Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, February 14, 2021

Shavuah Tov,

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)

Sun 14-Feb-2021 2nd of Adar, 5781

Ex 25:1-16 2 Ki 17 Ps 141-142 Jn 14 (Tit 3)

The Four Stages to Eternal Life (Part 4 – Fourth Stage of the Journey)

By Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In this four-part RR series, I discuss four stages the Believer will encounter in his/ her journey from mortal life on Earth to immortal life in Heaven. For most readers, this will be a review of old knowledge. A review can be useful, however, as previous knowledge can be reinforced or updated and even new knowledge may be acquired. In today’s RR, I discuss the glorious entry of Believers (Overcomers) into Heaven. Tremendous logistical obstacles (for us, but not for God) must be surmounted. There must be provided a way for each Believer to leave his/ her earthly life in a mortal body to enter eternal life in an immortal body. In this, the fourth, RR, I discuss a Believer’s final step into eternity. No more traveling is required– we are finally home!

MISCONCEPTIONS: There are misconceptions about Heaven, including:

● Where will Heaven be? 

** Common misconception: If most people, even Believers, are asked where  Heaven is, most will point vaguely up toward the sky. 

** Correct answer: American Believers pointing into the sky would be opposite to Australian Believers pointing into the sky. Since their skyward pointing is 180⁰ apart, how can both be correct? Heaven will be here on Earth. As discussed in this RR, Heaven (and its great city, New Jerusalem) will descend to Earth to rest here for eternity (“world without end”). Heaven will not be “up there, somewhere;” it will be here. Several Scriptures support this conclusion, but I have space constraints.

● Is my departed relative (friend, whomever) now in Heaven?

** Common misconception: While it may be comforting to believe that mama, a spouse, a child, or some other sainted person has passed directly “into Heaven to be with Yeshua,” that is not Biblical.

** Correct answer: Heaven, and its magnificent New Jerusalem, are still in what Jews called the “Third Heaven.” In Judaic thought, God lived in the Third Heaven. Thus, Yeshua could ascend to be with the Father (Acts, chapter 1) and oversee building Believers’ living spaces (John 14:2) because both are in the same place. 

● This RR must be incomplete– Why is Purgatory not mentioned?

** Common misconception: Roman Catholics hold the doctrine of Purgatory (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1030-1032, see: https://ucatholic.com/catechism/1030-1032/ ), as a time a dead person will be purified (purged) of sins to achieve proper holiness. Catholics strongly defend this doctrine. I will leave it to you to research this matter more, if interested.

** Correct answer: Catholics claim there is a sentence in the Mourner’s Kaddish, suggesting that Jews believed in a purgatory-like period after death. I have read and re-read the Kaddish, and I do not recognize it. There is no Scriptural teaching about Purgatory in The Holy Bible we use. Catholics go to the Apocrypha– 2 Maccabees 12:38-46– in which Judas Maccabeus (not J. Iscariot) and his army prayed for their slain comrades, including this verse (v. 46): “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” In addition to the Apocrypha, Catholics rely heavily on traditions– man’s traditions.

Rabbi’s note:  There is a strong belief for the same thing in Judaism, but (like Raymond has accurately said, there is no such teaching in the Jewish or Christian Bible.  End RN.

SATAN’S FINAL GASP: At Armageddon, the Antichrist and False Prophet will be  thrown alive into Hell, but Satan will be chained in the Bottomless Pit (Abyss). For one-thousand years, all those living in the Millennial Kingdom will be spared Satan’s lies and temptations. As the end of time draws near, Satan will be released “for a short time.” Read Revelation 20:7-9. In unprecedented rage, he will tempt “the nations” (the human populace) of all parts of the world. As numerous as “the sand of the seas,” the people will rise up in rebellion. The rebels are called “Gog and Magog,” which should not be confused with the much earlier Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39). Under Satan’s influence, they rebel against God. The quickly defeated rebels are thrown for eternity into the Lake of Fire.  Believers apparently will not be involved in this rebellion, but I suspect they will be saddened to see their human friends, whom they have mentored, behave in this reckless way.

