For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.
All that exists, and all that happens, in this universe comes ultimately from the hand of God. This we should understand from our consideration of natural revelation (see Romans 1:20-21). It is God who gives us “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).
We are further taught in Holy Scripture that all things were made by the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and so “without him was not any thing made that was made”—and that he is now “upholding all things by the word of his power” (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3).
It is evidently God’s will to apply the manifold the spiritual, physical and eternal life that Christ’s redemption has accomplished for his people in a similar way as the manifold spiritual, physical and eternal death has been (an is being) “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12)1:
We are, first of all, “born again”—we receive regeneration of our previously dead souls (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13; Titus 3:5).
Later, after we have died (unless we are among the last generation of Christians in this present age, before Christ returns), we will receive the “redemption of our body” in the resurrection (Matthew 21:31-32; John 11:24-26; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:12-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
And after this, we will “ever be with the Lord” in the new heavens and earth (John 3:16; 14:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; 9:12; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5).
At the present time, while we continue to live in this world, we still possess mortal bodies. And this present heaven and earth will endure—this order of things will continue—so long as it is God’s will to maintain it; and that is until the Lord Jesus Christ returns (see Genesis 8:22; Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Peter 3:10,13; Revelation 21:1,4-5).
The Lord Is Righteous in All His Ways
While it is in the heart of fallen human beings, and often in their minds and lips, to accuse God of injustice—let us never forget that “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). This must include what is happening in this world under his sustaining providence.
So, let us humbly ask: why do Christians, after they have been spiritually “born again,” suffer afflictions in this life and die the physical death? If the Lord Jesus Christ has died in the place of his people, then it may appear upon first consideration that for Christians to suffer and die it is unnecessary and unjust.
However, there would only be divine injustice in our suffering if God still counted us as being “in Adam,” and if therefore he was sending physical afflictions and physical death upon us as though we were still under the broken covenant of life—but then, this injustice would ultimately have been against Christ, before it could have been an injustice against us, because Christ has already suffered to redeem us in his crucifixion.
But this is not how things are with Christians. Their case is as David proclaimed in the 32nd Psalm: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven [by God], whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalms 32:1,2; see also Romans 4:6-8).
Therefore afflictions and physical death serve another purpose for the Lord’s people. They are not an unnecessary part of God’s providence for them; God always works these miseries for their good (Romans 8:28).
It Was Good for Me
In some cases, these sufferings are God’s chastisements upon his people for their continuing in sin, until they repent, leading to their sanctifying and maturing in the faith (see Hebrews 12:5-11).
So we must come to understand, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalms 119:71); and we must have our hearts drawn closer to God. And in the way we live our lives from our affliction onwards, we must purpose to obey him more. All this repentance, and vowing new obedience, must be in our prayers.
For those people who have had the Good Shepherd restore their souls, and who are being lead by him in paths of righteousness, “the valley of the shadow of death” is the God-appointed means of bringing them out of this fallen world and into his presence in Heaven (Psalms 23:3,4; John 10:11,14).
And after this (for there is an after!), “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Therefore, let us learn: every time we struggle with the question of this chapter, we need to shift out perspective to see things how they really are, for the Christian:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it…And [meanwhile, in this world] we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:18-25,28).
Have you grasped all that? The Christian learns to affirm: “It was good for me that I have been afflicted. All things work together for my good. I love God. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in me.”
It will not always be this way. A time is coming when God will bring this universe to its end. At the end of history, the Lord will return and gather his own people to be with himself forever and, in the twinkling of an eye, he will give to them incorruptible, immortal resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation: 21:4; compare also Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55; Revelation 7:17).
To be continued.
To be continued.