Easter: The Promise of Future Resurrection

Happy Easter! He is risen!

2000ish years ago, He who was in the form of God took the form of man, the form of a servant, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8) He was despised and rejected, pierced for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)

I’ve written about the crucifixion before in a few different posts before, so check them out if you like: Encountering the Crucifixion and Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus.

Today I want to talk about the rest of the story, the resurrection, the greatest event in history, upon which the entirety of the gospel hangs. This post will be longer than usual, but this is a subject that deserves a bit of in-depth study. So welcome to Easter Bible Study with Caitlyn!

Future Resurrection in Scripture

Growing up, even though I grew up in the church, I didn’t have much understanding about the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. We make such a big deal out of the cross–wasn’t that the point? Jesus died in our place so that our sins could be forgiven and we could go to heaven, and that’s the gospel, right? And the resurrection was… a bonus confirmation to prove to the world that Jesus was God, a happy ending like icing on a cake. Talking about “the hope of Easter” never quite made sense to me, because no one ever actually explained to me what this hope was, as differentiated from the hope of the cross. (Ironically, the Veggie Tales line “He died for us to give us life, and to give us hope, He rose” came closest, because at least it acknowledged a difference between the cross and the resurrection.)

The more I study the Bible, though, the more I see a far bigger picture than that. Here’s what Paul said about the resurrection:

  • Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)

Paul isn’t arguing that God is capable of bringing dead people back to life. The believers who denied the “resurrection of the dead” didn’t have a problem with that. Jesus had raised many people during His ministry, and even the Old Testament has a few examples. (1 Kings 17:17-22; 2 Kings 4:32-35; 2 Kings 13:20, 21) Individuals without a pulse getting back up and continuing to live their lives was rare but not unheard of.

The issue at stake was a future, mass resurrection. This is the idea that when Jesus returns, believers will be raised and given new resurrected bodies that will live forever. Paul ties Jesus’ resurrection directly to that future resurrection of the dead, and argues that you can’t have one without the other.

It probably won’t look exactly like this.

Somehow, I think we’ve lost sight of this. I don’t know how typical my experience is, but I don’t think I heard a single teaching or sermon on the future resurrection until I moved to Kansas City six years ago, in my early 20s. That was when I started putting the pieces together and finally saw what had been right in front of me the whole time.

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them bodies. (Genesis 2:7) This is huge. The original, ideal state was human beings with sinless spirits living in immortal bodies. Somehow (thanks, Platonic philosophy and Greek dualism) we’ve gotten the idea that our bodies are a prison for our spirits, and in an ideal world we would be free of such physical restraints. I know I used to think like that. However, that’s not the picture in the Bible. God really likes matter. He likes tangible material. His original ideal was for us to have bodies to live in, and in the resurrection, we will again have ideal, glorified, immortal bodies.

The theme of the future resurrection of the dead appears all over Scripture. It first appears in glimpses in the Old Testament:

  • And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
  • For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25-26)
  • Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! …the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:19)
  • You…will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. (Psalm 71:20)

The resurrection of the dead was central to the apostles’ teaching. Paul made it one of his key points in Athens (Acts 17:32) and later said it was the reason he was on trial before the Jewish council (Acts 23:6). The author of Hebrews even listed it with the “elementary” teachings of the faith. (Hebrews 6:12)

Then also, we have this really fascinating thread running throughout Scripture calling Jesus the “firstborn of the dead” and other similar phrases.

  • …to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
  • …He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead… (Colossians 1:18)
  • …Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead… (Revelation 1:5)
  • that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead… (Acts 22:23)
  • Christ the firstfruits… (1 Corinthians 15:23)

So in Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, He became the first of something BIG that will affect all who believe in Him: a future, mass resurrection that is a central part of the hope of the gospel.

What Will Our Bodies Be Like?

So when will this happen? What will it be like?

I don’t promise it will look like this.

The Bible states super clearly that the resurrection of the dead happens when Jesus appears. That’s when we will receive our resurrected, incorruptible, eternal bodies. These bodies will be in many ways like Jesus’ own resurrected body.

  • When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
  • For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)
  • Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
  • But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body… (Philippians 3:20-21)
  • Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him… (1 John 3:2)

Based on these verses, I think we can get a hint of what our future bodies will be like by looking at Jesus’ resurrected body at Easter! Apparently, He could appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31, 36-37; John 20:19), and He still had His crucifixion scars, at least from the nails and spear (Luke 24:40, John 20:27). People didn’t necessarily recognise Him right away (John 20:14, John 21:4), but at a second glance, He clearly looked like Himself. He even ate with His disciples. (Luke 24:41-43) I think some of His glory was still veiled during that time before His ascension, because when John saw Jesus at Patmos he saw His face shining like the sun. (Revelation 1:16)

1 Corinthians 15 is a goldmine of information about the future resurrection and our resurrected bodies. It describes our future bodies as imperishable, and says that they will be glorious and powerful, while our natural bodies now are dishonourable and weak by comparison.

