Having taken some time to get the idea across that our everyday actions have the potential for eternal consequence, and having given some time for it all to sink in, let’s move on to the second section of Living in Light of Eternity: our present lives are a training ground for our eternal lives.
I have to admit that for a long time I never would have considered this point. It was first present to me in a book study in my first church. The pastor rallied us together for a seemingly simple discussion regarding a book that I hadn’t heard of before, but has shaped for me a very different understanding of life in the now.
The book is entitled Destined for the Throne, by Paul Billheimer (Bethany House Publishers, revised edition, 1996). A first glance it’s just another classic book about prayer. If you haven’t noticed, many of those before us understood, utilized, and relied upon prayer far more than we do in Western Christianity today; and they have a mountain of encouragement and reproof for us when it comes to prayer. So, thinking myself as one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, wanting more of something that we can all grow in, I dove into this book on prayer.
The first paragraph of the introductory chapter sets the tone for the book:
“The following chapters present what some consider a totally new and unique cosmology. The author’s thesis is that the primary purpose of the universe from all eternity is the production and preparation of an Eternal Companion for the Son, called the Bridge, the Lamb’s Wife. Since she is to share the throne of the universe with her Divine Lover and Lord, privileged to judge the world with Him, she must be trained, educated, and prepared for her role” (p 15).
At first I thought this must be some crazy “new revelation” and we were wasting our time reading the words of some nutcase. (Thankfully I’ve grown in grace since then, and often find myself reading books by people I might have previously considered nutcases.) But the premise is easily supported by Scripture. I say easily because every verse is taken as it is, within context, and with other supporting verses.
Most of us always knew and understood that the Church was to be the Bride, and that we have an eternal destiny. We are sons of God, and therefore we are co-heirs with Christ. We are, as stated above, going to be given thrones to sit upon and we will judge the peoples of the new earth. We are that peculiar nation that is both royal and a priesthood.
I think the problem with our previous perspective is that we only interpreted these pictures of the Church/Body/Bride on as pictures, word pictures given to us to help us understand that we are to have a personal, intimate relationship with Christ. In reality, though, these are actual job descriptions, foreshadows of what our eternal existence will look like.
Billheimer takes the concept and applies the concept mostly to prayer. The prayers of the saints are necessary (1) for the unfolding of Godly purposes and works in the present, and (2) as a training for the spiritual authority the Church will be (not just authority that we have, but what we will be) in eternity.
An example of the first point is where he states…
“God will not go over the Church’s head to do things in spite of her, because this would abort His plan to bring her to full maturity in the Son. He will therefore do nothing without her. To this John Wesley agreed when he said, ‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer’” (p 17).
I’ll talk more about prayer in a later post as we go through this issue, but I want to get your wheels turning on this concept. Let’s look at one more quote from Billheimer:
“This is God’s purpose in the plan of redemption – to produce by means of the new birth exact replicas of His Son, children with whom He will share His glory and His dominion, and who will constitute a royal progeny and form the governing and administrative staff of His eternal kingdom” (p 37).
It may seem like a stretch, but God has far greater purposes for us in eternity than to sit around and worship all day (though that is part of it). To be prepared for our destiny, it takes more than just supernatural impartation when this mortal is made immortal, and the corruptible made incorruptible, and we see clearly face to face instead of through a glass darkly. We must recognize the opportunity we have to be molded, instructed and initiated in our eternal destiny while we still walk this earth.