Kingdom Preview (4): Life is Nothing Without Christ
Intro – Steve Jobs, who founded Apple Computer, died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 at age 56. He apparently died with little hope. Speaking of an afterlife he said, “Sometimes I think it’s just like an onoff switch. Click and you’re gone – and that’s why I don’t like putting onoff switches on Apple devices.” Interesting how what we believe affects everything we do. If you have no hope beyond this life, all you can do is get all the gusto you can now, right?
Many are confused. Like 4-year old Nancy holding a bouquet of flowers at her grandfather’s funeral. She asked: “Will Grandpa turn into a flower?” Mom replied, “Why, yes, dear, that’s a lovely thought.” Nancy looked at the bouquet and asked, “So who are all these people?” I suspect the prospect of becoming a flower did little to enhance Nancy’s anticipation of heaven. Neither does the idea of sitting on a cloud, playing a harp or singing Praise songs all day! Many say they’d rather be in hell, with their friends. Shows we know little about either place – but we ought since we’re going to 1 or other.
This passage helps. The main message is that while the kingdom of God is glorious, a high cost attaches to getting there. It costs Jesus His life as He pays for our sin with His death. To receive Him one must “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lu 9:23). So we learn death is the entrance into life. The cross precedes the crown. But the price is worth it. This passage previews the glorious existence that awaits. That’s the main message which we’ve looked at under the outline I. The Purpose of the Preview (to encourage belief and commitment to God’s plan), II. The Person of the Preview (showing the supremacy of the person and work of Christ). But peripherally, this passage also hints at kingdom conditions, so today:
III.Portents of the Preview (what is heaven like? Some basics.)
A.Is There Really an Afterlife? Yes!
Steve Jobs unfortunately couldn’t get his arms around this. It’s beyond human experience outside God’s revelation. Here He answers emphatically, “Yes – there is an afterlife!” When the disciples with Jesus wake up from their nap – there’s Jesus in a dazzling display of glory talking to 2 men from heaven.
One of the things I love about the Bible is how nonchalant it is about extraordinary events. Ever notice that? It talks about angels as tho they are common experience while never explaining anything about them. It just takes them for granted. It explains creation in the simplest terms. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Ten words in English. Six in Hebrew. No time spent proving God’s existence. No definition of the complexity of the universe – just Hey, God did this. The Bible takes for granted the most stupendous happenings – just what you might expect from an omnipotent, omniscient God who has no need to explain Himself, right?
And He does it in Lu 9:30. “And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah.” There they are – big as life -- two guys gone from the scene for hundreds of years. But, the Bible doesn’t explain it; it just assumes it! Yes, there is an afterlife, and there sits living, breathing proof. The Bible doesn’t think there is an afterlife; it knows there is.
God has not just revealed this in His Word. He’s put a longing inside every person. Ever since the Fall, we are a displaced people, longing for home. Every culture in history has had a concept of an afterlife. It is a universal longing. C. S. Lewis writes, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Our very nature cries out there must be more. We feel it. It is an inherent part of our make-up. We are made for something more.
Lewis illustrates in the first book of Narnia Chronicles. The White Witch, representing the devil, has a strangle hold on Narnia, representing our world. Lewis describes Narnia as being “always winter, but never Christmas.” A thaw will come when the great lion Aslan, Christ, arrives to die as an atonement for sin, be raised again and assume his throne. Meantime, Lewis refers to this world as the Shadowlands – a mere hint of what we are made for, but which must await redemption by Christ.
Both God’s Word and God’s world expect a future life. But that Word always speaks of two destinies in that afterlife. Heaven is only available to those who have made Him their king now, in this life. Thus Jesus warns in Matt 7:13-14, “13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Don’t you want to be one of the few? The presence of Moses and Elijah is proof positive that the thaw is coming for those who belong to Christ.
B.What is the Best Thing About the Kingdom? Jesus!
God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus is far and away the best thing about the kingdom! He is the one whose “face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” He is the One whose departure is critical. He is the One of whom the Father says, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Imagine coming face-to-face with Jesus. Let me tell you, when that happens every other thought, every other desire, every other distraction, every other intention will be gone in an instant. And it will stay that way forever.
I traveled nearly 5M miles on business. But the best part of every trip was the night before coming home. Nothing that happened, good or bad, ever dulled the anticipation as I packed my bag to go home on that night. I never slept much that night. Why? Because I wanted to see my house, my car, the LA smog? Not on your life. I longed for was the person at the end of the trail. What made home, home was Patty. I couldn’t wait to get back to see her. And that’s the way heaven ought to be for us. Can’t wait to see Jesus.
Are you far enough along in your Christian walk to sense the wonder of Jesus? As earthly friends die, fall away or even betray you, have you found Jesus as the supreme friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24) – the One who never fails? As you begin to sense this life closing in, fading away, and realize it isn’t going to last forever, does He become more precious? Are you starting to look forward to seeing Jesus? He’s the best thing about heaven. Two reasons.
