Holy Spirit Dove

Become an Insider on the Holy Spirit Controversy | Spiritual Meditations

If you have reached this article because of your search criteria, you are one of thousands of people who ask the questions every month:

 Who or What is the Holy Spirit

And it is no wonder there is uncertainly when there are so many possible interpretations of scripture.  Even people, who have experienced the Holy Spirit first hand, would have difficulty providing a satisfactory answer to someone who has not experienced the Spirit. 

In my attempt to provide some understanding, I’ll tell you that the references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are generally related to the words and actions of the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus is the prime example of someone totally filled by God’s Holy Spirit as is evidenced by the many miracles he performed and wisdom he conveyed. 

The big event that made the Holy Spirit available for the rest of us took place as follows:

Jesus prepares His followers to Receive the Holy Spirit  

In A.D. 31, Jesus told His disciples what was soon to occur. At the Passover ceremony, which took place on the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus explained that He would ask God to give His followers another “Helper, … the Spirit of truth,” to dwell with them and be in them (John 14:16-17).

After spending three days and three nights in the grave, just as He had predicted (Matthew 12:40), Jesus miraculously rose from the dead and met with His disciples in Jerusalem and Galilee (Matthew 26:32; 28:7) before the Jewish holiday of Pentecost.

“And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5).

He went on to tell them something they could not have fully comprehended at the time: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”

As instructed, the disciples went to Jerusalem to wait for this promised power that would give them the courage and commitment to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world (Matthew 24:14). Within a matter of days, the gift of the Holy Spirit arrived

The Holy Spirit Comes to the Jesus’ Followers

The way the Holy Spirit came was spectacular and stunning! Along with the sound of a mighty wind, flames of fire appeared on the heads of all the believers who then, inexplicably, started speaking in other languages (Acts 2:2-4).

As multitudes of people from many countries began flowing to this scene, they, too, were caught up in the miracle—everyone understanding in his or her own native language the words being spoken. Who could deny this proof that the Holy Spirit now resided within the followers of Christ? They truly had received a power they had never previously possessed.  Their understanding of the Holy Spirit was exactly what Christ had said—it was indeed the power of God that would be used to tell the world His true nature.

Thank you to David Treybig for such a succinct rundown of the events.

The Holy Spirit Today

The Holy Spirit today is still the motivating force behind telling others what Jesus Christ taught us about God.  However, there are many other benefits that provide a better life to those who live with God’s infinite and invisible spirit.  We feel God’s love for us and want to share it with others.  His spirit opens our heart and minds so that He can work through us, speaking directly to our hearts and giving us courage to follow his guidance.  God’s spirit directs our prayers and shows us how to meet the needs of others as well as ourselves.  It is our teacher and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  It is our comforting counselor and gives us peace.

The Gifts of the Spirit

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord.  And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. [As an example] For to one is given the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit:  to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit;  and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues:  but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.  (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)  Brackets are mine for clarification based on the following verses. 

What does it Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus taught that we must be born again to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  He clarified this by saying that we must be born of the water (Baptism) and the Spiriit.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

The first step to receiving the Holy Spirit is to make sure that your motives are right and pure with the Lord.  You have to really want this gift because you want to be able to enter into a much deeper, personal relationship with God – and you will need His power and anointing to flow through you so that you can fully accomplish whatever His divine destiny is going to be for your life.

God will be able to read  your thoughts and motives. If you are not sincere with Him as to why you really wanting this gift, or you are seeking after this gift for all of the wrong reasons, God will know and withhold this gift from you until you can come to Him with the right reasons and the right motives.

Once you realize what this gift entails and that you will have to be willing to fully surrender to whatever God’s perfect plan and destiny is going to be for your life – then the next step is to take that big leap of faith and fully surrender body, mind and soul to God the Father.

