Possessor of Heaven and Earth

Another theme that emerged as I looked up verses that used the word “heaven” was that God is the “Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” He created heaven and earth, as I wrote earlier, and He rules over heaven and earth with absolute power.

Genesis 14:19 is the first reference to God as “possessor of heaven and earth.”

19And he [Melchizedek] blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

Deuteronomy 10:14 says, “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.”

Similarly,  Nehemiah 9:6 says, “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host,the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

Jesus Christ addresses God as the Lord of heaven and earth in Matthew 11:25:

 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children

Paul acknowledges God’s sovereignty with the same title during his sermon recorded in Acts 17 (v. 24 is quoted here): The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.”

Parallelism in Ephesians 2:1-10

I’ve been studying Ephesians 2:1-10 for the ladies Bible study tomorrow night, and I arranged the passage visually (à la Justin Taylor) so I could see the flow of thought better. This method of breaking down a passage can help you see parallelism and follow complicated syntax. I’m sure there are other ways you could arrange these ideas, but this is what I came up with and this was helpful to me as I studied the passage.

1 And you

were dead in the trespasses and sins

2 in which you once walked,

following the course of this world,

following the prince of the power of the air,

the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,

carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,

and were by nature children of wrath,

like the rest of mankind.

But God,

being rich in mercy,

because of the great love with which he loved us,

even when we were dead in our trespasses,

made us alive together with Christ—

by grace you have been saved—

and raised us up with him

and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.

And this is not your own doing;

it is the gift of God,

9 not a result of works,

so that no one may boast.

10 For we are his workmanship,

created in Christ Jesus

for good works,

which God prepared beforehand,

that we should walk in them.

    

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?

He is Risen!

I went to my first ever Easter sunrise service today, and it was so beautiful and special to sing and hear of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, while watching a gorgeous sunrise over the bay.

1. Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!

Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

2. Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!

Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

3. Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!

Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

4. Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!

Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!

Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!

Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

5. Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!

Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!

Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!

Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

6. Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!

Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!

Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!

Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

7. King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!

Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!

Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!

Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

8. Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!

Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!

Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!

Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

9. But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!

Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!

Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!

Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

10. Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!

Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!

Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!

Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia

by Charles Wesley

Readings for Holy Week: Easter Sunday

Here’s a chart of the  “Harmony of the Events of Holy Week” from the ESV Study Bible and a timeline of Holy Week from Bible Gateway.

The selections below are based on the harmony of the Gospels in the ESV Study Bible.

Empty-tomb witnesses

Matthew 28:1-8

[28:1] Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. [2] And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. [3] His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. [4] And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. [5] But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. [6] He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. [7] Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” [8] So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Mark 16:1-8

[16:1] When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. [2] And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. [3] And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” [4] And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. [5] And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. [6] And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. [7] But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” [8] And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Luke 24:1-12

[24:1] But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. [2] And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, [3] but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. [4] While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. [5] And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? [6] He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, [7] that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” [8] And they remembered his words, [9] and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. [10] Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, [11] but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. [12] But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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