Heaven Reconciles to Earth
Introduction: We began with “our need for the cross” and now we move into meditation on “the love of the cross.”
Probably, the hardest thing for many people to come to terms with is the love of God. Why?
First, people have been suspicious of God ever since the tragedy of Genesis 3—when Satan stealthy planned and prepared his lie that God is not truly good, that he holds back what is best for us, and keeps us under his thumb—leaving us in a deceived state of complete doubt, endless skepticism, and even deep anger toward God.
Second, adding to our already deeply existing suspicion of God, is the massive problem of evil—man’s inhumanity to man, exploitation of the world, and nature’s own overwhelming cruelty to itself—many can’t bring themselves to believe in God, to trust God, to see God as good, much less entertain the notion that God is love.
Many might say:
If God is both loving and powerful then he would want to remove evil, and he would be able to do so. But, since evil persists in gratuitous degrees, either God is not that loving or he doesn’t have the power to remove evil much less make a good world from the get-go.
Could it be that God took on more than he could handle? Or, was creation merely an experiment for which he no longer cares?
Whatever our reasons, and we have no problem multiplying them, the bottom line is that God is not what we want—that is, the Christian Triune God (Psalm 14:2-3, Romans 3:9-12, 8:7-8). This is why our distrust precedes our reasons. We have the cart before the horse.
Thankfully the biblical Story of God confronts us with a right disposition and perception, which story puts everything in the right light, vindicates God, and … implicates us.
Yet, there is more to God’s Story! In John 3:1-21 we read of a well educated 1st century Jewish Leader and Teacher, Nicodemus, who was having a very hard time with Jesus. Jesus did not jive with Nicodemus’s view of how God was supposed to be and what God was supposed to do. But, while Jesus pointed out in simple terms what Nicodemus ought to know, we are shown that Nicodemus is simply not taking key aspects of God’s Story seriously enough and nor is he seeing himself properly within that storyline.
Take the time to read God’s grand news, also known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, in John 3:14-18.
If we are to know the real essence of the gospel of Jesus, John requires that we grasp what Jesus’ language meant in his late night conversation with Nicodemus, when he spoke of earthly things and heavenly things, in 3:12.
What does Jesus mean by this distinction and relationship between earthly and heavenly?
(1) For years now I have understood Jesus as referring to “the earthly fallen condition of humankind,” Jew and Gentile, and God’s loving “heavenly solution in Jesus.” I believe Jesus is saying, if one doesn’t understand or believe that their earthly condition is truly unbelieving and evil, and for this reason people are perishing, then they are not going to understand the heavenly solution to it.
We find similar thematic language later in John 8:23-24, in Jesus’ extended conversation with Jewish leaders and people following the Feast of Booths. At one point Jesus says that those who don’t believe him “are from below,” they are of this world, the earthly reality, and that he is “from above,” and that he brings a heavenly message. Like Nicodemus, because those leaders don’t get their earthly predicament neither do they get the heavenly liberation in Jesus. In fact, they see Jesus’ message as contradicting what they want.
(2) John is also assuming and employing the theological language of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” At one time, early in the beginning, earth and heaven were one, so to speak, in that God was worshipped, and that he ruled through man whom he created in his image to live for his glory and the good of all creation.
Tragically, however, man rebelled against God, and, in a word, died to the personal reality of God who once walked with them in the cool of day in the Garden of Eden. We were separated from God, and there has since been a break between heaven and earth.
Thus, John’s effort to root the message of Jesus in the first foundational verse of the Bible, shows us that God wants to reconcile earth to heaven. Moreover, John’s gospel account, as are the other gospel accounts, is fully integrated with the entire Story of God, it is a radically consistent fit. Therefore, Nicodemus, and us all, ought to understand it.
Notwithstanding our blindness, heaven has personally drawn near to earth once again in Jesus Christ! This drawing near to us again shows us the great love of God—as heaven reconciles to earth. Considering all we’ve done toward our good God, all we’ve tragically brought on our world, the gospel is truly love!
(3) Finally, the Apostle John assumes and employs these rich theological truths and anthropological facts as part of his basis for calling all people to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, who restores us to God, so we can know life again in his name, the life we once knew back in Eden when heaven and earth were one.
These are all things Nicodemus failed to see. We, too, fail to see our earthly state which blinds us to the heavenly answer. On the one hand, Nicodemus can clearly see that Jesus is absolutely special, but he fails to get the real import of Jesus for himself, for all the Jewish Leaders, for all the Jewish People, and for all the World.
Conclusion: We are all in the same boat because we are all descendants of Adam and Eve (Galatians 3:22). Even as believers we still struggle to get Jesus as we need to, and so we doubt God at times, we fail to trust God in the struggles, we’re become skeptical of God—so often we just don’t get God. We see dimly for now, and it is hard for us.
Yet, if we listen to the Spirit and seek to grasp the basics of what Jesus is saying, as Nicodemus was trying to do—and Nicodemus did succeed in coming to a genuine faith by the end of John’s account—we will begin to see something of the wondrous love of God in Christ for us, and it will be enough to carry us through whatever we have to face.
We have the same basic problems from era to era because we all stem back to Genesis chapters 1-3 in the Bible storyline, which means that the heavenly solution to our problem is the same for all people in all times and in all places—read John 1:9-13.
Let your Heavenly Father shed his love abroad in your heart (Romans 5:1-5), and let your heart respond by crying out ‘Abba Father’ (Romans 8:12-17), knowing that he loves you with an everlasting love that shall not fail. He supremely demonstrated his love for us in the cross of Christ (1 John 4:9-10).
Take some time to further meditate on and pray through the wondrous gospel truth of heaven reconciling to earth.