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Entries in Heaven (5)

Tuesday
Nov062018

My Personal End Times: The New Heavens & the New Earth

Revelation 21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 4, 2018.

We are now at the last point of our series.  For the sake of time, I have broken this up into two sermons.  It begins with God’s promise to recreate the universe.  Throughout the Bible God reveals to us that He truly is the master of creation, and can even melt it down and recreate it when He wants.  So here we get a brief glimpse of what that new creation will look like, and the wisdom of God who is bringing us to it.

All things are made new

I will use the phrase from vs. 5 for our point because it describes what verses 1-4 are showing us.  The things of this world have grown old through use and abuse, but God has a day in which He will renew and refashion it to where it is both fresh and greater. 

Verse 1 makes it clear that in the last chapter the old heavens and earth were melted down and then sometime after the judgment recreated.  The new “heaven” here means the cosmos or universe and not the spirit realm where the throne of God is.  As for the new earth it is not just renewed, as in being brought back to a fresh state of the same thing.  It is also, refashioned into a different form.  We see this because it shares the detail that this new earth has no sea.  This does not mean that there is no water, but that large bodies of water like the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, or the oceans, for that matter, will be no more.  Throughout the Bible the waters were a great separating instrument to mankind.  It was also used as a symbolic representation of the turbulence of the nations.  Thus God will remove the physical barriers to mankind’s unity and the spiritual problems that drive its constant dissensions.

Verse 2 introduces the New Jerusalem, which comes down from God (i.e. it comes down from the third heaven).  This does not seem to be connected to the old Jerusalem on earth, which would have clearly been destroyed.  This is typically referred to as the Final State (condition), or the Eternal State.  This new creation is what we will inhabit into eternity.  Of course it would be folly to try and comprehend what plans God has for us in the Eternal State, other than to recognize that the emphasis is that now we can do it in perfect fellowship with God.

The New Jerusalem descends from Heaven

The New Jerusalem is compared to a bride adorned for her husband in verse 2.  However, in verses 9-10 it is called the bride of the Lamb (i.e. Christ).  Is the city just a symbol and not an actual city?  The descriptions to follow are far too detailed to treat the whole thing as simply a symbol of the Church.  Just as God’s people have been prepared to live with Jesus in eternity, so the city has been prepared to be the place of our dwelling, which leads us to the next point.

We are told in verse 4 that God wipes each tear from their eyes.  It is not saying that He will do that from then on because all the sources of pain will be no more: death, sorrow, crying, and pain.  Here we see the cathartic or healing experience of God removing any remnants of the old earth and its imprint upon our minds.  This is the ultimate renewing of our minds.  In verse 5 we are told that this plan and purpose of God is “true and faithful.”  It truly is His plan, and He will surely accomplish it.  God will bring it to pass for all who trust Him in this life.

In verses 6-8 we are given several promises from God and a warning.  First we hear the phrase “it is done” connected to that point in time.  This is in contrast to the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished.”  They are two different Greek words.  At the cross Jesus used a word that was used to state that a debt had been paid in full.  Thus at the cross it was finished in the sense that Christ had paid the price for salvation.  However, at the New Heavens and the New Earth “it is done” means that salvation/healing has been fully accomplished.  God has completed the task of overcoming the rebellion and corruption of the old universe.

Next the fountains of the Water of Life are promised to those who are thirsty.  There is a beer commercial that loves to use the slogan, “Stay thirsty, mis amigos!”  However, this begs the question.  What are you thirsty for?  You can drink all the beer you want, but it will not satisfy the empty aching in your soul.  If you are thirsty for the Waters of Life that are given to those who put their faith in Christ then you will know satiation that this world cannot give.  We drink from this water by faith.

Then inheriting all things is promised to those who overcome.  This world is our testing ground and the thing we must overcome.  It seeks to destroy your faith in God, but you must overcome it.  Jesus told his disciples that they would have persecution in this life, but then he said, “Fear not!  I have overcome the world.”  Thus we know that He will enable us to overcome the world as long as we lean upon Him.

