A FORETASTE OF FUTURE GLORY
Those words above are the very words found in Romans 8:23 in the Living Bible, which tells us, “… we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory …” This is also called “the firstfruits” (NASB and NIV) Yes, we have a foretaste of the coming glory! This is the rare and exclusive privilege of everyone who knows Christ personally and allows the Holy Spirit to tell us the reality. Someone first called it “living in the kingdom come.”
I know a lady, my mother-in-law, whose husband had gone before her. She requested an old-style hymn book with songs of heaven. Some thought her a bit crazy as she sat alone singing loudly—this was aided by her hearing loss—“O land of rest, for thee I sigh.” We would agree with her fully, but the point to be made is we do not have to wait, we can know some of the glory to come now.
God has made that possible by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling us. Whenever Jesus Christ reigns in our hearts, all of this is a foretaste even in a real but limited sense. For after all, we know internal holiness will produce spiritual and mental happiness. What a shame many do not realize what is being missed because there is no pursuit of personal holiness. The reward of a holy heart and life is God-given foretastes of the kingdom come. It is to live in the light of eternity, and that should be the everyday business of all who know Christ. This kind of thinking caused Augustine to declare, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot.” In reality, we do not need to know more than this, God has a future for us far better than all we can now think of and dream about; just call it glory!
A person with a clean heart knows secret rewards and a heavenly wealth in advance. Such a person, here and now, claims two heavens. One is the heaven in their heart and the other one is still to come. Even people who cannot “carry a tune” have one in their heart. Added to it is glorious joy. It was explained by the Puritan Thomas Watson, who said to his people, “Here, joy begins to enter into us; there, we enter into joy.” With the Holy Spirit within our hearts and the Holy Scripture in our hands we can sit on top of a garbage dump and reside in the glory of His presence with a taste of heaven a reality.
Personally I have no doubt that this is true. In Belarus, after people returned home at the end of the Stalinist era, there was a humble Baptist pastor who had lost his arm in a Siberian work camp as logs were being loaded on a Soviet train—suddenly several heavy logs rolled off and took off his arm. Years later, he told his granddaughter that there were many nights as he lay sleeping on rotting straw, that for several hours he was “standing just outside heaven, living in the kingdom come.” That was the glorious privilege God had given him. It was a preview of Paradise! He was granted in that depressing world a foretaste of glory. This man in the most horrible imprisonment tasted the powers of a coming age. In the world without Christ, people cannot begin to understand such language! It’s laughed at by agnostics and called foolish, sentimental religious talk.
A little boy had a delightful mother, who, when she baked a pound cake, would put enough in a cupcake mold that allowed him to get a foretaste of what was to come. It was his mother’s purpose and pleasure to awaken his appetite for what was to come. It was all calculated for that purpose: the bit of crumbs made him want the cake! God has done that for us by giving us the Holy Spirit, from whom, with special experiences of fellowship we may get a bit of taste of the glory to come. Let’s call it a foretaste and treasure that thought. We are an heir to a world to come that is better than anything we can conceive. Yet, in the present we can enjoy the future with the partial unveiling of it by the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is His Spirit that is the “down payment” or the first installment of what is coming, called in Scripture the pledge or the earnest. Earnest money is given to assure the seller that the buyer is serious about a purchase. That is the very Biblically rooted concept. For we have “tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:5).
There are those, a select few who follow hard after God, who have such glorious experiences of an overwhelming foretaste and moments of a torrent of glory. Such people drink deeply of this great internal adventure which is very marvelous; precious and even a bit unexpected discovery. It’s all found in the inexhaustible riches of fellowship with Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. It begins, I believe, with an awareness of the indwelling Christ, “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27), alive from the inside out and the releasing of continual experiences of “heaven come down and glory filling my soul.”
And we can be sure that today, like in every age, there are even now people by the thousands who are experiencing the depths of knowing Jesus Christ and it’s a bit of heaven in their souls! A foretaste! Here is what it is possible to visualize, a people scattered throughout the world of all denominations who love Christ with a holy passion and who are utterly abandoned to Him. These people often cannot safely fit into the typical structured world that we have of an average contemporary Christian. Their private devotional life is a living experience of Christ. Living in the kingdom come, it is in their bloodstream. It seems they have found entrance into the Holy of Holies. Hymnwriter Fanny Crosby, in her blindness, had such sights; she often wrote of “a foretaste of glory divine.” Doubtless, she knew it. We may all have advanced samples if we will pursue it in devoted silence and with single-minded focus on Jesus Christ. This is the reward given to those who lay down the trinkets of this world. Yet, it is unlikely that God will reveal the spiritual riches until He sees such a person genuinely desires Him more than anything earth has to offer. And those few who come to know it have a graceful spirit which will put a necessary veil over this secretly revealed glory. There is to be a holy hush. “The humble heart is His throne, in regard to His gracious presence; and heaven is His throne, in regard to His glorious presence,” said Thomas Watson.
I faintly recall hearing a simply dressed woman up in her years singing with less than a trained voice, in an old country church. There were tears on her cheeks as she sang “of a thousand sacred sweets before we walk the golden streets.”
Now, it is true our understanding of the kingdom come is limited and I would never dream of saying too much. For as has been said, “Heaven would not be heaven if we could adequately define it or describe it.” Yet, do not be afraid of the most glorious thoughts you have ever had and magnifying it beyond all you can imagine. Then you’re getting a brief glimpse of the kingdom to come. One preacher called that sanctified imagination and glorified excitement.
Let Spurgeon attempt it for us as he called it all “a vast museum of wonders of grace and mercy, a palace of miracles, in which everything will surprise everyone,” and yet, we note that he excludes wild speculation related to anything that God has not chosen to describe in Scripture. But he touches on “the shoreline of holy wonder.” It all is living in the kingdom come with adoration of the heart with a streamline of focus on an inside-out praise to God for what is and is to come. It is an activity of the mind that responds to affection from the heart—it’s living in the heavenlies.
Do you not think Paul knew something of this when he was “caught up to the third heaven”? He said, “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know … caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” (II Corinthians 12:2-4, NIV) That would be an extraordinary foretaste of glory. Not all of us can expect that, but we can know it.
I once read years ago of an orphaned boy who had seldom known what it was to have enough to eat. He lived a life of being often famished, and so he was placed into a home of wealthy foster parents. He was handed a glass full of cold milk. Looking at it and then at his new family, he asked before he put it to his lips, “How deep may I drink?” — God is looking for people who desire to drink deeply. Let us never be fearful of very special times when we have a desire to more fully know a glory beyond and above what is commonly experienced by most followers of Christ. We may ask God, “Oh, let me have as full a taste of future glory. Let me live in the kingdom come,” like someone standing on tiptoe to look over the top of the fence to see the beauty beyond. Rutherford, from prison wrote of his experiences with the Lord. The walls were often wet with condensation, yet he said his cell glistened like diamonds and he was on the portals of glory there!
Never doubt God will not disappoint; He will, if we desire it, give us previews of what is coming. It is the unique privilege of having a heavenly citizenship. Blessed are those who “… have once understood the Good News and tasted … the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, and know how good the Word of God is, and felt the mighty powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:4-5, Living Bible)—for they are allowed to enjoy a foretaste of what the Lord has planned for us. Get alone with Him and have a sampling of all that is planned by God for you in the world to come.
After all, was it not well said that only those will go to heaven who have sent their heart there already? For grace and glory are two sides of the same coin. Grace is glory begun and glory is grace finalized. So let there be “within us a foretaste of future glory” just as Paul described it.