Then just ask God.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13)

Controversies Regarding the Holy Spirit

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

Holy Spirit as a Separate Entity

There is some controversy as to whether the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God.  Those who believe so, generally site the anthropomorphic qualities described in the Bible as proof of this. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association points out that In John chapters 14, 15, and 16, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as “He”.  They also state that the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Holy Trinity, is made clear by His inclusion with the Father and the Son in such Bible passages as Matthew 28:19.  Here the apostles are commanded to baptize those who receive the Gospel “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

However, other Biblical verses indicate that the Holy Spirit is God’s power in the world.  Still other verses can be interpreted either way.

Holy Spirit as the Power of God

Jesus began His ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).  Peter relates that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10).   Likewise, Jesus worked through the apostle Paul “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15)

Again and again the Scriptures depict the Holy Spirit as the power of God, the mind or spirit of God and the very essence and the life force through which the Father begets human beings as His spiritual children.

Paul wrote that God’s plan for humanity had been “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3) and that his own teachings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13 ). Paul further explains that it is through His Spirit that God has revealed to true Christians the things He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2). Working through the Spirit, God the Father is the revealer of truth to those who serve Him.

Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit, which the Father would send, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14) It is through God’s Spirit within us that we gain spiritual insight and understanding. Indeed, we come to receive the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2), also referred to as the “mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8).

The Father imparts the same Spirit to true Christians through Jesus Christ (John 14), leading and enabling them to be His children and “partakers of the divine nature” (Romans 8).

Impersonal Attributes of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10) that God gives without limit (John 3). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5), that it can be poured out on people (Acts 2:17), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3).

People can drink of it (John 7:37), partake of it (Hebrews 6) and be filled with it (Acts 2).  The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person.

The Spirit is also described by other designations—”the Holy Spirit of promise,” “the guarantee of our inheritance” and “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:13)-that show it is not a person.

In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is frequently represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as breath (John 20), wind (Acts 2),  water (John 4), oil (Psalms 45), a dove (Matthew 3) and an “earnest,” or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1).

These depictions are difficult to understand if the Holy Spirit is a person. 

[includes excerpts from Bible Study Tools.]

The Development of the Trinity

One can hardly discuss the Holy Spirit without discussing it’s inclusion in the Trinity.   Why question whether the Holy Spirit is a person unless possibly to justify a trinity?  Where did this concept originate?

There is no trinitarian doctrine explicitly taught in the Old or New Testament. However, many Christian theologians, apologists, and philosophers hold that the doctrine can be inferred from what the New Testament does teach about God.

David Treybig tell us that “In the centuries that followed the Pentacostal experience, most people discarded the earliest Christians’ clear understanding of the Holy Spirit in favor of an evolving, humanly devised definition of the Godhead.

According to that new theory, now well-known as “the Trinity,” the Holy Spirit was elevated to be a coequal member of the Godhead….the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ were now seen as three distinct entities that together comprised one triune God.

[It is theorized that] theologians had devised the idea of the Trinity to combat polytheism—the belief in many gods—and after long debate had finally come to a general agreement that this explanation of God should be a central tenet of Christianity.”  Brackets are mine

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy indicates that “the many thinkers influential in the development of trinitarian doctrines were steeped in the thought of Greek philosophy (Hanson 1988, 856–869). Those developing the doctrine saw themselves as trying to build a systematic Christian theology on the Bible while remaining faithful to earlier post-biblical tradition. Many also aimed to show Christianity as consistent with the best of Greek philosophy” where the number three is seen again and again.

Paul J. Pastor suggests that Christians are forced to retain two equal and (seemingly) opposing truths; the God that is utterly and infinitely beyond creation with blazing uncovered glory; and the God that indwells our souls and sustains our lives. He suggests that a separate Holy Spirit entity helps us more clearly define and understand this dichotomy.    

Biblical Definition Discarded

David Treybig goes on to say that “In spite of the theory’s nonbiblical and mysterious, logic-defying elements (how can three individual beings be only one being?), this man-made philosophy is today firmly entrenched in mainstream Christianity. In fact, most churches now consider adherence to the Trinity doctrine the litmus test for determining whether or not one is indeed a Christian.

