Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: treasure in Heaven

A believer's biggest choice, this side of Heaven

A key to understanding Revelation is to keep in mind that John assumes his readers know their Old Testament.  Oftentimes when a new concept or symbol is presented, an interpretation is immediately provided (like the explanation of the seven stars and seven lampstands in Revelation 1:20).  However, when describing the throne room of God in Revelation 4:3, John states that a rainbow…surrounded the throne.  He doesn’t interpret the rainbow’s significance; he expects that you already understand it from knowing Genesis 9:8-17.

Last time we started to look at this verse:

Revelation 21:7
The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.

Since this is the only time the word inherit is used in Revelation, to understand what is going on here, we’ll take a look back to the Old Testament.

Throughout the Old Testament there were two kinds of inheritance – an inheritance of God himself (e.g. – Psalm 16:5) or an inheritance was the right to a possession.  However, with this possession-inheritance, the ownership wasn’t automatic, there were conditions involved.  The land of Canaan was the nation of Israel’s promised inheritance.  However, the ability of a particular Israelite generation to actually inherit, or physically own, the land was dependent upon their obedience to God’s commands.

After God rescued the Israelites from slavery and bondage to Egypt, they rebelled and grumbled when they got their first look at the work to be done in order to possess the promised land of Canaan.  They even claimed that the Lord hated them and that they were better off back in Egypt.  Moses recounted this event:

Deuteronomy 1:34-38
“When the Lord heard your words, He grew angry and swore an oath: ‘None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh.  He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land on which he has set foot, because he remained loyal to the Lord.’

“The Lord was angry with me also because of you and said: ‘You [Moses] will not enter there either.  Joshua son of Nun, who attends you, will enter it.  Encourage him, for he will enable Israel to inherit it.’

The easy response to this passage would be to say that the generation of Israelites that died in the desert must not have been “saved”, or they weren’t “true believers”.  But…that can’t be the case, because these were the same people that trusted God and performed the first Passover.  They took the blood of a perfect lamb and spread it on the doorposts of their homes – doing so demonstrated their trust in God’s promise that they would be passed over when the destroying angel came by to take the life of the firstborn son.  The Passover prophetically foretold of Christ’s perfect blood sacrifice for mankind on the Cross.  This was also the same generation Paul later used as an example for other believers:

1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness.

According to Paul, the people of the Exodus generation of Israelites were right (positionally) with God, on the basis of their faith in the foreshadowed Christ.  However, their disobedience later in life marred their relationship with God and prevented them from physically inheriting the Promised Land. 

Now that we have the Old Testament context for the word inherit, we can see that God takes possession-inheritance very seriously.  Fortunately, a believer’s potential inheritance is also discussed in the New Testament.  While there are many passages we can look at (and perhaps that’s a future study), the following selections help us understand what God is talking about in Revelation.

1 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

Notice that Peter says God the Father has given us new birth into two things – a living hope and an inheritance.  Some have argued that heaven will be a Christian’s inheritance; however, Peter is indicating that this inheritance is something found in heaven.  So this means that the inheritance can’t be heaven itself…either it is a part of heaven or something else, in addition to heaven.

Jesus also gave similar instructions during the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-20
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.”

Jesus states that the treasures are in heaven, and not heaven itself.  Also important is the contrast Jesus presents here (store up treasures on earth OR store up treasures in heaven).  He wouldn’t give us these directions if they weren’t necessary.  So from this we can conclude that it is possible for a believer to not store up treasures in heaven, and whether or not we have treasures in heaven is dependent upon our choices here and now.

So what is this inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade and these treasures in heaven that cannot waste away or be stolen?

Revelation 21:6-7
I will give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.  The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Having a relationship with God can be had without cost to us because Jesus already took the punishment for our sins.  Remember that to inherit these things refers back to the New Jerusalem.  And from looking at other scriptures, we understand that inheriting New Jerusalem is dependent upon the choices we make here and now.

Choose wisely.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Hard questions about church leadership

Good leaders are hard to find these days.  Whenever we are under a person who is in a leadership position, but he or she isn’t leading – the results are often disastrous.  Without guidance from those who should be responsible, the people in the workforce are directionless and unproductive.  Left unchecked long enough, non-leading “leadership” makes the workplace chaotic.  

However, don’t think that leadership problems are only business and career problems.  Even in a charity setting, leadership matters.  Without an engaged leader, the volunteer work being donated to the cause ends up being ineffective.  And as hard as it is to admit…the same thing can happen in the church.

But rather than focus on the damage that a poor leader can cause, we have a more difficult question to answer…

What do we do for the good leaders?

I think we, as a church, tend to take advantage of good, Godly leadership.  Oh, we say nice things to them, like “I really enjoyed your talk”.  Then we move on with life.  But the moment we need guidance, answers, or support, we expect them to be available.  Especially on the weekends and holidays…because that’s when we have church services, right?

Our church leaders need more than a “thank you”.  Paul thought so as well:

1 Timothy 5:17-18
The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says:

You must not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain, and
The laborer is worthy of his wages.

The metaphor is an obvious one - as big and strong as the ox is, it still gets tired and needs to eat, even during the work.

This isn’t the first-time Paul has referred to the oxen direction in the Old Testament law.  He also pointed it out to the believers in Corinth.  Timothy was heavily involved with the Corinthian church, and he would have been aware of Paul’s previous directions based upon the Old Testament oxen scripture.  As such, Paul doesn’t need to reiterate his full teaching in Timothy’s letter – a reminder reference is sufficient to get his point across.

However, for our benefit and understanding, let’s take a look at what Paul said to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:9-11, 12-14
For it is written in the law of Moses,

Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.

Is God really concerned with oxen?  Or isn’t He really saying it for us?  Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should do so in hope of sharing the crop.  If we have sown spiritual things for you is it too much if we reap material things from you?

…Do you not know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar?  In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.

How many people attend your church?  If you were responsible for supporting that many people at your job, what kind of salary would you expect?  Is that somewhere in the neighborhood of how much your pastor is being paid?

I know, I know.  Those are hard questions.  Our society struggles with the idea of non-profit and church workers making “too much”.  We think it “looks bad” or “detracts from the cause”.  We tell ourselves that our church leaders are “storing treasure in Heaven” (which they are) and shouldn’t have “too much” down here.  But whose measurement of “too much” should we trust…ours or God’s?

Do some preachers give in to greed and abuse their position?  Absolutely, it happens.  A few verses downstream from these, Paul will address those kinds of issues in leadership.  But that shouldn’t stop us from allowing the good leaders to be appropriately compensated for their hard work now.

Keep Pressing,
Ken