Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Books about heaven: Spurgeon's critique
There are so many books about heaven these days. Unfortunately, most of them don't have to do with what the Bible says about heaven -- they're extrabiblical experiences that sell like hotcakes and make people feel warm and fuzzy inside.
It's really too bad that they completely miss the point about God's heavenly kingdom.
As a Christian, my belief is that my everlasting life is Christ-centered. That means that all that I do now should be done with the gospel in mind. I should strive to know Jesus, serve Jesus, and be more like Jesus. It also means that when I pass on from this life and go to glory, everything will still be all about Jesus.
The key part of all of this as it relates to heaven is this: holiness.
The Apostle John talked about this as it relates to us, saying, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appear we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure," (1 John 3:2-3).
Hagnos is the Greek word for pure here and it means "free from ceremonial defilement, holy, sacred," (Strong's). It means to be unstained by sin, unspoiled, completely innocent.
That is the hope of heaven -- complete holiness.
We cannot understand this concept while we are still trapped in our earthly bodies. We are all too familiar with sin and imagining a world where we are like Jesus in purity is beyond our comprehension. But if we were to take a trip to heaven, just to get a glimpse, we would certainly notice a world without sin. We've grown so accustomed to seeing sin everywhere we look, that if we were to go to a place where everyone was as pure as Christ, it could be assumed that the holiness of heaven would be our main message when we returned to the fallen world.
Here's what Spurgeon had to say on the issue:
The text (1 Jn 3:1-3) speaks of men who have their "hope in Him," which I understand to mean hope in Jesus Christ. The Christian has a hope peculiar to himself. As for its object, it is the hope of being like Jesus Christ. "We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." Some would not put it in that shape. They would say that their hope as Christians is to pass within the pearly gates and tread the golden streets, being forever free from sorrow, toil, and pain. But those are only the lower joys of heaven, except so far as they indicate spiritual bliss.
The real truth that is contained in these metaphors and figures and underlies them all is that the heaven a true Christian seeks after is a spiritual one -- it is the heaven of being like Jesus Christ. I take it that while it will consist in our sharing in the Redeemer's power, the Redeemer's joy, and the Redeemer's honor, yet from the connection of the text, it lies mainly in our being spiritually and morally like our Redeemer -- being purified, even as He is pure. I must frankly confess that of all my expectations of heaven, I will cheerfully renounce ten thousand things if I can but know that I shall have perfect holiness. If I may become like Jesus Christ as to His character -- pure and perfect -- I cannot understand how any other joy can be denied me. If we shall have that, surely we shall have everything. This then is our hope, that we shall "be like Him."
Posted by Jeremy Howard