Crumbling Homes on Earth, Established Kingdom in Heaven
One day Christians will inherit this world as our eternal home. But if we set our hopes on it now, in its current state, we’re only setting ourselves up for sadness and heartbreak.
I teach and pastor in Cameroon. It’s quite common to hear of unjust killings, corruption, mob violence, and war crimes. Two months ago, news came to our church that eight children were murdered in cold blood by armed men in a nearby city. Since 2016, our nation has been embroiled in a conflict between rebel and government forces. The casualties of this war are often innocent women and children. My mind recalls an appalling photo that has recently circulated in the media: two women shot to death, their babies still on their backs.
To escape all this, thousands of Cameroonians have migrated to nearby countries or more peaceful parts of our nation. But even these so-called peaceful regions have become more dangerous. Mass migration has reduced the number of available jobs, and joblessness has increased crime. A wife of one of my students was held at knifepoint in a taxi; the criminal stole all her money and her phone. Another student was chased by a taxi as he drove his motorcycle. Eventually, the driver stopped right in front of him. Two men jumped out of the taxi and chased him off the road. One stabbed him in the back to immobilize him. They took his motorcycle and left him to bleed to death. Thankfully, a stranger found him and rushed him to a hospital which saved his life. Several of my students have been robbed or had their homes broken into in the past year.
Sometimes, I ask myself: How can I live and serve Christ in such a crumbling place? How can I not give in to constant fear?
ENLIGHTENMENT DOES NOT INSULATE US FROM SUFFERING
The author of Hebrews has given me some much needed counsel.
Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Heb. 10:32–34)
In context, the author is urging believers to hold on to the hope of the gospel, which is necessary for their final salvation (Heb. 10:19–25, 36). As a motivation for them to endure, he reminds them of their former willingness to gladly suffer for Christ for the sake of future rewards.
The health-and-wealth “gospel” promises insulation from suffering for those who come to Christ. But the author of Hebrews teaches—along with the rest of the New Testament—that faith in Christ doesn’t insulate us from suffering; it ensures suffering, particularly at the hands of unbelievers. In this world, Jesus said, you will have troubles (Jn. 16:33). The writer of Hebrews reminds his audience of the same truth: “Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with suffering.” God enlightened their hearts, but he did not lighten their earthly circumstances. The weight of suffering makes us long for future glory—that’s where Scripture urges us to turn our eyes.
OUR FUTURE HOME, BOUGHT WITH BLOOD
But this raises a question: why? Why can believers endure suffering patiently? Hebrews tells us: because they “knew” that they had a better and abiding possession. Knowledge of a coming inheritance sustained believers then, and it should sustain us now. A sound theology of heaven, our abiding home where our abiding possession lies, should guard us as we suffer. Without a firm grasp of our secured eternal home, it’s impossible to rejoice while our earthly property is getting plundered.
The Hebrews knew they would inherit a heavenly kingdom that had been bought by Jesus’ blood—blood that saves to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). We find a similar idea in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” What is the “all things”? It’s obviously not earthly possessions or blessings—those are being stripped from persecuted believers. The “all things” is our eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:17), which earlier in the letter Paul indicates is the whole world (Rom. 4:13). If God was willing to crucify his own beloved Son, then we can have complete and total confidence that he will be willing to save us on judgment day and give us the whole world as our inheritance. After giving up his Son for us, giving us eternal glory is but a small thing for him.
THE HOPE OF HEAVEN IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING
Elsewhere in Scripture, the Apostle Peter taught early Christians to find hope in the midst of suffering by focusing on God’s past, present, and future grace. These believers were in exile for their faith (1 Pet 1:1); they were maligned (2:12), suffering unjustly (2:19) and suffering for doing good (2:20; 3:14, 17). But the divine realities of God’s grace strengthened the weak, gave hope to the hopeless, emboldened the discouraged, and sustained joy among sufferers.
God sent his Son to the world so that he could live the righteous life we never could and die the death that we deserved. By his great mercy he saved us, great sinners though we were (1 Pet. 1:3). What great mercy that we who deserved nothing but hell should be granted life. When we hated him, he loved us and displayed great mercy to us.
We’ve been born again through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3). Just as Jesus was brought from death to life, so our dead souls now have life because he was raised to live forever. Once dead but now alive; once blind but now we see. Amazing grace, what amazing grace!
That past grace stirs present hope for our future home in heaven. God has kept an inheritance for us in glory, and he is keeping us for that inheritance. No degree of suffering can destroy our inheritance. As Peter tells us, it’s imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven—for us. No amount of suffering in this life can crush a true believer’s faith and keep them from it.
And so, with heavy hearts and tear-filled eyes, we can rejoice even now with joy inexpressible. Glorious joy is faith-filled joy, and it is suffering joy. So whatever your lot, may the Lord teach you to say, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.”