Posted in theology

Independence Day in the US today, but a future freedom awaits

By Elizabeth Prata*

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)

Charles Spurgeon preached on this verse:

Citizenship in heaven

Our text, I think, might be best translated thus— “Our citizenship is in heaven.” The French translation renders it, “As for us, our burgess-ship is in the heavens.” Doddridge paraphrases it, “But we converse as citizens of heaven, considering ourselves as denizens of the New Jerusalem, and only strangers and pilgrims upon earth.”

I. The first idea which is suggested by the verse under consideration is this: if our citizenship be in heaven, then WE ARE ALIENS HERE; we are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were. In the words of Sacred Writ “Here we have no continuing city,” but “we desire a better country, that is an heavenly.”

Let us illustrate our position. A certain young man is sent out by his father to trade on behalf of the family: he is sent to America, and he is just now living in New York. A very fortunate thing it is for him that his citizenship is in England; that, though he lives in America and trades there, yet he is an alien, and does not belong to that afflicted nation; for he retains his citizenship with us on this side the Atlantic.

Yet there is a line of conduct which is due from him to the country which affords him shelter, and he must see to it that he does not fail to render it. Since we are aliens, we must remember to behave ourselves as aliens should, and by no means come short in our duty. We are affected by the position of our temporary country.

Do you eagerly await our savior? I do. It’s Independence Day here in the United States. There will be fireworks, barbecues, beaches, parades, and gatherings. When Jesus comes, we will have a magnificent independence! The Great Gathering will happen and then we will be freed from this body of death. We will be free from the presence of sin. We will be free to gaze in adoration upon the Savior all the day long, and bask in His glory light in wonder and in love.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36).

No flags in heaven, but the presence of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

collage fourth of july

*First published on The End Time on July 4, 2019

Posted in theology

When we’re ‘up there’, will we know/see what is happening down below?

By Elizabeth Prata

Some believe that the souls in heaven have absolutely, not one iota of a visual of what is happening down below (John MacArthur). Others, for example, Catholics, (a false religion) think that the souls in heaven hear our prayers and intercede and even visit down below. The Catholic stance, I believe, has led to the popular culture’s opinion that the souls in the heavenlies are “looking down on us”. Certainly their false notion that we can pray to the dead saints and they will intercede for us adds to the misperception. Let’s explore this a bit more. Do dead saints know or see what is happening on earth? Continue reading “When we’re ‘up there’, will we know/see what is happening down below?”

Posted in theology

How to Visit Heaven

By Elizabeth Prata

I visited heaven last Sunday.

Am I going to write a book about it? No. A book has already been written about what I saw there. It’s called the Bible.

I’m fascinated with glimpses of heaven. I love to read the visions Ezekiel had, and Isaiah, and John. (Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, Revelation 1, 4, etc). Interestingly, the details all three men recorded are consistent with each other. None of the details that other alleged visitors to heaven who allegedly visited there are consistent with each other nor with the Bible.

I read and re-read those glimpses because that is our home! It is where we believers are headed and will dwell for eternity!

Though I’ve read through Exodus before, I had overlooked (or the Spirit just now applied the words to my mind) the little nugget nestled in  Exodus 24:9-11.

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, And they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

WUT???

Well how beautiful, another glimpse of His holy habitation! Jamieson Fausset Commentary says,

sapphire—one of the most valuable and lustrous of the precious gems—of a sky-blue or light azure color and frequently chosen to describe the throne of God.”

Let’s compare that scene with Ezekiel’s in chapter 1:26,

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance.

Barnes notes says of the Exodus scene, “The pure blue of the heaven above them lent its influence to help the inner sense to realize the vision which no mortal eye could behold.

When I read these and get to the jewels part it’s hard to visualize (how did he know it as sapphire when it’s clear?) but I envision sparkle, brightness, and purity. With the world becoming more and more wretched, I delight to ponder the purity that awaits.

One final thought, Nadab and Abihu saw, supped, and were blessed to behold. Yet that was not enough! They still failed to do as the LORD commanded and they offered strange fire in worship. They got lazy and would not worship as He had commanded. Perhaps they took their eyes away from the LORD, though it’s so hard to believe, since they had seen Him, or at least, His majesty.

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. 2And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (Leviticus 10:1-2).