But bothersome questions arise from this. For example, did theologians have the right to reject the understanding of the Holy Spirit that was held by first-century Christians—the people who actually experienced the miracle of that special Pentecost? And why don’t we give greater consideration to the understanding God gave those with the firsthand experience?”

The Biblical Definition

The Biblical teaching only shows a Godhead consisting of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is described and respected as the power of God, but is nowhere defined as a separate being.

Toward the end of the first century, Jude admonished the Church to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). “This faith, including its explanation of the Holy Spirit,” Treybig says, “provides the only biblically defensible definition of the Holy Spirit.

The first-century Christians clearly understood the Holy Spirit was the power of God. Through the power of His Spirit, God comforted them through trials, assisted them in learning the truth, identified them as Christians and offered them the promise of eternal life. But we find no evidence that the Christians considered the Holy Spirit to be a separate member of the Godhead.”

As for the Godhead, Paul succinctly noted the teaching that God had given him and his first-century brethren: “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). No mention of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Whether you believe the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God or God’s spirit existing in the world, it makes little difference in how you build your relationship with God.  Different people may explain the Holy Spirit in different terms depending on their view point as discussed above.  However, no matter what their belief on the subject, the Holy Spirit is always there guiding us, comforting us, protecting us and pushing us into Christian action. 

Paul J. Pastor expressed it beautifully when he said “Without the Holy Spirit we lose the capacity for seeing the wonder and wisdom of God in places where we commonly overlook it. We lose the chance for God’s closeness in the world to give holy quiet shape to our inner lives.”

How the Holy Ghost Became the Holy Spirit?

I’ve been asked about this and whether it had any spiritual implications, so as an interesting aside, this is the explanation given by the Zenit Daily Dispatch – a Catholic publication.

Both Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit were used well before the 20th century,

The word ghost is of Germanic origin and comes from Old English gast, meaning soul, life, breath, good or bad spirit, angel or demon. Christian texts in Old English use gast to translate the Latin Spiritus from where we get Holy Ghost. The more modern sense of a disembodied dead person is first attested in the late 14th century but remained quite rare

Spirit comes to English from Latin through French and also means souls, courage, vigor, breath.  Spirit, in the sense of a supernatural being, is found from the 13th century.

Practically all recent translations of the Bible, both Protestant and Catholic, have preferred Holy Spirit in most instances. The reason is probably because the meaning of the word ghost has gradually shifted over the last 300 years and now predominantly refers to the vision of the specter of a deceased person or a demonic apparition.

It must also be remembered that in literature the popularity of the “ghost story” had enjoyed an enormous boom from the mid-19th century on, a popularity compounded by the advent of the cinema and television.

All of this probably led translators to the conclusion that the meaning of the word Ghost had been so transformed and stereotyped that continuing to apply it to refer to the Divine Person was more likely to lead to confusion than would the alternative expression Holy Spirit.

Relevant Scripture

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor 12:3)

 

 

womans face with many thoughts circling her

Transcending Mind | Spiritual Meditations

A revelation from God always comes as somewhat of a shock, not only to the person who receives the revelation, but also to those with whom it is shared. It is the nature of revelation to be shocking and startling because when it hits up against our cherished beliefs, we become conscious of the degree to which our minds have been conditioned by the opinions and theories current in human thinking, and suddenly realize the extent of our unenlightenment.

The Strength of God Consciousness

It is not long ago that the majority of people lived a wholly materialistic life, believing that the only real things of life were the material ones and the only real power a physical power. Into that world was introduced the idea that there is a world of mind and mind power, and this so permeated consciousness that the focus of attention was shifted from the material to the mental.

Had it not been for God’s revelation, I, too, would have lived out my life in the world of mind, never realizing that the world of mind power is as illusory as that of material power. But one day a message came to me that mind is not power, that thought is not power. This was a shock to me, steeped as I had been in the teaching that “right thinking“ could solve all my problems.