Why will there be this second Gog-Magog rebellion? Many of these rebels will have been born while Satan is bound. Since they have never been tempted by Satan, they have never overcome sin. Repeatedly in Revelation, we are told that only overcomers (of sin) can enter Heaven. This brief release of Satan will be their test. Those who resist (overcome) Satan pass their test, and they may enter New Jerusalem. Those who do not resist (overcome) Satan fail their test, and they may not enter New Jerusalem; instead, they are cast into Hell. 

BELIEVERS’ ENTRY INTO HEAVEN: Several things must happen before any Believer (Overcomer) can enter New Jerusalem. There will occur: (1) separation in the grave of the body and soul– the body returning “to dust” and the soul being carried to Paradise– until Yeshua returns (length of time unknown) ► (2) the Rapture/ Resurrection of the Redeemed to meet Yeshua in the clouds (instantaneous event) ► (3) Paradise events– Bema Judgment, Marriage to Bridegroom Yeshua, Wedding Supper of the Lamb, formation of the Lord’s Army, and return to Earth to defeat evil (seven years) ► (4) service in Yeshua’s Millennial Kingdom, including witnessing the sad Gog-Magog rebellion (one-thousand years) ► (5) witnessing the destruction of the old earth and old heavens to create a New Earth and New Heavens (length of time unknown) ► (6) descent of New Jerusalem from above to Earth (presumably a rapid event) ► (7) procession of Saints (Overcomers) through gates of pearl to occupy Yeshua-supervised “mansions.” Thus, more than one-thousand years must pass before any Believer can claim his/ her home in New Jerusalem, but all Believers will be lovingly guarded and cared for until that final destination is achieved.

The Apostle Paul, who was privileged to glimpse Paradise, could quote Isaiah 64:3, when he wrote (1 Corinthians 2:9): But as it is written, “Things no eye has seen and no ear has heard, that have not entered the heart of mankind– these things God has prepared for those who love Him.” Take comfort that all Believers, while not yet in Heaven, are under the care and protection of Yeshua and are ministered to by angels.

NEW EARTH, NEW HEAVENS: The Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22), the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:12-13), and the Apostle John (Revelation 21:1) wrote of the transformation (re-creation) of the heavens and the earth at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

SIDELIGHT: Should I write “heaven” or “heavens?” Even Bible authors are not consistent in using singular or plural words for this final resting place. The Bible divides “Heaven” (“Heavens”) into three parts. To ancient Jews (Biblical times), humans lived in the first heaven, which is the atmosphere. We would use “space” for the second heaven, which was the vast domain of stars, planets, and other space objects. Third heaven was the place in which God lived, although we Believers now know that each person’s body is God’s temple, and He lives in and among us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). END sidelight.

Throughout the history of mankind, God’s beautiful creation– Earth– has been destroyed and misused for sinful purposes. God will not permit this shameful abuse of His creation to continue throughout eternity. Earth was destroyed once with the flood, but God promised never to send a great flood again, setting the rainbow in the sky as a sign of that promise (Noahic Covenant, Genesis 9:8-16). But, God warned of a cleansing fire (Malachi 4:1); and, He confirmed He will cleanse (purge) our planet with fire, which is still in the future (2 Peter 3:10-13): But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything done on it shall be exposed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what kind of people should you be? Live your lives in holiness and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. In that day the heavens will be dissolved by fire, and the elements will melt in the intense heat. But in keeping with His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Seats of corrupt governments, houses of gambling and prostitution, and other buildings of evil and sin will be burnt with fire. With the Earth cleansed (purified), God can start anew with His perfect creation, New Earth. The Earth has been cursed by God since the fall of Adam and Eve (the Adamic Covenant, Genesis 3:15-17). The curse associated with that covenant will be forever removed. Paul taught that all creation will be redeemed with the creation of new heavens and earth (Romans 8:18-23). All illness, death, and sin will be eternally abolished.

