An end to suffering

Jesus came “to destroy the devil’s work” (I John 3:8). He began His teaching ministry by going around the synagogues, announcing the imminent establishment of the Kingdom of God. And the ‘manifesto’ of that kingdom (Luke 4:18,19) was good news for the poor and the sick, the oppressed and the downtrodden. For God’s Kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness (Psalm 96:10-13). It will be characterised by unimaginable peace and prosperity (e.g. Isaiah 65:17-25; Amos 9:13-15).

And yet, we are still waiting for that Kingdom to come. The world continues to suffer famines, wars, and other disasters; sickness and death still hold sway over the human race. Unbelief turns us into cynics, scoffing at a God who appears to be doing nothing (II Peter 3:3,4). Faith, on the other hand, sees the pains and sorrows of the present age as labour pains – an essential part of the process through which the new creation will be brought about (John 16:21,22; Mark 13:8). The people of God are not immune from this process; indeed, our calling is to embrace it. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth… Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22,23)

The sufferings of this life must be put into perspective: they are only temporary visitors (Psalm 30:5). Even the darkest night will always be terminated by dawn. For a day is coming when the whole of creation will be transformed by the immediate presence of God (Revelation 21:1-7) – and in His presence there can be no evil or sorrow (Psalm 16:11). “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) The life that we know is a life in ‘shadowlands’; but in the life to come that shadow will be lifted (Isaiah 25:6-8).

One of the puzzling things (to modern minds) about this description of the new earth is the absence of the sea (Revelation 21:1). But like so many things in Revelation, the sea is symbolic; it represents the evil forces of chaos that have always threatened to engulf God’s good world. In the age to come, not only will pain and grief be no more, but even the threat of them will have disappeared from the scene. Our bodies will be like the resurrected body of our Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:21) – no longer vulnerable to pain, and no longer subject to death (Luke 20:35,36).

It is true that Jesus continues to bear the scars of His crucifixion in His resurrected body, even in eternity (John 20:24-27; Revelation 5:6). But does this mean that the injuries and disabilities sustained by our earthly bodies will be equally permanent? I don’t think so. “By his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus bears His wounds into eternity so that we can all be completely healed in eternity – of every sickness and every sin.

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