Peter, an emissary of Jesus the Anointed One, to God’s chosen people living as aliens scattered among the unbelievers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. I am sending this letter to those who have been elected by God the Father and made holy by God the Spirit that you may be obedient to Jesus the Anointed and purified by the sprinkling of His blood. May grace and peace beyond all reckoning be yours.
Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope— reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that is incorruptible, undefiled and unfading. Through faith, God’s power is standing watch (like a fortress around you), protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things.
You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold (remember that gold, although it is perishable, is tested by fire) so that if it is found genuine, you can receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, is revealed at last.
Although you haven’t seen Jesus, you still love Him. Although you don’t yet see Him, you do believe in Him and celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words. You are receiving the salvation of your souls as the result of your faith.
(1 Peter 1:1-9, The Voice)
I want to focus on a particular section this morning: “Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope— reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that is incorruptible, undefiled and unfading… a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things.”
When we went on 11-day vacation to see our family, it was meaningful, but not everything about it was great.
• We basically drove 4 1/2 days out of 11
• It was rainy and cloudy for 3 of those days, and snowy and COLD for the last one.
• The van made funny noises whenever we hit a bump.
• It seemed like everybody around us was sick at some point.
• Fast food got old. Stomachs got tender. Tempers got short.
• There were accidents and re-routes and crowded roads.
• In other words, there were a lot of 1st world problems ☺
But we knew where we would end up. Home. And we are blessed that when we think of home, it has good associations for us. We know what awaits us: rest, remotes we know how to work, nerf guns, our own bed and pillows, puzzles of my choosing, our garden, our fire pit, my one and only Ohio State shirt… AJ was waiting for us. On trips when just I am gone, my family is waiting for me. Then there is this church, and the boys’ school, and our friends, and jobs we find meaningful, and a section of the world that is just stunningly beautiful.
The thought crossed my mind on our last day driving home, as I was driving 30 mph on the interstate in a blizzard, that if the conditions got bad enough maybe we should stay in a hotel one more night. But…no.
We wanted to be home.
Peter is writing about home to an audience for whom the journey was hard. Peter understood hardship – a lot of it was self-inflicted; see Scott’s sermon last week – but a lot of it wasn’t, and by the time he was martyred he would know pain and suffering even better. The early church lived in a time when their lives were on the line for the sake of the gospel. Peter leads with “you are aliens” – which they knew full well – and then prays for “grace and peace beyond all reckoning” – which they had to have to sustain them.
Then he talks about home, the place where there true citizenship lies. As opposed to my story, it’s a place they have not yet seen. It’s better than anything they can possible imagine. This “inheritance” is defined three ways in this passage:
• Incorruptible – Even my home, as much as I love it, has problems: I would love to have trim around my doors that cats have not scratched to death, or a shower/tub unit that I had installed properly, or rooms that that never got messy. Corruption – the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – is at work. Everything runs down, moving from order to chaos. In heaven, there will be no corruption. There will be no potholes and broken-down vehicles and stomach bug and family tensions and reality TV shows and Ohio State getting overlooked for the college football Final Four.
There will be no need more sickness and death; no natural disasters or mass shootings; no broken or abusive relationships; no despair, or addictions, or loneliness. No more regret or grief or longing for what’s been lost because nothing pure will be impure. Nothing good will be missing, and nothing good will ever again be lost. I joke about trivial things, but now we are talking about relationships, love, joy, peace, truth, righteousness. God is preparing a place for us where these things will never lack or fade.
• Undefiled – When we were in New Orleans there were lots of cool things to see in a city with that kind of history, but it was a city defiled in many ways not just by floods but by self-indulgence and sin. Our house had been under 5 feet of water after Hurricane Katrina; not quite everything was level. A neat shop with Cajun memorabilia also had T-shirts of nude torsos. The restaurant with a Zydeco band and shrimp grits was next to a store that sold brands of food plastered with the F word.
In heaven, there will be no impurity; no contamination. Joy and beauty and goodness and truth and love will not only never fade, they will be unmarred. In this life, we put our guard up all the time: “Guard your heart” (Proverbs 4:23); “Test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). In New Orleans, you have to remember the advice from the book of Job to make a covenant with your eyes. In heaven, we won’t have to have our guard up because there will be no need – God’s power is the fortress around us and our existence that keeps everything safe.
• Unfading – There is often a sense in this life that the good things we have are fading. Time is ticking away, right? We left our visits with family thinking we just needed one more day. I kept turning around for one more glimpse of Lake Pontchartrain. We watch the healthy become sick; we see innocence die; all of the strong grow weak eventually. Our memories fade. We drove past my dad’s grave in Alabama, and it was a reminder that the near poignancy of his memory has faded over time.
