We are at war. Look at the picture above. Therein the great Archangel calmly defeats evil. Is that how you imagine yourself, or just want to imagine yourself? How does one get to be an archangel of the Lord? Should our ambitions be smaller? Perhaps not, but we must admit we do have a way to go before our ambition to serve God as an archangel approaches reality.
Meanwhile, we have more mundane questions. Will we have to pay a price for our sins? Does Purgatory exist? Perhaps there is some such thing. Can you imagine what this line means?
1 Corinthians 13:12 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
In this life we know God knows us, but we have only a dim understanding of God’s existence. We can too easily ignore how much He knows about us. In the life to come, however, we will know just how well He understands us. There is a price to pay for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. We begin to understand the foolishness of what we have done. We learn of our misdeeds, and for a time the knowledge of our misdeeds haunts us.
Calling upon the image of a noble warrior, Ephesians 6:10-20 exhorts us to put on the armor of God. Taking the image further, we imagine ourselves as dragon slayers, mounted upon a noble steed, and armed with a powerful lance as well as a sharp, piercing sword.
We can forget that the man who wrote Ephesians also admitted that he was the chief of sinners.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
What was the Apostle Paul’s sin? Well, God only knows our sins, but here Paul admits ignorance and unbelief. Effectively, Paul persecuted Christs with self-righteous, misguided enthusiasm. Scripture suggests there are greater sins, however. If Paul cared wrongly, at least he cared greatly. Revelation 3:14-22 suggests God has little use for those who are neither hot nor cold, just lukewarm.
Imagine being in Heaven. God knows you inside and out. You will live for eternity with the saints, the angels, and with our Creator; all that you have said and done is known. When thoughts — when the conversation turns to the war with Satan and the angels who chose to sin against God in pride — what will be remembered about you? What will they say about what you did during the war? Paul can say he repented, that he put on the armor of God and fought the good fight.
What about the rest of us? Do we have to fight the good fight exactly as Paul did? How is that possible? Didn’t God make each of us differently and give each of us different gifts? Don’t we also confront a different time and different problems?
It seems that Paul had his calling, and we each have our own. Is what matters whether we are trying to do what our Lord has called us to do?
In scripture don’t we see different people seeking God in different ways? Want some examples? Here are some people whose names no one remembers now, but in Heaven we will know them.
- There is the widow who threw two coins into the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-4).
- There was the woman of Canaan who begged Jesus for the crumbs which fall from the Master’s table (Matthew 15:21-28).
- There was the persistent father who begged Jesus to help him conquer his unbelief (Mark 9:14-29).
- There was the centurion whose faith caused Jesus to marvel (Matthew 8:5-13).
- There was a woman who had had five husbands (John 4:1-42).
What stories will we tell? Do we believe that Jesus lives! Have we put our faith in the salvation He offers? When we arrive in Heaven what stories will they tell about us? How much loss will we suffer?
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.