What was revealed to me was that the only strength there is, is in union with God, and that is an infinity of strength. Union of the human variety changes with the change in an unstable world. If we have learned nothing else through the centuries of wars, we have learned how fleeting is power. And with all the covenants that have been made – all the treaties and other international agreements – there has been no lasting strength.

Strength is in conscious union with God and in a realization of the true nature of spiritual power. When we have that realization, one with God becomes a majority. One individual having the spiritual understanding of the nature of God can becomes a law of harmony, health, and supply for thousands and thousands of people all over the world. That is where the strength is – in union with God.

The Freedom of God Consciousness

The only way that you can be free is to know God — mentally and spiritually free. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty“ – that is where liberty is; that is where real freedom is, where strength is.
For centuries country after country has been seeking its freedom. Many a country has temporarily found what it thought was freedom only to find itself enslaved later on by something more powerful than that from which it had broken away.

It is not possible to get free from anything. This is a hard saying, bitter in the mouth and even more bitter in the belly. There are thousands of people trying to free themselves from husbands or wives, thinking that when that particular freedom is gained, their lot is going to be a better one. Sometimes it is, temporarily. But even if it is, it is only a human solution, not permanent and real, because no one ever gets free from anything. To become free from one thing is to become attached to another thing. The only complete freedom is a freedom in Christ.

The Harmony of God Consciousness

Peace, happiness, safety, and security can only be found in the realization of God, which brings a release from fear of what man can do, or from circumstances or conditions.

Harmony is found, not by exchanging one condition of bondage for another, but by coming out from under the law and living under that Grace which is the gift of God. For a while, unfortunately, there remains the thousand on our left and the 10,000 on our right who will not accept the grace of God [Psalm 91:7-16 see below] and who brought forth from the Master [Jesus Christ] his sorrowful, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not “ [Matthew 23:37 see below].

This is the one remaining sorrow after we have attained our own freedom, the sorrow of looking at our parents, children, sisters, or brothers, or husband or wife, or fellow countrymen, and thinking, “why can’t you except the thing that I have found?”. But the longer we are on this spiritual path the easier it will be for us to understand that it is not possible for anyone to embrace Truth except in proportion to his readiness for it.

Your Readiness for God Consciousness

Sometimes the readiness comes only because of the futility and frustration that has gone before. Every sin, every disease, and every lack that has ever touched our lives has been a necessary part of our entire experience without which we would not have been made ready or prepared to receive the unfoldment of a truly spiritual message.

I say this knowing that some of us have been down into the very depths where sin, disease, and lack are greatest, while others have had very little with which to contend. Yet whatever the degree or the severity of the problem each one has had, it is perhaps the degree that each one has needed. Some cannot go up to the heights of spiritual vision until they have gone all the way down physically, mentally, morally, or financially. Some have had to go only halfway down, and some probably much less than that; but whatever depths you and I have known, that was the experience necessary for us to reach the heights.

Absorbing Principles to Reach God Consciousness

To reach greater God consciousness, you must realize what the principles are and then take them into your heart and mind and soul and body, living with them, moving and having your being in them, with them, and through them, until they become demonstratable principles within you.

Then you become the light of the world, a world which may be bound only by your immediate family or community, or which may be one so vast in it’s scope that it includes the entire globe. No two will be led in the same way; no two will evolve in the same manner. It all depends upon the degree of your individual unfoldment.

There is an inner grace that does not operate through, or by, physical might or mental powers. It is a grace of which most people are unaware. it is the God within that gives us understanding of the truth….the principles of which can be found in the New Testament.

The materialistic state of consciousness must yield and surrender itself to the transcendental consciousness and take over the mind, body, and every day experience of your life. This change of consciousness can take place in any person who abides in the Word. Such a change must take place within a person before he will find it possible to live by the I-say-unto-you of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:21-48)

Transcending Mind to Reach God Consciousness

The body is an instrument used for the activity of life by the mind. The mind is an instrument of something higher than itself and that something is ones Inner Self or Soul. When we come to the point where the mind is governed by the Self, we will be embraced in a peace that passes understanding.

