“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven..” – 2 Corinthians 12:2 (NASB)
Paul was so overwhelmed by a heavenly vision that he did not know the precise details. However, whether he was caught up bodily into heaven, or his spirit was temporarily separated from his body, was not important. This may be a passage that is rather different than most we select. But it gives us a clue about heaven and help answer the question “Where is heaven?” It is up. Heaven is up. Paul says he was caught up into the third heaven. Jesus reminded us that when He came to earth, He descended, and when He left to go back to heaven, He ascended, (Ephesians 4:10). It’s up. He came down and went back up. The angels told the disciples that this same Jesus who is taken up from you shall so come in like manner as you’ve seen Him go (Acts 1:11). When the Lord returns He will come down from heaven and we will be caught up into heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). John was called to “Come up here and I’ll show you heaven.” (Revelation 4:1) When two witnesses during the Tribulation are killed they are resurrected and called to “Come up here” (Revelation 11:12). Heaven is up!
“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” – Psalm 14:2 (ESV)
Among the essentials we need to progress as Christians in our life here on earth is the essential ability of understanding. Understanding is spoken about frequently in the Bible. Understanding does not come naturally but through a process of learning. Our promise in today’s verse affirms the Lord’s inspection of our thoughts and deeds. The words translated “looks down” in the original Hebrew text include a verb that actually says “bent over” to look. In a very real sense all the children of men are made to pass in review before Him. Because God is omniscient, he knows everything about his creatures including those who believe and those who don’t believe God’s words. We cannot escape his will by redefining words and instructions in the Bible and make those difficult to accept more satisfactory to us in our day. Customs change what is accepted or rejected as good and evil. None of these changes cause the meaning of God’s Word to change. What was an abomination to God 4000 years ago still today what God hates. God is always looking to see if there are those among his creatures who are discerning and seek after Him.
Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 23: 23-24 (ESV)
We all are likely to have times in our life of faith that God seems distant when He is always right beside us. God is always in the process of revealing to us what He is like. In today’s verses there are three questions that we believe are intended to help us know better how God is involved in our lives. As we read the verses we can see that the last question actually contains the answer to the first two. God asks, “Am I only a God that is nearby and not a God that is far away?” Well He is both and all thing time for God is everywhere. He fills heaven and earth. He fills all of His creation. He wants us all to know this because it reveals what a wonderful and caring God He is. There is nowhere that God is not and so no matter where we are, near or far, he is there with us. He is drawing us near to Him and as He is with us today, He is and will be with us tomorrow and forever – He fills our world and beyond.
““For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”” – John 6:33-35 (ESV)
Unbelief is overcome only by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it is a powerful evil influence as we see demonstrated in today’s passage. Those to whom Jesus was speaking had been a part of the large crowd that had been fed to their filling with miraculous created bread and fish. 5,000 was the number of men not including the women and children. Possibly as many as 20,000 had been fed. They continue to ask Jesus for a sign that they could hang their belief on⸺a meal of fish that never swam in the lake was not enough. The people don’t get it. All they could think of was their physical hunger. They wanted more. Jesus makes a better offer and declares “I AM the bread of life.” That is the promise, if we believe in Jesus, we will not have a gnawing hunger for spiritual peace with God. Jesus also promises that those who believe will never thirst. It’s a promise of unending bread and water for our spiritual lives. Because of their unbelief, Jesus repeats with “Truly, truly” in John 6:47-48,. Unbelievers fail to accept the miracle of eternal life Jesus promised to those who believe.
