27 May 2011

Question of the Week:
How do I Enter the Kingdom of God?

by Anne Lang Bundy

What is the Kingdom of God, how do I get there, and how do I know it when I see it?
Russell Holloway, blog host

Last week described what God's kingdom is. This week will address how to enter His eternal kingdom—now.

Jesus provides an answer that is both specific and an apparent mystery.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again ... unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
~ John 3:3-6 (NKJV)

To be born again is to become a new creation, born by repentance into God's Holy Spirit as a place for Him to reside. God separates Himself from evil. Therefore we must repent of sin and be cleansed of sin by confessing Jesus as our risen-from-the-dead Lord—our Sovereign—so that He also becomes our Savior from sin.

God's will for His anointed kings is that they do battle to protect their people. King David is the paradigm for King Jesus. David began to save his people after he was anointed king, long before he received the throne. The most visible foe of Israel was Goliath, whose head David took, just as Jesus came to crush the head of Satan. King David went on to deliver Israel from the Philistines and all other enemies, just as King Jesus goes on to deliver us from all sin wherever He is invited to reign.

When we repent of sin and make Jesus our Lord, water baptism is the outward expression of having made this spiritual transaction with God. As we then yield to the Holy Spirit, He enters us and reproduces the Person of Jesus in us.

This might be seen in Jesus' birth, in the invitation Mary accepted. (See Luke 1:35.) When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, He creates a new life in us—the life of Christ—which grows and is eventually manifest to the world. We are then able to enter the kingdom of God because we belong to it. We are no longer citizens of Earth but of Heaven. We are adopted as sons and daughters of the Father Who is King.

Worldly subjects of our king are ruled by law. The heirs of God's kingdom, to whom it belongs, receive grace and are not subject to law. However, the King holds His own children to a higher standard than law, because we represent Him, His name, and the kingdom.

He is most jealous about the integrity of His Son's bride, whom we are.

More on that next week, in describing how we know the kingdom when we see it.

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

20 May 2011

Question of the Week:
What is the Kingdom of God?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Image source: turnbacktoGod.com

What is the Kingdom of God, how do I get there, and how do I know it when I see it?
Russell Holloway, blog host

The work 'kingdom' designates a realm under the domain of its sovereign.

This week will outline the Bible's description of the Lord's dominion, which might be divided into five phases.

I'll call the first Creation. To this day, we clearly witness testimony of the divine Designer's original creation, as well as the re-creation He accomplished through the flood of Noah. People living in those first two thousand years also had the testimony of ancients who knew God firsthand. Adam and Enoch literally walked with God, and lived well into the days of Noah's father Lamech. Noah lived to see the days of Abraham, and both of them appear to be contemporaries of Job. These men knew God as Elohim and Shaddai, Creator and Almighty, the One with dominion over all life, to give it or to destroy it.

The kingdom's second phase could be called Commandment. It was a time of YHWH—covenant God of deliverance—establishing dominion over one specific people (the Israelites) through their obedience to His laws. Circumcision, shunning worship of idols to worship an invisible God, and observance of the Sabbath all demonstrated the Israelites as clearly set apart from other nations in willing subjection to YHWH, despite Israel's many failures. During this two millennia, a monarchy existed for approximately 460 years as model of a divine King who protects His people, appropriates and directs use of His dominion's resources, and receives their tribute.

The third phase is Church. For the last two thousand years, God has established His dominion in the human heart through His Holy Spirit. He rules wherever people willingly accept His sovereignty. This period in history establishes God's spiritual Kingdom throughout the earth. (More on this in the next two weeks.)

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them... And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
~ Revelation 20:4-6 (NKJV)

The seventh millennium is the time when Christ (Messiah, King Jesus) reigns on the earth. The parables and prophecies of Jesus and the Old Testament describe a time when His resurrected saints rule with Him, with our own sphere of dominion awarded according to how we have proven ourselves during the Church phase. It is a peaceful time of restoration, when swords are beaten into plowshares, when carnivores become tame and again eat grass. It ends with in a final contest between Good and Evil, when the devil and death see ultimate defeat.

The Culmination phase is when the existing heavens and earth pass away, and an eternal kingdom is established. It is described in the last two chapters of the Bible, Revelation 21-22.

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Next week: How to enter the Kingdom now.

