Sunday, 31 May 2015

Thinking of the future

In Acts 3:21-22, Peter informs his listeners that in God will restore all things at a certain time in the future. There are several details connected to this announcement that we can observe.
Firstly, we can see that the preaching of this great truth by Peter resulted in the conversion of several thousand people. The biblical prospect of a new creation gripped the imagination of sinners living in the bondage of a fallen creation and they eagerly embraced the One who will bring about this glorious future. It is right for us to look back to what Jesus did in the past whether in his work of creation as the Eternal Son or in his work of atonement as the Substitute of sinners. But we should not ignore what he will do in the future. It is impossible for us to see physically the creation of the universe at the beginning or to penetrate the darkness of the cross when Jesus suffered there and paid the penalty for sin. Yet before us is held out the wonderful prospect of seeing the exalted Saviour complete his mediatorial role by presenting to God a restored universe. Preaching, and listening to it, is an opportunity for us to reflect on the greatness of the future planned for his church by Jesus.
Secondly, we are to assess physical disasters from a biblical perspective. Today, a great deal is said in the media about the environment, with the blame usually being laid at this group or that practice. Whatever the secondary reasons, we are to look for God’s hand in earthquakes, famines and other disasters. Thomas Boston commented on such things: ‘They are the constant evidences of God’s indignation against, and hatred of sin, which are never wanting in the world. And it is a child-like disposition to be affected with the tokens of their father’s anger; though they who have no care to please God can easily pass the signs of God’s displeasure, others cannot.’ He went on to say that such happenings ‘bring their own sins to remembrance: and a tender conscience disposes persons to think, “This is for my sake, for my provocations, that they suffer.” And so the saints groan with the groaning creatures, and long for the common deliverance.’
Thirdly, this great future reality should remind us of the great capabilities of God. He is guiding the story of the heavens and the earth through each chapter. So far, each chapter has its dark details; each chapter records the murky activities of sinful humans in rebellion against their great Creator. Yet all this tale of rebellion is not going to result in an eternal demise for God’s universe. True, it will be eternal tragedy for those who refuse God’s provided way of escape. Nevertheless, his eternal purpose will be achieved. One day, there will be a perfect world in which every inch will reveal his splendour and every second will be an opportunity for him to reveal his endless capabilities. Even now, as we gaze at it by using the telescope of the Bible, we can be enthralled by what is before us.

Fourthly, this great future reality speaks to us about the riches of God’s grace and gives us an insight into what it means to be a child of God. What can be said about these riches? We have been forgiven our sins, we have received the righteousness of Jesus as our standing in God’s sight, we have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit as the foretaste and guarantee of this future reality, and he is sanctifying us throughout our earthly lives. One day, we will be fully conformed to the image of God’s Son and be like our Elder Brother. Why have we received all these undeserved blessings? The answer to this question is that the God of all grace desires that we should live in his perfect world. We will live there aware that we once lived here, aware that through his grace we were brought into living and permanent contact with Jesus Christ, that we were guided through it safely by the Holy Spirit, that we were declared righteous at the judgement seat. With those past experiences, we will live in the perfect world, thankful to God for the riches of his grace which he will continue to pour upon us throughout the endless ages. We will live there with the thousands who were blessed that day by Peter’s sermon, and with the millions of others who have been redeemed from sin. And we will live there conscious of the presence of the eternal Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which means that all of life there will be worship and enjoyment of God.

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