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February 2008 • Volume XI, Issue 22


Is There Time in Heaven?

A reader submitted the question, "Is there time in heaven?" along with the cry of the mighty angel in Revelation 10:6 that "there should be time no longer." "Heaven" here refers to what we call the intermediate state (the third heavens, where believers go at death until Christ’s return) and the eternal state (the new heavens and the new earth inherited by the elect after the final judgment).

Here are three reasons why there is and will be time in heaven. 1) Heaven has a history. Created on the first day (Gen. 1:1), it was the scene for the first fall: Satan’s proud rebellion taking some third of the angels with him (Rev. 12:3-4). Its first human inhabitant was the first martyr, Abel, who has now been joined by millions of saints. The ascended Christ assumed the throne of heaven almost 2,000 years ago, whereupon Satan and his host were cast out (7-10). This intermediate state will end at the last day when it will be swallowed up in the new heavens and the new earth. 2) God will be glorified, Christ will rule and we will abide and reign with Him forever and ever—and these blessed activities require time (I John 2:17; Rev. 5:11-14; 22:5). 3) Most basically, as creatures we can only exist, whether in heaven or on earth, in time, even when we will be glorified in the new world.

Thus the difference between the world in which we now live and the intermediate or eternal states is not that the latter are without time, but rather that in heaven time is always filled with complete joy and peace. In this fallen world, our time is often marred with boredom or futile labour (Ecc. 1:2-3), for we are unable to love and obey God as we ought. Time in this world is marked by suffering, crying, sin, guilt and death. But the new heavenly order is characterized by perfect blessedness forever, for we and the creation will be renewed and filled with the glory of God. We will be supremely happy as God’s children and image-bearers and our time will always be rich and satisfying in our sinless service.

What then of the oath that "there should be time no longer" (Rev. 10:6)? Here, in the interlude after the sixth trumpet, the strong angel declares that there will be no more time or delay for the mystery of God is about to be finished (7). Thus the angel stands astride sea and land, clothed with a cloud and a rainbow upon His head (1-2), for the world in its present form will end. God will keep His covenant with creation and transform it. The afflicted and persecuted church is comforted by this word that the end of her sufferings is approaching and that the crucified and victorious Lord is coming quickly. Rev. Stewart

Preparing for Another World (2)

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations (Luke 16:9).

In this News, we conclude our answer to a reader’s question: "What does Luke 16:9 mean? What kind of friend can be made with unrighteous mammon, and how can such friends receive one into an everlasting home when one fails?"

The whole point of this parable is that we are in this world as stewards in God’s house to use what belongs to God to prepare for our future in heaven. If we do not do what is right and good with these measly, earthly things, we will not be able to do what is right and good with the true riches of heaven, for we will not have prepared for our future and will be, when that future comes, without anything at all. Only if we are faithful and just stewards of God’s possessions will we receive for our very own the far, far better riches of heaven.

Let us take the time to apply this to our own lives. The Lord gives each of us a certain amount of this world’s goods; some receive more, some less. He does not give them to us so that He relinquishes His claim to them and they become our possession, for we are only stewards. All the creation belongs to Him. But as stewards we are commanded to use that (small) part of God’s creation for God’s glory. If we think, even for a moment, that what we have is ours and not God’s, we are unfaithful stewards. We then think that we can use what the Lord has given us for ourselves and do with these things what we please. In the event that we do such a horrible thing, we begin to use these things for our own pleasure and we set our hearts on them. This sin is covetousness, as becomes clear in Luke 16:14: "And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him." We ought not to forget that the one who breaks the tenth commandment, forbidding covetousness, breaks all the commandments of God. This was the sin of the rich young ruler who kept the precepts of the law outwardly, but had much riches and was covetous (Matt. 19:16-26).

To use the few earthly possessions that God has given us as faithful stewards implies several things. Fundamentally, it means that we use all we have for God’s glory. In a more concrete and down to earth way, we seek God’s glory by using all we possess for the kingdom of heaven as it is manifested here on earth in the preaching of the gospel, the cause of the church of Christ, Christian education, the care of the poor, etc., etc.

To use our earthly goods for the well-being and advancement of the kingdom of Christ implies a certain spiritual attitude. It implies that these temporal earthly things are not of very great importance, mean very little, and have what significance they do have only insofar as they are used on behalf of the cause of Christ that is eternal. We "sit loose" to them, see them as only temporary necessities that enable us better to walk our pilgrimage in the world as we pursue our journey to our final destination, our Father’s house. When we buy things, our only consideration is: How can the purchase of this "thing" help me along in my pilgrim’s journey? We "make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness" only to prepare for our future in the everlasting kingdom. This godly attitude is rooted in an overwhelming desire to inherit the glorious world Christ has promised us.

