive life, but receive the reward that may influence our destiny for eternity!
For example, the Apostle Paul spoke of his desire to die and go to be with the Lord.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)
When we consider the physical abuse to which Paul was subjected we can understand readily why he would desire to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
But when Paul spoke of the time when he would be crowned with the authority and power of righteousness, he referred to the day of resurrection.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that dayand not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (II Timothy 4:8)
Not when I die, but "on that day." Paul knew he would not be rewarded when he died but in the Day of Christ, the day when his body is called forth from the grave.
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come outthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28,29)
Notice that the issue of being resurrected to eternal life is not that of accepting Christ but of doing good or evil. I think this is important to understand, because the Apostle Paul stated we are going to reap what we have sown. Apparently this is true whether or not we have professed belief in Christ.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7,8)
Beyond all doubt, in the above verse Paul is speaking to the believers in Galatia. He is not writing to the unbelievers, obviously.
Consider this: Let us say we have died and gone to Paradise in the spirit realm. We have been there for awhile and have become part of that wonderful world.
Then the time comes for Christ to return to earth and attack Antichrist and his armies, the period when the Kingdom of God is to be installed on the earth by violence.
We have been blissfully happy in the garden of God in the spirit realm. But the Scripture claims that if Christ has become our life, we are to appear with Him. We are to rule with Him over an earth from which He and we have driven all sin and rebellion against God.
We have known joy in the spirit realm such as never has been experienced on the earth. Now we have to return and face Antichrist, the False Prophet, Satan, and the armies of wicked people.
Is this your idea of a good time? Did you ever consider that after you have died and gone to Heaven you might be required to return?
Again we ask: Why? Why not let well enough alone? Why leave Heaven and return to an earth filled with sin and rebellion?
Yet, according to the Scriptures, this is exactly what is going to occur. God is going to crush Satan under the feet of the saints.
Lets turn now to the Book of Isaiah and review a passage that we associate with a better world. Let us see where this better world is. Is it in the spirit realm, or is it in the material creation.?
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the vipers nest. (Isaiah 11:6-8)
Sounds like Heaven, doesnt it?
But look at the next verse:
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
From my point of view, the above verse is not referring to the new earth but to the present earth after Christ and His saints have returned from Heaven.
How wonderful to live on an earth from which the Divine curse has been removed. But will it be better than the spirit Paradise from which the Christ and His saints have returned?
Notice what must take place before the curse can be removed:
And he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; But with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isaiah 11:3-5)
The question is, is it desirable that Christ and His saints return from Heaven and remove the curse from the earth? Why should Christ return to "strike the earth with the rod of His mouth"? Is this what we, while reclining at our ease in the heavenly garden, really and truly want to happen? Do we want to be involved in this?
I guess it does not matter whether we regard His and our return to earth as desirable, for this is what the Scriptures state.
Our religion, Christianity, has been infiltrated heavily by an ancient philosophy called Gnosticism. Gnosticism teaches that matter is evil and spirit is good. Because of this fundamental premise, Gnostics will not accept the fact that Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead. Also, Gnostics view the spirit Paradise as the goal of salvation.
The Bible does not regard matter as evil and spirit as good. In the beginning God created the material realm and pronounced it very good. But rebellion entered the wonderful material realm, and this rebellion came from the spirit realm. In fact, to the present hour we are warring against the lords of sin in the heavenly realms.
Because this is true, because God exclaimed how good the works of His hands are, and because it is the evil in the spirit realm that corrupts the good creation, we have the possibility that the material realm, being very good to begin with, is actually superior to the spirit realm, and was created by the Lord because He is displeased with what has taken place, and still is taking place, in the spirit realm.
Paradise was on earth to begin with. Then God removed Paradise to the spirit realm because of our sin. God also drove evil from His presence to the point that His will now is being done in the highest heaven, in the area where Paradise has been placed after being lifted from the earth. Paul refers to this area as the "third heaven."
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not knowGod knows. And I know this manwhether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows Was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. (II Corinthians 12:2-4)
The Scriptures seem to indicate that today God is perfecting rulers and priests who will be able to maintain Paradise once God returns Paradise to the earth.
