Artwork: "Stairway to Heaven" by Jonathan Allen Cummings
Once we are saved from Hell and know about the joy waiting in Heaven, why would we want to remain on Earth?
~ follow up to last two posts on how a Christian never dies and what happens to us after death (April 29 and May 6)
To those with relatively trouble-free lives here on Earth, the above question may sound ridiculous—the knowledge that Heaven awaits is no reason to hasten our departure. Young people seem particularly un-impatient for the rapture, hoping to first experience this life's promise.
But those who have seen trouble aplenty are more likely to struggle with a reason to engage in this world's life rather than endure it. The Bible has numerous examples of suffering saints who questioned a reason to live.
The answer comes by asking a more difficult question, of whether we are self-centered or God-centered in defining our purpose. It's not a question of whether or not we love God, but if we love Him enough to live for Him rather than for ourselves—both now and in the next life.
For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
~ Romans 14:7-8 (NKJV)
This world is our proving ground for Heaven. We cannot obtain eternal life by any good works, but only by faith. Our works then prove our faith to be genuine and establish the place we'll have in God's kingdom.
The unbeliever will one day stand before God's judgment seat to be condemned for sinful rejection of God, as proven by their unrighteous works.
The Christian who has already proven their faith by works will face a different judgment seat, at which God evaluates our works.
Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
~ 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
Whatever has seemed unfair here on Earth is to be taken into account—each of us will be judged in the measure of what we were given to work with, whether our talents (gifts), time, or treasures of this world.
The irony is that works performed for the sake of reward are inherently selfish and won't count as works of faith. Faith instead cooperates with God's Holy Spirit to do His work through us, especially His work of love for others. Knowledge of a reward isn't our motivation and purpose, but it can serve as a reminder if we grow weary in our motivation to love or in our purpose to glorify God.
How we life for the Lord in this life determines the manner in which we enjoy living for Him later.
"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
~ Jesus (Matthew 6:20-21 NKJV)
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Beginning next week: What is the Kingdom of God, how do I get there, and how do I know it when I see it?
What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.
© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.