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KINGDOM PREVIEW (4): LIFE IS NOTHING WITHOUT CHRIST
Intro – Steve Jobs, who founded Apple Computer, died of pancreatic cancer
in 2011 at age 56. He apparently died with little hope. Speaking of an afterlife
he said, ―Sometimes I think it’s just like an on/off switch. Click and you’re
gone – and that’s why I don’t like putting on/off switches on Apple devices.‖
Interesting how what we believe affects everything we do. If you have no
hope beyond this life, all you can do is get all the gusto you can now, right?
Many are confused. Like 4-year old Nancy holding a bouquet of flowers at her
grandfather‘s funeral. She asked: ―Will Grandpa turn into a flower?‖ Mom
replied, ―Why, yes, dear, that’s a lovely thought.‖ Nancy looked at the
bouquet and asked, ―So who are all these people?‖ I suspect the prospect of
becoming a flower did little to enhance Nancy‘s anticipation of heaven.
Neither does the idea of sitting on a cloud, playing a harp or singing Praise
songs all day! Many say they‘d rather be in hell, with their friends. Shows we
know little about either place – but we ought since we‘re going to 1 or other.
This passage helps. The main message is that while the kingdom of God is
glorious, a high cost attaches to getting there. It costs Jesus His life as He
pays for our sin with His death. To receive Him one must―deny himself and
take up his cross daily and follow me‖ (Lu 9:23). So we learn death is the
entrance into life. The cross precedes the crown. But the price is worth it.
This passage previews the glorious existence that awaits. That‘s the main
message which we‘ve looked at under the outline I. The Purpose of the
Preview (to encourage belief and commitment to God‘s plan), II. The Person
of the Preview (showing the supremacy of the person and work of Christ).
But peripherally, this passage also hints at kingdom conditions, so today:
III. Portents of the Preview (what is heaven like? Some basics.)
A. Is There Really an Afterlife? Yes!
Steve Jobs unfortunately not get his arms around this. It‘s beyond human
experience outside God‘s revelation. Here He answers emphatically, “Yes –
there is an afterlife!” When the disciples with Jesus wake up from their nap –
wow, all heaven has broken out. Jesus is sitting there in dazzling white, and v.
30, ―And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah.‖
One of the things I love about the Bible is how nonchalant it is about
extraordinary events. Ever notice that? ―In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth.‖ No time spent proving God‘s existence. No definition
of the complexity of the universe – just Hey, God did this. The Bible takes for
granted the most stupendous happenings – just what you might expect from an
omnipotent, omniscient God who has not need to explain Himself, right?
And He does it in Lu 9:30. ―And behold, two men were talking with him,
Moses and Elijah.‖ ―Say what?‖ Last time we saw Moses was when he died
1400 years ago. Last time we saw Elijah he was whisked off to heaven in a
fiery limo 800 years ago. And there they sit – talking to Jesus like it‘s no big
deal – as alive as the disciples themselves. Is there an afterlife? The Bible
doesn’t explain it; it just assumes it! Yes, there is, and there sits living,
breathing proof. The Bible doesn‘t think there is an afterlife; it knows there is.
God has not just revealed this in His Word. He‘s put a longing inside every
person. Ever since the Fall, we are a displaced people, longing for home. C. S.
Lewis writes, ―I f I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world
can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another
world.‖ Our very nature cries out there must be more. We feel it. It is an
inherent part of our make-up. We are made for something more.
Lewis illustrates in the first book of Narnia Chronicles. The White Witch,
representing the devil, has a strangle hold on Narnia, representing our world.
Lewis describes Narnia as being ―always winter, but never Christmas.‖ A
thaw will come when the great lion Aslan, Christ, arrives to assume His
throne. But before that he must shed his blood on the capstone table to pay for
the sins of others. Lewis refers to this world as the Shadowlands – a mere hint
of what we are made for, but which must await redemption by Christ.
Both God‘s Word and God‘s world expect a future life. But that Word always
speaks of two destinies in that afterlife. Heaven is only available to those who
have made Him their king now, in this life. Thus Jesus warns in Matt 7:13-
―Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that
leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
For the gate is
narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.‖
Don‘t you want to be one of the few? Then you must come by way of Christ
who tells us He Himself is ―the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me.‖ The presence of Moses and Elijah is proof
positive that the thaw is coming for those who belong to Christ.
