The Hope of Heaven (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) by Ptr. David Woollin of GIRBC

Well please take your Bibles to turn to 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians chapter 4. As you’re turning there, I just want to thank you, thank your pastor for this privilege of being able to open up God’s word with you this afternoon. Perhaps you can hear that I’m although I’m from America, I’m not American. I’m an Englishman. I’ve been there 12 years and I bring the greetings of my church with me, Grace Immanuel Reformed Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where we currently have about three feet of snow on the ground. So I’m glad to be here. So I want really this afternoon for us to look forward and look up as a healthy thing for us to do. In fact, I was just reflecting there that we read the Nicene Creed together and those last few words, we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to life in the world to come. And I hope we can all say amen to that! That’s really our consideration this afternoon, the hope of heaven in the midst of a fallen world. And so what I want to do, I can see in your bulletin, you have the verses that we will be focusing on already written out for you, but my plan is to read from verse 7 through Verse 18. Second Corinthians chapter 4 Paul’s letter to this church in Corinth in Greece and we’ll read through to the end of Verse 18. Hear the holy inerrant word of God. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. Here are our verses..So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Amen.

Would you pray with me. Almighty God, we grasp hold Your promises and we pray that as we look at Your life-giving word now, that You will meet with us, that You will bless us, that You will open our hearts and minds to Your truth and that You will bring the applications to each of our lives be glorified in all we do in Jesus’ Name, amen.

So I wonder how often you think about heaven? How often should we do that? How often should we think about eternity, our destiny? Well, these verses in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 are a wonderful starting point in showing us how we should process this kind of truth. How we can apply that future reality to our lives today. And with God’s help, we’ll be looking at this this passage to help us to consistently look beyond now, beyond our temporary often difficult circumstances in this fallen world. We want to be able to see the big picture. We want heaven’s perspective on reality, and to see what is coming in eternity for those who trust in Christ. We want to see how those should impact those truth should impact our thinking and our behaviour today. We think about the future, we think about heaven, with practical application for the here and now.

Just a little background we see in verse 16, that we begin with a therefore, or so and, and it’s acknowledging that these few verses are, are resting on the previous truth. So we need to look a little bit backwards and earlier in this passage, Paul is encouraging these Corinthians, these Greek believers, don’t lose heart, don’t be downhearted. And he then builds his case. Why that should be so? He doesn’t just shout at them ‘don’t be downhearted.’ No, he reasons with them, he brings heavenly logic to the event and shows them reasons why we shouldn’t grow weary. He tells them of the undeserved mercy of God. He tells them of the privileges and and benefits of what we are called to do and now and how we are to live now. That we have Christ now, that we are made holy now. We are sanctified now to some extent, we are right with God and therefore today should be different for us. We should be Christlike and then he tells them of the glory of God as a wonderful motivation for not being downhearted. And then we come to verses 16, 17 and 18 of 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and here, Paul writes specifically to a group of Christians. So only Christians can take comfort in this passage. If you’re not a believer, this isn’t for you. I, I’ll talk to you later in a little while, but you can’t take these applications for you. This isn’t your hope. And so he’s, he’s writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He gives us reality, that’s what we need; we don’t ever want to to be hidden from the truth. We, a good friend, tells us the truth, sets our expectations correctly. And this is what Paul is doing. He’s saying stop! stop! Think, think with me just for a moment, okay. Consider reality, consider a number of contrasts over here and over here. That’s, that’s what he’s doing. He’s saying go on have a think, meditate on these things so that, so that’s what we’re doing this afternoon. And it’s, it’s healthy for us to do that. To pause, to reflect, and to understand the truth. Now, if even if you just glance over these three verses with me, you can immediately see jumping out of what Paul says, contrasts. He’s, he’s making, he’s drawing our attention to them. Look at verse 16. Now, different versions use different words, but it’s, it’s essentially outwardly and inwardly, if you see in that verse, the contrast then, another in the two words. He uses wasting or perishing, contrasted with renewing, okay. He’s doing this over and over. Verse 17.. light and momentary contrasted with eternal, afflictions and troubles with glory. And then finally in verse 18, seen and not seen or unseen, temporary and eternal. You see what Paul’s doing? He’s reasoning with us. That’s what he’s doing. He’s, he’s asking us to lay all the cards out on the table, everything; turned face up, right? Let’s look at everything, let’s look at the reality of this universe, the reality of living the Christian life in a fallen and not easy world, a world that does not like the Christian message. He’s, he’s telling us to put all the weights in the scale; that’s what he’s doing. He wants us to open our eyes or probably lift our eyes from the position we’re currently in on one side of this comparison equation.

