Can I Build a Railway in Heaven?

Kunshan_South_Railway_Station_Platform_1Question:  Can I build a railway station in heaven?

Answer:  You know that heaven will come to earth in the end (Revelation 20,21).  Will there be a need for railways?  Will you be able, if so, to build one that doesn’t pollute?  Will we need a railway to our solar system or to other solar systems?  Will you cease to be creative…NO.  That is how God made us and we reflect Him in our creativity.  Will we want/need to work…YES, because God is a worker.  It’s in our nature.  Will our resurrection bodies be able to travel instantly where ever we want without use of a railway?  Perhaps.  Jesus was able to do that in his resurrection body (Luke 24).

For Further Reading:

Will There Be Winter in the Eternal Kingdom?

In Heaven Will We Recognize and Be With Those We Love?

Are My Husband and Father in Heaven Yet?

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If Christians are forgiven, why are we going to be judged?

Question:  It says in the Bible that those who are in Christ are free from condemnation. If this is so, why then willLast Judgement, Triptych we face judgment? And child molesters, rapists, and murderers, are they also free from condemnation when they accept Christ and repent? What sort of judgment might they receive? We will be judged according to our deeds? What does that mean? Christians say we should be free from guilt and shame and accept the free gift of grace and salvation. Then they say we will be judged. This is confusing to me. Should I fear for my salvation or just believe all is well? And honestly, where’s the justice? For those who lived a life of abuse and neglect, hurt, and shame caused by another, God says He will make things right for us. But if the perpetrator is forgiven completely, where’s justice for the victim?

Answer:  There are several judgments mentioned in the Bible.  The final judgment is mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15 and is often referred to as The Great White Throne Judgment because if depicts Jesus sitting on a white throne as he carries out this judgment.  But only unbelievers are present at this judgment, only those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s book of life.  They are thus judged for not having believed in Christ and they are also judged on their works.  This suggests that there are degrees of punishment in hell (see my article on this).  Dante, in his book Inferno, sought to describe what these different degrees of punishment looked like but there are no specific descriptions given in Scripture.

Believers, on the other hand, will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10):

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Though it may sound as if this determines whether we are saved or not, Paul makes it clear in all his writings, and especially in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, that this judgment is really about determining our reward in heaven.  Just as there are degrees of punishment in hell, there are degrees of reward in heaven.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).  When we believe we “pass from death to life” (John 5:24).

But your question suggests that for those who have been abused the presence of their perpetrator or any perpetrator in heaven because they repented and were forgiven may compromise your sense of reward.  This assumes that the sin of the perpetrator is different in kind than your sin and less worthy of forgiveness.  And truly, the sin of the perpetrator is egregious and heinous, having devastated and tortured the life of the victim in extraordinary ways.  But we are also rebels against God’s kingdom and rule.  We too have rejected the love and grace of God until He visited us in grace and forgave us.  We are equally undeserving of heaven.

Besides, when we are fully enveloped in the love of heaven, we will be able to love the perpetrator the way God loves the perpetrator and the way He loves us.  We will be able to say as Christ did, “Father, forgive them.”  The perpetrator will be able to acknowledge how deeply and gravely he injured those he abused and seek reconciliation.  We have seen a bit of this miraculous transformation in the aftermath of the end of apartheid in South Africa and in the forgiveness offered after the slaughter of Tutsis and Hutus.

There is a need in human beings, generated by the uncompromising love and justice of God, to see justice done and to see hatred quashed.  God has figured out a way to do both.  If there is not justice for the least infraction, there is no justice.  If there is not forgiveness for the worst infraction, there is no forgiveness.

 

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In Heaven Will We Recognize and Be With Those We Love?

Question:  My big sister just passed away a month ago. I know she is with Jesus, but I wanted to know if I will see her again in heaven.  Everyone says I will , but I don’t believe.  Is there any Bible verse that I can use to support this.

Answer: Consider Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 where he is comparing spiritual gifts and love as to their completeness and lasting nature.  He says that when the perfect (or mature) comes then the partial will be done away with.  Then, he says, we will know fully even as we are fully known.  This marks a change in our level of knowledge that is so incomplete at present, and others’ knowledge of us is incomplete as well.  But then it will be complete.  We will not lose our individuality and identity, but will be even more completely identifiable.

We see this when, for example, Saul consults a medium to talk to Samuel (1 Samuel 28) and the medium recognizes him.  When Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and his three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17) they are recognized.  When John has a vision of heaven (Revelation 4,5) he recognizes identifiable groups of people, the “elders,” for example.  We will never lose our identity and so we will be recognized and known in heaven.  Heaven is to be that place where all the perfection we have longed for will come true.  Our relationships will be at the level we always dreamed relationships could be.  Our selfishness will be eradicated.  We will love unconditionally.  Your relationship with your sister will be even more wonderful than it was in this life.

