Posted by: Billy Marsh | April 22, 2008

Heaven On Earth: While We Wait (Part II)

In the second half of chapter 5 (see Part I), “While We Wait,” of Stephen Nichols’ brief look at Jonathan Edwards’ heavenly-mindedness, Heaven On Earth, he picks up on the theme of the possibility of Christian peace in a life that will most likely be characterized by “patient waiting” or my personal favorite, as other English translations of the Bible like to render it, “long-suffering.” This time Nichols draws from Edwards’ sermon titled, “The Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers.” He preached this sermon in August 1750 from John’s Gospel on John 14:27 where Jesus tenderly comforts his saddened disciples with the words, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” What greater blessing could Jesus possibly bestow upon his followers just before his crucifixion than the promise of peace? Truly, Christ is the Good Shepherd.

Nichols strategically selects this Edwardsian sermon from Jn 14:27 in order to illuminate the same theme which he pointed out in Edwards’ comments on Job’s declaration, “For I know that my Redeemer lives.” In much the same fashion as alluded to in Part I, Nichols shows that Edwards places the emphasis on Christian peace in its temporal availability. Nichols posits,

Like Job’s confession that his Redeemer lives, this [peace] legacy and inheritance is a foundation that will stand even “in times of the greatest uproar.” It is not a peace, however, that is yet to come. It is peace now, peace on this earth and in this life. It is peace while we wait (82; emphasis mine).

As we have seen in some of my reflections on the teachings of Francis Schaeffer, our salvation experience should not only be viewed in terms of past and future events. Time and time again, the Scriptures are clearly pointing to the reality of received promises that exist in the now. And, as demonstrated so eloquently in Edwards’ sermons, the peace of Christ is one of them. Fortunately, Edwards does not shrink back from linking the peace we can truly have in Christ as we wait for his return with our present pursuit of joy and rest. Nichols notes that in the application portion of this sermon, Edwards observes, “Happiness and rest are what all men pursue (82).” We all can testify that at some point or another we have sought after these things in places that were utterly incapable of delivering. Though separated by a few centures, Edwards and Schaeffer agree on this point: Man cannot begin with man, and hope, in any way, to find true eternal happiness and peace. Edwards continues to preach:

I invite you now to a better portion. There are better things provided for the sinful, miserable children of men. . . . There is a surer comfort and more durable peace: comfort that you may enjoy in a state of safety, and on a sure foundation: a peace and a rest that you may enjoy with reason, and with your eyes open. . . . In such a state as this you will have a foundation of peace and rest through all changes, and in times of the greatest uproar and outward calamity be defended from all storms, and dwell above the floods. . . . And you shall be at peace (82-83).

Once again, Nichols extracts the same emphasis from Edwards’ teaching on Christian peace as he did from Job’s exclamation regarding Christ as a personal Savior. We not only have the peace that comes from Christ, but even more so, “we have Christ himself (83).” Likewise, the Apostle Paul testifies to the riches of the “mystery hidden for ages and generations,” “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:26-27).”

Yet, just as Paul sets us up for the reality of Christ living in us, he follows it with an eschatological descriptive statement of Jesus: “the hope of glory.” Thus, we can have true God-given peace and rest in this life because of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, but also, we know that there is much more to come. Here is what this study is all about. It can be summarized in a construct that I used in my Sojourner series, that is, seeing life with “transcendental vision.” We can enjoy life now, but we always are looking, eagerly awaiting for “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13),” “who will transform our lowly bod[ies] to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Phil 3:21).”

Edwards sums it up well with respect to the present promises and blessings of Christ and their further completion when He returns and removes the “shadows” and replaces them with the fullness of himself as the true substance in this closing paragraph from his sermon on John 14:27:

They will be to your soul as the dawning light that shines more and more to the perfect day; and the fullest of all will be your arrival in heaven, that land of rest, those regions of everlasting joy, where your peace and happiness will be perfect, without the least mixture of trouble or affliction, and never be interrupted nor have an end (83).

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