The first things in Heaven – 3 – Jesus’ Sacrifice

Heaven will be breathtaking! When we arrive there, we will see so many things that it will be hard to decide what to see first. We will see the Glory of God, His Throne and Justice. But John saw something else there that attracted his attention. Besides the beauty, majesty, and awesomeness he saw a “Lamb looking as if it had been slain. Revelation 5:6.”

This was the next thing that he saw and we will see in Heaven. John made clear that it was Jesus. John the Baptist called Him “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29.”After seeing the glory of God and His justice we will turn and see the Sacrifice of Jesus like it has just happened. That vision will remind us important lessons about Heaven.

            A – It Will Remind Us the Reason to Be There –We will know and see that we are in Heaven not because of our good deeds, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice. When we see that “lamb looking as if it had been slain”, we will know the reason. We will be in Heaven because of Jesus and not because of anything that we did. It was he who promised a place for us:“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.John 14:2-3.”

            B – It Will Remind Us the Price of Being There –John saw a lamb that was just sacrificed. That vision made an indelible mark in John’s mind and heart. It will mark us too. That will show us the price that was paid for our salvation. This is what Peter in his first letter wrote: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1Pet. 1:18-19.”That will be an eternal reminder in Heaven. We will be able to see the scars on Jesus’ hands, feet, and side, and realize that a high price was paid for us.

            C – It Will Remind Us the Love That Brought Us There –That vision will reminds us of the Great Love that God has for us. We will be there because of that wonderful and sacrificial love. John 3:16 will echo in our minds and hearts: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,”and also 1John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

Jesus, the Lamb of God, who gave His life for us, will be one of the first things in Heaven. We will see Him, and we will not be able to contain ourselves. We will join the voices of people from all over the world and praise and thank Him for His wonderful grace and love.

We do not need to get to Heaven to begin to worship Him, thank Him, and surrender our lives to Him. We can start right now.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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The first things in Heaven – 2 – God’s Justice

October 1, 2017 will be another date that we will remember, not because something great happened, but because something awful happened. A deranged man armed to the teeth opened fire from a hotel window in Las Vegas on a peaceful and joyous crowd, whose only crime was to have fun and listen to their favorite artists.

Every time that we witness or hear something like this, the first thing that comes to our minds is, “Where was God?” or “Why God allowed that to happen?” Some of us would dare to go a little bit farther and say: “God is not fair!” On the other hand people think that they can do all those terrible things, destroy lives, families, hopes and dreams without facing a final justice. They are absolutely wrong.

When we come to The Book of Revelation we learn with the apostle John that the second thing that he saw in Heaven was God’s Justice. This are how John describes that for us: “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Revelation 4:2.”Later he has this to say in verse 8: “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

In Heaven we will understand things that now we cannot put together. We will see that God was Just, not only some times, but always. Let me share with you what that means.

            A – It Means Righteousness

That justice means Righteousness. God is a righteous God. Everything that God does is right. We will be able to understand that. Even about things in our life that we did not understand why it happened, we will be able to accept that God was right, His actions were right and He was just and fair. We will be able to recognize righteousness even in the case we don’t see some people in Heaven who we expected to be there. We will be able to accept that God is right.

            B – It Means Trustfulness

The second meaning of justice is trustfulness. I can trust in God because I know that He is powerful, just, righteous, and fair. I will be able to trust in His justice. I will be able to accept that those decisions that He made were the best and the right ones. We will be able to see His justice with different eyes. Our trust in Him will enable us to accept His acts and His justice.

            C – It Means Finality

The last meaning of God’s Justice is its Finality. In Heaven we will realize that what was done is done, and it is over. We will put aside all the questions that we have against His justice, or our feeling that He was unjust. We will be able to realize that God has the final word, and what He decides is right and just. We will not feel bad, sad, or disappointed. We just will recognize and know that God is God, He is seated on the throne of Heaven, and He controls everything all the time.

