“The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return.” Mark 13:34 NLT
On Aldersgate Day, Monday, 24 May 2021, our small group was reflecting and discussing Mark Chapter 13. It was a chapter about the end times and we shared our thoughts and beliefs about heaven. One uplifting thought that surfaced was “heaven is our hope and heaven is having a personal relationship with the Risen Christ.”
Earlier that day, I had visited an elderly woman who had an episode of hallucination. I had seen the patient one month ago. She was well except for a poor appetite and had told me she was prepared for death although she did not have any serious medical condition. On my arrival, the daughter shared with me that the patient had been very distressed last Thursday when she saw three heads floating in the air and could not sleep. The patient, who was a Buddhist, then told her daughter that she wanted to be a Christian. The daughter quickly arranged for her to be baptized the next day. The patient experienced peace and did not have any more hallucinations.
There were no medical causes for the patient’s hallucination that I could determine and her daughter thought it was a spiritual problem. It was an earthly medical problem that have only answers from above. As it was Aldersgate Day, it brought to mind John Wesley’s experience of his joy of salvation:
“I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
The “strangely warmed” heart experience of John Wesley on 24 May 1738 is our hope of heaven. Speculations abound about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ amidst the turmoil in the world caused by the COVID-19 virus, political crises, wars, and natural disasters. When our focus is on the chaos in the world we lose our joy of salvation.
The bad news about the end of the world is to wake us up from the comfort of our spiritual stupor – to make us spiritually hungry and thirsty for God. We are in the midst of a spiritual war but the battle belongs to the Lord. And God is patiently waiting for us to turn back to His love – to be born again and claim our spiritual inheritance:
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has given us a new birth because of his great mercy. We have been born into a new life that has a confidence which is alive because Jesus Christ has come back to life. We have been born into a new life which has an inheritance that can’t be destroyed or corrupted and can’t fade away. That inheritance is kept in heaven for you,” 1 Peter 1:3-4 GW
Hell is the playground of sinners where lust, greed and pride reigns. Jesus came to transform our hells on earth into a training school for saints. Pain, suffering and adversity are not God’s will. They are the realities we have to face for we live in a fallen world that is dominated by sin and evil. But God will put an end to sin and evil in due course. In Mark Chapter 13, we read of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, of wars, earthquakes and famines which are the beginning of the end. There will be persecutions and false prophets and false messiahs. Sin and evil will be judged by God but the Good News must first be preached to all nations (Mark 13:1-27, NLT). But God does not want anyone to perish:
“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9 NLT
Jesus did not come as a Judge to condemn the world but as the Saviour to save and redeem our rebellious world:
“God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world.” John 3:17 GW
Some of us may see heaven as the dream playground for the saints – a place where there is no more tears or suffering. But in caring for the terminally ill, another picture of heaven comes to mind – a hospice for sinners. To be in heaven is not to be perfect but to be in an intimate relationship with God. Heaven is not the absence of suffering or pain but the Presence of God’s everlasting Love. Edwin Hatch provides us with a beautiful picture of heaven in his hymn, Breathe on me, Breath of God:
“Breathe on me, Breath of God, so shall I never die, but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity.”
When EGO rules in our hearts, we are in hell for we are Edging God Out. We are in heaven when our EGO takes its rightful place in our hearts so that we are Embracing God Only. For God is not a wrathful dictator but our loving Heavenly Father. It is only when Jesus is our Servant King that we can live with the hope of heaven as God’s beloved children. And with Jesus as our Shepherd of Love, we can be the channels of God’s love, joy and peace as the broken body of Christ to others.
Jesus taught the disciples that when the fig tree sprouts leaves, summer is near. Events of the world are signs of the end times. In such times we are to prepare to meet God by paying attention to God’s Word so that we will be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit:
“So we regard the words of the prophets as confirmed beyond all doubt. You’re doing well by paying attention to their words. Continue to pay attention as you would to a light that shines in a dark place as you wait for day to come and the morning star to rise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:19 GW
Prayer and meditation are to help us pay attention to the Light of God shining in the dark spaces in our lives and in the world. God does not demand our presence but patiently waits for us to delight in His presence. It is a waste of time discussing when and how the world will end or when Jesus will come again. Our time will be better spent to bring heaven to earth by turning our churches from museums of saints into hospitals for sinners. We can turn the hells on earth into training schools for saints by caring for the poor and companioning the sick and dying through the valley of the shadow of death.
God has a special work for each of us to do and which only we can do. Let us praise God that we can live each day in these end times with the hope of heaven. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!