Expectations

Previews of Heaven: The Confident Claims

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

Open Door

Movie previews are great at making the particular featured movie seem like the best movie ever made, ever. It doesn’t matter if the actors in the movie have a track record of box office busts or if the director has “lost his touch.”  During those two minutes, anyone can look like a genius. I remember a few years ago there was a lot of hype about two movies. The first movie was a science fiction movie, “Cloverfield.” The preview for this movie had a lot of people talking and the hype was impossible to avoid. The other was a movie called, “The Happening.” This movie was from the director M. Night Shyamalan, of such box office hits as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.”  Many people were talking about how great this movie looked and how excited they were to see it. However, when both movies were released, audiences were largely disappointed. Moviegoers felt taken by the timeless “preview” illusion.

Throughout our lives we will all experience setbacks, obstacles that try our patience, strength and character. As time progresses, many often resign to the particular belief that, “thus is life.” There is a resignation to a belief that some things just go wrong. People get hurt, things don’t work out and there is ultimately nothing we can do about it. But the Bible says otherwise. In the Bible we read that we all can experience the fruit of the Spirit during our time on Earth, and that in Heaven, suffering, pain, sadness and injustice will be reversed and undone.

Heaven promises a reemergence or renewal of the original state of existence, an existence void of all of the things unwelcome in this life like pain and suffering. There is a reason why, regardless of our differing religious beliefs, we all are so uncomfortable with crimes against the innocent and the breaking of a heart. The Bible explains that this inner distaste for such things lies at the heart of our original state within the original creation. We are troubled because we were not made for this place. We are troubled because this “preview life” is only a preview with foretastes, but not the actual full-length feature. Paul expands on this point in his letter to the Philippians:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John is given visions of this final recreation and return to the original creation.  The visions of John support the claims of Jesus in regards to the final act of “recreation” and “regeneration.” 

Previews of Heaven: The Best Moments

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

 

Open Door

source

The relationship between the moviegoer and the movie preview is a complicated one. On one side, we appreciate the previews because by them we stay hooked into the world of movies and entertainment. By watching previews we are updated on the latest and greatest in cinematic brilliance.  Our interest in movies remains consistently high. On the other hand, the movie preview can be something we’d rather do without. The sole motivation that brings us to the movie theater is the feature film, not just a preview. It is for the feature that we blocked out 3 hours in our schedule and paid for our tickets.  We know that in order to stay excited and in tune with the latest movies, we must see the previews.  Therefore, we accept the preview more as something to be endured than enjoyed. Previews are made to achieve three primary goals. They should:

  • Display the best moments
  • Make radically confident claims
  • Leave us wanting more

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to use this analogy of a movie preview to compare with the way Christians are instructed to think about Heaven while we are living for Christ on the Earth.

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It’s always amazing how a two minute trailer can make almost any movie, regardless of the true level of cinematic quality, seem worth watching. This idea reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite television shows, Seinfeld. In one particular episode, the flawed “people’s person” George Constanza finds himself dating a girl who has no knowledge of his long list of faults, flaws, and setbacks. He proceeds to act like everything he’s accomplished in his life (a job with a steady and competitive salary, knowledge of New York City and a stable standard of living) had all miraculously come together within days. By doing this, he hoped to impress his new girlfriend with his sudden success and accomplishments. While telling his friend Jerry about this plan, he said, “You know, if you take everything I’ve done in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!”

This is exactly what a movie preview attempts to do. The preview has two minutes to condense the best moments, the most action-packed fight scenes and the funniest one-liners into a compact one-two punch experience that will leave everyone anxious for its release. This is why so many movies wind up failing at the box office. In many cases, the preview outdoes the feature film.

Speaking in terms of our earthly life and its relation to heaven, what we experience in this life is what the Bible calls a “foretaste.” Embodied in the life of Jesus Christ, then regenerated in the lives of disciples, are experiences and foretastes of things unknown, yet promised. At the heart of each of our lives are experiences of purity and perfection that are only attained and experienced intermittently.

Paul writes about these experiences by comparing them to “fruit” when he writes in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

During our lives, God willing, we all will experience each of these at their purest form at least once. These moments tend to last only for a little while, but we remember the experience forever. The moment we were truly loved by someone, we never forget. The moment someone was truly faithful to us, we never forget. The same can be said about all nine “fruits.” These fruits are born out of the Spirit and the Spirit is born out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his being and identity, Jesus embodied all of these fruits. They are, in turn, recreated and reflected in the lives of those reborn of the Spirit.

The difference between the way that we experience this “foretaste” and the way that a movie preview attempts to impress a moviegoer, is that there is no secret that the movie preview is attempting to sell something that cannot entirely satisfy. If the movie is not as good as the preview, the audience is unsatisfied. But even if the movie is as good as the preview promises, it’s still simply a movie. In this case the audience, while completely entertained, leaves exchanging comments like, “Well, life’s not like the movies.” But the essence of the fruit of the Spirit as a foretaste to something unknown, something wonderful, and something promised, is the truth that the foretaste is for something that exists.  That offers satisfaction, and ultimately delivers. This “thing” is heaven, and it is there that we not only can experience these fruits individually, but also where we experience all fruits simultaneously in an ongoing coexistence with the “gardener” himself, God.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Peter 1

Read 1 Peter 1:13-25bible

Nothing about the new life in Christ is realistic.  Everything about it pushes the standard limitations we place on what is possible.  Approaching the word of God and how it applies in this world is completely unrealistic from the reality established by the world we have been raised by.  Everything about the new life in Christ calls us to expect what our world teaches us to never expect.  The world leads us to believe that certain things are not to be expected, that certain things are out of the range of possibility, and certain things simply cannot be.  The concept of genuine selfless love for another is clouded by our belief that the limits of our human hearts can neither handle nor be expected to exhibit such unrealistic love.  The concept of complete abandonment to an authority that has the power to permanently change us from paralyzing insecurity to confidence and contentment is not realistically possible. We are wary of anything that might tempt us out of the real world and into a mere fantasy state.

There is no synchronicity between the new life in Christ and the life we were born into in this world.  The two lives are in a state of constant contradiction.  The more one is overcome by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the more one begins to perceive oneself as a “stranger” in this world.  A stranger that has a home somewhere else, but is nonetheless in this world with a job to do.  That job is not to reproduce or replicate the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others.  That job is to simply bear witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our own life.  One cannot simply share the expectations of the Gospel with another and expect that those expectations be received, followed and cherished.  Rather, they are completely unrealistic and should receive an adverse reaction.  If one is listening and understanding the implications of the words of the Gospel, these words are not liberating.  To begin with, they are crushing by the magnitude of what they expect from us.  They are unrealistic and impossible.  They should not be taken seriously— if the words are the only witness.

However, witnessing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the life of another suddenly opens the door of possibility.  The real-time power of the spirit of Christ in man is the only witness that can effectively lead a person from utter desperation in the face of the Gospel’s expectations to complete satisfaction and hope.  We are not meant to read the words of God as one reads literature.  Literature is from man and for man and thus will be received by man as man would naturally receive it.  The words of God are from God, for man. They will shake us, press us and ultimately change us.  Our expectations when standing in the presence of God must only be to expect something entirely different from ourselves.  However, what we should expect to find is beyond our reality and supernaturally good.