We’ll spend the next few weeks on an overview of Colossians. The theme of Colossians is simple — Jesus is all you need. You don’t need Jesus, plus some other tradition.
The letter starts with a reminder of why we live the Christian life. 1.5 says, “Your faith and love continue because you know what is waiting for you in the heavens: the hope you’ve had since you first heard the true message about God’s grace.” This is very similar to 3.1, which says, “You were raised from death with Christ — so live for what is above, which is where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand.” Our hope is in Jesus, who came from above. Our faith and love continue because we know what’s waiting for us when the one who is in the heavens comes back for us.
1.9-11 promises that God will make us completely sure of what he wants. He will help us live the kind of lives that make him happy. He’ll help us to be productive and expand our knowledge of him. He’ll also give us strength with his own power so we can make it through difficult times. Our response should be happiness (1.12) and gratitude! By helping us live the right kind of life — thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice (1.14) — we’ll be able to get what he promised us, which is immortality and escape from earth’s corruption.
A question came up in class this past week that sparked some interesting discussion.
“There Are levels or degrees of reward in Heaven?”
Jesus told his followers each of them would receive a reward in heaven based on what they did here on earth. Consider the words of Jesus,
“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.”
Let’s take a look at two key words in this verse.
The word recompense (apodidōmi) means “reward” or “to pay” and is determined by one’s
deeds (praxis), meaning “a doing, a mode of acting, a deal, a transaction.”
While some place these levels of reward into a speculative category, there’s more clarity on the flip side of eternity. Several passages indicate various levels of punishment. Consider the following examples.
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds…”
“The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Some have argued that degrees of mental anguish which are based on a knowledge of the Truth is what these scriptures are referring to. One would spend their infinity thinking about what they could have, should have, or would have done differently in life. Scripture leaves no doubt that this will be the case for too many which should motivate us that we have a saving message and a mission to save.
While it may be difficult to imagine hell being any worse and heaven being any better on an individual basis, getting to heaven is the author’s main goal.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Short answer — that’s up to us. God never promised happiness for those of us who opt into the Christian lifestyle. By default, we have lots of enemies. We’re still on the same planet satan runs, so we have to deal with his garbage too.
We find happiness through anticipation. We have to find excitement for the new life we’ll have, and hang onto that with everything in us.
We find happiness through selflessness. Doing good things for other people is a tried-and-true way to be happy. Once we’re more focused on others than we are on ourselves, we’ll understand genuine happiness.
We sometimes conflate happiness with euphoria. As Newton famously said, “What goes up must come down.” Euphoria is temporary and often accompanied by a rebound slump. But it’s a feeling of profound well-being that tends to be addictive, and is often above a natural baseline sense of well-being. Most people who want to be happy are really just chasing euphoria. We’re seeing now that it’s making everyone miserable.
Happiness is not guaranteed, but we can experience it with the right mindset. Help people. Pray for your enemies. Love people who hate you. Designate at least a couple of minutes every day to think about the next life. Look at the stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae at night. You can’t help but be blown away by how intense and beautiful the universe is. This is God’s home (cf. Ps 115.16; Job 38.7; Deut 10.14; Neh 9.6; Ps 68.33; Mt 18.10), and the most tangible display of his power that we can experience with our senses (Rom 1.20). It puts our existence into perspective and reassures us that God actually is in control.
This life isn’t about being happy — the next one will be nothing but happiness, because entropy and dysfunction will no longer exist (Rom 8.20-25).
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”
To prepare the mind for the door and the trumpet of chapter 4, let’s review the Revelator’s response.
John Is Literally Paralyzed By Fear
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” 1.17
The Trumpet Of His Voice
“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet..”1.10
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 4.1
Let’s take a second to appreciate this window into the heavenly realm. These precious details should make you hunger for more.
Let’s Speculate For A Moment
Roman cornu found at Pompeii, Public domain
While the “trumpet” is used metaphorically, there’s a particular kind of trumpet that John may have been thinking of. It’s called the Roman Cornu.
This brass signal trumpet was around nine feet long, curved into a “G” shape, and supported by a crossbar. Recently, two of these horns were found by archeologists in the ruins of Pompeii.
These trumpets were used to direct Roman troops on the Roman battlefield. One military strategist by the name Vegetius said,
“The rules (given by blowing the horn) must be punctually observed in all exercises and reviews so that the soldiers may be ready to obey them in action without hesitation according to the general’s orders either to charge or halt, to pursue the enemy or to retire.”
A trumpet that could be heard over the din of battle? That had to be loud.
