This world is not our home, but it will be. We live out our days in this sad world eagerly awaiting the new heaven and new earth, clinging daily to this promise: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3–4). We are pilgrims on our journey home, and we are homesick for a place we have never been. We are foreigners, aliens, and strangers in a strange land whose citizenship in heaven is secure in the One who has gone before us, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, and who is returning to judge, to conquer, and consummate.
We are pilgrims on our journey home, and we are homesick for a place we have never been.
In this world we will have tribulation, but “take heart,” Jesus said—not because we will eventually overcome the world, completely change the world, get used to this world, or come to love the world—but because Jesus declared, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And so, we wait between the already and not yet, between what our Lord has declared is already true and what has not yet been revealed. However, our waiting is not in vain, nor is it a passive waiting or an isolated waiting. Rather, we wait for our Groom so that He might gather His bride from every tribe, tongue, and nation for His glory. We wait with hopeful expectation, with active participation in the mission of God, and in community with the church of Jesus Christ. For Christ is the light of the world, and we who are united to Him by faith—and by faith alone—are in Him. As such, as soon as Christ calls us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, He sends us back into the darkness to shine in both word and deed before the watching world. As the world sees our good works and as the world hears our proclamation of the glorious gospel, the elect bride of Christ from around the world will glorify our Father in heaven.
Although withdrawing entirely from the world often seems attractive, the Lord never gives us that option (1 Cor. 5:9–10). Rather, as we live in this world of sin and in these bodies of sin, we are ambassadors of Christ on our journey to the promised land. When we pilgrims arrive home, Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes—not just our tears of sadness, but our tears of joy—for otherwise we would never be able to see Him face-to-face as we worship Him forever coram Deo.
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.