Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Heaven's work

TODAY'S SPECIAL:  Revelation 21:22-22:5

TO CHEW ON: “And there shall be no more curse but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Revelation 22:3

“They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better, but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinner than cry with the saints.
Sinners are much more fun" – Billy Joel

“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” – Mark Twain

The attempt to put down something we don’t understand by making jokes about it, as the above quotes do about heaven, is something I’m sure you’ve encountered. C. S. Lewis had his own comeback: “There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of 'Heaven' ridiculous by saying they do not want to 'spend eternity playing harps'. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.” He goes on to explain that much of the imagery of heaven is symbolism and not meant to be taken literally.

While Lewis's interpretation may or may not be accurate, it seems clear that the notion of sitting around heaven playing harps all day is pure fantasy. The Bible talks about the inhabitants of heaven doing something far more prosaic: they serve.

It is interesting to follow the idea of servanthood through the New Testament.
  • Jesus taught that for the servant, faithfulness and going beyond one’s comfort is a duty (Luke 17:5-10).
  • Serving like He served us involves giving up all rights – even the right to life (John 12:23-26).
  • The apostles carried on this idea of serving to the death. In Romans 14:7-8 Paul talks of living and dying to the Lord.
  • They equate their service to God with slavery. (Romans 1:1; James 1:1 ; 2 Peter 1:1).
  • On earth, serving faithfully in your place of employment (whether voluntarily or as a slave) can be counted as faithful service to Jesus because if you are His, everything you do is service to Him (Colossians 3:22-24).
  • Jesus, in the parable about the minas, indicates that our faithfulness in stewarding His gifts and opportunities in this life will lead to future responsibility in the kingdom. (Life on earth is our training ground; our service seminar – Luke 19:16-20).
  • In today’s focus verse Jesus’ servants “serve Him.” In Revelation 7:15 they “serve Him continually in His temple.”

So our time in heaven won’t be taken up with playing harps – at least not exclusively (although it might involve some of that; one of the shades of meaning of “serve” [latreuo from latris] is to worship). We will be working, serving God. But that work will be under “no more curse.”

It makes me want to serve here on earth with more intention, realizing my service to Him here is part of a continuum of meaning and purpose that stretches into eternity.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this glimpse into eternity that helps me put my earthly life into perspective. Help me to view all my service on earth as really done for You. Amen.

MORE: In the chapter “Made to Last Forever – of his book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says:

"Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal for the real production. You will spend far more time on the other side of death – in eternity – than you will here. Earth is the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity. It is the practice workout before the actual game; the warm-up lap before the race begins. This life is preparation for the next….

[…] Measured against eternity our time on earth is just a blink of an eye, but the consequences of it will last forever. The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next. ….Matthew Henry said, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our final day.”
- Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, page 36, 40.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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