Click hear to listen to a short example of a perfect replica of a Cornu horn being blown. It’s loud, exciting, and terrifying.
That’ll raise the hair on your neck.
Traveling Through The Door In The Sky
The voice of the Lord was like that of trumpet, and it was calling John to come through a door in the sky (4.1).
We read that John was in the Spirit in Revelation 1.10, but something else seems to be going on here. This is a new experience and even with the help of Inspiration, it’s difficult to describe in a limited human language.
Did John’s body travel through the door as well? That’s anybody’s guess and while on earth— a concrete answer is impossible to find.
Paul hardly even tried to describe his journey into the spiritual world as descriptive terms don’t seem to do it justice (2 Cor. 12.1-4).
The Meaning Of The Door
Was it a portal? Did it have hinges and a knocker? Was it floating?
Before the imagination runs wild, let’s look at a couple of the practical points.
The door, while both symbolic and physical in some respects, represents perspective. John is stranded on an island, but God gives him another vantage point. Seeing things from a spiritual high place can help reorient ourselves. How does God see our lives? What does the church look like from up there? That’s what Revelation 1-3 is all about.
There’s a plan being worked out behind the veil of eternity. Just like Job suffered without knowing the details (Job 1), we can take comfort in the fact that things down here always go according to His plan.
While the details aren’t as colorful as we would like them to be, here’s 3 important facts He would want us to remember.
There’s definitely a way into heaven.
God’s the only one who can open that door.
We should focus on preparing our souls to step across that final threshold.
If you couldn’t confidentially walk into His throne room right now, that should be your number one concern.
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
There are plenty of great examples of godly parenting in the Bible, but there are just as many (if not more) examples of poor parenting. Tompkinsville, where I preach, is blessed to have several parents who are taking Proverbs 22.6 seriously and that’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. Perhaps no other Christian responsibility has the potential to build His kingdom and make the kind of impact like our responsibility to train and teach the next generation to love Jesus.
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”
There’s an unlimited amount of opinions and advice out there on the subject of parenting, but there’s something more meaningful about receiving it from faithful parents who have been successful.
Here Are 3 Pieces of Advice From Godly Parents
1. Children Need To Know That Marriage Isn’t Your Number One Goal In Life
“Our goal in life is to praise the God of glory. Too many young people become so enamored with the thought of getting married that they neglect to devote themselves to the service of God. They miss out on the joys of mission work and service because they are too concerned with finding their next date. Focus on God and (to utilize Jesus’ words) “all these things will be added to you,” because you will be surrounded by the kind of people who are worth marrying.”
2. Our Commitment To Christ Isn’t A Part Time Job
“An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. While under the Old Law Moses allowed a year off from marriage (Deut. 24.5) Jesus made it clear that all Christian parents can’t make Him their part time Lord (Lk. 9.57-62). Replace any excuse with an exertion of effort to glorify God, because excuses ring hollow in the ears of the divine.”
3. Model The Kind Of Person You Want Your Children To Be
“Being a parent should make you think about your every move. Your immature inclinations should take a backseat when the what you model before your children can have eternal ramifications. Just be godly.
Stand up for God.
Talk about God.
Have the courage you’d like your children to have.
Show them how it’s done.”
A sincere thanks to,
– Brett Petrillo – Hiram Kemp & – Ben Shafer
For their continual example of faithfulness, work in His kingdom, and their helpful insights on godly parenting.
“Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance” (Psalm 78.25 NASB1995).
The Bible is a book whose depths we cannot comprehend. As a result, we discover something new every time we read the Scriptures. Recently, as our devotional Bible reading turned to Psalm 78, I had one of those moments. In verse 25, Asaph refers to manna and says God gave the Israelites “bread of angels.” I couldn’t recall hearing that addressed by any preacher I’d heard, nor had I previously read any commentaries on the verse. So I put on my “scuba gear” and went for a dive.
We must establish the context first. The main goals of Psalm 78 are that Israel should not repeat their unruly past and properly instruct future generations about God’s Law. Asaph recalls God’s miracles in Israel’s history, but Israel still rebelled. Asaph mentions one of these wonders: God feeding the people with manna from heaven. And God did this, although the Israelites had repeatedly enraged Him. According to Asaph, they put God to the test in their hearts (78.18).
As a result, our “bread of angels” was a providential answer to a need. The people were hungry, and God satisfied their hunger and provided more than they required. However, Asaph recalls that the people believed God should cater to their food preferences (78.18). So, God punished them again because they complained after He sent the manna (78.31-33). Asaph’s point was that they were unappreciative of a lavish gift.
