10 Things You Should Know About The Intermediate State

I could have as easily entitled this post: ten things you should know about what happens when a Christian dies. So what happens when a Christian dies? The simple answer is that he/she enters immediately into what theologians call the intermediate state. It is called “intermediate” because it is what we experience in between the time of our earthly lives (now) and the time when we receive our glorified and resurrected bodies. So here are ten things to keep in mind.

(1) Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1 that when we die “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” What is this “building” from God? Is it heaven itself, or an abode in heaven (cf. John 14:2), perhaps even the New Jerusalem. Others say it refers to the body of Christ, i.e., the church. On the other hand, it may be a reference to an intermediate body, i.e., a bodily form of some sort suitable to the intermediate state but different from and only preparatory to the final, glorified, resurrected body (cf. Matt. 17:3Rev. 6:9-11). The fourth option is to see here a reference to the glorified, resurrection body, that final and consummate embodiment in which we will live for eternity.

The rest is at: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-intermediate-state

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Critical community

~ Sam Storms on the value/need of community:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared:

“If somebody asks [a Christian], Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself. He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him of salvation and righteousness. He is as alert as possible to this Word. Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word . . .

But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain; his brother’s is sure” (Life Together, pp. 11–12).

The question we want to explore is this: How crucial is it to our salvation and endurance in the faith that we be committed to community and the encouragement and rebuke that come from other believers? To answer that question, look at Hebrews 3:12-14 –

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14).

A couple of observations are in order.

First, we need to be energetically attentive to what is happening in our hearts. Sin is deceptive and powerful and the world, the flesh, and the Devil are conspiring to lead you into unbelief and ultimately into departing from the living God.

Second, John Piper explains: “Hebrews sees two possibilities for professing Christians: either they hold fast their first confidence to the end and show that they have really become sharers in the life of Christ, or they become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and fall away from God with a heart of unbelief and show that they did not have a share in Christ.”

Third, and most important, is that the means God has ordained and provided by which we persevere is the consistent, faithful, loving exhortation and encouragement that comes to us from other Christian men and women (v. 13).

Again, Piper explains:

“It is written that the saints will persevere to the end and be saved. Those who have become sharers in Christ by the new birth will hold their first confidence to the end and be saved. But one of the evidences that you are among that number is that when God reveals in his holy Word the means by which you will persevere, you take him very seriously, you thank him, and you pursue those means. This text makes it very clear that the means by which God intends to guard us for salvation (1 Peter 1:5) is Christian community. Eternal security is a community project. Not just prayer, not just worship, not just the sacraments, not just Bible reading, but daily exhortation from other believers is God’s appointed means to enable you to hold your first confidence firm to the end.”

How and where is this done?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Where should we “meet together”? Anywhere and everywhere! Here at Bridgeway Church this would include our corporate assembly on Sunday mornings, in our community group gatherings during the week, and in our D-groups whenever possible. And let’s not leave out the coffee shop, around our kitchen tables, at the soccer field, etc.

The author of Hebrews refers to “the habit of some” in not meeting together on a consistent, regular basis. At no time in the history of the Christian Church have we seen this more in evidence than today. Energized and affirmed by the spirit of western individualism and consumerism, professing Christians feel increasingly “led” (often claiming that it is actually the Spirit who is behind it!) to neglect local church life, mock covenant membership, ignore small group dynamics, cast aside any notion of commitment, and pursue their own personal “spirituality” on the back porch, at Starbucks, somewhere between the seventh and tenth holes on the golf course, at a Thunder game, or sitting around a table playing cards.

So, how urgent and critical is it that we pursue a ministry of encouragement, accountability, rebuke, and love? Consider the following scenarios before you answer that question.

• The man who is excessively devoted to his career to the neglect of time and involvement with his wife and children . . .

• The woman who squanders her daytime with soap-operas, reality TV, and romance novels and whose resultant fantasy life undermines her commitment to her husband . . .

• The man whose growing addiction to pornography is distorting his view of women and destroying sexual intimacy with his wife . . .

• The woman whose infatuation with gossip is justified under the guise of “gathering-information-so-that-I-can-pray-for-them-more-specifically” . . .

• The man whose emotional insecurity and ego-driven desire for stature and respect have led him to rationalize low-grade embezzlement and income tax return fudging . . .

• The woman whose body-image obsession has led to dangerously unhealthy eating habits, exercise routines, and an excessively seductive style of dress . . .

• The man whose relationship with his personal administrative assistant is perilously close to adulterous, being justified in his mind by the sexual and emotional neglect of his wife . . .

• The woman whose spending habits have spiraled out of control and driven her family into debt, symptomatic of an idolatrous dependence on things to the exclusion of a singular love for God . .

• The man who, as he passes through middle age, feels increasingly bored with life and finds the excuse “You only go around once in life so grab for all the gusto you can” more and more reasonable with each passing day . . .

• The woman (or the man) whose anguish over a rebellious child, an unbelieving and emotionally distant spouse, a terminal diagnosis of cancer, or the mounting financial pressures of life, leads to increasing bitterness toward God and doubts about whether faithfully following him is really worth it . . .

These are only a few of the countless reasons why people are vulnerable to that “evil, unbelieving heart” that threatens to lead them “to fall away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12b). The potential for being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13b) is so real and relentless that we must “exhort one another every day” (Heb. 3:13a) and aim “to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24), “not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:25).