This is where we come to the first of our three points this afternoon. Our first point the reality of Life The Reality Of Life, point number one. That’s one side of this contrast. And this is the negative one; we get positive, I promise, okay. Look at the three verses. This is not theologically difficult, right. It’s plain to see. Paul shows us our mortality; he shows us our weakness, we’re perishing, we’re wasting away. Or a better translation might be we’re being destroyed.

Then, then he talks of the affliction, he talks of this life, but it’s, it’s real. The difficulties we have, they are, they are real. We don’t just dismiss them. We don’t just minimise them. They are genuinely hard. We have to understand that. But when we look at these things that’s already uses in verse 18, these things may seem desperate to us. It’s in the same verse we find him referring to these things that are transient, that they last you know for a moment, they’re gone. But also in the verses before, we see reality in the contrast where he, Paul never denies this whole negative side, okay. We, we’re jars of clay or earthen vessels in some versions in verse seven. Verse eight, were afflicted, hard pressed or perplexed in verse eight. Then persecuted, struck down, forsaken. Verse 9, we carry the death of Jesus in our bodies. Verse 10, we’re given over to death. Verse 11, death is at work. Verse 12, all before we get to our three verses, this isn’t sounding too positive for the Christian, is it? And if you’re ahead to chapter 6, like verses 4 thru 10, you can see more of these troubles. They’re hard. Paul has experienced many of them. You look at the life of Paul. You look a chapter 11 verses 23 through 33.

There’s a list there of what Paul goes through. And it’s horrible! There are beatings and shipwrecks, imprisonments, robbers, cold, hunger. And it’s all as a result of being a Christ follower. Paul’s well aware of all these hardships and and he’s still has to experience many more. And yet, he does not allow us to be downcast. He, he sets our expectations, he recalibrates us so that we’re not surprised. In multiple different places in his writings, this was his experience that all of these troubles, listen: all of these troubles are an opportunity, an opportunity. You see we’re being refined in a fire like gold. And these troubles help us to maintain what we often call an eternal perspective. We need that but we often fail to keep that at the forefront our minds. So, so remember that, that temporal, eternal mindset, it makes us reflect on what Christ went through— through His humiliation, what came in his earthly life. That, that should be humbling to us. And how we live during these times, we should be a witness to others as we give God the glory as we endure with His help.

As a study Bible, the gospel transformation Study Bible, the very helpful note here pointing to Christ it says: “When we are momentarily afflicted, we are certain that we will not be crushed because Jesus was crushed on our behalf.

When we are are persecuted, we know that God will not forsake us because Jesus was forsaken in our place. When we experience death, we need not fear for we know that we will experience resurrection life because Jesus bore the penalty of death on our behalf. So we have biblical examples you see as well of people who lived through great persecution but remained faithful. Hebrews 11 motivates us; that’s one of the the purposes of it. Then I’m into church history, I encourage you to read it. There are many lessons we can learn about people persevering with God’s help. And the continuing faithfulness of God, they were sustained. These momentary light afflictions I say it again, they may well be very difficult providences. It’s a reality in life, very weighty matters. The point that Paul is making here, is not that these problems are exactly easy; that’s not the point he’s making. The point is the relative comparison, between that and the blessings we get as a believer. Does that make sense? Okay. The blessings we have with Christ now, today and beyond into eternity. And so we could use it as a picture when you put your afflictions on a scale over here on one side, this maybe incredibly heavy, okay. But when you then look at the other side of this scale, considering your eternal reward, your blessings in Christ, and the fact that as believers, we have not received what we do deserve in, in death and hell. I guarantee you, I guarantee you, you, you come talk to me 200 years from today, okay. And, and I suspect you’ll remember, because in eternity, your memory won’t be quite so bad, okay. Not all at once, but come, come and speak to me and you will agree with this passage, okay. You, you’ll think it’s strange, you even questioned it and that’s despite what you’ve been through, all the hard things, you’ll be looking back on them with, with joy and gratitude to God for what He is done. What you are currently going through even may seem very hard and I have to tell you, if you are a faithful Christian, you’re likely to experience more hardship, it’s still to come. This passage is here, also to prepare you, to calibrate you, so, so that you are ready for these troubles that may come.