  • So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishableIt is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in powerIt is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

In his next letter, Paul says that our current natural body is like a tent, and we are groaning with longing to put on our future, immortal body, which is like a house by comparison. He even says that compared to having that future body, being without it is like being naked.

  • For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-4)

“For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling…” 1 Cor 5:2

Different Kinds of Glory

1 Corinthians 15 also talks about different kinds of glory for different bodies.

  • And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:7-42)

This passage isn’t making the straightforward binary comparison of verses 42 and 43 (perishable/imperishable, dishonour/glory, weakness/power). This is comparing several different things within a series (humans/animals/birds/fish, sun/moon/stars). I believe this is saying that each believer will have a different kind of glory on our resurrected bodies.

The sun/moon/stars analogy seems especially apt, because Daniel says that the wise will “shine like the brightness of the sky above… like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3) and Jesus says that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43) I really think we’re supposed to understand something here about the glory we will have in our resurrected bodies, especially since we know that Jesus’ resurrected body shines like the sun (Revelation 1:16).

“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” 1 Cor 15:41-42

The idea of differing glory makes perfect sense when we compare it to everything Jesus said in the gospels about eternal rewards, and also what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:

  • For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straweach one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

All of us who are saved have the foundation of Jesus Christ. Period. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Salvation is 100% dependent on Jesus and 0% on our works. (John 6:63) However, in our lives, we have the opportunity to “build” on the foundation by our works. These works might be valuable like gold, silver, and precious stones, or they might be worthless like wood, hay, and straw. Serving God and others, making choices in my heart to love Him–these are worthy works. Anything I do for the sake of my own flesh is worthless. On that Day, God will judge our works by fire, which doesn’t mean punish us or burn us up, but He will evaluate our lives and test our works to reveal what was worthy of reward. Some will have more reward than others–the apostle Paul will definitely get more reward than someone who loved Jesus but mostly lived for their own comfort. That guy will still be saved, but he will suffer the loss of what could have been his reward.

Over the next two chapters following this passage, Paul continues to paint the same picture:

  • For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (1 Corinthians 4:18, 5:10; compare Romans 8:18-24)

Thinking about eternal rewards and the tangible reality of my future resurrected body really impacts me on a daily basis. It puts a real sober fear of the Lord into how I make decisions and choose to respond to circumstances. Choosing humility, trust, or forgiveness has eternal implications–real consequences that I will live with forever. I know that Jesus sees my heart and He is so moved, and those things are like “gold, silver, and precious stones” that will endure forever and have a literal impact on the kind of glory on my resurrected body forever.

Resurrection Timeline

So when exactly does all of this happen? I won’t take the time to make a case for every single detail I’m about to allude to, but I will give some broad context and some points for further study if you’re interested. As I said above and as Scripture makes abundantly clear, the resurrection happens when Jesus returns. This event coincides with what is often called the “rapture”. Jesus will return, bringing with Him the souls of the dead who have been in heaven, and restore them to their bodies, which will be resurrected and transformed. Immediately afterwards, the “rapture” will happen, when believers who are alive on earth at that time will be “caught up” and changed.

It probably won’t look exactly like this, either.

Paul most clearly lays out this picture in two passages:

  • For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)
  • Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

This event is what Revelation calls the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6). It is for believers only and happens when Jesus comes back, at the beginning of His thousand year reign on the earth, which is often known as the Millennium. There is a second resurrection after the Millennium, when all the rest of the dead are raised–all of the unbelievers from throughout history plus anyone without a resurrected body who happened to die during the Millennium. This is what is sometimes called the “Great White Throne” judgment. The unbelievers will be cast in their unglorious, immortal bodies into the lake of fire forever. (Revelation 20:11-15)

In the meanwhile, it’s important to understand that even though right now believers who have died do not yet have their resurrected bodies, they are conscious in heaven in the presence of God. This is the in-between state, between having a natural body in life as we do now and having a resurrected body as we will have forever. In between, if we die before Jesus comes back, our souls will be in heaven with God. Paul says, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) Even though being without a body in heaven with the Lord isn’t our permanent future state, it’s still WAY better than being in our current body on Earth away from the Lord, and someday when Jesus returns, at the resurrection, we get an even further upgrade–a glorious, indestructible, immortal, resurrected body that shines like the stars! (I also think our future resurrected bodies will have abilities we’ve only dreamed of or can’t even imagine; I’m very much convinced that I will be able to fly like Peter Pan in my resurrected body!)

Hope Today

In studying these passages, the most frequent application we find is the exhortation to HOPE. This is our hope!!

  • having a hope in God…that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. (Acts 24:15)
  • …We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved… (Romans 8:23-24)
  • because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:5)
  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleepTherefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18)
  • waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
  • …He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

The resurrection of Jesus is the key to our future resurrection–not that we get to exist forever in some disembodied spiritual plane, but we will be physically raised from physical death and given immortal, glorious, resurrected bodies, in the image of Jesus’ own resurrected body, as different from our current bodies as a palace is from a tent or an oak tree is from an acorn. This is the future “salvation” the Bible refers to. Our souls have already been saved by the blood of Jesus, but our bodies themselves will one day be fully saved from every effect of sin and death.

