23 May 2023

In the last sharing on Galatians 6, in the concluding verses, we looked at how Paul considered the world – the world is crucified to him, dead to him – and he himself is dead to the world.

Some in the discussion in the dg wondered why we still cling to life on earth, why we long to live on even when we face severe illness and death; there is also the observation that yes, we know there is going to be a new heaven and a new earth, but it is in the future, in fact a very far future, whilst we are still on earth, there is so much pain, sufferings and struggles.

But we must realise that heaven begins now; it never starts anywhere else but here. We know that at the heart of our thoughts about heaven is the actual relationship with the Father and the Son that is perfected there. The Spirit’s ministry to us is the first instalment – by means of this ministry to us, heaven begins now for us here and now, as through Christ and in Christ we share in His resurrection life. Paul wrote in Colossians 3 to believers:”You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (vs3) – this is eternal life, heaven’s life, which starts here and now for genuine believers. This is what Paul meant in Galatians 2:20 when he declared that he has been crucified with Christ, but he still lives, not as the ‘old Paul’, but as the ‘new Paul’, born again, a new creation, with “Christ living in him”, and this new life he lives is lived by faith in Christ Jesus who loves him and gave Himself for him.

But in the discussion in the dg, the matter was raised on why heaven’s life which begins here for us believers is ‘soaked’ with so much pain, sufferings and struggles. Perhaps, the verse from 1 Corinthians 10:11 may be relevant here.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come”. Here Paul was referring to what happened to the Israelites after the ‘Exodus’ in the wilderness: they indulged in idolatry, sexual immorality with worldly ‘wild behaviour’, grumbling and complaining against the leaders and against God – and “with most of them God was not not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (vs5).

Jesus (the God-Man) was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan after fasting for forty days and forty nights (cf Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years), and He prevailed (Matt. 4:1-11). Israel of old failed in the wilderness after the miraculous deliverance by God from bondage in Egypt in the great exodus: Jesus, the second Adam, prevailed in the temptation by Satan in the wilderness. We, who are the new creation, brought about from God the Father through His Son by the Spirit, are to follow our eldest brother, Jesus, to ‘triumph’ in the ‘wilderness’ here on earth before reaching the ultimate ‘promised land’ (new heaven and new earth). Jesus, the second Adam, the ‘”new Moses”, the final prophet, the great High Priest, also the final holy ‘sacrifice’ fully accepted by God, is leading us through the “New Exodus” towards the new ‘promised land’.

We must learn not to fail like Israel of old, indulging in idolatry (self-love and self-gratification), immorality, grumbling, complaining, and rebelling against our Lord and Saviour, who has overcome as our supreme example, whilst ‘travelling in this wilderness’ (the current world which has Satan as its prince). Let us not yearn to go back to Egypt (representing the world and its bondage) and long for ‘its garlic and food’, forgetting that we were ‘slaves’ to sin and worldly negative influences; let us not grumble at every difficulty like the Israelites, complaining of the ‘lack of water’, the ‘lack of meat’, losing our objective to reach the ‘promised land’. Let us not be ‘afraid of the giants’ facing us, the battles we need to be fully involved – God is testing us just like He tested the Israelites – but He also provided for them and led them through the wilderness, if only they were to continue to obey and to trust Him. Unfortunately, many of them did not.

We are ‘already saved; we are being saved; and we would be finally saved. In the meantime, it is ‘already and not yet’. God is allowing us to go through the ‘wilderness’ with Christ and the Spirit at the helm; in the midst of testings, battles, struggles, but always walking by faith, walking close to our Master, and not being afraid, for the new heaven and the new earth beckons. But in the meantime, heaven has also already begun.