The Saints Reception into Glory
There is a remedy for the weariness which attacks us in the course of our earthly pilgrimage. There is a way to look beyond men's ingratitude, the strife of tongues, the disappointments of our earthly condition. Beyond all the bitterness of present experience, and much above it, there is the glorious hope of our soon being with the Lord.
It is only to be expected that the way to heaven should be difficult. This reflects the wisdom of God as much as any other of his dealings with us here on earth. God will have his people to sigh and groan along the way to glory. It is the best preparation for the everlasting rest which they are to enjoy. Who would wish to 'depart and to be with Christ' (Philippians1:23) if this present life were a bed of flowers? Before the calm must be the storm. Before our entrance upon everlasting glory, we must expect to experience anguish of spirit, torn feet, a bleeding heart and a parched throat. Christ himself had all of this and he informed us that we too must expect to find the world a place of tribulations. There is a cross to be borne, a race to be run, a conflict with Diabolos to be encountered.
The old divine was right, who said that this world is the only hell a Christian has. That is true. But it serves to remind us that it is a hard world to get through. Many a saint has come to his wits' end here in this valley of tears. But, for all their trials and afflictions, the saints have got through at last. And, God be thanked, they always will.
The best remedy for present suffering is to recollect the future glory. Modern Christians need this medicine quite as much as any Christians before them did. If our modern sufferings are not so crude, they are not less cruel. Our forefathers suffered on the rack, or were roasted with fire and faggot. Modern instruments of torment are more refined but they sear God's people just the same. To live with the love of God in our hearts amongst men whose daily trade is in blasphemy and dirt is torture for the mind. To see society blinded and hardened is agony to a Christian spirit. To rub shoulders with men who ignore God and their own souls, and whose lifestyle is a daily rehearsal of all that God forbids is, to a Christian, like walking among putrefying corpses. His heart is alternately wounded by compassion for the lost and by indignation at the way they can mistreat God's law.
It is not escapism for a believer to look forward to the coming glory. Rather, it is our daily and hourly duty. We shall suffer loss if we allow the glory ahead of us to become dim in our memories. To be seldom thinking of the glory to come is to be unlike our Saviour, who spoke so often of the day when he would return to gather us to himself. It is profane to think little of the Christian's future bliss. That is to suggest we are too satisfied with earthly joys and earthly company. Paul saw success in preaching more than all of us. He saw churches planted perhaps more than any man ever did. He witnessed revivals more than we all could dream of. Yet he talks constantly of a groaning to be at his journey's end. The goal for good men is not even in the best blessings that earth can give. It is in their final reception into glory.
Change of Priorities
What an alteration in men's priorities will come about when the Saviour whom we love appears upon the clouds of heaven at last! There is a conspiracy of silence now about the being and purposes of God. To speak of God, either as Creator, Ruler or Judge, is to run the risk of being ridiculed now in this life. But a mighty, convulsive change will occur all in a moment of time when our blessed Jesus draws aside the curtains of time and space and steps visibly down into the lower creation to welcome his saints to glory. Then at long last it will appear to every eye that nothing matters except to have been a Christian. In that hour every monarch will wish to have parted with his empire rather than to have died without a hope in Christ. The great ones of this world will envy at the good of God's children and feed on the wormwood of despair because they chose the pleasures of time rather than the glories of eternity. There will be a last great final crash in the stock market of earthly hopes and earthly ambitions. Bankruptcy will seize on all who have loved this world. The shares held by the saints will rise in value by an infinite degree. The very demons will admire the reward of God's people. Not a tongue in God's universe will be able to deny that Christians have chosen the better part. Every godly man will then cry out, 'Behold! the Bridegroom!'
Change of Company
It is always a gladdening thing to see a good man vindicated after prolonged trials. The story of Joseph is sublime because it shows that meekness, kindness and godliness prevail over jealousy, cruelty and evil. The pattern is reproduced in every believer's life or else it is to be reproduced hereafter. In this life is the experience of the pit, the prison and the isolation. In the next will be the enlargement, the vindication and the comfort.
God's people are esteemed in this mad world to be both mad and foolish. This is a lonely world for the saints of God. Men separate them from their company. The Lord's people learn to walk alone and to wait for God. Here is no place of ease or much sympathy. Even the world's sympathy is no comfort to a godly man because it is misplaced and ill-founded. How can the blind show sympathy to the clear-sighted? How can the sick unto death show compassion to the healthy? It is a misguided sympathy, to which our Lord himself would say, 'Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves' (Luke 23:28) There is a lonely isolation to be borne with by God's children here below and it is a sad condition for them many a day.