10 Things You Should Know About The 144,000 In The Book Of Revelation

Will the debate ever end about the identity of the 144,000 servants in Revelation 7? Perhaps not, but I hope these ten truths will contribute something to our understanding of who they are and what they do. We read that 12,000 are “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4).

(1) The list of tribes in Revelation 7 corresponds to none of the nearly twenty different variations found in the OT. Judah, listed first here, is found in that position in the OT only when the tribes are arranged geographically, moving from south to north (Num. 34:19Josh. 21:4Judges 1:21 Chron. 12:24). The only exception to this is Numbers 2:3 (followed by 7:12; 10:14). Perhaps Judah’s priority here “emphasizes the precedence of the messianic king from the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:101 Chron. 5:1-2) and thus refers to a fulfillment of the prophecy in Gen. 49:8 that the eleven other tribes ‘will bow down’ to Judah” (Beale, 417).

(2) One can hardly fail to note that the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted. One tradition believed that the Antichrist was to come from the tribe of Dan (based on a misinterpretation of Jer. 8:16 and first found in Irenaeus, @ 200 a.d.). Dan was also closely associated with idol worship (Judg. 18:16-191 Kings 12:28-30; cf. Gen. 49:17Judges 18:30Jer. 8:16), as was Ephraim (Hosea 4:17-14:8). In Revelation 7, Joseph and Manasseh substitute for Dan and Ephraim. In the final analysis, there is no clear reason for this and we may never know why.

There is more: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-144000-in-the-book-of-revelation

10 Things You Should Know About Temptation

 

Before I begin, let’s remember that Satan has a strategy. In 2 Corinthians 2:11 the apostle issues a warning so that “we would not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.” The word translated “outwitted” (ESV) or “take advantage of” (NASB) means to cheat or defraud someone by deception. Satan had a clear vision, an agenda, if you will, for the situation in Corinth. To think that he acts randomly and aimlessly is precisely what he wants.

Consider Ephesians 6:11 where Paul again speaks of Satanic “schemes”. Here he uses the Greek word methodia from which we derive our English term “method.” He has in mind cunning and wily stratagems (cf. Eph. 4:14) carefully crafted to devour unsuspecting Christians. Would it surprise you to know that Satan is operative in the formation and spread of value systems in our society, that he influences institutions, organizations, philosophical movements, political, social, and economic systems? Rest assured that Satan sets his goals and then utilizes and exploits the most effective means, while avoiding all obstacles, to reach his diabolical end.

Continue: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-temptation

Ten Things You Should Know About The Sovereignty Of God

http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/ten-things-you-should-know-about-the-sovereignty-of-god

Who is the Holy Spirit?

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~ Sam Storms:

From Sam’s contribution to The New City Catechism:

Rarely does a Christian struggle to think of God as Father. And to envision God as Son is not a problem for many. These personal names come easily to us because our lives and relationships are inescapably intertwined with fathers and sons here on earth. But God as Holy Spirit is often a different matter. Gordon Fee tells of one of his students who remarked, “God the Father makes perfectly good sense to me, and God the Son I can quite understand; but the Holy Spirit is a gray, oblong blur.”

How different this is from what we actually read in Scripture. There we see that the Spirit is not third in rank in the Godhead but is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Son, sharing with them all the glory and honor due unto our Triune God. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal power or an ethereal, abstract energy. The Spirit is personal in every sense of the term. He has a mind and thinks (Isa. 11:2; Rom. 8:27). He is capable of experiencing deep affections and feelings (Rom. 8:26; 15:30). The Spirit has a will and makes choices (Acts 16:7; 1 Cor. 2:11) regarding what is best for God’s people and what will most glorify the Son.

We see even more of the Spirit’s personality when he is described as being grieved when we sin (Eph. 4:30). The Spirit, no less so than the Father and the Son, enters into a vibrant and intimate relationship with all whom he indwells (2 Cor. 13:14). The Spirit talks (Mark 13:11; Rev. 2:7), testifies (John 15:26; 16:13), encourages (Acts 9:31), strengthens (Eph. 3:16), and teaches us, especially in times of spiritual emergency (Luke 12:12). That the Spirit is personal is seen in that he can be lied to (Acts 5:3), insulted (Heb. 10:29), and even blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32).

Above all else, though, the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9). His primary role in us, as the temple of God in whom he dwells (Eph. 2:21-22), is other-directed or other-oriented as he ministers to direct our attention to the person of Christ and to awaken in us heartfelt affection for and devotion to the Savior (John 14:26; 16:12-15). The Holy Spirit delights above all else in serving as a spotlight, standing behind us (although certainly dwelling within us) to focus our thoughts and meditation on the beauty of Christ and all that God is for us in and through him.

As we prayerfully meditate on the person and work of the Spirit and give thanks for his powerful presence in our lives, we would do well to consider the words of Thomas Torrance who reminds us that “the Spirit is not just something divine or something akin to God emanating from him, not some sort of action at a distance or some kind of gift detachable from himself, for in the Holy Spirit God acts directly upon us himself, and in giving us his Holy Spirit God gives us nothing less than himself” (Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, T & T Clark, 191).

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