B. What is the Best Thing About the Kingdom? Jesus!
God‘s revelation of Himself in Jesus is far and away the best thing about the
kingdom! He is the one whose ―face was altered, and his clothing became
dazzling white.‖ He is the One whose departure is critical. He is the One of
whom the Father says, ―This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!‖
Imagine coming face-to-face with Jesus. Let me tell you, when that happens
every other thought, every other desire, every other distraction, every other
intention will be gone in an instant. And it will stay that way forever.
I traveled nearly 5M miles on business. But the best part of every trip was the
night before coming home. Nothing that happened, either good or bad, ever
dulled the anticipation as I packed my bag to go home on that night. I never
slept much that night. Why? Because I wanted to see my house, my car, the
LA smog? Not on your life. I longed for was the person at the end of the trail.
What made home, home was Patty. I couldn‘t wait to get back to see her. And
that‘s the way heaven ought to be for us. Can‘t wait to see Jesus.
Are you far enough along in your Christian walk to sense the wonder of Jesus?
As earthly friends fall away or even betray you, have you found Jesus as the
supreme friend ―who sticks closer than a brother‖ (Prov 18:24) – the One who
never fails? As you begin to sense this life closing in and realize it isn‘t going
to last forever, does He become more precious? Are you starting to look
forward to seeing J esus? He‘s the best thing about heaven. Two reasons.
1. He is the Key to Entrance – One things occupied Moses,
Elijah and Jesus. V. 31: They ―spoke [were speaking] of his departure, which
he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.‖ It was Jesus‘ departure, His death,
resurrection and ascension, that grabbed them. They weren‘t rehearsing the
wonderful exploits of Moses or Elijah? One subject was on their minds. Why?
Because that was the key to entrance. Moses knew full well he had been in
heaven for 1400 years on credit. Though he was the one through whom God
revealed the Law, and tho he was a great man, Moses was himself a violator
of that law. He was a murderer. He had failed to obey God in circumcising
his son. God refused him entrance to the land because he disobeyed God‘s
command to speak to the rock to get water. Like us, Moses violated God‘s law
outwardly and in his heart on a daily basis. He had no business in the
presence of God. He was there on credit. He needed a payment for his sin.
Check it out in Gal 3:23, ―Now before faith came (the object of faith – Jesus),
we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith (Jesus)
would be revealed.
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in
order that we might be justified by faith (no Jesus; no justification)
that faith (object of faith, Jesus) has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.‖ OT saints could
not in the fullest sense be called sons of God. They were under a guardianship
until Christ came and died for them. Thus all the OT guys – Moses, Elijah,
Daniel, David, Abraham – the whole lot were in heaven on credit. They
knew it, which is why Jesus says in John 8:56, ―Your father Abraham rejoiced
that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.‖ Tells us 2 things. Abe was
alive. Abe was in heaven on credit. He rejoiced to see Jesus for the same
reason Moses and Elijah did. It means salvation is really happening . All the
OT prophesies and signs in the sacrificial system are finally coming true!
Provision for sin is being made. The price is high. But faith in God‘s promise
required it. No wonder that‘s all they talked about. Their eternal future
depended on it.
And Jesus didn‘t just key entrance for Abraham and Moses and Elijah. He was
also the key for Peter, Jas & Jn (altho they didn‘t get it yet). And He is the key
to entrance for us as well. There is no other key. There is no other way. There
is no other door. Peter later wrote in II Pet 1:16
For we did not follow
cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (this is no
fairytale; we saw it!).
For when he received honor and glory from God the
Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ―This is my
beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,‖
we ourselves heard this very
voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed to which you will do well
to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and
the morning star rises in your hearts.‖ Our love for Jesus will be multiplied a
million-fold when we see what He has saved us from and what He has saved
us to. No wonder He’s the best thing about heaven. He’s the only way in.
Spurgeon once said, ―I looked at Christ, and the dove of peace flew into my
heart; I looked at the dove of peace and it flew away.” His point was simple.
Jesus is worth far more than any blessing He gives. When we look around
heaven, we will be amazed at the surroundings; we will love our new body;
we‘ll love seeing loved ones again. We will love the blessings, but they’re
nothing compared to Him. Get ready, folks. Heaven is all about J esus. You
are going to enjoy Him in ways you can‘t imagine. He is the key to entrance.
