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Looking Forward to a Certain Future

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Looking forward to our new home, new vision and new bodies

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When did you last confess to someone that you’re not from around here, that this present world is not your home? It requires a certain confidence to say something like that, doesn’t it? And it reveals a certain type of heart too – a seeking heart, a heart that is looking forward.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
When did you last confess to someone that you’re not from around here, that this present world is not your home? It requires a certain confidence to say something like that, doesn’t it? And it reveals a certain type of heart too – a seeking heart, a heart that is looking forward.
We read in that people who say they’re strangers, aliens on the earth prove that they’re people who look forward (your version might say seek and the word actually means seek diligently). And God is pleased with people like that. So, God was pleased when Abraham said to his neighbours in the land of Canaan, I am a foreigner and stranger among you (). Why? Because, Abraham proved, manifested [the root word means to shine] himself to be a forward-looker, a seeker. That’s the challenge I want to bring to you today: are you proving yourself to be a forward-looker?
Before we consider what Abraham was looking forward to, I want to show you the sequence I discern in so that you can see where this looking forward fits into that sequence.
The sequence I see is:
Promises: first, come the promises of God. God promised Abraham land and offspring through which all nations would be blessed. He’s promised us so many things; we’ve enjoyed thinking of some of those promises today. He’s coming back. We’re going to be with Him forever. We’re going to be like Him. In fact, when God promised Abraham, He did so on His own life (see ). The Psalmist says a similar thing about the Lord Jesus - He swore to His own hurt and will not change His mind! He has done that so that…
First, come the promises of God. God promised Abraham land and offspring through which all nations would be blessed. He’s promised us so many things; we’ve enjoyed thinking of some of those promises today. He’s coming back. We’re going to be with Him forever. We’re going to be like Him. In fact, when God promised Abraham, He did so on His own life (see ). The Psalmist says a similar thing about the Lord Jesus - He swore to His own hurt and will not change His mind! He has done that so that…
First, come the promises of God. God promised Abraham land and offspring through which all nations would be blessed. He’s promised us so many things; we’ve enjoyed thinking of some of those promises today. He’s coming back. We’re going to be with Him forever. We’re going to be like Him. In fact, when God promised Abraham, He did so on His own life (see ). The Psalmist says a similar thing about the Lord Jesus - He swore to His own hurt and will not change His mind! He has done that so that…
Certainty: we might have confidence in the promises. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (i.e. the promises). Our modern definition of hope is a kind of unsure optimism, to wish for or expect without certainty or assurance. In Scripture, hope is an indication of certainty: a strong and confident expectation. And faith is the reasoned assurance which springs from that sort of hope. “We know that is a common expression in a number of the verses we will read this afternoon. It expresses confident faith. And that sort of faith does not stand still. No, that sort of faith prompts us to…
2. Certainty:
We might have Confidence or Belief in the promise. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (i.e. the promises). Our modern definition of hope is a kind of unsure optimism, to wish for or expect without certainty or assurance. In Scripture, hope is an indication of certainty – a strong and confident expectation – and faith is the reasoned assurance which springs from that hope. “We know that” is a common expression in a number of the verses we will read this afternoon. And that sort of faith does not stand still. No, that sort of faith prompts us to…
Look Forward: we don’t settle down here; we don’t make ourselves comfortable. We cannot, because we’re convicted by the reality of things unseen. The promises are so close we can taste them and so we go after them with all our hearts. We look forward to them, we seek them – and all the works of obedient faith in are bound up in this. In fact, the patriarchs were not only looking for the promises, verse 16 tells us they were longing for them. Other verses we will read shortly express an inward groaning, as we long for the consummation of God’s promises. And here’s why it’s so important that we prove to be forward-lookers
3. Look Forward:
We don’t settle down here; we don’t make ourselves comfortable. We cannot! Because we’re convicted by the reality of things unseen. The promises are so close we can taste them and so we go after them with all our hearts. We look forward to them, we seek them – and all the works of obedient faith in are bound up in this. In fact, the patriarchs were not only looking for the promises, verse 16 tells us they were longing for them. Other verses we will read shortly express an inward groaning, as we long for the consummation of God’s promises. And here’s why it’s so important that we prove to be forward-lookers
Commendation: the result of all this is the Father’s pleasure, leading to His commendation.
4. Commendation:
The result of all this Father’s pleasure, resulting in His commendation.
Reward: and, lastly, comes our inheritance of the promises, consummation, receipt of the reward.
5. Reward:
And lastly, comes inheritance of the promises, consummation, receipt of the reward.
You see why looking forward is so important then, don’t you? It’s the evidence of saving faith – indeed, Peter speaks of the proof (not to God, but to ourselves) of genuine faith.
So, what should we be looking forward to? I want to consider 3 things this afternoon:
the new home (the essence of which is our rest)
the new vision (our satisfaction)
the new body (our glorification)

