#323 What is My Loved One Doing in Heaven Now? + Why Does Forgiveness Require the Shedding of Blood? (Part 1)
Happy Saturday, everybody! As an update, I am still the only healthy member of the Bible Reading Podcast Bunker/household. A couple of the kids seem to be improving, but my wife is having pretty rough go of it, and feeling quite rotten – your prayers for all of us are most appreciated, and I do praise God that all of our Covid tests have been negative.
As I was loading up today’s Scripture, I realized that I did an uh-oh yesterday. Instead of reading Psalms 145, which was the scheduled Psalm, my eyes jumped ahead a day, and I read (and even focused!) on Psalms 146-147 yesterday, skipping 145. We’ll rectify that today, and be back on track tomorrow. I’m sure my pay will be docked for that major miscue.
We open with a great question from a most faithful listener, Willem from, Minneapolis:
Your title question of Tuesday’s podcast leads me to another question I am pondering. My Dad passed away on Nov.2, 2011, I believe that I will see him again in heaven when I pass away or when, and if I am fortunate to be of the generation that will be caught up to Jesus.
Here is the question that I am pondering, What is my Dad doing right now? – Willem Dykstra
So, Willem, it turns out that there is much less information on what humans are currently doing in Heaven than what Jesus is doing in Heaven. I do not think we will have wings, sit on clouds and play harps. For one, angels don’t have wings anyway, and for two, humans don’t become angels when they go to Heaven. The harps and clouds thing may or may not happen, but I will say that I plan on at least attempting to sit on a cloud, if at all possible.
There are three speculative works on Heaven that I have read over the years that impressed me as having some genuineness to them, but please know that I have never done a Paul or John and visited Heaven, and I genuinely have NO IDEA. The first was a book by Randy Alcorn called Deadline. It is a fictional book that I haven’t read for over a decade, but I thought its portrayal of eternity went well beyond a Paradise Lost sort of vibe, and seemed to capture a more biblical understanding of Heaven. C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle is another one that has an exhilarating description of Heaven that seems to have much biblical truth to it. More recently is a blog post by an excellent writer who doesn’t seem to be writing much these days, sadly. His name is Greg Lucas – he is police officer and follower of Jesus, who is the father to a son with significant special needs named Jake. In this post, No More Tears, Greg describes not a visit to Heaven, but what he perceives that Heaven might be like in his imagination. I suspect he’s hit on something!
I like how the website gotquestions.org speaks of what Heaven might be like:
In Luke 23:43, Jesus declared, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.” The word Jesus used for “paradise” is paradeisos which means “a park, that is, (specifically) an Eden (place of future happiness, paradise)”. Paradeisos is the Greek word taken from the Hebrew word pardes which means “a park: – forest, orchard” (Strong’s). Jesus said, “Today you shall be with me “en paradeisos,” not “en nephele” which is Greek for “in clouds.” The point is that Jesus picked and used the word for “a park.” Not just any park but “the paradise of God” or park of God (Revelation 2:7) which for us will be a place of future happiness. Does this sound like a boring place? When you think of a park, do you think of boredom?…God’s Word says we won’t have to be in His paradise alone. “I shall fully know even as I also am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). This would seem to indicate that we will not only know our friends and family, we will “fully know” them. In other words, there is no need for secrets in heaven. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing to hide. We will have eternity to interact with “a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). No wonder heaven will be a place of infinite learning. Just getting to know everyone will take eternity!
Revelation 22 gives us an amazing picture of what Heaven is like. As I read it, ask yourself – knowing your dad, Willem, what would he do in a place like this? It might just be that he’s doing it!
Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, 3 and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.
If I were there, and it was possible – most days you’d find me swimming in that river, or fishing in that river, hopefully with family and friends very nearby and enjoying it with me!
Our readings for today include: 2nd Chronicles 3 and 4 (and I note we will again do these at the end of the readings, and we are still under the same NWS warning from yesterday about bad pronunciation of Hebrews names!) also Psalms 145, Amos 3 and Hebrews 9.
Our Big Bible question comes from a fairly well-known passage, Hebrews 9:22
22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
What does this mean, and why does God require bloodshed for forgiveness? Let’s ponder that as we read Hebrews 9.