So you’ll clearly see the comparison despite what you’ve been through, despite what you’re going through, you’ll conclude with Genesis 18:25 shall not the judge of all the Earth deal justly? So it’s wonderful pastor, but what about today? I’m in the middle of it right now. How does it help me? Well, it absolutely helps you. It helps you to look up from the temporal circumstance to the eternal truths. It has a practical application today. If you’re going through something really difficult, these are the kind of passages you need to study. Set your eyes on Christ. Set your eyes on His promises and blessings and the reality of your future as a believer. You can get so caught up in the ‘here and now’ that you lose sight of that certainty of your destiny and your blessings even today in the midst of what is going on. And Paul tells you: but you need to focus on the inward, you need to focus on the unseen. When you look at the language here it talks of seen and unseen, it’s it’s speaking of what we can already, and what we still have to see. And often, we’re we’re looking down at our circumstances. Or we feel that ache and pain wherever that might be and it can have that effect of of bringing us down.

Listen to James, listen to James.. this is shocking. Consider it all joy. James 1:2 consider it all joy Jo my brethren when you encounter various trials. That’s quite a challenge. Get through it okay, I can understand that; let’s let’s stoically get through this thing or see the benefits as we’ve explained and reasoned and the long-term benefits. Okay, I can understand that. But consider it all joy, all joy?

Really James? first Peter 4 beloved do not be surprised that the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing. It’s not just James; it’s Peter and it’s inspired by the Holy Spirit. So that also, at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation. And we look at the example of Christ in affliction. And we must strive for Christ likeness and he reminds them that we share in Christ’s comfort only as we share in Christ’s sufferings. So witness to power, the power and glory of God and all glory goes to Him. But somehow, we share in it, the Bible says. And God is aware of your discouragement. God is aware of the difficulties that you, you go through and that might be weighing us down, t’s a reality. As his outward life as one commentator puts it, talking of the Christian as his outward life conforms ever more closely to the crucified Christ. His inward life conforms ever more closely to the glorified Christ.

I was reading about a lady called Florence Chadwick back in the 1950s.

Quite a few commentators use her story in their commentaries on, on Corinthians here. I went and a little bit deeper and found the, the full story. She was a distance swimmer would swim in the the ocean and she was the first woman to swim the English Channel to France and back 26 miles each way. And then there was one time in 1952, July 4th Independence Day for Americans, tempted to swim on the west coast of America in California, from Catalina Island to the Californian coast. And the are sharks and so there’s people with rifles all around her, and after 16 hours, she gave up; she was cold, it was foggy. And she found that she was the shortest of distances away from the coast. And she spoke to a reporter, she said: “look, I’m not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, if I could have seen land, I know I could have made it.” She couldn’t see the goal because of the fog, because she was looking down her present circumstances. And that’s often like we are. And, and I’m showing you land here. It’s, it’s there; it’s not far away. Relatively speaking, it’s really close. And that’s one of the encouragements that Paul gives us to persevere, to press on. In this reasoning with us, in this contrasts. I don’t know if you’re, if you’re feeling old, I do. I turned 48 two weeks ago. And many of us have seen our loved ones grow old and and we need the right mindset here. When we find ourselves getting older and we witness this in other people, those we know and love. But you see the unbeliever, the non-Christian has this reality of life too. They have a ticking clock with the word ‘mortality’ written on their forehead. They, they don’t want to think about what will happen after they die. And this is the reality of their life. But you see, in contrast to us as believers, they have no hope ahead at all, none!

Nothing to look forward to. No balancing on the scales at all. Even worse ahead — the just punishment for their sin and rebellion against God for all eternity. But praise God for the believer! For those in Christ, Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, this visible world is passing away Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:31 says was afflicted in many different ways. He’s discouraged and, and hurt. He knew his own mortality, but because he knew the truth, and he knew what we he was doing was the will of God. He didn’t lose heart or give up he had that Eternal perspective in the midst of everything he want he went through through whatever temporary things came his way it will pass, it will pass. May not seem like it right now and the temporal will be replaced by a glory that will never fade away. First Peter 5 eternal glory in Christ in the same chapter.

