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Being Prepared For Heaven

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2 Timothy 4: 6‑8

The Reformer's Fire  ‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑  Max A Forsythe

Sometimes my personal preparation for preaching leads into difficult ideas

and unanticipated results.  Earlier this summer, I proposed a short series

on hades, hell and heaven.  As the time drew near to begin teaching a

biblical view I found that I had a responsibility to prepare you all for

our focus on these less understood topics of our time.  Before we consider

those topics in detail, we must first deal with the question of death.

That door leads to eternity.  And since we must all pass through it

eventually, this lesson seems altogether necessary before we consider the

other topics.  My first concern is that I should not unnecessarily frighten

the saints who belong to Jesus Christ.  If you sincerely believe in Him and

His sacrifice on the cross for your personal sins, then our meditations of

the next few weeks will academically confirm what you already know.

However, there may be some within the hearing of my voice or on our

congregational mailing list who rightfully need to have the hell scared out

of them by the witness of God's Holy Word!

Let us begin today with the fact of death.  One winter I was changing my

daily calendar on my Farmer's Almanac Calendar.  A particular pithy saying

took an old proverb and developed it further.  Remember the old saying

"Nothing is certain except death and taxes"?  Well, this calendar date made

this observation: "Thank heaven that whenever Congress meets, only taxes

can be made worse.  Praise God, they have no control over the realities of


The first thing that we need to know about the reality of death is that

there are three kinds of death: spiritual, physical and eternal.  Let us

consider each one briefly.

The first kind of death is spiritual death.  This means the separation or

alienation of the soul from God.  This is the condition which Satan and his

demonic angels are in.  We as Christians know that we can only truly live

in communion with God.  We have this through spiritual life in Christ.

This life we have in Christ is the opposite of spiritual death.

To a certain extent even the worldly around us are restrained from becoming

all they could be by common grace.  By God's grace, our world today is

neither as bad as it was just before the flood, nor yet as wicked as the

cities of Sodom and Gomorrah!  Like the Sodomites, the Canaanites during

the Israelite conquest had to be destroyed because of their wickedness.

Centuries later, the leaders of the Aztec and Carib Indians of the New

World deserved their fates as well.  Even in our own century, the execution

of Nazi leaders for war crimes is justifiable.  Like all of these examples,

if we were left to our own instincts, we know from history and from God's

word just where man would end up without the restraint of God's word and


The second kind of death is physical.  This means the separation of the

soul from the body.  This death is also a part of the penalty for original

sin.  At death our body chemicals return to the earth.  At last count, the

chemical compounds of our bodies were worth about sixteen dollars.  It is

only their combination that allows us to even talk about a six million

dollar man!  However, when death intrudes, the natural six million dollar

man is worth nothing more than the sum of his body chemicals.  For the

Christian, this is not absolute tragedy, because we know that God takes His

elect home to be with Himself.  Further, at the last day, we are promised

that our bodies will be gloriously restored in some recognizable form. 

The third kind of death is eternal.  This is spiritual death made

permanent.  A person's inward state may become their eternal outward

condition.  The full weight of the wrath of God descends on those who are

eternally separate from God.  We should well note that those who are born

only once in a physical birth, go on to die twice: both physical and

eternal deaths.

By contrast, for those Christians who are born again, there is only one

death: the physical.  Thus we may say: The twice born die once, the once

born die twice.  The new birth described by the Apostle in John 3 is

absolutely essential for those who call themselves Christian.  This new

spiritual birth is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and we learn that the

debt of our sins is covered in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the

cross.  This is the Good News of the Gospel.  Knowing this we can face the

sting of death as the last hurdle to the life beyond.  Now very many of you

who have made a commitment to Jesus Christ may not yet be able to say with

Paul the words we heard in his letter to Timothy.  Like Paul, we still have

work and witness to accomplish here in this life.  But also like Paul, we

should be ready and willing to depart this life when the Lord calls us.  We

see in Philippians that Paul longed for relief from the burdens of life:

    "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living

     in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I

     choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart

     and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary

     for you that I remain in the body."

In the 18th century, a story was told about three popular evangelists.  One

complained that he was tired and ready to go home.  Another quickly asked

if he was tired of the work or worn out from the work.  He observed that it

was all right to be exhausted from hard work, but inexcusable to be tired

of the work.  We sense that Paul's experience was exhaustion.  Even as the

three evangelists agreed that they must labor on as long as life and health

should last, so too is that Paul's desire.  As much as he wanted to go home

to heaven, he realized that his times were in the hands of Almighty God.

Paul and countless other saints have had no fears of death itself.  Death

is but the door to the next life.  And if we are assured that heaven is our

eternal home, we ought not to fear.

Loraine Boettner repeats a story concerning a former president of the

United States: On his eightieth birthday, John Quincy Adams was walking

slowly along a Boston street.  A friend asked him "How is John Quincy Adams

today?"  The former president replied graciously, "Thank you, John Quincy

Adams is well, sir, quite well, I thank you.  But the house in which he

lives at present is becoming dilapidated.  It is tottering upon the

foundations.  Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it.  Its roof is

pretty well worn out, its walls are shattered, and it trembles with every

wind.  The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John

Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon; but he himself is quite

well, sir, quite well."  That is the attitude we need to cultivate so that

when the call home comes we may say with Paul:

    "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept

     the faith."

In the meantime, there is a race to be run, a life of struggles to

strengthen our faith.  Do you have problems, do you have disappointments?

Remember, God does not want us to become satisfied with life in this world.

 To that end He sends an appropriate amount of sorrow, suffering and

disappointment to each of His children so that our anticipation and

appreciation for the heavenly life may grow greater.  Certainly there are

good things that come to us in this world and we should give thanks for

those blessings even as we learn to disdain the realities of this life and

look forward to the eternal life to come.  May the Lord give us grace to

hope for heaven even as we learn to trust completely in Jesus Christ our Lord.


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