Two of the reasons that we started Baptist21 were to give honor to those who have gone before us and to be faithful in the 21st century as they were in the 20th century. Dr. Adrain Rogers exemplifies that uncompromising faithfulness as well as anyone. There would be no Baptist21 without Adrian Rogers. He was one of the seminal leaders who fought the battle for the inerrancy of the Bible in the Conservative Resurgence. Our seminaries, our own ministries, and many of churches would not be what they are today without him. Not only do we give tribute to him today, but we also seek to follow his example in being faithful to uphold the inerrancy of the Bible in a day when so many people seem to be waffling on it.
On Sunday November 15th, 2015, Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis posted a video honoring their former pastor Adrian Rogers, paying tribute to his legacy of faith on the 10th anniversary of his death. We are re-posting the video here with the permission of Bellevue and Pastor Steve Gaines.
Last week Florida Baptists gathered for their annual meeting, the Florida Baptist Convention, in Panama City, FL. This annual meeting of pastors, leaders, and lay members was hosted at First Baptist Church of Panama City, and was preceded by the annual Pastors’ Conference. Attenders of the Pastors’ Conference were invited to B21’s inaugural panel at the FBC. The panel, sponsored by the Florida Baptist Witness, was held on Sunday, November 8th, during the first night of the FBC Pastors’ Conference.
The panel addressed “The Future of Florida Baptists,” and featured prominent, well-respected leaders within the state convention. Newly elected Executive Director-Treasurer Dr. Tommy Green anchored the panel alongside Dr. Jimmy Scroggins, Senior Pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, FL, and Dr. Ted Traylor, Senior Pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL.
The panel, moderated by B21 member Dean Inserra, Senior Pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, FL, addressed hot-button issues emerging within Florida’s state convention, most notably the proposed shift to give at least 50% of Cooperative Program money to the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Green emphasized the importance of this allocation, urging Florida Baptists to increase in unity within the SBC and set a precedent of engagement in national and global missions. By directing more CP money outside of Florida, members of the convention will better partner with church planting and missionary efforts happening around the world through NAMB and the IMB, in turn lessening the burden on these large entities to tap into financial reserves in order to maintain their efforts. Those in attendance at the B21 panel were given a first look into Dr. Green’s fresh vision for the FBC, which culminated in a unanimous vote during the convention to adopt a 51% out, 49% in state budget.
Pastors Traylor and Scroggins addressed the call to unity in the FBC between an older generation and an emerging next generation of Southern Baptist leadership. Dr. Traylor called for a commitment to work together to achieve the 2015 Convention theme of “Moving Forward,” refusing to allow second and third tier issues of church leadership to create divisions and unrealistic litmus tests between the two generations. Panel attendance seemed to accept this challenge, with audible agreement from the audience to put aside divisiveness for effective partnership in the gospel.
Attendance at the B21 panel itself reflected the changing SBC landscape, as seen by a diverse audience of varying ethnicities and ages. Those in attendance were engaged in the panel conversation, many staying long after the formal program ended to exchange ideas and expressions of gratitude for the dynamic leadership of the panelists. Throughout the event it was clear that Florida Baptists are invested in the direction of their convention and want to see the FBC play a strong role in the exciting developments taking place in the national convention.
We pray that, even if in a small way, the B21 panel will help pave the way for a sharper, more focused convention, as well as foster a greater sense of community and investment from Baptist leaders. We hope that there will be more events at our states’ annual meetings to engage leaders and discuss these important issues. We all need to work together to educate and create buy-in for a rising generation, while equipping an experienced generation of Baptists to serve and lead in a changing cultural landscape. As we do so the SBC will continue to grow as a powerful network of unified brothers and sisters, leading with wisdom and striving to bring the gospel to the ever-changing world.
-Ashlyn Portero serves at the Executive Director at City Church in Tallahassee, FL.]]>
“We don’t do this.” Those were the words that one of my two nurses said as she walked away from another failed attempt to draw blood. While I was thankful for her transparency, it caught me a little off guard. After all, it sure looked like they “did that.” They were dressed for the part. They were talking me through the process. They made me think they not only could, but should be the ones doing this. It wasn’t until after numerous failed attempts that they told me—what I was beginning to wonder—that they didn’t really understand what they were doing. If they just would have told me at the beginning that they weren’t qualified, we could’ve waited for someone who was—avoiding the shedding of unnecessary blood. Appearances can be deceiving.