2. He Lights the Whole Thing
V. 29: ―And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his
clothing became dazzling white.‖ Jesus‘ glory was veiled behind His human
nature on earth, but God gives a foretaste of what is coming. One day J esus is
going to light up the whole universe. He quit shining that night because He
still had work to do. But after His death, resurrection and ascension, His glory
returned in full force. In Acts 9 Saul, on his way to Damascus to kill Xns.
Acts 9:3, ―Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and
suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. [I used to think big flashlight.
But read on]
And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him,
―Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?‖
And he said, ―Who are you,
Lord?‖ [Fascinating question. Who are you Lord? Paul knew he hadn‘t just
been hit by a bright floodlight. This light talked! This light had a voice. This
light was a person. Paul asked the logical question – who in the world are
you? He got an answer he did not expect – one that changed his life]. And he
said, ―I am J esus, whom you are persecuting.
But rise and enter the city, and
you will be told what you are to do.‖ Paul was seeing the glorified Christ.
Paul saw what the disciples saw on the mountain that night. The light they saw
has never gone out and it never will! Rev 21:23, ―And the city has no need of
sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is
the Lamb [that‘s Jesus].
By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of
the earth will bring their glory into it,
and its gates will never be shut by
day—and there will be no night there,‖ Imagine that. Jesus lighting up the
whole universe! Rev 22:5, ―And night will be no more. They will need no
light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God [that‘s Jesus. Every knee will confess
Him as Lord] will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.‖ That‘s
a lot of glory, isn‘t it? The light will never go out. Jesus is the center of
everything. He‘s the reason for creation in the first place. Col 1:16, ―For by
him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created
through him and for him.‖ Then Col 1:18, ―He is the beginning, the firstborn
from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the
fullness of God was pleased to dwell.‖ You can‘t just fob Jesus off as some
itinerant, first-century, Hippie preacher? He is so much more than that? His
glory as God will be the center of our whole existence in the kingdom of God.
And a little well-kept secret. It‘s not just Jesus who shines. Mt 13:43, ―
the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who
has ears, let him hear.‖ We‘re going to be little reflectors of His glory. But it
all revolves around Him. This means that everything we thought was so
important down here – it will all dim in the surpassing glory of knowing Him.
But we don‘t have to wait for a Christ-centered, God-glorifying existence.
John‘s anticipation of seeing Christ drove His earthly life. I John 3:2-3,
―Beloved, we are God‘s children now, and what we will be has not yet
appeared; but we know that when he appears 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.” You can‘t have this glimpse of the future and want to be like
Him now. That‘s why Paul said in Phil 3:8, ―Indeed, I count everything as loss
because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.‖ Our
glimpse of the kingdom should push us toward a God-centered life now.
Knowing what‘s coming drives us to loving obedience NOW!
Ray Pritchard tells of a young man who was only 26 when he died. Tho he
grew up in a Christian home, he rebelled and strayed from the Lord. Then
doctors discovered a brain tumor. Surgery resulted in a brief remission; then
the cancer returned. All this brought a new focus to his life. Everything
changed. He began to seek the Lord as never before. The Word became sweet
to him. He became bold in his witness, to friends who did not know Christ. He
asked God to used him to point others to Christ, no matter how short his time.
At his funeral his younger sister told how much she had loved her brother –
how she wanted to be like him, and how exasperating he could be at times.
Then she told of the profound change that occurred when cancer came. Her
brother had figured out what life was really about. Then she said this. The
said, ―Life is nothing without Christ. Life is nothing without Christ.‖
Why does it take human tragedy to get that across to us? Why? Have you
realized that life is nothing without Christ? If it will be that way in eternity,
can you see that it is intended to be that way now? John 1:9 says, ―The true
light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.‖ Jesus didn‘t
glow like a light bulb during His earthly existence, but He was the very light
of God to everyone. Most reject the light. John 3:19-20, ―And this is the
judgment: the light [Jesus] has come into the world, and people loved the
darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his
works should be exposed.‖ I hope you‘ve responded to the light of the Person
of Christ. Yes, He will expose every sin, but He will also forgive every one if
you will ask. If you‘ve done that – asked Him in, are you living in the light –
allowing His light to expose your faults, confessing them and reflecting Him?
