WHAT WILL OUR HOME FOR ETERNITY BE LIKE?
Heaven. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a little more than usual since seeing a movie about a fortnight ago.
The movie was called The Theory of Everything, and told the story of the life and relationships of Professor Stephen Hawking, cosmologist.
Professor Hawking, of course, is best known for his theories on how the world began, and on the black holes in the universe. He is almost as well known for his computerised speaking voice, the end result of decades of motor neurone disease.
Now you don’t need to worry that I’m going to spend the rest of the exhort explaining the English professor’s scientific theories. Even if you would like me to, I couldn’t, because quite simply my very limited intelligence doesn’t allow me to understand them!
The movie actually spent most of its two hours describing Hawking’s marriage to his wife and realities of life without movement or ordinary speech, so if you do want to watch, don’t be worried if, like me, your science knowledge is limited.
All you need to know for today is that Hawking had a theory – and I emphasise here had a theory – because research by others led him to withdraw the idea – that if the universe had no boundaries, then when it stopped expanding and eventually collapsed, time would run backwards.
This theory allowed the filmmakers to do a clever summary as a rewind through all the moments of his life, heading back to the beautiful but formless beginning of the universe.
The beauty of the universe, the incredible size, space and age of it, leads me to think of God, the only one who could fathom it and of course create it, and when I think of God, I think of where he’s at, heaven.
It’s natural that we are curious of heaven – it’s where God is (of course his spirit is everywhere), with Christ at his right hand. But, actually, the book which creates that curiousity, the Bible, actually calls us to focus on the Kingdom of God – where we, it is promised, can end up, rather than the no-doubt beautiful but out-of-this-earth heaven.
I wonder how much you think about the Kingdom of God, the rujevanted earth, the all encompassing kingdom running out from Jerusalem?
If you’re like me, it’s probably not that often. We stop and pray, but I certainly don’t spend time in that prayer, or reading, imagining myself in the perfect land, relaxing and worshipping with Christ around.
Today we will. Not because every or even most of our life should be spent imagining the future, but because knowing where we are going – and being motivated to get there – is the only way to reach our destination. And, to stick to that path during the bumps, or crashes, along the way, we need to know the destination is worth it. My aim today then is to remind us all Why the Destination is worth the Deprivation.
So what does the bible tell us about the Kingdom of God on earth. There are 5 things I’ll run through.
Eternity is pointed to – your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me, your throne shall be established forever (2 Sam 7: 16).
It’s obvious that the kingdom is eternal. But it is worth contrasting this to every other part of our life to understand, as best we can, the value we should place on this promised place and promised existence.
Everything we work hard for in this life, the job that pays for the house, for the car, the job that funds the entertainment we enjoy, is fleeting in comparison.
The weekly or monthly pay is soon consumed on the home we seek to own, on the food we will still be hungry for a day later.
We have seen, sadly, in Canberra how temporary our most stable physical asset – our homes – can be with the Mr Fluffy asbestos clean-up, with many people deeply upset that their home will be one of the more than 1000 torn down in the next five years.
We see it also in our governments. Government of men and women have always been limited in time, limited by individuals lives, challengers for power and circumstance, but with two first-term state governments thrown out within three months, and a federal government in serious danger of heading the same way, we are being hit between the eyes with how fleeting human power is.
In contrast, the kingdom of God will have a clear leader in everything – Christ – and his growing number of followers will create a place without personal ambition. But what is achieved, will be forever for his followers. There will be no wasted energy, because those under Christ’s influence, eventually all after 1000 years, will be free from death and sorrow.
I thought to myself this week, how wonderful it would be if we came home to our TVs and it was Jesus Christ on the screen, talking to us directly, describing decisions for his Kingdom, and not our compromised and often hypocritical leaders. I’m not sure whether there will be TV in the Kingdom of God but if there is, won’t it be wonderful to see the man and saviour who we live for on it.
“He [God] shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4).
We were in the UN building in New York last September and they had this military spending figure, continually rising up every second you were there. We were there about 1pm, 13 hours into the day, and the world spend was $3 billion.
But it goes much further than this of course. We know that Christ will be ruler over all the earth – Psalm 72: 7-8 says so, from sea to sea, river to earth – and so as one Kingdom, with only those faithful to God, there will be no need for passports, no need for security, for police. No need, of course, for courts, because no one will wrong anyone else. Everyone will know God, will be focused on him, and so everyone can be trusted.
The main city of Jerusalem will be on the northern side of Mount Zion.
“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion on the side of the north, the city of the great king.” (Psalm 48:1,2).
Jerusalem will be the first world capital that there has ever been. Imagine the sheer scale and magnificence of the buildings required. People will be awe-struck at the grandeur of the buildings!
“For behold, the kings assembled, they passed by together, they saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled they hastened away.” (Psalm 48:4-5).
From Ezekiel ch.40-48, we learn that the temple will be a square with each side being 1.37 km in length. This section will surround Mount Zion. A stream of water will rise up through the centre of the mountain, and flow down the mountain, and then run alongside the temple before turning into a river that flows down to the Dead Sea.
[Here present painting. I started thinking about the universe, but this is closer. Colours, water, mountain and earth. But there is something missing – can you see what it is? People]
- **RAISED UP, AS PRIESTS AND KINGS
“The meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace . . . For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth . . . The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell therein for ever” (Psalm 37:11,22,29). Repeated by Jesus in (Matthew 5:5).
But the promise is not just that we will be there, spectators or servants. In contrast, we will be raised up – we will be like royalty, kings and priests to God. The humble will be exalted.
And John had a vision of the redeemed (those delivered from sin and death), who sing:
“Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood . . . and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9,10).
The Kingdom of God will be a place for celebration, for music. Throughout the old testament music is used regularly to celebrate and worship God. Psalms is a book of it, such as Ps 147:6, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving, make to our God on the Harp.”
Revelation 5: we know that first the four living creatures and the 24 elders sing, then countless thousands angels sing, and then every creature on and under the earth and sea, sing praises to the one on the throne and the Lamb.
The kingdom of God will be established from Jerusalem, with Christ as its head, growing to encompass the whole world, offering freedom, hope and salvation to all mankind. We will be resurrected and take our place.
This kingdom will be a restoration of the kingdom of David, in fulfillment of II Sam. 7.
AND for all that, it gets better of course, because at the end of the 1000 years, Christ hands the entire earth over to God.
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3)
And what do we do to gain all of this?
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16).
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8).
Stephen Hawking used his undoubted earthly intelligence to look back to the black holes, the expanses of the universe. He looked forward – to the day, he thinks when we might stumble on a wholly unpromised form of intelligent life elsewhere. But the self-declared atheist has not looked at, or at least embraced the promise of the most beautiful, eternal future, of the Kingdom of God. That is where the greatest beauty – and the greatest love, of course, in Christ who died for us, and God who gave that only son — can be found.
The Destination is worth every bump and agony, every rejection along the way. I don’t need to say today what those deprivations will be, you know what they have been for you or might be. But I hope this today has been an encouragement, a refresher that the Destination is worth the deprivation.
We pray that more people embrace the reality that is the kingdom to come, and we ask for God’s strength to share the words of the Destination until our time when we are raised to it.