As I sat in that room bleeding all over the place, I couldn’t help but think about some recent events in Southern Baptist life. In the Southern Baptist Convention we appear to love cooperation. It’s in our mission and statement, which reads, that we intend “To cooperate with each other…” “for the propagation of the gospel…” We have the “Cooperative Program.” So on the surface the SBC seems to totally “get” cooperation. But appearances can be deceiving. Everybody seems to like the idea of cooperation in general, but the actual task of cooperation doesn’t seem quite as popular. So I thought a few comments on the nature of cooperation might help us as a convention avoid spilling unnecessary blood.
I think Southern Baptists are in a great place. But we haven’t arrived. Perhaps this post might stir some thinking that will help us more faithfully cooperate for the advancement of the gospel.
–Jed Coppenger is on the Leadership Council of B21 and is the Lead Pastor at Redemption City Church in Franklin, TN.]]>
Evangelicals For Life Conference exists to help evangelicals articulate a truly Christian doctrine on the dignity of all human life. You can find more information about the conference and a link to register here.
Yesterday Planned Parenthood leadership announced that it would stop receiving “reimbursements” for the donation of fetal tissue taken from aborted babies. It was a curious declaration, one that could be summarized (as my boss Russell Moore put it) “We never did anything wrong and we’ll stop doing it now.”
The video evidence that betrayed a profitable business from the dismembered parts of children is not silent. There is more than enough reason to think that Planned Parenthood is guilty of atrocity that far outweighs anything they have passively conceded by changing their reimbursements policy.But sadly, as the often-frustrating Congressional testimony of Cecile Richards demonstrated, it seems that the nation’s largest abortion provider is for the moment insulated from any serious trouble. There are just too many political allies, too many reliable talking points, and too few in positions of meaningful leadership willing to risk political face to confront Richards and her company.
So where does that leave us? What are we to think and say and do going forward? If what we saw in those videos was indeed what I believe we saw, we cannot be satisfied. We cannot shrug and go on to the “next cause.” If the videos were a moment of reality for pro-choice Americans, they were even more so a moment of accountability for pro-life Americans. We can’t look at the abortion debate in this country the same way after #ItsABoy. Something has changed, and a moral demand is placed upon those with the truth to do something faithful with it.
The first thing we must do as pro-life Christians is repent. We must repent of ever being comfortable with abortion as a “private values” issue. Abortion is not ultimately about “values” or “legislating morality.” It’s about legislating justice and human rights. In the absence of jarring human degradation, we can forget that. We can unwittingly accept the other side’s cries of “culture war” and comfort ourselves that we are on the right side of history, no matter what’s going on in the abortion clinic downtown. No more. We have seen, and we have heard.
Secondly, we must prepare. We have no reason to think the legal battle to restore human rights to the unborn will be any easier than was the legal battle to restore rights to millions of African slaves. “Reproductive freedom” is the plantation of our time. It is a glossy, extravagant, externally beautiful facade that runs on the churned up bodies of the innocent. If attacking the materialism of the age–indeed, the materialism in many of our own hearts!–was difficult and costly back then, why should we think it would be different now?
That means that not every skirmish over unborn rights will end in victory. It also means that not every victory will be the victory we would want. Like William Wilberforce, we have to sober and resolute enough to keep shouting, keep debating, and keep fighting even in the face of overwhelming odds and mounting defeats.
Finally, we must preach the gospel. Unless we preach the full gospel of justice, atonement, and mercy, we will not capture the hearts of this country. Even if we are armed with the most compelling visual evidence, the most airtight philosophical arguments, or the most cutting edge medical technology, the human hearts we preach to will do whatever it takes to keep from coming under the condemnation of their own conscience. A pro-life message of only judgment and justice isn’t a full pro-life message. The unborn are made in the image of the same God who put the sins of the world on his only Son. The gospel is good news that the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled have inherent human dignity, and that every crime against that dignity can be absorbed by the sacrifice of the most dignified Being in the history of the cosmos.
We must hold that hope out to a world that sees the infant hand and hears the infant cry and must explain it all away or face despair. A pro-life Christianity is either a gospel Christianity or it isn’t pro-life at all.
Planned Parenthood is open today, and for that we mourn. But we cannot resign ourselves to its world. We have too great a message, and too great a hope, not to endure in this fight. Lives, and souls, depend on it.
