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Can you always, with permanent conviction, call Heaven your present possession? This is one among many Biblical truths from which believers are to appropriate for exhortation from the “comfort of the scriptures” (Rom 15:4). How eternal life is comprehended will determine whether or not there will be a walk in the encouragement of spiritual growth truths. Concerning the “New Heaven,” believers are considered presently there because of the surety of its inevitable occurrence. Though our present condition is earthly, our present position is heavenly (Eph 2:6), which answers to our Lord’s declaration that, “I go and prepare a place for you and I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” This concurs with the Lord’s action of being our heavenly “Forerunner” (Heb 6:20).
The two great subjects of the testimony of the Holy Spirit are the sufferings of the Lord Jesus and the glories to follow. When these two connected truths are received into the soul by the teaching of the Spirit, they necessarily sever it from the absorbing power of earthly interests. Take the Cross, for example. “They are enemies of the Cross of Cross . . . who mind earthly things” (Phl 3:18, 19). On the other hand, take the resurrection. ”If ye then be risen with Christ . . . set your affection (the same as “mind” in the former quotation) on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2).
The great moral of the Gospel is heaven as a present enjoyable reality, as the home of our affections, the center of our interests. This is indeed a wondrous truth, but how little we know the actuality of it in our souls! The characteristic of our present calling is, that it is “heavenly.” We are addressed as “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling.” Our true tabernacle is in heaven; our only Priest is in heaven.
The epistle to the Hebrews sets forth the heavenly worship, which faith alone can recognize in direct contrast to earthly worship, which the senses could recognize. The priest of the Jews was a visible person; the sacrifices, tangible objects; the temple, a material structure: all beautiful and orderly and suitable to the system with which God Himself has connected them; but to faith, they are mere shadows of glorious and eternal realities (God began with visibly-aided proof and gradually minimized it to allow faith to be exercised in its greatest capacity before its time is gone, for soon we will walk by sight—NC).
The heart of man naturally lingers about the shadows; and the full-blown evil of the Judaizing tendency (not that Judaism is evil but attempting the admixture of it with Christianity is—NC), with which the Apostle Paul dealt so sternly, is now become habitual to the thought of Christianity, and has helped to form that characteristic of “dwellers on earth.” Judaism has been taken as the pattern of what men call Christianity, and thus Christianity itself is regarded as a mere improvement or refinement of Judaism, instead of being regarded according to Paul as its direct contrast (opposite—NC). The new piece has been added to the old garment, “and the rent is become worse.”
We are exhorted to walk worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called (Eph 4:1). This implies the knowledge of our “calling.” It is a “high calling.” The word rendered “high” is the same as that rendered “above” in Colossians 3. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” We are called of God from beneath to above, from earth to heaven. We are bodily on this earth and in this world, yet we belong not to either—“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Hence also the pilgrim and stranger character of the saint: heaven is his home, and oh, that we as ardently desired to be with the Lord Jesus where He is, as He desires to have us with Him!
We are not as “those that dwell on the earth” (Rev 13:14). Moralists, philanthropists and politicians all recognize something valuable in Christianity, and use it as helpful to their own ends; and thus has Christianity been dragged down from its lofty eminence, till almost all that is distinctive is lost amidst so many elements which are foreign. The long continued attempt to apply Christianity to the world, merely as an aid to its civilization, has led to the loss of even the theory of the Church. In time it may well be that nothing will be so offensive to “the dwellers on the earth” as the assertion of the peculiar privileges and special hope of the Church.
- Wm Kelly (1821-1906)