A Preview of Heaven

hebrews

The last couple of weeks have been a bit hectic in the Armstrong house. A very enjoyable trip to Grand Bend with my in-laws over the Labor Day weekend, followed by a visit to my Dad the following Sunday for our annual family birthday (my Dad, sister, niece and I have birthdays within a couple weeks of each other—it can make celebrating a bit overwhelming).

Because of all the traveling, there was one thing we were unable to do: Go to our local church and worship together with the people there. As much fun and valuable as our time with our relatives was, we were missing a very important part of our lives.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

This time reminded us just how much we love going to church (the institution) to be part of the church (the body of Christ). I know that there’s a lot of folks out there who might lose their minds even reading that statement, but we have to remember: The church is both Christ’s body and Christ’s institution.

He will build the institution who is His body and His bride.

So we, the body of believers, come together to worship God the Father through God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit, through the reading of Scripture, the preaching of the Bible (by a biblically-qualified male elder), the singing of songs…

There’s something incredibly powerful in it, if you’re a Christian. Something beautiful, even.

And it’s something completely different from any other interaction and activity in our lives. It’s not something that happens when I’m at the office of my Christian workplace talking about Jesus with my coworkers. It’s not something that happens when I’m having lunch or coffee with one of the guys I mentor.

It’s something that only happens when the larger congregation comes together, to worship God together.

It’s a preview of heaven.

And why would anyone who is a Christian want to neglect that?

Why would any of us willingly desire to disconnect ourselves from the very thing that is meant to stir us to love and good works? To encourage each other as we wait patiently for Christ’s return—when the preview ends and the new heaven and the new earth begin and we join the wedding supper of the Lamb?

I look forward to that day.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the preview.

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  • http://nada Isaac

    I enjoyed reading your post. STUMBLEUPON strikes again!

    I must comment. Even while i disagree with your basic statement, I will only give a small insight as to why a “christian” would want to neglect “going to church.” PLEASE NOTE THIS POST IS ONLY MY OPINION.

    I want to present the concept of 2 different types of Americans who profess to love and follow Christ. Christians….and believers.

    It is my opinion that “christians” do want to go to church.

    It is my opinion that believers DO NOT SO MUCH want to go to church.

    I feel the difference is this…
    I would argue that a believer and a christian are 2 different things in 21st century America.

    Americans who call themselves christians go to church because they feel they have to. It’s the “proper and edifying” thing to do. To be anywhere else doing anything else while there are one million congregations meeting in one million church buildings that exist on almost every other 5th block of thier community feels like blasphemy. They feel like a heathen who is not…”plugged in.” Thier own personal relationship with Jesus Christ is not strong enough or even existant enough to facilitate thier own walk with HIM without constant interaction with people just like them. This is as far as i will go in this statement, although there is so much more.
    It’s the insecure state of modern…..”church.”

    Believers live and walk simply BECUASE OF THIER OWN real relationship with Christ. It defines thier existence. And they tire of interacting with sheeple who need someone else to pat them on the back and say “You are doing a good job brother/sister!” Believers quest for true vulnerability and blunt statements of being (which should be blunt statements and actions of faith & love) from few….rather than mingle with fickle and uncertain many who define thier essence from the “basic faith theory” from the church they align with.

    It’s a lonely road sometimes.
    I must stop talking before i begin to mumble.

    PEACE
    ISAAC

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hi Isaac,

      Thanks for taking some time to comment on this post today. I’m glad you brought up the issue of not everyone who is a part of the visible church is part of the Church.

      It’s an interesting dicotomy, yeah? Not all “Christians” are believers, but all believers are Christians.

      I appreciate what you’ve said here about the sense of insecurity you perceive, and I think there’s certianly some merit. However, what I don’t see in Scripture is a strong faith precluding the necessity of gathering together with other believers. If anything, it appears to be the opposite. That because we love Jesus, we’ll love what He loves–the Church universal and the church local.

      You are right that true faith will be lonely at times, but we’re never alone. Remember that Elijah was certain that he was the only true believer left and God reminded him that He’d set aside 7000 others who had not forsaken Him (see 1 Kings 19:9-18).

      Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to respond as I greatly appreciate it. Have a great day!

  • http://nada Isaac

    Aaron, thanks for your reply. I do appreciate your response,
    but I can’t help but think that perhaps I didn’t communicate
    well enough my original response to your assertion that what
    is going on in these steepled buildings across America is in
    fact a preview of Heaven. In fact, I would sincerely hope it is NOT.

    I feel that a vast majority (90%) of American “Christians” have forgotten
    (or never even knew) that they are in fact the church….themselves.
    They ARE the body of Christ. It’s wherever they go. And should 2 or
    3 of them gather together and seek Him and praise Him earnestly,
    the Spirit can exist and flow there in a way that is rarely “spirit-led” in a
    gathering of hundreds…or even thousands. And by losing sight of
    this important fact, they have become lost, and when this happens
    the Spirit LEAVES. (If indeed it was there in the first place.)

    Because of this ignorance, they define thier entire “salvation”
    through the actions they perform inside those steepled buildings.
    They are desparate for the touch of Christ, to feel Him in a real way.
    Whats this called? Works. It’s judged by outcome, or total effort spent.

    Listen my friend, it’s “Ten Shekels & A Shirt.” It’s always been that.
    I’m not postulating a new theory here. Paris Reidhead told us this over
    40 years ago. It’s humanism whats going on in the steepled building
    today. Complacency even.

    And it’s heart-breaking. And disgusting. And infuriating.

