The Great Comfort of Christ’s Glorification: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 19

51. What does this glory of Christ, our Head, profit us?
First, that by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us,
His members;1 then, that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.2
[1] Eph. 4:10–12. [2] Ps. 2:9; Jn. 10:28–30; *1 Cor. 15:25–26; *Acts 2:33.

52. What comfort is it to you that Christ “shall come to judge the living and the dead”?
That in all my sorrows and persecutions, I, with uplifted head, look for the very One who offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven,1 who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation,2 but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.3
[1] Lk. 21:28; Rom. 8:23–24; Phil. 3:20–21; Tit. 2:13. [2] 2 Th ess. 1:6, 10; 1 Th ess. 4:16–18; Matt. 25:41. [3] *Acts 1:10–11; *Heb. 9:28.

All of these truths about who Christ is and what He has done and is doing, truths we have discussed over the last few Lord’s Day lessons, come together to work in the Christian life a profound comfort.

Life can be quite hard. Whether we have a lot of hardships in our life or somewhat fewer, whether we suffer greatly from the hatred of our societies or from the ravages of disease, whether we struggle with conflict in our marriages and families or experience financial hardship and want, the truth is that the world is not our home. God is very gracious in this present life and gives us many good gifts and luxuries, and yet the most privileged and pampered life will still fall far short of the glory we are created for. Above all we will all struggle with our own sin and misery. No amount of wealth and pleasure can overcome our own guilt over sin. And every believer will suffer the hostility, more or less obvious, of a world that hates the truth of God’s word.

If God is not sovereign and Christ is not ruling, then there can never really be any reason for the great tragedies we suffer. The death of a child will just be something that happened. You make a mistake, marry the wrong woman, and the rest of your life is ruined. Wicked men prosper by their wickedness and there is no answer, no cure for it, no reason. It’s just something that happens. No amount of man’s effort has ever fixed these problems.

But with Christ at the right hand of God, sending us His Spirit to guide us home and directing all the affairs of history to the accomplishment of His purpose and glory, we can take comfort even in the greatest sorrow. He has promised to return once He is done achieving everything He wishes to achieve in this present age of history, and Jesus always keeps His promises. So one day He’ll come back to earth, purge it with fire, right every wrong, and settle every score. He’ll raise all His people from the dead to enjoy eternal blessedness with Him.

A major theme of the first chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy is the exhortation not to be ashamed of Christ. This is especially true because Paul is in prison, a criminal and enemy of the Roman state. It would be easy in such a position to be embarrassed of the gospel, since one of its chief proponents had been denounced and defeated by its enemies. It’s just as easy to fall into that state of mind because of disease, poverty, or other hardship. But if Timothy understands the gospel and believes its promises, then he will not be ashamed. He need not be embarrassed that he trusted that promise, for notwithstanding Paul’s present state, Christ is glorified, has achieved His purpose and will fulfill His promise. Paul says, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12) And therefore he is not ashamed. This is a powerful statement of confidence that Christ will keep His promise and that Paul’s faith in Christ’s promise will not go unfulfilled. But Paul knows that He must look to the return of Christ for the fulfillment of that promise.

Persecution can take a lot of different forms. We are perhaps more keenly aware of the persecution of our brothers and sisters in places where it is illegal to be a Christian, and where Christians are beaten and imprisoned, where their church services run the risk of being discovered by the police or the local mob and attacked, or where Christians are even enslaved or beheaded for the faith. But persecution isn’t really about causing suffering. It’s about pressure, pressure to conform. When we in America live pretty comfortable lives and can worship freely, but are subjected to the constant ridicule and contempt of the dominant power, we experience a powerful form of pressure. The material comforts we enjoy can even make the pressure greater, as it provides additional levers to use against us, by threatening us with their loss. The success of that pressure will depend on how highly we as Christians value our material comforts, so be warned.

Sometimes we can get fooled by influence and power into thinking that the achievement of earthly goals is the purpose of the Christian life, but when we lack that influence, as is the case around the globe and increasingly in present-day America, it’s easy to fall into despair and become ashamed. Both errors are the result of looking to the present age for the fulfillment of the promise of the gospel, instead of to eternity. The victory of Christ is already accomplished, but this is the age of faith, not the age of sight. Faith shows us a victorious and sovereign Christ Who will preserve all of His people and advance His church throughout the world and throughout the age, and at the end will return to complete the accomplishment of all His plans for His complete triumph and the abundant reward of all those who put their trust in Him and who were not ashamed of the promise of His salvation.