And so we’ve seen the reality of life. That was our first point all the negative we’ve piled it all up, okay the reality of life but now for the believer Paul contrast all of that negativity, all of those har things with glory, with blessing. So here’s our second point, The Relief of Eternity.

The relief of Eternity. And this is where we’re instructed to look up, look ahead as a remedy, as an antidote which isn’t just limited to eternity because we’ve begun eternity in many senses already. Now that we have eternal life and we don’t like to, we don’t need to live like those who have no hope. I remind you he’s writing to Christians here. This is not a comparison between heaven and hell or being a Christian and not being a Christian. Those are legitimate comparisons they’re done elsewhere in scripture. But not here. This is a comparison for the Christian, only the Christian between this life and the next life. Now, there, there are places in Scripture that tell us that our afflictions are good for us. Romans 5 for example says from verse three and not only this, but we also exalt in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance proven character and proven character hope and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. So certainly don’t miss that truth.

There are benefits to affliction, there are opportunities to grow. The point in our verses I remind you is the comparison between our difficulties now, and the relief ahead in eternity. Look back at those verses setting the foundation, I gave you all the negative you know— jars of clay and all of that. But, but then he sets our understanding and expectation straight go back to verse seven. Yes, these are jars of clay, yes these are earthen vessels. But let’s not miss the next part. It says that’s where the treasure is stored. In verse 8, yes, we’re afflicted don’t miss it, but we’re not crushed. Yes, we’re perplexed, but we’re not driven to despair. Verse nine: yes, we’re persecuted, we thought about that but we missed the next part of the verse.. but we are not forsaken. Yes, we’re struck down but we’re not destroyed. Verse 10, we have a phrase that we carry the death of Jesus around in our bodies but it has a purpose so that the Life of Christ might be manifested.

Verse 11— it’s true that we’re given over to death but why again? So the life of of Jesus is manifested. In verse 12, death is at work but it points to life. All of these momentary fleeting experiences, contrasted with eternal and permanent promises, we know, we understand that picture of short-term pain for long-term gain. We understand that, right? Short-term pain for long-term gain. Sometimes that’s why you choose to buy better quality stuff. It might last a bit longer, you can reason that way, it has benefits that eventually pay off and you’re willing to pay more. Or think about when you need to get, you know an injection in your arm. Maybe you have kids like, like I do and my Amy hates needles, okay. But, but you can, I can reason with her. Amy, this is good for you, okay. It will make you better or it will keep you from illness, or if we just get through this together, I’ll buy you ice cream.. that’s, that’s how we can reason with our children. Now those illustrations are completely inadequate. But you get the picture: whatever we endure here heavy, still heavy; nobody’s denying that. Whatever we endure here, we need to grasp that it’s worth it to the infinite degree, okay. The infinite degree and we can therefore endure it and pay it, because our eyes are ahead, our eyes are up and we’re not seeking permanency here, we’re not seeking our happiness here. And it’s not dependent, our happiness, on the ups and downs of businesses or the ups and downs of relationships. But rather in treasures in heaven that can be never taken away. Look again at verse 16, Paul repeats the exhortation from the start of the chapter in verse one. Do not lose heart, do not lose heart. Why? Well, we see that it’s a fact that the outward man was perishing or wasting away. And we see there that we have this reality of an inward man and an outward man. And for those whom God is at work, that inward man or inward self, is being renewed day by day. So the reality may be that we are over the hill, we’re getting older and we’re speeding up down the hill but exponentially, progressively, we’re improving, growing inwardly. Doesn’t matter at all what the outward husk looks like. Even though we should look after it. That’s not the point here. The point is what’s going on inside real you. Is it growing? Are you maturing? Are you being transformed from glory to glory? Are you becoming more like Christ? That’s, that’s what’s important. And there’s a contrast here to the world. You see the the people we should have pity for here are those whose outward being is perishing, and whose inward nature is also withering away and dying with no hope. There are dying people all around us, dying people in our families, dying both physically and spiritually. Those are the people we should be spreading the gospel of of hope to. And notice that this inner renewal does not need to wait until we die or when Jesus comes.