    So, when you wrote back to me about strong faith not precluding the
    gathering together of brothers and sisters, I could not agree more my
    friend. But, the steepled building freqeunters lost sight of this truth.

    And trust me brother, I am running into more and more of us. And we
    meet, whether on Sunday morning, or helping a brother cut wood, fix his
    computer Friday night, helping a sister fold her laundry Tuesday morning,
    or even over some nice cigars Sunday afternoon, we meet. And He is there.

    PEACE
    ISAAC

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hey Isaac – thanks again for the response. I think there’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying; there are a troubling amount of “churches” that are practicing nothing but dead religion. But again, it’s not always the case.

      When two or three are gathered, is Christ there? Absolutely. But to suggest that the Spirit doesn’t move within a larger context would be equally as inappropriate as saying that He only does in a larger context.

      Anyway, in the larger view, I’d say we’re both passionate about the same thing: The Church being the Church as it glorifies God.

      Small church, or big church, if Jesus’ name is made great, that’s what matters in the end, yeah?

  • Wes

    I’m sorry, Aaron, but I must point out your blatant contradiction between your last comment to Isaac and what you originally wrote in your blog.

    I quote: “So we, the body of believers, come together to worship God the Father through God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit, through the reading of Scripture, the preaching of the Bible (by a biblically-qualified male elder), the singing of songs…

    There’s something incredibly powerful in it, if you’re a Christian. Something beautiful, even.

    And it’s something completely different from any other interaction and activity in our lives. It’s not something that happens when I’m at the office of my Christian workplace talking about Jesus with my coworkers. It’s not something that happens when I’m having lunch or coffee with one of the guys I mentor.

    It’s something that only happens when the larger congregation comes together, to worship God together.”

    So, according to your original writing, things like coming together as a body of believers, professing Christ’s life, connecting with God together, reading Scripture together, and singing songs together are things that only happen when larger congregations gather. This is what you’re writing.

    But, now, you are trying to compromise with Isaac and say that not only are you both passionate about the same thing, but that it doesn’t matter what the size of the church is. That these things are still possible.

    As I said, I’m sorry, but I need to point this out. I don’t believe that what Isaac is saying is that God isn’t involved in large groups of people meeting in a steepled building. What he’s saying is that your idea of meeting in a steepled building and doing things based solely on humanistic doctrine (ie. the Biblically-approved male elder pastors) is the “correct” or “better” way to do things is false. Only a fool would suggest that God is not present somewhere. It matters not how many are gathered. He tells us that he is there.

    Just as you imply that Isaac is suggesting that God is not in large congregations (falsely, I’ll add), you are suggesting that somehow meeting in these large, formalized, paid-pastor-led, effigies is better than a couple people meeting for coffee and discussing how God is active in their lives. I’m sorry, but that is false. To suggest such a thing is elitist-Christian. And if that is what you believe heaven is like, then I don’t want any part of your heaven.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Hi Wes, thanks for your feedback.

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but don’t feel there’s anything elitist about loving the sight of a larger group come together. What I’d encourage you to do is look to Revelation, where we’re shown an incalculable multitude who are all worshipping Jesus together.

      When a church, while imperfectly, is working as it’s intended, this is what we get a preview of. And it’s the joy I get from my own local congregation (that meets in a high school, not a steepled effigy as you describe them).

      Is God at work in a small group? Absolutely. Is God at work when I’m talking about what He’s doing over coffee? Absolutely. Those are great and wonderful things. And I am not taking anything away from those.

      I’m just saying that there is something inherently different and beautiful about what happens when a larger group of believers, who love Jesus, worship Him together.

      As for the blatant contradiction, I was addressing Isaac’s comments about how the Spirit moving in the church, not my post which is in regard to my feelings about corporate worship at my local church. I don’t see any particular compromise or contradiction there. But I greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond.

      Thanks very much, Wes.

  • Angel

    Aaron,

    I feel that you are taking time to argue a point that is obvious to all. Whenever a group of individuals gather on a large scale there is nothing, no, NOTHING that compares. Having read over the previous posts I am certainly interested in your need to educate Issac and Wes and defend your position.

    While I see that you have a love and a passion for corporate worship and long to see it in it’s perfection in heaven why must you minimize the effect of worship on a smaller scale? When a large, living, breathing group of individuals come together, intent on one purpose, energy is released and expressed. That does not have to happen weekly, in my opinion, to be amazing. I have worshiped in a congregation of 5,000 and a congregation of 25. I have sat in a home church and wept under the power of the Almighty, I have gone to breakfast with my bosom buddies and left 3 hours later changed in a way I could never describe. I believe that GOD moves when and where he wills when his people have hearts that are open and ready.

    When you mention your “mentor coffee breaks” in your original post I feel that it is an injustice to your spirit to expect the same “feeling” as you do in corporate worship.

    I must say that I am curious as to your weekly place of worship. I hope they feel blessed to have a member as committed as you. I understand that YOU have a need for corporate worship. Just remember that the way you do it is good and widely recognized, however, it is not the only way. You mention Revelation and the description of heaven. Remember though, that Acts and the Gospels talk of small gatherings, on hills, during walks, in homes, along river banks, in jail cells.

    I have grown up in the church; My father a minister and christian counselor. My husband is from a missionary family. I am educated on the in’s and out’s of the institution. So often we get lost in the rules and expectations that go along with a body.

    I have been all over the world and seen Christians in their “glory.” For me, while I love to worship corporately, It is not the only arena for blessing the heart of God. That is our true purpose is it not?

    Angel