Following the context, we will move on to the Hebrew language. Lechem abbirim is Hebrew for “bread of the mighty ones.” The word “abbir” appears 47 times in the Old Testament, referring to everything from animals to strong or stubborn men. However, only twice in some of our English translations is this word rendered as angels (Psalm 78.25,cf. Psalm 103.20). Why is this the case? The Septuagint is most likely the answer because the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the word “angels” here. We should also mention that the Latin Vulgate uses the phrase “panem angelorum” (bread of angels). And the translators of the King James Version were heavily influenced by the Latin Vulgate. But there could be more to it than that.
Another hint comes from a non-canonical book written by a Jew living in Alexandria during the first century BC who pretended to be Solomon. People refer to this as the Book of Wisdom. “In contrast, you fed your people with the food from angels,” Wisdom 16.20 says. Again and again, you provided your people with a bread that had been prepared in heaven. It was a bread that was able to satisfy anyone’s longing and please anyone’s taste.” (Common English Bible) Even though it lacks the weight of what God-breathed (cf. 2 Timothy 3.16), it still provides valuable commentary for understanding Jewish thought before Christ’s birth.
As a result, Asaph may have referred to angels—mighty ones—as ministering spirits (cf. Psalm 103.20-22; Hebrews 1.14). In other words, God prepared and sent the manna from heaven via the angels. If true, it would not be the first time the Bible mentions angels in passing. For example, Stephen stated that an angel was present in the burning bush (Acts 7.35). Otherwise, all we know about manna is that it came with the dew (Numbers 11.9). As a result, it descended from heaven.
Finally, most commentators agree that the bread of angels refers to food fit for angelic consumption or the king’s table (cf. Daniel 1.8). Manna, in other words, was a dish fit for heaven. Nonetheless, God gave it to men who did not value it. We might find a modern parallel in being given a free meal at a three-star Michelin restaurant but complaining that we would rather have eaten at McDonald’s. (With no offense to McDonald’s.)
Fortunately, this is not a matter of salvation, and there is room for debate. I agree with most commentators that the phrase refers to the quality of the food rather than the consumers’ identity. However, it is intriguing to speculate that angels may have been responsible for distributing it to the people. After all, people did not always see the angels who were present. The Arameans, for example, once pursued Elisha to his home in Dothan. The servant of Elisha was terrified, but Elisha prayed to God to open his eyes. God complied, and the servant saw the heavenly host encircling Dothan, protecting Elisha (2 Kings 6.15-17). So, even if manna arrived with the dew, it could still have been brought down from heaven by angels.
[No, I haven’t given up on the book of Proverbs. Chapter 8 will pick up where the previous installments left off. I believe that my articles on Proverbs have become white noise for some of my readers. And they’ve lost interest. I appreciate the kind words of individuals who have read and valued those posts. Your kind words always make their way to me. Before tackling another block of Proverbs for a month or two, I’ll present a few weeks of non-Proverbs-related content. And God willing, I shall eventually conclude my study of Proverbs. Even once I resume the series, I anticipate taking a few more breaks, so please be patient with me until we finish the book of Proverbs. Thanks, Brent]
Friday night’s snow storm was almost blizzard-like, in manner if not in measure. With the winds, visibility was near zero. The drive from the church building to our house, all 8.8 miles of it, had to be negotiated at speeds of about 20 miles per hour at times. It was the first night of our gospel meeting with Melvin Otey, who did an excellent job! In attendance were all of our sons and their wives. I’m grateful that all three of our children learned to drive in Colorado and have a lot of experience handling snowy conditions. But, as a parent, you are never without concern. Thanks to Life360, I could watch their progress. And I did. I watched as one by one each made it to their homes. Only one of them did not. I saw that one of them was stuck at “0 MPH” kind of in the middle of nowhere. Thanks to cellphones, I could call him. Turns out that he had slidden off the road and was stuck. Another of our sons was not far away and he was able, with difficulty, to reach them and take them to his home. I watched every bit of it “unfold” on Life360. The saga ended with their safe arrival at 12:30 AM. They were able to pull out his truck without difficulty or damage. It turned out as well as it could.
This all made me think about what the heavenly perspective must be like. The Father does not rely on an App to see fuzzy details of His children’s situation. He sees with the perfect omniscience and is present with the perfect omnipresence of an Almighty God. While He has the power to do whatever He pleases, He has bound Himself to allow His children to exercise free will. When one of His children drifts into danger, He is dependent upon others of His children to rescue them. I am reminded of how anxiously He desires their safe return, how thankful He is when others of His children intervene, and how joyful He feels when He sees His children safe at home. Do you remember in the parable of the prodigal son? Luke 15:20-24 shows the joy and celebration of a father overjoyed that his son, astray in a sinful condition, had come back home. He could not contain his happiness. That story depicts God.