One day soon… when the trumpet sounds and the morning dawns…

I think of it when I see the effects of sin and disease ravage bodies. I even think of it often when I get a toothache or a strained muscle– this body is only temporary. I only have to put up with it for another 60 years or so max.

I think of it when I think of those I love who have died. My aunt, my grandma, my grandpa, and several of my friends who have passed away are not gone from their bodies forever. I remember standing at gravesides watching bodies being lowered into the earth, thinking, “This is not the end. That dirt will quake and split and their bodies will rise.”

This is the hope of Easter. It is so far beyond even the event of Jesus’ own resurrection 2000 years ago. That event is the promise for us of the spectacular inheritance God has reserved for us–imperishable resurrected bodies that will reflect His own glory in tangible form forever.

~~~

Key New Testament verses and passages on our future resurrection:

  • Matthew 22:23-33
  • Mark 12:18-27
  • Luke 14:14, 20:27-40
  • John 5:28-29, 6:39-54, 11:24-26
  • Acts 4:2, 17:32, 22:23, 23:6, 24:15
  • Romans 6:5, 8:11-30
  • 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, 6:14, 15:12-58
  • 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:10
  • Philippians 3:10-11, 20-21
  • Colossians 1:18, 3:4
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • 2 Timothy 2:18
  • Hebrews 6:1-2
  • 1 Peter 1:3-7
  • 1 John 3:2
  • Revelation 1:5; 20:4-6, 11-15
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Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus

When we celebrate the Christmas story, there is a reality deeper than the quaint images of sheep in a stable and swaddling clothes in a manger. It’s the reality of the incarnation – that God, the Creator, the infinitely eternal Dreamer of Genesis 1, freely chose to become one of His creation. The Creator created Himself into a fragile body of flesh, and in doing so He proved Himself worthy of the highest exaltation.

To catch the wonder of this, we have to back up…. waaaay up.

HIGH

.     “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…
.        when the morning stars sang together
.         and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
.     Or who shut in the sea with doors
.         when it burst out from the womb,
.     when I made clouds its garment
.         and thick darkness its swaddling band,
.     and prescribed limits for it
.         and set bars and doors,
.     and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
.         and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
.     Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
.         and caused the dawn to know its place…?
.     Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
.        or walked in the recesses of the deep?
.     Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
.         or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”
.                    Job 38:4-17

In Job 38, God puts Job’s life in perspective by giving him a glimpse of what it’s like to be GOD, the eternal, sovereign Creator. He remembers the day when He created the universe out of nothing. He controls all the forces of nature like a puppet master. He is sovereign over it all.

Low

Psalm 113 shows the first step in the humility of God:

.     “The LORD is high above all nations;
.         His glory is above the heavens.
.     Who is like the LORD our God,
.         Who is enthroned on high,
.     Who humbles Himself to behold
.         The things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
.                    Psalm 113:4-6 NASB

God has to humble Himself to even LOOK at the things He has created! The universe itself is so far beneath Him that it’s as if He has to bend over and squint to even see it.

But He does.

He bends down to look

.     at the universe…

.          at the Milky Way…

.               at our solar system…

.                    at Earth…

.                         at each nation…

.                              at each individual human heart.

The fact that He would even acknowledge your existence, the speck within a speck within a speck within a speck, is huge. It takes fathomless humility to even know your name.

Take three minutes and watch this video.

 

lower

Then came the incarnation. The Word made flesh. God not only looks at and interacts with Earth from His distant throne… He chose to step off His throne above the edge of the universe and become one of us.

Breakable, squishy, ugly-bags-of-mostly-water, time-locked, skin-locked, needy, temporary, finite little humanity.

In my opinion, no passage in Scripture captures this descent as well as Philippians 2:5-11.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8

It begins with Jesus in the form of God. In Greek, this word for “form” doesn’t mean appearance or shape. It means His very essence, His very nature. At His core, to His DNA, Jesus WAS God. He had equality with God; not that He was equivalent to God, but He was equal to God. From the beginning, Jesus = God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
John 1:1-3

Yet, He didn’t choose to grasp tightly onto His status as God. He willingly let go of His position and rights as God. In the NIV, “something to be grasped” is translated “something to be used to his own advantage”. He had every right to simply rest on His own divinity, but He chose to forsake His own rights and empty Himself.

So He was born in the likeness of men… in human form. He who was in the form of God took on human form. God-nature took on human-nature. Deity became humanity. The infinite became finite.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
John 1:14

This is a staggering descent. It’s literally immeasurable. If you or I became an ant, it would be a huge downgrade, but it would be theoretically possible to measure the differences between a human and an ant. God is so completely Other that it is impossible to measure just how different He is. For God to become human is an infinite descent.

In being born, Jesus had to first be in the womb of Mary for 9 months. GOD was once the size of a grapefruit… and an apple… and a paperclip… and microscopic. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the Son of God was conceived as a single cell.