Then we do not control the body or the mind, but the activity of Truth in our consciousness, of which we become aware through the mind, keeps the mind clear, clean, harmonious, and vital; and it in its turn manages, controls, and governs the body, acting as the purifying agent of both mind and body.

A mind filled with evil thoughts – fear, hate, injustice, lust, or malice – must appear outwardly as inharmonious and in discord; whereas the mind filled with good thoughts – clarity, purity, benevolence, or cooperation – will appear outwardly as the good life. That is the karmic law as taught in Scripture: “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” [Galatians 6:7].

The mind in it’s unilluminated state, filled with materialistic beliefs, theories, opinions, doctrines, and creeds can only manifest it’s own state of chaos; but a mind freed of these beliefs becomes the instrument through which the creative Principle of life can flow as harmonious and eternal form.

We rarely see what is before us. Everything that we observe in the world, we see through the eyes of our background – our parents attitudes towards life, or racial and religious roots, our national heritage, our early environment, our education, and then later the experiences that we garner after leaving school.  This is the mind that must be transcended.

The Mind Aware of God’s Presence

In the human scene the mind is creative, It can create good and it can create evil – and does. In a spiritual sense, however, the mind is not a creative faculty but an avenue of awareness.

The whole secret lies in making the transition from a thinking, plotting, planning, scheming mind to a mind at rest in a state of awareness, through which divine ideas come flow.

If we dwell with spiritual truth in our consciousness, none of the evils of this world will come nigh our dwelling place because the truth entertained in consciousness takes over and begins to live our lives.

When living in an atmosphere of spiritual wisdom and feeding our consciousness with truth, there comes a moment when the Truth takes over the mind, and then no longer is it necessary to fill the mind with truth. From then on, the flow is the other way. It is not we who are thinking truth, remembering, declaring, or meditating on truth: it is Truth using our mind for its expression, always using us, always flowing through us. The mind is an instrument of awareness through which God communicates and acts.

Read examples in the category of Spiritual Experiences.

An awareness of God’s presence takes us time and dedication to study and internalization of Principles of Truth through prayer and meditation.

The thoughts and most of the words in this post are excerpts from Joel S Goldsmith’s book The Thunder of Silence. Years ago, I was urged by God to pick up and read one of Mr. Goldsmith’s books; Practicing the Presence. I was so captured and inspired by his experience that I have since read several of his books several times and have been rewarded with a closer relationship with God. This is why I want to share a small portion of his writing with you.  There are links to two of Goldsmith’s lectures in Videos.

As I practice the Presence, more and more of Mr. Goldsmith’s precepts have become understandable. Although a couple of them are still incomprehensible to me, I think that by continuing his suggested method of meditating on New Testament Principles and inspirational phrases, the obscure portions may someday become clear.

Relevant Scripture

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord….your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you. Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling place. Psalm 91:7-10

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Matthew 23:37

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17

 

 

a question mark formed of clouds over the ocean and in a clear blue sky

What is Heaven? | Spiritual Meditations

80% of Americans believe in heaven and most expect to go there when they die. When considering your forever home it is important to know more about it. After all, if you’re wrong about heaven, you’re going to be wrong for a very long time.

Although there are well documented near-death experiences, we have only one known experience of someone being in heaven and then on earth.   His words are recorded in the New Testament Gospels of the Bible. The only information that we have about heaven is revealed in the Bible,  but it doesn’t tell us all that we are curious about.  Some questions require us to make deductions based on those words. Everything else is just speculation.

What Does Heaven Look Like?

What the Old Testament Says About Heaven

The Old Testament says very little about heaven. It says that God lives there, has a throne and that heaven it situated above the clouds.

The greatest Old Testament prophet, Isaiah  describes heaven as a place with many pastures, where hunger and thirst do not exist and the desert heat and sun will not beat upon us. This would be sheer heaven for the people of that time.

