By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no more sea. Then, I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” He said to me, “It is done! I am alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be His God, and he shall be My son.”
- Revelation 21:1-7 (NKJV)
Let’s start with some good news. Your former life before you were redeemed by Jesus Christ won’t matter. Your past sins and mistakes that could have barred you from entering glory were at some point in your life washed away when you repented and put your faith in Christ alone for salvation. No one or no devil will be there to remind you of something you did or said that was contrary to what you were as a new creation in Christ. The accuser of the brethren will be in the Lake of Fire, and your sins will have been cast away forever as far as the east is from the west. You will be with the LORD forever, free from the grip of sin and death (Romans 6:6, 19; 8:12, 31-39; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 103:12; John 10:28-30; Luke 14:23; 15:7, 11-32; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; John 11:25-26; Psalm 23, 51).
The sicknesses, injuries, disabilities, and limitations of your body won’t matter. Many of Christ’s greatest servants had physical liabilities such as Fanny Crosby, Amy Carmichael, Charles Spurgeon, the apostle Paul, David Brainerd, George Whitefield, the missionary David Livingstone, and many who are oblivious to history but rewarded by God. Our old bodies will be transformed at the coming of Christ to meet us in the air. We will have a glorified body free from sickness and pain and the trappings of age. There will be none of that in the new heaven and the new earth. We will be like our Lord Jesus for all time. (1 Corinthians 15:44, 49; 2 Corinthians 5:2; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:4; Revelation 21:4; 1Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:23; Romans 8: 23, 29, 30)
Your social and cultural preferences and tastes won’t matter. Every child of God is unified by the blood, saving mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we all are different in style and substance and we don’t have to be in the same mold to be identified as a Christian. Some brethren eat meat, some don’t; some like certain types of music, some don’t; some like certain versions of the Bible; some adhere to one particular version; some dress casually, others more formal; some like to think and study; some are more apt to practice types of service to others; we each have different gifts with specific purposes, and no one should feel or act superior over others in that regard. We are all given that which the Sovereign Lord knows we are capable of handling (Romans 14:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; 14:20; Ephesians 4:13, 15; Philippians 3:15; Hebrews 5:14; 1 John 2:14)
It is specifically our different personalities, gifts, and convictions that tend to separate us more than unite us regarding the fulfilling of the Great Commission given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ before He ascended to heaven (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:1-11). Note that each apostle had unique traits that served them well in the proclamation of the gospel. Most of them wrote the New Testament, and their personalities shine through their composition. They were a motley crew of fishermen, a tax collector, a glum skeptic, young hotheads, and one who ended up selling out Jesus for not much more than a few dollars in return. The late comer, Paul, was a religious fanatic who had murdered, arrested, and persecuted believers in Christ. It is my belief that none of these men would even be considered for a pastoral position or leadership in today’s churches because of their personalities and backgrounds, and none were of the same mold.
One of the disputable and troublesome issues that the apostles had to tackle, for instance, was whether the gospel should remain primarily for Jews, or to present it to the hated Gentiles. Peter’s encounter with Cornelius and his household in Acts 10-11, and the report he gave to the brethren in Jerusalem opened their eyes to the fact that the Lord Jesus’ mission of salvation extended beyond cultural prejudices and attitudes, thus paving the way for Paul’s missionary work and the fruit that was produced throughout the Roman world, which spread initially around the world. The LORD opened the eyes of His apostles to the world’s harvest field.
Let me address now some points of discontent I have found in some Christian ideas and thoughts that in the end, don’t matter.
The types of baptism are a sore spot for some. Churches can practice immerse, some sprinkle, some pour. The hang-up for a lot of sincere believers is whether this act is required as a part of salvation. A lot of sermons and angry words have passed between church leaders regarding this act. A verse of Scripture (Mark 16:16) tends to promote what is known as “baptismal regeneration” and is known to be a doctrine affirmed by Catholics, Lutherans, and the Church of Christ to my knowledge. This doctrine states that baptism is a part of the salvation process. This position really cannot be sustained or supported in the light of examining other Scriptures.
