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Description: Rejoice for the Hope of a Heavenly Home
Rejoice for the Hope of a Heavenly Home
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Today’s verse is Colossians 1:5. I think I have attempted to tackle it but I am still working on
it. You remember Paul, in verses 3-5, has said we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love
which you have for all the saint, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have
heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel. So he is thanking God for them because of the
hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.
Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
One of the commentators says it isn’t the hope in your heart; it isn’t that that he is praying
about. You should have faith, hope and love. There should be hope in your heart but that is not the
hope he is talking about here. He is talking about a hope, not in your heart, but laid up in heaven
for you. It must have been allot of verses back when I came across hope [Romans]. I thought the poor
guy or child, he hoped against hope — was that Abraham — hoped against hope for a child. I think
of that we human beings have of hope. We have some hope, oh, yeah, we are hopeful. It may not rain
today, we hope so. It’s kind of a last hope. That’s really in the back of our minds as human beings;
there is some hope for that.
Of course this is absolutely different. Hope in the New Testament is absolutely different. It is a
sure thing. It is something that is going to happen. It’s something that you know is going to
happen. It’s like you are on your way to New York and you know you are going to get to New York. So
you have a hope of getting to New York — it’s a certainty of getting to New York. It’s hope in the
sense that it is future. It’s not hope in the sense I wonder if that will happen. It’s an absolute
certainty it will happen. That’s what hope is here in this verse. It’s hope that is certain and
sure; you have no doubt about. It is not something you hope might happen.
You who aren’t miserable Methodists will fully understand me when I talk about Arminianism. Some of
us would know about it. Arminianism mean salvation depends on your own efforts too. Of course that
is true and Wesley used it amongst the poor and outcast people he ministered to. Probably more
appropriate would be his emphasis on your life (outward actions) is a picture of your faith (inner
actions). You have to will yourself to do and in that sense it is Arminian. As an Arminian, I’m
always very reluctant to praise Calvin [John Calvin, Theologian, 1509-1564], but he is a dear guy
and a great man. He is extreme in his negative view of predestination but very strong on his
positive. Calvin said, “Hope is the constancy of faith.” The commentator I was ready said this is
pretty much it. Of course it struck me as right. Hope is the constancy of faith. In other words,
faith in the thing that’s going to happen in the future — it’s undoubtedly going to happen — you
have absolute faith that it is going to happen.
So in the New Testament sense, hope laid up for you in heaven here is sure — it’s a cert — it’s a
sure thing. It helped me when I saw the European probe. Of course the Americans were startled by it.
Can any good thing come out of Europe they thought? They were set back a little on their heels. We
didn’t say it but all the television coverage showed surprise in America that the Europeans pulled
it off. To me it was the beginning of the space age, more than all the other stuff, more than the
space shots. I thought that over the period of 10 years, we travelled through space and we got
somewhere over 500 million miles away. It was tremendous. We were out there in space for 10 years.
We got to where we wanted to be and the thing was flying itself through thousands of miles an hour
and we lit on the top of it. It was a magnificent achievement. For me, it made space smaller. It
made it more manageable or it brought home to me this is all there and we are part of all this
massive space. We are aware that beyond that there is millions and millions of miles beyond with
more and more solar systems. Of course the theory is that it is expanding all the time. Whether it
is or not, it is big enough as it is.
Suddenly I realized we are part of that. Then I thought it may not be fountains and gold pavements;
it may not be harps and streets of gold; it may be something different. For me, it meant our Father
must have alot of plans for us. He must have. Otherwise, why have all that space out there. Even if
it is spiritual space and not physical space, it’s alot. Our Father must have alot of plans. He must
have with all the space out there. Space that wants to rule and fill with himself as he wants to do
with this world.
The hope thing for me seems very real. He has a hope laid up for us in heaven. He has a whole life
for us that is way beyond anything that we have touched. I began to sense this is something to look
forward to — not just to see Dad and Mom and all the loved ones we had — it is a life far bigger
than this one. We will have all kinds of things to do and all kinds of responsibilities; new lives
filled with new activities with fuller satisfaction than we have ever dreamed of.