-Samuel D. James currently serves as Communications Specialist to the Office of the President at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
This post originally appeared on his personal blog.]]>
In fourth and final installment we’re looking at the misconception that eternity is heavenly and not earthly.
I have a secret I was once afraid to share with others: I used to be scared to death of heaven.
I wasn’t scared that I might die. Rather, I was scared of what came after death, a heavenly existence that to me sounded, frankly, boring. The idea of standing before the throne of God for all eternity singing various gospel bluegrass songs just didn’t do it for me.
Now part of my reticence was my own sinfulness. I was not as captured by the majesty of God like I should have been. Today, the idea of seeing my God and Savior is infinitely more exciting than it was twenty years ago. I can’t imagine ever leaving his side.
But I have since learned two other things about my heavenly reluctance.
One, I was not alone. There are many who balk at the idea of a heaven filled with harps and clouds and an endless perusal of the hymnbook.
The other thing I learned — and this explained both my own fears and the fears of others — is that the reason I balked at a “heavenly” afterlife is because that’s not what I was made for and that’s not what God promises.
Misconception #4: Eternity is heavenly, not earthly.
The truth is we are not destined for a heavenly existence, at least not heaven as we tend to think of it, and not heaven as it is today.
When the Bible speaks of the eternal life of a Christian, the story culminates with a new heaven and a new earth.
Revelation 21.1 – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth”
The heaven of today is not the same heaven that will reside for eternity. A new heaven is coming. Heaven is currently serving as a holding area for humanity until the progress of the kingdom of God is complete. So thorough is the work of God’s kingdom that even heaven itself is changed. In fact, those who are in heaven today are not in the same heaven of eternity, nor will they stay in heaven forever. We may sing, “I’ll fly away”, and the truth is we will, but we’ll also be coming back. The heaven of tomorrow is not the heaven of today, and those in heaven now will one day find themselves back here.
Rather than avoiding some sort of earthly existence, the Bible actually places a great emphasis on the place of the earth in eternity. It is heaven that comes down to earth and not the other way around. Revelation 21.1-2 – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth ….And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” The entire book of Revelation could be summarized as the risen Christ proclaiming, “You tell them I’m coming and heaven’s coming with me.” If our existence was going to be some sort of wholly spiritual one, we would expect earth to be obliterated and heaven to house us. But the Bible gives us a renewed heaven and a renewed earth and it is the heavenly that descends to meet the earthly.
This focus on an earthly afterlife shouldn’t surprise us. Many biblical descriptions of the life to come have a very earthy feel to them. They focus not on an ethereal existence but of a redeemed earthly one. The Bible speaks of eating and drinking, plowing and reaping, of lions and lambs, of snakes and children, of coming and going, of cities and kings. It is, after all, eternal life. In the life to come, earth is not gone. Earth is part of the gospel story.
Why is it important for our understanding of the gospel that we see our eternity in terms of both heaven and earth?
Earth is more than just a backdrop to the gospel story, more than just a staging area for gospel events while God gets heaven ready. Russell Moore notes that it is no accident that “life begins in a garden and ends in a beautiful garden city.” The story of the gospel is of an ever expanding kingdom of God in and through his entire creation. Redemption is a cosmic gospel event. Sin is purged from every inch of the universe. The gospel promise for creation is that one day “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” That’s a very earthy gospel promise.
God promises his eternal presence in a melding of heaven and earth into a new and glorious hope – heaven on earth, God with his people forever. This is no minor promise, for it teaches us that our ultimate hope isn’t heaven or earth, it’s God and Christ. Our greatest expectation isn’t where we’ll be but who we’ll be with: Eternity with our God in a world he created and redeemed for his glory and for our good.
Revelation 22.3-5 – “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
This series is brought to you by Chris Gore who pastors at First Baptist Church in Beggs, OK.]]>
In this third installment we’re looking at the misconception that hell stands outside and against the will of God
I, like many Christians, have struggled with hell.
It’s not that I struggled with whether or not hell was real. The Bible is clear that hell is very much a real place. What I have struggled with (and in my fallenness what I still sometimes struggle with) is the why of hell.
As I grew up as a young Christian man and I would sit and marvel at the eternal promises of God, the rich blessings of salvation and life eternal, even in those moments of delight there was a nagging question, “But what about hell?”
