Thursday, October 18, 2012

Experiencing Heaven on Earth

Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,

Experiencing Heaven on Earth in a dirt floor house
I'll never forget the time I went to visit a family at a broken down cinder-block shack.  On a dirt road on the outskirts of town lived a man, his wife and their four children in a house riddled with beer bottles, broken furniture and windows.

The house was a one bedroom with one mattress and a dirt floor.  It had one room with working electricity and no backdoor.  Over a period of weeks this family had been attending the nearby church and I had occasion to meet them in my travels.  The family was the poorest family I had ever met.  They each had one outfit, the husband had an amputated arm and the mother was on food stamps.  After several weeks of talking to the family, I went for a visit one Sunday afternoon.  I shared the Gospel with them.  The father was non-receptive, however the children (ages 6-12) were very receptive. 

I asked if they would like to pray to the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and trust Him as their Savior, Lord and treasure.  In the presence of the father and mother, sitting on the broken, mouse-eaten couch, the children and I knelt down on that dirt-floor living room. The Holy Spirit orchestrated the work in their hearts.  That day, as those children prayed with me in unison, outloud, we were experiencing a moment where Heaven came down to earth.  The dirt floor of that old run down shack became a mansion of salvation for those kids.  Hebrews 12:18-22 describes the miracle of salvation, and how the hopelesseness of the human condition can be reversed by the life changing power of Jesus Christ received by grace alone through faith alone.

Salvation is as much about Heaven coming down to me as me having the promise of someday going to Heaven
When I read Hebrews 12:18-22, I see salvation being described as involving two mountains, one valley and one miracle. 

Salvation's two mountains
On the day those children prayed to receive Christ, they made a journey from the slopes of Mount Sinai to Mount Zion.  Heaven came down to them, and through the cross they were by faith brought into the blessed hope of salvation. 

In Biblical history Mount Sinai was the mountain about which the nation of Israel was situated following their Exodus from Egypt. (Exodus 19-20)  God revealed His Law in a cloud of thunder and lightening on top of the mountain.  The people were not allowed to touch the Mountain, lest they die.  Mount Sinai is pictured as the Mountain of God's justice.  No hope, only judgment. 

Mount Zion is another name for the Heavenly Jerusalem or the abode where God is.  Both of these mountains are mentioned in Galatians 4:25-26 "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother."

The Miracle of salvation
Quite literally the miracle of salvation is about the power of God in salvation coming down to us. Heaven's reality comes to me, through faith, by which I receive and believe on Christ.  I'm told that I must abandon the quest of trying to get to God through keeping the law.  This is the fool's errand of those camped around Sinai.  They think they can get to the God of the mountain, however He is too holy and they are too sinful. 

The Cross in the valley
The law of Sinai points to the cross of calvary.  Once I identify with Christ in His death - I die.  According to Romans 6:4-11, I'm buried and then raised with Him.  I have crossed the valley between these two mountains.   Between the mountain of God's justice and the mountain of God's grace lies a valley wherein the cross stands.  Lest the sinner by grace through faith leaves the slopes of judgment at Sinai to be declared dead at the cross and raised, they will never know the glory of Mount Zion. 

In the Old Testament the God of the Mountain came to dwell among the people.  In the New Testament the God dwelling among the people brings the people to the Mountain
So what results when the miracle of salvation has occured?  Notice the seven-fold description given by Hebrews 12:22-23:

1. Change of Address.  "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God. The heavenly Jerusalem".  I am now viewed as a citizen of heaven, and look forward to Jesus Christ's return.  (Philippians 3:20-21)

2. Change of spiritual environment. "And to myriads of angels".  Hebrews 1:14 tells us the angels of heaven are sent to serve and aid those who are believers in Christ.  I'm no longer under the power of the Kingdom of Darkness. (Ephesians 2:1-2)  The Kingdom of Heaven characterizes the disposition of my heart, with the Spirit's leading characterizing how I approach life. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

3. Change of identity. "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven".  As a Christian I have been seated in the heavenly realms in Christ and am an heir of God, a co-heir of Christ, a child of the King! (Romans 8:14-16; Ephesians 2:4-9)

4. Change in relationship to God. "And to God, the Judge of all,"  Once I was separated from God, now I am reconciled through Christ, by faith, to be brought unto God. (1 Peter 3:18) 

5. Change in spiritual condition.  "And to the spirits of the righteous made perfect".  This of course is speaking of those saints who have went on before us. Our spiritual condition is changed to partake in the same promises of salvation as they. (2 Peter 1:3-11)

6. Change in how I view Jesus. "And to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant." Jesus Christ is more precious to me, my Savior, Lord and treasure.  (1 Peter 1:8; 2:1-9)

7. Change in the basis of my confidence. "And to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel."  My confidence in God lies not in what I have done, but His accomplishment, His righteousness and His blood cleansing me from the guilt and shame of my sin. (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9; Hebrews 9:14) 

In sum, we can close out today's blog with these words from a hymn entitled: "Heaven Came Down": "Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.  There at the cross the Savior made me whole.  My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day.  Heaven came down and glory filled my soul". 

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