This past weekend I had the privilege to close out the Publicans’ Conference reflecting on the future hope we have in our God who promised everlasting life to his children. We saw that this future life is a great and glorious gift of God, one not to be despised but enjoyed as we enjoy the giver of such a gift.
However, it leads to the question of ‘How this future glory and paradise affects my present reality?’
To be honest it changes everything about our present reality as we view it rightly through the lenses of the God’s Kingdom. Two of the main areas we can see being changed by our future perspective are how we deal with suffering and our understanding of our lives now as sojourners.
It changes our suffering into joy
Firstly, Paul makes the argument in Romans 8:18-25 that the present trials are not worthy to even be compared with the glory that will be revealed. While this does not lessen the actual sorrow and pain we experience in the trials we undergo in this life, it does allow us to see them in a larger perspective, one that goes beyond today and on into eternity. A millennium from now our pain and struggles will be nothing compared to our enjoyment of the Lord in the New Jerusalem. This should help us to see our current situation as just that current and temporary, an opportunity to see and understanding God’s work in a new way.
This understanding of events should help us to develop a joy in the Lord in the midst of hardship. Now when we speak of joy we are not speaking of some sort of masochistic pleasure from the pain of life, but rather a dependent hope in the work of Christ. It is a different kind of joy, greater and longer lasting than any momentary emotion; it is built on the reality of Christ’s work on the cross. Our joy is grounded in the suffering of Christ. When we view our present situation through the lenses of Christs sacrifice and the promise of the kingdom to come, we can’t help but be reminded of the joy set before us. He endured the cross for the joy set before him, so too we endure the trial and burdens in this life for the joy set before us in Him. Let us find hope in Christ and joy in light of the world to come, but that is not the only change that comes.
It changes our outlook on our citizenship
Secondly, John when outlining the future city of Jerusalem in Rev. 21 specifically points to the inhabitants of this new city as not being defined by their physical birth or national identities but on their names being written in the book of life. For those who are in Christ our birth certificate is no longer a piece of paper held by the government of this world but rather a line in the book of Life. Once our names are written in this book it comes with all the rights and privileges spelled out in being a member of the Kingdom of God. We become members of a new race one set apart for God, not only in this life but the next. Just think about it, we cease in a very real way to be a part of this world and join the next. We now have more in common with those whose names are written in the book from Africa and Asia than our non-believing neighbor across the street, because our true lasting citizenship is in the Eternal Jerusalem awaiting the children of God.
So what does this new citizenship mean for us?
It means that we now live as sojourners in a land that is not our own. We have become stranger in a lost and dying land. It means we have been given a mission to spread the truth of Christ and the Kingdom to come with those who live in this land. Jesus commanded his disciples to go make disciples, to teach them the truth of the Kingdom of God. They became ambassadors in land that was not their own to teach the people about the reality of the Kingdom to come.
We must not become isolationists with our faith, our citizenship in heaven would not allow it, and rather we will go and call others to join us in this new and lasting city. We will call others to see the greatness of our true King who reigns and saves.