Interestingly, there will be no oceans in New Earth (Revelation 21:1). Why? The Bible does not explain the absence of the seas, but consider these possibilities: Oceans cover 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface. With oceans removed, land area would more than double. Some of the world’s most spectacular terrain– canyons deeper and mountains higher than we have ever seen– will be exposed. Imagine this stunning terrain blanketed by most beautiful, even newly created plants. Saints in Heaven will view and explore landscapes far more majestic than any ever now seen. Oceans also moderate climate and create weather necessary for life (rain, for example). In Heaven, we will not need climate control or rain. Snark alert: Mercifully, we will be spared self-righteous “Karens” screaming that those who do not follow the Green New Deal and abolish nearly everything we presently use do not believe in “science” and will cause all of us to die in a few years due to climate change and failure to worship Gaia. I have deleted my sidelight on the Green New Deal. Suffice it to say that we should be grateful for all that God has given us and be good stewards of our gifts. But, if we believe we are living in the last days, should we worry about the rise of oceans in the next century or two?

HEAVEN’S DESCENT TO EARTH: What we call “Heaven,” in which is the chief city of New Jerusalem, will forever be located in New Earth. John, granted a glimpse of New Jerusalem, recorded this vision in Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Please read these chapters to gain a better understanding of the future home of Believers. In summary:

●-God’s Holy City, New Jerusalem, will descend to our newly re-created planet  from above. It is unclear from the Greek text whether Heaven rests solidly on our planet or hovers above it. Recall that Yeshua promised to busy Himself after leaving us to build His followers places to stay (John 14:2). The King James Version translates these places “mansions,” translating the Greek monai (plural of monē), which is merely “dwelling places.” ”Mansions” is a relative term. I am grateful for the house in which Linda and I live, but it is a poor shack compared to the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. Our “dwelling places” in Heaven surely will be elegant beyond our greatest expectations. Could the degree of elegance be part of the awards issued at the Bema Judgment?

●-New Jerusalem will be massive. An angel with a measuring rod measured this city for John’s benefit (Revelation 21:15-17). The city will measure 12,000 stadia. Stadia, plural of stadion, equals approximately 600 American feet. (I use “American,” here, because almost other nations have sensibly converted to the metric system, but we still honor the length of medieval English kings’ feet.) Converting 12,000 stadia to miles, New Jerusalem will measure approximately 1,500 miles x 1,500 miles x 1,500 miles (length x width x height). These measurements tell nothing about the shape of this city, which could be a cube, a pyramid, an irregular form, etc.

When Yeshua promised “to go and prepare a place for [us],” think of the size and grandeur of New Jerusalem for those who choose to go to Heaven! New Jerusalem’s walls will measure approximately 216 feet in thickness. (The wall was measured at 144 pēchys in thickness, commonly translated as 144 cubits, with each cubit measuring approximately 18 inches.)

The walls will be formed of twelve layers of precious stones, each layer measuring approximately 18 feet in height. The walls of precious stones– jasper, sapphire,  chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, yellow topaz, beryl; topaz, chrysoprase,  jacinth, and amethyst– will be transparent, and God’s glory will shine through them, as though creating a massive, dazzling jewel. Each gemstone layer is named after one of Yeshua’s twelve disciples, honoring their service to King Yeshua. There will be twelve gates, each of which is composed of a single pearl. In last week’s RR, I explained why the pearl is chosen. An oyster overcomes foreign invasion of a harmful substance by forming a pearl. A pearl gate will guard the gates of Heaven. Only Overcomers will be admitted to Heaven. A Saint must overcome sin, foreign to a child of God, just as an oyster overcomes a foreign material (sand) in its shell by secreting a pearl to isolate itself from the foreign object. The gates will be named after Israel’s twelve tribes. John’s description of New Jerusalem strongly rebuts “Christians” who teach replacement theology (supersessionism), which is a heretical theory that God has no further use for Jews after Yeshua’s crucifixion and that He only can use and loves Christians. 

●-From that point, Saints in Heaven will live forever with God as His children. We will finally see Yeshua (Revelation 22:4). There is no need for a temple (Revelation 22:21), because we worship God directly, instead of worshiping in a place (church, synagogue, etc.) dedicated to Him. We will never again face death, illness, mourning, crying, or pain. Sad experiences, which characterized the old order of mankind, will be absent in God’s new order (Revelation 21:4).

