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Pilgrims in a Foreign World
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Friday, September 01, 2017
Alf Cengia

As Christians, we are pilgrims in a foreign world. We live in the world but we don't belong to it. Our country lies elsewhere.

Have you ever gone back to an old childhood neighborhood? Most of us have likely done that. Once, on a whim, I visited my old school. I was eight or nine when we moved. It looked smaller than I expected. Of course, I was a grown up now.

There was a time when we could play on the grassy median strip of the adjacent road. We were permitted to safely roam the streets surrounding the school in order to sell raffle tickets. But the strip had long since disappeared due to higher traffic demands. The place felt alien now. All my friends had moved on.

On one trip back to Australia, I visited my former home. The street was already undergoing change before I'd left. Many older residents had passed away. New people had moved in and old houses were being remodeled. The formerly quiet street was bustling with cars and construction work.

It wasn't the same old neighborhood anymore. Time waits for no one.

One of the many ways you know you're getting old is the frequency in which older friends and relatives pass away. It's a constant reminder that our time here is but a brief sojourn. Moreover, our lives are precarious at any age. This year I lost a cousin to a freak accident. She got out of bed one morning, tripped over and struck her head, dying instantly.

As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer. Psalm 103:15-16

There has been a lot of talk about transhumanism lately. Scientists want to crack the code of immortality for humankind. Is this a good thing, though?

I'm reminded of Jadis, the Witch Queen in C. S. Lewis' book The Magician's Nephew. In a scene reminiscent of Adam and Eve's eating from the Forbidden Tree in the Garden, she steals an apple from a Narnian garden and eats it. Although she gains immortality, she is thereby cursed forever.

I wonder what would have been the implications if our fallen first parents had also eaten from the Tree of Life. Would they then have become immortal and cursed forever? Would they have watched as their fallen children eventually died of old age while they, themselves, lived on? Perhaps one day we'll know the answers.

As an interesting aside, according to Michael Vlach (He Will Reign Forever p 294):

Eugene Merrill rightly suggests that Jesus' nature miracles are connected with His role as the "second" or "last" Adam. He says, "there is every reason to believe...that Jesus was exercising the God-given authority of Adam, an authority designed for the human race, forfeited by sinful Adam, and restored in and through Christ." (You can read Dr. Merrill's essay HERE.)

We're not fully experiencing this restoration now. God's Kingdom is still future (Rom 8:24-25; Rev 5:10, 20:6). We still pray, "May your Kingdom come and your will be done" (Matt 6:19). Furthermore, we can't usher in the Kingdom - the Lord does this upon His return (Rev 19:15).

Christians are aliens on this planet. They attract hatred for rejecting cultural exhortations to embrace homosexuality, transgender issues and abortion. Among other things, this world worships narcissism, vulgarity and sexuality. We're seeing the progression of euthanasia and population control. And also violence justified by ideology.

It's hard keeping track of the daily news without becoming overwhelmed with feelings of powerlessness and frustration. Worse, many churches and Christian leaders have joined the culture on these issues. We're seeing an ecumenical movement which questions the process of justification in favor of the Social Justice and Environmental gospel.

Who wants to live forever in an increasingly sinful planet? Even if we and our loved ones were immortal, this world would become gradually harder to live in. This is because Christians are citizens of heaven.

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Phil 3:20-21

In fallen creation, scientifically-engineered immortality must be conditional, anyway. I suspect that this conditionality would likely be controlled by some central governing body. Yet even if an immortal human could survive hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions etc, there's still sin to be ultimately dealt with (Rev 20:12-15).

Not only are Christians commanded not to love the world and the things in it, but this world is also passing away. On the other hand those who do the will of God will live forever (1John 2:15-17).

As the great Christians did in the past, let's keep reminding ourselves of God's promises. Let us look to heaven. This is what saw these Christians through tribulations and even martyrdom. Romans Chapter 8 is full of wonderful promises.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom 8:16-18

Children of God and joint heirs with Christ! Let these concepts sink in for a while.

Paul tells us that even creation groans with earnest expectation for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom 8:19-22). The old heaven and earth will eventually pass away. They will be renovated (2 Pet 3:10; Rev 21:1-2, 5). Hence there's no room for a man-made utopia on earth, or anywhere else for that matter.

Finally, when Christ returns, we will be instantly changed to be like Him.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1John 3:2 (see also1 Thess 4:13-18).

We are pilgrims in a foreign world. Our Blessed Hope is in heaven.

Praise God and Maranatha!

Further Reading:  Spurgeon and the Hurricane of 1878

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Pretribulation Teaches Two Gospels...

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