It also makes me appreciate Paul’s words in Galatians 6. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (1-2). Or James’ closing admonition, that “if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:19-20). It should be the natural response of one brother who knows of another brother overtaken and astray to act, to “restore” and “turn him back.” The Father is happy when this happens! The stakes are infinitely higher than physical safety. Eternity is in the balance! Is there a brother or sister out there who needs you and me to rescue? If so, it is time for us to act! Consider the Father. Consider the brother. Let’s go get them back!
For the past six days Russia has made significant advancements on several strategic locations in Ukraine. Every news outlet is showing photos and videos of devastation that has already occurred, and it’s predicted to escalate still. There are complicated foreign policies being discussed over topics like NATO, sanctions, and the effects on the rest of the world after Putin’s recklessness.
Many countries are mad, some indifferent, while some cheer on their favorite country like it’s their favorite sports team. It’s chaotic and it’s concerning, but it’s not the Christian’s long-term problem. If this earth was our eternal home then I would be biting my nails and losing my hair. However, Christians all over the world should take comfort in the fact that heaven is a place where there is no war. We should remind each other that in order to make it, we are not required to be Republicans or Democrats. There are two camps in this world, but those aren’t it. The two groups are those who are lost and those who are saved. When you look at your TV or maybe out of your window and you see the death and carnage, we aren’t witnessing the death of heroes and villains. We’re watching souls walk through the door of eternity.
Our focus is easily pulled away from the reality that is only seen through a spiritual lens but it’s the reality that matters the most. The lyrics of two hymns have been strung together in my mind this week, “There’s a Great Day coming and this world’s not my home.”
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
It hurts and it’s hard to become attached to anyone who isn’t living faithfully because they’re lost. That means they’re not going to heaven. Sometimes lost people pretend like that’s not their reality by distracting themselves with things that make them feel like they’re not lost (Ecc. 2.24-25).
There’s a good chance that you know people who aren’t going to heaven and many of you love people who aren’t and we’ve got to convince them to hear Jesus out.
What can we do?
We can simplify spiritual concepts so that people can understand a message that they desperately need to hear.
Please don’t let anything get in your way of going home. If you think something might be in your way, God can use us to help you. There are more things to fear than Covid, vaccines, tornados, elections, and riots.
Everybody responds to the invitation that Jesus extends. Many choose to say no— but nobody ever regrets saying yes.
To you, responding might be a personal resolve and commitment to christ.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Jesus is the great healer and the Bible is full of passages that comfort, encourage, give endurance, and help us cope with a broken world. It’s full of so much more! A higher purpose gives us existential meaning, and the Bible outlines that purpose. It also has a few passages that fire me up, and those are the ones I want to share today.
This is our reason to live the Christian life (Matt 19.28; Rom 8.18-25; I Pet 1.3-7, 13; 4.12-19; II Pet 1.3-4, 10-11; 3.3-13; I Jn 3.1-3). We’re looking forward to something much better, but what kind of stuff are we looking for?
– Zero dysfunction! No pain, grief, disease, crime, taxes, tornados, war, death in general, aimbots (if you know you know), etc.
– God gets rid of tears (Rev 21.4)! The context is a message of hope for early Christians who were dealing with devastating loss. But God will ἐξαλείψει all tears. Exaleipsei is future (will happen), and seems to be a comfort word. I had always pictured a Men in Black kind of thing, where all painful memories are obliterated and new ones made. But the word seems to indicate that an interaction with an infinitely compassionate Father will be more than adequate to get rid of any pain. If you’ve ever comforted a spouse or child who was grieving and physically wiped their tears away, that’s what this word describes.
– Everything is brand new (21.5)! None of the junk that we’ve dealt with here will be compatible with our new home.It will be wildly exciting: the best accomplishments of each nation will be there (21.25-26). God and his son provide all we need (21.22-24). True unity exists because we’ll all be on the same side (21.27). No need for healthcare or accountants or coroners or search and rescue or militaries or law enforcement! Those exist to push back against evil, which won’t exist in our new home. Revelation 21 is a rich chapter, but it’s full of excitement! God doesn’t speak empty words. Take him at his word and read the chapter very carefully. It’s hard to walk away from that study without getting pumped for heaven!!!