by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Study # 6 October 1, 1997 Harlingen, Texas
Thesis:Adopting the proper perspective toward difficulties requires that we understand that there are some real and final gains and losses that derive from our decisions.
Introduction:The doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, has always carried with it a certain dangerous false tendency: the tendency to think that a single decision at a single point in time in this life opens all of the glory of heaven up to the justified one. But this is a deceitful lie. It is a lie that James understood clearly and one which he was adamant about unveiling. This evening we want to look into James' perspective on heaven.
I. First Question: Was Heaven What Was On James' Mind?
A. Our definition of 'heaven', for this study, is simply our post resurrection experience of the glory of God in all of its infinitude.
B. Indications of James' real interest...
1. His use of 'all joy' indicates a future with no negative irruptions.
2. His focus upon a future day of 'lacking nothing' indicates a future beyond this life.
3. His focus upon the transitory reality of our experience in this world makes too great a focus on this world foolish (1:10-11 and 4:14)
4. His central promise in chapter 1 of the coming of the crown of life indicates a time beyond this world.
5. His warning of the deceptiveness about sin leading to death makes very limited sense if physical death is his meaning.
a. Everyone is destined for physical death whether we sin or not.
b. The problem with physical death is not physical death: it is what comes afterwards.
c. Thus, James' real interest was not the believers' physical longevity, but the believers' final condition.
6. His focus on inheritance in the Kingdom to come (2:5) means he is more interested in Heaven than he is in our present experience.
7. His demand that we live in light of the coming judgment (2:12-13; 3:1; 4:12; 5:1-3; 5:7-9) points to his greater interest in our future than in our present.
II. Second Question: What Was James Worried About?
A. First, Middle, and Last, he was concerned that believers would yield to temptation and, by so doing, lose big time in Heaven to come.
1. There is no point to the level of his concern in chapters 1 and 5 if his only interest was in the losses we sustain in this transitory vapour of smoke called life on this earth.
2. There is no point to the exhortation to resist temptation with a proper perspective if there is no such thing as a real loss for the justified believer.
B. Clearly James saw the 'crown of life' as something more than what justification offers.
III. Third Question: What IS the issue of the judgment of believers prior to their release into the pursuits of the glory of God?
A. If nothing is immutably settled by judgment, judgment means nothing.
B. What is at stake is what is FIXED immutable by the judgment of the believer.
C. James reveals his understanding of what is fixed by his exhortation in 1:2: JOY is the fixed commodity in heaven; i.e., how much can you experience?