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What we do on the Earth directly relates to our future role in Heaven. For us, Earth is a place where we pay a great price of sacrificing our life here so that we can inherit a much better one in Heaven. Throughout eternity, we will rule and reign with Jesus over all of His creation, as fully adopted sons and daughters of God.
While grace for salvation is free, building a storehouse in Heaven is costly. It will cost us every day, all day long. As we extend ourselves, we run the race here in order to apprehend the prize of Heaven. The apostle Paul illustrates the yearning after
this pursuit in his letter to the Philippians:
Jesus prayed for a divine union with us—His most precious gift. This possibility is almost beyond comprehension. Jesus was tying His destiny to us, in the same way that He tied His destiny to the Father. This is absolutely the most profound idea in the Bible.
Jesus prayed for us to commune fully with the Father and to see Him in His glory. This is our high calling, and this is our goal: for the Heavens to open so we can experience on Earth the age to come—the longed-for communion between God and humanity.
1. What do you think Heaven is like?
2. Have you ever experienced worship so natural that you could not stop it? What was that like?
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3. What do you imagine a heavenly atmosphere to be like?
4. As a child, did you ever experience God's power in a profound way?
5. What do you think the Spirit of Revelation is like?
6. If a door to Heaven opened to you today, how would that experience affect your passion for Jesus Christ? How would it affect your daily life?
7. How would a profound heavenly experience affect a musician? An artist? A politician? A teacher? A businessman? A parent? A minister?
8. Have you ever feared that Heaven won't be worth the earthly price?
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat
ADAM AND EVE WALKED IN COMPLETE SPIRITUALunion with their Creator. They didn't need the sun; it stood as a pale reflection to the burning heart of the One who was so full of affection for them.
From the beginning, God's call for humanity has been to a delightful life within an intimate fellowship. His love and pleasure in us was displayed through His creation of the whole universe.
But this union was broken when sin entered the scene.
Scripture records in Genesis 3 how God released His judgment in quite an amazing way. First, God cursed Satan for tempting Adam and Eve. Then God promised that out of Eve's womb would come a Deliverer who would destroy the work of Satan forever (Genesis 3:15).
Despite God's judgment on them, Adam and Eve must have been overwhelmed by His compassion! They had failed God, and yet He was already promising them a restoration that would come from their own offspring! The beauty of God's justice was already thawing the icy shame that must have crushed Adam and Eve after rebelling against their Maker.
God gave Adam and Eve an allowance of grace, even though His judgments sustained them outside the realm of divine intimacy, upon which they were dependent. God proved His mercy and goodness right from the start, even from His very first declared judgment, when He cursed their enemies. God also provided a covenant between them, assuring that their lives would be full of purpose.
God rendered judgment upon Eve that she would have pain in childbirth. However, even with this, God spoke forth life— that her womb would be full of children.
God made a covenant relationship with Adam and Eve that reflected His own with us; He told Eve that her desire would be for her husband and that Adam would rule over her.
Eve had completely broken her union with God. Instead of God killing her and making a new plan, though, God told Eve that He wanted to make her life with Adam a picture of the union THE NEW-OLD COVENANT 29 they had once experienced with God. By this, a divine honor was placed upon Eve in her relationship with Adam, mirroring her divine union with God, which would eventually be restored. I am sure that in God's esteem, Eve carried a nobility unlike any queen we have seen on the Earth.
Adam, too, was spared the punishment of immediate death for his part in the transgression as God further revealed His goodness. God cursed the ground so that it needed to be worked.
Before this, the earth had simply produced anything Adam needed. But by this, God created Adam's need to labor. Thus, Adam would experience a function that would bring him satisfaction as well as fulfillment from his work.
God designed the roles of laborer and nurturer, and gave them stewardship over the family, so that together Adam and Eve could enjoy their roles in life. God cared enough about humanity that He created the capacity to enjoy life instead of allowing the misery of sin to rule and reign supreme.
Then, as an ultimate demonstration of His love, God sealed off the Garden of Eden, protecting Adam and Eve from the consequences of eating from the Tree of Life. If they had disobeyed further, and eaten that fruit in their fallen state, their rebellion would have separated them eternally from God.
God released the first couple with the potential for intimacy in their relationship. He also left them with a promise that one day they again might walk in union with Him—seeing their enemies vanquished. This was God's old covenant with humanity.
Solomon's Cry for Wisdom As we explore God's Word, we find that one of the first people to express frustration with this old covenant and its inherent limitations was wise King Solomon.
One day I had a vision in which I was looking back into history at King Solomon. I could see him in a private chamber.
He was in deep thought, poring over the holy books trying to 30 THE THRONE ROOM COMPANY find answers. Solomon was considered the wisest man on Earth, and He was completely stumped for understanding. Days of exploration turned into years of painful unanswered questions.
I saw Solomon trying to discern God's highest truth in a particular matter, which was no little thing. Solomon was expressing the pain of his soul; he entered his throne room, where he had appointed many scribes, and began to shout out his wise frustrations. Men were writing down what he was saying as he proclaimed his struggles with the old covenant. Thus, the book of Ecclesiastes was birthed.
While lodging a complaint about it, Solomon honored the design of the old covenant. He always intimated that our earthly life had a lesser role than what we were created to experience, that we were destined for something eternal. As he expressed in Ecclesiastes, Solomon struggled for a higher mindset—one that wasn't yet revealed.