Lastly, the warning is given.  We are given a list of the kinds of people who will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (i.e. The Second Death).  Most of the list makes sense.  However, many balk at the very first word, the cowardly.  Really?  People who are cowardly will be thrown into the Lake of Fire?  That seems way to harsh.  The point is not that those who are afraid receive the Second Death.  Rather, it is those who let fear cause them not to believe in Christ and instead embrace any of the other things in the list and more (there is no reason to believe the list is exhaustive).  When we let fear cause us to turn back and not overcome the world, then we fall short of the salvation and healing that God has for us.

The New Jerusalem described

For the sake of time I will list the descriptions briefly.  But it is worth spending some time thinking about the things described.  Verse 10 states that John is taken up to a great and high mountain.  This seems to be an allusion to Daniel’s kingdom “not made by human hands.”  That kingdom became a mountain that filled the whole earth.  As John stands on the great high mountain he sees the city coming down like a great mountain itself.  The Bible is replete with the mountain analogy.  The mountain of the Lord that was established in the earthly Jerusalem, pointed to a heavenly mountain of the Lord that existed in the heavenlies.  This New Jerusalem seems to be the ultimate mountain of the Lord coming down out of heaven and having the presence of God (as we see later).

We are told that the whole city is made of precious stones and shines with the glory of God.  In fact everything seems to be made of translucent material that will enable the glory of God to shine through it.  This is similar to the description Daniel gives of the righteous.  He says that they will shine like the stars.  Definitely there is a reference to taking on divinity (an immortal body that is from God).  However, if God has a glory that actually shines, it would stand to reason that we too will have some kind of shining glory, although lesser than that of God.

There are 12 gates around the city named after the 12 tribes of Israel and guarded by an angel.  We are also told that each gate is made out of a single pearl.  This is significant because as we go to the next point we will see that the walls are 216 feet tall.

The wall, that the gates are in, have 12 foundations named after the apostles of Christ and made of precious stones.  We are told that the city is the same length, width, and height and that each side is 1,400 miles.  It would be amazing enough to conceive of a city that was 1,400 miles square, but for it to also be 1,400 miles tall is flabbergasting.  We are not told if it is shaped like a cube or like a pyramid.  If it is like a cube, then it would be more reminiscent of the temple and the Holies of holies, whereas a pyramid shape would be more in keeping with the “mountain of the Lord” motif throughout Scripture and mentioned in verse 10.  Of course we have to point out that the streets are made of pure gold and thus in heaven gold is asphalt. 

Verse 22 tells us that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem because God and the Lamb dwell in it and they are the temple.  There is no separation from God and His people any more.  That, which was important to understand in the past, has now been overcome.  Not only is there no temple, but the city does not need the light from the sun or moon.  This doesn’t mean there isn’t a sun or moon, but that their light is not needed because of the light from the glory of God.

We are also told that the nations who are saved will walk in its light.  I should point out that it is not stated that the city will “land” upon the earth, only that John saw it descend out of heaven.  In light (pun intended) of this description, it would seem more likely that the New Jerusalem would orbit the New Earth as an artificial satellite giving light to the earth below.  However, it is quite possible that it lands upon the earth.  Of course life in the New Jerusalem and on the New earth is left to our imagination.  Do some people live in the New Jerusalem all the time?  Do some only live on the earth, and if so who?  Though many are quick to be dogmatic in answers to these questions, it seems a fool’s errand.  We simply have not been told and thus should wait until the time in which it will be revealed.

One thing is clear, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life may enter the New Jerusalem.  Which brings up the question, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?  You can make sure that it is today, but repenting of your sins, believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and following His commands.  Will you do this now?  If you do you will have the joy of experiencing the greatest city that the world has ever know because it will have been built by God Himself.

The New Heavens & the New Earth Audio

Tuesday
Sep042018

Your Personal End Times: What is after death?

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 2, 2018.

Today we continue to look at the end times from a personal perspective rather than from a global one.  Last week, we emphasized the biblical teaching that we are given one life to live on this earth and then we face judgment.  We also pointed out that God’s ultimate purpose is to resurrect all who have died and thus lift mankind out of this mortal condition in which we have found ourselves for ages.  However, there is a large amount of time between the death of most people who have lived and the time of the resurrection.  Note: In a later sermon, we will deal with the reality that there is a resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the wicked that do not happen at the same time, but are both at the end of the current age.  So what happens to people in between their physical death and their later resurrection?

