12 minutes to read
Our country is going through a very difficult time during this second wave of COVID-19. People are getting infected in lakhs and dying in thousands. No one is being spared. Also during this wave, many Christians have been affected. God has providentially healed many of those who were affected. But at the same time, many church leaders, pastors, missionaries, Christian workers and church members have slept in the Lord. Many are grieving and in pain because of the loss. Some are hard to console: children losing a parent and sometimes both, a husband or wife losing their spouse. All of us ask the question: why? We can answer the why question medically. But, the question that still persists is: why did God allow it?
In the midst of the loss, we are called to comfort the grieving and weep with those who weep. So often we comfort one another by saying that the person is with the Lord and we will see him or her when the Lord returns. Although this is certainly true, is that all that we hope for? Or do we have any hope beyond this? What does Scripture teach about our hope? I would like to remind us of three aspects of the great hope the Bible teaches: the person of our hope, the place of our hope, and the hope we have for ourselves.
1. The Person Of Our Hope
The most important aspect of our hope is not where we will be, but who we will be with. Although we may look forward to seeing saints who have gone on before us, our hope is ultimately found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. We Will Worship God Who Sits On The Throne And The Lamb Who Was Slain In Person
In Revelation 7: 9-10, the Apostle John describes the vision he saw. He writes, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” We along with all who have slept in the Lord will be worshipping the one who is the source of our salvation in person. We who deserved to be condemned to hell will be worshipping the Lamb who was slaughtered on our behalf. This experience is beyond what words can describe. There is a very great number beyond counting and I wonder how I will be able to trace my loved ones, my church members, my friends who have slept in the Lord? This experience of worshipping God and the Lamb will dim all other experiences.
b. We Will See Jesus Face To Face
The Apostle John in 1 John 3: 2 writes, “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This is something unimaginable. We will get to see the one who has redeemed us by giving his life for us, the one who has created all things, and the list goes on and on. I am not sure what we will do when we see him. Perhaps we would like to continue hugging him, holding him, kissing him. Seeing Jesus along with all those whose names have been written in the Book of Life will be far greater than meeting our loved and dear ones. In fact, the two aren’t really comparable.
c. We As The Bride Will Participate In The Marriage Of The Lamb Who Is The Bridegroom
In Revelation 19: 6-7 we read, “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.’” The church, consisting of those whose names are written in the ‘Book of Life’ presented to the Bridegroom Jesus Christ. What a great marriage and a banquet that it is going to be! On our wedding day on earth, we do a lot of preparations, decorations, etc. and have a great celebration. But imagine for a while how this marriage is going to be. The bride as a pure virgin will be presented to the Bridegroom. Finally, the betrothal which started on earth will be completed (2 Cor. 11: 2).
2. The Place Of Our Hope
Along with teaching that Jesus is our ultimate hope, the Bible describes where we will spend eternity with him. And it is breathtaking!
a. The New Heavens And A New Earth
The Lord speaks to Isaiah in 65:17 saying, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” This was told to the prophet over 700 years before Jesus came in the incarnation and this will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again. As we read further from verse 18 to the end of the chapter, the Lord describes what this new creation is all about. There is a total renewal and restoration. We are living in a world that is corrupted, a creation that is groaning (Rom. 8: 22) because of sin and all its expressions. None of us have experienced the first creation, but only the fallen creation. God in his providential grace continues to sustain this creation, so we do experience good even in this fallen creation. But all that is going to change dramatically when Jesus comes again. We see the same thing in John’s vision in Revelation 21:1, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” At Jesus’ coming, the creation that is now groaning will be set free. We obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God in the new creation (Rom. 8:19-21).
b. The Garden City
In Revelation 21 and 22:1-5, John sees the vision of the New Jerusalem. We will inhabit a splendid city. Space does not allow me to go into a description of the city, but you can read about it. It is not just a city, but a garden city as we read about it Revelation 22. There is a river flowing, trees bearing fruit; a picture of perfection. Creation which began in a garden is going to culminate in a garden city. Here are some of the features John describes for us: it will be the dwelling place of God, where we will be his people and God will be our God, God will reign forever and ever, the glory of God will give it light, and its lamp will be the Lamb, there will be no need of the sun, there will be no night there, we will see His face, and His name will be on our foreheads, there will be no death there, neither will there be mourning, or crying, or pain, nothing unclean and accursed will ever enter there, nor will anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
3. The Hope For Ourselves
But that’s not all. The writers of the Bible also teach us about the hope that we as individuals have. Just as creation will be renewed, in Christ, the crown of creation will also be renewed.
a. We Shall Be Like Jesus
“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). We do not know what it means to be like Jesus, and even John shares his ignorance. So, it would be dangerous to speculate. However, we do know a few things. Paul, writing to the Ephesian church, writes, “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4: 23). We read in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ which will be completed. Paul writes in Philippians 3:21, “the Lord Jesus Christ will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” So, for eternity we will be with Jesus and we will be like him. Our bodies that are sinful, decaying and corrupted will be transformed into a glorified body which will be spiritual and imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42-45).
b. Our Adoption As Sons And The Redemption Of Our Bodies
Scripture teaches that We have already been adopted by God, “he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:5). However, we also read that we are waiting “eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). We will have a deeper child-father relationship than we can experience here and now. We will marvel even more at “the kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).
c. We Will Wear A Crown Of Righteousness
At the end of his life, Paul writes, “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” (2 Tim 4:8). God pronounced us righteous on the day we repented and believed in the gospel. But then we have been struggling with sin and continue to seek deliverance from it. When Jesus comes again we will be without any stain of sin, having the righteousness of God.
This hope we have is not wishful thinking. It is absolutely sure because Jesus Christ sealed it through his own death, resurrection and glorification. Paul writing about our heavenly dwelling writes, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5: 5). Because of this guarantee, we can be sure that we will indeed be righteous.
How Should Our Hope Affect Us Now?
So, what do we do until such time that we sleep in the Lord, or are taken up when Jesus returns? Here are some short encouragements from Scripture:
1. Let Us Make Ourselves Pure
“And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3). The standard of purity is Jesus Christ, in whom there is no sin. We purify ourselves by confessing our sins to God and seeking His cleansing with the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul prays for the Philippian church that they, “be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). This again is the work of the Lord, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14).
2. Let Us Live Lives Of Holiness And Godliness
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11). “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:15-16). God is our standard of holiness. We live a life of hatred to sin in all its forms and are set apart for God. Godliness being the outflow of our hearts, exhibits the fruit of the Spirit. Peter further states that as we live this kind of life we will hasten the coming of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:12).
3. Let Us Be Steadfast, Immovable, Always Abounding In The Work Of The Lord (1 Cor. 15:58)
We are to continue to do the work God has called us to do in the midst of all that is happening around us. We are to continue to do the work of the gospel because in it alone can people experience this hope. We are to continue to do all God wants us to do, knowing that in the Lord our labour is not in vain.
We have a glorious hope, and yet we do not know fully the extent of this hope. As Paul writes, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).