How easy is it for us to do the same, we who have not seen? O, keep your eyes on the Lord! Behold Him always. And when you need a pick-me-up, read of the visions of heaven as recorded in the Bible. What a wonderful day awaits us believers!

blog heaven

Posted in theology

“You’re so arrogant to think that…!”

By Elizabeth Prata

If you have been in the faith for more than a minute, you are aware that when we share the Gospel or defend the faith by saying Jesus is the only way to God, people hurl the accusation of “Arrogant!” “You’re so arrogant to think that!” I know I have been on the receiving end of that accusation, and I’ve seen it happen to others.

RC Sproul preached about a time when he was first saved and then went to college, and his Professor said it was arrogant to believe that God would make only one way to heaven. Of course, being RC, his defense of that accusation is beautiful and God-honoring. His response is also logical. It brought tears to my eyes and made me think for a long time.

In thinking, it occurred to me that the arrogance is not on the side of the Christian sharing the one and only way to heaven, which is through Jesus (John 14:6).

Pagans (and I was one for 42 years myself) on the whole, believe that there is a heaven. People generally believe that it’s perfect and beautiful and there will be no strife or anything to interrupt their eternal drift. They think that because they are a pretty good person, that when they die, they’ll go there. As far as the unsaved person’s thinking goes, that’s usually as deep as they go into the topic.

Sometimes they think that their works will get them there. I personally know someone who has said to me, “I’m on the (false) church board and I do good in the community and I’m a good person,” she said when I asked her to share her thoughts on the afterlife. Lots of people think the same way. They give to a charity or they serve the homeless or because they’re a deacon, those or other works they perform will be the ticket into heaven.

Here’s the question: Isn’t it arrogant to think that the works you do will bring you to heaven? The works done from a fleshly mind the same mind that thinks perverted thoughts or mentally proposes violence against a neighbor or nurses grudges and gossips against a fellow? Isn’t it arrogant to believe that our own self is beautful enough to go to the most beautiful place?

Yes, that’s the true arrogance.

heaven

Posted in theology

Always the wrong color…tribe…ethnicity…but not forever

By Elizabeth Prata
"Help Wanted/No Irish Need Apply" Sign
I don’t have a hugely deep piece today. I just have an opinion. Not even resources to point you, just an opinion.

I’m tired of racism: the word and the act. People fling the word around on the basis of often faulty assumptions, or erroneous facts, or or fake news. They hurl accusations that damage.

I’m tired of racism itself. it exists not only in black vs white and vice versa. It occurs among many ethnic groups, tribes (Tutsi vs Hutu), and cultures.

My Irish grandfather emigrated to the US in the 1920s. It was the time of NINA, No Irish Need Apply. He had an Irish brogue but had lived in England for a few years and fortunately had a British passport. It’s the only reason he got a job.

My uncle was from Malawi Africa, dark black as coal. His siblings are too. When his sister and he began college in Alabama in the 1960s, they were advised that they would ‘fit in’ better there. They didn’t. Why? They were discriminated against by lighter skinned fellow blacks. Their daughter was bullied for being biracial.

The Gospel resolves those and other racism issues by letting us know we are one family in Christ.

my two worlds
Available at Amazon

Yes, peoples all over the world are oppressed, discriminated against, and even killed for being the ‘wrong’ color/tribe/ethnicity.

One need not be white to be racist and one need not be black to be discriminated against. It happens. It shouldn’t happen. In heaven, it won’t happen.

But in Christ, there is no Jew, no Greek, no slave or free. No hierarchies, intersectionality, victimhood, we are all overcomers and all one family. Anyone not presently in the family of God is invited in, and they are welcomed if they repent and believe. It’s not an exclusive club:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands”, Revelation 7:9

Posted in life, theology

Your Worst Life Now

By Elizabeth Prata

I saw this meme on Twitter. The ‘best life now’ mantra offends me.

I’m personally glad that this is my worst life now. It’s hard and upsetting. I can’t wait until there is only joy and peace.

As for the unsaved, sadly, John MacArthur said at the Strange Fire conference some years ago,

All peoples need to hear this mantra, which is no mantra but only absolute truth:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

 

Posted in theology

Work, work, work

By Elizabeth Prata

I’ve got one week left and then I go back to work. I will have had 9 weeks off.

