I hate packing. Almost as much as I hate ironing. And that’s quite a lot :) Budget airline baggage restrictions haven’t made the process any easier. The only resulting good is that I can now instinctively tell when something weighs 15kgs, without a scale! Inasmuch as packing will remain a chore until the day they have professional packers [note to self: find out if there are such things as professional packers], it is a necessary step in preparation for a trip. And we all know that anything worth anything is worth preparing for.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again
and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (Jn. 14:2).
Jesus is preparing a place for us, His Bride. All of Scripture, all of history points to the moment when the Spirit and the Bride will say, “Come”, to the marriage of the Lamb when the Bride has made herself ready. But in the waiting, what do we do? How does the betrothed get prepared for the return of her Bridegroom?
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him! (Mt. 25:6)
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, a window into Jewish marriage custom and a picture of Jesus’ return, the proclamation of the imminence of the Bridegroom stirred those asleep to rise and trim their lamps. Similarly, in the hour before He returns, the Holy Spirit is raising up Isaiah 40:3 forerunners who will, in the spirit and power of Elijah, prepare the Bride for her Beloved through the proclamation of His nearness, His affection for her, and His desire to come for a Bride that is prepared and without blemish or spot. He is raising up preachers, singers, musicians, artists, writers, business people, mothers and fathers, who as friends of the Bridegroom, will not live for the praise and glory of man, but find no greater pleasure than that of hearing and obeying His voice.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness 'sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-11).
If Jesus preached this message at church today, I wonder how many would listen. I wonder how many would follow Him (and not just on Instagram or Twitter either!). How would a culture that exalts comfort and convenience receive this message of present faithfulness unto future reward? Because of the way culture has wired us we fear pain and discomfort now. And because we’ve been so programmed to live for the present, the prospect of future glory does not in itself offer sufficient incentive to persevere through trials.
The former terrorist Saul who later became the Apostle Paul wrote, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”. What did Paul’s “light momentary affliction” look like? For starters, he was beaten 39 times five times in his life, imprisoned multiple times, stoned, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, stripped, etc. One has to wonder: was Paul simply trying to be “positive and encouraging”? Or had he actually glimpsed a glory so vast, so incomparable, so beautiful that the worst thing that could be done to his body did not even come close to shaking him from the reward he would receive in his soul? Could he have glimpsed a love stronger than death that made Him declare: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come” (Rev. 22:17).
At the end of the age, the Holy Spirit is orchestrating a global chorus of worship and prayer that will beckon the Bridegroom with love. From the rising of the sun to its setting, His name will be great in the nations. And in every place incense (the prayers of the saints) will be offered to His name, and a pure offering. The Father is preparing a Bride worthy of His Son. And it’s through the mystery and simplicity of prayer that we align our desires with His, our hearts locked in intimacy with Him.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).
We are all travelers on this journey of faith, sojourners on this side of eternity. Our destination is a city whose builder and maker is God. Our path is the straight and narrow on which we go from strength to strength until we appear before God in Zion. To the measure we are prepared for this journey and ultimate destination is the measure we will receive with joy the kingdom that cannot be shaken. So dear fellow-traveler, have you packed your bags?