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

13 May 2011

Question of the Week:
What Purpose Earth?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Artwork: "Stairway to Heaven" by Jonathan Allen Cummings

Once we are saved from Hell and know about the joy waiting in Heaven, why would we want to remain on Earth?
~ follow up to last two posts on how a Christian never dies and what happens to us after death (April 29 and May 6)

To those with relatively trouble-free lives here on Earth, the above question may sound ridiculous—the knowledge that Heaven awaits is no reason to hasten our departure. Young people seem particularly un-impatient for the rapture, hoping to first experience this life's promise.

But those who have seen trouble aplenty are more likely to struggle with a reason to engage in this world's life rather than endure it. The Bible has numerous examples of suffering saints who questioned a reason to live.

The answer comes by asking a more difficult question, of whether we are self-centered or God-centered in defining our purpose. It's not a question of whether or not we love God, but if we love Him enough to live for Him rather than for ourselves—both now and in the next life.

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
~ Romans 14:7-8 (NKJV)

This world is our proving ground for Heaven. We cannot obtain eternal life by any good works, but only by faith. Our works then prove our faith to be genuine and establish the place we'll have in God's kingdom.

The unbeliever will one day stand before God's judgment seat to be condemned for sinful rejection of God, as proven by their unrighteous works.

The Christian who has already proven their faith by works will face a different judgment seat, at which God evaluates our works.

Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
~ 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (NKJV)

Whatever has seemed unfair here on Earth is to be taken into account—each of us will be judged in the measure of what we were given to work with, whether our talents (gifts), time, or treasures of this world.

The irony is that works performed for the sake of reward are inherently selfish and won't count as works of faith. Faith instead cooperates with God's Holy Spirit to do His work through us, especially His work of love for others. Knowledge of a reward isn't our motivation and purpose, but it can serve as a reminder if we grow weary in our motivation to love or in our purpose to glorify God.

How we life for the Lord in this life determines the manner in which we enjoy living for Him later.

"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
~ Jesus (Matthew 6:20-21 NKJV)

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Beginning next week: What is the Kingdom of God, how do I get there, and how do I know it when I see it?

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

06 May 2011

Question of the Week:
Where Do We Go After Death?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Photo credit: Oscar Burriel

How can we have eternal life and die? (I know some believe that when they die they go into the ground until Christ's return.)
~ Anonymous

Last week's post described that the Bible speaks of the body housing the soul as a "tent." When we die, the soul enters spiritual realms while the body remains behind. On a day in the future, the bodies of both righteous and condemned are resurrected and reunited with the soul for judgment. (John 5:28-29)

Innumerable people have reported credible experiences of dying and leaving their bodies, briefly glimpsing the spiritual world, and then being revived. Among the common elements many people describe is visiting a place of inexplicable beauty and profound peace, where they meet angels and / or loved ones who have already died.

A few people report a place not of beauty and loved ones, but of great torment. Jesus likewise describes such a place when He tells of Lazarus and the rich man. (Unlike other stories Jesus told, this account in Luke 16:19-31 is not called a parable, and appears to be an actual event.)

For the condemned soul, the Bible mentions the following places of torment in spiritual realms:

• Hades (Greek name; called Sheol in Hebrew) –
the place of torment before final judgment; the OT sometimes speaks euphemistically of suffering with the word Sheol, in the same way we might describe our circumstances as "going through Hell"

• Gehenna (possibly the same as the "lake of fire" mentioned in Revelation and the Hebrew Abaddon) –
the place of everlasting fire and punishment for the condemned, in their resurrected bodies after the judgment, where "their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-48)

• Tartarus (Greek tartaroō); appears to be the same as "the abyss" (Greek abussos, also called "bottomless pit") –
deepest abyss of Hades; a place for demons

• Great Chasm (Greek megas chasma) –
impassable gulf separating Hades and Paradise mentioned in Luke 16:26

These places are only spoken of as a destination for the condemned. Those souls who trust in the Lord and obtain forgiveness of sins through Christ's blood experience no torment after the body dies.

The dying thief on the cross expressed faith in Jesus, and Jesus assured the man he would be in Paradise the same day. Paul was among those who glimpsed Paradise (perhaps after he was stoned and left for dead). He explained that after Christians die, "we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

The soul given to Jesus does not experience death (John 11:25-26).

The soul given to Jesus knows no separation from God's love:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)

Next week: Pursue this world or the next?

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.