Christianity has thus passed through many stages of its earthly life, and yet has hardly reached the period of full manhood in Christ Jesus. During this long succession of centuries it has outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman empire, fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within, the barbarian invasion, the confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the shock of infidelity, the ravages of revolution, the attacks of enemies and the errors of friends, the rise and fall of proud kingdoms, empires, and republics, philosophical systems, and social organizations without number. And, behold, it still lives, and lives in greater strength and wider extent than ever; controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world; marching over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, ever forward and onward; spreading silently its heavenly blessings from generation to generation, and from country to country, to the ends of the earth.
It can never die; it will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself. Single denominations and sects, human forms of doctrine, government, and worship, after having served their purpose, may disappear and go the way of all flesh; but the Church Universal of Christ, in her divine life and substance, is too strong for the gates of hell. She will only exchange her earthly garments for the festal dress of the Lamb’s Bride, and rise from the state of humiliation to the state of exaltation and glory. Then at the coming of Christ she will reap the final harvest of history, and as the church triumphant in heaven celebrate and enjoy the eternal sabbath of holiness and peace. This will be the endless end of history, as it was foreshadowed already at the beginning of its course in the holy rest of God after the completion of his work of creation.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7
It seems your time has finally arrived. You knew it was inevitable, but it never seemed real until now. All signs are indicating that your appointed time to go home will be here soon. Never before have your days seemed as precious to you as they do now. As you walk the road ahead, get ready because the Lord will be walking with you in ways you never imagined. You do not walk alone.
As you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, remember who you are. You are a child of God, and his Spirit is living in you. You have the Spirit of Power dwelling in you, not fear. No matter how weak your body may become during this ordeal, it is not your strength that needs to be at work, it will be his strength.
In Christ, he will give you all that you need to face even the most difficult challenges of our lives. In your entire Christian walk, you may have never experienced the Holy Spirit’s power to the extent that you are going to need it in the coming days, but that is because you have never faced anything this daunting. Our Lord does not give us his power before we need it, but when there is a great demand, there will be a great supply. His strength is made perfect in weakness. Though there are a million things you may dread in the days ahead, you have this to look forward to; the power of God will be at work in you in ways you have only dreamed.
The Spirit of Power is not all he has given us. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Love as well. There are two things to remember in this regard. First, he loves you. In times like this, Satan will bring every sin to remembrance. He will tell you, you deserve this and more. He will tell you God has abandoned you. When he says this, he is only half-right. Our sins deserve so much worse than we will ever experience, but Jesus has not abandoned us.
Christ’s love for us is so great that he took every one of our sins and bore the punishment on the cross. Through faith, the cup of his wrath is empty because he drank all of it. The bow of his anger is at rest because the Father took the arrows we deserved and pointed them at his Son and let them fly. His love is overwhelming. There is not a single drop of God’s wrath in what you are facing. It is only his love that is at work toward you, and his Spirit of Love in you will press this home as you need it.
The second thing to expect with the Spirit of Love, is that the love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts. That means, not only does he love us, but he is our first love as well. You love him and you love others. This love is a result of the same Holy Spirit that gives you power.
This love will serve you well in the coming days. First and foremost, the Holy Spirit will use it to keep you from despair. As Martyn Lloyd Jones points out, despair and depression are the result of self: self-pity, self-concern, self-reliance, etc. What you can expect as the Holy Spirit works in you during this time is that your love for him and others will grow tremendously. There will be many tears because your love will be so strong, but it will be an outward focused love which is God’s way of conquering self during this time.
He has not only given you a spirit of power and of love, but also of a sound mind. This is another aspect of the Spirit dwelling in you that is going to lift your head during this time; a spiritually sound mind. The natural man does not have this. He cannot see beyond this life. Crossing the Jordan, whenever that happens, is not the end of our story. It is only the beginning. Eternity awaits all believers. What we experience in this life is only the introduction to our stories, and the most glorious part has yet to be told.
The Holy Spirit will be writing eternity on your heart in ways you have never thought possible. It will be this spiritual insight that will be the most Christ-exalting gift you will be able to share with others who are still bound to the things of this world. It will be powerful. However, this will not be without opposition. At times like this, the enemy will come to you and remind you of how we failed to redeem the time in the past, but the Lord will restore the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). This blazing bright eternal perspective he will give you will be a means to multiply the fruit in your life which will more than recover any lost time.
The sorrow will be great and the difficulty beyond imagination, but as you are in the valley of trouble, he will speak tenderly to you (Hosea 2:14). He has filled you with his Spirit who is infinitely greater than anything in front of you. Get ready because, in this darkness, you are about to see the brilliance of Christ’s glorious light and love like never before. He is a good Shepherd, and we can trust him wherever he calls us to walk. This will be your final fight of faith, and he will make sure you are victorious because of his children, he will not lose one of them. You will soon be in the presence of your king who loves you dearly.
