We Will Not Live in Tents Forever

The apostle Paul was likely one of the finest Old Testament scholars of his day, and sometimes draws on existing imagery to make a point.  One example might be Proverbs 14:11-12, where the second verse is more widely known than the first, but not unrelated:

The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
            but the tent of the upright will flourish.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
            but its end is the way to death.

Physically, it seems obvious that a house is far more durable than a tent, but these Proverbs tell us not to judge by appearances.  Looks and reputation may suggest otherwise, but it is righteousness that determines eternal destiny, specifically acceptance of Jesus’ righteousness.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-3, Paul gives an example of why we should focus not on what “seems right”, but instead focus on the unseen things that matter for eternity, drawing on the tent image:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.”

Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash

Paul, defending his apostleship to the Corinthians amidst his suffering while other false apostles lived in ease, knew that an upright tent was better than a wicked house in God’s eyes, and therefore being less comfortable was entirely worth it, since there was an eternal reward waiting in heaven.

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 5, Warren Wiersbe notes that “Heaven was not simply a destination for Paul: it was a motivation.  Like the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, he looked for the heavenly city and governed his life by eternal values.”[1]

When frustrated by your earthly limitations, or frustrated by discomfort in this world, know that we will not live in these tents forever.  For His faithful, God is preparing an eternal dwelling for us.  While it “seems right to a man” to think a house is better than a tent, every tent and house in this world is temporary.  Hebrews 1:12 says of all creation, the earth and all the heavens, that:

like a robe you will roll them up,
            like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
            and your years will have no end.

Do we long for our new, eternal heavenly dwelling?  Does this longing motivate us to live for God?  Let us keep Driving Toward Morning today!

[1] Wiersbe, Warren.  Be Encouraged (2 Corinthians) (1994).  P. 69.

The Part of Us That Matters

The Apostle Paul wrote an amazing contrast in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, which says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

On the one hand, there are things that are transient, described as: outer, wasting away, light, momentary, affliction, and seen.

On the other hand, what is eternal is: inner, being renewed, weighty, glorious, beyond all comparison, and unseen.

These things are part of each of us, but what is eternal matters infinitely more than the other. Don’t confuse the two, or you may lose heart because Paul earlier assured us in verse 14 that “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”  At that time, only what is eternal will remain.


[Revised from a December 2021 post]

Greetings to My Dear Fellow Travelers

Dear fellow travelers,

Have you ever wondered why posts here often start with that greeting?  But before that, why start with a greeting at all?  It started with an observation.

There are 27 New Testament books, and 17 start with the words “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or something very similar.[1]  It wasn’t an accident, which made me wonder: Do I greet others with grace and peace?  Do I intentionally bring grace and peace to relationships with others?  In real-time interactions, certainly not as often as I’d like, but in a blog, where I have the time to be very intentional, why shouldn’t I be able to?  So, what would be an appropriate greeting for this blog?

“Dear fellow travelers” first came to mind because it communicates motion and relates to the name of the blog.  In Taxi Cab by twenty øne piløts, God tells Tyler, the song’s author, that “We’re driving toward the morning sun; Where all your blood is washed away; And all you did will be undone.”  Where we are is not where we will be and becoming Christian changes our destination forever.  We’re going to a different place, but if we focus too much on the circumstances of our time and not enough on the implications of eternity, we lose sight of the Lord who is our Savior, and of the grace and peace He provides.

“Dear fellow travelers” also reminds us of this grace and peace.  The apostles started their letters acknowledging up front that everyone needs grace, even the author.  We are all travelers in this community of faith, and we should be dear to each other.  In addition, when Paul, Peter, or John wrote of peace, they didn’t mean just a sentiment or feeling.  The word translated as peace is rooted in a Greek verb meaning “to join”.  God’s grace enables us to overcome what divides us and to join together in Him.  Through grace, we all fellowship as one and experience peace.  We’re all in the boat together, and with Jesus as the captain we can be confident in the destination.

Since blogs can reach people in any place and theoretically at any future time through the internet, the blog’s greeting needed to be inclusive.  Nations and cultures don’t each have their own gospel of Christ.  There is one gospel, and it applies within, and above, all nations and cultures.  Christians in all places and times are traveling through a place that is not their home, to a place where we will all be together in perfect grace and peace.

So, dear fellow travelers, let’s keep driving!  Let’s strive to bring grace and peace to every encounter we have as we travel through this world.

[1] Refer to Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, 2 John 3, and Revelation 1:4.

Casting Mountains into the Sea

The last post focused on Jesus’ withering of a fig tree on His way into Jerusalem and how it was a sign of the eventual withering of those who reject God’s authority by not bearing fruit where fruit was needed.  Today we return to Jesus’ explanation of how the tree withered so fast: “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:21-22)

Jesus does not say “any mountain,” but “this mountain.” Which mountain?  Since they were returning to Jerusalem, a city built on a hill, it is likely that He is talking about His purpose in going there.  He was about to overthrow the authorities of the world on the cross, including that of the Jewish rulers, but also the Roman Empire.  As I wrote in an earlier post: “Only in hindsight do we know what Jesus already knew at the time: in AD 66, Rome would invade and level the city of Jerusalem, including desecrating the temple.  In 410 AD, Germanic tribes would sack the city of Rome and eventually overthrow the empire of Pax Romana.”