Although there are many societies today which would welcome these very things, the societies in first world countries are more likely to envision heaven as a place where they have time for hobbies, get daily food delivery, and have a swimming pool.

The point is;  Life (or afterlife) is good.

The New Testament says a bit more.

What the New Testament Say about Heaven

In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be in heaven, sitting at God’s right.  He tells them they will have a place to live in heaven.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).

Other New Testament books tell us that heaven is a paradise built by God in which an eternal residence has been prepared for the righteous. There will be better and more enduring goods than what we experience on earth. Heaven will be a place of rest, from which the wicked will be excluded. And there will be innumerable angels.

Heaven Will be Better Than We Can Imagine

I love the old story of the rich man who, on his death-bed, negotiated with God to allow him to bring his earthly treasures with him when he came to heaven. God’s reaction was that this was a most unusual request, but since this man had been exceptionally faithful, permission was granted to bring along just one suitcase. The time arrived, the man presented himself at the pearly gates, suitcase in hand…. BOTH hands, actually, since he had stuffed it with as many bars of gold bullion as would fit. St. Peter said, “Sorry, you know the rules-you can’t take it with you.” But the man protested, “God said I could … one suitcase.” St. Peter checked, found out that this man would be an exception, prepared to let the him enter, then said, “OK, but I will have to examine the contents before you pass.” He took the suitcase, opened it, saw the gold bars and asked quizzically, “You brought PAVEMENT?”  [Note: This story is from the sermon “Heaven” by Dr. David Leininger, March 30, 1997]

I couldn’t resist sharing that.  The idea of streets made of gold is written about in Revelation.

The Revelation

The Apostle John tells of his vision of an apocalypse while he was in a “mystical trance”.  Near the end, he gives a brief description of heaven.

He tells of a place where there is no sun or moon. There is no darkness as God’s glory provides light at all times. The city of God is made of gold, precious stones and pearls. There is a crystal clear river of water and the tree of life, which bears 12 kinds of fruit. The leaves of this tree have healing properties.

The gates to heaven are never closed. Heaven will be inhabited by the glorious and honorable people from every nation and they will all wear white robes. Heaven will contain no lies, abominations or anything that defiles it. John also says that God’s servants will see His face.

But think twice before formulating your image of heaven based on the book of Revelation alone.

Nearly every religion has it’s concept of an apocalypse and this was John’s from his perspective based on the political and religious situation at the time he wrote it.  His imagery was drawn from portions of Jewish writings in the Old Testament books of Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zachariah, and occasionally from Persian pagan culture.

S. MacLean Gilmore, a Bible commentator, gives an example of how events current at the time of John’s writing found their way into the account of his vision:

“Every tribe, tongue, people and nation” is indicative of the multicultural church of John’s day and, in heaven, the church triumphant – those who remained loyal despite the pressures of persecution and threats of death. The white robes may indicate the martyrs.”

“As an apocalypse, Revelation is concerned with the events of it’s own time and with those that it’s author expects to take place in the immediate future. We can relate it to the historical and religious situation in the Roman Empire….toward the end of the 1st century. [It is] not written for people thousands of years later….but for people of his own generation” [who would have an understanding of the symbolism used.]

The symbolism and metaphor in Revelation is extensive and difficult to understand in modern history. It has been interpreted in many ways by many scholars and is far more than can be explored here. If you would like an in-depth study,  the Bible Gateway commentaries on Revelation is a good place to start.

Although Revelation does not satisfy our curiosity about the appearance of heaven, Gilmore says this about it:

“Revelation is a drama of a high order set on a cosmic stage….which rises again and again to heights of sublimity and grandeur that have inspired some of the worlds greatest literature, poetry and art. John created a work of singular vividness, power and intensity”.

What Will Life be Like in Heaven

What Happens to Us in the First Minute After We Die?

