Our Hope to Come

Revelation 7:13-17

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

the sun shall not strike them,

nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Where is your hope? For many Christians, especially we who live in the west, our hope is not in the right place. Is your hope in the government of the US? Is your hope in your ability to financially plan for the future? Is your hope in your health? Is your hope in entertainment? Is your hope in your children and their success?

The book of revelation refers to the time in which we live as a time of tribulation (note that John calls himself our partner in tribulation in1:9). And while it may in fact point to a season of intense hardship to come, nothing about this book indicates that we live free from tribulation, free from pressure, free from pain in any age before Christ returns. In chapter 6, with the opening of the seals, we saw a set of hardships that, while terrible, have marked the history of the church from Jesus’ day until now without much of a break.

Chapter 7 then uses a fascinating technique to give us hope. The chapter opens with the sealing, the preservation, of the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel. But something is odd about the list—it is not an accurate tribal list as it leaves out Dan and includes Joseph (v. 8) and Manasseh (v. 6.) though Manasseh is a subset of Joseph. John hears of this sealing of the tribes of Israel, but when he looks he sees a greater reality. John looks and sees a countless multitude from all nations, not merely from physical Israel. John sees that Israel here is the multitude of the saved of all ages regardless of their ethnicity.

Then one of the elders asks John just who this group is, this great multitude of people worshipping God in white robes. And we learn some beautiful things. These are the saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb. And they have a future, a hope, that is far greater than any hope anyone has ever imagined.

In verse 15, the saved are before the throne of God and serve him in his temple. As we watch Revelation unfold, we will find that the temple of God is going to be the whole world made new by the Lord. In Genesis, Eden possessed many features of a temple. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple actually were smaller temples, walled off places designed to keep sinful humanity out of the presence of the Lord. But in Revelation, God lifts the curse, completes his holy plan, and brings all of his children into his holy presence to glorify his name forever.

The saved serving God will be sheltered by him (v. 15) and will have his protection from the hardships of this fallen world. There will be no harmful hunger or thirst. The people of God will need no shelter from the elements (v. 16).

In verse 17, we see that the saved will be led by the Lamb, provided for as by the Good Shepherd, brought to springs of living water, and comforted. What a glorious thing to see that the Lord himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. God will comfort us and grant us joy that outweighs any pain, any hardship, any hurt we have ever experienced.

Our hope, believers, is in the victory of Christ. Our hope is not in American ingenuity. Our hope is not in medical breakthroughs. Our hope is not in the joy of a victorious sports franchise. Neither is our hope in having enough money to take that dream vacation, build that dream home, or buy that dream automobile. Our hope is not in preserving the environment or cleaning up the Internet. Our hope is, it must be, in the promise of the Lord of this kingdom to come. Our hope is in coming to Christ, finding forgiveness in his blood, being granted his imputed righteousness, and living forever as priests in his temple.

A Hopeful Thought

Philippians 3:18-21 – 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

We live in a hard world. We live in a world teaming with folks who oppose God and his ways. We live in a world in which the fundamental truths of how God has made us are being denied by those who would do away with all standards of biblical righteousness. We live in a world where people worship their drives and glory in what should be their shame.

What thought will give us hope in such a time? What calling do we have? We need to remember who we are and whose we are. We need to remember what is and what is not our home. Paul, writing to the Philippians, reminds them that our citizenship is not in this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. Is this Paul being escapist? No. it is Paul setting our minds on their proper priority. We live on this earth while we know that we are eagerly awaiting the return of our Savior. We long for the day when Christ will come, will transform these lowly and broken bodies into eternal, heavenly bodies that are like his glorious resurrection body. WE look for him to come, consummate the kingdom, and rule forever. We look forward to this with confidence, and we have hope to live through and even transform this world.

No, do not become so heavenly minded that you cease to be of any earthly good. But neither should you assume that anyone who is living rightly here on earth can avoid being heavenly minded. Paul quite clearly comforts the Philippians with a reminder that our citizenship is with Christ and our hope is in his return. May we not let ourselves ignore that hope. May we love it and let it make us serve our Lord faithfully in the here and now.

A Hope We May be Ignoring

I want to help us to think about hope. Life is hard, Pain is real. Suffering is sometimes overwhelming. Frustrations about so many things threaten to steal our joy. We need to cling better to hope. And I believe there is something God has inspired for us to help us have that hope.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 – 1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

At the end of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul talked about the suffering we endure in this life as compared with the eternal weight of glory awaiting believers. Here he goes further, expressing a genuine longing for that glory. We groan in this life, longing to be clothed in our resurrection bodies, longing to be with our Lord.

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church singing hymns with a mainly southern gospel flair. When I went to college, I learned about the contemporary worship sounds of that era and began to look down on those old hymns. When I went to seminary and then began to serve in local churches, I began to embrace more classical and high church hymns—think “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” as compared to “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” And, for the most part, classic hymns are still strongly my preference to both contemporary praise songs and southern gospel hymnary.

But as the years go by, I’m noticing a lack. I see it in the classic hymns to a degree. I see it even more so in the contemporary stylings of the day. Today, we do not sing enough about the hope of heaven. We sing God’s holiness, and this is good. We sing of loving and desiring to follow the Lord, and that is good. WE sing of the presence of God in our times of suffering, and that is good. But we do not sing enough of the picture that Paul paints here in 2 Corinthians 5, of being in our resurrection bodies in the presence of our Lord.

I’m not suggesting a big return to singing of streets of gold or of family reunions on a golden shore. Honestly, I’m not even trying to make a point about what we sing. That is an illustration of the point that has my attention. Instead, I am recognizing that the modern believer needs more hope of heaven. We need more regular reminders that we have a home that is beyond this life. We have bodies that, even if this world abuses us today, will be eternal, uninjured, glorious bodies that will stand in the presence of our Lord in a way that we have yet to experience. WE will live in the presence of God without sin, without shame, without sorrow. We should find hope in and long for that change to come.

