The following selection is from the August 1, 1916 issue of the Gemeindeblatt, and thus the preface for the preceding translation, “Jesus is the Door to the Kingdom of Heaven,” suffices greatly for this selection as well. If you have not yet read it, it may be beneficial to glance at it before reading the following devotion.
St. Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18), thus there is a glory that is now still hidden, for which we have reason to wait. In this life Christians are already blessed people. That which Christ once testified to his disciples, “The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27), is valid for Christians of all time. God loves them as his children, has patience with their weaknesses, richly and daily forgives them their sins, cares for, protects, and governs them in such a way that all things must serve them in the best way. Nothing can happen to them except that which God has foreseen as beneficial for them. But they live here in the fragile hut of their mortal bodies, which Paul bewails, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18). Their nature is corrupt. As a result of original corruption they sin still daily and indeed earn nothing but punishment. As a result of the sin still stuck on them, they are subjugated to various sufferings and temptations. “We must go through much tribulation to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The apostle writes, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” (Romans 8:23, 24).
What then is the hope of the Christian? St. Paul writes, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Our life is in heaven; from there we also await our Savior Jesus Christ, the Lord, who will glorify our transitory body, so that it becomes similar to his glorified body (Philippians 3:20, 21). Thus David, “And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Psalm 17:15). “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). Thus St. John, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1, 2).
A part of the glory which will be revealed in Christians is that they will have the image of God after the resurrection, just like Adam in his state of innocence. For Christ has redeemed, acquired and won us in order that we be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
But the future glory doesn’t affect just our body, but also the dwelling in which we will live in eternity. The Lord Christ says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2, 3). “Where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:26). “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). On the last day he will call to the righteous. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). The righteous will enter into eternal life, where at God’s right hand there is the fullness of joy in the presence of God (cf. Psalm 16:11).
Eternal life is the crown of life (cf. Revelation 2:10), because even the best temporal life by comparison cannot hold up against the eternal life in heaven. “Everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). Everything that makes this temporal life difficult—sickness, distress, separation, death, temptation and fighting—will be there no longer. Concerning the blessed, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17). Concerning Lazarus Christ says, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:23). Many will come from the east and the west and will sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 8:11). Christ promises the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (cf. Luke 23:43).
This glory shall be revealed in us, the children of God. The apostle writes: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16, 17). God’s spirit gives here already witness to their spirit that they are indeed God’s children. He does not give this testimony to their spirit directly, rather indirectly through the gospel concerning the grace of God in Christ. Through the gospel he has called them to this glory, and he has enlightened them with his gifts, that they recognize Jesus as their Savior and believe in him. Through this faith they have become children of God. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
In the word through which the Holy Spirit bears witness to their soul that they are children of God he strengthens them against temptation and preserves them in the faith that they have in Christ a reconciled, gracious God and father who loves them and will gather them to himself in heaven. This same word is the one through which he continues to call sinners to Christ, through which he kindles faith in their hearts and gives birth to them again through faith as children of God. For this reason the path to becoming God’s heirs and co-heirs of Christ and acquiring the testimony of the Holy Sprit is open to all mankind. Jesus says, “Preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (cf. Mark 16:15, 16). St. Paul confesses, “For we have now become righteous through faith, therefore we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have an entrance in faith to this grace in which we stand, and we glory in the hope of the future glory which God shall give” (cf. Romans 5:1, 2).
A devotion on what awaits the believer in Christ.
Aug 4, 2006