But what a change will come to light when the seventh angel sounds and the mystery of God is finished! The saints of earth will then enjoy the honoured attention of all the whole host of heaven. The Jesus whom we have served will call us by name and bid us come up higher. Angels and archangels will be our festal companions. None will shun our company from that hour to the last stroke of unending eternity. God himself will not be ashamed to be called our God. The Lord Jesus will not be ashamed to call us 'brothers'. The Holy Spirit will not be ashamed to put the last golden touch to his sanctifying work and make us to shine with Jesus' perfect likeness, fair as the moon and bright as the sun.
Those who were ashamed of our company on earth will be ashamed of their shame when they see in that day, too late, that those whom the world counted fools were 'wise in Christ' and that those whom the world shunned are now to be received up into glory. So the saints will be vindicated and the wicked will fret to realise that God has given the saints their heart's desire and will comfort them for all their harsh treatment at the hands of worldly men. The days of their mourning will be ended. No ending will be like theirs, which will be a loss of all bad company and a beginning of all holy companionship forever.
Change of Condition
But the cream of the believer's joy will be to hear the Saviour's personal welcome into glory. 'Come, ye blessed of my Father' (Matthew25:34) will then be sweeter music to them than the massed choirs of all the seraphim around them as they rise. That Jesus valued their poor efforts at serving him on earth will seem strange to their ears. 'Lord, when?' they will say, when the Judge heaps up commendation high upon loving commendation. 'When did we ever begin to do anything aright? When did we do such things as Thou here speakest of so generously?' That the Lord of glory should speak well of them and refer to their long-forgotten acts of faithfulness with such warmth of praise will seem to the saints to be almost beyond credulity. But they will then see that Jesus does not reckon as men do, but reads the heart and notes the secret motive of love to him. He takes the desire for the deed and the effort for the performance. Of their shortcomings he says not a word; on their well-meant service he pours a torrent of praise.
It will be a sight indeed to see the Church universal raised from the sleep of ages to meet the Lord in the air! No garment of earth can compare with the robes of their glorification. Each will be in love with Christ, each eager to see his face and to press into his presence, yet not at the expense of any brother's honour. None is now sorry for his earthly sufferings or martyrdom. None grieves at the good of his neighbour. None is now capable of sinning against the strictest perfection of God's will. All wear an expression of ethereal joy because the marriage day of their Husband has arrived and they have made themselves ready. They did not sleep without oil in their vessels, with their lamps, nor bury their talents in the earth. Their condition is glorious beyond all thought.
All is of Free Grace
The saints' reception into glory will not be complete before the judgement of the wicked who hated them has been fully carried out. The saints must be spectators of the verdict and sentence of their Lord upon all his and their haters. Sin must be shown publicly to be the evil it is. The wicked must be publicly exiled from the presence of God and the spectacle must be performed in vindication of the divine honour and of the believers' sufferings in this life.
There are deep lessons for the saints to learn when they see Christ's judgement meted out to the lost. They will perceive how faithful all Christ's warnings were in his word, that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom than for rejectors of the gospel, that escape for those who neglected salvation is impossible and that many publicans and sinners will enter into glory, whereas proud prelates and dumb preachers will be cast away.
The great assembly of the redeemed will see in the judgement upon the wicked that all their mercy is owing solely to the grace of God. There, but for the grace of God, go I, will be the instinctive feeling of every awed saint as he beholds the wicked part of mankind hurried away in bundles to be burned. The very angels will trace their blessed condition to God's decree of election. Not a voice will be raised against the sovereignty or good-pleasure of God at that solemn hour. What a sense of indebtedness to Christ will suffuse the breasts of all the ransomed host when the whole truth of what he has done for them comes home to their hearts in its fulness! What acclaim will Christ receive when the meaning of our salvation is then opened up to completeness and every obscurity in God's plan becomes to us as bright as the rays of the sun! The perception of our debt of love to Christ will beggar the imagination of all minds to express, when we see that our Second Adam swallowed up all our condemnation in his own condemnation on the Cross, that he is to us all in all and the life of our life. Unity, glory and love in the presence of God is to be our destiny. God himself, the triune and the ineffably blessed, is to be our portion to enjoy and to glorify.
Who, that feeds on such hopes as these, can be weary of a Saviour's discipline here below? Or who, that soars aloft on the wings of such prospects, can tire of serving a Master whose very Name is love and generosity?
Let us be of good cheer. The day of our meeting with Christ is at hand.