For further reading:

Will There Be Winter in the Earthly Kingdom?

Question:  I see many Watchtower articles depicting a lovely summer like landscape with kids playing with lions, tigers and bears and everyone has a gleeful look on their face.  We are experiencing a very cold, snowy winter so far and the outlook seems to be more of the same.  Will there be freezing cold winters in Paradise Earth?
I read: While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22 KJV)

Answer:  There are three phases to the kingdom:  (1) Jesus is currently ruling as king over his people and we live as subjects of the Crown in anticipation of the kingdom coming to earth, (2) Jesus will come and establish his kingdom on earth for 1,000 years, during which there will be births and deaths and a final rebellion led by Satan (Revelation 20), (3) then finally Jesus will hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) and earth will be remade with no seas and heaven, God’s abode, will come to earth in the form of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21,22).

The question we must answer is whether the time frame God gives in Genesis includes the millennial kingdom (phase 2) and the eternal kingdom (phase 3).  I am guessing that the millennial kingdom will still have seasons, but that with the remaking of the earth described in Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3:10 there is a case that might be made for this promise having been fulfilled and there no longer being seasons.  Could there still be seasons?  I am sure there could be and there might even be a desire for such for in each season we see something unique and special about God’s handiwork.

phases of the kingdom

For further reading:

Was Matthew 24 Fulfilled at the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70?

Question:  I had an interesting conversation with someone last week who said this passage in Matthew 24 was about the fall of Jerusalem not the rapture or end times. What do you think?

1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. 22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 Immediately after the distress of those days  ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30 At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that itd is near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generatione will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Answer:  It is a common hallmark of Biblical prophecy that there is an ultimate fulfillment of kingdom prophecies that nevertheless have multiple in-between fulfillments that are less than the ultimate fulfillment.  For example, God told the serpent that He would put enmity between the serpent and the woman and between her seed and his seed, and that the serpent would bruise the seed of the woman’s heel but the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).  We are almost immediately given an example of that in Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.  The apostle John, writing about this many centuries later, says Cain “belonged to the evil one” (1 John 3:12), an apparent reference to his being the seed of the serpent.  Many other attempts are made by the serpent (Satan) to destroy the godly seed (Joseph’s brothers selling him into captivity, Pharoah trying to have all boys born to Israelites killed, Baalam’s attempt to curse Israel, etc.) but in each case the godly seed survives and gains a victory over the ungodly.  However, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is found in Jesus, whom Satan manages to kill but whom God resurrects and who will come eventually to destroy Satan and all those who follow him.

In the same way, this prophecy in Matthew 24 has a near fulfillment and even some subsequent fulfillments (the attempted extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany), but the ultimate fulfillment is still waiting.  Yes, many of the features of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 fit Jesus’ description, but many do not.  Most obviously is the fact that Jesus did not come back in the clouds in a way that is obvious to all.  We are still looking for this coming so we should still expect these predictions to be fulfilled in the most literal and complete way.

Are We Making Too Much of an Obscure Reference to the Rapture?

Questions:

  1. Where does the idea of the RAPTURE come into Christian philosophy when it is not located in Revelation by which we place so much of the final times idea, but mentioned only once in Paul’s letters, 1st Thessalonians?
  2. I was doing some research and it I came up with something interesting. Apocalyptic literature was very popular and important during the times of John. It was used to “reveal” why and what was going on in the world symbolically at the time. Why then, do we take Apocalyptic literature and make it a prophecy?
  3. If the Christians are raptured, then who is going to be left to fight in the final battle?
  4. If the Christians are raptured away, then when Christ returns and remakes and rules over the Earthly Kingdom, then who gets to live there?
  5. When does the term antichrist come into Christian ideology when it is not used but 5 times in the Bible and not in Daniel or Revelation, but used more in Paul’s letters. When Paul uses this term, it seems to be used as doing things or ideas, that are not in the likeness of Christ, not necessarily a person. Paul says, for instance, that Christian communities that do not believe that Christ was flesh and blood are antichrist.