Some passages use the terminology of sleeping and have led some people to believe that this is literal.  Thus they teach that the soul of an individual, after death, will go into an unconscious state and awake at the resurrection.  However, it is generally understood to be a euphemistic way of referring to death.  Too many passages exist in which we see the souls of those who have died as conscious and aware.  Yet, what does that look like?

Today we will look at the first of two possible experiences after death.  Scripture promises all who belong to Christ, both those who died before the cross and those after it, that they will be with Him in heaven when they die.

Those who belong to Jesus got to be with Him in Heaven

We cannot list all the passages that directly or indirectly make this point clear.  However, let’s look at several passages that give us a picture of what lies beyond death for those who belong to Jesus.

Luke 23:42-43 involves Jesus on the cross.  One of the thieves mocked Jesus, but the other one was clearly repentant.  He then says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  The reply of Jesus is, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Notice that Jesus emphasizes that it will happen today.  So is paradise a place in the grave (more on this later) or is it another term for Heaven, God’s dwelling place?  In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, the Apostle Paul speaks of a person who was “caught up to the third heaven,” and then describes it again as “caught up into Paradise.”  Clearly he is equating the third heaven and Paradise.  It was common to see the cosmos as having a first heaven, the atmosphere, a second heaven, what we call outer space, and the third heaven, a spiritual place where God dwells.  Another point to make is that the directional language used for Paradise is upwards, i.e. “caught up.”  The grave is never described in the Old Testament or the New Testament as being up.  It is always down, and in the dust of the earth.  So, Jesus is promising more than that the thief will join him in the grave.  The other thief would be in the grave as well (admittedly not with Jesus).  The promise is that he would be with Jesus in heaven.

This promise is made in other passages as well.  In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul describes his potential death as “a desire to depart and be with Christ.”  Basically, his argument is that it is good to be alive on this earth because we can labor for Christ and help each other.  However, it is a better condition to depart this life, i.e. die, and be with Christ.  There is no suffering and difficulty for us in that condition.  This is a clear equation from Paul.  He knows that for him to die is to be with Jesus.  Let’s look at another passage.

2 Corinthians 5:4-9.  In this passage it becomes clear that there are three possible conditions for a believer in Christ.  The first is that we are on this earth with a mortal body.  In this condition we should make it our aim to please the Lord because He is the source of the other two conditions.  Upon our death, those who “please the Lord” enter into the second condition, which is a soul that is with Jesus and without a physical body.  The second state is seen as more desirable than the first state.  Yet, the first is necessary to reach the second.  Even better than being a soul that is with Jesus and without a body, is to be with Jesus and to have a glorified body.  This passage emphasizes the promise of God that we will have a glorified body (also called a heavenly body) that is incorruptible and immortal, at the resurrection of the righteous.

Believers in Jesus can be confident that when they leave this life behind, they will not cease to exist or go into an unconscious state.  Rather, we will be in the presence of Jesus in a spirit form, of which we have very little information to satisfy our curiosity.  Right now Jesus is at the right hand of the Father awaiting the command to come to earth and set up His earthly kingdom.  Also, there are countless believers who are with Him waiting for the day that they will receive their resurrection bodies and join Him in His triumphant return to Earth.

Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16

So what about this story that Jesus told?  For the sake of time I will assume you have read Luke 16:19-31.  In this story there is a very poor man who is full of sores and has to beg for his food.  His name is Lazarus.  There is also a very rich man who is apparently healthy, has costly clothing, and never wants for food.  It is clear that the rich man did not help Lazarus.  The only consolation Lazarus received was dogs licking his sores.  Both men die, but they have very different fates.  Lazarus is carried by angels to a place referred to as Abraham’s Bosom.  It is not clear if this is just a description or an actual name for the place.  We are told that the rich man is buried and then finds himself in torment in Hades.

Now Hades is a Greek term that is synonymous with the Hebrew word She’ol.  Both of them essentially refer to the grave.  Though it can be used to refer to a physical grave, it typically refers to a spiritual holding place for the spirits of those who die.  In the story the grave is depicted as having two compartments, a place of torment for people like the rich man and a place of comfort for those like Lazarus.  Clearly the main teaching is that we should be careful how we live our life because our life on earth directly impacts what we will experience after death.

