April 3, 2020

2 Timothy 4:6-8

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Christians long to be in Heaven. At least that is the way it is supposed to be. Certainly the Apostle Paul longed to be in that place where there is no more sin and death. He hungered to be with Christ which is “far better” than even our best moments in this life (Philippians 1:23). This desire to be with Christ in the age to come is not escapism or cowardice. It is a function of being aware that we were not made for a fallen and sinful world. We were not designed to thrive in a place marked by rebellion against God. This is why Paul could say, “For me to live in Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Jesus warned us that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). Indeed, this life is a veil of tears. The joys are routinely punctuated by sorrows. But this reality whets our appetite all the more for our Lord’s appearing. We bear the momentary troubles of this life because to do so is the will of our Father in Heaven. We bear afflictions faithfully because at this very moment there is being stored up for us “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). What great rejoicing there will be when we see our Lord for the first time! What unmatched gladness we will know when at last he wipes away all our tears. In that moment we will know that it was true all along that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed at the coming of Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18).

Maurice Roberts observes:

“Faith in Jesus as Savior involves the willingness to suffer in this life. We gratefully endure all the miseries of the life of faith during this present age out of a desire to have Christ forever when our present trials will be over. It is often said, ‘No cross, no crown.’ We cannot expect to have Heaven without first going through ‘the suffering of this present time’ (Romans 8:18). Or, as Acts 14:22 says, ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’

“An old Puritan said this present life is the only hell that a believer will have to experience. That view of life may be foreign to Christians today. Many would rather think of having Heaven some day as well as Heaven upon earth along the way. That may be true, in a sense. But it is unbliblical if the phrase suggests that Christians will only have good times in this life…

“The saints of Scripture and history chose to suffer here with Christ so they might reign with him hereafter. They were prepared to go through life with suffering, pain, loss, and even death as their constant companions. They were willing to suffer because they loved Christ more than comfort.”[1]

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all!

[1] Maurice Roberts, The Happiness of Heaven (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009) p. 84