The hope of heaven…

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Colossians 1:3 In our prayers for you we (“we” is Paul and Timothy) always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Rather than beginning this letter with a rebuke, as some of his other letters did, Paul’s letter to the Colossians began with a word of affirmation. “…for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (v.4-5) Paul then mentioned in v.6 how this hope in the gospel was bearing fruit “in the whole world” and “among yourselves”.

What is interesting to me is how a hope for the future (“laid up for you in heaven”) produced the fruit of love in the here and now.

One of my knocks on Western theology is its focus on “going to heaven”. A fellow pastor John Ortberg calls it “the gospel of the minimum requirements necessary to go to heaven instead of hell”. There’s so much more to the gospel than that. Yet when I read this passage in Colossians, Paul seems to do the very thing that bothers me. He speaks of the hope “laid up for you in heaven”. It’s a future hope which produces love for others in the here and now. Perhaps I should rethink my resistance to this kind of message.

Lord Jesus, give us grace to direct our hope for the future into love for others. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

 

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