God was once a single-celled organism. Fully God, fully human… microscopic in the womb of a young woman.

lower

Of course, the most powerful men on Earth started as only one cell. Jesus went lower even than that.

He took the form of a servant.

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”
Matthew 20:28

He could have come as a great human king, and even that would have been infinitely beneath Him! Instead, He chose to be born in the most humble of ways– to a poor couple from a disreputable town, largely uncelebrated in a stable, then worked as an unassuming carpenter until He was released into ministry… when He set the example by washing His disciples’ feet.

.     “For he grew up before him like a young plant,
.         and like a root out of dry ground;
.     he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
.         and no beauty that we should desire him.
.                   Isaiah 53:2

But then…

lowest.

He came lower still.

He became obedient to the point of death.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

The Author of life… died. More than that, He didn’t peacefully pass away quietly, but He was executed in the most gruesome form of torture ever devised.

The Author of life, clothed in light, who from the dawn of creation has had ceaseless adoration rising around His throne…

…died on a tree, naked, with blood and spit dripping down His body, with angry insults and blasphemies clamouring around Him.

.     He was despised and rejected by men,
.         a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
.     and as one from whom men hide their faces
.         he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
.     Surely he has borne our griefs
.         and carried our sorrows;
.     yet we esteemed him stricken,
.         smitten by God, and afflicted.
.                   Isaiah 53:3-4

Despised and rejected.

Despised by the ones He knew and loved so deeply.

Rejected by the very ones He came so infinitely low to rescue.

This is the crux of the incarnation. This is Jesus, the King of Glory, at His lowest.

The ultimate, deepest humility.

BUT.

H I G H E S T

Philippians 2 turns a sharp 180° on one word–

“THEREFORE.”

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

As quickly as Jesus came so low, He shoots up again to be “highly exalted”. There’s something unique about this exaltation, though. It’s not just the glory He had with the Father before the incarnation; this is exaltation as a human. This is the promise of His future exaltation as the Son of David, the prophesied Davidic King of the earth. One Day (capitalisation intended) He will be publicly and fully recognised as the sovereign authority of the planet, when He returns and establishes His Kingdom from Jerusalem.

Don’t miss this– the Davidic King has to be actually human. Jesus didn’t just temporarily put on a human costume and shed it when He ascended. He became permanently, irrevocably human forever. In heaven now, He has a glorified human body, similar to the glorified human bodies believers will have one day. When He sits on the throne in Jerusalem forever, He will do so as a human King: a literal, physical descendent of David.

What stunning humility.

To me, the most fascinating part of this Philippians 2 passage is in the THEREFORE. He is exalted because He was obedient to the point of death. His extravagant humility which led Him all the way to the cross is directly why He is worthy to rule as King.

This THEREFORE is all over Scripture.

.     “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
.         and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
.     because he poured out his soul to death
.         and was numbered with the transgressors…”
.                   Isaiah 53:12

.     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
.         and to open its seals,
.     for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God…”
.                   Revelation 5:9

He is worthy to open the scroll, release the plans of God, and rule the earth because He was slain.

Because of His great humility, He has proven His worthiness.

This is a King we can fully trust– the one who came so low for us. He has proven His love.

This is how we can trust that He won’t be a cruel or selfish or distant dictator. He has withstood every test and temptation. He has proven His love, humility, and commitment to us by His birth, life, and death. And God has vindicated and affirmed Him by His resurrection.

When we look at the baby in a manger, we can see the God who came so, so low to demonstrate His love by taking on flesh and dying on a tree, and the coming King who proved His trustworthiness to rule.

To me, that is breathtakingly beautiful.

God, You became a man
You took on flesh
You’re so beautiful

“One Found Worthy” by Justin Rizzo

7 Simple Things I Learned At IHOPKC

7 simple things insta

Every time I come home from studying at IHOPU in Kansas City, and especially now that I’ve graduated, I am frequently asked about what I’ve learned. I’ve started realising that the question sort of makes me feel a little awkward because I’m not really sure how to answer. On the one hand, my whole life has changed and I know I understand things now that I didn’t before, but on the other hand, they’re really not deep, massive, mystically profound things. Most of them are the same old simple things we’ve always known.

It’s like when you grow up hearing “Jesus loves me” and then one day you find yourself on the floor weeping caught up in the realisation that “JESUS! LOVES!! ME!!!”

I didn’t learn a new gospel. Maybe I just saw the gospel a little bit more clearly.

So here are 7 simple things I learned at IHOPKC:

1. Jesus really likes me.

Not only does Jesus love me because “God is love” and He loves everyone, but He actually enjoys me and my personality. He loves that I’m a sci-fi geek. He loves the way I dance, differently than He loves anyone else’s dance. He enjoys my sense of humour. He gets a kick out of the way I talk to Him! He thinks about me all the time. He enjoys suprising me, making me smile, and providing for me. He wants me to be with Him all the time, and He wants to share the things that are on His heart with me. There are things that He urgently cares about, and He wants me to feel the same way He does, because that’s what friends do.