Christian, thank God for the promise of eternal life in Christ. Thank him that eternal life has already begun. Also thank him that there is an even greater future awaiting all who are in Christ. Ask God to help you to, like Paul here, have great hope in being further clothed for eternity. Ask God to help you, as Paul writes in the next verses, to find joy in knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, present in a new way, present leading to a resurrected body and an eternity of peace and joy.

Where is Your Treasure?

Do you still love the familiar passages of Scripture? Do they still teach you and challenge you? Do you grow from words of God that you know deep down? I surely hope that you do.

In recent weeks, I’ve recognized that I need to be better at loving the familiar. God’s word is so good and so rich. God has told us such glorious things. And if we are not careful, we will wander far from the familiar looking for something new, something deep, something others do not know. And when we wander like that, we often wander into trouble.

Thus, it was sweet for me, in my daily reading, to have some time with a very familiar passage.

Matthew 6:19-21 – 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus warns us not to lay up our treasures on earth. Here, moths, rust, thieves, and all sorts of calamities can take our treasure from us. Instead, we are to lay up for ourselves heavenly treasures. We are to find our joy in the Lord and in eternity with him.

Now, here is the place where the wandering reader will look for a new, deeper meaning for this passage. He or she will look for a way to say, “Well, most people think of the passage this way, but I think…” This is what I want to avoid, as the word here is clear, rich, convicting, and beautiful.

God wants you and me to know that heaven is our home. Heaven is where our treasure is to be found. And the treasures of this life pass away. Thus, we are to shape our lives in such a way as to focus our hearts on the eternity with Jesus to come.

Where might this convict you? Are you materialistic? Be careful before you say that you are not. Examine yourself. What things are treasures to you? It might be a particular possession—a car, an electronic device, a house, a yard. It is also possible that your treasure is something less tangible—a reputation, the approval of others, defeating an enemy. Maybe your treasure is experiences—traveling the globe, seeing a particular show, hiking a particular trail, or just having a certain comfort. We can make all sorts of earthly things our treasure, things that deflect our focus from the Lord God.

The key here is to remember that God has promised our souls eternal joy in Christ. There is nothing we must have or do in this life for joy that Christ will not infinitely surpass in eternity. Think about it. What sight do you need to see in this life that will hold a candle to the new heavens and the new earth? Honestly, for those of us who are pre-millennial, what sight do you want to see on earth today that will not be immeasurably better to see in that thousand-year kingdom? What experience of rest or pleasure or art or anything will even come close to what the Lord has in store for us? What can you possibly do to your home in the here and now that will make it look anything like as glorious as the home you will have with the Savior? What joy or approval can you have in the here and now that will even come to your memory as you stand glorified in the presence of the Savior?

I’m not suggesting what we do in this life is irrelevant. Nor am I trying to make you not take a vacation, appreciate art, or see the beauties of creation. All these things can help us to remember the kingdom to come. But if any of these things become our treasure instead of serving as hints at the treasure that we really want, we need to repent. We need to set our eyes on things above. We need to remember that we were made for eternity. We need to remember that heaven really is our home. We need to let Scripture remind us of what is important. WE need to remember that all the things we grab for as treasures in this life will pass away. We need to cling to what will last forever.

Focus on heaven. That’s a simple principle. That’ snot some new, profound word. It’s just challengingly, gloriously true.

Moses and Eternal Mindset

Mindset matters. When life is hard, when circumstances are frightening, mindset matters. And God’s word regularly reminds us of where to place our thoughts so as to be able to survive in a broken world.

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90 is the only Psalm I know of that is attributed to Moses. In it, that great man of God talks about the brevity of human life and its hardships. Of course, who in the Old Testament would know of this more. Moses saw so very much death in his days. An entire generation, millions of people, died in the wilderness over the 40 years of wandering. And it had to get to Moses as it would get to any caring person trying to survive this world.

In his prayer, Moses recognizes that there is wisdom in asking the Lord to help us to number our days rightly. That is, Moses is asking that he and those around him would understand the shortness of human life in comparison to the eternity that stretches before us all. Whether a person lives a hundred days or a hundred years, his or her life is but a blip on the radar when we consider a million years and beyond.

In Colossians 3, Paul reminded Christians to set our minds on things above. It is the same principle. We live in a hard world. We do all that we can to see God glorified in this life. We try to care for our family, our church, our friends. We do what we can to make ends meet, to provide for our loved ones, to give to the needy. We try to fix broken political systems, institute just laws, and battle for the lives of the defenseless. But we are living in a fallen world where our best efforts can seem to be insufficient.

Biblical counsel calls us to, in dimes of fear or discouragement especially, number our days rightly. We need to remember that the 80 years that we may live are but a drop in the bucket of our existence. We are barely on the first step of the front porch of our real lives. The door beyond that will open when this life is at an end is where we will truly live. Yes, our lives here matter as we have the opportunity to glorify God in the here and now. But what will matter even more is the forever that is to follow.

Christian, as you think about your life, do not forget forever. When things are hard or scary, think eternally. When you feel disappointed that you may never afford that sweet European vacation, remember that you will have eternity with Christ after his return to see sights that would make the grandest vistas of this age seem as nothing. Whenever you feel that your health has let you down, remember that all who are in Christ have life promised us, life and brand new, never-wearing-out, resurrection bodies. Whenever you think that the things you do today are irrelevant to a big world that will not listen, remember that we live for the God who made us and who sees us inside and out. Remember forever in Christ, and you will walk stronger through the ugly of the here and now.