1.He is the Key to Entrance – One things occupied Moses, Elijah and Jesus. V. 31: They “spoke [were speaking] of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” It was Jesus’ departure, His death, resurrection and ascension, that grabbed them. They weren’t rehearsing the wonderful exploits of Moses or Elijah? One subject was on their minds. Why? Because that was the key to entrance. Moses knew full well he had been in heaven for 1400 years on credit. Though he was the one through whom God revealed the Law, and tho he was a great man, Moses was himself a violator of that law. He was a murderer. He had failed to obey God in circumcising his son. God refused him entrance to the land because he disobeyed God’s command to speak to the rock to get water. Like us, Moses violated God’s law outwardly and in his heart on a daily basis. He had no business in the presence of God. He needed a payment for his sin.
Check it out in Gal 3:23, “Now before faith came (the object of faith – Jesus), we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith (Jesus) would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith (no Jesus; no justification) 25 But now that faith (object of faith, Jesus) has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” OT saints could not in the fullest sense be called sons of God. They were under a guardianship until Christ came and died for them. Thus all the OT guys – Moses, Elijah, Daniel, David, Abraham – depended on the object of their faith showing up. That’s why Jesus says in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Tells us 2 things. Abe was alive. And Abe rejoiced to see Jesus for the same reason Moses and Elijah did. It means salvation is really happening. Their trust is being vindicated. Faith is turning into sight. All the OT prophesies and signs in the sacrificial system are finally coming true! No wonder that’s all they talked about. Their eternal future depended on it.
And Jesus didn’t just key entrance for Abraham and Moses and Elijah. He was also the key for Peter, Jas & Jn (altho they didn’t get it yet). And He is the key to entrance for us as well. Peter later wrote in II Pet 1:16 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (this is no fairytale; we saw it!). 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Our love for Jesus will be multiplied a million-fold when we see what He has saved us from and what He has saved us to. He’s the best thing about heaven. He’s the only way in.
Spurgeon once said, “I looked at Christ, and the dove of peace flew into my heart; I looked at the dove of peace and it flew away.” His point was simple. Jesus is worth far more than any blessing He gives. When we look around heaven, we will be amazed at the surroundings; we will love our new body; we’ll love seeing loved ones again. We will love the blessings, but they’re nothing compared to Him. Get ready, folks. Heaven is all about Jesus. You are going to enjoy Him in ways you can’t imagine. He is the key to entrance.
2. He Lights the Whole Thing
V. 29: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” Jesus’ glory was veiled behind His human nature on earth, but God gives a foretaste of what is coming. One day Jesus is going to light up the whole universe. He quit shining that night because He still had work to do. But after His death, resurrection and ascension, His glory returned in full force. In Acts 9 Saul, on his way to Damascus to kill Xns. Acts 9:3, “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. [I used to think big flashlight. But read on] 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” [Fascinating question. Who are you Lord? Paul knew he hadn’t just been hit by a bright floodlight. This light talked! This light had a voice. This light was a person. Paul asked the logical question – who in the world are you? He might have expected Elohim or Jehovah or El Elyon. He might have expected any of those, but he got an answer he did not expect – a shocking answer -- one that changed his life]. And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Guarantee you that is the last thing he thought he would hear. Paul was seeing the glorified Christ.
Paul saw what the disciples saw on the mountain that night. The light they saw has never gone out and it never will! Rev 21:23, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb [that’s Jesus]. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there,” Imagine that. Jesus lighting up the whole universe! Rev 22:5, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God [that’s Jesus. Every knee will confess Him as Lord] will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” That’s a lot of glory, isn’t it? The light will never go out. Jesus is the center of everything. He’s the reason for creation in the first place. Col 1:16, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Then Col 1:18, “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” You can’t just fob Jesus off as some itinerant, first-century, Hippie preacher? He is the glory of God and will be the center of our whole existence in the kingdom of God.
And a little well-kept secret. It’s not just Jesus who shines. Mt 13:43, “43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” We’re going to be little reflectors of His glory. But it all revolves around Him. This means that everything we thought was so important down here – it will all dim in the surpassing glory of knowing Him.
But we don’t have to wait for a Christ-centered, God-glorifying existence. John’s anticipation of seeing Christ drove His earthly life. I John 3:2-3, “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, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself [now] as he is pure.” You can’t have this glimpse of the future and not want to be like Him now. That’s why Paul said in Phil 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Our glimpse of the kingdom should push us toward a God-centered life now. Knowing what’s coming drives us to loving obedience NOW!
Conc -- Ray Pritchard tells of a young man who was only 26 when he died. Tho he grew up in a Christian home, he rebelled and strayed from the Lord. Then doctors discovered a brain tumor. Surgery resulted in a brief remission; then the cancer returned. All this brought a new focus to his life. Everything changed. He began to seek the Lord as never before. The Word became sweet to him. He became bold in his witness to friends who did not know Christ. He asked God to use him to point others to Christ, no matter how short his time. At his funeral his younger sister told how exasperating he could be at times, but how much she had loved her brother – how she wanted to be like him, and. Then she told of the profound change that occurred when cancer came. Her brother had figured out what life was really about. Then she said this. He said, “Life is nothing without Christ. Life is nothing without Christ.”
Why does it take human tragedy to get that across to us? Why? Have you realized that life is nothing without Christ? If it will be that way in eternity, can you see that it is intended to be that way now? John 1:9 says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Jesus didn’t glow like a light bulb during His earthly existence, but He was the very light of God to everyone. Most reject the light, preferring to chart their own course. But for those who believe in Him by faith, He makes all the difference! Life is nothing without Christ. But, I’ll tell you what, life is everything with Him. Let’s pray.