The Bible indicates that when we die we enter immediately into God’s presence if we belong to Christ. From our earthly point of view, death looks somewhat like sleep—but not from God’s point of view.

Paul declared, ‘We are confident (of eternal life), I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8). Elsewhere he wrote, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Philippians 1:23).

However, I think the most definitive words regarding the swiftness with which we will  ascend to heaven are the words spoken by Christ to the repentant criminal from the cross.  The criminal asked “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and Jesus replies “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23:42-43)

When We Die, does an Angel Accompany Us into Heaven?

The Bible indicates that when a believer dies, the angels will escort them safely into Heaven.  In A Glimpse Through the Thin Curtain Between Life and Afterlife a modern lady is prepared for ascension by her heavenly relatives.

In a parable, Jesus told about two different men. One was a wealthy man, who lived only for himself and ignored both God and others. The other was a beggar who had no earthly goods, but had faith in God and His promises. When the rich man died, he received what he deserved: a life of misery, separated from God forever. But “when the poor man died, the angels accompanied him safely into God’s presence. (You can read this parable in Luke 16:19-31.)

Will We Know Our Family and Friends?

There are many accounts of near-death experiences in which loved ones meet the temporarily deceased.  Too many to have any doubt.  Spend as much time as you have to read these fascinating accounts.

The writers of Bible Study Tools present some additional thoughts of interest on who we will know in heaven and how well we will know them:

God knows us completely, intimately, thoroughly, inside and out, with nothing hidden but everything seen as it really is (Psalms 139:1-4; Hebrews 4:12). When we get to heaven we’ll know each other, as God knows us because all the imperfections of this life will be removed.  We can be ourselves with no shame, no pain, no embarrassment, and no covering up. We will be individuals, each with our own memories and God-given gifts.

In heaven we will know every person and all of them will be friends and loved ones to us.  The essence of who we are will remain throughout eternity-yet vastly improved by God’s grace.

excerpt from Bible Study Tools

What Will Our Resurrected Bodies be Like?

Paul teaches us about our resurrected bodies in 1 Corinthians 15. They will not be like our current bodies which are subject to aging, disease, and death. Our resurrection bodies are incorruptible. You will never get old nor grow tired. You will never suffer disease or disability or death.

‘The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed’” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Will there be Animals and Pets in Heaven?

There is considerable evidence of animals in Heaven. Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot pulled by horses (2 Kings 2:11), and the book of Revelation makes references to horses (6:2-8, 19:11) and eagles (4:7) in Heaven. Isaiah 65:25 describes wolves, lambs, and lions.

Billy Graham had a good answer when a little girl asked him, “Will my dog, who died this week, be in Heaven?” Because heaven is paradise for each individual, Dr. Graham replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be.”

Will We Learn in Heaven?

Randy Alcorn points out that we will continue to learn based on  Ephesians 2:6-7. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…. in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Alcorn instructs that the word “show” means “to reveal.” And the phrase “in the coming ages” clearly indicates this will be a progressive, ongoing revelation, in which we learn more and more about God’s grace.

We can expect an eternity of growing to be more and more like Christ.  We will be “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What we learn here carries over after death.  The relationship we build with God will continue.  We can begin this joyful process here and now, and there’s every indication it will endure forever.

If you have knowledge that will contribute to this topic, do not hesitate to leave it in the comments on this site.

 

 

 

 

foggy cross suspended aboe water

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself? |Spiritual Meditations

According to Google, there are over 246,000 searches each month asking:

what does God look like.

The movie industry facetiously gives God the face of George Burns in Oh God. Even the Bible gives God anthropomorphic characteristics.  God is formless yet takes many forms.

God Appeared

In the Biblical old testament we are told that God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others. But these appearances are vague and have a variety of manifestations.

Some Forms God Takes

Jacob wrestled with a man, but did not recognize the man as God until God revealed Himself by saying

“Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And He blessed him there” (Genesis 32:28,29).