For the Christian, we have tastes of eternity, tastes of heaven, glimpses even now even in the midst of this decay. I was an elder in a Baptist Church in the north of England and there’s a dear old lady in that congregation called Pat, Patricia, Pat. And she developed Parkinson’s disease. And we all witnessed in the church, her body wasting away. She was at every meeting though and I did a five-minute devotional on these verses one time on a Wednesday evening prayer meeting. And bless her, I could see that she’d fallen asleep as I was preaching; and I was pretty confident it wasn’t my preaching that did that. But she came up to me after the meeting. She had tears streaming down her face and it was a real effort for her to come up to me and speak to me and she was so apologetic that she’d fallen asleep. But she was also disappointed because this was one of her favourite passages of scripture. And she was desperate to hear the message that she just couldn’t hold on. And then, I’d only spoken for five minutes. She told me about the passage for 20 minutes and the importance of the hope that it gave her in her circumstances. She saw self deteriorate and yet she was full of hope!

She was looking beyond this light momentary affliction in relative terms to eternity. She had a difficult life; she’d lost a daughter in a car accident. But you see, I know where Pat is today. And she’s with Christ, her Saviour. This is real hope. This is as practical as it gets.

Three days ago, I was in the hospital in hospice visiting a man called William who I understand might as well go to glory today. It may have happened already. But he was telling me at that hospital bed in Grand Rapid Michigan of his hope in Christ. That’s a different experience to sitting by somebody’s hospital bed who has no hope at all. Praise God for this certainty that we, we have. Look again at verse 17. On the one hand, he talks about our light affliction, our present affliction we saw. And on the other other hand, a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. It’s a comparison between a trivial weight and something that outweighs it by so far.. it’s even embarrassing to compare them with that large pair of scales with all your affliction which, which right now, it’s, it’s right there in your face.

That’s what you can see. But all the time, it’s enormous! But then compared with the glory, the affliction is light as insubstantial as a feather. But it’s not just the weight, did you notice that? He’s not just comparing the weight of these two things. He, he compares the duration as well. Our tribulation is brief, it’s fleeting. But for a moment, the glory is light, splendour the joy are eternal, never ceasing. It’s not just speaking of relief for the Christian from what we experience here.

This is so much more. Yes, we’re taken from this sinful fallen world, but we’re also given in boundless abundance. We will no longer perish, no longer waste away, no longer decay. But you see, it’s not just stopping the decay. That’s wonderful but it doesn’t stop there. We’ll be completely renewed. We will see things that are currently unseen, verse 18. We have to look at the unseen and eternal. You see, rather than temporary things we can see right now. And there are elements here of comparing our outward bodies with our inward souls, but it’s wider than that. It’s, it’s contrasting of temporary versus eternal. It’s a picture of looking. It’s fixing your eyes. It’s like an archer, we have the Olympics coming up in Paris this year. Look at those archers and how they look through the scope, at the target and and that’s the picture here. Clear-eyed focus on the target regardless of the things happening around them. But they’ve got to be laser-focused you see. In this, on what cannot be seen right now. That’s what we’ve got to do— looking past the visible. Our eyes have many limitations. Till just a few few years ago, we couldn’t see much of the galaxy that we live in. But now we have telescopes out in space. And those beautiful constellations that were always there, but we just couldn’t see them. We’re the first to see them with human eyes. You see, that’s the verb that we have here, to examine, scope. You can hear scope in there can you? Consider, examine, critical eye to determine its value. That’s what we’re told to do here. And Paul knew that the hardships he endured were really quite small. When he intently looked and he examined, he knew that he wouldn’t last very long in in comparison to how we would enjoy God’s presence. The immeasurably greater glory that will last forever only with the eyes of faith can people look forward to what they haven’t yet seen.

