God’s Word for You
Acts 3:21 Heaven must receive him
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 17, 2019
21 Heaven must receive him until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from long ago.
The opening phrase of this verse is sometimes misunderstood. There was a particularly troubling translation of this verse in the NIV, which said, “He must remain in heaven.” The above translation agrees with the Greek text, the NASB, KJV, EHV, and many other reliable translations. Literally (but not elegantly), it is, “It is necessary for heaven to receive him,” with “him” brought forward to the beginning of the sentence for emphasis.
Jesus is not contained in heaven as if he is a prisoner there. “Who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him” (2 Chronicles 2:6). So what does Peter mean? Is it not this, that his physical place is no longer here with us, but in heaven? Of course, while he was here on earth, he was also, according to his divine nature, with his Father in heaven. So also he is with us according to that same divine nature, according to his attribute we call his omnipresence: “The glory of the LORD,” God said, “fills the whole earth” (Numbers 14:21).
Jesus was welcomed into heaven by God the Father at his ascension. David said: “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet,’” (Psalm 110:1), and again, “He has put everything under his feet” (Psalm 8:6). This includes every enemy of the Gospel, beginning with the devil (1 Peter 5:8) and the fallen world (Isaiah 13:11), continuing with our own corrupt human flesh (Ephesians 2:3), but also including the last enemy, death (1 Corinthians 15:26). All of these things will be judged and thrown down in the final judgment, and Christ reigns until that time. He uses his power for the benefit of the church. He sends his holy angels to guard us and to watch over us (Hebrews 1:14), and to fight battles with our unseen enemies (Revelation 12:7). When the day finally comes for us to be called home to heaven, he will hold out his hands to gather up our souls, and there with him we will await the resurrection of our flesh—flesh that will no longer be subject to temptation, sin, or decay, but which will once again receive our souls when we rise. Then we will dwell in heaven even as the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We will be holy in Christ and we will worship the Father forever, pure as newfallen snow, and as permanent as the sky above, only more so.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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