As we head into the summer months, I hope you will find time to get outside and feel the sun’s warmth, to visit with family members near or far, and to enjoy fresh vegetables from a local garden. Summer offers unique blessings and opportunities, and I hope you will be able to experience some of the good things God gives during the warm months ahead.
For some reason, I am often inspired in the summer months to preach from lesser-known and seldom-visited corners of scripture. Some summers, I turn to Revelation or obscure Old Testament passages, and this year, I have decided to take up some of the hard questions of our faith. I hope you will find these questions as compelling as I do, and that together we can wrestle with God’s truth toward satisfying answers.
One question I will attempt to answer with Biblical truth is: What will we be like in heaven? Have you ever tried to imagine what our heavenly bodies will look like? We know everything in heaven will be per-fect, without fault in any way, so what will it feel like never to face temptation and to love God and other peo-ple without any selfish motivations? Or have you considered how will we find new and interesting things to do for all eternity?
The Bible offers a few answers, but our limited earthly perspective makes it hard for us to understand fully what heaven will be like. It will be something like this world, but far better. We will still be ourselves in heaven but without sin, worry or pain. We will have bodies, but not frail flesh that gets sick or injured. We may remember our present lives, but we will look back on this world through the lens of God’s glory and our purified hearts. What we will experience for eternity in God’s presence will be far better than anything we know today.
After thinking about the glories of heaven, I plan to set another hard question before us: Does hell real-ly exist? It’s one of those topics we may choose to ignore or even to wish away. Will people who reject Christ really end up in a place of everlasting torment? What would it feel like to be separated fully from the goodness of God?
We don’t like thinking about hell for obvious reasons, but Jesus talked about it a lot. He knew the im-portance of warning people about Satan’s lies and offering us a way to avoid the terror of falling under evil’s power. If hell is a real place and if eternal judgment for sin is a real consequence, then we should take a sober look at what scripture teaches, not out of morbid curiosity but for the sake of helping others find salvation in Christ and rescue from the danger of eternal separation from God.
Another hard question we will confront this summer deals with the darkness and hurt we experience in this life: Why doesn’t God stop evil? If God is merciful, why does He allow us to suffer? Can’t God just put an end to disease, violence and prejudice?
The Bible tells many stories about God’s people fighting against and overcoming evil. Jesus stood up to spiritual darkness and human forces of oppression. And yet, we still see evil at work in our day. Satan is still loose in the world. Sin, selfishness and hate still seem stronger than our hopes for peace and goodness. When will God finally defeat evil?
These hard questions have run through the minds of faithful people for generations. God’s word points us toward helpful answers, but we still struggle to understand. I hope as we wrestle with these issues in the coming weeks that the Spirit will give us wisdom to accept God’s truth and faith to trust Him even when our minds don’t fully understand.