2. I don’t have to be awesome for God to like me or use me.

(This is kind of an extension of #1, but it’s huge so it gets its own point.) All of the above is still true when I screw up. I may get distracted or stuborn and wander off the path pretty frequently, but I still want to follow Him and I still let Him lead me back every time. That counts. He knows my heart better than I do. To quote Mike Bickle, there’s a difference between weakness and rebellion, and weak love is still real love.

3. The Bible is good stuff.

I mean, duh, but my enjoyment of the Bible grew like crazy when I was eating it up, searching it out, praying it, and singing it in the context of prayer and worship where my only priority was to love Jesus. I fell in love with stories I’d known since kindergarten and passages I could never make sense of in high school. The Bible is fun and super interesting when you read it with the Holy Spirit.

4. Jesus is worthy of everything.

“Worthy” just means “deserving.” Jesus deserves the full love and worship of every person, and He deserves to rule the earth forever. Everything that exists is meant to be in submission to Him– not only because He’s Creator GOD, but He actually deserves it because He is the most kind, humble, just, and wise person to ever exist. He proved it on the cross. We can confidently invite Him to rule this earth and our hearts because we trust that He can do a really, really good job.

5. Worship and intercession are a big deal and they go really well together.

Worship is super important because it’s the 24/7 activity of heaven and God fully deserves it (see #4). Intercession is super important because that’s step 1 in how we partner with God to make the things that He wants to happen happen. Combined, worship and prayer support each other and help our hearts stay connected to what we’re doing– and this effect, like, quintuples when we put the Word smack dab in the middle of everything we pray and sing. Hence, the 24/7 prayer (and worship) room.

6. God really loves Israel, like, a lot.

I’m not even sure what my theology of Israel was before IHOPU. I understood some things and had other things a little mixed up, but I had certainly never wept over Jesus’ heart for His people before. Praying through passages like Zechariah 2 peirced me. Jesus REALLY, REALLY loves and is COMMITTED to the people He originally chose as His bride. He’s really, really faithful–all His promises are yes and amen–and He will fulfill every word He ever spoke.

7. Jesus is coming soon and we are part of the story.

He promised He would come, and by all indications this era of history is nearing a climax. There will be a pretty dramatic series of events leading up to Jesus standing on the earth again, and we’re not supposed to be on the sidelines or swept out of the way. Jesus wants us awake, informed, and involved in what He’s doing. That starts now, because Jesus is looking for a global Church that is fully mature and alligned with Him when He comes. A major way we grow into that is by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer and worship (see #5). Another major way is through evangelism and missions. Jesus said that the gospel will be preached to all nations before the end. There are actually a number of passages that talk about 24/7 prayer and worship arising from all over the earth in the final generation of history… so worship, prayer, and missions together are HUGE elements in the story of Jesus’ return.

 

I would have agreed with these points even before IHOPU, but while I was there, spending hours nearly every day in the prayer room, they were driven much more deeply into my heart. Of course they’re profound truths, and I am so grateful that I now have conviction, passion, and personal heart experience with each of them, but they’re so simple!

I admit, in my first few months I walked around with my head spinning thinking “WHOA, I HAD NO IDEA! THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE HAVE BEEN REVEALED TO ME!”, and yeah, I was studying areas of the Bible I hadn’t before and hearing a wider range of theories on a few details, but by my senior year I realised that none of what I was learning was dramatically new revelation. Mike Bickle isn’t a prophet or a theological pioneer, and IHOPKC reads the same Bible as everyone else. (We just sometimes preach it a little more dramatically!) Besides, at the end of the day, the more intriguing and debatable theories aren’t what I cherish. It’s simple truths like these.

I found that as I gave my time and attention to prayer and worship, simple truths came alive to me. Jesus loves me, He wants me to talk to Him, and He wants me to be part of His story.

Better Than a Thousand Elsewhere

Psalm-84

This was my first week at The Prayer Room in Arlington, Texas, and I hit the ground running. I have already led four two-hour solo worship sets on piano, section led twice (a section leader is the main point person in charge of the prayer room for a six-hour block of time), and ushered once. Yesterday I was at the prayer room for fourteen hours because I was filling in as a section leader on top of my regular prayer room hours and worship leading. In total, I count 26 hours I’ve spent in the prayer room in the last five days- and Wednesday was a day off.

Worship leading is still rather new to me, as is playing piano in general, so of course I’ve encountered glitches like hitting the wrong buttons on the keyboard (that was NOT the sound I wanted!) and fumbling the chords plenty of times. I love it, though, because every time I lead worship I get to:
1) serve the prayer movement by keeping the fire on the altar (Leviticus 6:13),
2) worship God through my songs, and
3) encounter Jesus by singing Scripture.

Every day this week as I’ve been worship leading, I’ve been singing and meditating on Psalm 84. This is the famous passage from which we get the song “Better Is One Day,” and my heart has been eating it up every time I sing through it.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God…

Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!…