●-This City of God will appear as a massive, brilliantly glowing jewel, lit from within by God’s glory– that is, God’s glory will shine through the walls (Revelation 21:11). So great will be His glory that neither any other light (sun, moon) nor heat source will be necessary. There will be neither night nor darkness (Revelation 22:5).

●-New Jerusalem’s streets will be made of transparent (like glass) gold (Revelation 21:20).

●-A river of life will flow from the throne of God, down the center of the great city. On the banks of the river will grow trees of life. These  trees will bear fruit, and leaves will be eaten to sustain eternal life– to heal the nations (the Saints) assembled there (Revelation 22:1-2). 

SIDELIGHT 1: As noted previously, there is a “bookend feature” of the Bible. That is, the Bible’s beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation share similar themes. The narrative between the beginning and ending “bookends” is an interruption caused by man’s rebellion (sin) against God, and God’s grace to redeem sinful man and restore all that has been lost. In the Garden of Eden (Genesis), there was a tree of life, and Adam and Chavvah (Eve) were commanded not to eat its fruit. In New Jerusalem (Revelation), there will also be a tree of life, but residents are commanded to eat of it. END sidelight 1.

SIDELIGHT 2: Inhabitants of New Jerusalem will be commanded to eat of the Tree of Life “each month,” and there are twelve such monthly meals, as in twelve months in a year (Revelation 22:2). “Month” properly translates the Greek mēn (pronounced, main). This verse confuses me. In Heaven, there is no time, no sun, and no moon, but yet, it would seem, inhabitants are on a monthly/ yearly schedule. END sidelight 2. 

● Saints will maintain certain national identities, but all will have only the purest thoughts about others. There is every reason to believe that Saints, even in their glorified (immortal) bodies, will retain certain identifiable features or qualities in order that we can recall the good times and love shared on earth. There will not be remembered any loved one (relative or friend) who was not admitted to Heaven. To recall such a person would cause sadness, and all sadness will be removed. Skeptics and cartoonists depict Heaven as an ultimately boring place– a place of chubby angels, who sit on clouds and play harps. Heaven will be eternally exciting. Could Saints be able to visit the vast Universe? Saints will understand the mysteries of God, which befuddled Paul. Could things enjoyed on Earth be pursued throughout eternity? Choirs of angels and new marvels will be enjoyed. Heaven will be truly a wonderful place. Don’t miss going! 

● Speaking of travel, could we travel in unique ways? After His resurrection, Yeshua just appeared in places. Could this be “thought travel” – think of a place and you are there. We can almost do this now. For example, Linda and I visited a special place on vacation. Even though many years ago and many miles away, I can still visualize this place in my mind any time I wish. I am practicing mental time travel, but, of course, I cannot practice physical time travel. Could one of the perks of Heaven be that a Saint only needs to think of a place, and he/ she is there?                    

● In a future RR, I will explain some books that will be opened at judgment. The most important book will be the Lamb’s Book of Life. You must have your name written in this book to be admitted into Heaven. Your name is written in this book, if you accept Yeshua as Savior, try to follow Him, and overcome sin.

● Of course, anyone whose name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (that is, anyone who has never accepted Yeshua as Savior, even though given opportunities to do so), will be denied entrance into Heaven. John gave examples  of persons who will not enter Heaven (Revelation 22:15): [Yeshua said] “Outside [of New Jerusalem] are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” [Here, “dogs,” from Greek kyōn, is metaphorically a person with an  impure, imprudent mind. “Sorcerers,” from Greek pharmakos, is one who has literally “lost his mind to the magic spell of drug abuse.”]

THE FINAL STEP TO ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN: In this RR, I have discussed the final step to eternal life in Heaven. At this very moment, any person can secure eternal life in Heaven by accepting Yeshua as Savior. Becoming a Believer/ Christian is as easy as A-B-C:

A  Admit that you have sinned. Scripture: … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are set right as a gift of His grace, through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua.  (Romans 3:23-24).

