Suffering With Hope – Part IV

Longing for heaven

I will tell you, sometimes I find myself yearning so much for the Lord’s return, our transformation, and the verities of heaven that I get lost in the thought of it all. So, if you see me staring off into space, clueless to my surroundings, be patient with me. I’m not trying to be rude; I’m probably lost in the thought of our future home – something I find myself thinking about more and more as I get older and as life on this earth becomes increasingly more difficult to negotiate.

Some might charge me with reverie, but this is not escapism. Wasteful daydreaming, “woolgathering” is losing ourselves to the temporal things of this world. Longing for heaven is focusing on the eternal, that which will be our reality forever, and such meditations help us keep this life, its joys and sorrows, in perspective.

We need to think more of the reality of heaven as revealed in scripture. Having heaven’s perspective is especially needful when we encounter hardship. We have already seen that a believer’s suffering is not random, impersonal, or pointless, and as we will consider in this issue, a Christian’s suffering is most definitely not without hope.

Gaining heaven’s perspective

Our text has been 1 Peter chapter one and in verses three and four, the apostle Peter points the suffering Christian’s eyes toward heaven. In doing so, he reminds us that this life is not all there is. In fact, the “various trials” we encounter on this terrestrial sojourn are but “for a little while”
(1 Peter 1:6), i.e. fleeting, temporal, but our heavenly inheritance is forever!

“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 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”
(1 Peter 1:3,4).

As Peter contemplates our great and finalized salvation and our hope of heaven, he erupts into a doxology, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “blessed” is translated from the Greek “eulogeytos” from which we derive our term “eulogy.” “Eulogeytos” means ‘to praise,’[1] “to speak well of,”[2] and Peter – caught in the wonder of our heavenly prize – rings out in praise to God the source of our great hope. In this effusion of praise, Peter gives us seven reasons why he praises God for our inheritance and in the process the apostle describes our future hope.

First, Peter praises God because we have a hope obtained by mercy, “who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again.” We hear much of God’s grace – as well we should. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve, but grace cannot express itself without the divine twin virtue of mercy. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.

You see, you and I were in the direct line of fire of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3) and before God could lavish our lives with His grace He had to redirect His fierce and just wrath which He poured out on His beloved Son. The Lord Jesus suffered God’s eternal indignation for our sin upon His holy, unpolluted Divine person so that the Father might shower us with His eternal grace. We have a hope obtained by mercy. Blessed be the Lord!

Secondly, Peter gives ascent to God because we have a living hope, “Blessed be … God … who … has caused us to be born again to a living hope …” In other words, our hope is an eager, confident expectation of life that is to come.

The apostle Paul describes a believer’s death in the following terms: “having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Philippians 1:23). “Depart”, doesn’t that seem like a benign way to describe the great equalizer, DEATH? Paul uses the same word to describe his imminent death in 2 Timothy 4:6, it means “a loosing, a releasing.”[3] For the believer death is merely a freeing up of our spirit so that we may get on with real living in the presence of Christ.

Dr. James Dobson had the bittersweet experience of seeing a close friend die unexpectedly before his eyes. His friend was famed collegiate and professional basketball player “Pistol” Pete Maravich. One day while playing a pick up game of three-on-three with Dr. Dobson and a few friends “Pistol” Pete’s heart simply stopped beating. He had a congenital heart defect that had gone undetected his entire life. Pete Maravich died in the arms of his good friend and Christian brother, Jim Dobson.

In the days after his death, Jim Dobson expressed, “The final heart beat for a Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to a meaningless existence. It is rather the grand beginning to a life that will never end.” When we see Jesus I believe will see death not as a dreaded enemy, but as a smiling friend.

Thirdly, Peter praises God because we have a hope that is sure, we are “… born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Our hope is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, an

historic event recorded by eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. He is the Lord of life who was seen alive by more than five hundred followers (1 Corinthians 15:6) and whose conquest of death went uncontested by hundreds of real time enemies. Scripture does not beckon us to believe blindly. It gives us a hope based on the objective truth of the resurrection revealed in the scripture which is given to us by a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Fourthly, Peter’s doxology continues because we have a hope that is imperishable, “to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable.” We live in a corrupted world and as a result everything around us is breaking down. Every created thing is going from a complex form to a simpler form – that’s how we get compost. In a word, everything is “decaying” or perishing. It happens to our cars, our homes, our bodies. Yet there is an inheritance for God’s people that cannot suffer corruption. One day even our present bodies will be swallowed up in the imperishable, eternal life of God. Can you imagine being about 28 years old physically, immune from disease and decay forever? I’m ready for my trade–in!

Fifthly, Peter’s gratitude to God reminds us that we have a hope that is pure, or as Peter states in the text “undefiled.” In other words, our heavenly endowment is completely untouched by sin. It contains nothing unworthy of God’s full approval. The same word “undefiled” is used in Hebrews 7:26 to describe the moral purity of Jesus Christ as our High Priest. In heaven, we will all be as morally pure as Jesus Himself – 100% free from the corrupting influence of sin. Every thought, every motive, every deed, every event will be dedicated to God’s glory alone and result in our highest pleasure and happiness.

Sixthly, Peter’s hymn of praise continues because we have a hope that cannot lose its glory, our future hope is “unfading.” Where is the glory of the last century’s great men? At best it is a fading memory in the minds of a fading generation. Where is their fame? Most of it is reduced to a trivia question. Where is their wealth? It all belongs to someone else. Where is their power? It has long slipped away from their weak, mortal grasp. Yet the inheritance that awaits the children of God will remain forever glorious, lustrous, beautiful because it will shine through with the everlasting glory of Christ Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

Seventhly, and finally, Peter resounds with praise to God because we have a hope that is certain; it is “reserved in heaven for you.” Our salvation, our heavenly inheritance and hope, is rooted in eternity past by God’s sovereign choice and foreknowledge (vv 1, 2), it has been brought about by His causative action apart from our works (v 3), and it is held in trust in the vault of heaven for us (v 4).

The Greek grammar surrounding the term “reserved” tells us that this is a Divine action performed on our behalf that cannot be undone. Though hell would desire to reverse the certainty of our salvation and its glory, not even the darkest power of the enemy can threaten, let alone cancel the sure inevitability of our future hope.

May you rest in the peace and joy these truths afford. Shalom aleichem, God’s peace to you.

[1] Louw and Nida Greek Lexicon of the New Testament

[2] NASB Exhaustive Concordance

[3] Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon

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