We fall very short of this calling. We love our houses, our cars, our books, our furniture, our clothing, our jewellery, our "toys" that give us so much "fun" while we enjoy our lives here in this world of sin. We are so often unfaithful over that which is least, unfaithful in the unrighteous mammon, unfaithful in that which belongs to another (God), that we can only be ashamed. We foolishly think that what we put into the collection plate on Sunday and, perhaps, spend on Christian school tuition is God’s part of what we have; the rest is ours to do with as we please. Doing this, we steal from God and reveal our covetousness. We are not laying up treasures in heaven, but we are laying up treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). We are not seeking the things that are above, but the things here below (Col. 3:1-2). To our disgrace, the more we have, the more we want. Our thirst for earthly possessions is never sated. Our desire for the things below is never satisfied. We always would like to have just a little more. Our accumulation of things earthly goes on and on—to the neglect of spiritual things, for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matt. 6:21).

Thus we lose the character of a pilgrim and stranger here in the earth and spend our time and what we claim belongs to us in building ourselves a comfortable and enjoyable life here in the world. We rather like it here; we are enjoying ourselves immensely; we have family and friends, money to indulge in games and vacations, pleasures and play. We consider the world a playground whereas Scripture never wearies of reminding us that it is, after all, a battlefield.

And if it should happen that we hear on Sunday morning our calling to refrain from the deadly sin of covetousness (cf. I Tim. 6:6-12), we easily silence our pricked consciences, remind ourselves of how difficult obedience is (with and because of our many possessions) and comfortably settle back in our old ways.

The words of the Lord are without qualification: "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:11). Prof. Hanko

The Mysteries of the Kingdom, Prof. Hanko’s detailed explanation of all of Christ’s parables, is available from the CPRC Bookstore for £19.80 (hardback; inc. P&P).

Wine in the Bible

A number of readers have asked if "wine" in the Bible is always non-alcoholic (i.e., grape-juice). This guest article, arguing that this is not the case, is by Rev. Jai Mahtani of Bethel Protestant Reformed Church, Chicago.

1) The Bible’s first reference to "wine" is of an alcoholic beverage; Noah became drunk through it (Gen. 9:21). Non-alcoholic grape-juice cannot intoxicate.

2) No one can get drunk with too much grape-juice, but we read in Ephesians 5:18: "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." It is significant that God’s Word never declares, "Do not drink." Instead, we read, "Do not be drunken." Scripture does not forbid the use of alcoholic beverages, but it forbids the abuse of them.

3) The Lord Jesus drank (alcoholic) wine. In Luke 7:33-34, Christ contrasts Himself with John the Baptist for whereas John, as a Nazarite, drank no wine, Jesus did drink wine. Christ’s lawful and well-known use of wine became the occasion for His enemies’ lie that He was a "winebibber," that is, a drunkard or a wino. It is as plain as day, from the mouth of the Lord Himself, that He drank the wine that John abstained from drinking, that is, an alcoholic beverage. Christ even miraculously produced wine at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1-11).

4) The qualifications for elders and deacons in I Timothy 3 include "not given to wine" (3) and "not given to much wine" (8). Similarly, Titus 1:7 requires that an elder be "not given to wine." Office-bearers are warned not to drink too much wine; they are not admonished not to drink too much grape-juice. Should a church disqualify/discipline an office-bearer if he has a liking for grape-juice?

5) Grape-juice is not medicinal as fermented wine is. Thus Paul advises Timothy, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities" (I Tim. 5:23).

Although wine is a good gift of God and it is lawful to drink it, we must be equally mindful of the Bible’s warnings against excessive drinking (Prov. 20:1). We also condemn underage drinking, drinking and driving, etc., as well as overindulging in food, since Scripture speaks as much against gluttony as it does against drunkenness. Drunkenness is often mentioned in the Bible in connection with fornication and "partying." It is right up to date in its condemnation of the twenty-first century nightclub scene: "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries" (I Peter 4:3).

Finally, the most fundamental principle is to do all things to the glory of God! When this motivates us, we will live out of the love of God and show our love for our fellow men. "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31; cf. Matt. 5:16). Rev. Mahtani

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