In many ways, Paul's longing for his eternal home was foreign to Jewish sentiment. The Jewish culture has always been more in touch with the "here and now" rather than the the "sweet by and by." Certainly, many who followed Pharisaic teachings believed in an afterlife. Diametric in belief were their counterparts, the Sadducees, who believed in only an earthly existence with no hope of a life after death (Acts 23:8). However, both groups and most Jewish people looked mainly for betterment of life here on earth. They believed their position as children of Abraham made them secure for whatever heaven would offer them. So, when Paul spoke of the heavenly realm as the reward of the believer, this was a paradigm shift, especially for Jewish believers. His Gentile audiences knew less about the Jewish sense of entitlement regarding birthright. Therefore, Paul's letter to Timothy was not one of special privilege regarding the aged apostle's heritage as a child of Abraham, but instead his right to be a child of God according to faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12).
What is remarkable is how Paul -- a Pharisee of Pharisees -- threw off former preconceptions of Jewish acculturation and embraced the Messiah and His promise of the hope of Glory. Or, how Peter, Andrew, James, and John abandoned their families to follow Jesus! This was unheard of in ancient Palestine, for a son to walk away from his family. Our westernized mindset built on individualism really does not comprehend the closeness of Semitic families and what this meant.
Similarly, if we have truly loved Christ's appearing in our lives and hearts on the day of our salvation, we will be anticipating His return and not be seeking to preserve our earthly heritage. Consider King Hezekiah and how he begged God not to take him to heaven (II Kings 20:6). It can be argued that Hezekiah is the reason why the Babylonians later pillaged Jerusalem. If he had not been around to show the Babylonian emissaries Judah's wealth, they might not have bothered with this distant land (II Kings 20:12-19). However, the king was only interested in the "here and now." He did not understand how loving his earthly life would have ramifications for centuries.
How many of us would react similarly? How many of us love our comfortable lives here on earth and would be saddened to see Christ coming in the clouds? Like those of the Jewish nation, are we as Christians enraptured with our earthly lives? Have we become so busy with the temporal things that we do not long for the things of heaven? (Luke 14:18-20) So many of us loved His initial appearing in our lives when He saved us. Yet, now there might be some reservation regarding His second coming to snatch us away. We should all beware of loving the "here and now" and long for the "sweet by and by." If not, then have we truly loved His appearing?
Heavenly Father, may we long for Your Son's appearing. There is nothing this imperfect earth can give us that You have not already granted us if we will but trust in You. Help us to have great patience, forbearance, and wisdom, knowing Your return is soon. May we love Your appearing in all aspects of our lives. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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