Looking Forward to Our Heavenly Home – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 NIV

I enjoy camping and living out of a backpack and hammock. But it is not something I want to do permanently. I like running water, electricity and heat too much. The first part of this chapter makes this same comparison between two dwelling places. The first is the earthly tent that I currently live in. The second is an eternal house in heaven, built by God, and prepared for me. The tent may be comfortable and well known, but as long as I live in it, I am away from the much finer dwelling. But when this tent I live in is destroyed, then I will be able to move into the eternal house.

Which is better? Living in the tent with a picture of my wife? Or living in the house with my wife? This is similar to what Paul is saying here. As long as I am camping out, making my home in the tent, I am away from the Lord. But when I move from the tent into the permanent house, I will be at home with him. Which is better? Paul’s preference is to be living in the house with the Lord. Now he lives by faith, looking at the picture of his Lord. Then he will live by sight, in the very presence of God.

I have know some folks who eagerly looked forward to leaving the tent days behind and moving into the house. But most of us seem determined to live in the tent for as long as we possibly can. Lord, help me to faithfully serve you while here, but at the same time to eagerly look forward to what you have prepared for me.

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Light and Momentary Troubles – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

This is such an encouraging passage. Paul faced challenges and troubles in his life that are unimaginable to me (2 Cor. 11:22-29). Yet he calls them light and momentary. Why is he able to do that? Because he can see beyond life here. He has caught a glimpse of glory (2 Cor. 12:1-4), and knows that there is no real comparison between what happens here and what is to come. While I have not had a look at heaven, I am thankful for the encouragement Paul gives here. When I am discouraged, or feeling overwhelmed, I can look to the future and hold on to the hope I have in Christ. To a future that this life cannot compare with.

This is also a challenging passage, because it calls on me to fix my eyes, not on the here and now, but on eternity. That is hard for me to do. This life seems so real. And while I have my hope placed in the eternal, it is not something I can grab hold of and see. What I can see and hold onto is only temporary; it will not last. But the unseen is eternal. The challenge to me here is, even while living in this world, to have my eyes and heart fixed on the eternal. To hold lightly to my earthly possessions and activities. And to hold firmly to that which will last; my eternal inheritance as a child of God. In everything I do, and in my light and momentary troubles, I should fix my eyes on the eternal.

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The Last Trumpet – Rev 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15 ESV

The past few chapters of Revelation, as well as many of those yet to come, are filled with images of judgement and/or the activity of the evil one. But the five verses starting with this one are a bright ray of hope; at least for God’s people. The seventh trumpet blast announces a divine takeover of the earth and the beginning of Christ’s reign, not for 1000 years, but for eternity.

It is interesting that in three other places in the New Testament we see trumpets sounding at the end. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the trumpet call of God accompanies Christ’s return to gather his elect. In Matthew 24:31 a trumpet call also accompanies the gathering of the elect. And in 1 Corinthians 15:52, the last trumpet sounds to announce the resurrection of believers. Is the trumpet in this passage the same as the other three? Many will say no because the timing is contrary to their view of end times. But they sure seem to be the same to me. All four trumpet passages announce a transformation, the transformation from this life into eternity. The transformation of believers from mortal flesh to immortality, and the transformation of this earth from the old to the new (Rev 21:1-2).

And this is the hope that we have in Christ; a hope that we should be eagerly looking forward to; and a hope that can sustain us in the challenges and difficulties inherent in this life. Hold onto that hope. Never let it go.

The Only Way – John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 NIV

Jesus is preparing a place for us in the Father’s house and has promised to return for those who are his. After telling his disciples that they know the way to the Father’s house, Thomas responds with “we don’t even know where you’re going, much less how to get there.” Jesus answers with directions; he is the way to the Father’s house. There is no other way; if you miss a turn your GPS will not recalculate to find you another way. Apart from faith in and commitment to Jesus you will not reach the Father’s house.

That Jesus is the only way is not popular in our culture and is considered to be too exclusivist. There are many ‘other ways’ advertised all around us: other religions or philosophies; being good enough; or even denying that the Father’s house even exists. But Jesus doesn’t say here that he is ‘a way’, but that he is ‘the only way’. All of the other ways will end in disaster for the one who travels them. Follow Jesus along the narrow path that leads to life; all other roads lead to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

The Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25-26

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26 ESV

Jesus makes a pretty remarkable claim here. He is the resurrection and the life. He tells Martha that the one who believes in him will live. Even if they die, they will live. This life that Jesus promises to those who believe is not affected by physical death; it goes on beyond death. He continues on and promises that those who experience the life that comes from believing will never die; that this new life is eternal and is not impacted by our physical death. I wonder; if I had been in Martha’s shoes when Jesus first said this, and then asked me if I believed him, would I have answered yes? Remember, she was on the other side of Jesus own resurrection, as well as the raising of her brother.