We only need to read about the mercy shown to the penitent thief (Luke 23:39-43) to plainly see that his trust in Christ to save (remember) him ushered him into Paradise. I see no incident of him being baptized at that time. Look at Galatians 1:8-9. Paul makes it crystal clear that it is faith in Christ alone for salvation with nothing else added or demanded to verify one’s stature before the LORD. You don’t need to be baptized in order to be saved, period. Baptism is an act of obedience to Christ, symbolizing the death of the old life and raised to newness in Him. Many churches immerse, and some sprinkle. Obedience is the point, not the method. I recommend that you watch the online friendly debate between John MacArthur and the late R.C. Sproul on the issue of baptism and be enriched by their devotion to the things of the LORD, not methodology.
Here’s another issue that I believe won’t matter soon, and that’s the ongoing argument on different versions of the Bible. Now, I’ve probably raised the ire of a lot of you by mentioning this, because you are certain that one particular, popular, and revered version is the ONLY version to use, and that all other versions are somehow “corrupt” and causing people to fall away from the faith, or that it “God-anointed” and superior to all other versions presented in the history of Christianity, even the original languages. Others of you see no problem with more modern English versions that are clearer in writing and easier to understand.
I can perfectly understand the respect you might have, for example, the King James Bible. I grew up with it and it is without doubt a magnificent work of English prose and majesty. It was the version used by ministers and missionaries over the past few centuries, and many churches use it as the standard text for unity in reading and study. Sometimes the wording is especially profound for sacred occasions as well as the emphasis on God’s Holy nature. A lot of loving, devout believers around the world figure why give up a good thing? It’s done well for hundreds of years, and if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The KJV is their preference. I can support that view and conviction any day.
The problem appears to be not preferences, but the fanatical attitude and often bizarre convictions held by some believers concerning the structure and specific wording of the KJV that puts this hallowed version in a position of being an object of worship and cult-like devotion to the point of damning anyone who doesn’t agree with their perspective. It’s either the KJV or you’re a tool of the devil, deceived by occultic translators and heading for hell. There are preachers, teachers, and laity in the evangelical world that have produced books, DVD’s, CD’s, and attend churches where the KJV is held up to the point of being essential to true salvation. I am afraid that these folks are causing unnecessary conflict within the body of Christ by their angry sermons, one-sided lectures, and probable reluctance to examine interesting and current objective Biblical research. This is especially profound in light of the huge number of Greek manuscripts and writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls that have been discovered and reverently translated since the compilation of the KJV, which did not have as many sources from which to work with as we do now.
I am NOT dismissing or criticizing the outstanding work the KJV scholars and translators did in their day with the material they had, but I believe that our Sovereign LORD has allowed these discoveries of manuscripts as a blessing to be used in verifying the accuracy of past translations and strengthen the claim of biblical inerrancy and sufficiency. I have used both the KJV and the New King James Version in my research and preaching, and I have found little difference in structure and content save for updating some words into modern English. I believe in the advice given by Paul to Timothy to “study to show yourself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15). I love the LORD and I want to know as much as I can about His Word. The original manuscripts are the inerrant, all powerful, all sufficient words that the Holy Spirit gave to the writers, and the copies produced by later Christians were careful to affirm all of the essential doctrines and truths of the faith, even with some honest mistakes, such as a misspelled word or incorrect use of grammar. God has NOT allowed His words to be corrupted or changed by any intent of deceitful men or entities through the centuries, which was and is the PRIME reason to be a careful, thoughtful, and reverent student of the Scriptures, both then and now, as were the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11)
I will agree with objective KJV scholars and those who have worked on other translations, such as the New King James, New American Standard, and English Standard Version on an issue of concern. They correctly point out that there are FAR too many English versions that tend to appeal to slick marketing and the constant “dumbing down” of doctrinal truths to accommodate more “relevant” and “trendy” markets. I personally have no use for the NIV, RSV, NRSV, New Century, NIRV, NLT, or versions put out by obvious cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, which denies the divine nature of Jesus Christ, among other concerns. Some resources that I believe will be of value to you to come to your own conclusions are Dr. James White’s book The King James Only Controversy and online documentaries about the KJV that are well made. Please look at online presentations of KJV Only supporters and hear their views. I just want to hear peaceful words about this issue and then to put it before the feet of Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of our Faith.