Here’s the problem: if, in the end, God wins, if he conquers all, if his kingdom and his glory cover all creation, then how can there exist for all eternity a place that is the epitome of sin? How can God’s kingdom be said to reign if a large portion of his creation exists in a place that is fundamentally “bad”?
What I had was an unbiblical view of hell, and it was leading to an unbiblical view of the gospel that hindered my understanding of my own salvation.
Misconception #3: Hell is a “bad” thing.
Here’s the biblical reality – hell is not bad. And by “bad”, I mean that hell is not a place that stands outside and against the will of God. It is not evil. In fact, according to the Bible, hell is the exact opposite of evil. It is the place where evil is finally and eternally thwarted. Therefore, rather than hell being bad, in actuality, it is eternally good.
Let’s look at how the Bible describes hell, not as a bad thing, but as a place of divine justice and goodness.
Rather than being outside the purview of the Almighty, hell is God’s construction. Hell has not always been. Hell was made. Matthew 25.41 tells us that hell was prepared for a purpose, namely for the devil and his angels and, as we find out in Revelation 20, for any whose name was not written in the book of life. So we know hell was created, and it was created for a reason.
The question then becomes, “Created by whom?” Maybe (again because we see hell as bad), we think it necessary to separate God from hell’s existence, to think that, perhaps, it was made by another. But we know from Scripture – God alone can create. It’s part of what makes him God. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1.3). So let’s put this together. We know hell was created, and we know that everything has been created by God, that nothing was made unless he made it. This leaves us with a clear conclusion from straight from the Bible: hell is not a dark realm that stands in opposition to the things of God, hell was made by God.
If God did not want there to be a hell, there would be no hell. Hell was not an aspect of God’s creation that he was forced to construct. It exists, then, solely because God wants it to. In fact, the Bible tells us of his will in creating hell and in executing his wrath there. Romans 9.22 – “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…?” So God formed hell in order to show his wrath against sin and his power as king over all creation. Hell is not a place outside of God’s will. Rather, it is a place designed to show that there is nothing that can escape the power and will of God, who seeks out sin from every corner of his creation and holds it under his wrath.
Here’s a reality we sometimes miss: God would have been praised by the heavenly host for all eternity if he would have damned every single member of the human race to hell, because, in so doing, he would be the God of justice, the One who punishes sin. If God had simply given us what we deserved, the angels would have glorified him forever and ever.
If that sounds far-fetched, let’s ask ourselves, “What do we know of the praise God receives in heaven?”
Heaven is not short on praising God for his justice against sin. We see angels praising God for his holiness, praising him for his sinless perfection (Isaiah 6). When God shows himself to Moses, what does he proclaim about himself? That he is merciful, yes, but also that he will not let the guilty go unpunished (Exod 34.7). In fact, there are those in heaven who are calling on God to do that very thing and punish the wicked (Revelation 6.10). That is why, far from being scared of the reality of hell, the Bible says that the angels, and even Christ himself, are present at the outworking of that justice (Revelation 14.10).
Think about that, “meek and mild” Christ has no problem with hell. He does not shield his eyes. He does not shake his head at this wicked realm. He stands there with the angels and watches the justice of God give sin what it deserves. God is praised that he is a just judge that will not let evil in this world go without punishment. That punishment is finally meted out in hell.
But what does any of this have to do with the gospel? Why care about whether or not hell is a “bad” thing?
First, it’s important because we need to get a picture of hell that corresponds with the Bible and not with our emotions, and our hope is that, as our vision matches Scripture, God will bring our emotions in line with his word.
But also we must understand the innate “goodness” of hell to understand the full gravity of the gospel.
Hell doesn’t exist because God loses; hell exists because God wins over sin. If hell is the anti-heaven, then you have a realm that stands outside God’s domain, an area of creation that his kingdom has not conquered. But hell is not the anti-heaven. While the new heaven and earth are a place where God’s grace is displayed, hell is a place meant to display his justice. Both are praiseworthy, and both celebrate God’s victory over sin and death. In heaven, that death is defeated in the cross of Christ. In hell, that death is defeated in eternal punishment (Revelation 20.13). Hell, like heaven, declares God’s victory, they just declare it in different ways.
Not only is understanding hell important for grasping God’s victory in creation, it is also important for grasping God’s victory in us. A right view of hell sharpens our understanding of our salvation. The Bible actually says that one of the purposes of hell is to make us more astounded by God’s grace and mercy to us.
