Posts Tagged ‘heaven’

fire II

Last night (and into the wee hours of this morning) Dana and I attended Secret Church 2016.  David Platt stressed the eternal urgency of our gospel message.  He called our attention to two realities – (1) heaven is a glorious reality for everyone who believes the gospel (Philippians 3:20-21); and (2) hell is a dreadful reality for everyone who does not believe the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Revelation 14:11).  As Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “The coming of the Kingdom is not good news for sinners. It is good news for sinners who repent.”

Thus it is in hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends for ever and ever. Oh! who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart… The torments of hell abide for ever… If all the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should come, and take away one grain of this sand, it would be a long time ere that vast heap of sand were emptied; yet, if after all that time the damned may come out of hell, there were some hope; but this word ‘ever’ breaks the heart.

~ Thomas Watson, Puritan minister


There will be no end to this exquisite, horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see along forever a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul. And you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages in wrestling with this Almighty, merciless vengeance. And then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains… How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh! that you would consider it, whether you be young or old!

~ Jonathan Edwards, Colonial minister and theologian.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, 1741.



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Aslan's country III

It’s almost unforgivable, I know, but here I stand in the second half of life, only just having completed C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. And what an ending (or beginning) awaits the reader in The Last Battle, book 7! If you’ll never read the entire seven books, skip to this last one and enjoy! In it, Narnia is one last battle away from its ending and Aslan’s Country is in view.

The Chronicles of Narnia are, of course, a set of seven books that deal with a parallel world to our own, known as Narnia. What’s not to love? – brave and heroic youth; noble, mythological creatures; wrongs to be righted; and a good (but not safe), most high being Who knows the deep magic from before the beginning of time; Who is never late, but rarely early; Who rewards them who diligently seek him; and Who is working out all things for the good of those whom He has called. I speak of the great lion (and Christ figure), Aslan.

In The Last Battle bravery is again called upon and in the face of great cost and danger, Aslan’s true followers must take the adventure Aslan sends, come what may. But Aslan’s country (heaven parallel) is nearer than they know and what a reward awaits those who will endure to the end!

There are so many great themes and quotes in this book – add it to your Bucket List and go ahead and read it!  (spoiler alert)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I love the noble examples of faith and courage in the face of martyrdom and the commendation for those who will not waver in that hour.

> “Nothing now remains for us seven but to go back to Stable Hill, proclaim the truth, and take the adventure that Aslan sends us.” (ch. IX, “The Great Meeting on Stable Hill,” p. 92)

> “I was going to say I wished we’d never come. But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t. Even if we are killed. I’d rather be killed fighting for Narnia than grow old and stupid at home and perhaps go about in a bath-chair and then die in the end just the same.” (ibid., p. 96)

> ”Courage, Child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.” (ch. X, “Who Will Go into the Stable?” p. 107)

> “[Aslan said,] ‘Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia, who stood firm at the darkest hour.’ ” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 146)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lewis illustrates two groups and their sorting out in the end – they who seek and savor God in faith and humility of spirit, and those who lean on their own understanding, rejecting the gifts of God that are so near as to be touched and tasted if they would only receive them.

> “I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.” (ch. XV, “Further Up and Further In,” pp. 165-166)

> They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarves Refused to be Taken In,” p. 148)

> The sorting out: “But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face; I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly – it was fear and hatred… And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow… The children never saw them again. I don’t know what became of them. But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right.” It is Peter, the High King of Narnia, who shuts the Door after Aslan commands, “Now make an end.” (ch. XIV, “Night Falls on Narnia,” pp. 153-154, 157)

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But more than all of these, and perhaps precisely because I am in the second half of my life, I found immense joy and hope welling up from Lewis’ descriptions of Aslan’s Country, that promised place beyond the reach of the Shadow-Lands of death; a place we in our world know by another name.

> Here, we realize that Narnia is not the real Narnia. “That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world… is only a shadow or copy of the something in Aslan’s real world… And of course it’s different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.” (ch. XV, “Further Up and Further In,” pp. 169-170)

> “It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia… Perhaps you will get some idea of it, if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones; yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.” (ibid., p. 170)

> Jewel, the Unicorn, summed up what everyone was thinking: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.” (ibid., p. 171)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Aslan’s Country:

> “…They stood on grass, the deep blue sky was overhead, and the air which blew gently on their faces was that of a day in early summer… There was something in the feel of the air that told him it could not be later than June.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 136)

> “…warm daylight, the blue sky above them, flowers at their feet, and laughter in Aslan’s eyes.” (ch. XIV, “Night Falls on Narnia,” p. 157)