The last topic I’d like to present here concerns the numerous debates and disagreements over the age of the Earth and universe. This, too will not matter when we inevitably witness the creation of the new heaven and the new earth as Jesus promised in the book of Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22. As I see events unfolding leading to the end of the age of grace and the promised meeting with Christ “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Acts 1: 9-11; Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and the coming judgment on this world and its people for their wickedness, I’d rather focus my attention as a believer on witnessing, prayer, and warning people of what is to come than to cause animosity between brethren over dates and times. I’ve watched TV shows by adherents of both “old-Earth” and “young Earth” creationists, with each giving their respective data and analysis to support their views, and I will say that each view has its merits and strengths. Something worth considering is that the earth is old in both schools of thought. Face it. 6,000 -10,000 years is not exactly adolescence.
Even the oldest structures on Earth, the pyramids of Egypt, have grown more brittle and fragile, and they were old when Abraham visited Egypt (Genesis 14). The same thing goes with our world now, despite our opinions. On the other side, if the earth and universe are billions of years old, then I would venture to say that a lot of what we now observe should have wound down and ceased to exist according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Either way you lean, everything is going to go out of existence and run out of energy if we are merely a product of natural development and not the design of Almighty God, who holds the operation of the universe together.
Both sides really need to cease and desist the arguing and often condescending attitudes taken towards the other and look at the common bonds, such as the fact that both sides affirm the truth of Genesis 1:1. Both sides also confess and affirm that the Lord God is the Creator of all things, that there is a fine tuning and preciseness of order and structure in the creation, both sides reject the position of evolutionary natural selection and randomness, both affirm the existence of creatures that became extinct due to a universal deluge and its aftermath, and most important, that salvation is only through Jesus Christ and none other.
Our Sovereign God operates outside of time, space, and matter. Age and time mean nothing when we die and enter heaven, so why get in a knot about it here? I like what the noted Christian apologist Dr. Frank Turek concluded with in one of his lectures before a college audience. He said that when we go before the Lord to give an account of our lives, he didn’t believe that He’ll ask anyone about their beliefs about the age or date of the creation, but whether or not they had embraced the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Unless you are absolutely certain that you have peace with God through Jesus, what you argue and fuss about in terms of your “pet doctrine”, or “conviction” will not matter if you find yourself in hell, forever separated from God’s mercy, love, compassion, grace, forgiveness, and care. Jesus is what matters, and I do hope we can be in unison on that truth. Well, for now, I’m done. It’s time to go kick back, crank up the speakers, thank the LORD for His grace and mercy, and then jam to some Elvis. Don’t judge me.
Don was born and raised in the true Cajun Country of Louisiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in History from Louisiana College, a Masters Degree in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia. Don has served as a pastor, interim pastor, high school teacher, and hospital chaplain over the past thirty years. He currently serves as a volunteer chaplain (2008-present) with St. Francis Hospital and also served as the pastor/teacher from 2013-2016 at the Gospel Rescue Mission, both of which are here in Muskogee. He was called to Meadowbrook in February 0f 2017 and began his ministry in March of that year. He has also served as President of the Muskogee Baptist Association’s Pastors Conference, which is a weekly meeting that presents speakers and ministry ideas and concepts to church leaders in the greater Muskogee area.
Don’s top priority is to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is shared with our lost and hurting world and that the people of God are taught sound doctrine and preparation for our Lord’s soon return.