And so our hope is believers is not in this world. Our hope is in Christ which, who cannot be seen at this present moment. And we know Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. And so Paul here is encouraging the Corinthians to live by faith not by sight. Chapter 5 verse 11 verse 7 and that helps us to see straight. Take your eyes off the world, take your eyes off the circumstances. Put them on the Almighty, the One who possesses all power and He will bring joy.. and joy to come that will last forever. And it’s wonderful, it’s refreshing to contemplate the eternity that awaits God’s people awaits you if you are saved, if you are Christ’s. It puts everything in perspective. The bad to the immeasurably good, the momentary to the eternal, the troubles to the glory. We’re wasting away to the renewing and many others and, and Christians fall on the positive of every single one of these. What a hope we have for the future which helps us to live now, preparing us for eternal glory. Doesn’t it seem like Paul is even saying, the more you have on this side, the better? It’s, it’s counterintuitive often isn’t it? Perhaps that helps us to lean on Christ even harder. These comparisons go on if you to read into chapter 5.

Different comparisons of tents, and buildings, and earthly, and heavenly. This is how Paul often reasons with us.

And now we come to our final point. We’ve seen the reality of life, we’ve seen the relief of eternity. And now I have a problem. Often, I struggle to come up with headings that match and they all begin with ‘R’ and that’s not the be all and end all, but I have too many options for the first time ever: the rescue, the redeeming, the restoration, the result, the resurrection, the revival of Christ. So many options here when you look at the blessings we have in the future. All of them fit. Let’s go for the rescue of Christ. The Rescue Of Christ. So Paul you see, is talking about being transformed, to being more Christlike from glory to glory. Further on in our chapter, he talks about this dark world and Christ being the solution bringing light, bringing grace. There’s much in this passage. But in, in verse seven and onwards, it talks more specifically about these afflictions and persecutions very explicit. But then, you see the attention focused on Christ and He’s our link with Him in His death and resurrection which is what we’ll think about in a moment with the Lord’s table. And then in verse 14, referring to His resurrection, ours, how were inextricably linked to Him. We will be raised, we will be brought into the presence of God through Christ’s work on the cross.And how this grace, this, this is spreading to more people. Then all the glory is to God and and then the point is that the comparisons we have is we have our built on this context, this foundation of Christ’s work. That’s where all this comes from, all this hope is from the finished and complete and perfect work of Christ. You see, all of this is about Christ. He’s the source, He’s the reason, He’s the fountain, He’s the victor, He’s the conqueror, He, He’s there implicitly in our passage in just those three verses. He’s certainly part of the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. But He’s explicitly mentioned in other places in this passage.

But you see there’s a danger in much of what I’ve said this afternoon. How I’ve reasoned with you. I’ve compared the difficult life of Christians to the hope that Christians have in eternity. And I’ve compared the positives and the negatives and often Christianity is presented like that. Which do you prefer, okay? And we can slip into that mindset: I’m saved from hell, I’m going to heaven which is far better. And it is! But that’s me-focused. That’s based on the benefits that come to me because of the gospel. But you see, we need to be so careful to be Christ-focused. This is all because of Christ rooted in Him and it results in verse 15.. in giving thanks to God. And so, we must avoid loving this world and its fleeting pleasures so that we can fix our affections on Jesus. We’re not going for just the mansion in heaven or the golden streets, or seeing your relatives again. That’s all the furniture of heaven and the secondary things in heaven. The benefit is Christ Himself! I think it was Richard Baxter, he said: “He is the heaven of Heavens!” If Christ wasn’t in heaven, it wouldn’t be heaven. So never get dragged into thinking about what your mansion will be like or which famous preacher you’ll live next to in heaven. Okay, maybe there’s time for that, but never have that out of perspective. Heaven is about the benefits of being with your Saviour! That, in verse 14, it points to the second coming. It’s really remarkable to think how often scripture does talk about that and His return, and that hope. And meditating on that in multiple places, tells us that it’s healthy for us to do that, to think about the the second coming. In first Thessalonians 4, Paul is writing that church there in Thessalonica, they’re grieving and he wants to give them comfort and he says: “we don’t grieve as people who have no hope. We have a glorious hope because Jesus Christ is returning.” In multiple other places, he tells us later on in verse 16 what Christ’s return will be like for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall always be with the Lord. So, He’s there. He’s also encouraging them to look beyond their current circumstances where they are now this is a common thing in Scripture we’re going to be with the Lord forever.

