Heirs of heaven
John A. Braun
What does God see and know about us humans? We often think that he has forgotten us, but God sees all that we have done, all that every human has done, Yes, all of it. God says, “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” (Jeremiah 34:24).
So what has God seen of us humans?
Murder? He saw when Cain splashed his brother Abel’s blood on the ground. He has seen every murder since, not just the ones that make headlines in our news. He also sees the secret violence of bloodshed hidden in so many unsolved cases. Add in the casualties of war over the centuries. That’s a total we cannot comprehend, but he knows each of the dead and their stories.
The picture grows darker and more perverted, if that’s possible, when we think of all the other evils that have been and continue to be committed on our planet. It makes my head spin to think of all God has seen and still sees.
At one point, God told us what he saw, “How great the wickedness of the human race had become” (Genesis 6:5). In the verse after his observation, we read, “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on earth.” That’s a powerful indictment! Tragically, our world today is no better.
What is surprising is how patient and long-suffering God is with human evil. At one point, he did destroy the world along with all its evil and washed it clean. But since then humanity has forged a path back to the dark and evil past.
Will this ever change? Isaiah pictures God looking for someone on earth to bring about justice, truth, honesty, and righteousness. God “[sees] that there [is] no one” (Isaiah 59:16). God, of course, had a plan. He has always had a plan: “His own arm achieved salvation for him.” That’s why he didn’t sweep away Noah and his family with all the others. The great Deliverer God promised to send had not yet come.
Then in God’s good time, “when the set time had fully come,” he did the unthinkable: “God sent his Son to be born of a woman . . . to redeem those under the law, that we would be adopted” (Galatians 4:4 Evangelical Heritage Version [EHV]). The Deliverer—the Christ or Messiah—is the Lord himself as the angels proclaimed. A babe in Bethlehem came to endure the punishment for the sins of all humanity. It had to be so. No one among the sons and daughters of this world could have righted the wrongs of so many evil deeds. God did the unthinkable: He wiped away all the sins of humanity with the blood of his one and only Son. What a gracious, undeserved solution.
We may still wonder from time to time why God doesn’t simply remove disease, death, and evil—especially when these things enter our lives. But Christmas reminds us that Jesus came to make us heirs of heaven. As heirs we wait for that new heaven and new earth. God will deliver on his promise, but in his good time, not ours. Peter reminded his readers—including us—“The Lord is not slow to do what he promised. . . . Instead, he is patient for your sakes, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 EHV).
Only by God’s grace through the One born in the city of David are we heirs of heaven. As heirs we are aliens and strangers here because we are washed clean by the water of our baptisms. We wait for our inheritance and invite others to share it.
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019
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