In the days of Jesus it was believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, and so the rich man may have felt that surely his condition after death would be just as fair.  Similarly, a person like Lazarus would be seen as cursed by God, and could not hope for a good condition after death.  Notice the reversal of fortunes.  Those who live selfishly, without thought for God and their fellow man, will be in torment when they go to the grave.  However, the souls of the righteous (whether destitute as Lazarus or else) will receive comforts and no longer suffer.  Both cases are depicted as spiritually alive and conscious. 

Why isn’t Lazarus in the presence of God?  It appears that until Jesus actually paid the price for the sins of the world, those who put their faith in God had to wait in the “nice side” of the grave to enter His presence.  Once Jesus paid the price on the cross, he then went into the grave.  There he proclaimed his victory over sin and death.  This would be good news to the righteous, but a shattering of any hope for the wicked (see 1 Peter 3:18-20).  Some believe that Ephesians 4:8 refers to Jesus leading the righteous captives out of the captivity of the grave and into heaven.  Whether this verse is intended to reference this or not, it seems stretched to think that only believers after the cross could go to heaven after death while those before the cross must stay captive in Abraham’s bosom.  In John 8:47 and John 16:15, Jesus taught that everyone who “belonged to the Father” would believe on Him.  Thus all that belonged to the Father (before Christ came) essentially belonged to Him.  Would not that which belongs to Christ be with Him?  The price has been paid.  At this moment all the righteous and faithful of every generation back to Adam are with Jesus at the right hand of the Father, and believers who die today immediately join that multitude in Heaven.

There are objections to taking Luke 16:19-31 literally.  They say that this is just a parable and thus is only emphasizing that our life on earth sets us up for a good or bad experience in the afterlife.  Thus they would ignore the descriptions as merely props used to get an idea across rather than specifics.  The problem with this is that if this is a parable, it is the only one where one of the characters is named.  An even bigger problem is that the parables of Jesus were always true-to-life.  Jesus did not tell Aesopian Fables involving turtles and hares.  His stories always represented real experiences that happened every day.  Why would this be the one parable where we would say the story does not represent real experiences that people who are dying have every day?  There is no strong reason.  Thus I believe that the story is intended to give us a real look into the grave and give us a rough picture of what it will be like.

Today, I encourage you to think about your life.  We are not all as destitute and seemingly cursed as Lazarus, and most likely you are not as well off as the rich man in the story.  However, it is important how you live this life because it will impact what you will experience after your death.  If you want to be in the presence of God when you die, then I encourage you to put your faith in Jesus, rather than in yourself or the things of this world.  Admit to God that you are a sinner in need of saving.  Believe that God sent Jesus to pay the price for your sins and that His teachings are the way for you to live your life.  Then publically confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Those who embrace Jesus in faith have a bright future ahead of them in which not even physical death and the grave are bad things.  They simply become our promotion from the teaching grounds of this life into the presence of God Himself.  Choose to follow Him today!

What is after Death audio

Tuesday
Aug292017

The City of the Living God

Hebrews 12:18-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 27, 2017.

As we continue through this chapter about the believer’s faith, it may appear that this section is a tangent.  However, it is important to recognize that the unseen, heavenly realities are a critical part of our faith.  We have put our faith in the God of far more glorious things than those of this earth.  The temptation to gravitate towards that which can be seen must be overcome by faith in God.

When early Jews began turning towards Christ and His Church, it left many of them with a sense that they were losing some very awesome and amazing things, at least during the 40 years from the death of Jesus to the destruction of the Temple.  The pomp and circumstance of Jerusalem and its temple, priests and sacrifices had no physical correlation in the Church.  Just as idols tempted early Israelites away from worshipping the Living God (or at least mixing His worship with the surrounding idolatry), so early Christians were tempted to go back into Judaism because of its greater physicality (or, again mixing the two).  The writer of Hebrews, and in fact the Holy Spirit, was encouraging early believers that our faith is based on glorious, spiritual realities that far outshine the Old Covenant established by Moses.  Thus Christians should stand firm against the pull of their flesh back towards the Old Covenant.  We too have a tendency to try and build physical things that become more important to us than those spiritual realities.