And he finishes that little paragraph by saying— resting on that truth that we be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage or comfort one another with these words. Therefore, that eternal truth, that eternal certainty brings comfort for you and the people around you today. You see that? Revelation 21, another place where scripture talks about Christ’s returning. And John the Apostle, he had the curtains of heaven pulled back talking about the new heaven and the new earth — wiping away tears, no longer any death, no mourning, no crying, no pain and making all things new. That’s what we have to look forward to. That’s on the one side of the scales that we’re talking about in a million ways. God will gather what has been scattered and rebuild and restore. God will put right what’s wrong with his glorious creation all because of Christ, all because of His finished work. And the scriptures encourage us, they command us, they exhort us. To think about Christ’s returning, making all things new. It says meditate on that! When the world meditates, they empty their minds and do things I don’t know. When the Christian meditates, they fill their minds with truth and they marinate on it and they think about it and they apply it to themselves and it’s of eternal benefit and spiritual benefits empowers us through suffering as we’ve considered.

Listen to Puritan Matthew Henry, he says: “prospects of eternal glory keep believers from fainting under troubles. He goes on.. They knew that Christ was raised and that His resurrection was an assurance of theirs. He’s the first fruits, He’s already gone. And it’s as certain for us as it already has been for Him, it’s already happened. He goes on.. The hope of this resurrection will encourage in a suffering day and set us above the fear of death. Romans 8, Paul again tells them I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. We know that Paul is going to be martyred. He’s going to die for his faith. He went through so much but he’s done this calculation for himself. He’s thought through Christ’s returning. And here’s the conclusion he’s come to, he’s meditated on this. He’s seemingly decided, he’s realised that it’s all worth it because Christ is coming to make all things new. Peter in 1 Peter 1:6 he admits that we’ll be distressed by various trials for a little while. And he says— writing to the suffering church blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a Living Hope. How? Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away reserved for you in heaven. And then he goes.. even now, even though now, for a little while, for a little while; if necessary you have been distressed by various trials so that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You see that? Paul is pointing them to their inheritance, our inheritance. It’s coming, it’s being prepared, it’s secure and that fact encourages you to persevere through whatever is happening to you today. That cannot be taken away from you believer. Peter also went through some serious things too. And any sufferings this is how I heard it described. Any sufferings that we suffer in this world today, are not caves but a tunnel with light at the end. And we shown hope in Jesus Christ.

So we’ve seen the reality of life ,we’ve seen the relief of eternity, we’ve seen the rescue of Christ. Let’s round up our thoughts as we close. The context of this passage is that Paul and his colleagues would never give up, never be cast down, because they knew the truth. That’s, that’s what they aspired to at least, okay. And they knew the God of truth; they knew His power, that He was their God. And even though the things of this life that their bodies were deteriorating, moving daily towards death, their spirits, the real them was being renewed day by day, becoming increasingly Christlike. 2 Corinthians 3:18 but we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. That’s where we will eventually get to. We aspire to that even if we know we can’t achieve the perfection of Christ today. And for Paul, these hardships were real. But he didn’t complain about how much he was giving up in order to preach the gospel. But instead, he knew that every trouble, every hardship, every difficulty he go thru for Christ’s sake was making him spiritually new. T here’s an opportunity to mature. And he may still have got downhearted at times. But here in a moment of clear thinking and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he knows that it will never result in defeat. But he has Christ. And we may be frail, but believer, your God has limitless power. He will never let you go. His promises never fail.

Spurgeon, that great London preacher, says that our afflictions are light in many different ways compared to others. He says they are light compared to what we deserve. They are light compared to the afflictions of Christ and they are light compared to the blessings and privileges we enjoy not least forgiveness. It is light when we consider what it leads to.. not just glory, but also the refining effect it has in our lives. And then he says we may well say that no affliction wears more than a gnat resting on an elephant. When the Lord’s upholding grace is sweetly manifested to our soul in times of perplexity, anxiety, and pain.

