Dr. Rene Allendy was a selfless, fine doctor who kept a brutally honest diary to the last day of his long agony of dying (Journal d’un medecin malade, “Diary of a sick physician”). In the face of death, despite a humanly ‘good’ life lived, he finally possessed nothing but a hopeless cynicism. I ask you, every reader: In the face of death, what do you have? The true Christian should be able to answer so, so positively.
The pleasure or will of our loving Father is that we should share His Kingdom (Lk. 12:32), and that pleasure / will prospered through the cross of Jesus (Is. 53:10). God isn’t indifferent. He wants us to be there. That’s why He gave His Son to die. It’s as simple as that. The deepest longings we feel in our earthly lives, as parents, as lovers, are mere flickers of the hungering desire God feels for us. It is a desire that cost Him His very own crucified son. The Lord Himself knew our basic tendency to disbelieve the certainty of our salvation when He comforted us: “Fear not little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom”. God’s promises are sure; so sure that they are as good as if they have been fulfilled. Hence the New Testament speaks of our having eternal life right now, even though that promise has not yet been fulfilled. Acts 7:17 speaks of “the time of the promise” drawing near- putting ‘the promise’ for ‘the fulillment of the promise’, so sure are God’s promises of fulfillment. “God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that…we may have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:17-19). If the hope is an anchor to the soul, the foundation to our innermost thought processes, it must be something more than a mere possibility. “Boldness and glorying in the hope” are the family characteristics of the house / family of Jesus (Heb. 3:6 RV). It is the sureness of the hope that brings us close to God; without such certainty, how can we have the relationship with the Father which He so earnestly intends for us (Heb. 7:19)?
When the Lord taught that “the life is more than the food” which we worry about today (Lk. 12:23 RV), and “the body [which we shall receive] is more than the raiment”, He surely means that our hope of eternal life, the life, the only real and ultimate life worth having, should eclipse our worries about today’s problems of survival. Not worrying about food, drink and clothing, which God will provide, is likely an allusion to His provision for Israel during their wilderness journey to the promised land. And in this context the Lord encourage us: “Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you…fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Lk. 12:31,32). If it is God’s pleasure to give us the Kingdom, then surely He will give us all basic necessities until that time comes. Our certainty of being there thus greatly relieves us from earthly cares, compared to the person who has no such hope.
The belief that we will be there is the only real anchor in life’s uncertain storm. “When the kindness of God our saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us…that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life…and concerning these things I will that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they which have believed God may be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:4-8). The confident, regular reassurance of other believers was to be part of the ecclesial diet with which the Cretan brethren and sisters were constantly fed. And this assurance was to be the foundation of ecclesial growth as members individually developed the mind of Christ.
In the end, God gives us our dominant desire. Israel in the wilderness “despised the land of desire, they believed not his word” of promise, that they would enter it (Ps. 106:24 AVmg.). They didn’t really desire the land, so they didn’t receive it. Israel both despised the land, and they despised their God (Num. 14:11,23,31 RV). Our attitude as to whether or not we want to be in the Kingdom is essentially our attitude to God. This has far reaching implications. Ps. 107:30 likewise speaks of how the faithful are brought to the haven of their desire (RVmg.). All those who truly love the Lord’s appearing- with all that implies in practical life and belief- will be accepted (2 Tim. 4:8). And yet Israel didn’t have the dominant desire to be in the Kingdom, as Joshua and Caleb had. Why didn’t they? It is vital that we understand the reasons for their failure – such an understanding will be a safeguard to help prevent us from making the same mistake (Rom.15:4).
They initially wanted to return to Egypt, and yet it is also true that they sought for a city to live in whilst in the wilderness (Ps. 107:4). They wanted to just stay there in the wilderness. They didn’t want to return to Egypt, they didn’t really desire the unknown promised land…so, they wanted to just settle there in the wilderness. And so it can be with us. We can be happy with the way to the Kingdom, it can be that the social aspect of the Christian life suites us…we are content with it, and yet it can be that for all that, we lack a real sense of direction towards the Kingdom. We are going some place. The Christian life is but a path leading towards an end, and the end destination is the Kingdom. If we believe surely that we will be there, we will live lives which reflect this sense of concrete direction and aim.
But all this raises the question: Why do I want to be in the Kingdom? What makes this the dominant desire which we will surely receive? David asked to be given “thy salvation…that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation” (Ps. 106:4,5). Paul likewise says that to see the Thessalonians in the Kingdom would be his glory and joy in that day. Both those men had a perspective far bigger than merely themselves. If our sole desire to ‘be there’ is so that I will live for ever, I will have a nice level of existence…this, it seems to me, is not only essentially selfish, but our basic dysfunction and tendency to self-abuse and devaluing of ourselves just will not allow us to have the receipt of personal eternity as our dominant desire. We’ll be interested in it, but it won’t consistently be the thing we desire above all else. But if we see the wider picture, then we will pray for the Kingdom to come so that the things of God’s Name may be glorified; because we want to see our dear brethren there in the Kingdom; because we will want to share our Lord’s joy and their joy. These things are more than the primitive desire for self-preservation which we all have, and which we can articulate in terms of wanting to personally be in the Kingdom. Thus if our motives are right for wanting to be in the Kingdom, then this will become our dominant desire; and we will be granted the desires of our heart. Really we will be. God’s word promises this.
The grace of God guarantees our salvation. Yet we find it so hard to believe- that I, with all my doubts and fears, will really be there. Israel were warned that they were being given the land (cp. salvation) " not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart...for thou art a stiffnecked people" (Dt. 9:5,6). These words are picked up in Tit. 3:5 and applied to the new Israel: " Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing (baptism) of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" - by His grace alone.
Our difficulty in believing ‘we will be there’ is perhaps related to our difficulty in believing that in prospect, we ‘are there’ right now, through being “in Christ”. This most basic truth, that we are “in Christ” through baptism, carries with it very challenging implications. We are well familiar with Paul’s reasoning in Romans 6, that through being immersed in water at baptism, we share in the Lord’s death and resurrection. As He rose from the dead, so we rise from the waters of baptism. But what happened to Him next? He ascended to Heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God in glory. And each of those stages is true of us right now. Let Paul explain in Eph. 2:6: “He hath raised us up together [Strong: ‘to rouse [from death] in company with’], and made us sit together [i.e. Christ and us] in heavenly places in Christ”. We are now in ‘the heavenlies’; and not only so, but we sit together there with Christ. And He now sits upon His throne of glory. Even now we in a sense sit with Him in His Heavenly throne, even though in another sense this is a future thing we await (Lk. 22:30; Rev. 3:21). No wonder Paul goes on to make a profound comment: “That in the ages to come [the aions of future eternity], He might show [Gk.- to indicate by words or act] the exceeding riches of his grace [which was shown through] his kindness toward us through Christ”. Throughout the ages of eternity, God will demonstrate to others [the mortal population of the Millennium, and perhaps other future creations] how pure and wonderful His grace was to us in the few brief years of this life- in that, He will demonstrate, He counted us right now in our mortality as having resurrected, ascended to Heaven, and reigning / sitting with Christ in glory. The wonder of what we are experiencing now, the height of our present position, is something that will be marvelled at throughout eternity as an expression of God’s grace and kindness. And we will be the living witnesses to it. And we can start that witness right now.
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