For me, it took on a much more concrete idea of heaven. I just thought this is great. I think you
know what it is to look forward to something — something that fills you with anticipation and
you’re really looking forward to it — sometimes a vacation does but there are other things. That’s
what I felt. This is something we have to look forward to. It’s going to be something great — far
better than this present world — it’s going to be better than the life we have at present. It’s
going to be all the things we feel now; we’ll feel much more of. It is going to be wonderful. It’s
something undoubtedly to look forward to. I never felt death was something to be afraid of anyway
but I couldn’t see beyond it too much. Now I think it is wonderful — heaven is a hope that God has
laid up for us and has prepared for us for.
That’s where it came home to me — why on earth did he make us? Why did he make us? If he has all
this space out there and all these planets, why did he make us? That’s what brought me back to the
verse all things work together for good. [ Romans 8:28] It’s undoubtedly the biggest general
statement that’s made of the purpose of the world. It’s one of the best that explains what is
happening to us. “All things work together for good to them who love God.” The good is the next
verse here in Romans, “that they may be conformed to the image of his Son.” [verse 29] Of course for
me it jumped on to the next conclusion which follows from that. Why conform us to the image of his
Son? Undoubtedly he made us in his own image so that he could love us the way he loves his Son and
we could enjoy the very best that he has. The very best he has is love for his Son and his Son’s
love for him. He wanted the very best for us. He made us in his image so that we could enjoy what he
and his Son enjoy. That’s why he made us in his Son, so that we could have his Son’s image. We have
a mind like his Son, a will like his Son, feelings like his Son, all those things. We could be like
his Son and we could really enjoy their love. That’s why he put us here.
The only thing he could not give us what his Son alone was able to exercise for us. His Son was
able to exercise will and that’s what made love possible. All of us in this room know that. You
can’t love if you have the will. You can copy; you can be dictated to. You can be domineered and
dominated but you cannot love unless you are free not to love. Unless you are free to choose to love
or not to love. So, he could not and would not make us with his Son’s will. He could only make us in
his Son’s image and give us a will. He gave us the ability to choose or not to choose. But then that
was up to us. He did make us in his own image so we could enjoy him and so we could be fully part of
him but he did say, “if you want.” I did not want robots; I don’t want people who do what they
cannot do otherwise. I want you to love me as I love you.
So he did give us free will.
That came home to me that he put us here, made us like himself so that we are free to love him but
we have to choose to do it. I think I’ve shared this a little with you before. How on earth is he
going to bring that about? All I saw clearly was that’s why he let us do what we have done to this
world. that’s why he let it go bad so that we would see plainly what life without him was like. So
that we would see we can love him or we can be like this. We have the freedom to choose one or the
other. That’s why he made us and put us in this place.
I don’t know if you have really, really seen the lengths to which he is willing to go. The best
picture I know that I have created in my own mind is Christ on the cross and then beating him or
sticking swords into his side or spitting at him and him saying I will bear this until you stop. I
think that’s it. I know it sounds ridiculous. I think that’s it. I have here the verses that Jesus
speaks when he talks about the worm dieth not. It’s in the section where it says it’s better to be
without a hand. It’s some of the few verses where Jesus mentioned hell. [ Mark 9:43-48 ]
Every theologian and Christian has to reconcile that Jesus used those words. I do have to say to you
there has to be such a theological theory as accommodation. It can be explained to you by this:
“Did you see the sun rise today?” That’s accommodation. I’m accommodating my saying to your
understanding. But you know the sun didn’t rise today. You know the earth turned round. But you
would think it silly for me to say, “Did you see the earth turn round today?” Even though that is
literally the truth. That is called accommodation. So you can say that or one is forced to say that.
You have to be very careful with it.
You can’t do that with the normal evangelical because he insists you not only believe in hell but
you believe in burning brimstone. You are foolish if you get into an entanglement with that. But if
you step back from that and you are reading Jesus’ words undoubtedly it does have that feel for it.
For one thing, it’s a bit casual. It’s better to get rid of a hand that is sinful than have two
hands to throw into the hell fire. It’s a little toss, well, it’s a little like that. So it is
possible Jesus is not saying people will burn in fire or hell.
