Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, August 14, 2021
Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi’s note:  I want to pause here and take a moment to give thanks.  I want to thank David Harwood for writing every Saturday RR and Dr. Raymond Finney for writing every Sunday RR.  Getting the long Shabbat off is so much appreciated by me.  And they write with such excellence.  I’m not the least bit jealous that many of you read their writings and not my own.  Do I sound bitter?  Well, I’m not.  Just grateful to two great men of God who have likely never met each other, but both bless me and our community of faithful RR readers greatly.  May they, in turn, be blessed for their service to the Lord.  In Yeshua’s name, Amen.  End RN.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sat 14 Aug 2021 6th of Elul, 5781 Parashat Shoftim
De 20:10-21:9 Isa 51:12-52:12 1 Ti 3:1-7

Hope 11: Of What Are We Aware When We’re Finally There? by David Harwood

There is a “hope stored up for you in heaven. You heard before about this hope in the true message of the Good News” (Colossians 1:5 TLV). It is in line with “ … a hope … that there will surely be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Acts 24:15 TLV).

Our destination is certain, and we are on the way to the fulfillment of our ultimate hopes. Right now we are experiencing life in the flesh. Next comes our blessed disembodied lives in Heaven. Finally, our glorified souls and bodies will be reunited in the Resurrection. One leads to the next and there will be a consummation. Life, as we are intended to experience it, will truly begin.

Each stage provides the foundation for the next. Each successive form of existence is dependent upon the former. The prior phases of life provide a pattern for the next.

If this life is a preparation for Heaven, then Heaven is a preparation for the Resurrection.

If experiencing the Kingdom of God in this life is preparation for experiencing His Kingdom in Heaven, then experiencing the Kingdom of God in Heaven is  preparation for our participation in the Resurrection and the ages to come.

If in this life our best relationships are marked by generous love, our relationships in Heaven will have more love. Also, our relationships will have more truth. They will have more righteousness, peace, and joy in the Lord’s Presence. This is a reasonable hope-expectation.

If knowing God in this life is a foretaste of Heaven, then knowing God in Heaven is a foretaste of knowing God after the Resurrection.

We are in the beginning stages of successive ages. In each age God is going to outdo the expressions of His kindness towards us. I believe that one will provide the seed of the next.

Look at this:

But God was rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. 5 Even when we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive together with Messiah. (By grace you have been saved!) 6 And He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua— 7to show in the olam ha-ba the measureless richness of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua. (Ephesians 2:4–7 TLV)

The Greek leads me to believe that perhaps this might be better translated in Hebrew as בָּעוֹלָמִים הַבָּאִים (ba-Olami’ym ha-Bai’ym): In the Ages to Come.

In Ephesians 1 Paul wrote of the Age to Come. In Ephesians 2:7 he wrote of AGES(!) to Come. Eons are ahead, and each age shall be an easel for the canvas of our lives as God paints increasingly creative depictions of favor revealed in His kindness towards us. To say the least, this is something worthy of hope-anticipation. He is going to outdo Himself, from age to age, from one expression of glory to the next.

By the way, we will not be passive recipients of this grace. These expressions of “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in the Messiah Yeshua” shall be revealed as we relationally respond to aspects of revealed glory that only glorified creations can know.

Thinking of these futures may lead to a couple of questions: Are relationships between people going to be better? Will we be reunited with those we knew?

I appreciate reports people relate of what they believe they experienced in Near Death Experiences (NDEs). There are also testimonies of people who have been dead for a while and then were miraculously resuscitated, or raised from the dead, in answer to prayer. I think that many of these people are trustworthy. I appreciate the hard work and research that has gone into vetting and presenting these examples to the public.

Many who have had NDEs report recognizing, and being greeted by, relatives, or friends, who have gone before them. Although I’m sure these people are responsible witnesses I prefer to get my information, and frame my hope-anticipation, from the Scriptures. I trust people, but I rely upon the Bible.

Do the Scriptures speak to these questions? I think they do. Here’s an example.

In the comforting and scary story of Lazarus and the rich man, the damned rich man recognized Lazarus (who he knew) and Abraham (whom he’d never met).

Now there was a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen, living it up in luxury every day. 20But a poor man named Lazarus had been laid at his gate, covered with sores 21and longing to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Besides, even the dogs were coming to lick his sores.  22 “It happened that the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. Then the rich man also died and was buried. 23 And from Sheol, as he was in torment, he raised his eyes. And he sees Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his side. 24So he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! And send Lazarus so he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, because I am suffering torment in this flame.’  25 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your life you received your good things, even as Lazarus received the bad things. But now he is comforted here, and you are tormented. 26 Besides all this, between us and you a great chasm is firmly set, so that those who want to cross over to you cannot, nor can those from there cross over to us. 27 “Then the rich man said, ‘I beg you then, Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house! 28For I have five brothers to warn, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham says, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead!’ ” (Luke 16:19–31 TLV)

In the light of this story, how valuable is the sure hope-expectation provided through the power of our Messiah’s atoning blood? Dare we hope in anything less?

As a result of what is recorded in Luke 16 it is not too much to suppose that Yeshua expects us to anticipate this: we will know people with whom we were in relationship and, also, those we never met.

Imagine that!

Surely that company will include those we love, who died in the Lord, who have quite literally gone before us and are present with the Lord.

I somehow doubt that the rich man’s encounter with Lazarus was a comforting one. Talk about remorse… think of the guilt.

On the other hand, there is an authoritative description of the people in heaven. They are described as the “spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (Hebrews 12:23b)

But you have come to Mount Zion—to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, a joyous gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are written in a scroll in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect, 24 and to Yeshua, the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24 TLV)

Will these worshipers recognize one another?

According to Luke 16 we can confidently hope and answer, “Yes”. Contemplate the reunion of justified, righteous, loved ones meeting and communing with one another. What will their relationships be like? For one thing, they will all be freed from emotional trauma, mixed motivations, and insecurity. It is going to be beyond the best of the best of times.

Of what shall we be aware when we’re finally there?

We shall know the kindness of God from age to age (Ephesians 2:4-7). We will know these kindnesses within the context of new, and renewed, relationships which are similar, but so much better (Luke 16:19-31). We can expect to be aware of God’s kindness towards ourselves and those with whom we are in relationship in the presence of the victory celebration of God in His Messiah (Hebrews 12:22-24).

We have good reasons to overflow in joyful expectation. However, we need help. So, please pray along with Paul’s benediction:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and shalom in trusting, so you may overflow with hope in the power of the Ruach ha-Kodesh. (Romans 15:13).