Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Heaven Is Not Socialist, It's Not Democratic And It's Not A Republic

With the public discourse increasingly focused on the "correct" type of government, it's important to keep in mind that Heaven is not a socialist worker's paradise. Indeed, Jesus indicated differing levels of reward in Heaven. Orthodox Christianity certainly does teach that faith alone saves us. But Christianity also teaches our salvation is not the same as our reward. We serve an equitable and fair King, who loves us and is also just and holy. Grace alone brings us into the kingdom. Nothing we can do on our own can ever ‘earn’ this for us.

Jesus specifically told us that Heaven is a place where rewards will be given to the saved. Look at Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:11-12
“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 6:1-6
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Matthew 6:16-18
“And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Matthew 6:20
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…”

From this one sermon it is clear there is a “reward in heaven” waiting for each of us who is saved. There are “treasures in heaven” for each of us. God has rewards waiting for us, and much of this sermon from Jesus is an admonition for us not to forsake our heavenly reward by seeking worldly rewards and acknowledgment.

But Jesus also indicated there are DEGREES of reward in Heaven. Jesus told his followers each of them would receive a reward in heaven based on what they did here on earth:

Matthew 16:27
"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds."

This statement is so clear and direct it can hardly be argued. Jesus promised to “repay each person according to what he has done” (ESV). Think about it for a minute. If Jesus is not telling us God dispenses fair and just rewards (and punishments) in the next life, what in the world does this passage mean?

To further advance the point, Jesus used a famous parable to illustrate this for his followers:

Matthew 25:14-30
"For it (the kingdom of heaven) is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’ The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’ “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Jesus clearly told his followers the Kingdom of Heaven would be a place where individual saved believers would be rewarded according to their deeds. If you do a lot with what God has given you; you will get a greater reward in Heaven. If you squander what God has given you; don’t be surprised to find that your reward is much less.

Paul also agrees that there are degrees of reward in Heaven. When writing to the believers in Rome, he used language very similar to the language used by Jesus:

Romans 2:5-6
"But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds…"

Since we know from the scriptures God does not render salvation according to our deeds, what is it He is rendering? He is rendering reward according to our deeds. This means as our deeds increase, our reward increases as well. Look at what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He clearly told them their Salvation was built on Christ alone, but in addition to this, each of us, as saved Christians, also builds on this foundation of Salvation resulting in our reward in Heaven:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15
"For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire."

Paul clearly proclaims rewards are waiting for us as saved Christians. But he is also clear about the fact some of us will receive more reward than others. Some will work here on earth to create something persevering and as a result will obtain an enduring reward in Heaven. Others will not produce enduring work here on earth, and while they will still be saved, their reward in heaven will be nothing more than Salvation (“he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire”).

Solomon agrees that there are degrees of reward. God has always maintained there are varying degrees of reward in Heaven. Even the Old Testament speaks of this truth. Look at what Solomon says:

Proverbs 24:12
"If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"

Jesus, Paul and Solomon are reflecting the heart of God when they tell us we will be saved by His work and rewarded by our work.

If Heaven is not a socialist paradise then, it also is not a democracy where everyone is an island unto themselves. Neither is it a republic with elected representation. In the strictest sense, it is also not a dictatorship. All these forms of government are the result of life in a fallen world that is infected and infested by sin. Ultimately all forms of earthly government fail because all have fallen leaders that are subject to temptation and sin. The founding fathers of the United States wisely recognized this Biblical truth and accordingly sought to implement limited government with strict checks and balances. Although it succeeded for some 2 centuries, ultimately sin now apparently has its' inevitable effect.

The kingdom of Heaven is a monarchy with a single, sovereign, benevolent King. That's why it's referred to as the "kingdom" of God and of Heaven. When queried by Pilate, Jesus affirmed He was indeed a King but that His kingdom was not of this world.

The Sovereignty of God is the biblical truth that all things are under God's rule and control, and that nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will (see Eph. 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (see Isa. 46:11); nothing takes Him by surprise. The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto (in practice).

We are wise to be wary of all earthly forms of government. All those who foolishly place their hope and trust ultimately in an earthly form of government are doomed to disappointment and despair.

Only the KING of Kings can bring everlasting peace and joy.

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