How to wrap-up this book club series? I’ve decided to conclude by citing three quotes, one from Wolfe, one from Baxter and one from the writer of Hebrews.
Chapter 11, ‘If It’s Sunday, It Must Be Heaven’
This chapter was a complement to the sermon series on Ephesians we have just finished at church. Probably the quote that most reverberated with me was the challenge which Wolfe gave at the end of the chapter,
Remember, the church’s worship on earth is a foretaste, not the full taste. Do not harbour unfair and unrealistic expectations. Heaven is there. You just have to learn to see it and make the most of it. So will you open your eyes and learn to see it? Anyone can see the dross. That takes no spiritual acumen. That serves as no sign of Christian maturity. Blessed is the man who has learned to see the gold. Blessed is the man whose eyes behold heaven. Christian, you have come to the assembly. Do you behold it? May it be so. (p. 164)
Anyone can see the dross.
The following chapter looks at how we stop looking to heaven because we don’t want to think about hell. Needless to say this chapter covers the ground that we went through with Laura in our April book club.
Chapter 13, ‘Wayfaring Strangers’
In the last chapter of the book Wolfe goes back to the key verses he examined in Part One, drawing together the various threads of the book he then draws the reader to Hebrews 11,
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (verses 13-16)
After having gone for a walk through the Botanical Gardens and sitting by the harbour at lunchtime on Friday with clichéd blue skies above and dark blue water below overlooking the Opera House, I marvelled with my companion at the privilege of living in Sydney.
Sydney is not the city that the people of faith in Hebrews 11 long for.
Because beneath the blue skies of Sydney lies sickness, suffering, sin and death. The nip of cold wind that blows over the water reminds me of this.
In his conclusion Wolfe quotes Baxter from The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (so I will too!),
And when thou hast, in obedience to God, tried this work, got acquainted with it, and kept a guard on thy thoughts till they are accustomed to obey, thou wilt then find thyself in the suburbs of heaven, and that there is, indeed, a sweetness in the work and way of God, and that the life of Christianity is a life of joy. (p. 194)
It is a powerful reminder that we look towards the city of God (Revelation 21), and we long for it, and while it seems so very far away we are not so very separate from it. As Christians we are in its very suburbs if indeed, we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2).
In reflecting on this book it may not have deepened my insights about the last days and heaven, but it has challenged me pastorally to consider why I don’t focus on heaven and, more importantly, helped me to do so. In meditating more on heaven I can already see the way it is shaping me, in living my life now, in light of what is to come.