Hope in What is to Come

When people think of discussions of end times theology, we so often get bogged down in symbolism and timelines. What is the beast? What does that number mean? Are those years literal or figurative? Does this happen before that?

In my read through Isaiah, I found myself captivated by a passage that I think points us toward the reign of Messiah as King on earth. For sure, the things we see here are things that we should be pressing toward today as the church obeys the Lord’s command to have dominion on earth. And I think that these things are going to be perfectly seen at the return of the Lord.

Now, before we try to figure out if my eschatology or my present focus is right or wrong, how about we simply look at some promises that the Lord has made that we can find great joy in? IN fact, why not look at this and see what you find most joyful and hopeful for those who know the Lord?

Isaiah 32:1-5

1 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
and princes will rule in justice.
2 Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
3 Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will give attention.
4 The heart of the hasty will understand and know,
and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly.
5 The fool will no more be called noble,
nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.

Think about what we see in these 5 verses. A truly righteous king will reign with righteous princes under him. Any world in which politics is not the cesspool that we see today is a better world. And I think that the prince here is Messiah, an even better picture.

But also we see wonderful things . Blind eyes see. Deaf ears hear. Cluttered minds think clearly. Tongues that just can’t make words come out of dear little mouths are now free to speak and sing. This is a glorious world to come.

And we also see that fools and scoundrels are no longer seen as heroes. Instead, righteousness is honored and treasured. Folly is no longer worshipped. All this sounds like bad business for Hollywood and corrupt politicians, but it is great for a world in which we actually want to live.

The beauty is, we see these things when Jesus walked the earth. Jesus gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, clarity of mind to the oppressed, and speech to those who could not speak. Jesus showed us that he brings this glorious world. The church is to press toward that world. And the Lord promises us a day when Christ returns, and then the full joys of such a kingdom will be realized.

God often reminds us in his word to hope in heaven, to hope in the return of the Lord. Let’s not forget to do that on our day to day living. Let’s remember that Christ sets right the wrong of the world. Let’s remember that he is our glorious King. Let’s long for his return. Let’s rejoice in his promises. Let’s find that joy motivating to be a part of pushing back the darkness in our present world as we live for the one to come.

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Motivated by Eternity

What makes the lives and values of Christians different from the lives and values of those around them? In that question, I’m not declaring that all who claim to be Christian are nicer or better in any way than anyone else. What I am pointing to is the fact that true Christians have a different value system than the world around them. True Christians live by a morality that is different than the world around them.

The concept of Christians holding to a different morality or a different meaning for life is an offensive thing to the world in which we live. When Christians declare that something is a sin that the world does not call a sin, the world is deeply offended. The world accuses the Christian of being hateful if the Christian and the world see a moral imperative differently.

There are certainly people in the world who would call themselves Christians and who are hateful people. But those who love God and his word would not truly be categorized as hateful. Yet, those who love God and his word will certainly honestly declare that there is such a thing as sin, that the morality of our culture is no longer in line with that of the Lord, and that repentance is necessary if we are to avoid destruction. Loving Christians must not be silent, even if the world receives loving warnings as hateful declarations.

Have you ever stopped to wonder, however, why it is that we keep on? Why do Christians continue to say what we say in a world that does not want to hear us? Why do we continue to risk our own comforts, sometimes our own freedoms, so that we can keep declaring the truths of the word of God? Why do we live valuing things the world hates? Isn’t it hard?

1 Corinthians 15:30-32 – 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul shares with the church a moment of painful honesty. Paul says he dies every day. Every day of his life in Ephesus, at least over a season, was a heart-piercing challenge. Paul refers to his opponents as wild beasts, nasty, aggressive, evil men sent on his destruction. Why did Paul keep it up?

The context of this discussion is a fundamental discussion of life after death. Some in Corinth were declaring that there is no resurrection of the dead. And Paul, in the light of that craziness, says that if there is no resurrection from the dead, if there is no literal life to come after this one, then he might as well join the pagans in their debauchery.

In that, we are reminded of a motivation for our living differently. Why do we press on even when the world is going to hate us for not agreeing with their morality? The answer is that we keep on because there is life after death. There is an eternity to come in which we will all continue to exist. There is a heaven. There is a hell. There is a God we face. And the reality of eternity keeps Christians leaning into hard things in this life.

If all my morality consists of is a personal preference as to what is good and what is icky, I have no reason, no motivation to share it. If all I have is what I think is a better system to pass our years on earth before ending into nothingness, then I have no reason to share it. But, if what I have is the true word of God, a word that declares a life after this one—a life that will last infinitely longer than this one—I have a real reason to share it. I want to honor the God who has given me grace. I want to have the joy of speaking his truth even if others cannot tolerate it. I want to call on others to turn from sin and surrender to the Lord for his mercy. I want to see people saved for eternity. And that eternity that exists beyond this life, that eternity is what will continue to motivate Christians to declare the gospel of Christ to a world that does not want it.

Why tell people what is sinful? We tell people things are sinful so they can see that they need the Savior. Why risk offending people with our morality? We risk it because we are declaring the standards of the God who made us, who will judge us, and who understands true morality in a way that sinful humans cannot. Why go through the hardship when we know the world will mostly reject it? We go through the hardship to honor the Lord and because we know that some who hear the message, by the grace of God, will see their sin, see the grace of Christ, turn away from sin, turn to Jesus, and be saved for eternity. We press on, motivated by eternity.

Why a Funeral is Better than a Party

In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon offers us a really weird bit of wisdom. He lets his readers know that going to a funeral is more helpful to a person than attending a great celebration. Why?

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

2 It is better to go to the house of mourning

than to go to the house of feasting,

for this is the end of all mankind,

and the living will lay it to heart.

3 Sorrow is better than laughter,

for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Why is a funeral better than a party? At a funeral, those who attend are forced to consider the truth of our own mortality. Every person in the room at a funeral faces the fact that he or she will also someday pass from this life. Every person at a funeral is forced to take stock of things that they may or may not want to pay attention to in their normal lives.

On the contrary, a party is often a place where we ignore reality. Even the poorest of us pretend we have much at a party. We will whip up the best food. We will take time away from chores. We will forget about health issues and struggles for just a bit. At a party we relax and live in that moment alone.

There is nothing wrong with a party. We love a good celebration. But it is better for our souls to make sure that we do not forget to consider reality. It is better for our souls to remember that death stands before us all. It is better for our souls to consider how we can know for sure that there is something good awaiting us at the end of our 80 years or so.

The point is that a funeral makes us think about God. If it is done right, a funeral helps everybody in the room pay attention to what matters. A good funeral will offer comfort to a grieving family as it points people to the hope we have in Christ to live beyond our few years on this earth.