It seems the attitude of his life and his Father’s heart to us is the opposite. It seems the Father
and Son are saying to us, “We will bear with you until you bear with us. We will accept what you do
until you stop doing it. I will let you have your way until you start letting me have my way.”
That’s the best I know with someone who allows his servants to say, “The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases.” [Lamentations 3:22 ] I think that’s the verse that made me sit up and listen as well
as I could to God’s attitude to us. It seems to me his steadfast love never ceases. Never is never.
It does mean that he is willing to wait and to wait and to wait and to suffer and to endure. His
steadfast love never ceases.
I don’t know if that’s what mansions mean. I don’t know if that is what Jesus means when he said in
my Father’s house are many mansions. I don’t know if that’s what he means when he says I have sheep
of another fold. I don’t know. But I can see that it is certainly possible that God keeps at us for
as long as he needs. I agree I don’t think there will be any fornicators in heaven. Jesus said that.
I don’t think there will people who oppose his Father’s will in heaven. I think that’s right. But
whether God will give us another chance, maybe many more chances, I don’t know.
Certainly you have to reconcile the statement: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. You have
to reconcile that statement with the others that say after this life that’s it and yet take into
consideration that God is eternally patient and has one desire above all others that is we would be
conformed to the image of his Son and would share his love with him. I don’t think it takes anything
away from the ole purgatory idea which has the same idea. Purgatory is a place where you are
purified. Undoubtedly that’s what I’m saying in a roundabout way. That God will give us other
So it seems the best attitude we can take is that it is not given to anyone what happens there. In
fact, there is strong words where Jesus says the Father judges no one but has entrusted all
judgement to the Son. We are not in a position to judge. I think there is hope, maybe that’s it.
There is hope; maybe it is not our place to decide whether our brothers or sisters go where they go.
Maybe it is our Father’s loving heart. That seems to me to have something of his tenderness. One has
to go gently at it. Undoubtedly God has made us so we can share his love, the love that he has for
his Son. Therefore we can be together and enter into a whole wonderful world that he has laid up for
us in heaven.
We all know time is just a game and eternity is a forever now. Of course that exists at this moment.
It is all around us. Sometimes I think they are sitting on our shoulders. It’s all around us. We
have wonderful discussions the two of us. Irene was asking what the incentive for evangelism is.
Of course, for me it purifies the incentive for evangelism because it’s no longer I’m doing this to
save people but it is my Father that loves them, yearns for them, yearns for the creature his hands
have made and misses them every moment and wants them in his own arms.
Of course that is the greatest incentive for evangelism. That our loving Father who has given
everything for us is missing this person and will miss them. Why wasn’t he happy with all the
sheep, he had a whole fold of sheep? Why bother with that little sheep that is lost? The same
attitude with the other parables where he talks about the lady with the lost coin. Obviously the
Father’s heart misses what his heart yearns for. Of course that’s really why we want anybody to know
about our Father and isn’t that the greatest reason? Do you know what he is really like? Isn’t that
the tragedy? They think the fellow will throw you into hell if you don’t like him. Our dear Lord
must weep and yearn for men and women who know his heart and will care about his heart.
We are here to share with Britain or America God’s heart; to express his heart because we think when
they see him as he is and yield their will to him, they’ll love him as we do. Let us pray.
Dear Lord, we thank you for your kindness to us and your patience with us as we blunder our way
into understanding you. We apologize, Lord, if we make errors or if we inadequately express your
love to each other. we ask for your forgiveness and for your light so that we may speak truly and
Now we pray, our Father, for all our relatives, friends and associates in business that they would
do what we want them to do but that they would begin to glimpse what kind of person you are; that
they would catch sight of your heart and that through us they would catch some of your tenderness
and your mercy. We pray, Lord, that you would do that with us through these coming days.
Then we do thank you, Father, for the hope that is laid up for us in heaven. We thank you for the
part that we have to look forward to; for the Lamb’s wedding supper that will be our continual life.
We thank you, Father, that we of all people have good hopes. We have the best hopes and we have
everything to live for not only in this present life but in the real life that begins.
Lord, we thank you for your goodness to us and for your grace in Jesus’ name. Amen.