The New Home – our rest

What was Abraham looking forward to? In verse 10, it’s a city. In verse 14, it’s a country, a homeland, a home. To admit he was an alien meant that he had to be looking for a home. You see, the need for home is so strong, it’s hard-wired in us, I believe. Psychologists would tell us that a home answers to so many of our basic human needs – shelter, security, REST etc. We can’t live without it!
Yet there’s a sense in which every human knows they haven’t found it. We’re restless. The home we crave eludes us. God’s word explains that sense – it’s a corporate memory trace which goes back to Eden.
Way back in the beginning we see God creating home. God prepared a place, He planted a garden in Eden – the first homeland. It was a place in which all of man’s capacities would be supported and fulfilled. In that place, man would flourish and prosper, displaying the glory of the God in whose image he’d been made. Then, because of sin, it was all lost! Man was banished from that homeland; sent into exile, to live in a foreign land!
So, this world can’t support our deepest needs; we were made for a home that we’ve lost. The unfulfilled longing for home we all experience traces right back to our exile from Eden.
But with God’s promise to Abraham came the prospect of restoration. God promised to give Abraham the homeland he’d always dreamt of. But the promise wasn’t for now. Even though Abraham was actually living in the very land God spoke to him about – Canaan – he recognized that the promise wasn’t for now. We read:
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance…
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all died before taking possession of the land. Yet records that their confidence in the promise was not in the least bit diminished by the approach of death. They weren’t looking back to Mesopotamia, but neither were they getting too comfortable in Canaan. They were looking forward to a better country, a heavenly one!
And in Peter’s second letter to the early Christians, he says:
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
You see, the promise to Abraham is for us too! God’s going to give us the home we’ve always dreamt of! And like Abraham, we must be forward-lookers, since the promise is not so much for now.
Now, I wonder how you imagine our homeland. Abraham didn’t know exactly where he was going when God led him out of Ur of the Chaldees, but he believed it existed; he knew enough to expect a city with foundations; and he knew enough to be confident that it would be a far better home than the one he had. You see, to look forward to something, to long for it, you first have to know a little about it. There’s no excuse for saying we know very little about it, because we have the greatest guidebook.
What this book reveals to us is not some sort of ethereal existence where we’ll be sitting on clouds, playing harps and communicating by telepathy. The homeland we’re looking forward to is not just compensation for the home we never got to enjoy in this world. Rather, in we see heaven coming down and transforming the earth! What we’re looking forward to is a restoration – we’re going to get the home we’ve always dreamt of!
I encourage you to explore the exuberance of the promises to Israel about the land they would inherit. They’re promises of:
PROSPERITY: The land is called good and spacious. A land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant (). A land flowing with milk and honey. A land in which they would eat and be satisfied.
SECURITY: So that you will live in safety () with freedom from all your enemies.
REST: The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land (). No more striving to establish our name, to carve out a place for ourselves and our loved ones. For Christ is preparing a place – for us! Do you understand the significance of that? It means rest from all our toil!
EDEN: This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden ()
What we’re looking forward to is nothing short of Eden. And we’re not just talking about a garden; the hope we have is of an Eden which encompasses the whole earth!
[iii] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iv] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[v] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[vi] The New International Version. (2011). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
What we’re looking forward to is nothing short of Eden; and we’re not just talking about a garden – the hope we have is of an Eden which encompasses the whole earth!

The New Vision – our satisfaction

What Abraham longed for was, literally, a fatherland (Gk πατρίς (patris) coming from πατηρ (father)). Not only that, he longed to see the Father of that land, to come to God.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him ().
This earnestly seeking is the same word as looking for[ward] in verse 14. Brothers and sisters, are we earnestly seeking, looking forward to seeing our God, and His Son, the One who has promised to bring us home?
In his book, The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer says:
How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to centre upon the initial act of 'accepting' Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.
We must be forward-lookers: seeking, pursuing, running after, looking forward to our God.
Eden wasn’t just a place where man would flourish as he imaged the Creator. It was a place where God walked with man. So, you see, the significance of the homeland? It’s the place where man enjoys God. It’s the place of fellowship. The home that we long for is a place of contentment and deep satisfaction – and the first homeland had it in abundance! Not because of its stunning flora and fauna, though it certainly had that. But because God was there. The presence of God makes it home!
Indeed, the Psalmist goes even further:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
He is our home!
Read 1 John 3:1-3
Remember how Moses asked to see God’s face and was told he couldn’t have that favour? Yet this is what the Old Testament faithful continued to seek. They pray for it many times in the Old Testament. It’s the theme of the priestly blessing – the Lord make His face shine upon you. In the Psalms, they sing about it. Was it just wishful thinking? Not at all. Because, John tells us WE KNOW. Here, again, is the certainty that underlies our looking forward.
Remember how Moses asked to see God’s face and was told he couldn’t have that favour? Yet this is what the Old Testament faithful continued to seek. They pray for it many times in the Old Testament. It’s the theme of the priestly blessing – the Lord make His face shine upon you. In the Psalms, they sing about it. Was it just wishful thinking? Not at all. Because, John tells us WE KNOW. Here, again, is the certainty that underlies our looking forward.
We will see Him as He is. Who do you let see you just as you really are? Who are the people you allow that close? Only the people you love the most, only the people who are the most intimate with you. And when it says God will let us see Him as he is, that is the most intimate act of self-disclosing love. It means when we see him face to face, He will look upon us with eyes of love and delight. He will open His heart all the way to us. You say, “I know the love of God in Christ” now. Praise God, that’s true - if we’ve been born of Him, we know that love now. But not like we will know it on that day when we see Him. God is going to unveil His heart of love for us in such a way that, in that moment, we will know that in everything we’ve ever wanted we were wanting this.
In , the psalmist says,
As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.
Satisfied. This is “homeness.” This is the experience of being at home. It means the wandering is over. The restlessness is over. You’re completely satisfied.
Have you ever noticed how many different appetites you have: emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, relational, psychological, spiritual… and earthly objects tend only to satisfy one capacity at a time, and then only partially. But there is something that can satisfy all of them at once and satisfy them absolutely and finally. And that’s what we’re really after. It’s what we were after in every set of arms we’ve ever thrown ourselves into, in every piece of music that has transported us out of this world, in every perfect landscape that we’ve just wanted to gaze at without interruption. It’s what we’re after in our work. It’s what we’re after in our vacations. It’s what we’re after in our relationships, our family, our spouse. In everything you ever longed for, you were really longing for this: to see Him as He is.
What would it be to taste at the Fountainhead that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy - C.S Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Theologians call it the beatific vision, that is the vision which imparts bliss, which satisfies. And we know that it’s coming – that’s a certainty. And, in that moment, you’ll be full, to the measure of all the fullness of God. Your every capacity and appetite fully satisfied.

