If you started reading this post thinking you were going to hear doom and gloom about what’s coming for us here on earth, you’re not thinking big enough! Yes, there’s plenty of doom and gloom ahead, but I’m starting to realize that the key to facing and fighting the suffering and evil of this world is to have a confident hope in the glorious eternity that awaits us.
When you know you will be overjoyed and fulfilled for eternity, what does it matter that you must sacrifice time, comfort, possessions, wealth, or approval for a short time in this life in order to do what’s right? What does it matter if we face even the fiercest opposition or disappointment? So what if our time gets consumed by menial, thankless tasks as part of our God-given obligations to others? God will bring things into your life you never would have chosen, but you can endure anything for the short span of your time on this earth when you know that, ultimately, not only will you not miss out on anything, but you will end up with everything. Forever.
I love the way John Piper puts it in Providence:
And how can there be such triumphant joy in affliction? Hope! Certain hope! “We heard of…the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4–5). “Blessed are you when others…persecute you…. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matt. 5:11–12). “Jesus,…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). In every case, hope—the confidence of a joyful future—broke the power of fear and greed and freed the heart for love.
This is how the Christian soul in suffering is saved from bitterness and revenge and self-indulgence and self-pity. God promises to turn every sorrow to joy, every loss to gain, every groan to glory (Rom. 8:18, 28; 2 Cor. 4:17–18; Heb. 12:10; 1 Pet. 1:6–7; 5:10). And this promise does not hang in the air. It is rooted, warranted, secured, and guaranteed “by the power that enables [Christ] even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21).
And what is it that we have to look forward to? Here’s Piper’s summary:
Sin will be completely eliminated. Nothing unclean or immoral or spiritually half-hearted will be there. All thoughts will be true. All desires will be free of any self-exaltation. All feelings will be calm or intense in perfect proportion to the nature of the reality felt. All deeds will be done in the name of Jesus and for the glory of God. Every particle and movement and connection in the material world will communicate something of the wisdom and power and love of God. And the capacity of the glorified minds and hearts and bodies of the saints will know and feel and act with no frustration, no confusion, no repression, no misgiving, no doubt, no regret, and no guilt. All our knowing—whatever we know—will include the knowledge of God. All our feeling—whatever we feel—will include the taste of the worth and beauty of God. All our acting—whatever we do—will comply in sweet satisfaction with the will of God.
We will sing forever the “song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3)—the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:9)—which means we will never forget that every sight, every sound, every fragrance, every touch, and every taste in the new world was purchased by Christ for his undeserving people. This world—with all its joy—cost him his life (Rom. 8:32; 2 Cor. 1:20). Every pleasure of every kind will intensify our thankfulness and love for Jesus. The new heavens and the new earth will never diminish but only increase our boast “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). We will never forget that the recreated theater of wonders—this incomprehensible interweaving of spiritual and material beauty—has come into being through Christ and for Christ (Col. 1:16).
God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—will behold the finished work of his providence and rejoice over it with singing (Zeph. 3:17). The Father will rejoice over the excellence of the Son and his triumphant achievements (Matt. 17:5; Phil. 2:9–11). The Son, the bridegroom, will rejoice over his immaculate bride—the glorified church (Isa. 62:5). And the joy of the Holy Spirit will fill the saints as the very joy of God in God (1 Thess. 1:6).
If this vision of our future doesn’t yet thrill you as a Christian, you need to know God better! Exchange your self-improvement books for theology books (we improve as we see him more and more clearly anyway—2 Cor. 3:18, 1 John 3:2–3). Even better, start now to saturate your mind with God’s inspired words about himself.
Get ready. You’re going to need it.