Sometimes, circumstances happen in our lives that have the ability to shake that knowledge and trust that God is still in control. John with his experience is trying to help us to understand that our God is a Just and Righteous God, no matter what happens.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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The first things in Heaven – 1 – God’s Glory

What happens to us when we die? Movies and books telling the stories of people who died and came back to tell their ordeal, are increasing on the bookshelves of every bookstore in the world. People are just too curious about what is going to happen when they die.

In the Bible this experience is extremely rare. We have Paul, going there and coming back, but he did not say anything about his experience. We also have the Apostle John, narrating with details his experience in the book of Revelation. In chapters 5 and 6 we learn about the first things that John saw in Heaven. Here is how he starts telling about his experience: “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.” Revelation 5:1.”

“COME UP HERE”, said the voice, probably the voice of Jesus Himself, inviting John to go up to Heaven and see things that only a few people ever saw. John shared with us his experience there, and that will help us to understand what he saw and what it looks like.

This text tells us the first things that the Apostle John saw when he went to Heaven after receiving an invitation from Jesus. It will help us to have an idea of what we will see when we get there.

The first thing that we will see in Heaven is the Glory of God. John tries to translate that beauty with human words. We know that this is hard. What does all that grandeur, beauty, and immensity mean?

            A – It Means Majesty

The Glory of God, first of all means, Majesty. We will see the Majesty of God and His Sovereignty. We will realize that God is really The God, the only one, the creator, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. John saw the throne, the lights, the sounds, the elders, and the heavenly beings; all of them worshiping in awe His Majesty. Yes, we will see God’s Majesty with all its grandiosity. 

            B – It Means Control

The second meaning of that entire Throne is Control. God is in control. The Glory of God is manifested in His control. He controls everything, not just things pertaining to His church and people. He controls the whole universe. We will realize that He never lost control, and never will. During the whole vision of the Apocalypse, or Revelation that John had, God never lost control of anything. He is seated on the Throne, commanding and governing everything.

            C – It Means Power

The Glory of God also means power. John was able to see the power of God right in front of his eyes. We also will see how powerful and mighty God is when we arrive in Heaven. John had the experience that God is a powerful God, who does what He says and wants. Unfortunately our generation is remaking the image of God. God has been described as small, weak, and sometimes irrelevant. The God that John saw was tremendous, dominant, and mighty.

My friend, when we arrive in Heaven, the first thing that we will see is God’s Glory full of Majesty. We will realize that He is powerful and was and is always in control of everything. It would be great if we could start seeing Him like that right now in our lives.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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I believe in the life everlasting – The right attitude

When you attend a memorial service, do you ponder about your own mortality? When someone shares with you about his or her illness, do you imagine how you would handle yourself in that situation? When you hear about the unexpected death of people healthier and younger than you, do you think about how we have no control of our life and death? 

What should we do? How should we behave? Is there anything that we should do or say? When we join with the universal church and declare that we believe in the life everlasting, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to do. We are not doing something just for us; we are doing something for the others who are listening. That is the right attitude that we should have

Paul ends this topic with these words, “Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1Thessalonians 4:18.”When we have knowledge and hope in the life everlasting the next step is to share that with other people.

That belief and assurance comforts me, and it should comfort others. This last element is the consequence of the first two before, knowledge and hope. Because we know what is going on, because we know who is in control of everything, because we hope that things will be all right, we not only have comfort but also we can comfort other people.

We become the instruments of God to bring comfort to those who are suffering with doubts and fears about the life everlasting. This is what the apostle Paul has to say, “[3] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, [4] who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.”

Our attitude is to bring comfort to those who are heartbroken. It does not mean that we will preach and teach during the grieving time, but they will know that we have the answers for their doubts and fears. Maybe we will just be there beside them, listening, crying, and mourning. They will know, they will feel, they will understand.

But we have to be ready at any time to give answers to questions about our hope in the life everlasting. This is what Peter wrote: “1Pet. 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for thehopethat you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”During those sad and dark times people will look for explanations, some light at the end of the tunnel. We should be able to share with them what we believe, what we know, and where our hope is.

