Saturday, August 31, 2013

How Does Heaven Look Like And Who Can Enter?

Our God, through the Apostle John, revealed to us in part what is heaven like, as follows:

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. x x x

10 So he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. 12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square, as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. 17 Then he measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (according to the human standard used by the angel).
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve gems: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.
21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. 27 Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Rev. 21: vs. 1, 10-27 NLT).

The question is: How can one qualify to enter heaven?

First of all, ones name should be written or be found in the LAMB’s (JESUS’) Book of Life. This means that the Lord Jesus has a list of who are allowed to enter heaven. So, we better be known by, or be a FRIEND of the Lord Jesus. It is somewhat like those close friends and associates of President Noynoy C. Aquino being the ones appointed in his Cabinet.

I remember when then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited Davao City on May 26, 2005 without notice during the height of demonstrations all over the Philippines, almost resulting to her being deposed by people power like the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and former President Joseph E. Estrada, then Presidential Assistant Jess Dureza invited only ten individuals representing the cross-section of society in Davao City, Philippines, to attend an exclusive meeting in the Board Room at the 17th Floor of Marco Polo Hotel. 

 Among others, Father Samson of Ateneo de Davao University represented the religious and academe sector; John Y. Gaisano represented the retail business sector, Atty. Lorenzo represented the Agriculture sector; Mr. Vic Lao, representing the construction sector; Mr. Anggie Angliongto, representing the real estate sector; Grace Lim, representing the Import/export industry; somebody by the nickname of “Jun” representing the banana industry; etc.; while I represented the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), being then its President. 

 Before one could enter the Board Room, his/her name is checked by the receptionist in a certain list. When I went over the list beginning at No. 2 to the last number, I did not find my name. The receptionist noticing my distressed condition asked me, what organization are you representing? After I told her, she said, Sir, you are No. one in the list! I was relieved from distress and embarrassment. When we had a picture taking just before the President bade us goodbye, I stood beside her. Due to lack of notice everybody was in ordinary attire, except myself because I had a court hearing earlier. It will be somewhat like this when we enter Heaven.

Certainly, we would love to enjoy all the blessings beyond compare waiting for those who deserve to enter Heaven. The Bible tells us:

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4 NLT)

There in Heaven all of us will be healthy and physically trouble-free. No more need for physicians or hospitals. No more need for lawyers and courts. No more hard work to earn a living. Those who married more than once need not fear their first, second or third wife, if all of them will be in heaven. For the Lord Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30). Angels are sexless, so no more problem on adultery and fornication! Will you still be interested to be in heaven?

It’s going to be a sinless new world where everything will be a joy and a pleasure and perfect, with peace and harmony and cooperation and love for all.

Everybody in heaven will be like Jesus in character and personality: loving, caring, kind, gentle, faithful, meek, patient, good, honest and you can enumerate all attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be a perfect society, where everyone will be in perfect fellowship with each other and the Lord.

We will have eternal, wonderful happiness, joy, and paradise regained, and it will be without end. It is a place the beauty and comfort of which is beyond our finite imagination.

Secondly, let us all strive to have our names be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. How? for lack of space, this will be a good topic in subsequent issues of our FGBMFI Saturday Bulletin. Watch for it in God’s time (in Tagalog, itutuloy; in English, to be continued).

For now, let us imagine and compare the “Beginning and the End of the Age”.

Genesis (Beginning)
Revelation (End)
The sun is created
The sun is not needed
Satan is victorious
Satan is defeated
Sin enters the human race
Sin is banished
People run and hide from God
People are invited to live with God forever
People are curse
The cursed is removed
Tears are shed, with sorrow for sin
No more sin, no more tears or sorrow
The garden and earth are cursed
God's city is glorified; the earth is made new
Paradise is lost
Paradise is regained
People are doomed to death
Death is defeated; believers live forever with God

Saturday, August 24, 2013

To Be Like Jesus: Christlikeness

The beauty and image of our Lord Jesus Christ is revealed in the Gospels (the Good News, the Bible, principally in the gospel written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The manner and way of the Lord Jesus in expressing his thoughts, through direct statements of truths or through parables (earthly stories with heavenly meaning); the love, concern and compassion He had shown to the rich and poor, to the influential and powerful and to the peasants alike, man or woman, young or old, are examples for us to emulate.

If we have received Jesus as our Lord and savior and have the love of God in our heart, we become like Jesus or we become Christlike. And if we want to know what Jesus is like, read the Gospels (the Bible).

If we study the Gospels, we can see how Jesus did things. The Lord Jesus, a master teacher, only taught and lived love and sharing, who came for love and lived in love and died for love that we might live and love forever.

