What Difference Does It Make?

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“What difference does it make?” Hillary Clinton made this question famous during her Senate questioning of what happened during the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the American embassy in Benghazi. Although she did not regard the questions she faced as important, I am sure the answers mattered to those who had lost loved ones in the attack.

Many ask similar questions in regard to future things. What difference does it make what I believe about the Lord’s return? Does it really matter if I am watching for it or not? People have been waiting centuries for Him to come again. Should I look for it to happen anytime soon or in my lifetime?

What difference does it make what I believe about the Lord’s return? Does it really matter if I am watching for it or not?

These issues have led to much indifference even among believers regarding the Lord’s return. Many are not watching for it while some do not believe it will happen any time soon if at all.

Does living with an expectancy of Jesus imminent appearing really matter? Absolutely!

Let me explain.

The Importance to the Lord of Such Anticipation

Even though Jesus knew there would be a lengthy delay, He instructed His followers to both watch and be ready for His return (Matt. 24:42, 43: 25:13). Throughout the New Testament, we see this same posture of waiting and expecting that He could appear at any moment (Rom. 8:23; Titus 2:11-13; 1 Pet. 1:13; James 5:8-9). The early believers followed Jesus’ command to watch for His return.

Would Jesus have commanded us to do something if it was not important to Him? Why would Jesus ask His followers to look for His return as something that could happen at any time if it was a useless exercise in futility? I do not think so.

Readiness for His Jesus’ appearing is something important to Him and beneficial to us as well.

The Benefits for Us of Such an Outlook

I see several benefits for us in the New Testament of living with perspective that Jesus could return at any time. Such anticipation:

Kindles purity in our lives – After writing about Jesus’ appearing the apostle John added these words in 1 John 1:3, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” The prospect that Jesus could return at any moment kindles purity in us; it causes us to be much more mindful of walking in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we have victory over sin.

If you truly thought it was possible that Jesus could return tomorrow, would it make a difference in how you live? Of course it would. You might change your mind regarding what movie or TV show you watch tonight. Your thoughts as you go to bed would be different. You would be eager to resolve any conflict with your spouse or deal with unforgiveness toward someone in our life. You would be more conscious of using your gifts and abilities to serve the Lord.

You would want to be ready to meet Jesus!

Keeps a two-world perspective alive in our hearts (2 Cor. 4:16-18) The apostle Paul endured much suffering as he preached the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, yet he never lost heart. As he compared eternal realities with the temporal things of this life he said this, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul’s two world outlook focused his attention on the joys and glory ahead for him in eternity as he endured his beatings, scourging, imprisonments, and shipwrecks.

Without the hope of Jesus’ soon return, we would soon lose our anticipation of heaven. The things of this world would take on much greater importance compared with the wonders of forever.

Encourages us in the midst of suffering (1 Pet. 1:3-6) In writing to believers suffering under the weight of persecution, the apostle Peter immediately reminded them of their “living hope” and of their inheritance that was “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for” them (1 Pet. 1:3-4). He reminded them of the substance of their hope. Regardless of what they experienced on earth, they had a glorious reward waiting for them in heaven at the end of their suffering.

Motivates us to use our spiritual gifts in making disciples (Phil. 3:14-21) – I believe Paul’s determination to press forward in His service to the Lord came from his anticipation of Jesus’ soon return. I believe this was the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (v. 14) that he further described in verses 20-21.

CS Lewis said this about such an outlook: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since because Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Keeps the hope of a better day before us Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The focusing of our thoughts on Jesus’ soon return constantly reminds us that a better day is coming, one in which all sorrow, death, and mourning will be things of the past.

The focusing of our thoughts on Jesus’ soon return constantly reminds us that a better day is coming, one in which all sorrow, death, and mourning will be things of the past.

While most all believers hope for this glorious future day, the sense of imminency in Jesus’ return keeps these things in sharper focus. This also works to minimize the frustrations and disappointments of this life as we realize that a much better day is coming. Setbacks in this life are just temporary; an eternal day is just around the corner. A time of unending joy awaits us with Jesus’ appearing!

Results in a special reward – 2 Timothy 4:8 refers to “the crown of righteousness” that the apostle Paul says is for “all who have loved his appearing.” Our longing for Jesus to return will be rewarded even if we do not see it in our lifetime.

Yes, there are days when I start to wonder, “What’s the point of watching for Jesus to come? I have been waiting for such a very long time!”

It’s then the signs of the approaching tribulation remind me that the time is indeed short. The fires, famines, rumors of war, earthquakes, and increasing talk of the coming new world order all tell us that Jesus is coming soon. The signs around us are increasing exponentially with each pass week.

“How can it be much longer until Jesus whisks us away to heaven and the tribulation begins?”

We will experience endless joy beyond our imagination throughout eternity.

If you are experiencing sorrow, feeling hopelessness, or facing opposition or heartache because of your faith, do not give up hope. Keep your focus on the better day that is coming for all of us who are in Christ. When Jesus comes for His church, He will give us imperishable resurrected bodies and we will be with Him forever with bodies that will never age and never again experience pain or sickness. We will experience endless joy beyond our imagination throughout eternity.

Keep looking up; a much, much, much, better day is just ahead. Such anticipation makes a significant difference in how we view our lives.

 

An Eternity Worth Waiting For

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Despite being bound to a wheelchair as the result of a traffic accident, he was the most joyous, Spirit-filled believer I had seen up to that point in my life. I remember Paul Lundgren’s[i] overflowing joy as he sang about Jesus and his hope of seeing Him face to face. He spoke with excitement of eternity and of his hope of walking again, this time on streets of gold.

As a high schooler who prized involvement in sports (despite an overall lack of athleticism), his joyfulness amazed me. He could not do what I enjoyed doing the most and yet I had never before seen anyone so joyful or so in love with Jesus. Paul Lundgren knew his hope resided in eternity and as a result he could rejoice despite the paralysis in his legs. To this day I am still humbled as I recall his amazing perspective of life.

Isn’t this what our thrilling hope is all about? Isn’t this what we are waiting for? We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Jesus will return for us and we remain with him forevermore.

In recent posts, I have emphasized Jesus’ soon return for His church, especially in light of daunting current events. However, I thought it might be good to focus our thoughts beyond His appearing, to the eternity we will someday celebrate with Him.

Eternity

In his book Desire, John Eldredge quoted Pascal as saying, “Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity . . . for want of reflection . . . we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”[ii] Eldredge then expanded on that sentiment, “We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.”[iii]

We all fight this tendency, do we not? We focus far too much of our attention on this life rather than eternity. It’s far too easy to think of this moment as all we have, but so much of Scripture speaks of our life in eternity and the joy that awaits us there.

Let’s look at some verses from Isaiah 25:

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

What pictures come to mind when we think of eternity? Does feasting with the best wine and food imaginable match your picture of eternity? Do you envision a time with no more death, sorrow, suffering, pain, or tears? Do you see endless joy?

So often our eyes remain focused on this life that we miss our coming celebration when we are forever with our Savior.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations. With sheer delight we will cry out, “This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” There is much emotion and excitement in these words. Someday we will express our overflowing gladness and forever celebrate with the One who saved us and gave us eternal life.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations.

Our lives in eternity will not disappoint even our most imaginative or fanciful pictures of what we think it will be like. Jesus has great plans in eternity for me and for everyone who believes and thus hopes in Jesus, our wonderful Savior. Let that sink in a little more; the Lord not only has plans for our current lives, but also for when we reign with Him in the millennium and then for all eternity.

The Isaiah passage dispels our inclinations to dismiss eternity as nothing and solely focus on what we can attain in this life. We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Our future life will be marked with ever increasing joy and unimaginable blessings. We will rejoice in our great salvation as we realize its full extent. Our waiting will not be in vain.

I do not believe we will experience sadness over anything lost from this life. Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” brings wonderful assurance of the joy that awaits us (Rev. 21:5). We will not mourn the loss of our current life and the things we currently enjoy.

Our coming eternal joy will supersede all the things of this life and never fade away. The newness of eternity will never fade; we will always celebrate Jesus and all the wonders of our future lives.

The New Earth

My eternal focus did not include a restored earth until I read John Eldredge’s book Desire several years ago and began to think about the new earth of Revelation 21. Eldredge said this about it, “How wondrous this will be! Creation can be so breathtaking now. What shall it be like when it is released to it full glory?”[iv] I love to explore nature and enjoy all the wonderful views of the mountains, lakes, and oceans. Such enjoyment of nature will not be lost in eternity; creation restored to its full glory will be even more spectacular.

John Eldredge added this about our hope for a renewed creation:

Our search for the Golden Moment is not a search in vain; not at all. We’ve only had the timing wrong. We do not know exactly how God will do it, but we do know this: the kingdom of God brings restoration. The only things destroyed are the things outside God’s realm—sin, disease, death. But we who are God’s children, the heavens and the earth he has made, will go on. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together” (Isa. 11:6 NIV). . . If all we’ve got are halos and harps, our options are pretty limited. But to have the whole cosmos before us—wow.[v]

Our view of eternity can be so terribly dull compared to what God has revealed about it. The new earth alone will be amazing beyond anything we can comprehend. Although we do not know everything of what our eternal existence will be like, what we do know is far more than enough for us to cease making “a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing” as Pascal urged us to do.

The grandeur of what lies ahead will be so much greater than anything we can ever conceive. We will forever have kingdom responsibilities perfectly tailored for us. We will not feel one second of boredom or frustration in eternity. The newness of eternity will never cease.

As our realization of the wonders of eternity and the new earth grows, our tendency to search for our “golden moment” in this life fades. It’s not that we quench our desires; it’s just that as John Eldredge stated in the above quote, our timing is all wrong. Everything we long for in our hearts is coming, but it’s in eternity rather than this life. Our hope as believers rests in the future Jesus is preparing for us.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives?

This does not at all imply that we ignore this life and not enjoy what the Lord provides for us here. It’s just that we recognize our inner longings for unending joy and realize that such feelings point to eternity.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives? If we know Christ as our Savior, this is our future. We will spend eternity in the most beautiful city imaginable with access to all the beauty of the new earth.

This is why Paul Lundgren could rejoice. He knew his paralysis was temporary; he looked forward to forever when he would walk again. Is this not our hope as well? We all look forward to a time when the heartaches and physical infirmities of this life will be at an end and we will forevermore be with our Savior.

[i] Paul Lundgren was a Christian singer from around 1970 with no relation to current singers with the same name. I heard him sing in Rockford, Illinois. He was not a widely known singer but sang in churches at least throughout northern Illinois at the time.

[ii] John Eldredge, Desire, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.110.

[iii] Ibid. pp. 110-111

[iv] Ibid. p. 119

[v] Ibid. p. 123