Romans 9.22-23 – “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”
Understanding that hell is fundamentally good and right, a place not of sin but of divine justice, makes our salvation even more wonderful. Think about it. God didn’t save us from some wicked evil; he didn’t rescue us from some demonic future; he saved us from a place that he made to show his justice, a place prepared to punish sin and its followers, a place our whole lives proclaimed that we deserved. That’s exactly what he says he intends for believers to learn about their salvation.
God would have been praised for all eternity for sending us to hell. Yet in his mercy and he chose to pour his justice out, not on us, but on his Son. He pulled us from the future he made for people like us, a future of eternal justice and gave us, instead, eternal grace.
It is seeing the wrath that we deserved, the wrath he could have given us, that causes us to marvel at the mercy we’ve received. Understanding hell for what it is helps us to understand our salvation for what it is, unmerited and unnecessary grace from a God who is both just and merciful.
This series is brought to you by Chris Gore who pastors at First Baptist Church in Beggs, OK.]]>
With the Bible placing such great emphasis on the afterlife, it’s important to correct our vision and bring it into line with what Scripture teaches. We should also fix views of eternity, because doing so will often help correct deficiencies in our understanding of the story of the gospel itself.
Last time, we looked at why people don’t become angels. This week let’s look at views of hell.
Misconception #2: Hell is the Devil’s domain.
I remember being a young man in our church’s youth group when we visited a Hell House at a local church. If you’ve never been to one, it’s important to understand that they all follow a similar script. It is walk-through following the story of the life of some rebellious teen who dies and is forced to face eternity, climaxing in one particular scene – HELL.
And that’s where the problem begins.
My problem wasn’t necessarily that they focused on hell as a means to drive people to repentance. Christ certainly used the threat of hell as motivation for salvation (Matthew 10.28)
My problem was that they got one thing horribly wrong. In each and every one, hell has been the place where the Devil ruled. And that is one hellish mistake.
Hell Houses, however, aren’t born in a theological vacuum. Those churches put the Devil in charge of hell because that’s what they thought hell was like.
Even secular representations will speak of hell as an appealing place where the Devil lets you do what you want, the ultimate party scene, a place where God’s rules no longer apply.
But the reality is just the opposite. Hell was, indeed, prepared for the devil and his angels, but the Bible is clear: Hell is the Devil’s punishment, not his playground.
Far from getting his freedom, the progress of the gospel shows the Devil facing greater and greater restrictions as kingdom of Christ advances. At the incarnation of Christ, the inbreaking of the gospel, Satan is portrayed not as a powerful antithesis to God, but as a “strong man” whose true impotence is seen in that not only is he bound but he is plundered (Matthew 12.28-29). And as the kingdom advances, the Devil finds himself bound more and more. John’s vision of the end shows Satan bound and chained and unable to “deceive the nations any longer” and, ultimately, thrown into his eternal prison (Revelation 20.1-10). In the life to come, the Devil is not finally free; the promise is that he will be finally and eternally bound so that he can never again do what he wants.
Again, the Bible teaches us that hell is the Devil’s punishment, not his ungodly palace, not his domain. Listen to how Revelation 20.10 describes the Devil’s experience in hell.
Revelation 20.10 – “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Hell is a place of torment even for the Devil, not a place of freedom. It is a place where justice is meted out on the Accuser and he is silenced forever more.
There are two key reasons that understanding the Devil and hell are important and they both relate to the gospel and its proclamation.
One of the central themes of the gospel is the kingdom of God. In the gospel, the kingdom of God covers all of creation. There remains not an inch of the created world that is not bending the knee to the One True King.
The Bible has always tied the gospel and the Devil’s total defeat. The primordial breath of the gospel is that one day the Devil would be crushed (Genesis 3.15). Christ’s work itself is explicitly tied to Satan’s doom. 1 John 3.8 – “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” It doesn’t say he came to diminish those works or to place them in some eternal alcove. Christ came and destroyed them all.
Christ’s victory in the gospel means that Satan’s reign as the “prince of the power of the air” is finished. He is not given a mini-world to punish. He gets nothing. He finds out there is only one Ruler in all of creation and it is Yahweh, not him. His rebellion is finally and fully defeated.
Here’s the truth: God is scarier than Satan.
I understand why people put Satan in charge of hell for these haunted houses. They want to scare kids. But in setting hell up like this, they miss one key reality: the wrath of God is scarier than the wrath of Satan.