The New Body – our glorification

Read
Here’s another certaintyWE KNOW - did you spot it? The apostle is talking about our new bodies.
Have you noticed that this world is in denial about the pain of death? Some of you might recall the song from Disney’s Lion King film, the Circle of Life. It was a massive hit at the time of release. The basic premise of the song it that when you die you become fertiliser, which sustains other plants and animals until they too become fertiliser. And so each plays a part in the circle of life!
Friends, we don’t take any comfort in this. This is not a lovely thought. It doesn’t offer us any comfort because we’ve been created with a longing to last, with eternity in our souls, with a desire for glory. We’re eternal beings who spend our lives trying to build things which will last. We’re desperate to find a love which lasts. And, if we’re honest, we recognize that this world doesn’t fit with the deep longings of our heart. It’s inhospitable. It doesn’t seem to support us. Our bodies are breaking down and ultimately will die. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
As Christians, we don’t deny it. We know, as Joseph did, that this is the land of our affliction. Even as those who are living with a taste of the promises of God, we groan under the weight of the brokenness of it all. We experience tears, sorrow, sickness and death. But at the same time we look forward to what we know is coming – the redemption of our bodies. God is going to equip and fit us for our heavenly home, by giving us new and glorified bodies; bodies that last, so we can enjoy this new home and new vision endlessly!
You see, the great purpose that God has for you and me is to be conformed to the image of His Son. To be as like the Lord Jesus Christ as is creaturely possible. That He might be the one with pre-eminence among a family of brothers and sisters who, by God’s eternal grace, are able to live with Him, being holy as He is.
What’s that going to be like? What Paul looks forward to in is redeemed bodies – not disembodied souls floating around in space – Paul says he doesn’t wish to be naked, unclothed, disembodied but to be clothed with his new body, a glorious creation. For an idea of what it might be like, we go to the gospel records about the Lord following His resurrection.
What’s that going to be like? What Paul looks forward to is redeemed bodies – not disembodied souls floating around in space – Paul doesn’t wish to be naked, unclothed, disembodied but to be clothed with his new body, a glorious creation. For an idea of what it might be like, we go to the gospel records about the Lord following His resurrection.
He was able to come into a room through locked doors. They thought He was a ghost. But he saw them and spoke to them. He ate fish with them. He told them to touch Him and they touched Him. I believe, in our new bodies, we’ll enjoy the sight of a beautiful panorama, the taste of a great meal, the touch of a warm embrace. But these are just the senses we know about. How many more will we have in our glorified bodies?
We just don’t know. For now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known! John tells us we don’t know the half of it. Our minds aren’t capable of grasping it.
But we know this: he who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure. To even want that experience of seeing Him changes you now. Just to look forward to it, to take the hope of that promise into your heart, starts to purify you, just as He is pure. It’s the process of being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory. The more you see Him, the more you become like Him. And on that day, when we see Him truly as He is, we’ll behold His glory and we’ll be glorious like He is.

Conclusion

We’ve so much to look forward to – things which are certain, things which are eternal. I trust that today’s event has been a boost to our confidence in these things.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
If these things don’t feel real to us, it’s because our eyes are fixed on things we can see. We need to adjust our focus. Meditate on the promises of God until you’ve the sort of assurance in them that causes you to groan, to yearn, to wait, to seek, to look forward to them.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
This little verse captures the new home, the new vision and the new bodies. I pray that as we see the day approaching, God will grant that you remain confident of these things: looking forward to a certain future, for His name’s sake.
[i] The New International Version. (2011). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iii] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[iv] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[v] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[vi] The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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