I realize that 9 weeks off, in a row no less, is an understandably wondrous gift, one that many people don’t get in 4 years of working. (Please understand that I live for 12 months on a 9-month salary, so there is a downside).

I work in the education system, so the cycle of my life follows the school year, not the calendar year. The rhythm of my life is one of hectic, fulfilling, busy, challenging, joyful work, then summer collapse rest.

There were some years where I worked for 16, 18, and one notable moment, 20 hours a day, with one week off at Christmas and one week at Independence Day. I’ve in the past felt the relentless grind, overlaid with feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction but sometimes accompanied with frustration and dispiritedness. I’ve been in the work force for 42 years, give or take. There were periods in life where I had to work two jobs and even three, laboring for 7 days a week. I’m not unfamiliar with hard work, relentless grind, whether it comes in the self-employment world, as a minimum wage minion at the bottom of the heap, or in the education world with its benefit of work then rest sprinkled throughout the year.

The job I have now is the best one I’ve ever had. I love working with children. It is a pure joy to be around kids. I enjoy the school breaks that come with the school calendar (being older now, I tire more easily). I have the best colleagues and the absolute most wonderful bosses I could ever hope for. It’s all good.

But the beginning of the school year those first days back at work are a shock to my system. And Monday morning blues still hit.

It didn’t used to be like this. In the Garden of Eden, Adam worked, but it wasn’t work that tired him out or frustrated him, or dispirited the man. It was good work, done without sweat. God gave Adam three tasks; cultivate the Garden and keep it, name all the animals, and lead his wife Eve. (Genesis 2:15, 19, 24; Ephesians 5:22-23).

Can you imagine working without sweating? Not just physical sweat, though that will be nice, but work was absent the heart-pumping stress, hustle, hectic work that office people feel, or bus drivers, or police bomb defusers or…

How do I know work wasn’t the kind of work we think of these days? The verse where God curses work. Genesis 3:17b-19

Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

We know that heaven, i.e. the eternal state after the conclusion of all things, will be one of rest. But it will also be one of work. Whattt?

Reagan Rose covers this in his essay Will We Work in Heaven?

But for now, assuming Earth is redeemed man’s final destination, we would be right to wonder, “what will we do on that renewed Earth?” The answer is that we will worship our Lord, we will wonder at His majesty, and we will work.

Mr Rose continues with explaining that Heavenly Work Will Be Restful Work, and Heavenly Work Will Be Enjoyable Work, before he comes to his conclusion.

James M. Hamilton Jr wrote Work and Our Labor for the Lord, looking at work as it was meant to be, as it is, as it can be, and as it will be.

As work will be, “We can scarcely imagine it, but everything that makes work miserable here will be removed. All our sinful concerns about ourselves will be swallowed up in devotion to the one we serve. All our frustrations that we have to be doing this task and not the other one we prefer, will be abolished because of our experience of the one who gave the assignment. All inclination to do evil will have been removed from our hearts, so we will enjoy the freedom of wanting to obey, wanting to serve, wanting to do right.”

Imagine, being released from the bondage to sin and working in complete and perfect freedom to serve to the utmost in righteousness and in joy!

On earth our work often distracts us from worship, but in heaven work will BE worship.

What of work now, here on earth? We do need to work. “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

On the Chris Craft podcast, Chris asked guest Phil Johnson “How should we represent Christ in the workplace?”

“Work hard.”

Amen to that. I know of a custodian who works very hard all day long. She never stops. She cleans toilets, hustles to classrooms to wipe up kid-vomit, sweeps the cafeteria floor after kindergarten has been through like storming Huns. She is kind, constantly smiling and always ready to praise Jesus whenever you talk with her.

One day a second grader was waiting and I was waiting with her in the lunchroom. The kid was watching the lone custodian clean the cavernous cafeteria. After a while the child turned to me and said “She works hard. And she has to do all that by herself. But she never stops.”

When a person works so hard (for the Lord as I know she does) and a child notices the work ethic, you know it’s a good ethic. A shining ethic. Do I work that hard? Do cheerfully perform any menial task set before me? With purity of heart and a sincere effort? Sometimes no, but the lady I’d mentioned is my role-model inspiration. She represents Christ in a way that few people I’ve ever seen do so, and she does it through work.

