Lesson 09: The World and the World to Come

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth : September 2, 1897

In our study of the Book of Hebrews we have learned much about “the world to come.” “Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come,” but He has put it in subjection to man; for the world to come is the new heavens and the new earth which God put in subjection to man in the beginning, when everything was very good.

All this we have had repeated several times in our studies, but we can never exhaust the truth that it contains. The earth was new and unsullied by sin, when God gave it to man. By man’s disobedience he lost the dominion. Thus “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” “But the heavens and the earth, which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3.6, 7, 13. This is the “better country, that is, an heavenly,” for which the patriarchs looked. Hebrews 11.16. Because they looked for that better country, confessing that they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11.13), God was not ashamed to be called their God.    All therefore who are “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.26) and so children of Abraham, and heirs with him (Galatians 3.7, 29), have their citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3.20. R.V.), where God has prepared for them a city.

“If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3.29. Those who are Christ’s are Christians. All real Christians are there¬fore Abraham’s seed, and with him are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, having their citizenship in heaven. What have they then to do with “this present evil world;” what is their relation to it?—they are strangers and foreigners in it, and are to be delivered from it. Galatians 1.4. Their sole business here is to keep themselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1.27), and to save as many people from it as they possibly can.

What about the prevailing idea that Christians ought to busy themselves with the government of this earth, and that they, above all others, are the ones to whom the government of this world belongs? What do we learn as to the grow¬ing idea that the church should interest itself in politics and have a controlling influence in the affairs of State? The utter fallacy of all such ideas is apparent from the fact that it is the world to come, and not this world, that God has given to His people. Instead of being the ones to rule this world, Christians are the ones above all others who should keep their hands off. They are strangers and foreigners in this world, and have no more right to meddle in its affairs, or to, seek to control it, than a Frenchman would have in Germany, or a German in England.

This world pertains to worldly men. “The world passes away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever.” 1 John 2.17. He who does the will of God abides for ever, because he is not of this world, even as Christ is not of this world; but they who link their lives to this world must necessarily pass away with it.

Satan is the God of this world, and they who possess it and rule over it, must do homage to him. He offered the kingdoms of this world to Christ on that condition, but the Saviour spurned the offer.  Matthew 4.5-10. So must every one do who will follow Christ.

When professed Christians are full of zeal for the things of this world, and seek to occupy a prominent place in its affairs, they show that they do not know what is the hope of their calling, nor the riches of the glory of the inheritance. Ephesians 1.18, 19. How can they expect to convince the world that there is anything better for mankind, when they seek for nothing but what the rest of mankind seek? If they are all absorbed in this world, how can they expect people to believe them when they talk about the surpassing riches of the world to come? Will a man who has diamonds before him, at his disposal, load his pockets with mud? Will a man who is a prince, and who has a kingdom and a palace, and riches that cannot be counted, dispute with a beggar for the possession of a crust of bread, or quarrel with the scavenger for the rags in the gutter?

This world is but a waiting place. We are expecting the Lord to come with the everlasting inheritance, and we do not know at what hour He may come. Confidently we have no time to take up a residence here, much less to seek office; and the question as to who shall occupy the offices has not the slightest interest for us, since we are to stay but for a night, and “the morning cometh.” A man traveling by a night train through France, on the way from London to Geneva, would not think that he had time to engage in French polities. Even so with Christians in this world.

To Christians pertains the world to come. The word of salvation, which God puts in the mouth of His children, is the word that is to renew the heavens and the earth, as well as all people who receive it. The power of the Gospel is the power of the world to come. But if the interest of Christians is divided between this world and the world to come, their power is diminished to the extent that this world takes the place of the world to come; and thus they give the trumpet a faint and uncertain sound. Let us leave the affairs of this world to those who shut their eyes and ears to anything better, while we labor with the power of the world to come to save as many as possible from the ruin.