Jesus went about everywhere doing good (Acts 10:38), striving to lead God’s children back to true worship of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to the way of simple truth and love and peace, the true kingdom of God.

Love is the most important thing in life. Jesus taught: Love your God with all your heart, soul, spirit and strength, and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39).

The words of Jesus are the most beautiful, inspired, and encouraging part of the Bible. He is always the peacemaker. When people did not like or refuse to accept His message, He did not force it on them. He wants only voluntary acceptance of His offer of salvation through confession and repentance of sin and by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:17; Eph. 2:8-9).

Jesus was very patient, loving, kind, sympathetic, and forgiving, always leading and feeding and encouraging and strengthening His flocks (believers). For unbelievers they need only to repent and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He was the greatest of all examples of love, humility, and mercy, even to the sinners.

For example as recorded in John 8:3-11, when a woman who was about to be stoned to death for having been caught in the very act of adultery (in flagrante delicto), He did not say, “Sorry, Madam, Dura lex, sed lex” (Hard may be the law, but it must be followed or enforced).

Since the Word of God is true that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), the woman deserved to be stoned to death. However, by infinite wisdom, the Lord Jesus told her accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. She was afforded a second chance, for every one left the woman alone untouched. When Peter asked Him, “How many times will I forgive my brother?” He answered: “Seventy times seven” [or 490 times] (Matt. 18:21). He further said, “If your brother trespass against you seven times in a day, and he asks for forgiveness, forgive him” (Luke 17:4). This is for God’s sake, for God is Love. Let us be like Jesus: be Christlike.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Blessed Man

      The Word of God says, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments (Psalm 112:1).

Blessedness always originates from the “fear of the Lord”, and in delighting in the Lord so that the Lord will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

The complete scriptural description of a blessed man is found in Psalm 112. He is the man (or woman) who enjoys the approval of God: He/She fears the Lord (v.1); he/she finds delight in God’s commandments (v.1), he/she is righteous in all his/her dealings with others especially spiritually (v.3); he/she is gracious and full of compassion (v.4); he is generous and lends [not a borrower of money and does not pay]; he/she will guide his affairs with good discretion (v. 5); he/she will never be shaken (or steadfast); his/her heart is established, and always trusting in the LORD, and not afraid of evil tidings (vv. 6-7); he/she gives to the poor and needy; he/she acts with honor and dignity (v. 9). These are the marks or characteristics of a blessed person.

These lofty character qualities would be an effective checklist for all of us as we strive to live as God would have us live, and be a blessing to others and to the invisible kingdom of God on earth.

By the Holy Spirit’s enablement, may we all live in a way that marks us as true disciples of God/Jesus Christ. When we exhibit or execute such characteristics, others will notice, and then as we reflect Christlikeness, others will be blessed and would like to be like us. In this way God is glorified in our lives. If we are a businessman, professional or any other class of person, many will appreciate us, trust us, and this will lead us to prosperity and good success, like the way Joshua of old was prospered and had good success in his God-given mission (Joshua 1:8). So, ask yourself, what is the mission entrusted to me by God? Be a blessed man and surely you shall succeed in your mission. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Only One Who Can Save

It is written, “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation”. (Heb. 9:27-28 KJV).

For this reason, for as long as one is born a man (or woman), he/she cannot escape physical death. That is why the Lord Jesus being 100% human, also died once. But he died for a purpose, “to take our place,” or as the believer’s substitute, in fulfillment of his promise: “I am the resurrection and the life, that he who believeth in me, though he were dead (physically), yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die (spiritually)” (John 11:25-26 KJV). Significantly, the Lord Jesus himself emphasized, “believeth in me” which means only the believers shall have eternal life.

There is no dispute that Jesus Christ resurrected on the third day after His death with a glorified body, never to die again, but lives eternally forever and ever, so with anyone who believes, repents and accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and only Savior.

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3; Isa. 53:7-12). “And she (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21 KJV). All believers of Christ/God are His people. But why did God send and give as gift to man His only Son only to die in the cross of calvary? The heart of the scriptures answers it: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting (eternal) life” (John 3:16). Moreover, the Bible tells us, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

None of any of the religious leaders dead or alive, or any of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ ever made this assurance. None of them who already died resurrected as did Jesus Christ. All of them are still in their graves waiting for the appointed resurrection day.

When a person seeks deliverance from spiritual death, he finds that no human being has the power to save - no minister of the gospel, no Pope or priest.