“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.” – Psalm 119:89-90 (NASB)
Following immediately the meditation on yesterday’s promise we are assured in today’s selection that the Word of God has firmly been established. There is no question in heaven about whether His word is worthy of trust. God’s promises, both the negative and the positive will always be fulfilled because it is from the mouth of God. This is important. Some will take issue with God’s word claiming confusion over many conflicting “interpretations.” But those who choose willfully to disregard the truth in God’s word will not be excused from the consequences. The Bible may often be interpreted wrongly and some do proclaim false teaching by corrupting the intended meaning of God’s word, but that does not mean the Bible is every wrong in what it teaches when it’s carefully studied. Wayward Christians and unbelievers (sometimes it’s difficult to understand which is which), will use these excuses to avoid facing the truth about their own actions and attitudes which are contrary to the teaching in God’s word. Gods Word is settled in heaven and God’s faithfulness endures throughout each generation. Things like this and His revealed word are established by God and cannot be shaken.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” – Philippians 3:20-21 (NASB)
Citizenship was of special in the first century. Philippi was an important Roman colony. Named by Alexander the Great for his Father Philip II. New Testament usage had varied applications. Primarily, it designated one’s city or city-state of birth and upbringing. Additionally, if Roman, it conveyed protections, benefits and status and responsibilities of the Roman empire. Paul uses his birthright as a Roman citizen to take advantage of legal privileges. Roman citizenship could be purchased if not conferred by birth. Our citizenship in heaven comes freely with our new birth into God’s family. Granted to us by God the Father on the basis of what Jesus Christ did when He sacrificed Himself for us and died a criminal’s death on a Roman cross. But on this earth our citizenship is – temporary. It comes with a guaranteed promise that will be fulfilled when one day, our Lord Jesus Christ transforms and conforms our bodies into ones that will be like His resurrected body reflecting His glory. This happens for all when Jesus returns as He promised. Alive or asleep (physically buried) The creator of all things, the Son of God will recreate for us a new perfect body.
“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. ” – Psalm 73:24-25 (ESV)
Let’s take a moment and consider the first promise. We are guided by God and He does so according to His counsel which is without fault and prefect in wisdom. Understanding these verses really requires reading them in context with the whole psalm. He faces temptation and nearly slips into the evils of envious arrogance (v. 2-3). The author is in conflict inwardly (vs. 14-15) Embarrassed as to how to act, he finds deliverance from his dilemma (v.16). He ends up with this declaration. The Psalmist acknowledges that it is God who guides us and it is also God who sees to us being received in glory. He thus declares his allegiance to God. We truly have no one besides God who will guarantee, and assure our eternal future in heaven. Another promise is here in the next verse (v. 26) that God is the strength of our heart and His portion is our best possession. Hence, there is nothing on earth that should capture our desire besides God. Let’s not buck against this but instead, with Asaph, the Psalms author, let’s make the Lord God our refuge and testify of all His works (v. 28).
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” – Psalm 121:1-3 (ESV)
The title “Song of Ascents” identifies each of the Psalms 120–134 as a pilgrim song which was sung when the Israelites “ascended” (went up) to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. Festivals and feasts were very important annual events in Jewish life. The pilgrim-psalmist, as he contemplated his own spiritual journey while walking the roads through the hills to Jerusalem. He asked where his help came from. It was a rhetorical question framed in the song for he knew. He had found the answer to this question in the affirmation of his faith that the Lord. It was the Lord God who created heaven and earth, including those hills. God was his only Source of help. God’s people then and today are encouraged to trust the living God because He will bless them all. Verse 3 has our promise for today, and every day. God is watching over us on our journey. We need not look to anyone but Him for the help we need. He will not let our foot to slip; and He never dozes off. God takes no naps or ever go to sleep and he guards us going and coming.
And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” – Mark 14:60-62 (ESV)
Our passage today from the Gospel according to Mark, covers the illegal trial of Jesus before the Seventy of the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council). Witnesses have lied about Jesus and twisted His words into things Jesus never said. The High Priest wants to find legal means according to Jewish law to condemn Jesus to death. In Matthew 26:63 The High Priest is puts Jesus under oath by declaring, “by the living God” and demands an answer, an admission or denial, as to whether Jesus considered himself to be the Messiah and the Son of God.* Jesus unequivocally answered, “I AM,” meaning, “I am indeed the Christ, the Son of the Blessed.*” In fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7, Jesus refused to reply to the false accusations or open his mouth to defend Himself. Now He responds with an absolute by saying, “You said (it), I am the Messiah, the Son of God.” Therefore, His meaning is a majestic, assertion that He is indeed The Anointed of God. “Yes, I AM.” He confirms that He is the Messiah. Our promise from Jesus is that one day we too will see Jesus come again in power with the clouds of heaven.
*The title “Blessed One,” found in this sense only here in the New Testament, is a Jewish substitute for “God”. The Jews avoided every opportunity to say or even write the name of God YHWH and instead created substitute titles known to be references to God. These two titles of Jesus both refer to His claim to be the Messiah. The Jews also know very well the implication behind the name “I AM” for that is the name claimed by God YHWH Himself.