Christians have a city, a temple, and a high priest that is spiritual and in the heavens as opposed to the earthly Jerusalem.  This does not mean that the earthly Jerusalem is no longer important to Christians.  Prophecy tells us that much is still to take place at that place on this globe that is important to God.  So let’s look at this comparison between the Old Testament (or covenant) of the Law and the New Testament of the Gospel.

The Old Covenant through Moses

In verses 18-21 we are reminded just what the covenant of Moses entailed.  As mentioned earlier, the terms Old Testament and Old Covenant are synonymous in this context.  Both are a reference to the agreement made between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai.  The Old Covenant was made at a specific place on earth.  Thus he emphasizes that it can be touched, which is indicative of the Old Covenant.  It was full of material things here on earth that could be touched and seen.  For example, when a person sinned they physically took a cow, ram, or dove to the temple and it was killed on a literal altar by a human priest.  Though the problem of sin is ultimately a spiritual problem before a spiritual God, the actions proscribed were mostly physical.

We are also reminded of the terrifying nature of their experience at Mt. Sinai.  This would be a fact that the early Christians could forget because they were 1,400 years after this event.  The biblical passage that underlies this passage is Exodus 19-20.  In this passage we are told that as they approached the mountain it was covered by a dark cloud with thunder and lightning.    Then it says that the LORD descended on the mountain as a fire, which caused smoke to ascend from it like a furnace.  On top of this all, the mountain shook from an earthquake.  As if that wasn’t enough to get their attention, a loud trumpet blast sounded from the mountain and got louder and louder.  Then Moses spoke to the LORD and an audible voice from the mountain commanded Moses to come up the mountain. 

We are also reminded that the people were also threatened with death.  God warned the people that any person or animal that touched the mountain would be put to death.  Thus a barrier was constructed between the people and the mountain.  It is clear that the giving of the Law is purposefully associated with a terrifying fear of the LORD by God Himself under threat of death.  The Law hedged them in on every side pointing out their sins.  If not for God’s mercy they could not have survived this relationship.  Over and over again they broke God’s covenant as a people and as individuals throughout those 1,400+ years.

But, the New Covenant through Jesus

In verses 22-24 he shows them that the New Covenant through Jesus is so much better and more desirable.  In a parallel manner we are shown the better aspects of the New Covenant.  As the old was made on earth, the new was made in heaven.  Yes, Jesus died on earth, but the New Covenant is actually created in heaven.  Hebrews 9 speaks of Jesus ascending into the Heavenly Temple, presenting Himself before God, and purifying the heavenly altar once and for all with His own blood.  This is much of the imagery we see in the Book of the Revelation.  The term Mt. Zion was often used of the earthly area in Jerusalem where the temple was.  However, throughout the prophets it is clear that they also speak of the heavenly temple of God as the higher Mt. Zion.  Thus just as we have an earthly city called Jerusalem with the temple of God or Mt. Zion as the place of God’s throne, so there is a Heavenly Jerusalem with a heavenly Mt. Zion upon which the Heavenly Temple, Throne of God resides.  From there God and His Divine Council govern the affairs of the heavens and the earth.   Again, this is the backdrop for most of the Book of the Revelation.  Though we cannot fly airplanes or rockets to God’s throne room, it is real.  In fact, it is more substantial than the temporary courts of mankind, which pass like the flowers of the field.  Now I understand that it can be terrifying to think of standing before God in heaven, but here we see that the Covenant of Christ bids us to come and join the family of God.  That is why it is called the Gospel, or Good News.  The atmosphere of the New Covenant is this invitation to intimate relationship with our Maker.

We are then told that this heavenly city is full of heavenly beings.  There are an innumerable company of angels (Revelation speaks of myriads of myriads).  Though some of them have fallen with the devil, there are still millions, if not billions, that are faithful to God.  Next we are told that we are a part of the General Assembly.  Some see this as synonymous with the next phrase “Church of the Firstborn.”  However, the General Assembly seems to be everyone, both angels and humans, all the faithful of creation.  The Church of the Firstborn refers only to humans who have been called out of the world to belong to Jesus, who is the Firstborn.  Our names are not registered in an earthly place where the nation could be destroyed and records lost.  Instead our names are registered in heaven where nothing can touch it or destroy it.  It is kept safe by God Himself.  We are also coming to God, who is the Judge of all things.  We are also coming to the spirits of just men made perfect.  This is our destiny.  We too will enter the spirit realm and take our place among the just that have been made perfect.  At this point we are not perfected yet.  But by faith we trust Jesus as the author and finisher/perfecter of our faith.  They are spirits now because they have left their earthly bodies behind, but the Resurrection has not occurred yet.  Eventually we will all have immortal, heavenly bodies.  This reminds us that God is bringing us to a higher order of existence, which is similar to what angels enjoy now.  Imagine being a part of a nation of angels and immortal, perfected men.  Who would want to go back to any earthly nation of this world from that?