B  Believe that Yeshua died to save you from your sins. Scripture: … “Sirs [Paul and Silas], what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Put your trust in the Lord Yeshua and you will be saved–….” (Acts 16:30b-31).

C  Confess to someone that you have accepted Christ into your heart. Scripture: [Yeshua said] “Therefore whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also. deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

If you have stumbled across this RR and would like to accept Yeshua HaMashiach  (Jesus the Christ) as Lord and Savior of your life, just pray a simple prayer, such as: Dear Lord, I admit that I have led a sinful life. For my sins, I am sorry and I ask forgiveness. I now believe that You sent your Son, Yeshua (Jesus), to save me from my sins. Come into my heart… be my Lord… be my Savior… be the Master of my life! Thank you for all you have done for me, and all I now believe you will do for and through me. In Yeshua’s [Jesus’] name I pray, Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, tell someone who is a Believer (a Christian) what you have done. And, please let us know, too [contact Rabbi Michael Weiner, rabbi@syknox.org ]. We would love to help you grow in the Lord and in your knowledge of God’s Word, the Holy Bible. We would be honored to help you, a new Believer, in your journey toward the inheritance you have just received– eternal life in Heaven. We are so proud to have you as our new brother or sister in the family of God. We pledge our love to you. Now, act like someone who follows Yeshua (Jesus)!

CAN SALVATION BE THIS SIMPLE? The ABC Formula to Salvation presented in the preceding section is very simple. Other formulas are equally simple, such as the Romans Road to Salvation at https://sopatrickbaptchurch.com/roanroad.pdf . Some people reject salvation because more than this must be involved.

Can something as great as obtaining eternal life be so simple? Yes, and for good reason. The Bible explains the need for this simplicity, as God wants a simple test to show the mindset and heart of a person. He does not want complicated theology (creeds, rules, works, etc.) that would take a scholar years to master. He wants a test of faith so simple it can be understood by a child or a person of limited intellectual ability. When Yeshua selected His disciples, His call was equally basic and simple– deny self, take up your cross, and follow Him. Yeshua only emphasized three commandments, all based on love– love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul; love your neighbor (fellow man), as you love yourself; and love one another who are in the Body of HaMashiach (fellow Believers).

If you have truly asked Yeshua to be your Savior, your name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and your journey to Heaven is scheduled!

CAN SALVATION BE THIS DIFFICULT? As simple as salvation is, there are disturbing Bible verses that may mean we must not be lax in our relationship to God, such as:

● A Believer may think he/ she knows Yeshua, but Yeshua may not know him/ her (Matthew 7:21-23): [Yeshua said] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’”

● A Believer’s journey may be difficult and seldom traveled (Matthew 7:13-14): [Yeshua said] “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” 

● Once saved, falling away from a relationship with Yeshua is hazardous (Hebrews 6:4-6): For it is impossible for those who once were enlightened– having tasted of the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Ruach ha-Kodesh [Holy Spirit], and having tasted the good word of God and the powers of the olam ha-ba [the world to come], and then having fallen away– to renew again to repentance, since they are again crucifying Ben-Elohim [Son of God] for themselves and publicly disgracing Him. 

● Sacrifice for sins may not always apply (Hebrews 10:26-28): For if we keep on sinning willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but only a terrifying expectation of judgment and a fury of fire about to devour the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Torah of Moses dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses.  

● And, other disturbing Scriptures have been collected in sites such as: https://www.openbible.info/topics/losing_salvation . 

For sake of completeness, I must mention the “unpardonable sin” (Matthew 12:31-32): [Yeshua said] “…  every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Ruach will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Ruach ha-Kodesh will not be forgiven, neither in this age nor in the one to come.” Yeshua did not elaborate further. Most Bible students believe “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit is rejection of His invitation to follow Yeshua and to love God. This “blasphemy” would be another way of saying such a person has not accepted God’s New Covenant (Yeshua’s sacrifice) and does not have his/ her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In short, he/ she will die, having not been forgiven (pardoned) of his/ her sins. Thus, the “blasphemy” of refusing the Holy Spirit’s invitation has not resulted in a pardon (forgiveness).

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.