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

(Psalm 84:1-2, 4, 10)

I’ve been in this passage for a few months now, and it hasn’t gotten old yet.

I want to feel the psalmist’s longing for the presence of God. I want to taste the blessing of taking up residence in His presence and constantly singing praise to Him, just like the angels in the throne room who “never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy…'” (Revelation 4:8)

I want to be able to truthfully say that I consider a single day spent in His presence to be more pleasurable and more valuable than a thousand days spent anywhere else on earth.

After all, “in [His] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

Every time I sing and declare this truth to God and to myself, I remind my spirit that He truly is the ultimate pleasure, and His presence, specifically in this context His house of prayer, is the best place in the world I could choose to be.

 


Audra Lynn, one of my favourite worship leaders, singing “Better Is One Day” in the IHOPKC prayer room.

 

Bonus just for fun picture: me and my new friend Nichole trying on a giant pair of "wings" in downtown Fort Worth.

Bonus just for fun picture: me and my new friend Nichole trying on a giant pair of “wings” in downtown Fort Worth.

Why Study Eschatology? (The Short Answer)

“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30

(One of my IHOPU classes, Basic Christian Beliefs, is giving the assignment of blogging on certain questions from the lessons every week. This week, I’m choosing the question “Why is studying eschatology a profitable practice for a Christian?”)

Eschatology can be a really intimidating concept. Many Christians don’t really like to think about it in any kind of detail. We love to quote verses like “He will wipe every tear from their eyes,” (Revelation 21:4) but don’t really study the process that leads up to that moment. I’ve had family members and close friends tell me that their eschatology is “pan-tribulation” (“It will all ‘pan out’ in the end”) and that reading the book of Revelation is “too scary.”

This boggles my mind. The fact is, God is telling a STORY with humanity that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We passionately defend the beginning and the middle, but sometimes it seems like we couldn’t care less about the end, so long as we all end up happily ever after somehow in “a better place.”

I want to know the story God is telling. He has wrapped up some of the most profound and stunning revelations of His character in those final few chapters. I can’t know Jesus fully unless I look at Him in the context of a Bridegroom, King, and Judge who’s coming back to rescue and marry His bride, rule the earth, and execute full justice. The book of Revelation is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:1)

Furthermore, that time is getting close. We would all agree that it’s closer than it’s ever been, but seriously, it’s getting CLOSE close. I want to have as much understanding of this time period as possible so that when things start happening, my own heart can remain unoffended and fully engaged with what God is doing, and I can also help others to stay in that place. There is no reason I should be caught unaware on that day. He’s already given me everything I need to understand what’s coming – the Spirit and the Word. He wants me to watch, stay awake, and set my heart to love the day of His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)

Maybe it won’t come in my lifetime. It really might, but if it doesn’t, I will build a legacy for the next generation of this eager and faithful watching. When He comes, He WILL find a Bride made ready. (Revelation 19:7)

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
~1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
~Luke 18:7-8

+8 Days and Counting!

Yesterday was my one week anniversary of being in Kansas City. YAY! KC and I are pretty happy together and expect this to be a long-term relationship, so I’d say things are going well so far. 😉

I’ve been doing 6:00-9:00 a.m. prayer room every morning Monday-Thursday, and I have class at IHOPU at 10:00. That means I wake up at 5:00, get out the door by 5:50 to be early to the prayer room and get my favourite seat, then I’m in there for one full intercession set and half of a worship with the word set. Worship leaders this week have been Justin Rizzo, Jon Thurlow, and Tim Reimherr. I’ve listened to their cds but rarely heard them lead live, so that’s kind of fun.  I also love that the ACTS missions school students are in there in the mornings with me, as well as many IHOPU students, so I’m surrounded by plenty of fiery young people to help me wake up and get my prayer on. 😀

Then I come home and get to spend about 45 minutes eating breakfast, talking with whichever of my flatmates is in the kitchen, and reorienting my brain for class. My class schedule this quarter looks like this:

Mon/Wed 10:00-12:00 – Biblical Hermeneutics with Daniel Lim
Tues/Thurs 10:00-12:00 – Basic Christian Beliefs with Jono Hall
Wed 1:00-3:00 – Sermon on the Mount Practicum with Wes Martin and Dana Candler

“Encounter God, do His works, change the world.”

I’m also going to have discipleship group meetings once a week, most likely Tuesday afternoons, plus regular service/outreach activities together, but I haven’t been assigned my leader yet. I am definitely looking forward to that, though. I know I want to devote some time to going out with the evangelism teams again at some point, and maybe also ushering and CEC. We’ll see how much my schedule can hold.

These classes are SO much fun already. Bible classes were always one of my favourite parts of APU, and it feels good to be back in the swing of analysing worldviews, doing exegesis, comparing hermeneutics, etc. I did of course get really good Bible teaching during OTI, but it was much less academic. And as much as I love that, I enjoy a little scholarliness thrown in the mix as well. It’s good to approach the Bible in a variety of ways.

I’m also looking for a job. I picked up a stack of applications from all over town that I’m working on getting filled out and turned in, so continued prayer for that would be awesome.