One being is left to be mentioned and that is Jesus Himself.  In Jesus the New Covenant has much more precious service than the Old Covenant.  Jesus is the mediator between us and God.  This mediation occurred at the time that the Covenant was created.  This means that Jesus is our High Priest and He serves us in heaven.  This will never change or be handed down to a descendant.  Jesus does not offer multiple sacrifices throughout all of time.  Instead, He offered himself once and for all.  1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”  This past mediation becomes the foundation for His present intercession on our behalf.  It also mentions the “blood of sprinkling.”  This refers to the sacrifice.  Blood from the sacrifice would be sprinkled upon the altar, thereby removing sin from the individual.  Notice that it says the blood of Jesus speaks of better things than that of Abel’s.  Some have connected this to the blood of Abel’s sacrifice.  This makes sense if you focus upon the sacrificial aspect of the death of Jesus.  However, the passage emphasizes what the blood is saying (Abel’s blood speaks something that is not better and Jesus’ blood speaks something better).  This clearly links to the record in Genesis 4 where God says that Abel’s own blood (shed by Cain) was crying out to God from the ground.  Though we are not told what this blood cries out for, we must compare it to what Jesus cried out when He was dying.  “Father, forgive them.  They do not know what they are doing.”  If the blood of Jesus cries out to the Father to be forgiving then Abel’s blood cries out for something less than forgiveness.  It would seem that Abel’s blood is crying out for justice because God places a curse upon Cain for what he has done.  So what is God’s response to the Blood of Jesus and it’s cry of forgiveness?  His answer is this.  He will forgive anyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in Jesus.  Have you done this today?  If you have done this, are you tempted to add to the Gospel all manner of visible aspects of the Law to assuage your flesh?  Let us hear the call of Jesus to those who are weary and heavy laden.  Come to Him and find rest.  Repent of your sins today and follow Jesus by faith.  Don’t be tempted to go back under the Law of Moses, but instead, walk with the Spirit of God and live out the righteousness of Christ.  Our destiny is to take our place in the Heavenly Jerusalem among the glorious beings and having a glory of our own.

City of the Living God audio

Tuesday
Jul312012

The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Part 2

Last week we recognized that the primary key to the Kingdom of Heaven is the Truth of the Identity of Jesus and what he came to do on our behalf.  However this does beg the question, “Why is the Kingdom of Heaven “locked” in the first place?

When taken as a whole, the biblical message is this: the nature, choices, and actions of a person lock themselves out of God’s Kingdom.  John 3:16 says it well that God gave his one and only son that WHOSOEVER believed on him would have life rather than perishing.  Also Peter says that God is not willing that any should perish.  God has done absolutely everything but make people into robots.  Judas had an intimate view of the nature and wisdom of Jesus.  Yet, he made a different decision than the other disciples.  He refused to humble himself and follow Jesus.  He chose wickedness over righteousness.  This clear choice is made everyday by countless people.  Thus the Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the end of the age.  Not only will mankind gather for global war, but when Jesus appears, the armies of the earth will turn their firepower against him.  Though Christ puts this rebellion down and institutes a 1,000 year peace on the earth,  still a large number of people will be able to be tempted by Satan to surround the “camp of the saints” and try to destroy them.  God in his wisdom knew that sin would never be content to choose a different path.  If given the chance it would always seek to destroy God and those who follow his way; thus the need to lock out the kind of person who will not repent and turn away from wickedness.

Now today, we are going to go to Matthew 18:15-18 and look at a second key that can lock or unlock the Kingdom of Heaven to people.