Life is nothing without Christ. But, I’ll tell you what, life is everything with
Him. Let‘s pray.
Knowing God; God-Centered; Meaning; Let's wrap up this chapter with a story
about a young man I knew who was only 26 years old when he died. Although he
grew up in a Christian home, during his teens and early 20s he went through a period
of rebellion and spiritual searching. His life changed when the doctors discovered a
brain tumor. Surgery brought a brief remission, and then the cancer returned.
As the months pass, his faith increased even as his physical condition
worsened. He began to seek the Lord as never before. The Word of God became
sweet to him. He became bolder in his witness, especially to his many friends. He
asked God to use him to reach others so that he could point people to Christ, no
matter how long he lived.
During the funeral, his younger sister talked about how much she loved him,
how as a young girl she wanted to be like him, and how exasperating he could be at
times. Then the cancer came. She saw a difference so profound that it changed
everything. Her brother had figured out what life is all about. Then she said this
sentence: Life is nothing without God. He had shown her that it doesn't matter how
long you live or how much money you have or even how well you do in your career.
His faith at the end spoke one simple message: Life is nothing without God. She
marveled that someone so young – her brother – had figured out the meaning of life.
And she thanked him for leaving her with that all-important truth: Life is nothing
Ray Pritchard, An Anchor for the Soul, page 24.
C. What Will We Be Like?
Maybe use Similarities (eating, bodies, learn) and Differences (live
forever, not subject to physical laws) as categories.
McNeff, D. New Illustrations.
Restoration; Renewal; Resurrection; Body; Spiritual body; Transformation;
Continuity; Dissimilarity; Heaven; Resurrection; Body; Spiritual body;
Transformation; Continuity; Dissimilarity; Heaven; One Bible student told me
that he could not believe that the risen Christ might have DNA. But why not? Who
created DNA in the first place? Christ explicitly said that his body was of flesh and
bones. Flesh and bones have DNA. There is no reason to believe that his new body
does not. Is Christ a former descendent of Abraham and David, or is the glorified
Christ in Heaven still there descendent? I believe his claim to rulership in the
Millennium and on the New Earth depends in part on the fact that he remains, and
will always remain, and actual, physical descendent of Abraham and David.
A body need not be destructible in order to be real. Our distractibility is an
aberration of God‘s created the worm. Death, disease, and the deterioration of age are
products of sin. Because there is no death before the Fall, presumably Adam and
Eve‘s original bodies were either indestructible or self repairing (perhaps he‘ll by the
tree of life, as suggested in Revelation 22:2). Yet they were truly flesh and blood.
Scripture portrays resurrection as involving both fundamental continuity and
significant dissimilarity. We dare not minimize the dissimilarities – for our
glorification will certainly involve a dramatic and marvelous transformation. But, in
my experience, the great majority of Christians have under emphasized continuity.
They end up thinking of our transformed selves is no longer being ourselves, and the
transformed Earth is no longer being the Earth. In some cases, they view the glorified
Christ as no longer being the same Jesus who walked the earth – a belief that early
Christians recognized as heresy.
Many of us look forward to Heaven more than now that we did with our
bodies function well. Joni Eareckson Tada says it well: "Somewhere in my broken,
paralyzed body is the seed of what I should become. The paralysis makes what I am
to become all the more grand when you contrast atrophied, useless legs against
splendors resurrected legs. I’m convinced that if there are mirrors in heaven (and
why not?), the image I’ll see will be unmistakably ’Joni’, although a much better,
Inside your body, even if it is failing, is the blueprint for your resurrection
body. You may not be satisfied with your current body or mind – but she‘ll be thrilled
with her resurrection upgrades. With them you be able better to serve and glorify God
and enjoy an eternity of wonders he has prepared for you.
Randy Alcorn, Heaven, p. 123.
Heaven; Perfection; Afterlife; Restoration; Renewal; Decrepitude; Decay;
Decomposition; Defects; Imperfections; Flaws; Hope; Heaven, perfection;
Death, relieves of disabilities; Disabilities; healed in death; Heaven – Charles de
Gaulle had another side. He and his wife, Yvonne, had several children, the last of
whom, Ann, was born with Down‘s syndrome. The doctors informed the de Gaulle‘s
that their daughter was permanently impaired and recommended that they place her
in a home, but de Gaulle said, ―She did not ask to be born.‖ They took her home and
loved her. She was very responsive to her father. He was the only one who could
make her laugh. She loved to play with his decorated soldier‘s hat. De Gaulle would
never allow family pictures throughout his public life, other than Yvonne and
himself. He did not want any public pictures of the other children without Ann.