The following is a challenging thought from J.C. Ryle for those who profess to be Christians but reject the doctrine of hell.
There is but one point to be settled, “What does the Word of God teach?” Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell is real and true. Hell is as true as Heaven, as true as the fact that Christ died upon the cross.
Disbelieve Hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in the Scripture. Disbelieve Hell, and you may as well throw your Bible away at once! From “no Hell” to “no God” is but a series of steps!
Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell will have inhabitants. If I never spoke of Hell, I would think I had kept back something that was profitable, and would look on myself as an accomplice of the devil!
A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men everywhere are telling us, “that God is too merciful to punish souls forever–that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly will sooner or later be saved.” We are to embrace what is called “kinder theology,” and treat Hell as a pagan fable.
This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God–His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of Hell. If words mean anything, there is such a place as Hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, then most people will be cast into it. The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners–also teaches that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin and refuse the salvation He has provided.
After a little while — you will see Me! – John 16:17
Those sweet tender words, “After a little while,” have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious comfort to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God’s poor children carry the pains and hardships of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the oppressive care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty “oil” from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! “After a little while — you will see Me!” says your blessed Master, “for I am going to prepare a place for you!”
Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious change! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and there a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!
I sometimes go into a sick room where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic shut-ins may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, “After a little while — you will see Me!” It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, “I am sick;” neither shall there be any more pain.
Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are hurting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or aching under adversity, or bleeding under sharp sorrows. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. “After a little while — you will see Me!” The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!
“A few more struggles here, A few more conflicts more, A little while of toils and tears — Then we shall weep no more!”
May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!
“No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. There is no calm more deep than that which follows a storm. Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers.
After killing the lion–we eat the honey;
after climbing the Hill Difficulty–we sit down in the arbor to rest;
after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life.
Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them “afterwards.” It is peace, sweet, deep peace–which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls.
See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are “afterwards” good things–harsh ploughings–yielding joyful harvests. Even now . . .
he grows rich by his losses,
he rises by his falls,
he lives by dying, and
he becomes full by being emptied.
If, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life–what shall be the full vintage of joy “afterwards” in Heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world’s days–what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun–what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon–how sweetly will he sing in Heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires–how will he extol Him before the eternal throne! If evil is good to him now–what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then?
He is gone! Jesus is no longer here because He has ascended. There are tensions in the Christian life we are meant to feel, and the ascension presents us with one of them. It is true that Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age, but He did not mean that He would always be with us bodily. Though He is with us in one sense, His absence is something with which every believer must wrestle.
We feel His absence daily as we look at this world. He has left us with His word which speaks authoritatively to everything we need to know regarding faith and practice, but if we could see Him, some of our concerns would begin to fade. Though there are those who claim to have taken His place while He is gone, their fraudulent claims are evident by how far they fall short.
While we are left to wrestle with the truth of His absence, we begin to get a glimpse of how important the ascension is to Christian life and doctrine, and while His absence is painful, we must also remember that it is good. Jesus Himself said it was to our benefit that He go away.
Why is the ascension important, and how does it benefit us? Here are four reasons it is good that Jesus has left us.
1.) We receive the Holy Spirit.
After the ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Though we are consciously aware of the absence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comforts us in our distress. The Spirit continually points us to Jesus and His word. He guides, convicts, and keeps us at all times. It is the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our salvation. He never leaves us. In this way, we are never truly alone, even while we long for Christ’s return.
2.) We see Jesus properly crowned as king.
When He took on flesh and came to walk among us, He emptied Himself of His rightful glory to do so. The ascension returns Him to His glorious state, seated at His Father’s right hand. From there He rules and reigns over all things until His enemies are made his footstool (Hebrews 10:12-13). We live during the time when the Kingdom has been established but not yet fulfilled, and we are to march on with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and as we march as citizens of His kingdom, the gates of hell will not prevail. Our King is on His throne and will reign forever.
3.) We see our acceptance with the Father.
We long to be with the Father, and through the ascension, Jesus enters the presence of His Father on our behalf. We see this in the fact that Jesus is seated with the Father. His sitting down shows us that the atonement He made for our sins is complete, for no other high-priest in the old covenant was ever allowed to sit in the holy place. Since we are in Christ, we see our acceptance before the Father as well.
4.) He is preparing a place for us.
He has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come back for us as well. At that point all things will be set right, the kingdom will reach its full expression, and we will spend eternity with our Savior. Though His absence has its difficulties, those difficulties find their comfort in the Holy spirit and they cannot outweigh the glory that awaits. As believers, this tension should move us to worship. We glory in His ascension while longing for His return.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:6-11
The imputed righteousness of Christ will answer all of the fears, doubts, and objections of your soul. How shall I look up to God?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I have communion with a holy God?–In the righteousness of Christ? How shall I find acceptance with God?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I die?–In the righteousness of Christ. How shall I stand before the judgment seat?–In the righteousness of Christ. The only sure way under all the temptations, fears, conflicts, doubts, and disputes, is by faith to remember Christ and the sufferings of Christ your mediator and surety.