The Bible never uses Satan to frighten us. Rather, it threatens us with something infinitely worse, the tremble-inducing reality that we might one day face the wrath of God. Romans 5.9 says Jesus saves us from the wrath of God. Ephesians 5.6 says that it is the wrath of God that will come upon the sons of disobedience. Colossians 3.6 warns Christians to flee sin because it is sin that invokes the coming wrath of God.
Scripture never warns about incurring Satan’s wrath, and it never threatens us that in the life to come the Devil will have his way with us. It warns us of something far worse than some upstart angel – the wrath, anger, and justice of the God of the universe. If we want to use fear biblically, then there is one thing alone that people need to hear – “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10.31)
This series is brought to you by Chris Gore who pastors at First Baptist Church in Beggs, OK.]]>
Because, if there is one thing our immortal soul recognizes, it is that death is not the end. It’s not the end for any of us. No matter how good or wicked our lives have been, death is just the beginning, and we know it.
It’s not just the realization that death is not the end, but that the life to come is so much longer than our mortal lives that makes what we think about life-after-death so important. In fact, the Bible is consistently reminding us that our life is just a vapor (James 4.14) and a shadow (Job 8.9), so that we might grasp the significance of eternity.
You would think that if eternity was so important, we would guard our thoughts on this most vital of subjects. But that is oddly not the case. The reality is that when dealing with death and the life to come is there are so many unbiblical views of what the next life will look like, and many of those are not just wrong, they are unhelpful. We say things about the next life that are simply not true, things that we have made up, because we think they are what people need to hear. But these misrepresentations of eternity actually do more damage than good, because they hide from people the greater and more comforting truths found in the gospel. We don’t need to make things up about the life-to-come, in fact, we’ll see that what we make up is actually less than what the Bible promises us.
This is the first installment in a series that looks at some of the most common misconceptions of the afterlife, why they’re wrong, and why it’s important to fix them…
Misconception #1: We become angels when we die.
“Heaven gained a new angel today.”
As a pastor, this is probably the distortion of eternity that I hear the most, and every time I hear it I want to shout, “No! No! No!”Not because I don’t like angels or I’m some sort of theological grump. It irks me not just because it’s not true, but because it actually is less than what the Bible tells us. In our attempt to assuage or comfort someone, we are actually giving them less than what the Bible promises. We aren’t building hope for them. We’re stealing it.
The Bible is clear: people don’t become angels, and the truth is you shouldn’t want them to.
First, angels and people are different. They might both have been created by God but they are different creations. Sometimes we seem to forget how different we are from the angelic. We have no problem telling a grieving person that their loved one is now one of “God’s little angels”, as if, when we die, we sort of morph out of this mortal coil and put on an angelic existence with wings and halos and cloud-floating. But the Bible actually teaches us that angels and people are not the same.
True, we may often see angels taking a human appearance in Scripture, but the Bible is clear that though angels may look like people sometimes, people and angels are very different. Imagine for a second telling someone that when their loved one died they became a donkey in heaven. That would probably not be well received. It would seem ridiculous and rude. Why? Because people and donkeys are different.
In the same way, the Bible tells us that angels and people are two very different created beings, more different than even people and donkeys.
The second reason we don’t want to tell people that their loved ones have become angels is that not only are people and angels different, but when it comes to eternity being a person is actually better than being an angel.
We may call people God’s new angels because we think being an angel has to be some sort of afterlife upgrade. Angels seem so majestic, so close to God. But the truth is that when it comes to life after death, humanity is more majestic and closer to God. Telling someone their loved one has become an angel wouldn’t be an upgrade, it would be a demotion.
Let’s look at the majesty of angels and people as laid out in the Bible. It is man, not the angelic, that stands at the pinnacle of all God’s creation for he alone bears the image of God. Nowhere in Scripture does it tell us that angels were created in the image of God. Not only that, but when the Bible does compare the afterlife of angels and people in 1 Corinthians 6.3, it tells us that people will actually judge angels. Whatever that might mean, it cannot mean less than that mankind sits in a greater position than the angelic in the life to come.