There are two things which the average person desires. He desires to be pleasing to God and to have fellowship with God. This is the deepest longing of the human soul, and Jesus is the only Way to such acceptance and fellowship with the Father.
The second thing the average person desires is to live in Paradise. It is wonderful and refreshing just to consider what it would be like to live in a perfect world where there is no sin, no sickness, no death, no pain, no grueling responsibilities and work to perform.
If we had fellowship and acceptance with God, and lived in a perfect world surrounded by our loved ones, I think we would be as happy as it is possible to be.
Well, this was the situation in which man was placed when he was created. Apparently the original Eden was located in the region of the Persian Gulf.
It seems to me that God has in mind to restore His Presence and Paradise to the earth. But first He must work with people who are willing to be conformed to the image of Christ and who are willing to rest in Gods will and not seek their own will. When God has such people He can restore Paradise to the earth, and then install as rulers and priests the people whom He has transformed.
If you were given your choice, would you prefer to live in the spirit realm, or on the earth when the curse has been lifted and the nations of saved people are being governed by Jesus Christ and His saints?
Please give this decision some thought before you answer. Be scrupulously honest with yourself. I think the time given to the careful consideration of the two alternatives will provide rewarding insight into your own heart and discipleship, and your understanding of the Scriptures and of the Kingdom of God.
Actually the Kingdom of God is Paradise clothed with flesh and bone, and it is to be located on the present earth, and then on the new earth. It was Paradise clothed with flesh and bone that walked out of the cave of Joseph of Arimathea.
The spirit Paradise in the present hour is glorious beyond anything we can imagine. We hope to go there when we die.
However, it is not Gods plan that we live forever in the spirit realm. Gods heart is in the earth. This is where His Son died. God loves people. He did not create them in Heaven, as He did the angels. He created people on the earth and this is where God means for them to live.
Now we can understand the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was raised from the dead as the Firstfruits of the new creation, the creation that is Paradise clothed with flesh and bone.
Furthermore, God is moving His Throne to Jerusalem. Heaven is Gods Throne. When God moves His throne to Jerusalem, it will be the same as God moving Heaven to Jerusalem. Jerusalem will become Heaven, in this sense.
At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. (Jeremiah 3:17)
In the present hour we are entering a travail that will result in Christ being formed to a greater extent in His people. It is the internal Kingdom of God that is being formed in us.
As soon as the internal kingdom has been formed, Christ will return to this present earth with His saints and holy angels. Then the kingdom that has been formed in the saint will be revealed for the world to see. The King, the glorified saints, and the mighty angels who do Gods will constitute the outer Kingdom of God.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
The curse shall be removed from the material creation at the hands of Christ and His saints.
There is no scriptural evidence that the Apostle Paul was seeking to make the spirit Paradise his eternal residence. However, there is clear evidence that Paul was laying aside all else that he might attain to the resurrection that is out from the dead: that is, the resurrection of Gods kings and priests who will appear with Christ and establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
Paul groaned for the redemption of his body, for his adoption as a son of God.
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
As we draw closer to the return of Christ to the earth, God will teach and enable us so we may be released from our sinful, rebellious nature. Our deliverance from sin is not so we may be able to make Heaven our home but so we will be able to make the earth our home.
We will not be raised from the dead so we can go to Heaven but so we can enjoy life once again on the earth.
I am not certain I have answered the question why God is not content with the spirit world and is going to so much trouble to develop a satisfactory material world
I think we all have faith that God knows what He is doing. If He is so anxious to restore what He began on this earth, then He must be going to make a world that is better than the spirit world.
I am not certain, however, that we will be fully persuaded the material realm is better than the spirit realm until we first have died and lived for awhile in the spirit Paradise, and then have returned to earth in the resurrection and have lived for awhile in a sinless material world.
We can taste both worlds and see which we desire. If we desire to stand by the sea of glass with the angels and the Cherubim of Glory, I have no doubt this will be granted to us. After all, God has promised us fullness of joy, and joy cannot be full until we possess all we desire.
However if the sin and death have been removed from the material world, and if God and Christ are here, and if we are surrounded with our loved ones, and if we do not have to toil ceaselessly in the midst of problems, pressures, pains, and other difficulties, I would like to give it a try.
How do you feel about this?