You are God Alone

Tonight a couple of friends and I met for our study of Ephesians chapter 1. I had prepared to teach verses 15-23, but we only made it through the first part of verse 18. We had a profitable and challenging discussion about several points from the verses 15-18, but we weren’t able to get to the high point of the passage, which comes at the end of the chapter.

15For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of  him who fills all in all.

We’ve studied the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ, and this paragraph culminates the chapter in praise to God for these riches and exalts Christ as the ruler over all. In these verses, Paul heaps up descriptions of Christ’s power and authority. His power is immeasurably great. God raised Christ from the dead and then seated him in a place of power and prominence–at his right hand. Christ’s “rule and authority and power and dominion” are “far above all” other rulers. Christ’s name is above all other names. No matter how powerful a ruler is on earth, his authority doesn’t come close to Christ’s. We’ve seen some powerful rulers fall this year, but Christ will never lose power and authority; he will reign supreme “not only in this age but also in the one to come.” All people and all things–every speck of matter–are “under his feet,” under his control. Christ is the head of the church, and He abundantly supplies all our needs and completes the church–His people–so nothing  is lacking.

I had all of these thoughts in my head, when I heard this song on the way home from Bible study. I had to pull over to the side of the road, because I was crying and singing out in praise to God. What a beautiful expression of God’s power and authority! And how perfectly this song connected with what I have been studying and learning the past few days!

You are not a God
Created by human hands
You are not a God
Dependant on any mortal man
You are not a God
In need of anything we can give
By Your plan, that’s just the way it is

[chorus]
You are God alone
From before time began
You were on Your throne
You are God alone
And right now
In the good times and bad
You are on Your throne
You are God alone

You’re the only God
Whose power none can contend
You’re the only God
Whose name and praise will never end
You’re the only God
Who’s worthy of everything we can give
You are God
And that’s just the way it is

[Bridge]

Unchangeable
Unshakable
Unstoppable
That’s what You are

[chorus]
You are God alone
From before time began
You were on Your throne
You are God alone
And right now
In the good times and bad
You are on Your throne
You are God alone

Copyright 2004 Billy Foote Music

Heaven: Some Assumptions and Research Questions

As I mentioned in my first post about heaven, there are many differing views of heaven. Every organized religious group has a different concept of heaven, and it seems like every teacher or writer within those groups has a different view. I think this is because we have relatively little information about the afterlife in general and heaven in particular. We have to interpret Jesus’s teachings and the writings of those few people who have gone to heaven and returned (the Apostles John and Paul, for example).

Assumptions

All that to state a couple of basic assumptions as I study this topic. First, I don’t think that my study/conclusions will be the final word on the topic. I’ll be adding my ideas to the many others already published. Even within historic, orthodox Christianity there are different views about heaven. Second, I believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God and I plan to base my study on the word of God. However, I’ll also look at historic confessions of faith, sermons, books, songs, and poetry for added insight.

Research Questions

Here are some of the questions I have as I begin this study:

  1. How is heaven described in the Bible?
  2. What was the Old Testament view of heaven?
  3. Did the Old Testament concept of heaven change with added Scripture?
  4. How did (or did) the view of heaven change in the New Testament?
  5. What were Jesus Christ’s teachings about heaven?
  6. What were the Apostles’ teachings about heaven?
  7. Is it right to present heaven as the final goal of salvation?
  8. Similarly, is it right to ask “If you died today, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?” [Author’s note: My WordPress editor tells me that the phrase “know for sure” is redundant. I know that, but I consistently hear people phrase the question that way. Just last night I heard a preacher ask this question, so I deliberately wrote it that way.]
  9. Will we have bodies in heaven?
  10. Is there an intermediate state between life on earth and eternal life in heaven?
  11. How does my view of heaven affect my everyday life?
  12. On what basis do I accept or deny someone’s teaching about heaven?

Your Questions

What are some questions you have about heaven?

Heaven

I’ve thought a lot about heaven lately, partly because of our book club’s study of The Five People You Meet in Heaven and partly because Dr. Watson, the Minister of Education I worked under for 6 years in Guam, entered into eternity last week. Whenever someone I know passes away, heaven seems much more real.

I decided to do some more research about what the Bible says about heaven. Recently, some long-accepted beliefs of mine have been challenged and sometimes I found that I was holding to ideas that were not in Scripture, so I wanted to investigate what the Bible has to say about heaven and try to look at the Scriptures with a fresh perspective.

Now, when people talk about heaven, they’re not always referring to the same thing. They may use the same term, but they explain it in different ways. A quick Google search shows that

  1. Ancient Egyptians believed “departed souls would undergo a literal journey to reach Heaven, along the way to which there could exist hazards and other entities attempting to deny the reaching of Heaven. Their heart would finally be weighed with the feather of truth, and if the sins weighed it down their heart was devoured.”
  2. Maria Shriver believes heaven is “a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk… If you’re good throughout your life, then you get to go [there]… When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you heaven to be with him.”
  3. Notre Dame’s Jesuit Biblical Scholar John McKenzie says, “The traditional views of heaven and hell are about 95% mythology.”
  4. Barbara Walters says, “Heaven is a place where you are happy.”
  5. According to researchers at Baylor University, “U.S. adults [were polled] about who (and how many) will get into heaven, 54% of respondents said at least half of average Americans will make it through the Pearly Gates.”
  6. “Everyone is going to hell according to someone’s religion.”

I clicked on six links and found six different views. I suspect I could keep clicking on links and only find differing perspectives.

I thought this video segment was really interesting. Stephen Colbert interviews Lisa Miller, Newsweek’s religion editor and author of Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife. They discuss the many views of heaven and which ones they think are the best. I think it’s interesting that Lisa credits Dante with the best heaven and says the Jews “invented” heaven.

I couldn’t embed the video, so here is the link: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/310027/june-02-2010/lisa-miller

Well, this post became a long introduction to the topic of heaven. I plan to write several posts that look at Scripture passages that refer to heaven and to share some quotes, essays, and songs that I’ve read about heaven.

What are some views of heaven you’ve heard others describe? How would you describe heaven?