The important thing to observe here is that when God appeared to Jacob, His appearance was as a man. No mention is made of glowing white garments or brilliant light. Jacob did not and we would not have known it was God by mere appearance.

Another biblical example is the form God used to guide His people in the famous Exodus account.  As Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13:21)

Vague Descriptions of God

Isaiah also saw God:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)

Then Isaiah goes on the describe the angels, but no further description of God. The angels did not proclaim what God looked like.  They proclaimed the character of God. They spoke of His holiness and of His glory.

God appeared to Solomon in a dream, but he makes no attempt to describe God’s appearance. 1 Kings 3:5

There are many more Biblical examples, some of which are referred to the excerpt below by Bob Deffinbaugh

To See God’s Face is Fatal

Bible scripture repeatedly says that to see God’s face would be fatal.  In the following Biblical examples, although people were said to have seen God, descriptions are vague or nonexistent.

In those instances where men are said to have seen God, surprise is expressed that they lived to tell about it.

Jacob marveled that his life had been preserved (Genesis 32:30).

Moses noted that God “did not stretch out His hand” against the 74 men who are said to have seen the God of Israel (Exodus 24:10-11).

God informed Moses that he could not see Him and live (Exodus 33:20).

When Gideon realized he had seen the “angel of the Lord face to face” (Judges 6:22), he was encouraged with the assurance that he would not die (verse 23).

Manoah and his wife, soon to become the parents of Samson, were amazed they did not die for having seen God as the “angel of the Lord” (Judges 13:21-23).

Paul seems to be saying that men cannot see God and live when he declares that God dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Getting close to God is like drawing near to a blast furnace. It is dangerous to one’s health (see also Exodus 33:2-5).

Bob Deffinbaugh write in his article Invisibility of God

Speaking to God Face-to-Face

The expression, “face to face” is a figure of speech. Consider the example of Moses, where, in the early portion of Exodus 33, Moses is said to have spoken to God “face to face:”

“And it came about, whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”

God spoke with Moses. Moses could hear His voice but could not see Him in the cloud. Just as people today can hear God’s voice, but do not see Him.

The Nature of God is Not Visible

The Bible tells us God’s nature, but none of His qualities are physical qualities that we can see.   A few examples:

God is Infinite

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17
“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” – Psalm 147:5

God is Immutable

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Malachi 3:6

God is Omnipotent

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” – Psalm 33:6

God is Omnipresent

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Psalm 139:7-10

God is Wise

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” – Romans 11:33

God is Faithful

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” – Deut 7:9

God is Good

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good” – Psalm 34:8

God is Gracious and Merciful

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.” – Psalm 145:8

God is Loving

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

God does show Himself, but not so we can see Him. We may hear Him or feel His presence, but we will not see Him. We may see His angels, and people have seen His son, but we will not see Him. We can understand His qualities, but they are attributes, not physical characteristics.

Other posts on this site describe spiritual experiences when God has shown Himself through words or activities, but still, God is not seen.  God is far too big and all-encompassing to be seen.  Some say God is a spirit, but even this word, as we understand it, is too narrow.

God’s Touch and a Soul Ascended –  in which God touched Tim’s hand to reassure him

God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life-in which God restored my income through a chance meeting on an airplane.

A Miraculous Intervention by Accident-in which God saved the lives of Tim and Lisa

God is Within Us

Jesus summed it up when he said;

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:18-21). [italics are mine]

Nowhere does Jesus say we will physically see God while on earth, but we will be aware of God if we love Him. And we will recognize God’s disclosure to us through regular prayer and meditation as described in How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.

For a more in-depth understanding of how to become aware of God’s activities in your life refer to Joel Goldsmith lecture on the Inner Kingdom and The Art of Meditation.

Conclusion

God does not have physical qualities and, therefore,  cannot be described regarding appearance.  However, God does show Himself through His many ‘personality’ qualities that are evidenced by experiences and interactions people have had with God.  Each individual can become more aware of God’s activities in their lives through meditation / prayer as described in How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.