Is Heaven worth suffering for?

by Mike Ratliff

1 James, a bond- servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:1-4 NASB)

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)

While the emergents and other forms of relativistic Christianity attempt to refocus Christians to this present age, we are clearly taught throughout the New Testament that what awaits us after we leave this life is that for which we should really be preparing. In the world, we will have tribulation (θλῖψιν) (John 16:33). Θλῖψιν symbolically means grievous affliction or distress that applies pressure or burden upon the spirit. Θλῖψιν is used to give the picture of one being crushed. At the same time we are given these warnings about our life here as resident aliens, we are also given encouragement beyond measure. 

3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν, 4 εἰς κληρονομίαν ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἀμίαντον καὶ ἀμάραντον, τετηρημένην ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς 5 τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν ἑτοίμην ἀποκαλυφθῆναι ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ. (1 Peter 1:3-5 NA28)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 NASB)

Peter rejoices and invites us to join him in worshipping the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Why? Here is a direct word-for-word translation of v3b, “By the much of him mercy having given birth again us into hope living through standing up of Jesus Christ from the dead…” No matter how you say it, all of us truly in Christ are blessed beyond measure with this hope we have in Christ, which was made ours according to the mercy of God. Our Lord’s resurrection means that our redemption through His death on the Cross was sufficient to atone for our sins. He, being the first born of this resurrection, has given us this same inheritance, which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It awaits us in Heaven. The name of this blog is “Possessing the Treasure” and I gave it this name referring to this very thing. God is guarding our inheritance and no one can separate us from Him and His promises to us. What a blessing!

6 ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον [ἐστὶν] λυπηθέντας ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς, 7 ἵνα τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως πολυτιμότερον χρυσίου τοῦ ἀπολλυμένου διὰ πυρὸς δὲ δοκιμαζομένου, εὑρεθῇ εἰς ἔπαινον καὶ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· (1 Peter 1:6-7 NA28)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1 Peter 1:6-7 NASB)

The words ‘have been grieved’ in v6 is one Greek word λυπηθέντας. A form of this word is the most common word in the New Testament used to refer to sorrow and is the opposite of rejoicing. Notice that we are to rejoice in our inheritance as we are made sorrowful in our circumstances in this God-hating world. How is this possible? Peter tells us that our grief and sorrow is only ‘for a little while,’ ὀλίγον. The KJV renders this as ‘for a season.’ If we compare this finite time we have in this life with what awaits us in eternity then we gain knowledge of the truth and wisdom is given to us by God so that we mature in the fires of our θλῖψιν even to the point of λυπέω (sorrow). Why? God is deliberately taking His children through His own plan of faith refining that is symbolically given to us as a goldsmith or silversmith refining precious metals in a refiner’s fire.

This is given to us Malachi 3:3 which gives us the picture of God sitting as a refiner and purifier of silver. The precious metal smith holds the metal to be refined in the hottest part of the fire in order to remove the dross or impurities in the raw metal. Only the hottest part of the fire works for this so the refiner deliberately puts the metal there and holds it there as long as it takes to remove the impurities. The reason he must sit and carefully observe the process is that if the metal is held too long in the fire it would be destroyed. So, the time of refinement is set. How does the refiner know when the impurities are gone and the metal is ready to be removed from the fire? It is ready when the refiner can see his own image in the reflection from the now pure metal.

What does this mean for the Christian? It means that God uses circumstances that cause us to λυπέω in order to develop the image of Christ in us. This removes or prunes away what is in the Christian that is not of Christ, that is, it is tied to this lost and dying world and the flesh. This hurts. It is humbling. It is amazing, however, after realizing that we are in the flames of θλῖψιν and we take our grief to the throne of grace how peaceful things become in our hearts as we prayerfully submit to His will. This develops an eternal perspective in us that is unshakable. The pain and sorrow are still there, but there is a new level of wisdom, peace, and joy that is indescribable if we follow through with obedience in our service to our wonderful Lord.

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:8-12 NASB)

To all truly in Christ, this salvation is an incredible miracle. None of us deserve it. All we have “earned” is an eternity in Hell. However, according to the mercy of God, by His grace, through the faith of our regeneration, we have believed Him and He has accounted that as righteousness to our account. This righteousness is that of Christ Himself who had our unrighteousness accounted to Him on the Cross as He paid the penalty that purchased us.

Are you in the fires of tribulation my brethren? Are you being pruned by the master vinedresser? Never forget that through all of the sorrow and pain, God is also preserving us and holding us closely and firmly by His omnipotent strength. He loves us beyond what we can understand, but never forget, we have been purchased by the very death of our Saviour. He paid our penalty and so God is taking us through these tests and trials to purify our faith and reform us unto the image of Christ, is the best thing for us because this is what prepares us for Heaven which is where we will be with our Saviour for eternity.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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