Let me round up with an illustration you, you’re no doubt familiar with. The theologian in Switzerland, the Frenchman John Calvin. During the time of the reformation and his view of heaven, please study it. His meditations are wonderful and he saw these meditations of looking ahead to the hope that we have as intensely practical. And he wrote many letters. He wrote to royalty, and rulers, and we have letters from him to Martin Luther, and Oliver Cromwell and many different people. But one of my favourite letters that he wrote was one where he was simply pastoring a woman who was struggling. A woman in France of a man who was martyred for his faith. I don’t know if you know but his school in Geneva where he would teach reformed theology to students, the average life expectancy of a graduate was about 13 months as you took your diploma. Now, this man had died and this is what John Calvin wrote to his wife. She had illnesses and other things as well. Listen to his letter: “Afflictions should serve as medicine purges. To remove, remove from us what is superfluous, unnecessary. We ought to learn from our physical afflictions in whatever they may be, may come to live every day. Here’s the phrase: with one foot raised like that, one foot raised.” Let me explain that. He says ready for our departure into the presence of God when he sees fit. you see what he’s saying there? Do you live every day with one foot raised ever so deafly off the ground just like you’re about to take that step into eternity. Do you live like that? And that helps you put perspective in your life that you’re just a small step away from departing this this world and entering the splendour of Heaven. Do you live with one foot raised with that mentality? Oh frankly, are both your feet planted firmly on the ground here on this Earth? That, that will give you a different perspective on how you live for Christ. And Calvin’s not just a theoretical theologian in a library. He lived through many hard times. But he did that with eternity in view. He suffered many physical ailments, but he managed to see them as momentary light afflictions where he looked to be unseen by faith and saw that incomparable weight of glory ahead, and that has to be our constant mindset as Christians— living as always ready to leave, or ready for when the Lord returns. We should be those people whose lives are shaped by being on the cusp of eternity and living for our Saviour not hanging on to this world. Is there anything that you’re hanging on to or is stopping you living for Christ wholeheartedly? Are you treasuring the trinkets of this world or Christ above all? Think about it Christ, think about all the Hope ahead well deeply on these truths. Let go of everything else and we should be ready to to witness to tell others of these treasures that we found. Treasuring things that are not in this world makes us stand out. Not least treasuring the souls of men and those that we we love. See, I’ve mentioned this is a message for Christians. This is a message for those who do have this hope, who do have this comparison. But what if you don’t have this hope? Well Matthew 24:44 is compelling you here urgently. It says: “ For this reason, for this reason and it’s referring to not knowing when Christ is coming. For this reason, you must also be ready for the son of man is coming at an hour that you do not think he will. If you want this hope, this rock solid foundation to stand on, then Christ is the way. The only way for you to be saved from your sin is through this Saviour. Right now, you’re deteriorating. It is described here and it’s downhill deterioration for all eternity destruction. You need this glorious Saviour yeah and he’s available to anybody who comes in repentance and faith and that you can have this all these blessings not just heaven not just losing all the bad stuff eventually, but Christ Himself! He’s the prize. He’s the glory. So I wonder are you living your life ready for eternity? And I can ask that of everybody here. Christians too, do you have that eternal focus? Do you have that heavenly mindedness which has practical application today. The time that God chooses to keep you here and I encourage you look head to the glorious hope you have and live your life with one foot raised. Ready? It’s a mindset to live by. Do everything with anxious expectation, joy-filled hope. the anticipation of the heavenly life ahead. Bad things may still happen but you’re calibrated. You got that scope on heaven ahead and the glory of Christ and being with Him. And these things remain hard, but you have that focus. That’s how to live the Christian Life, my friend. Absolutely be heavenly minded. As we live here on Earth, cultivate it, long for it, strive for it, anticipate that heavenly life ahead, and that makes you live for Christ today and tell others about Christ today.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You for the finished and complete and perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we thank You for the hope that we have that rests on that firmly. We thank You for His successful rescue mission to save sinners just like us, undeserving, but through Your mercy and grace, You have given us what we don’t deserve. And we thank You that He walks with us even during the hard times in this life. And we thank You for the numerous blessings that we have as we continue to live here. We pray for help.. that You’ll help us through the hard times. Help us to think correctly. Pray this, these truths will have been an encouragement to someone here this day. And yet Lord, we thank You for the hope of eternity ahead with You, with Your Yon. But Lord, we cry out to You for those who do not know You here this day. God would You be glorified in saving sinners here? God we plead with You. As You’ve done for so many of us that You would reach down in supernatural power, and replace the heart of stone with the heart of flesh, that You’ll bring repentance and faith in you. And that Lord, somebody here this day for the first time would have their feet solidly set on the hope of Jesus Christ, oh God transform lives we pray today, in Jesus’ precious and worthy Name, amen.

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