Oh Christ, I am your sin, but you are my righteousness; I am your curse, but you are my blessing; I am your death, but you are my life; I am the wrath of God to you, but you are the love of God to me; I’m your hell, but you are my heaven. His righteousness answers all objections, though there may be a million of them made against a good estate of a believer. This is a precious truth, worth more than a world, that all our sins are pardoned. In Christ, justice and mercy kiss each other, yea justice says, ‘I am pleased.’
We own a Kingdom that will not shake, one eternal in the heavens. We have a certificate of guarantee for all the happiness and blessedness of the world to come. The righteousness of Christ is your life, your joy, your comfort, your crown, your confidence, your heaven, and your all. In righteousness you may safely and comfortably live, and happily and quietly die. Ah, that believers would dwell much upon this truth. The righteousness of Christ cannot be lost; it is from everlasting to everlasting. When once this white raiment is put on a believer, it can never fall off. Interest in his righteousness guarantees all the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom!
There are tensions in the Christian life which are the direct result of knowing Jesus. These are tensions we are meant to feel. They seem to be two desires pulling us in two different directions, but in reality, they are two balancing forces driving us toward holiness and happiness. One of these tensions is the desire to depart and the eagerness to live. Paul expressed it this way.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:22-26
Every believer will long to die and be with God from time to time. Conflicts, persecutions, and illnesses can cause us all to long for home, and during those times, we are often more willing to depart than usual. The problem is, if we only long to die and be with our Savior in times of trouble, then maybe we desire to avoid difficulty more than we desire to be with Christ.
When the scripture talks about longing to die, it is talking about our desire to be with Jesus, and this yearning should be something that is steady in times of pleasure as well as in times of pain. To be with Christ should be our daily desire, and if going through the door of our enemy death is the only way, then death becomes our hope.
At the same time, we are to be eager to live, because to live is also Christ. Every moment of life, whether it be lived in weakness or strength, pain or pleasure, or joy or sorrow, can be a testament to our glorious Savior. Some of the greatest men and women of the faith were men and women who lived in constant weakness and hardship, yet their lives were beacons pointing the world to Jesus.
Since Christ is both our desire to depart and our desire to live, we should never desire one more than the other. Both longings provide us with a balance that keeps us steady. To desire death more than life is to neglect Christ’s work in this world through our lives and shows us that personal peace is more important to us than Christ. At the same time, desiring life over death produces a fear of dying which indicates that being with Christ may not be our true desire.
Both the fear of death and the desire to die to escape difficulties, to the neglect of our calling, shows us that Christ is not our greatest hope. Both of these errors will produce a discontentment in us which will be revealed in times of trouble. During those times, we will be tempted to seek our answers outside of Christ. Only if Christ is our greatest longing will we both long to die and be eager to live, and in that we will find joy in any situation.
For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13
“These all died in faith . . . they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” – Hebrews 11:13
The day of life with them is ended. Its duties are ended. Its responsibilities are passed. Its hours are fled away.
What a trying day some of them had! How stormy. How sultry. How often overcast. How gloomy. But it is now past–and past forever! The toils of the wilderness are over! They had much to afflict and pain them . . .
a difficult and dangerous journey,
a long wearisome march,
many a heavy cross to carry,
many a stubborn foe to face,
many a painful doubt,
numerous gloomy fears.
But now the wilderness is all behind them! The afflictions of the pilgrimage are terminated. Those sufferings were sharp, and some of them continued long. Many of them were endured in secret, without sympathy and without relief. They were soul sorrows, agony of mind–as well as sharp pains of body. But however multiplied, however severe, however protracted those sorrows–they are past and gone, never, never to return!
The sweetest repose is now enjoyed. The poor tabernacle has been taken down, and is laid in a quiet resting-place until the resurrection morning. The soul is gone to be with Jesus. It has traveled through the rough path of life–and is now in God’s presence, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore!
As Christians, we are going to the same place. The graves will soon be ready for our bodies–and the mansions of glory for our souls. We are going home! Home to our Father’s house! Home where our hearts have long been. Home where all our prayers will be answered, and all our best desires will be gratified. “Home, sweet home! There is no place like home!” Especially our home! A paradise without a tempting serpent! A paradise where all are holy, all are safe, all are happy. Those pure and perpetual joys, which are at God’s right hand, await us! We taste them now and are delighted with a sip–but there we shall soon drink full draughts of eternal glory, eternal joy, and eternal blessedness!
Amidst present toils and trials, dangers and distresses–when wearied, way-worn, and tempted to fret–remember that you will soon be HOME! Think, think, O my soul, of an eternity of enjoyment–when the sufferings of time are ended!
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!” Revelation 21:3-4