by William J. Stewart
The apostle Peter once inquired of the Lord, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27) The question is valid. What benefit is to be derived from forsaking all to become followers of Jesus Christ? What do we receive in exchange for our commitment to Him? If nothing is to be gained, we might better go through life seeking our own will.
Jesus told the apostles they would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (v 28). For those who would come afterward, the Lord promises a hundredfold of houses, brothers, sisters, etc., which are enjoyed “in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:30). Much could be said about the authority given to the apostles, and the blessing of brethren scattered throughout the world who willingly share one with another, but we want to focus our attention herein on the future blessing of eternal life. Where will this eternal life be enjoyed? What does the Bible reveal about our eternal abode?
The Bible teaches plainly that if you and I will be faithful to the Lord, then we have the hope of spending eternity with the Lord in heaven. When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he spoke “of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (1:5). Peter likewise encouraged the saints, speaking of “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Neither apostle promised an earthly hope to the child of God, but credited the Christian with an eternal heavenly home.
In Matthew 5, the Lord declared what is commonly called the beatitudes. The final of these reads, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (v 11-12). Jesus very candidly disclosed the location of our eternal reward, if we will endure persecution on His behalf. We shall be honoured to enter the abode of heaven itself. We do not cling to the hope of an earthly reward, as some affirm to have, but look for that which is far greater—the very same reward that men such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sought to receive (Hebrews 11:16).
In John 14, Jesus sought to assure His distressed disciples about His impending departure. Hear His words, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Was this promised home in the heavens only for the apostles? Listen to the Lord: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour” (John 12:26).
Again, from the pen of the apostle Paul, we find confidence in the heavenly home prepared for the faithful in the hereafter. The apostle assured the Corinthian brethren, “we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Later in the same text, he writes, “knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord… we are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6, 8).
A citizenship is a wonderful blessing. I am told that a Canadian citizenship is one of the most highly esteemed among the nations of the earth. There are inherent benefits which go with being a citizen of a certain country. Among them, the most basic is residence. As a Canadian citizen, I am entitled to live in Canada. When I am away from our fine country, I am confident that upon my return to our borders, I will be granted entrance, for I am a citizen of Canada. As a Christian, I hold a heavenly citizenship. Paul explains, “…our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” (Philippians 3:20-21). Those who are in Christ can anticipate entering into the heavenly country. We are, for the present, “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11) upon the earth; but will at the Lord’s return be granted entrance to heaven—our homeland.
The apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians about the return of Christ, and what will take place then. Note, “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Lord is not coming to the earth to establish as kingdom a so many are reporting, but at His return, He comes to take us to be with Him. He is not brought down from the clouds—we are caught up together with those who have gone on before to meet the Lord in the air. Surely He will take us to the home prepared for the saints.
There is certainly more which could be said about our hope of heaven, but this much will suffice for the present. The faithful child of God has the hope of heaven because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As such, may we live here as pilgrims, steadfastly defending our Lord and His cause, and upon His return, He will declare to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23).