If you have the right knowledge, the right hope, and the right attitude, you will not have fear or doubts when you recite the Apostles’ Creed saying: “I believe in the life everlasting.”You will be filled with a sound conviction and an exuberant joy.

Have a blessed week,Pastor Lucas

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I believe in the life everlasting – The right hope

Despair – when we lose all hope; when we do not see a way out; when we feel that our options are gone. Every time that we talk about the life everlasting a few people have questions and doubts about what is coming after death.

In the survey by the Barna Research Group we find that only 64% believe they will go to Heaven. The challenge is, when asked how they will get there, these are the answers that they gave:

43% believe they will go to Heaven because they have “confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.”

15% believe they will go to Heaven because “they tried to obey the 10 Commandments.”

15% believe they will go to Heaven because “they are basically a good person.”

6% believe that “God loves all people and will not let them perish.”

They want to give the right answer, but they are still not sure how they will get there, if they will get there at all.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the life everlasting he made clear that they should have not only the right knowledge but also the right hope.

The second element that Paul mentioned in that text is the right hope. This is what he wrote in the 1Thessalonians 4:13 “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.”He did not want them to grieve like everybody else who have no hope. He wanted then to have the right hope.

It is important for us to know that hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is not positive thinking. Hope is based on faith and knowledge. Hope is in something that I do not have yet, but I know that I will have it. Hope is closely related to faith, because faith gives the certainty for our hopes.

Without hope grief will turn into desperation. We will not know what to expect. We will not know if our beloved ones are all right. We will not know if we will see our beloved ones again. As you can see hope is a very important element in our belief in life everlasting.

Job adds to our knowledge of hope. Here is the whole text where he affirms his belief in the life everlasting: “[25] I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. [26] And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; [27] I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19: 25a – 27.”He knows that his redeemer lives and he has hope that one day he will stand up before God, with his resurrected body. Job had hope in the resurrection of the body.

My friend, do not despair, our hope does not depend on us, or in what we do. Our hope depends on Him who lives in us, Christ Jesus Himself. This is what Paul wrote: To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27.”

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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I believe in the life everlasting – The right knowledge

Ignorance – This is the first hurdle that we face when we talk about the everlasting life. People just do not know what is on the other side, and this is why they feel uncomfortable when we talk about that.

These are other results of the survey by the Barna Research Group about the Destination after death:

76% believe that Heaven exists.

71% believe that Hell exists.

64% believe they will go to Heaven.

5% believe that they will come back as another life form.

5% believe they will simply cease to exist.

24% admitted that they have “no idea” what will happen after they die.

As you can see 24% have no clue what is going to happen. This is why the apostle Paul began his text to the Thessalonians with this verse: “1Thessalonians 4:13 – Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorantabout those who fall asleep,”The first element that Paul mentions is the right knowledge.

He did not want them to be ignorant. He knew that the lack of knowledge was their biggest problem to understanding what is going to happen after death. Knowledge is the light that dissipates the darkness of doubts and fears.

The amount of doubt that we see in our churches and in Christianity nowadays is caused by ignorance. We do not know, and we do not want to know the truth. 

And then, when a crisis comes along we grab the first theology and idea that we find to make us feel good. It does not matter if those ideas are contradictory, we will hang on to them as long as we can until we feel better.

Next time, maybe we will grab something totally different and do the same. We just need something to appease the disturbance in our soul and in our heart. The challenge with this attitude is that deep in our hearts we know that those ideas do not give us real answers to our questions. They only make us feel better for a while. They work like painkillers of the soul. They do not resolve the problem, but just alleviate the pain. 

If we want to deal with the real questions and want to get real answers we must know the truth. We need a foundation, a resource that we can trust. 

It was in a desperate situation when Job had lost everything and everyone and was about to die with a terrible illness that he declared, “[25] I know that my Redeemer lives, Job 19:25a.”His faith and belief was authenticated by the knowledge of his Redeemer. The apostle Paul wrote something like that, when he was condemned to death. He wrote to Timothy, his pupil, this beautiful text: “2Tim. 1:12That is whyI am suffering asI am. YetI am not ashamed, becauseI knowwhomI have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard whatIhave entrusted to him for that day.”