By causing the fig tree to wither quickly, Jesus showed His disciples that anyone who rejects His authority will inevitably wither.  What He demonstrates in a limited way instantaneously, He will fulfill completely eventually, but certainly.  Through our faith we bear our own cross rather than blindly following the authorities of the world.  If we act in faith, our actions outlast every authority of this world.  Thus, our faith moves mountains!

Being “on the right side of history” means doing the right thing in light of eternity, not doing what is popular in the fleeting, present moment or imagining some future opinion poll’s judgement on the present day.  The popular view may often seem like the easy way, but the authority of God, which tells us to love Him and love our neighbor in every circumstance, is the only way to bear fruit that lasts.  Following God may make us popular, or it may not, but seeking popularity should not be a reason for doing things.  Popularity is ok as an outcome, but not as an objective.  For the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, seeking popularity initially made them unable to commit to anything, but eventually led them to crucify God Himself.

In my case as a blogger and in many areas of anyone’s life, there are constant temptations to do what is popular.  Many of the “followers” of this blog are other blogs asking me to pay for advice about how to get more attention; to improve my “metrics.”  Other forms of social media want us to focus on “likes” and other verifications of our popularity.  However, only a life lived knowing that God, our Maker and King, knows what is most beneficial for us and fruitful for His people provides the wisdom we need to find true fulfillment.  The lesson of the fig tree reminds everyone that a quest for popularity might only lead to a withering of their ability to bear real fruit for eternity.

We close with these two verses:
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:35

The Eternal Work of Eden, Heaven, and Earth

As the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, many are finding that the work they did before the pandemic doesn’t seem as important or meaningful to them now.  People are quitting their jobs or retiring early so often, we created a new catchphrase: “Great Resignation.”  Also, many workers, especially younger ones, are demanding that their employers become more vocal and active on social and political goals they agree with, or they will leave.[1]  In short, people are asking for reasons to go to work outside of their employer’s actual business, beyond the job itself, and in addition to the paycheck it provides.   None of this is entirely new, but the pandemic has made it a much bigger issue.  Is work itself meaningful?

As a partial response to this frustration, today’s post will make three points about work before the Fall, in the Garden of Eden, and what that means for our future in heaven and the place of work in our lives now.  We start with an idea from Genesis that is sometimes missed:

#1 – “Not all the world was Eden”
As noted by Michael Heiser in his book The Unseen Realm[2], Eden’s geography is limited and defined in Genesis 2:8-14.  Also, when God expels Adam and Eve from the garden in Genesis 3:23-24 we know that they are still on earth, but no longer in the garden.  God didn’t create a new place for them to go but removed them from the part of the earth that was Eden.  While Eden was a paradise, it was not the entire world.  Which leads to the second point:

#2 – The original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden
In Genesis 1:28 we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Heiser notes on this verse that “the earth needed filling” and that “it makes no sense to subdue the garden of God.”

Eden was a perfect pattern which mankind was to learn from and apply to the rest of the world.  God’s creativity in Eden was a model for human creativity everywhere else.  The pre-Fall world was not a world where there was no work left to be done, which suggests that:

#3 – Work is Eternal
A popular view of heaven is that it is a leisurely place where we don’t have to work.  Images of angels playing harps and finally being able to kick back and relax come to mind.  Some hope in heaven partly for this reason – that they’re tired of working and can’t wait for it to be over.  However, in Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Adam had a job to do in Eden, and God’s people will have jobs to do in heaven.  Work is not only part of our current fallen world, but a part of our eternal destiny as well.  This may seem like bad news to some of my readers, but does the idea of doing nothing for eternity really appealing when you think about it?

We can be encouraged because the actual hope of heaven is always greater than we can imagine.  As Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  While in heaven we will work, it will be thoroughly meaningful and fulfilling.  Every person will be perfectly suited for their tasks and doing exactly what they were designed to do.  No longer will work be cursed by “thorns and thistles,”[3] where labor means pain and you only benefit “by the sweat of your face.”[4]  Work will not be gone, but redeemed and perfected.  Heaven will not be what we expect, but God promises it will always be better than our expectations.

Work is Now
For now, this means that whether you’re working at a job, at home, retired, a student, a parent, or in any role in this world, as God’s creativity was to be reproduced by Adam and Eve, the character of Jesus is being developed in His people in this world, and will be fully reproduced in heaven.  In the Lord’s Prayer, part of the meaning of “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) is that we should live as much as possible in this world in the same way we would in heaven.

Christians are God’s agents in this world to glorify Him and make Him known, in our jobs or in any other roles we find ourselves in.  Heiser cites many examples from the Bible which show that “God works through figures like Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, the prophets, and the apostles. But the pattern extends to us, to all believers. There is nothing we do that God could not accomplish himself. But he has not chosen that method. Rather, he tells us what his will is and commands his loyal children to get the job done.”

In heaven your job will not be what it is now, but for each of us, whatever role we have, whatever our circumstances, our job is to take the gifts of creativity and character God endowed us with and make this world a bit more like Eden.

Jesus was a perfect pattern which we are to learn from and apply to everything we do in this world.

[1] There is less news coverage of people who don’t want politics in the workplace or who have different social and political goals and might leave their jobs to find a less politicized workplace.
[2] Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.  (2015).  This post draws from pages 49-52.  I’m not unaware that this book (and many others I read) might be controversial to some, but I learned a lot from it and saw several passages of Scripture in a different and sometimes better light.
[3] Genesis 3:18
[4] Genesis 3:19