Paul And Heaven
The inspired and authoritative edict of the apostle is, "If therefore ye were jointly raised with the Christ, the things above keep seeking ye, where Christ is, at the right hand of God sitting. The things above keep minding ye, not the things upon the earth" (a literal translation of Col. 3:1-2).
Paul, in these texts, places before the Colossians (and by principle and implication all of us in the body), one of the greatest motivating stimulants to righteous living that can be found anywhere. He says in essence, "Brethren, if you were raised up together with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:3-4), you must not stop short of receiving a 'full reward' (2 Jn. 8) by participating in 'will worship,' etc. (Col. 2:18-23), but by all means continue to seek heavenly things, where Christ is now sitting with authority at the right hand of God."
Paul personally knew by experience what it means to give up all for the Lord's kingdom now, and eternal glory hereafter! He had "far more labors, far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes, three times beaten with rods, once stoned, three times shipwrecked, spent a night and a day in the deep, had been on frequent journeys, in dangers of rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren, in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure, apart from such things without, there is the daily care of all the churches" (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-28, NASV). Yet, in the face of such great perils, this great man could preach the gospel, write epistles, combat error, and uphold the down trodden and faint hearted. How? He knew "if God is for us, who can be against us" and "in all these things we are more than conquerors, overwhelmingly so, through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:31-39). Absolutely nobody, then or now living, more eagerly awaited a better home than did Paul! He wanted to be in heaven so badly that he wrote, "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting those things which lie behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. . . For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:13,14,20,21).
Paul, even as Abraham, "was looking for a city which hath the foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10). He desired "a better country, that is a heavenly one" (Heb. 11:16). All of this explains why Paul could "give up" the religion of his childhood and endure patiently all hardships (Gal. 1:13-16). When compared to the glory to be revealed, he counted all these things as "dung" in order that he might gain Christ (Phil. 3:4-11).
Friends, let us so live that when we come to the summit of life's mountain and view by faith the "summer land so fair and bright" which lies just beyond the bands of Jordan's chilly waters, that we may with Paul say, as he penned words, among his last to Timothy, "For I am already being poured as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 15, p. 458