I am so thankful that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. That in him I have eternal life; life that will endure beyond the few short years I have left on earth. An eternity to spend united with God, experiencing his glory and love (John 17:20-26). Can anything be better than that? Lord, I believe! Do you?

Why An Imperfect Creation?

I am generally happy with my life and the world I live in.  While I could easily find ways to improve it, it is OK the way it is.  But I know that is not true of everyone, or even the majority of folks.  For many, life is hard and they just barely manage to survive; many failing to do even that.  We live in an imperfect world: natural disaster, disease and human choices, both our own and others, cause untold suffering; not just to people, but to every creature that inhabits this planet.  While, as a race, we might dream of a more perfect place, and take steps to move in that direction, the reality is that we seem to be sliding further and further away from the perfection we all long for.

But why does it fall short of perfection?  Obviously we humans are the cause of much of the imperfection.  But we are not really responsible for earthquakes and hurricanes; those things are a natural part of how the planet works.

I believe that God is the creator, of this world as well as the whole universe.  But if he created it, should it not be perfect?  Is he not smart enough and powerful enough to be able to figure out, and produce, a better way?  Would it really be so challenging to produce a world without mosquitoes?

There are those who will argue that God did indeed create a perfect place for us, and that Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden is the reason that it is no longer perfect.  But even if the story of the fall in the garden is taken literally, it seems a reach to claim it caused the earth’s crust to fracture into plates and then begin to move; high and low pressure patterns to develop in the atmosphere;  dogs and cats to become meat eaters; or microbes to start preying on humans.

But what if God created a world that was good, but not perfect?  That would certainly be within the capabilities of an omnipotent, omniscient creator.  But why would he intentionally create something that was less than his best; unless it better suited his purpose?  But what purpose could there be in creating an imperfect world, unless maybe it was to create in me a longing for something that was better than what I have here.

If this life were perfect, then I would be perfectly content to live out my days here without giving a thought for anything else.  But if this life is not perfect, if I can imagine a world that is better, then I will long for that.  It may drive me toward making improvements in the world around me; seeking perfection here.  But history has shown that we will likely never reach perfection here; and the trend seems to be in the opposite direction.  So I am left with a longing that cannot find fulfilment in this life.

But the creator does hold out for me the promise of something that is much better than what I have here, something that is beyond my wildest imagination. But that promise comes with a catch.  I must be willing to let go of what this life has to offer, instead choosing to follow Jesus as his disciple.  If I will be his in this life, then I will be his through eternity, sharing in his glory in that perfect place that he has prepared for his own.  The choice is yours: striving for happiness in an imperfect world; or surrendering to Jesus lordship now, in expectation of the glory that will be revealed in the life to come.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. – Matthew 16:24-27 NIV

Hope

Hope is a word that is used frequently in the New Testament, with at least a couple of different uses.  Sometimes it is used in the sense of something that we want to happen but have no assurance of, which is how we commonly use this word today.  But other times it seems to have a much different meaning, a confident expectation of something that lies in the future.  And in that sense, hope is a key concept in the New Testament, yet one that most believers I have encountered seem to struggle with.

Implicit in hope is that we are dealing with something that has not yet happened, or at least that it is something that we do not currently recognize as having happened; it is something that I am looking forward to.  Paul expresses this idea in Romans 8:25 when he talks about waiting patiently for what we are hoping for, what we do not yet have.

In Ephesians 1:18 and 4:4, Paul talks about the hope that we are called to.  As believers, we are not called to hope, but to a hope.  Hope can be a kind of vague thought about what the future may hold.  But we are called to something much more specific that than.  And knowing what that hope is, will help us to keep our focus during this phase of our life.

What is our hope?
So what is this hope we are called to?  When I ask this question of other believers it often amazes me the silence I get in response.  Most will eventually get a response out, but it is apparent that it is not something that they are eagerly anticipating.  It seems rather to be something that is so far removed from their daily lives that it has little impact. But it is clear from reading the New Testament, especially Paul, that this hope was a major motivating factor for his life.

