Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters…When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying,“Fear not, I am the first and the last,and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Revelation 1:12-15, 17-18
Ever have a really good friend and, somewhere along the way in the relationship, you see him/her in his/her “natural environment” and you come to realize you didn’t know him/her nearly as well as you thought you did? You’ve been through hard times together, you’ve travelled together, you’ve met family and know each other’s triumphs and fears, and you have logged lots and lots of hours just hanging out together. But, by some twist of circumstances, you happen to catch him/her in a situation where the real “natural” self comes out and you think, “Wow. Did not see that coming.” And then it hits you…this is who he/she really is!
I believe John (the apostle and writer of Revelation) and Jesus were best friends. Best. Friends. I believe that is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the gospels. John was clearly in Jesus’ “inner circle” (along with Peter and John’s brother, James). He was atop the Mount of Transfiguration to …
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” Luke 13:24
I dreamt death came the other day and Heaven’s gate swung wide;
An Angel with a halo bright ushered me inside.
There to my astonishment stood folks I had judged and labeled
as “quite unfit” or “of little worth” or “spiritually disabled”.
Indignant words rose to my lips but never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise…not one expected me!
I think we are all in for some huge surprises if/when we get to Heaven. I think we are going to find out that we didn’t know quite as much as we thought we knew about God and His ways, about Heaven and Hell, and about the doctrine of salvation. I think we will be surprised to see some people there we never thought would be there. I think we will be surprised to NOT see some people there whom we just assumed would be there. And I think there may be some folks there who will be surprised to see you or me there!
But not everybody is expecting to be surprised. There are a lot of Christians out there today who are pretty certain they already know everything about God and Heaven and salvation and who is in and who is out. I suppose my first point in this post is that I always want to be a part of a church who does NOT think they have it all figured out. I want to worship alongside friends who are actually expecting (even hoping for) some surprises in Heaven.
And while we are talking about surprises, I also happen to believe that many of us who …
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18a
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
Studying Luke 1 last week and this week. Last week was Zechariah. This week is Mary. But the one constant character in both lessons is Gabriel, the angel. The other element common to both stories is the reactions to Gabriel. Both Mary and Zechariah asked the same question: “But, how?” But Gabriel’s response to that reaction was very different in each story.
Let’s not play word games here, and let’s not split hairs over how their reactions are actually different. If you were writing the story yourself and wanted their reactions to read the same way, you couldn’t write it any differently than Luke did. Their reactions to Gabriel were remarkably similar. Both of them asked the same question, showing the same concern for whether Gabriel really had all his facts straight. We can engage in all kinds of speculation about their respective hearts (i.e., perhaps Mary’s question was truly one of wonder, while Zechariah’s was one of doubt, etc.), but that is just speculation on our part. We cannot judge a person’s heart. No, in order to explain Gabriel’s very different response to each of them and their respective questions, we need not engage in questions of the heart. We can find a much easier critical distinction between Zechariah and Mary: Zechariah was a priest.
Zechariah was a Spiritual leader among God’s people and was doing a Spiritual thing in the most Spiritual of all places when Gabriel appeared. What kind of sad commentary is it that, upon entering the place where God abides, doing a thing God …