Many people in New York lost someone in the attacks. How do we properly comfort people who have suffered a loss?
Yesterday I was meeting with some pastors and clergy working with those helping to clear Ground Zero. And just listening to them confirms what I think: sometimes you don't comfort with words, because words can't take away the pain. If you know somebody whose suffering like that, just be there for them, put your arm around them, tell them that you care about them. Then, when they are ready to listen, you can tell them that there is hope for the future.
I don't believe, and the Bible does not teach, that when you die, you just snuff out. The Bible teaches there is life after death. One of the positive ways to respond to this terrorist attack is to let the dead speak in a sense. When they went to the Trade Center that morning, they had no idea they would be stepping into eternity. Some of them may not have been prepared. I wonder if some of them could speak, would they cry out to their family members and their loved ones, Be prepared? You never know when you are going to step into eternity. We buy car insurance, life insurance and home insurance and we have to give some thought to our eternal insurance, to insure we're going be safe forever in our Father's house.
What gets us into heaven?
Heaven is a gift, a gift that's given to you for your faith in Jesus. Faith at that level is a choice. You choose to believe that the wages of sin is death, and not just a physical death but separation from God now and forever. You choose to believe that God so loved you that He sent His only son to die for you, and that if you place your faith in Him, you would not perish. You choose to believe it for no other reason than that God said. Of course it has be backed up with a commitment. But that's what gets you in.
People often imagine heaven's going to be what they want it to be: eating ice cream all day long, or seeing their mothers again. Is one's personal vision of heaven going to be included?
When I know my children are coming home, I begin to prepare things for them that I know they enjoy, so that when they walk through that door they'll know they've been expected, they're welcome, this is their home. I think God's knows what will make me feel like I've come home. He'll know what will make me feel thrilled and comfortable and happy if you want to say that. But I don't think it's just a place to have your needs met, though I think all our needs will be met. Maybe we won't have any needs.
The detail in Revelation is striking, down to the makeup of heaven's walls. Do you understand that description as metaphor?
John was describing what he saw. I don't think he was saying the walls are made out of jasper. He was describing it how he could relate to it. When he described the gates of pearl, I don't know that they are literally going to be gates of pearl, but that's what they looked like to him.
And there's a symbolic meaning too, I think it's pointing us to the Pearl of Great Price, which, from the parable in the Gospel, can be understood as Jesus, whose very death on the cross is what opens the gates of heaven to us. God allowed John to see this vision in terms that have meaning if we just think about it for a little bit. I believe God was in control of how John wrote it, though, so we could make sense of it today.
After Sept. 11, many people have asked, Why God would have allowed this to happen?
Why do they think God did that?
Many people see God as all powerful.
What was so dramatic on Sept. 11 is that it happened right in front of our eyes, on TV and all at the same time. But every day people are killed on the road, of heart attacks, of cancer. God created us in the beginning to know Him in a personal, permanent relationship. He never intended for man to die. Never intended us to suffer. We were created to live with him forever in His heavenly home, which in the beginning was called the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. It was man who rebelled against God, and as a result sin entered the human race and one of the consequences of sin is suffering.