We need to know that there is Someone, beyond and above us, Someone who has control of both sides of history. Job calls Him “my Redeemer”, Paul says that he put his faith in Him, and “He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

Do you know Him? Do you trust Him?

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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I believe in the life everlasting

Every Sunday people all over the world recite the Apostles’ Creed during the service. During that special moment in our worship service we affirm, “I believe in the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.” This is a very important declaration that has been made by the church throughout history – The belief in the life after death.

We have been experiencing so many deaths in our churches, in our communities, in our country, and in our world, that I firmly believe that we should not avoid talking about this subject. Even though people, sometimes, do not like to talk about it, they still have their beliefs on this topic.

I would like to share with you some results of a survey by the Barna Research Group:

The Afterlife

81% believe in an afterlife of some sort.

9% said life after death may exist.

10% contend that there is no form of life after one dies on earth.

79% agreed with the statement “every person has a soul that will live forever, either in God’s presence or absence.”

As you can see, the majority believes that there is some sort of afterlife. They just are not sure what kind it is. It is interesting that people believe, but are not sure. They have many doubts about what is going to happen after we die.

That is the biggest challenge that we face, when we have that doubt it will produce fear and insecurity about our destiny. Our beliefs become just a wishful thinking. We can only hope for the best.

We are not alone in this kind of feeling. In the New Testament there was a church that was facing this same struggle. Because of that Paul wrote a letter to them to help to elucidate those doubts.  They were not sure about their final destination. They wanted to know what happened with their loved ones that died. Paul, then, decided to help them to understand things about the life everlasting. 

Here is the text: “[13] Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 

[14] We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 

[15] According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 

[16] For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 

[17] After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 

[18] Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1Thessalonians 4: 13-18.”

This text is extremely rich about this topic. It is so rich that we will come back to it again in the weeks to come.

In Brazil we have a proverb that goes like this: “Para morrer basta estar vivo.”The best translation would be: “All you need to die is to be alive.” It means that you cannot do anything about death, the only thing that you can do is to be alive. Death will find us all.

This is why it is so important to be sure that what you confess in the Apostles’ Creed reflects the belief of your heart.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Who will be in Heaven? – Human Beings

“Will I see and recognize my family and friends in Heaven?” This is a question that many people ask when we talk about Heaven. The answer is a strong and resounding YES! We will see and recognize our family and friends in Heaven, but not only them. John in his vision gives us a glimpse of who else will be there.

            A – People From Every Time and Every Place

We will see people from every time and from every place on the earth. This is what he saw: “And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9.” 

That does not mean that everybody from everywhere will be saved. It means that God has disciples and followers in every generation and in every part of the world.

In 1986, I was invited to attend a Billy Graham conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam. There were more than 100 countries represented in that event. The part that most marked that event for me was the worship. Each one of us received the songs in our own languages, so when we started singing we were able to hear the song with different sounds, tones, and in different languages. It was something extraordinary. For me it was something like an anteroom of Heaven. We knew what everyone was singing, but we were praising God and singing in our own languages.

            B – Saved By the Blood of Christ

John makes clear for us that people will be there not because they were good or religious. The people that will be there are the ones saved by the Blood of Christ. This is what John wrote: “I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7:14.” And in the text mentioned earlier: “and with your blood you purchased men for God” Revelation 5:9.”

They were saved by the sacrifice of Christ. They were born again, redeemed by the works of Christ in their favor. They are the ones who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and followed Him.

It is very important for us to know that it is not everybody that will be there. The Bible states clearly that some people will stay out. Here are a few texts that states that truth in a very plain way:

“and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21.”

“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Ephesians 5:5.”

“Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Revelation 22:15.”

They will not be there because they did not want to believe in God, they did not want to accept what Jesus did for them, and they did not want to obey the Gospel.

What is important for us to understand is that everyone who will be in Heaven will be there only because of the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that mercy and grace are still available for everyone who really wants to go there.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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