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2 Corinthians 4:17–18

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Following Christ by trusting in Him, keeping His Word, and telling others about Him cannot help but lead to suffering for His people. This was certainly true for the Apostle Paul, as the books of Acts and 2 Corinthians in particular demonstrate. Yet, a life of suffering is also a reality for those of us who are not Apostles. The form and intensity of this suffering may differ from moment to moment and from person to person. Some will endure only mild insults while others will be executed for their faith. Make no mistake, however: suffering is inherent to Christian living in this fallen world. Jesus prepared us to understand this, telling us that we must take up our cross when we follow Him (Matt. 16:24).

What will prepare us to remain faithful under such suffering? In 2 Corinthians 4:7–16, Paul has pointed out two truths that motivate continual faithfulness: our remembering that God uses our suffering to build up others in the faith and our understanding that we are being transformed into Christ’s image in and through our suffering. In today’s passage, he looks to future realities. For the Christian, there is an eternal weight of glory that is coming, and our sufferings are preparing us for it (vv. 17–18).

This text features a line of thinking similar to that found in Romans 8:18–25, where we read that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” on account of the glorious new heaven and earth that we inherit at Christ’s return. As bad as our suffering can get in this fallen world, it will be cut short. We will either die and be with the Lord in the intermediate state of glory before Jesus comes back, or He will come back while we are still alive. Either way, our sufferings have a definite end point. Life in God’s presence in the new heaven and earth, however, will never come to an end (Rev. 21:1–22:4). The church father John Chrysostom writes, “Life’s troubles, even if distressing, are still of short duration, whereas the good things that will come to us in the next life are eternal and everlasting.”

Our sufferings in comparison are but a “light momentary affliction” because the coming bliss so far exceeds the pain and difficulty of the present. In our afflictions we are prepared for this glory to come because they train us to set our hearts not on the pleasures of this world but on the things unseen, the sure reality of glory promised by God that will come at His appointed time (2 Cor. 4:16).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Rightly engaging suffering takes our hopes off this present world. It is not wrong to have an appropriate affection for the good things of this present order. Still, our ultimate hope must be in the things unseen. Having certainty that these things are coming prepares us to suffer rather than renounce Christ, knowing that what is to come will be worth all the pain and trouble we endure in the meantime. Let us set our hopes on things unseen.

For Further Study
  • Genesis 50:22–26
  • Isaiah 25:6–9
  • Colossians 3:1–4
  • Hebrews 11:24–26

The Renewal of the Inner Self

Our Heavenly Dwelling

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From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue