Living for the World to Come
The best medicine in the Bible — for coping with life in this world — is the book of Ecclesiastes. The preacher (Qoholet) judges this world to be nothing but vanity (Eccl 1:2). Who can dispute that futility is the course of this world? After all, the simple observer is required to agree with the biblical witness that everyone comes into the world with nothing and everyone leaves this world with nothing (1 Tim 6:7). This renders any gain in the world as meaningless as an end in itself. Herein lies the impetus for Christian conversion.
Temporal life in this material world is vaporous (Jas 4:14). Our physical bodies are bodies of sin and death (Rom 6:6; 7:24). One must determine what is most important while the decay of flesh and blood is apparent. There is a consequence for poor judgment in these matters, for it is appointed once for a man to die and then comes the judgment (Heb 9:27).
Understanding judgment is also essential knowledge. All people are conceived in a state of condemnation because of original sin (Jn 3:18; Rom 5:12). In Adam, the first man, all die (1 Cor 15:22). Subject to this inheritance of sin, we are all guilty by association and practice (Rom 3:23). So the pertinent question is, “Who can deliver me from the righteous wrath of God directed at me — a son of disobedience and child of wrath?”
Jesus is the answer (1 Thess 1:10). He alone is uniquely positioned as the God-man mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). He bore our sin in His body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24), and in doing so He propitiated the wrath of God against those who belong to Him (Rom 3:25; 2 Tim 2:19; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
Having been set free from slavery to sin and the penalty ascribed to guilty sinners, which is eternal punishment in the fiery hell of the lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15), the one born again of God has a new life to live…now and for eternity (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 5:17).
Having been transferred from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13), the redeemed people of God are at peace with God (Rom 5:1). It is this peace that produces peace for the believer in a world of tribulation (Phil 4:7).
Converted from being a child of wrath to becoming an adopted son of God, the Christian now has an abundant life to live in this world. With his new identity (“in Christ”), the child of God bears witness of the Person and work of Jesus Christ, who has given the repentant believer eternal life (Mk 10:30; Jn 3:15–16; 6:47; 10:28; 17:2).
No longer an enemy of God, the saint is now hated by the world in the same way Jesus was hated during His life and earthly ministry (Jn 7:7; 15:18–25). Jealousy and envy now define the attitude of unbelievers toward those with the indwelling Holy Spirit occupying them (Rom 8:9–11). Life in this world is a preview of eternal hell for ungodly sinners. It is a difficult life in a fallen world — also void of hope because each reprobate is without God (Eph 2:11–12). Suffering because of sin is a universal experience for sinners and saints. Experiencing a personal relationship with God in Christ actually adds trouble for the follower of Jesus (Jn 16:33)!
Acquainted with loss, grief, and sorrow, the new creation has the life of God living in his or her soul by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 2:20). Here is the blessed hoped of the Christian, Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27; Titus 2:13). Hence, to live life in this world as a regenerated soul, one must fix his eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2), who is authoring and perfecting each believer’s faith in Him.
We believe, therefore, we speak (and write) of these things that constitute eternal life. Our lives are distinguished from what they were before — dead to God and dead in sin (Eph 2:1). Having mercy on the elect, redeemed people known to Him before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:9; 17:9; 21:27), at the appointed time, He made us alive to God by the Spirit of adoption, who causes us to be born again (Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 2:5; 1 Pet 1:3).
The world was an end goal objective before Christian conversion. Now, the world is a means to be used for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Understanding the fleeting nature of our material existence, the Christian’s focus is on things above (Col 3:2), that is, the world to come. For the kingdom of heaven is now here wherever the Holy Spirit is manifesting His indwelling presence and work of producing spiritual fruit (Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22–23).
One detects the sanctifying Spirit’s wise operation wherever a saint is being made holy by the Word of God (Jn 17:17; 1 Pet 1:2). The Bible refers to this as one who walks by faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 5:7; Gal 5:25). Faith is never a leap of ignorance into something unknown. Rather it is an increasing reality for those who are growing in the grace and knowledge of the truth (2 Pet 3:18), as it is in Jesus (Eph 4:21). With varying degrees of speed and experience, every Christian is being conformed to the image of Christ Jesus (Rom 8:29), the perfect man who is the Son of God from eternity.
Union with Christ has begun (1 Jn 4:13). It can never be separated, but in all things it hopes because of the unfailing promises of God. The promises of God extend beyond this world. They include the promise of Christ Jesus’ kingdom to come in the creation of the new heavens and the new earth (Is 65–66; Rev 21–22). That new creation is foreshadowed in every man made new by the grace of God.
Rejoice, dear brethren. We have a hope and a future. As we have seen, we have a foretaste of good things to come, too! Life in the Spirit of Christ is a blessing and a joy that every believer in Jesus must learn and put into practice. He who began this good work of transformation will perfect it in due time (Phil 1:6). We have His Word, His promise, and an apprehension of eternal life in the eternal kingdom of our eternal King. Look to Him and live by faith in the world to come!
March 22, 2023