A Room With A View

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In many hotels and resorts patrons have the option of reserving a room that overlooks some part of the grounds that are especially beautiful.  In a seaside resort, the best rooms face the shoreline.  In mountain resorts, the best rooms are situated so patrons can see the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  A popular resort in the central valley of California sits amid fields and orchards which are bare at certain times of the year.  The best rooms in this resort face the inner grounds, which are spectacularly groomed.

We sometimes refer to these kinds of rooms as “a room with a view”.  Usually patrons pay a premium to occupy these rooms, and reservations for them can sometimes be hard to get.  Even so, many guests pay the extra cost and make their reservations well in advance in order to have one of these special rooms.  Sometimes, however, a guest arrives with reservation in hand only to find that the desired room is not available.  This is a tricky public relations problem for the resort, and can be a bitter disappointment for the guest.

What would the reaction be, though, if a resort were to advertise that all its rooms had a spectacular view?  Furthermore, what if that resort charged the same price for every room, and guaranteed that a room, once properly reserved, would be available for each guest?  Would this pique anyone’s curiosity about that resort?  Would the switchboard be flooded with calls?  Would the web site crash from so many people trying to access it?  Very likely so.

Many of us might be skeptical of such an ad if we saw it.  We would wonder what the catch is.  The old adage about something too good to be true probably is, would likely come to mind.  Yet, this is exactly the promise that our Lord made before He left this earth.  On the night of His betrayal the Lord told the disciples, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

The Lord said that in His Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  The Greek word He used is the word for rooms.  There are many rooms in the Father’s house, and they are being prepared for those whose names are in the heavenly reservation book, which is the book of life.  All these rooms are premium rooms, paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, and no one who has a reservation will be turned away.  All of these rooms have a view.  It is a view of the heavenly city and of the throne room of God the Father.

We make our reservations for our room with a view by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ, and by living faithfully until death.  When the end of time comes, everyone who has ever lived will stand before the Lord at judgment (2 Cor. 5:10).  According to Rev. 20:11-15, books will be opened and each of us will be judged by what is written in the books.  Those whose names are in the book of life will be ushered into the heavenly city, to the rooms that have been prepared for them by the Lord.  Those whose names are not in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:14-15).

On earth, not everyone gets a room with a view.  In heaven, however, every room is guaranteed to be a room with an out of this world view.  Every person whose name is in the book of life will receive a room with a view in heaven.  This being true, doesn’t it make sense to make your reservations now?

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

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Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is described in many ways in scripture.  One of the most beautiful is found in Isa. 9:6, where the scripture says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government shall rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”  Our Lord is also called, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29).  It would be difficult to choose a name that best describes the Lord because each name by which He is identified in scripture speaks to some aspect of His role in God’s eternal plan to save mankind.

The name that perhaps fits Him best after His resurrection and ascension is the one used by Paul to describe Him in 1 Tim. 6:15.  Here Paul called the Lord, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”  The phrase “King of Kings and Lord of lords” is used only three times in the New Testament.  Each time it is used exclusively in reference to Jesus.  In Rev. 17:14 John used this phrase to describe the Lamb who overcomes the beast.  He did so because the Lamb is “Lord of lords and King of kings”.  Later, in Rev. 19:16, when John saw the Lord coming, riding on a white horse, he said that on His robe and on His thigh was written, “King of kings and Lord of lords”.

The power of this designation for our Lord is that He is the supreme authority in heaven and on earth.  There may be kings and lords on earth, but our Lord is the King over all the kings.  He is the Lord over all lords, whoever they may be, or however powerful they may be.  This, of course, is a biblical truth to which our Lord Himself testified.  When the Lord appeared to the apostles for one of the last times before His ascension to heaven, He told them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18).

This truth coincides perfectly with the fact that Jesus Christ is now reigning over His kingdom.  The climax of Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection was that God had raised Jesus from the dead and made Him “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Paul also testified to this truth in Col. 1:13, where he told Christians in Colossae that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son”.  Paul also showed that Christ is now reigning in 1 Cor. 15:20-28.  There he said that at the end of time the Lord would “hand over the kingdom to the God and Father”.  The Lord, Paul said, must reign until all His enemies had been put under His feet.  The last enemy to be subdued will be death, at which time God the Father will resume supreme authority.

The implication of this truth is simple and powerful.  We now live in the reign of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  We live in the time when Jesus Christ is the supreme authority in heaven and on earth.  Only God the Father is not subject to Him (1 Cor. 15:28).  As a result, we owe our allegiance and obedience to Jesus Christ and to no other.

Because Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, we must respond to Him in a way that is appropriate to what He is. He is not the baby in the manger.  He is not the passive, almost feminine figure that so many portray Him as being.  He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords”.  Therefore we must bow the knee before Him, and make confession with our lips and with our lives, that He is THE Lord.  We must do so because He has the name that is above every name (Phi. 2:9-11), and one day we will stand before Him in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10).

When It’s OK to Hate

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Recent events have drawn attention to one of the baser elements of human nature.  From the halls of Congress to the Oval Office to State Houses and the streets of our cities there seems to be an unending stream of vitriol that is fanning the flames of hatred in our country.  This harsh and generally unfair criticism has stirred up the emotions of so many people that reasonable discussion of the legitimate issues facing us is nearly impossible.  In response to these tensions many well-meaning people are simply calling for an end to the hate.  This is certainly a worthy goal, and greatly to be desired, but it is clear that most people have no idea how to achieve it.

