Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, August 7, 2021
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sat 7 Aug 2021 29th of Av, 5781
Parashat Re’eh Shabbat Machar Chodesh
De 15:19-16:17 1 Sam 20:18-42 Rev 21:9-27
Hope 10 – Heaven is Better by David Harwood
Is Heaven really better? How much better is it?
Let’s begin to answer these questions with the testimony of Paul’s confident expectation:
For to me, to live is Messiah and to die is gain. 22 But if to live on in the body means fruit from my work, what shall I choose? I do not know. 23 I am torn between the two—having a desire to leave and be with Messiah, which is far better; 24 yet for your sake, to remain in the body is more necessary. (Philippians 1:21–24 TLV)
Perhaps an analogy might be made with God’s revelation of His mercy. Isaiah revealed God’s compassion in a surprising way. It surpasses our expectations in the same way His thoughts are beyond ours.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous one his thoughts, let him return to Adonai, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:7–9 TLV)
Look up! The heavens are higher than the earth. So are God’s thoughts compared to ours. It’s safe to expect that just as the heavens tower over us so will the goodness of what we experience in God’s presence be greater, higher, much greater, much higher(!), than what we have experienced in our best moments here on earth.
Will those who are absent from the body, and present with the Lord, be better? Paul wrote, “to die is gain (Philippians 1:21b).” What is being gained?
In the light of the Scriptures I think we can insist that those who are present with the Lord have a relationship with the Lord with whom they are present. This relationship is of a superior quality to all they experienced while they were in the body. In heaven their relationship with God has come into the beginnings of fullness; their understanding about themselves and reality has increased; their emotional wholeness is complete and ready to grow.
People are better in heaven than they were when they briefly inhabited the material realm.
In what way are they better? Much better.
Paul wrote that departing and being with the Messiah is much better (Philippians 1:21-24). In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 he testified that he would prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
The Greek translated prefer is εὐδοκέω (eudokeō) which, toned down emotionally, is often translated well pleased. It can, and from my perspective ought to be, regularly translated as “delighted.” Both alternatives convey a stronger emotion than “prefer.” Sometimes I suspect that the translators are so cerebral that they shy away from using words that convey strong feelings.
I am convinced that when we die and go to heaven our souls will be instantaneously changed. The soul shall be instantly transformed. It is akin to the coming resurrection. When Paul wrote of that he said things like this:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
The Greek word for “moment” (ἄτομος, atomos) means indivisible. When applied to time it describes an instant so immediate that it cannot be divided into parts.
First it’s not there, then it is.
First, you don’t see it, then you do.
A gradual metamorphosis of the body is not prophesied. It is best described in our language as a moment. It’s like being born from above – there is a moment when a person goes from spiritual death to life. Departing and being present with the Lord in Heaven is like that. It is an instantaneous transformation accompanying our soul’s new location.
When one is born from above they are recognizable. However, they really have been changed. As with Yeshua, when people are raised from the dead they will be recognizable, but they shall be on a totally different level of existence. When someone’s soul departs and goes to Heaven it is the same soul as inhabited the body, but it has been changed. It is the foretaste of glorification.
Do we know God now? We shall know as we have been known. Have we experienced aspects of God’s glory? We shall be immersed in the waterfall of unalloyed glory. Do we have an awareness of God’s love? The breadth, length, height, and depth of it shall immediately and permanently effect our souls like lightning splits the sky. What of the impartation of wisdom we receive in this life? It is nothing in comparison to what we shall receive. Is our experience of God’s peace in this life comparable to the sense of wholeness we will experience in heaven? It shall be incomparable.
Try to imagine the fruit of the Ruach ha-Kodesh exponentially increased. I shall not mention all of them. Just the first three in the list are amazing. Meditate on the possibility of love, joy, and peace empowered to an unthinkable degree. That is our souls’ experience in heaven. Take a moment to consider righteousness, peace and joy in the Ruach ha-Kodesh revealed in unspeakable fullness in our own souls and in relationship with others.
Are we self-aware? Do we have any degree of accurate understanding of ourselves? That self-understanding is not worthy to be compared to what we shall finally grasp as we see ourselves through the eyes of our Savior.
These aspects of future reality frame our Hope of Heaven. These truths are a hint of the substance of the inheritance that has been preserved for us.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah! In His great mercy He caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua from the dead. 4 An incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance has been reserved in heaven for you. 5 By trusting, you are being protected by God’s power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5 TLV)
We are being guarded by God so we might receive an eternal inheritance. This inheritance is reserved in Heaven for us. Our confidence in our Father’s preservation power is the foundation of a life-directing hope. In fact, this inheritance has been prepared with us in mind. What is its nature? It is likened to a kingdom.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34 TLV)
Have compassion, and pity those who have no hope for the future. The way they mourn reflects that despair. We are not in that category. We have hope for the future of departed loved ones. We have hope for our own futures.
Consider some of the qualities of the inheritance that is reserved for us. Consider what those who have already gone to be with the Lord are experiencing right now. No wonder we do not mourn as those who have no hope. No wonder we do not fear the aftermath of dying. We are being guarded by God, Himself, who has provided the confident-expectation of an imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance.
Yeshua conquered death and we are no longer subject to the fear of death.
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared the same humanity—so that through death He might break the power of the one who had the power of death (that is, the devil) 15and free those who by fear of death were in bondage all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14–15 TLV)
We await the final outcome of Yeshua’s victory.
For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:25–26 TLV)
While we await the ultimate destruction of this vile enemy we rejoice in the Hope of Heaven: the foretaste of the Resurrection.
In our next meditation we will delve into aspects of our future awareness, and the promise of the beginnings of glorified relationships, in Heaven.
Shabbat Shalom. David.