By Russ Ramsey
God is not only universally present above and beyond creation; He is also personally present, dwelling with His people.
When I was a kid, I thought the point of religion was to go to heaven when I died. And I thought of heaven as a paradise: streets of gold, pearly gates, private mansions—all that. I thought it would be a place that would have all my favorite things, all for free, and I could indulge every appetite without consequence of gaining weight or getting hurt. By going to church now, all this could be mine.
The story Scripture gives us about the purpose of faith in God, however, is radically different. Yes, God’s Word speaks of heaven, but the more you study and learn what the Bible has to say about about life after death, the more you’ll see that it has very little to do with the place itself, and has everything to do with the fact that we will be united to our Creator in face-to-face intimacy for all eternity, which is what our hearts long for the most. This is what Augustine was getting at when he wrote, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” We were created to be in the presence of our Maker.
Colossians 1 has a series of verses that sing this truth with breathtaking majesty. “[Christ] is before all things, and by him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). The kid dreaming about those mansions with jewel-encrusted gates was thinking about the stuff of glory, not the source. Our God is not just a magnificent Creator who creates and then leaves. He creates for the purpose of eternal fellowship. He isn’t just present in the creation of the cosmos. He is personally still in the mix, present with His people—not just after we leave this life. He is with us now. Always.
The promise of God’s presence with us even now really is the beauty of the gospel. God’s call on the lives of His people is to Himself. Through Christ, He reconciles us to Himself, at His own cost, for the sake of His own glory, and for our eternal joy. This is both the beauty and perhaps one of the more elusive truths of Scripture, too: that God really is with us right now. It’s not that we’ll meet up with Him when we die. It’s not that He’ll show up now if we call out to Him. It’s that He is presently, actively holding all things together, including our lives. He is never not involved. Never not near. Never not working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
I thank God that the point of faith is not merely to receive a reward at the end of this life, because this life can be so hard sometimes. I am thankful to know the Lord is always present, and always working here and now. This assures us that when we call to Him in prayer, He is already up to speed, and more presently invested in our flourishing than we could ever imagine. That’s better than a hundred mansions.
Written by Russ Ramsey