I finally put my keyboard on my desk and started teaching myself some worship songs on it. It is of course veeeeery slow going, but I really want to be able to use music more in my secret place times with God. I know how to figure out the notes and chords even if it takes me a long time, so I am slowly but surely trying to build the habits into my fingers. Maybe one day I’ll be able to post a video of something… even one of my own songs, perhaps? We’ll see. Don’t hold your breath.

All in all, this week has been mostly me figuring out what the upcoming months are going to look like, and I can tell you right now that my future here looks very exciting. I’m at one of the most unique places on the earth for pursuing the knowledge of God and I’m surrounded by passionate, fun, godly people to run with. God has provided for me so graciously already in so many ways, and I know he will continue to provide everything I need. I can’t wait to see what he has for me as I give myself to this thing.

Rightly Do They Love You (Song of Songs 1:4 part 2)

I haven’t blogged about Song of Songs since October, but I’ve still been reading and meditating on it, of course. And it is high time I continue my journey through it with all of you.

“We will exult and rejoice in you;” Song of Songs 1:4d

The speakers here are the “others,” the daughters of Jerusalem, the community of believers. Of course, since the speaker attributions aren’t actually in the original text, different translations interpret who says what slightly differently at times. I think, though, that the content of what is said is in this case more important than who technically says it.

I love this rejoicing in Jesus. HE is our celebration. It’s not even rejoicing in his blessings; it’s just simply celebrating who he is, though of course who he is is expressed and displayed in what he does. But like lovers enjoy one another’s personalities and not only actions, so our purest worship and joy is centred solely on Jesus’ heart.

I will rejoice in you, in your character, in the very essence of your personality. I celebrate who you are–who you have always been, who you will always be.

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10 (Dang, now there’s a verse that deserves a blog post unto itself!)

“We will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.” Song of Songs 1:4e

Here’s the wine motif again. And I love that word “extol.” To me, this sounds like “I can’t stop talking about your love, more than any other thing or pleasure.”

I extol a lot of stuff. A friend asked me yesterday what Doctor Who was all about, anyway. I talked for ten minutes, and I daresay she understood about half of what I said. I would have gone on longer if I hadn’t ought to get back to work. I love Doctor Who; give me half a chance and my praise of it just bubbles out.

But Jesus is the ultimate one worthy of our extolment. (Yes, that’s a word, I looked it up.) He is so, so worthy. Rightly do we love him. He actually deserves every ounce of adoration I could ever give and infinitely more. Not just because he’s God– many “gods” throughout mythology have proven themselves so unworthy of worship by their character alone. He deserves love because of his deep love. He is good, he is holy, he is so completely humble and sacrificial. This is the God who is worth extolling above everything else.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

As a matter of fact, the New King James Version says, “We will remember your love more than wine.” The word translated either remember or extol is the Hebrew זכר, zakar, means “to mark (so as to be recognized), that is, to remember; by implication to mention” and is variously translated in the NASB as be mindful, boast, celebrate, mention, and remind. (Strong) It’s a public remembering, not only private, telling the story again and again so that everyone can honour the subject together.

And what is the story we tell? Why is it right and fitting for us to love him? What is the ultimate expression of his worth?

“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'” Revelation 5:9-10

He is worthy because of the love expressed on the cross. He didn’t stop short of that, but gave everything. That’s what we love him for.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” Philippians 2:8-9

Let Us Run (Song 1:4)

This should have been posted yesterday, but I instead spent the afternoon reading Mortal by Ted Dekker and the evening reading The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I do not see any contradiction in this, nor am I ashamed of my use of time yesterday. Except that I neglected to post a blog. Boo me.

So back into the game–here’s another taste of my thoughts on the Song of Songs!

“Draw me after you;” Song of Songs 1:4a

This verse is my absolute favourite of chapter one. I love the yearning in it, the longing for intimacy, partnership, adventure. Draw me after you, Jesus. Seduce me. Woo my heart.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

He draws me away into the secret place by revealing his beauty and whispering his love for me until my faze is completely captured and my heart is overwhelmed with love. All the world is so still there; nothing else exists. Everything else fades away and it’s just the two of us, gazing at each other, whispering tenderly to each other’s hearts. When he begins to open my eyes to who he is, who I am, and the glorious destiny he has planned for us together, every fear and doubt fades away and my only desire is to follow him forever.

“Let us run.” Song of Songs 1:4b

Then comes the running. Let us run, Jesus. I want to run with you.

I picture Jesus taking my hand, winking at me, and whispering, “Run.” And then off we go, leaping over mountains together. Oh, the running. Seriously, there’s an outrageous amount of running involved.

Okay, Whovians, I know you know (I know you know) exactly where I’m going with this. Think of that first moment when the Doctor took Rose’s hand in the dark when she was about to be attacked. She had never seen him before, but in that moment he became her saviour. He said only one word: “Run.” And they ran together through all of time and space. For the Doctor and his companions, it’s always the running–to danger, from danger, always together, always running.

That’s me and Jesus.