Answers:

  1. The word comes from the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (“caught up”) and describes the giving of resurrection bodies to those believers who are still alive at the coming of Christ.  Instead of their bodies being “raised” from the dead and made new like Christ’s, they are simply made new without going through death and made to ascend to where Christ is.  There is no reason to believe that Revelation is or should be the only New Testament book that addresses issues of eschatology (last things).  And there needs be mention only once for a concept to garner attention in Scripture.  Admittedly, this passage is one that is highly debated, not with regard to whether there will be a rapture but as to when it will occur.  Some believe it will occur prior to God’s outpouring of wrath (see Revelation 6-19) on earth and others that it will occur after that at the coming of Christ to earth to establish his kingdom.  The former believe that Jesus only comes in the air in a way that is not evident to all the world, takes up the dead in Christ and those still alive at his coming, keeps them in heaven until the wrath is finished, then comes to earth with them to establish the kingdom.  The latter believe he concludes the wrath with his coming, resurrecting and rapturing the saints, meeting them in the air and then immediately coming all the way down to earth to establish his kingdom.
  2. Though Christian writings follow commonly used forms of communication (letters, histories, apocalyptic) this does not mean they are slaves to the form and cannot in any way add something new to it.  The Gospels do not follow any form of that day exactly.  Paul’s letters take the letter form to a new level.  John’s apocalyptic form does not have to limit itself to speaking to present conditions only, especially when we consider that he knows the God of the universe who is and has been quite willing to tell the end from the beginning and who is concerned to warn us of the coming wrath so that we might flee to Jesus.
  3. Whichever view of the rapture you take (pre-outpouring of wrath, also called pre-tribulation rapture, or post-outpouring of wrath, post-tribulation rapture), it is those who belong to Jesus and have been resurrected or raptured who will help him fight the final battle (Revelation 19).
  4. The assumption in this question and the one before is that once you’ve been resurrected or raptured (the dead are resurrected, the living are raptured) then you go away somewhere.  But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that you go to be with Jesus and if he comes back to earth we will be with him.  Now on the pre-tribulation rapture view, when Jesus comes back all the way to earth to fight the final battle and establish his kingdom, those who have been resurrected and raptured will come with him, but they will also find on earth others who have believed in Jesus since or during the tribulation (wrath).  Together, they will populate the kingdom, those who have resurrection bodies and those who don’t, but all believers in Jesus.  On the post-tribulation rapture view, only resurrected/raptured believers will populate the kingdom.  This seems to pose a bit of a problem if you take Revelation 20 as describing the literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, because at the end of it Satan is released and is able to mount an army of humans who rebel against Jesus.  Where do these unbelievers come from?  The pre-tribulation rapturists believe that those believers who enter the kingdom without resurrected bodies will have children, who will have children, etc., who do not believe.  They make up the army of rebels at the end of Christ’s perfect rule on earth.
  5. Paul never uses the term “antichrist” but rather “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, therefore not a thing or idea).  Daniel talks about “the ruler who will come” and “confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’”, who then breaks that covenant by desecrating the temple, setting “up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:25-27).  John uses the term “antichrist” in 1 John 2:18, for example, where he says, “as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come,” and he references those of the church he is writing to who have left the congregation to follow false teachers.  It is these false teachers who are the antichrists.  He remarks in 4:3 that “every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” and that “this is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  Here it is the spirit of antichrist that John speaks of and this is indeed an idea or false idea that seeks to draw attention away from the true Jesus Christ.  But this does not mean that the “spirit of antichrist” is or can be separated from individuals.  It cannot.  And one day it will be embodied in a particular antichrist who is described in Revelation 13 as an individual empowered by Satan who seeks to deceive the world and convince them that he is to be worshiped.

Is Failure to Love the Greatest Heresy?

Question:  I read a blog by Greg Boyd recently that took to task guys like John Piper who tweeted, when Rob Bell’s book on hell came out, “Farewell, Rob Bell.”  He said that the greatest heresy in Christianity was failing to love as Christ loved, even and especially more so than having wrong doctrine.

Answer:  I would agree that Boyd makes a good point but would suggest that his point is not explicit enough.  What does he do with Jesus’ denunciation of the Pharisees (Matthew 23) or Paul’s wish that those who taught that circumcision as necessary for salvation would emasculate themselves (Galatians 5:12) and that if they preach a gospel other than what Paul preached they are eternally condemned (Galatians 1:9)?  Sometimes love means loving those who would be endangered by a false gospel enough to warn them of the voracious and hateful attacks of the enemy.   This means exposing the false teachers’ falsity and making clear what is at stake if you embrace their false gospel.

However, Boyd is right that we are too quick to use the term “heretic” when it applies to someone who really doesn’t compromise the gospel.  We ought to engage those who teach things like Bell has on hell to make sure they are not compromising the gospel.  He claims that he still believes that he must preach Jesus as the only way.  He is, in my opinion, dangerously near the edge, but not over it yet.  Here is where Boyd is right on about how we fail to engage one another lovingly and as brothers and sisters before we shoot off about how heretical they are.  To be fair, Rob Bell has been on the doctrinal edge for many years now in the opinion of many.  Great caution is warranted when embracing his views.  But until he repudiates the core of the gospel, he is our brother and needs our love.

Randall Johnson