How We Deal With Sin Is A Key To The Kingdom Of Heaven

This whole section begins with the disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus responds by saying in verse 3, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)  Without the humility of a child, and a simple openness to being taught by God, none of us will even enter the Kingdom of Heaven; much less be the greatest.  So facing the gospel requires an initial humility and surrender to God and his plan.  When it comes to dealing with sin we tend to lose our humility and surrender.  Thus Jesus deals with this area in verse 15 and following.  If we do not get a handle on how to correctly deal with the sins of others and our own sin then the Kingdom of Heaven will remain locked and inaccessible.  So what should we do when others sin against us, especially fellow Christians?

First we start with a private confronting.  The world is too quick to publish the sins of others and it relishes too much in the fall of others.  Believers in Jesus are not to be this way.  We are to be motivated by love (hard to do when you have been sinned against).  Love covers a multitude of sins.  However, it doesn’t cover them up.  The difference between a cover-up of sin and covering sin is that a cover-up seeks to avoid dealing with the sin and its consequences.  Whereas, covering sin keeps the circle of intimates small so that the issue can be dealt with in respect and honor.  However, if the sin is a public sin then the Scriptures state it is to be dealt with publically.  So here is the principle.  Do rush to expand the circle of those involved in dealing with a sin.  Only involve those who were present.  The balance between going to war against those who sin against us and not dealing with it and hoping it will go away, is to lovingly confront in private.

The next issue is how the rebuke is received.  The phrase, “if your brother hears you,” means if he listens to you and recognizes his sin.  The second key in dealing with sin is that we need to humbly receive rebukes.  We don’t talk about this much, but, the sinner has just as much responsibility to receive it humbly as the aggrieved does to give it lovingly.  God in his wisdom uses each of us to perfect the other.  But this only works when we are humble.  If we refuse to be humble, we refuse to be perfected and ultimately we refuse the way of Jesus.

If the rebuke is not humbly received then the Issue needs to be made accountable to one or two others.  We need to be careful who we choose to bring into such a situation.  Choose individuals who can be objective and give godly wisdom if needed.  In other words you are not bringing your own personal posse to beat up on the person.  They are there to give witness to the actions and demeanor of both sides.

At this point I should bring up the problem of gossiping.  Even under the guise of getting advice we can be guilty of publishing the sins of others before we have rightly confronted them.  If you need advise get it in a general manner; not giving the name of the offender.  However, if the rebuke is not received you get two witnesses to verify.

Lastly, if you are still refused then it is to be exposed to the Church.  There is no process given and it is highly doubtful that Jesus intends us to stand up in church and tell the sins of the other.  Still, it needs to go before the elders of the church.  It has to be dealt with publically.  When a person goes through such a process and they still refuse to humble themselves and reconcile then something is deeply wrong in their heart.  They are not following the Lord.  They are following themselves.  For the sake of the church it is best, as in 1 Corinthians 5, to disfellowship the individual until they repent.  This doesn’t have to be a blow up.  It can be something as simple as this, “We love you, but because you refuse to deal with this sin and make things right, we have to ask you to leave until such a time as you can admit your fault and make things right.”  Otherwise, it will become a festering wound in the church and ultimately cause many more to be caught up in the issue.

Practical Thoughts For Christians

We must always remember that God uses our fellow Christians to help us grow to be more like Jesus.  It is the litmus test of our inner spiritual life.  We may not like it.  We may even run from it and try to avoid it.  However, we need to learn to properly challenge each other and we also need to learn to properly receive a challenge.  It is too easy not to say anything until we blow up.  This is a sin, also.  However, just because someone does a poor job of confronting us of our sin does not get us off the hook of repenting ourselves.  We can spend our time playing the legal game or we can become more like Jesus.  “He got mad and yelled at me in an unchristian way, so I don’t have to listen to him.”  “He sinned against me so I get a freebie to scream at him and vent.”  Both of these attitudes are sinful.

Sin that is not dealt with will get worse and hurt more people.  The choice to do nothing is sinful because it puts personal comfort in front of the pain of others.  Sin does not stay the same.  Rather, it grows and becomes worse.

Lastly, we need humility and love on both sides in order for there to be reconciliation.  God help us to love one another and thus prove that we do love Jesus.

Keys to the Kingdom P2 Audio