On the one hand, many professed believers suggest that we can only end the hate if we begin to love our neighbors as ourselves, just as the Lord commanded.  In Mt. 22:37-40, in response to a question from a lawyer as to which commandment was the greatest, the Lord said that the foremost commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind.  The second, He said, is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Certainly if all of us obeyed these two commands all the hatred would end.

On the other hand, there is another aspect of biblical teaching that applies to this discussion.  It is something that in large measure has been overlooked, and which many people might dismiss without a second thought.  This biblical truth is that there are some things that we must hate.  The reason we must hate them is because God Himself hates them.

In Prov. 6:16-19 Solomon wrote, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”  These seven sins are at the root of virtually every problem we face as individuals and as a nation.  The magnitude of these sins is seen in the Lord’s response to them.  Solomon says that God hates them, and they are an abomination to Him.  This means these are things we cannot tolerate if we want to be right with Him.

We generally recoil from the idea of hatred, but in the context of Solomon’s wisdom, surely we can see that there are times when it is appropriate, and necessary, to hate.  The consequences of not doing so are evident in the scriptures.  Part of the reason for the condemnation of Judah was because their spiritual leaders were prophesying falsely (sinning) and the people loved it instead of opposing it (Jer. 5:31).  In a similar way, we have tacitly given our approval to the things God hates by our silence about them.  These things have been on display in our land for far too long without any serious challenge from godly people.  As a result, we are reaping the fruit of our silence.

We must understand, however, that while it is appropriate to hate certain things, hating these sins does not mean we hate the ones who commit them.  God the Father hates these things, but He so loved the ones committing them that He sent His only Son to die on the cross in order to forgive their sins.  This is the model that we must follow.  We must condemn sin in every instance that we encounter it.  But we must do so with the ultimate goal of saving the sinner by means of the blood of Jesus Christ.  This is why we call people to repent of sin in whatever form it may be manifested.  This is the highest form of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and it is the only way the sinner can be saved.

Clearly, if more of us hated the things that God hates, we would no longer tolerate the sins that have created the evil environment in which we live.  If we all hated the things God hates, the other kind of hatred would absolutely cease.

A Few Words About Hell

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A Pew Research Center survey in 2014 found that 72% of Americans believe in heaven.  The same survey found that only 58% of Americans believe in hell.  When surveyed according to denominational affiliation, the percentages were significantly higher among evangelicals and mainstream Protestants.  The highest percentages were registered by Mormons.  Surprisingly, only about 40% of Jews surveyed said they believe in heaven, and only about 20% said they believe in hell.

It is not surprising that such a large majority of Americans believe in heaven.  From the things they say it seems that nearly everyone expects to go there when they die.  It is surprising, however, that such a large number of people choose not to believe in a corresponding place of eternal punishment.  Even more surprising are the concepts that some have concerning hell.  Some act as though hell is just an extension of life on earth, and if they go there they expect to just “tough it out.”  Others make jokes about it as though it will be little more than an inconvenience.  In an old Twilight Zone episode hell was portrayed as a place where a petty criminal was driven crazy because he could steal with impunity and have everything his heart desired without any threat of being caught or prosecuted.  Of course the truth of scripture refutes such views.

Most people would be surprised to discover that our Lord Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the New Testament record.  Of the twelve times the word “hell” is used in the New Testament, Jesus spoke it eleven times.  His brother James used it the other time.  In some of our English translations the word appears one more time, in 2 Pet. 2:4.  However the Greek word in this verse is tartaros, which is actually the place where the unrighteous dead await final judgment.

When the Lord spoke about hell, He conveyed several truths about this place.  First, He confirmed that it does indeed exist.  He warned His disciples that they should put out their eye, or cut off their hand rather than to enter hell with their body intact (Mt. 5:29-30; 18:9; Mk. 9:45, 47).  Second, He warned that some will indeed be sent there by God the Father.  He told His disciples not to fear those who could kill the body, but rather they should fear the one who could send both body and soul into hell (Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5).  Third, He depicted hell as a place of fire.  In Mt. 18:9 He warned about being cast into “the fiery hell”.

In addition to these warnings, the Lord taught the reality of hell when he spoke of the judgment that will occur when He returns.  In Mt. 25:31-46 the Lord said He will divide the sheep from the goats at that time.  The sheep will be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom, but the goats will be turned away.  They will be sent “into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41).  In the parable of the talents, the Lord referred to the place of eternal punishment as “the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 25:30).

When the Lord gave the Revelation to John on the island of Patmos, He showed him a vision of what final judgment will be.  In Rev. 20:11-15 John wrote that all the dead will be judged by what is written in the books.  Those whose names are found in the book of life will enter heaven.  The rest will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (vs. 14-15).  In the lake of fire they will be tormented day and night forever and ever, along with the devil himself (Rev. 20:10).

Hell is a real place.  It, like heaven, is a prepared place (Mt. 25:41).  It is prepared for those who chose to disobey God in life.  It is a place of unspeakable anguish from which there is no escape, and in which there is no relief.  Knowing the truth about hell, why would anyone choose to live in such a way that they will go there at judgment?  Let us therefore resolve to always obey God’s will so we will not go to that horrible place.