Perhaps this is a hymn you have sung many times in church extolling the blessings that will be ours when we die and go to heaven. You might even have read “near death” accounts of persons who have experienced heaven and returned to tell about it. There is no question it will be a glorious existence, something we can look forward to as Paul relates in Philippians 1:23. But you may also notice that Christ’s message was more than an offer of entry to heaven when we have finished our lives here.
Nor does His Gospel focus on being born again — a word given to only one person. Being born again, important as it is because it enables our entry into His Kingdom, was not Christ’s central theme. His central message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Let’s take a look at His good news more closely. He began by issuing a command: “Repent.” There was an urgency to His preaching. Jesus wanted His hearers to experience the Kingdom of Heaven NOW, not sometime in the future. I talked in the last blog about two worlds or realms of reality. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” God is Spirit and they that worship Him must enter into that realm in order to worship Him in spirit and in truth. To walk with Him in His world introduces us to a whole new way of living — living by faith and not by sight. If we read the Book of Acts like a daily newspaper, we might be tempted to book a flight to Israel to get in on the excitement and the wonder surrounding the events portrayed in its pages.
But our intellect quickly reminds us that these events occurred nearly 2000 years ago and they are old news because we haven’t experienced anything even remotely similar. Of course, we can declare by faith that they happened THEN just as we believe Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead on the third day nearly 2000 years ago. We might even think that these New Testament folks got in on all the excitement and we just have to muddle through waiting for a new life with Him in the sweet by-and-by.
I was chastised recently by a reviewer of my book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? for suggesting that God still talks to His people as He did in scripture. This person said such communication was only necessary until the Bible was complete. Now that we have His Word, God talks with us through its pages. Can you imagine a fulfilling relationship where one person does not show themselves in any way, and does not speak or write but instead, sends the other person a manual to read outlining their relationship. If the other person has any questions or needs, he or she is told in the manual they can send an email. Of course, they will not receive any reply because all of the content of their relationship can be found in the manual. But, if their email requests can be backed up by some association with a statement in the manual, there is a better likelihood that their needs might be met.
If God loves us so much that He has redeemed us through the death and resurrection of His Son, does a silent, out-of-sight God, Who reveals Himself to us only through the pages of His manual the Bible make any sense?
The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. The reason for His word inscribed in the Bible is to let us know the extent of His covenant with us, and that He is well able to relate to us now just as He related to those who followed Him in the past. He wants to guide us today just as He guided all the persons in the scriptures. The path is the same for us as it was for them: we must walk by faith in the knowledge that the great I AM is just that — present right now as the Savior and Lord of our lives.