Heaven in the Real World

You know what's at the top of those stairs? One heckuva climb down.
You know what’s at the top of those stairs? One heckuva climb down.

“Why do we need a new earth if we’re all going to live in heaven anyway?” Someone asked me this question a short time ago, and it seems that there’s a sort of confusion among Christians about the final resting place of our final resting place– that is to say, will paradise be in heaven or on earth? Where will we actually spend eternity? Continue reading “Heaven in the Real World”

Systematic Surrender

John Webster on Barth in “From the Substance to the Word:”

[R]evelation is no more and no less than the life of God himself turned to us, the Word of God coming to us by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ.’  Such a divine approach cannot be formalised into a set of axioms, and to attempt to do so (by, for example, developing a systematic biblical theology) is to take up a false stance to divine revelation, treating it as ‘a presupposition [Voraussetzung] which we can control.’  Properly undertaken, biblical theology effects no such settlement; it is simply ‘a series of attempted approximations, a collection of individual exegeses’.  What is required of the exegete is not systematic ambition but ‘surrender’.

Lord of the Word

I found this paragraph to be strikingly beautiful in John Webster’s Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Current Issues in Theology):

Second, as God’s free self-presentation, revelation is a free work of sovereign mercy. God’s revelation is God’s spiritual presence: God is the personal subject of the act of revelation, and therefore revelation can in no way be commodified. God is – as Gèrard Siegwalt puts it – revelation’s ‘uncontainable content’. As spiritual presence, the presence of God is free: it is not called forth by any reality other than itself; it is majestically spontaneous and uncaused. Its origin, actualisation and accomplishment require nothing beyond God. Like the entire history of the divine mercy of which it is a part, revelation is unexpected, undeserved, possible only as and because God is, and present after the manner of God. In Barth’s curious phrase, ‘God is the Lord in the wording of his Word.’

Scripture is where we meet God in all the freedom of his self-revealing Lordship.

Into the Cloud

There’s an interesting parallel between Israel’s encounter with God at Sinai in Exodus 24 and the description of the tabernacle/temple in later Old Testament accounts. In Exodus 24, God instructs Moses to bring the elders of Israel with him up on the mountain of Sinai to worship “from afar.” The people were not allowed to come to the mountain or even touch it, but the Moses and the elders were invited up. From there, Moses alone was invited up into the heart of the glory of God which covered the mountain, and there he was for forty days.

After the tabernacle was completed, the common Israelite worshiper could come through the outer wall into the courtyard, but could not approach the Tent of Meeting itself (Numbers 18:21-22). The Levites ministered in the outer court and in the Holy Place, inside the Tent of Meeting, but could go no further. Into the Holy of Holies, where God’s glory rested, only the High Priest was allowed, and even he only once a year (Leviticus 16, Hebrews 9:6-7).

There are probably many reasons why this was so at Sinai and in the tabernacle. One thing it certainly serves to show is that God’s glory was hidden at the same time that it was on display. The glory-cloud would have been unmistakeable; the tabernacle and temple drew every eye. But God’s secret heart, his covenantal presence, was only revealed to Moses and the High Priest.

Enter the New Testament.

When Jesus was lifted up to public view on Golgotha, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. No separations, no distinctions- God’s glory in Christ was on display for all the world to see. In the Old Covenant, if God and man came too close to each other man would die. In the New Covenant the God-Man died to bring man into the heart of his glory.