I feel that one of the reasons we make people into angels is because we think that angels are somehow closer to God. But again that’s simply not true. As humans, we actually have a greater closeness to God than the angelic. As once fallen people, we have a story that the angels do not have. We have a redemption story. We have the gospel. The Bible is the story of how God redeemed mankind for His glory. We have no account of any redemption story for the angels. When the angels fell, God sent no Son. There was no salvation hope, only judgment and wrath. The angels in heaven may be able to join us in singing about God as our Creator, but they cannot praise God for all eternity as their Redeemer. That is a story they simply do not know. In fact, it is one that puzzles them and that they wish they knew more about (1 Peter 1.12). Here’s the crazy truth: if anything, it is more likely that angels would want to become people, not the other way around. The simple reality is that being a person will be an eternal experience more enriching than that of the angels. Why would we want to give our loved ones a less amazing afterlife, one that is devoid of the praise of the redeemed?
But is all this really such a big deal? If it makes people feel better, what’s the harm in giving them angel trinkets or telling them that their loved one has become their guardian angel? It’s not so much that it does harm, but that the hope of our loved ones becoming angels is significantly less than what God says. We’re not trying to steal their mental image of a lost loved one as an angel. We’re letting them know that in Christ their loved one is something greater.
The desire to want to comfort people is a good one, but if you really want them to be happy don’t give them a hope that is less than they might actually have. Don’t demote the dead and don’t downplay the gospel. If the person who died was a believer in Jesus Christ, they haven’t gone on to be an angel, they are something better. They are a child of God, created in his very image, redeemed by his Son, and they sing a new song in heaven, the Song of the Redeemed. The angels may sing the notes, but they haven’t lived the story.
This series is brought to you by Chris Gore who pastors at First Baptist Church in Beggs, OK.]]>
Matt Carter (the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX) and Dean Inserra (the Lead Pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, FL) have led their churches to incredible gospel impact among millennials in traditionally liberal and progressive college towns (UT and FSU respectively). In this panel both men give helpful wisdom and correctives to this hot topic of how to reach and disciple millennials.]]>
If you’d like to read the first part of how trips are helpful, you can find that here.
These insights are not mine, but rather have been given to me by full-time missionaries on the field who want to be a help to the churches.
Short-term trips are helpful…
6. When short-term teams effectively play their part in the Great Commission
When short-term teams identify their role in the greater Great Commission strategy they can serve effectively. You have a role to play in supporting the local worker and advancing the Great Commission. It might be prayer-walking, operating a mobile medical clinic, doing disaster relief, striking up gospel conversations, or whatever…Keep in mind how this act is contributing to the greater effectiveness of Great Commission work.
7. When short-term teams encourage long-term workers
When volunteers have a desire to love, serve, encourage, and partner with long-term workers, then those workers will look forward to having volunteer teams come. Yes, it may be work to plan, and the days may be long, but knowing that there are brothers and sisters who care for you, love you, support you, are praying for you and your people group, and care enough to come around the world to show it, this can be the fuel a worker needs to get through the next six months on the field. Long-term workers need encouragement. Some churches are sending out short-term teams with the express purpose of solely serving the full-time workers. Fifteen years ago I would have argued that this type of trip is unnecessary and a waste of funds. But after almost 15 years on the field, I have seen how these types of short-term teams may be the most effective at increasing Great Commission effectiveness because the mission field can be an incredibly lonely place where many feel forgotten.
8. When short-term trips lead to specific not general prayer
Instead of praying generically for God to save the lost, you are now praying for workers and unreached peoples by name. It is real prayer for specific people that builds camaraderie with long-term workers. Short-term workers can follow the results of their specific prayers, and see how their prayers are playing a part in the Great Commission.
9. When short-term teams help legitimize long-term workers’ platforms
Short-term teams can help legitimize platforms. When a team comes on a short stint to help a missionaries accomplish their publicly stated purpose, it can add viability and legitimacy in the long-term team’s area of service.
10. When the short-term team develops a true partnership with the field worker
Short-term trips strengthen partnerships. It is hard to communicate the need for the gospel in a city or among a people if one has not been there to see it and interact with the people. The impact of coming to see a worker on the field, to discuss and dream together, to ask how the fellowship can help more in the future (and to follow-up with that help), and doing that in the place where the worker desires to see the gospel spread cannot be overstated.
It is our prayer that we continue to be a Great Commission denomination and that our churches continue to give faithfully, send generously, and go regularly. May these posts begin the conversation in your church as to how you can leverage your short-term mission trips to be as effective and helpful as possible–for the sake of our long-term missionaries on the field and ultimately for God’s glory to be known among the nations.]]>