This blood thing is a big stumbling block for people – why do Christians talk about and sing about the blood of Jesus? Surely that must be weird to so many people, right? Pastor Tim Keller encapsulates the issue well, saying:
We’re looking at the book of Hebrews, and we come to chapters 9 and 10, sort of the heart of Hebrews, where we learn the basic message. Jesus saves through sacrifice. Jesus saves through his blood. In fact, 9:22, goes so far as to say, “… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Right here, modern people have a problem, a big problem, with Christianity.
When contemporary people hear it said that God requires blood in some way to turn aside his wrath from sin, it sounds offensive. It sounds disgusting. It sounds primitive. It sounds obscene. Christianity has sometimes been called, disdainfully, of course, the religion of the slaughterhouse, and this doesn’t seem to be what we need in this world that’s filled with blood and violence.Surely, we need a religion of moral uplift and love, not a religion of violence and blood; but the book of Hebrews says there’s power in the blood.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Ultimate justice is encapsulated in Exodus 21:23 If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth,(L) hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound. This is not merciful, but it is absolutely just, and God is fully and wholly just. When we sin a price must be paid for our sin, and the currency needed is not American dollars, Mexican pesos, or Spanish Reales, but blood, as the Bible tells us in Leviticus:
11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.
This means that we have to pay for our sins with our life…and that is bad news. The good news, however, is that Jesus PAID that price with HIS BLOOD shed, and not ours. We will continue this discussion tomorrow, but allow me to close with an anecdote about Billy Graham from Tim Keller. In 1955, Billy Graham was invited to speak at one of the centers of intellectualism in the world, Cambridge University in England. Many people were stirred up, and even outraged by this, knowing that Graham actually believe in the Bible, and there was some protests and letters written to the local papers about his visit.
One of the letters said something like, “I’m sure Billy Graham is a very sincere person, but he’s a fundamentalist. He’s a person who believes you have to be saved through the blood of Jesus, and fundamentalist Christianity is bad for us, and besides that, it’ll never have an impact on the elite young men and women of Europe.”
Well, Billy Graham decided he was still going to go, but this freaked him out. I mean, reading all this stuff, it really intimidated him, so he prepared these eight messages, because he was going to preach at Great Saint Mary’s, which is the central church. Only 8,000 students at that time, and 2,000, every night, for eight nights, packed Great Saint Mary’s out.
So he prepared these incredibly brilliant talks. Very different than what he usually wrote. Very erudite. Very intellectual. In fact, he said in one place that he thought he had to preach like John Stott if he was going to come to Cambridge. The first three nights, the place was packed out and nothing happened. He could tell nothing happened. There were mostly students, but there were a lot of the Cambridge dons. The faculty was there. Everybody was sitting there and not much was happening.
On Wednesday, Billy Graham threw away his prepared message and said, “I’m just going to tell you what I know about the cross of Jesus Christ.” Dick Lucas, who was there at the time, in 1955, says something like, “I’ll never forget that night. I was in the totally packed chancel, sitting on the floor, with the Regius Professor of Divinity sitting on one leg and the chaplain of a college, who was a future bishop, on the other.
Both of these were very good men but completely against the idea that you needed salvation from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. So dear Billy got up that night …” This is the night he had thrown away his prepared message. “… and he began at Genesis and he went right through the whole Bible and talked about every single sacrifice you can imagine. The blood was just flowing all over the place, everywhere, for three-quarters of an hour.
Both my neighbors were terribly embarrassed by this crude proclamation of the blood of Christ. It was everything they disliked and everything they dreaded, but at the end of the sermon, Billy Graham dismissed the audience and invited anyone who wanted to stay behind to make a commitment to Christ, and that night, to everyone’s shock, 400 young men and women stayed … Cambridge undergraduates and graduates.”
Dick remembers meeting a young curate, a brilliant young Cambridge student, who went into the ministry, and he talked to him several years later and said, “Where did Christian things begin for you?” He said, “Oh, Cambridge, 1955.” He says, “Where?” He said, “A Billy Graham mission.” “What night?” “It was Wednesday.” “How did it happen?” He said, “I don’t know. All I do know is that when I walked out of there that night, finally, I realized Jesus Christ really died for me.”
He had been a good person, but that night, the blood of Christ wrote all that on his heart. He had known Jesus as example, but never as Savior, and that night his life was transformed. Dick essentially says, “It was unbelievable to the dons around me that a man like that, preaching a sermon like that, could have totally changed the lives of young men and women like that,” but so it did, because the blood of Christ has power.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).