Friday, March 11, 2016

Ask The Pastor: The Holy Spirit and Heaven

This question came from a member of Manna:

Ephesians 1. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

What exactly is meant by 'guarantee of our inheritance...until we acquire possession' does that mean that when we are in heaven we will not have the Holy Spirit in us?

A great question.  First, what is the “inheritance” of which Paul speaks?  You have correctly associated "our inheritance" with "Heaven."  But it means much more than just Heaven. Paul often uses the word "inheritance."  For example, in Galatians 3 he writes, “What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”  Here, Paul means us to understand the word “promise” as synonymous with“inheritance.”  In other words, whatever was promised to Abraham, was his inheritance, in this case, the land, a people, and most importantly, a covenant relationship to God.  All of those were his “inheritance.”  That this is Paul’s meaning is confirmed in Hebrews 11, where we read:  “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”  He was promised a “place” (the Promised Land) which was his inheritance.

We live under the umbrella of a “new covenant,” which was like the old one, only SO MUCH BETTER.  As good as the “old” inheritance was, ours makes the old pale by comparison.  Paul points us to this reality in Colossians 3:23-24-- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”  What is implicit in Colossians is made explicit in Hebrews 9:14-15.  After discussing the shortcomings of the old covenant, the writer of Hebrews celebrates the new covenant:  “14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God! n15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Our inheritance is eternal!  This must mean that our inheritance is  the riches of personally experiencing the glory of God in Heaven.  Our inheritance is not so much a "place," like the promised land was part of Abraham's inheritance, as much as it is EVERYTHING that has been promised to Christ, which we will enjoy forever.(Romans 8:17)  Our inheritance is nothing less than actually sharing in the glories of Christ Himself, which means we will reign with Him, govern with Him, rule with Him, create with Him, and so much more.    So now the question becomes, “how certain can we be that we will get what is promised?”  Answer:  It is guaranteed on the full faith and credit of God Himself.  Just as surely as Abraham got what was promised, so shall we.  “But how can we be sure?”  Because God has made a “down payment” on the place that Jesus is at work preparing for us(John 14:2).  And it’s a beaut!  Mine is right on the ocean.  That is a big part of the role of the Spirit in our lives now--to assure us that we WILL make it to Heaven, and that God will remain true to His word. 

Now to the heart of the question:  “until we acquire possession…”  “Does that mean that when we are in heaven, we will no longer have the Holy Spirit in us?”  Yes.  That is precisely what that means.  The down payment is no longer needed when “paid in full.”  While on earth, Jesus was “filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1),” but in heaven, He no longer requires that same indwelling.  In heaven, we will no longer face the assaults of Satan and his demons, while here on earth, we still need the Spirit’s protection (1 John 4:4).  In Heaven, we will no longer need the convicting presence of the Spirit, or His guiding us away from error and into the truth (John 17:7-15).  Above all, the very purpose of the Spirit’s presence is to reveal and glorify Christ here on earth.  In heaven, that will no longer be necessary, because we will enjoy regular time with Christ, face to face! 

So then, we look forward to the day when Jesus and we are no longer apart.  We look forward to the day when our need of the Spirit becomes redundant.  We look forward to the day when the struggle will be over and the final victory won.  Just as Jesus once said, “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7), someday He will say, “Come receive your promised inheritance.  Well done.  Welcome Home!"  Maranatha.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.