But then in my vision, the awesome happened. I saw the years of Solomon's life fast-forwarded, and I saw Solomon when he was much older. He was taken by God to the library room of Heaven and was filled with God's passion for His bride. It was a revelation that few had understood during Israel's history, but Solomon was filled with the desires of Jesus. Solomon began to walk out a prophetic journey of romance on Earth.
Then in the vision, I watched Solomon write the Song of Songs, which speaks of the higher role we are called to play.
God was giving Solomon a tasty revelation of divine restoration that offers a promise to us of walking in full communion with our eternal Beloved.
This revelation was higher than what Solomon was living under. I believe it ruined him for God, and his experience restored his life before he died. Through a dim glass, Solomon was able to see Jesus, the Bridegroom.
Although I can't say for sure that all of this happened for Solomon exactly as I saw it, or that he actually wrote Ecclesiastes, I believe my vision offers a true model of how we THE NEW-OLD COVENANT 31
go through a process of getting filled with God's divine purposes.
The Divine Covenant When Jesus came to Earth and died for our sins, He provided the "down payment" for humanity's union with God by restoring the original covenant.
Today we partake of the new covenant, which will be complete upon Christ's return to Earth. Jesus' resurrection made the old covenant void. Men and women were no longer under God's judgments for Eve and Adam's sin. God's promise was made complete in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. He crushed the head of the enemy and restored the promise to humanity. Jesus did it as the Bridegroom that Solomon envisioned, coming to claim His full reward as a man takes a bride.
God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for what the Church calls "the new covenant." In a sense, this new covenant is actually more ancient than the old one. It's the covenant of our union with our Creator, which was God's original intent. God never changed His desire or plan for humanity. As the writer of
John the Baptist was born to help lead God's chosen ones back to their eternal path. Union with God was at hand. The Kingdom was upon them. John allowed his life to be set apart by God—separating himself from experiencing the common human pleasures—so that he could find a deeper life with God.
In his teachings on repentance, John tried to free those who took the old covenant role more seriously than their relationship with God. John was a gatekeeper and a partaker. He taught that 32 THE THRONE ROOM COMPANY restoration was to become the goal of everyone who loves Jesus.
John was able to stand against the religious spirit of the Pharisees and Sadducees, because he did not recognize the authority of any person who claimed to be God's friend yet was bound by duty rather than by love. John knew that his authority was greater according to an eternal standard, because he did not represent himself. He was sent and commissioned by One who was greater. Therefore, John was not threatened by any human authority not submitted to the Kingdom.
A Higher Love Since the Fall, humanity has been raised with two primary identities: work and spouse and/or family. These identities are firmly set in the old covenant. What the Pharisees most feared was that John was not proclaiming any value in their roles; in essence, John's message dethroned any real authority to be had in religious identities.
Jesus took it one step further. Building on John's foundation, He said things like: "If you are to be great in the Kingdom, you will be like the least of these."
This is not a statement from a person who cherished status;
rather, Jesus taught freedom from all of that. Instead, He established a new goal that would liberate humanity and restore the heavenly possibility of union with God.
As Christians, we should not esteem the same values as the world does—whether we ever chose to be married and have a family or we are considered successful at our labors. As a matter of fact, Paul even encouraged people not to get married, because their time and attention would be consumed with caring for their families.
Paul was not discouraging the idea of marriage; he was refocusing human desires to a higher place. He was conveying that marriage was no longer necessary, since we have the Holy Spirit effectively completing us. Therefore we do not need anything else to complete us—not a job or even a marriage and a THE NEW-OLD COVENANT 33 family. As believers, we can be fully sustained in God's love by His Spirit.
This idea was unfathomable to a Jewish community dominated by a religious attitude that substituted God's law for a relationship with God. Some had found such contentment in the law that they worshiped it.
1. What has God's Creation shown you about Him?
2. When you read about God's judgments over Adam and Eve and how merciful God was, do you see any areas in which God may have judged you in the past? Can you see how His mercy ruled in the midst of the judgment?
3. Read Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. What are the differences between the two? What are the similarities?
What can you learn from both?
THINK ABOUT THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION ADULTSASK children: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Each time I was asked this question as a youngster, my answer changed. One day I wanted to be an astronaut; the next day a movie star. My little friends and I would play games to mimic the roles we coveted in our hearts. By far I was the best rock star among the seven-year-olds in my neighborhood!
Although the question of what we want to become is a practical one, it also can imply that what we do is who we are. In fact, our culture seems to have adapted to this aspect of the old covenant.
Our spiritual freedom in Christ, however, gives us the ability to find our identity in Him—not our job, mate, or family. We no longer need to be defined by our temporal roles. An authority structure is built around our role identities; this structure influences our thoughts, opinions, and behaviors. When we are stripped of the primary need for our temporal identities to define us, it is devastating to anything we have built in the flesh.
The modern Church still supports the old covenant mindset by asking a spiritual version of the question regarding what we want to become. From the time we are new believers, we search for spiritual value in winning souls or in using our gifts and talents to build up the Church.
Hiding Behind Titles A few years ago at a conference, a member of the host church had experienced a call into ministry. He was definitely gifted. However, as I got to know this man, I realized he was so consumed by his call that his relationship with God was secondary.