Thursday, May 30, 2024

God Rewards Faithfulness

The saints go first. 

You've probably heard something like this in your time as a Christian - that when Jesus comes back, the saints will be the first ones going to heaven, then the faithful, then the rest of us, and finally, fiery death and a second death upon all who remain. 

I struggle with ideas like this because for some reason, we are always convinced that we are not the saints. That the saints are those who were better than us in some demonstrable way. That the saints probably never sinned. That they didn't wrestle with their own thoughts. That they didn't say things that they shouldn't. We have this idea that the perfect go first, then the close-to-perfect, then all the rest of us who never could quite get it right. 

Friends, that's simply not true. There is no one perfect among us, not even one we are willing to call a saint. Read the Bible, and you will find no one perfect. Not one. And if you think that perhaps someone like David, at the very least, ought to go to heaven before you, remember that he was both an adulterer and a murderer; is he somehow a better man than you? (Or even, are you better than him?)

There are saints, but friend? You are one of them. If you are faithful to the Lord, earnest about following His ways, honest in repentance, hungry for righteousness, and covered in His blood, you are one of the saints. You are exactly the kind of person who gets to go "first," if there even is such a thing. 

There is some evidence about who goes first, as far back as the Old Testament. Judah, the tribe that remained most faithful to the Lord (but still messed up a lot), was the last tribe to go into exile. And 1 Chronicles tells us that when the people of Israel started to come back to the land, there was a distinct group that got to come first: 

The Levites, the priests, the servants.

In other words, the faithful who were committed to serving the Lord in His holy place came back first. 

And for good reason. If God is trying to re-establish His people in the land, if He's trying to restore them after severe discipline for unfaithfulness, then He needs to send back first the persons who will establish faithfulness as the law of the land. He needs to send back those who will invest themselves in restoring proper worship and devoting themselves to the Temple and to the precepts of the law. He needs to send back those who will set the example for everyone else to follow. 

I'm not sure the same is true about heaven; I don't think God needs to establish faithfulness in the place of perfect relationship, but I know that the same is true in the world. I know that whenever God is doing a new thing, whenever He's trying to set something right, He sends in the faithful first. He sends in those who He knows are going to serve Him. He sends in the saints. 

And friend? That's you. 

When God wants to do a new thing in the world, He starts with you. 

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