The Hope of Glory

As I finish commenting on Chapter 13 of The Cross of Christ, I am faced with having to explain the fourth way that Christ’s suffering relates to ordinary human suffering.  John Stott is ending his book trying to answer the question “How does the cross speak to us in our pain?”  He presents six possible answers for this question, from the simplest to the most sublime. 

So far we have explored patient endurance [October 20], mature holiness [October 29], and suffering service [November 5].*   Now we have to consider the hope of glory.

The hope of glory is based on having faith in the future, that as we end our lives, we will be glorified in heaven.  In my past I remember studying historical examples of people who suffered mightily on this earth.  For example, medieval life was tough, especially for ordinary people [peasants] who lived under the harsh rule in the feudal system.  I recall their focus on their reward in heaven because life on earth was so full of suffering.   I studied American history and one of the darkest blots on our past was human slavery.  Slaves suffered so much in their life that religion played a huge part and the focus often mentioned was the hope of glory [heavenly reward].  I recall the expression “vale of tears” which describes the trials and tribulations of life and how when the Christian passes from this world, trials and tribulations are left behind for the reward of a life with The Father.  We literally leave this “vale of tears.”

This attitude is hard for many to understand because it hinges on our practicing delayed gratification.  It also hinges on the belief that Jesus actually looked beyond His death to His resurrection.  As He suffered before going to the cross and as He suffered on the cross, He was sustained by “the joy set before Him” [Hebrews 12: 2].

How this relates to believers is that Stott explains that Jesus expected his followers to have that same attitude toward life.  It is a fact that all of us suffer from time to time but how do we bear up under the suffering?  Do we really think that the suffering will end with our death and our resurrection?   Also in Scripture, it is a major theme that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted [Stott, 314].  Jesus felt that believers are not supposed to be spectators in His suffering; they are supposed to be participants.  The “world” does not understand the Christian way of life and that leads to persecution of various sorts.  

The hope of glory is what makes all this suffering bearable.

Stott comments: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us, ‘because’ our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” [Stott 314].

What is this eternal glory?  What is this eternal goal?  What is our ultimate destiny?  “It is that we may ‘be conformed to the likeness of His son’”.

Before we go too far with this, this glory, goal or destiny is not a prize that we can work toward.  This is not a situation where we can work our way to heaven although many Christians have that mentality.  We are all sinners and we may parse the role of our sinning in our suffering all day long, but we must rely on the grace of God and Jesus’ sacrifice for us to get to heaven.  We are saved by faith and the resurrection of Christ.  Upon death, the spirits of Christians go to heaven while the spirits of unbelievers go to a holding place called hell.  At final judgement we are separated from God for eternity if God does not extend His grace to us and forgive our sins. 

So as Stott says, it is not a “no pain, no palm” or “no cross, no crown” situation.  Our only reward is that Christ be recreated in us.  One way that this recreation can occur is through our own suffering. “We shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is” [Ephesians 1: 4].

How many of you are reading this saying I don’t want God to change me if it means I am going to have to endure pain!  C.S. Lewis comments “We may wish indeed that we were of so little account to God that He left us alone to follow our natural impulses—that He would give our trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves: but once again we are asking not for more love but for less….To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God.” [from C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain].

Stott expresses this dilemma best in the following words:  “Things look different when the horizon closes in on us, a horror of great darkness engulfs us, and no glimmer of light shines to assure us that suffering can yet be productive.  At such times we can only cling to the cross,

where Christ himself demonstrated that blessing comes through suffering” [317-18].**

*See blog posts on St. John Studies for those topics on those dates.

**bold print and underlining mine.

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