When she was 18 Ann died and de Gaulle was heartbroken. As he and his wife
stood at her gravesite, he finally took her hand and said, ―Come, Yvonne. Now she is
like the others.‖ Throughout his life he continued to visit her gravesite every Sunday
bringing flowers with him.
D. Will We Know Each Other?
Hope; Reality; Eternal perspective; Reunion; Heaven, reunion in; Welcome;
Heaven, welcome in; Funeral; Memorial; Death; Life; Heaven; Ace; Hope;
Reality; Eternal perspective; Reunion; Heaven, reunion in; Welcome; Heaven,
welcome in; I‘ve often read at memorial services this depiction of a believer‘s death:
"I am standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the
morning breeze and starts with a blue ocean. She’s an object of beauty and strength
and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just
where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. And then I hear
someone at my side saying, ’There, she’s gone.’
Gone where? Gone from my site, that is all. She is just as large in mast and
hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And just as able to bear her load of
living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, ’There, she’s gone,’
there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up
the glad shout, ’Here she comes!’
And that is dying.
Randy Alcorn, Heaven, p. 462.
E. Do People in Heaven Know What is Happening on Earth?
F. What Other Conditions Apply? (no sin, etc.)
Rest; Relaxation; Decrepitude; Decay; Decomposition; Renewal; Restoration;
Heaven; Afterlife; Hope; Spiritual body; Weariness; Youth; Age; Fatigue;
Tiredness; God’s Immutability; Immutability; Weariness -- A middle aged friend
told me he had been to his doctor for a checkup, after which the doctor said, ―You‘re
in good shape, man.‖ ―But, doctor,‖ my friend protested, ‗why do I keep getting so
McNeff, D. New Illustrations.
tired?‖ ―Youth deficiency,‖ replied the doctor. ―Nothing but youth
deficiency.‖ (RD, March, 1974, p. 65).
Perspective; Perfection; Afterlife; Eternal perspective; Choice; Decision;
Eternity in view; Wisdom; Ace; Heaven; Desire; Temporal values; Values,
temporal; Foolish; Choice, foolish; Eternity, in view; Viewpoint; Point of view;
Wisdom, in choices; Joke; Funny; Heaven: There is an old legend of a swan and a
crane. A beautiful swan alighted by the banks of the water in which a crane was
wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane viewed the swan in
wonder and then inquired: "Where do you come from?"
"I come from heaven!" replied the swan.
"And where is heaven?" asked the crane.
"Heaven!" said the swan, "Heaven! Have you never heard of heaven?" And
the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of
streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life,
pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of
the nations. In eloquent terms the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the
other world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane.
Finally the crane asked: "Are there any snails there?" "Snails!" repeated the
swan; "no! Of course there are not."
"Then," said the crane, as it continued its search along the slimy banks of the
pool, "you can have your heaven. I want snails!"
-Michael Shannon, Cincinnati Bible College
G. How Should This Affect Us Now? (This world is not my
Death; Agnosticism; Heaven; Hope; Reunion; Blessing; Missed blessings;
Hopelessness; Meaninglessness; Death, assurance in; Agnosticism, implications
of; Heaven, hope of; Heaven, reunion in; Blessings, missed; Hope, of heaven;
Hope, of believer; Hopelessness, of agnostic; Death: Phillips Brooks was an
Episcopal bishop who lived 1835-1893. Was the composer of ―Oh Little Town of
Recovering from a serious illness, Brooks refused to receive any visitors,
even his closest friends. However, when the agnostic Robert Ingersoll called, the
bishop did not turn him away. Ingersoll, conscious of the privilege, was curious to
know the reason behind it. Said the bishop, ―I feel confident of seeing my other
friends in the next world, but this may be my last chance of seeing you.‖
Fadiman, The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, p. ?
Afterlife; Paradise; Heaven; Adventures; Reality; Eternity; Heaven: In the last
paragraph of the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis writes, ―And as
[Aslan] spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to
happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us
this is the end of all stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever
after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this
world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title
page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one
on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the
Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, p. 74.
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