In heaven there will be no withering; everything will be as it should be and will not lose ground. We won’t have to cling to the moment or hold on to some fleeting glory because nothing good will diminish. With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, glory days will not pass us by. Sheila and I talk during and after vacation about how to stay connected because we can get so distracted by our business we lose track of each other. We have to do purposeful work not to lose ground relationally even in the best of experiences. Our true home will not be characterized by that kind of worry. No ground will be lost, because Jesus holds it, and His home is now ours.
There is a story told of a missionary named Henry Morrison who worked forty very hard years in Africa. When he became sick and had to return home to America, his boat was also carrying President Teddy Roosevelt, who received a grand reception after being on an African safari. Henry Morrison was bit resentful: "I have come back home after all this time and service to the church and there is no one, not even one person here to welcome me home." Then, as the story goes, a small voice came to Morrison reminding him, "You're not home yet." (quoted from commentary at Precept Austin. http://www.preceptaustin.org/2_timothy_26)
"Through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope— reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that is incorruptible, undefiled, unfading."
John records a vision of heaven in Revelation (21:10 – 22:17). Keep in mind it’s a vision; it’s going to use the best human language and imagery possible for John’s audience to understand a glory that Paul wouldn’t even talk about. The whole book is full of symbols and objects and numbers that are loaded with meaning, but even without knowing all the details, we can gain a sense of the majesty, goodness, and glory revealed as John writes about the hope of heaven at the end of all things.
He took me away in the Spirit and set me on top of a great, high mountain… he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It gleamed and shined with the glory of God; its radiance was like the most precious of jewels, like jasper, and it was as clear as crystal. It was surrounded with a wall, great and high. There were twelve gates. Assigned to each gate was a messenger… And the city wall sat perfectly on twelve foundation stones, and on them were inscribed the names of the twelve emissaries of the Lamb.
The walls were made of jasper, while the city itself was made of pure gold, yet it was as clear as glass. The foundation stones of the wall of the city were decorated with every kind of jewel… The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate expertly crafted from a single beautiful pearl. And the city street was pure gold, yet it was as transparent as glass.
And in the city, I found no temple because the Lord God, the All Powerful, and the Lamb are the temple. And in the city, there is no need for the sun to light the day or moon the night because the resplendent glory of the Lord provides the city with warm, beautiful light and the Lamb illumines every corner of the new Jerusalem. And all peoples of all the nations will walk by its unfailing light, and the rulers of the earth will stream into the city bringing with them the symbols of their grandeur and power.
During the day, its gates will not be closed; the darkness of night will never settle in. The glory and grandeur of the nations will be on display there, carried to the holy city by people from every corner of the world. Nothing that defiles or is defiled can enter into its glorious gates. Those who practice sacrilege or deception will never walk its streets. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life can enter.
My heavenly guide brought me to the river of pure living waters, shimmering as brilliantly as crystal. It flowed out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle and dividing the street of the holy city. On each bank of the river stood the tree of life, firmly planted, bearing twelve kinds of fruit and producing its sweet crop every month throughout the year. And the soothing leaves that grew on the tree of life provided precious healing for the nations.
No one or nothing will labor under any curse any longer. And the throne of God and of the Lamb will sit prominently in the city. God’s servants will continually serve and worship Him. They will be able to look upon His face, and His name will be written on their foreheads. Darkness will never again fall on this city. They will not require the light of a lamp or of the sun because the Lord God will be their illumination. By His light, they will reign throughout the ages.These words are faithful and true….
And the Anointed One, Jesus, said: Look now, I am coming soon… I am the Alpha and Omega, the First One and the Last One, the beginning and the end.”
SONGS ABOUT HEAVEN:
New Gaither Vocal Band “Alpha And Omega” “I Bowed On My Knees”
Matthew West “Heaven Is The Hope”
Kathy Tricolli “Goodbye For Now”
Jeremy Camp “There Will Be A Day”
Mercy Me “I Can Only Imagine” “When I Finally Make It Home” “Homesick”
CeCe Winans “Comforter”
Michael English, “Heaven”
Steven Curtis Chapman “With Hope”
Jonny Lang “We’ll Meet At The River”
Christ Tomlin “Home” “I Will Rise”
Julie Miller and/or Selah “All My Tears”
Switchfoot “Where I Belong”
Josh Garrells “Zion And Babylon”
Phil Wickham “Heaven Song”
Lots of versions of the following:
“O Victory In Jesus”
“What A Day That Will Be”
“I’ll Meet You In The Morning”