Work hard on earth, as Colossians 3:23 says

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

And look forward to the day when you and I will be FREE to serve without sin tainting our work ethic or the work product. What a day that will be.

Meanwhile…Happy Monday!

—————————————–

I made this collage some years ago when I was pondering work and being busy even in ministry work. Do we work so hard we become too busy for God? On the left side of the collage top and bottom we see heaven and worship in heavenly peace. Below that scene are the animals, who know what to do in their spheres. Even creation groans for release. On the right side, top and bottom, is the heaving, pulsating spectacle of humanity going to and fro, with only a few looking at the Light, even noticing it.

too busy for God

Posted in theology

How to refresh yourself in times of controversy

By Elizabeth Prata

Need to take a breath and reset? Refresh?

I always find that delving into the biblical doctrine of heaven helps me. Asking the Lord to renew to my mind the facts and glories of our upcoming destination is a great salve to my soul. This world is so awful and getting worse by the day. I mean, of course there’s beauty, and I strive to focus on that. Salvations, baptism, good preaching, flowers, fellowship, green pastures, gentle rain, grazing animals, all that-God’s grace in gifts to us.

But there’s all the other things we know too well and don’t need enumerating. Heartbreaks, death, illness, degeneration of the social compact, politics, news bias, rebellion, plain grossness…all that and more, tend to weigh us down.

So, look UP! Look away from all this to where there is purity and perfect peace.

I believe that John MacArthur’s series on What Heaven Is, is a wonderful break from pain, hubbub, and distractions. There are 8 messages, here. Also linked individually below. Some of the topics covered are- Where heaven is and what it is like, What you’ll be like in eternity, How you will relate to others, How you will relate to God, What you will do in heaven, and more. In the first sermon in the series, Dr. MacArthur said,

As I mentioned to you this morning, we’re going to start a series tonight on a new subject.  The subject is heaven.  And this is not going to be a like a sermon series, in many ways, but more like a class, at least tonight will be.  I want to teach you what the Bible has to say by way of introduction to the subject of heaven.

So, when you think about heaven, you’re identifying the place where your Father is, your Savior is, your brothers and sisters are, your name is there, your inheritance is there, your citizenship is there, your reward is there, your Master is there, of course, being God and Christ, and your treasure is there as well.  To sum it up: heaven is your home.

Before I moved from one town to another, as I have, I loved learning all I could about my upcoming new home. I looked up stats on the new town, looked for photos of the place, went to real estate sites to see houses, scanned Google Maps at street view to learn what it looked like. It’s only natural that we have a curiosity about where will will devote our time, skills, and money. We want to know what it will be like where we will raise our children, work, contribute to the community.

How much more then, should we be anticipating heaven? This biblical series may bless you as it did me, and illuminate the glorious future we all have there. Whether by imminent rapture, passing through the gate of death, we who are in Christ will be there one day. Anticipating that day helps us cope with this day, in a more peaceful and confident way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What Heaven Is

Where Heaven Is and What It Is Like

The New Jerusalem

What We Will Be Like

How We Will Relate to One Another

How We Will Relate to God

What We Will Do, Part 1

What We Will Do, Part 2

heaven 2heaven 1heaven4heaven3

Posted in theology

Independence Day in the US today, but a future freedom awaits

By Elizabeth Prata

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)

Charles Spurgeon preached on this verse:

Citizenship in heaven

Our text, I think, might be best translated thus— “Our citizenship is in heaven.” The French translation renders it, “As for us, our burgess-ship is in the heavens.” Doddridge paraphrases it, “But we converse as citizens of heaven, considering ourselves as denizens of the New Jerusalem, and only strangers and pilgrims upon earth.”

I. The first idea which is suggested by the verse under consideration is this: if our citizenship be in heaven, then WE ARE ALIENS HERE; we are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were. In the words of Sacred Writ “Here we have no continuing city,” but “we desire a better country, that is an heavenly.”

Let us illustrate our position. A certain young man is sent out by his father to trade on behalf of the family: he is sent to America, and he is just now living in New York. A very fortunate thing it is for him that his citizenship is in England; that, though he lives in America and trades there, yet he is an alien, and does not belong to that afflicted nation; for he retains his citizenship with us on this side the Atlantic.