Only Jesus Christ can save the soul of man. The Bible says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). So, don’t call on any one else to save your soul, but Jesus Christ only. Thus, when Peter was walking in water upon the bidding of Jesus, but doubting amounting to unbelief, he began to sink, and he prayed: “Lord save me”, and Jesus responding “immediately stretched forth his hand, and caught him. O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”, he was saved (Matt. 14:27-31 KJV). Thus, when we believed Jesus mixed with faith (Hebrews 4:2), and call on Him to save us, He will save us and live eternally in heaven with Him first “to be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6), then forever and ever (Rev. 22:5). No one can be a priest without knowing the scriptures or word of God. Therefore, know the Word of God. “Faith cometh by hearing (listening) or reading [if we know how to read] the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Know God, accept and receive Him as our only LORD and Savior.

Have you asked Jesus Christ to save your soul? If not, do it now! He always answers those who plead for His mercy and who completely trust in Him by faith. What is this faith? “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). It is a SAVING faith. Just believe mixed with faith and do not doubt in our heart that Jesus Christ is our only Savior and call on His name like what Peter did, and we shall be saved and lived eternally with Him in a special place prepared by Him (John 14:2-3) called – HEAVEN.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Envious But Justified

Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).

James is obviously referring to the Ten Commandments when he said “the whole law”, or to the whole Law of Moses (the Pentateuch books [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy]). No one has ever or can fulfill the whole Law. That is why God the Father sent His only begotten Son who is the fulfillment of the Law. Thus Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). In other words, because death is the penalty or wages of sin (Rom. 6:23), since we are all sinners, as the Scriptures say, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), only the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on behalf of the believer can fulfill the law, resulting to the believer’s being justified. Meaning, Just-as-If he committed no sin, so he will not spiritually die but will have eternal life which is the gift of God, by grace through faith in the Son (John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).

Can any of us claim that we have never violated one of God’s laws? For example, the command not to covet? (Exodus 20:17). To covet is to desire to own what already belongs to another.

We may be relatively good, but in the eyes of a perfectly holy God, we have fallen far short of His standards. We all need the guilt-cleansing grace that Jesus Christ alone can provide.

The apostle Paul was truly right when he declared that “there is none righteous” and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:10, 23).

Some months ago, a friend of mine, Mr. Rulfo Asis, a co-member in the Regional Tripartite Wage Board in Region XI (RTWPB-XI for brevity), acquired a Chevrolet (Spark) small car. When I rode with him in his new car, I noticed that it performed well in all aspects including its aircon. I learned from him too that the car runs at least twenty kilometers per liter of gasoline. Now that gasoline is increasing very often, a small car is desirable for every car owner.

Speaking out of the abundance of my heart, I appreciated lavishly the beauty and serviceability of his car and said that he is very fortunate to have such a car. He proudly told me that his son gave it to him as a gift. Verbalizing my thought, I said to him, how I wish I will also have one like this. But back in my mind, do I have a son or daughter who would give me a car like it?

Some months after, a golden opportunity, I thought, suddenly came on sight. My Korean client, the P.K. Industries, a duly accredited assembler and rebuilder of Korean surplus cars, won its case filed by the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (popularly known as PASG), in the Bureau of Customs, in the Ombudsman and in the Office of the President of the Philippines. Striking the iron while it is hot, I asked my client for a small car. To my surprise beyond words could express, he gladly gave me in a silver platter a CHEV small car which is the latest model, later than that of my friend’s.

Indeed, it is true, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). And it is also true that “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4 KJV).

Actually, in a manner of speaking, for lack of the proper term, I “coveted” the car of my friend, but not to the extent that I desired to have his own car by stealing it or killing him so I can have his car. I waited for God to supply my need, even my heart’s desire, while I continued to serve Him as faithfully as I can in the capacity I am capable of doing.

This topic of covetousness brings to my mind the account of King Ahab who coveted (as defined above) the orchard of Naboth situated beside his palace (1 Kings 21). The King offered to buy the orchard but Naboth refused to sell. He offered to exchange any part of his kingdom of his own choice but still Naboth declined the generous offer because in their Jewish culture, it is bad luck to sell their inheritance. The King became distressed and disappointed beyond description in words. Queen Jezebel, finding the cause of the troubled king, said “cheer up, as if you are not a king. I’ll take care of your problem”. The queen commanded that Naboth be paraded around the kingdom in a chariot with two witnesses accusing him for blasphemy of God and for being a traitor to the kingdom, resulting to the death of Naboth by stoning. Then the queen told the king, “Now you can have the orchard of Naboth”. It temporarily made the King happy, but not long after his kingdom was attacked by his enemies, and he and his wife died a horrible death. This is an example of pure and simple covetousness.

Indeed, it is a sin to covet what belongs to your neighbor. What we should do instead is dream about it, work hard, be faithful to God, and in His time He will make all things beautiful (Eccl. 3:11).