It is not uncommon to hear believers talk about salvation as an event in their past, the specific time when they surrendered their lives to the lordship of Jesus.  But it means so much more than that.  The New Testament talks about salvation in a present tense, work out your salvation, as well as in a future sense, now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul tells us to put on the hope of salvation as a helmet.  We will be delivered, or saved, out of this corrupt and failing body and world, and we should hold onto that expectation as a helmet, protecting us from the struggles and trials of this life as well as the pleasures and distractions of life here.

In Acts 23:6 & 24:15 Paul expresses his hope as concerning the resurrection of the dead, that his life here is not the end of the read, but only a step along the journey.  He also expressed this thought in 1 Corinthians 15:19, that this life is not all there is; if it was, we are to be pitied.  While resurrection is not all of the hope I have, it is a critical part of it.  Without resurrection, when I die in this life, it is over; there is nothing to look forward to.

In Titus 1:2 & 3:7 Paul expresses our hope as concerning eternal life.  Resurrection does not just lead to another temporary step, or series of steps, that eventually come to an end.  Instead we look forward to an eternity in fellowship with God.  Often we think of eternal life as simply living forever; but Jesus defines it in John 17:3 as knowing the Father and Jesus Christ.  Eternal life is not simply living forever; it is living in relationship with our creator and God.

And finally, in Romans 5:2 & Colossians 1:27 we see the expression hope of glory.  I am looking forward to experiencing the glory of God, and not merely as a spectator.  My experience with the glory of God will be very personal and first hand as a child of God and in intimate communion with him.

The hope of salvation, the hope of resurrection, the hope of eternal life, and the hope of glory; all of these are really aspects of the same hope.  Death in this life is really the entrance into the life that God is even now preparing me for.  I do not know nearly as much about that life to come as I would like to.  But I look forward to it with confident expectation.  And that expectation should have a dramatic impact on life today.  The more I look forward to that day, the more it will effect today.

What difference does it make?
If I have no hope for the future then I might as well enjoy this life to the fullest (1 Corinthians 15:3).  But as believers we do have that hope, and it should impact today.  If it makes no difference to the way I live today, is it really hope?

Colossians 1:3-6 describes two impacts that our hope for the future has on our today.  The first is that it enables me to have faith in Christ.  Sometimes there is some overlap in faith and hope, but here I believe Paul is saying that because of the hope we have, we are able to walk by faith today.  I can trust him now because I know he has my future.

The second impact mentioned in this passage is that I am enabled to love my fellow believers because of my hope.  Because we share a common hope we are drawn together.  And because we will spend eternity together, it behooves us to learn, not just get along, but to be one in heart and mind.

The author of Hebrews (6:19) describes this hope as an anchor for the soul; an anchor that is in the most holy place where God dwells.  No matter what storms of life may blow, that anchor will not drag and will keep us secure.  There are many things in this world that we might be tempted to put our hope in, but all of them could let you down and cause a shipwreck in your life.  But if our hope is in God and what he is preparing us for, then we are secure.  Even if we lose everything in this life, it is nothing compared to what is to come.

In Peter’s first letter (1:13) he tells us to set our hope fully on the grace to be given us, and to do it with minds that are fully alert and sober.  The hope I have should not be something I keep on a back shelf and just pull out when I need a little boost.  Rather, it should always be at the front of my thoughts.  If that hope is ever before me, the tendency I have to get caught up in the things of this world would be tempered by the recognition that they are only temporary, and at most a faint imitation of what is to come; nothing to hold to or trust in.

One of the challenging things in life is dealing with the death of someone close to you, and for me that has been my parents.  But because of the hope that we all shared, even though I miss them, I was able to rejoice that they are, as my dad frequently said, “Safe in the arms of Jesus.”   1 Thessalonians 4:13 tells us not to grieve over those believers who pass before we do, knowing that death in not the end, but rather a transition into something even better.

My hope should not not keep me from living in this world and making a difference.  But it should help me to keep from getting to attached to the temporary things of this life, and to put my trust in what God is preparing me for.  All the little things, and sometimes bigger things, that trouble me during the course of a day will not have nearly as much impact on my life and attitude if my hope is set where it needs to be.  All that goes on in this life is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

All passages below are from the NIV

John 17:3
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Acts 23:6
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”

Acts 24:15
and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Romans 5:2
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 8:18
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:25
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 13:11
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

1 Corinthians 15:19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:32
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Galatians 5:5
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

Ephesians 1:18
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Ephesians 4:4
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Colossians 1:3-6
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.

Colossians 1:23
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Thessalonians 4:13
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 5:8
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

Titus 1:2
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,

Titus 2:13
while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Titus 3:7
so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

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