Yet there is a line of conduct which is due from him to the country which affords him shelter, and he must see to it that he does not fail to render it. Since we are aliens, we must remember to behave ourselves as aliens should, and by no means come short in our duty. We are affected by the position of our temporary country.

Do you eagerly await our savior? I do. It’s Independence Day here in the United States. There will be fireworks, barbecues, beaches, parades, and gatherings. When Jesus comes, we will have a magnificent independence! The Great Gathering will happen and then we will be freed from this body of death. We will be free from the presence of sin. We will be free to gaze in adoration upon the Savior all the day long, and bask in His glory light in wonder and in love.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36).

No flags in heaven, but the presence of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

collage fourth of july

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The Prayer Machinery of Heaven #6

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)

Prayer straddles our lives both on earth when we pray and in heaven when Jesus hears. All week I’m focusing on prayer. It’s important. I need to do better in my life, and I can’t imagine a Christian who doesn’t think they can do better at prayer either.

Charles Spurgeon said,

Prayer meetings are the throbbing machinery of the church.

Last weekend, I was thinking of one of Spurgeon’s sermons, called God’s Providence. (#3114). Spurgeon likened the cherubim’s acts near the throne and the wheels within wheels as described by Ezekiel as machinery of Providence. He described, hypothetically of course, the wheels going up and down and left and right in tandem as the machinery of Providence carrying out God’s will and decrees. It’s an interesting thought, and Spurgeon is vivid about his descriptions.

This series of ‘prayer machinery of heaven’ is inspired by those two thoughts.

Please enjoy this scripture photo I made of the machinery of prayer. Under that will be some further resources on prayer suggestions. Monday I suggested praying for the persecuted and missionaries around the world, with some resources to check out along those lines. Tuesday I suggested praying for our elders (pastors, deacons, teachers, etc), again, with resources. Wednesday I suggested praying for each other. Today focuses on how often to pray. Thursday I offered information about frequency of prayer. Friday we focused on Jesus in heaven who hears our prayers, and what a comfort that is. For this next-to-last picture in the series, I’ll offer some thoughts and resources on persevering in prayer.

I thought Barnes’ Notes said it well. There are different kinds of prayers and seasons for each kind. There are different attitudes of prayer.

Always – At all times. That is, we must not neglect regular stated seasons of prayer; we must seize on occasions of remarkable providences as afflictions or signal blessings to seek God in prayer; we must “always” maintain a spirit of prayer, or be in a proper frame to lift up our hearts to God for his blessing, and we must not grow weary though our prayer seems not to be answered.

Not to faint – Not to grow weary or give over. The parable is designed to teach us that, though our prayers should long appear to be unanswered, we should persevere, and not grow weary in supplication to God.

The parable is instructive for us, to never give up in prayer. Jesus receives prayer around the clock, every day, all the time. For us, it’s a battle to put hands together and carve out time to pray, Satan does not want us to pray. Jesus does. We have to work toward satisfying the one and not the other. Spurgeon again, said-

It is well said that neglected prayer is the birthplace of all evil.

I believe this. Jesus spent time instructing the disciples how to pray. (Luke 11:1-13). He spent time instructing through the parable of the importance of persisting in prayer. (Luke 18:1-8). Prayer is important. I need to do better in lots of ways- in my closet, in persisting, in focus, in content, and in earnestness and fervor. Lord, help me to pray.

prayer machinery 6b

Further Reading

Sermon Series: Elements of True Prayer

Valley of Vision devotional of Puritan Prayers (a wonderful wonderful resource!)

Tim Challies: Persistence in Prayer

Full of Eyes: Visual theology & exegesis of Colossians 4:2-4 being steadfast in prayer

Prayer Machinery of Heaven series:

Prayer Machinery #1: Introduction and Praying for Missionaries

Prayer Machinery #2: Praying for pray for our Elders (pastors, deacons, teachers, etc).

Prayer Machinery #3: Praying for each other

Prayer Machinery #4: How to Pray

Prayer Machinery #5: A focus on Jesus in heaven who hears our prayers, and what a comfort that is

Prayer Machinery #6: Persevering in Prayer

Prayer Machinery #7: The Two ‘If’s’ and the Importance of confessing Sin