> “Many other creatures were slowly moving the same way, but that grassy country was wide and there was no crowding.” (ch. XV, “Further Up and Further In,” p. 167)

> “I’ve a feeling we’ve got to the country where everything is allowed.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 137)

> “What was the fruit like? Unfortunately, no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that… the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps. If you had once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it. You can’t find out what it is like unless you can get to that country and taste for yourself.” (ibid., p. 137)

> “Everyone else began to run, and they found, to their astonishment, that they could keep up with [the Unicorn]… Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath. If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.” (ch’s XV, “Further Up and Further In” and XVI “Farewell to Shadow-Lands,” pp. 171-172)

> “Isn’t it wonderful?” said Lucy. “Have you noticed one can’t feel afraid, even if one wants to? Try it.”

“By Jove, one can’t,” said Eustace after he had tried. (ch. XVI, “Farewell to Shadow-Lands,” p. 173)

> “About half and hour later – or it might have been half a hundred years later, for time there is not like time here…” (ibid., p. 179)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Of those on Aslan’s right:

> “…He led him to the eldest of the Queens – but even she was not old, and there were no grey hairs on her head and no wrinkles on her cheek.” (ch. XII, “Through the Stable Door,” p. 134)

> Edmund describes the railway accident that brought him to Aslan’s Country, saying, “There was a frightful roar and something hit me with a bang, but it didn’t hurt. And I felt not so much scared as – well, excited.” (ch. XIII, “How the Dwarfs Refused to be Taken In,” p. 138)

> “The older Lord Digory describes it as having “been unstiffened… We stopped feeling old.”

“I don’t believe you two really are much older than we are here,” said Jill.

“Well if we aren’t, we have been,” said the Lady Polly. (ibid., p. 138)

> “…Before [Tirian] had had much time to think of this, he felt two strong arms thrown about him and felt a bearded kiss on his cheeks and heard a well-remembered voice…

”It was his own father, the good King Erlian: but not as Tirian had seen him last when they brought him home pale and wounded from his fight with the giant, nor even as Tirian remembered him in his later years when he was a gray-headed warrior. This was his father young and merry as he could just remember him from very early days, when he himself had been a little boy playing games with his father in the castle garden… just before bedtime on summer evenings.” (ch. XVI, “Farewell to Shadow-Lands,” p. 177)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Chapter One of the Great Story

> “…They found themselves facing great golden gates. And for a moment none of them was bold enough to try if the gates would open… ‘Dare we? Is it right? Can it be meant for us?’”

”But while they were standing thus a great horn, wonderfully loud and sweet, blew from somewhere inside that walled garden and the gates swung open…

”‘Welcome, in the Lion’s name. Come further up and further in.’ ” (ch. XVI, “Farewell to Shadow-Land,” pp. 176-177)

> “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.

“And as He 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 the 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 for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (ibid., pp. 183-184)

Lewis, C. S., and Pauline Baynes. The Last Battle. New York: Collier, 1970. Print.

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I’ve seen t-shirts that say “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” which makes me laugh.  Well…Jonathan Edwards is my Facebook friend.  I, therefore, receive occasional posts which included this insightful one-liner:

“This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.”

C.S. Lewis puts a twist on this in The Great Divorce, his treatise on heaven and hell.  He wrote:

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.1

“And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin.

“Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.

“And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.”

1 [This is why John Piper says we are more than conquerors.  We not only are conquerors, ultimately triumphing in eternity because of Christ, but more than conquerors as he turns even our earthly agonies to his great purpose of bringing us good and him glory.]

Returning to Edwards, we are challenged to consider our given path and its ultimate end when we read his one-liner within its context, the sermon he wrote, “Dying to Gain,” when he was but 19 years old.  I stumbled upon an excerpt of the sermon on a beautiful gem of a site called Tolle Lege, meaning (which I love) “Take up and read.”  The blog’s author, Nick Roarke, shares the context for Edward’s one-liner which should cause us all to pause and consider our ends:

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God! The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him. The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

[Illustration: Marvelous Journey by Dehong He]

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“I must have the Savior indeed, for he is my All.  All that others have in the world and in religion and in themselves I have in thee — pleasures, riches, safety, honor, life, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, bliss, joy, gaiety and happiness . . . . If a child longs for his father, a traveler for the end of his journey, a workman to finish his work, a prisoner for liberty, an heir for the full possession of his estate, so in all these respects I cannot help longing to go home.”


Howell Harris, quoted in D. M. Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans (Edinburgh, 1987), p. 300, as blogged by Ray Ortlund at the Gospel Coalition.


[Photo:  The Way to Heaven by Rosita]

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