What does running with Jesus actually look like on this planet? What sort of adventures are in Jesus’ heart? I think running with him is partnering with the passions of his heart. It’s Isaiah 61:1-3, for starters:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Running with Jesus means running to the battle, whether that’s in intercession, justice, evangelism, whatever. It’s all of these and more, maybe in the nations of the world, maybe in your corner grocery store. It’s bringing hope, freedom, joy, and beauty. It’s proclaiming the favour of the Lord, and also his righteous judgment. It’s seeing what he’s doing in the world around you, and acting with him to bring his Kingdom. There is a massively glorious partnership here. We do all of this with his hand in ours, having been drawn away in intimacy so that our heart beats in unison with his. We know his  voice and we move when he moves.

And then the most glorious phrase of all–

“The king has brought me into his chambers.” Song of Songs 1:4c

The King of Kings, my King, has drawn me into the place of deepest intimacy. This is the place of encounter. This is the Holy of Holies.

I don’t even know how to write about this. A deep, warm silence falls on me every time I think of it.

The King has brought me into his chambers.

I’ll leave you with that, then. Go meditate. Ask the King to draw you away into the most secret places of his heart.

And then you’ve got an awful lot of running to do.

Better Than Wine (Song 1:1-3)

One thing IHOPKC is really big on is the Song of Solomon. That’s perfect for me, because I am too. It’s been my favourite book for years. I’ve savoured all of it, even though I’ve only understood pieces of it. It’s so great to finally get some good solid teaching on it verse by verse as a spiritual allegory. If you like, you can get the whole series free HERE from mikebickle.org. I’m just going to share the first little bit of the Song today, because there’s sooooo much good stuff but these first few verses are what I’ve spent the most time with. And I’m just going to summarise a few highlights; there are like three or four bombshells per verse you can get from Mike’s notes. Do it.

The Song of Solomon, also called the Song of Songs (my preferred title), has two main ways to interpret it: the natural interpretation, which celebrates romantic love between a man and a woman leading to marriage, and the allegorical interpretation, which celebrates the love between Jesus and his Bride. This can certainly be taken for the Church as a whole, but it also works beautifully to see it as an individual journey between you and Jesus.

“The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.” Song 1:1

The best song ever, the ultimate. It’s like what we mean when we say “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” Song 1:2a 

This is the woman, the Bride, speaking. Notice that she’s not talking to her beloved; the first sentence is to a third party. In the allegorical interpretation, that would be the Father. She is asking the Father to let Jesus kiss her. What does it mean to have Jesus kiss you with the kisses of his mouth? What proceeds from God’s mouth? It’s his Word. “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) So really what she’s saying is this: “Father, let Jesus kiss me with the kisses of his Word!” She longs for that tender caress of hearing Jesus’ words spoken to her heart. (Insert all of Psalm 119 here.)

This has become one of my favourite things to pray. I long for that touch, that intimacy. And I love that it comes through his Word! Logos and rhema, Greek scholars– the written word and the word spoken by the Spirit to my heart. That’s where my life comes from.

“For your love is better than wine.” Song 1:2b

The second part of verse two is spoken to Jesus. “Jesus, your love is better than wine.”  She’s declaring her priorities, and saying that more pleasure can be found in his love than in any other kind of pleasure available anywhere. Nothing can satisfy like his love can. We were given the capacity to experience love and pleasure because HE is the ultimate love and pleasure! Why do we run to so many other things when his love is better than all of it?

And it’s not just the sinful or even the neutral pleasures of this world, either. His love is even better than his blessings. He gives so many good things, but his raw LOVE is better than them all.

“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7
“…In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! …” Psalm 34:8

“Your anointing oils are fragrant” Song 1:3a

Guys, what does Jesus smell like? What scents surround his throne? Can you even imagine? It must be so sweet, heavy, wild, intoxicating.

Paul talked about the “fragrance of the knowledge of [God.]” (2 Corinthians 2:14) I like that idea, but I also think it has to do with the fragrance of sacrifice. “…as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

How do you release the fragrance from a plant? You crush it. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) His crushing released the fragrance.

I want to take in Jesus’ wild, sweet fragrance. I want the scent of heaven to saturate me.

“Your name is oil poured out” Song 1:3b

His name is the essence of his character; it encompasses all of who he is. He is like oil poured out… Mike talks about his name being poured out over all the nations, his fame spreading and his glory covering the earth. I like that, but continuing the sacrifice theme makes it more personal to me.

“And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.'” Mark 14:24

Paul talked about being “poured out as a drink offering.” (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6) How much more was Jesus poured out for us? He poured out his blood like wine, like oil, flowing down that cross and covering us.

“Therefore virgins love you.” Song 1:3c

“We love him because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

His love draws us in. His love seduces us. Even those who only know him a little bit, ie new believers, can’t help but love him. Our love is a response to the revelation of his love. You want to love Jesus more? Get a revelation of his love for you.

And I think I’ll stop there for today. I’ll save my favourite verse of chapter 1 for next time. 🙂