Suffering to Enter Heaven?|
Q. If heaven is perfect and filled with sinless people and good angels, then why are we put through so much suffering in order to become like Christ to rule with Him? We're already perfect in heaven anyway, aren't we? (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA)
What a great question! I'll bet others are asking the same thing. We had to think about this one and do some research to find the answer for you.
Training for Reigning
While we live on earth we are in intense training for reigning. Reigning with Christ is our future occupation.
We will be "priests of God and of Christ" and we will "reign with him for a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6, ESV).
So we are in a spiritual "boot camp" of sorts here on earth. And we are being prepared to rule in a universe where Christ's government will continue to expand:
"Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isa. 9:7, NKJV).
New Planets to Rule?
Alcorn points out that there are two ways that a government can increase - by expanding into previously ungoverned territories, or by creating new territories. This may point to new planets to govern or new realms under Christ's rulership, or perhaps even new creatures to inhabit new worlds (Alcorn 2004, 224).
Webster defines "reign" as royal power, dominance, a period of rule, or to prevail. The Apostle Paul says that the saints will judge the world and angels. In this scripture verse the word for "judge" means to "govern" the world and angels. It is a form of "reigning" over the physical world and angelic realm (spiritual world).
"Do you not know that the saints will judge (govern) the world?…Do you not know that we are to judge (govern) angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
Jesus spoke repeatedly about our future rulership. He made it clear that faithful stewards will be rulers over lands, cities, and nations in his Kingdom of Heaven on the earth (and probably throughout the universe). In the kingdom parable of Luke 9:17 our Lord gives us a view of this truth.
"Well done, good servant, because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities" (Luke 9:17 NKJV).
A New Social Order
In a future social order called the "Kingdom," God plans to bring together under one Head all things, the entire universe, with its principalities and powers, the entire hierarchy of authorities and rulers, the total population of personalities, both in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
"So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow - of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10, HCSB).
Billheimer calls our earthly suffering…"on-the-job training for the Bride-elect in overcoming the forces hostile to God as a part of her preparation for the throne. Suffering, which is a consequence of the Fall, shall produce the character and disposition, the compassionate spirit which will be required for rulership in a government where the law of love is supreme" (1977, 9).
In 2 Timothy 2:12 the Apostle Paul states,
"if we endure, we will also reign with him." The Apostle John continues this thought, "To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations" (Revelation 2:26, NIV).
The NIrV translation helps to clear up that "if we endure" means, "if we don't give up." So if we don't give up during our trials on earth we will reign with Christ in the future kingdom.
Preparing Us for that Place
Alcorn further explains that "God is grooming us for leadership. He's watching to see how we demonstrate our faithfulness. He does that through his apprenticeship program, one that prepares us for Heaven. Christ is not simply preparing a place for us. He is preparing us for that place" (2004, 215).
I hope I'm getting ready by learning what I'm supposed to. Are you?
This life is our preparation for a new career ruling over a new universe with Jesus Christ.
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Billheimer, Paul. 1977. Don't waste your sorrows. Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications.