Our Attraction to Eternity

II Corinthians 4

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

In my own time of mourning, I have been thinking on II Corinthians 4:16-18. I memorized them awhile back in the KJV, the Bible of my youth and of my study in college. (The King James Version is no longer the language of my lips in sermons, but it remains the language of my heart in private with God.)

I learned a long time ago not to rush to a commentary in order to study Scripture. “Read the text” was drilled into me in inductive Bible study classes. I consult commentaries and theological books when I do not understand something. I only open a commentary when I have a question that I need an answer for. This prevents me from living “a second-hand life” through books about the Bible, instead of reading the Bible itself. 

An intellectually oriented pastor was met at the door after his sermon by a woman with a paper bag. She handed it to him. He asked about what she was giving him. She replied, “You said that the common taters didn’t agree with you. So, I brought you some sweet taters.”

I think that lady punctured his ego-balloon.

One of my questions for this passage is:
How can I concentrate my sight on something I cannot see?

I have looked at numerous commentaries and theology books, but two only answer my question—Charles Hodge’s commentary on II Corinthians. R. C. Sproul, a theologian and pastor (and a teacher of mine twice). I recommend his book Everyone’s a Theologian. (His Scripture Expositions are still being released as they edit the sermons from St. Andrews Chapel where he preached for 20 Years. I highly recommend his Exposition of Romans.)

II Corinthians 4:16-18 introduces the reason we do not call it quits when the ministry gets tough.

Paul had outward persecution from all kinds of persons.

Certainly the ministry was always tough going for Paul. Hodge cites two Scripture passages to show how tough it was for him.

I Corinthians 4:9a; 11-13

9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena… . 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. (NIV)

II Corinthians 11:23-28

23 Are they [the false teachers] servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (NIV)

Dr Will Norton 2Dr. Will Norton was professor of missions at Reformed Theological Seminary–Charlotte, when I worked on my D.Min. there. One day someone from the administrative staff inquired about where I was staying. I replied that I was staying at SIM headquarters, just opposite Carowinds. They asked me if I would pick up Dr. Norton at the airport when he came in at 10:30 pm. (I was younger then and could stay up past 11:00 pm.)

I will never forget that ride from the airport to Dr. Norton’s home. He queried me concerning the state of the church I served. Well, that state included a Church-fight at the time. He gave me this advice—”Always remember that someone needs you!” In other words, in the midst of strife, don’t forget about the needs of others. He died at 102 years of age.

Most of Paul’s suffering was due to his ministry.


An ancient means of torture—board with weights
added until the person gave up or died. (WikiMedai Commons)

But note an extra source of suffering Paul has—

Paul had pressure from people constantly coming to him for advice. 

11:28 …I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. “Concern” is in Greek “merimna—care, anxiety.” Literally it means “to be drawn in different directions.” (Thayer’s Lexicon) The same word describes Martha in Luke 10:41.

This word for “pressure” (epistasis in Greek) is interesting. Thayer’s Lexicon gives this meaning—”a troublesome throng of persons seeking help, counsel and comfort…thronging to one.”

Then, in addition to the outward suffering, the pressure of ambassadors from other churches coming for help or sending a person with a letter eliciting Paul’s opinion on a matter.

Charles_Ellicott_by_Herbert_R_BarraudEllicott says this—”The daily visits of inquirers, the confessions of sin-burdened souls, the craving of perplexed consciences for guidance, the reference of quarrels of the household or the church to his arbitration as umpire, the arrival of messengers from distant churches, each with their tidings of good or evil—this is what we have to think of as present to St. Paul’s thoughts as the daily routine of his life.” (picture of Ellicott, from Wikipedia)

Please don’t think that pastors are weak or unfit to serve if they suffer from personal attacks by parishioners and/or officers. Much of this kind of suffering is like the torture picture above—people keep putting pressure on the pastor until his health breaks or he leaves. Pray for pastors because they care for those without Christ.

Paul gives us the one thing that will keep us going under such pressure.

The word Paul uses here in II Cor. 4:18 is skopeō meaning: “to fix one’s (mind’s) eye on”; or the “end-marker of a foot-race” (Thayer’s Lexicon) In English we sometimes say I scoped out a place place for fishing.

In Phil. 3:14, Paul uses a cognate of the word skopeō—I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Skopos is used once in the Greek NT meaning “the goal or end one has in view.” Thayer’s Lexicon.

Which eye does Paul allude to in this II Cor 4:18 ? (1) not the physical eye since we cannot see the glorious benefits of our resurrection yet; (2) rather, Paul says we use the eye of faith.


Jonathan Edwards says this about seeing  God—

As to the faculty that is the subject of this vision. It is no sight of any thing with the bodily eyes; but it is an intellectual view. The beatific vision of God is not a sight with the eyes of the body, but with the eyes of the soul. (Edwards, J. The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Volume I & II . Candid Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

We use the eye of faith as we read God’s Word to see in part what awaits us in glory. Only such a mediated vision can keep us going in tough times!


An Abundant Entrance into Heaven

Photo above is from https://quotesgram.com/christian-quotes-about-death/

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 KJV

The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. NLT

The Lord is not indifferent to the manner of the death of his faithful people. They may die without much fanfare here on earth; but in heaven, that’s another story! We will have to await our own death and entrance into heaven to fully know what fanfare awaits us there.

God does not guarantee an abundant exit from this world. Some of His choicest servants have died ignominious deaths. However we should not think that God is not touched with by our suffering in this life. Jesus is our Great High Priest according to Hebrews 4.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [ESV]

The old KJV renders verse 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus Christ the God-Man experienced every emotion we experience. God is not capricious in His dealings with us. Dr. R. C. Sproul used that word one day in class. A country boy said, “Why are you talking about that car?” We all had a laugh. The student was talking about the the Chevrolet Caprice. What he was really saying was, “I do not understand what capricious means.” Dr. Sproul explained, “Capricious means that behavior is determined by chance or impulse or whim.” By saying that God has emotions does not mean He experiences them the way we often do—acting out of a whim. Humans often relate to others depending upon how they feel at the time. God is not so capricious. He acts out of His plan that He has settled before the world began. The death of human beings fit into His comprehensive plan though we are incapable of reading God’s mind. (see Romans 11:33-36)

I have witnessed a number of people die in my lifetime. The first death I remember was that of my Great-Grandfather–Rich Dowell. My father had arranged for the family to go to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus on February 20, 1960; I was 7 years old (the Greenville Memorial Auditorium had only been open for two years). My Gr. Grandfather had carried my bother Mike (aged 4 years) up the stairs in his arms. We took our seats in the second balcony area on the left side, good seats in which to view the show. Suddenly my Gr. Grandfather began gasping for air and reaching for his throat. We kids around him thought he was acting, after all we were at the circus and he frequently put on a fun-filled show for us kids. A policeman saw him and knew he was not acting. He scooped Gr. Granddaddy into his arms and took him away. We were told to sit still and enjoy the show and that Gr. Grandaddy was sick. My father went with him to the ambulance waiting outside and off they flew to old Greenville General Hospital. My Gr. Grandfather had died in his seat at the circus, and I had seen it happen. That memory is indelibly engraved on my mind.

This story came to mind when my wife of 46 years died, May 12, 2022. We were all gathered around her as she passed into the presence of God without any earthly fanfare.

The New Living Translation [LT] translates II Peter 1:11 this way—And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The old King James is difficult to comprehend for 21st Century people, but I grew up on it. “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Note, we are not promised an abundant exit from this world to heaven, but an abundant reception into heaven! (Far Above Rubies: The Life of Bethan Llloyd-Jones, pg. 204).

I can think of only one person in the Old Testament that had a grand exit from earth—Elijah. II Kings 2:11-14.

11 As [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along, talking, suddenly a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire, appeared and drove between them, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariot of Israel and the charioteers!” As they disappeared from sight he tore his robe. 13-14 Then he picked up Elijah’s cloak and returned to the bank of the Jordan River, and struck the water with it. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he cried out. And the water parted and Elisha went across! 15 When the young prophets of Jericho saw what had happened, they exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and greeted him respectfully.

Why did Elisha say, “My Father! My Father!”? “Elisha probably meant something more than to show respect. He regarded himself as Elijah’s specially adopted son, and hence had claimed the “double portion” of the firstborn.” (Pulpit Commentary.)


Elijah’s chariot in the whirlwind by Gustave Dore; public domain.

What a dramatic exit from earth!

Yet such a great New Testament figure as the Apostle Paul had an ignominious death.


The Beheading of Saint Paul by Enrique Simonet, 1887

He was beheaded by a Roman Soldier.

It doesn’t matter where we die, but it is crucial where we go after we die (Far Above Rubies: The Life of Bethan Llloyd-Jones, pg. 204).

Malachi 3:16 Encouraging One Another in Times when Evil Abounds

Image above is from Steve Law, 7 September 2018, Patterns of Evidence blog. It shows the Israelites worship of the gold calf while Moses was on the Mount receiving the Ten Commandments.

An anonymous author says, “Reverence is the very first element of religion; it cannot but be felt by everyone who has right views of the divine greatness and holiness, and of his own character in the sight of God.” (See Reverence, below.) Whenever a society as a whole deviates from the Word of God as the only rule of faith and practice, idolatrous living, ensues. Idols are not necessarily carvings or pictures. Idols can be mental as well as metal. See Isaiah 44:9-20. See Calvin quotation below.

Calvin on Human heart as idol factory

Definition of a “Public Square”

Meeting of village“A public square” is any place that a story can be shared: a newspaper, magazine, book, website, blog, song, broadcast station or channel, street corner, theater, conference, government body and more. The American origins lie in the colonial village square and the first [printing] presses, which published the pamphlets and newspapers that advocated the birth of a new nation. (See Haack, below.)

(Picture above left “The Colonists Under Liberty Tree,” from Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, Volume 5, page 109 (1865); Public Domain from Wikipedia.)

Quotefancy-3440951-3840x2160 (2)

[In modern public discourse,] the problems and dilemmas of society, e.g., issues like the economy, education, technology, judicial reform or immigration should be discussed and solved without any reference to the Divine. The Divine can be mentioned if the discussion is about one’s personal, private life, but not as an essential part of finding a solution to pressing national or regional questions. (See Haack, below; emphasis mine.) People who say they believe in God, yet live like the ungodly, are practical-atheists.

What can believers do if the larger society in which they live becomes Anti-God? Today people who mention God or the Bible aren’t permitted a place at the table of discussion. The anti-God want a piece of the financial pie.

Malachi 3:16 gives us a remedy, lest we become isolated and feel like we alone.

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.

Malachi 3:16 gives God’s people a strategy for living in an age that does neither acknowledge God nor live by His Word as the only rule of faith and practice.

I. We can gather in smaller groups to encourage one another to remain firm in our own faith. vs. 16a

vs. 16a Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. 

Moses at the Burning Bush

Moses at the Burning Bush illustrates the Fear of the Lord (from Pinterest). He removed his shoes from his feet as a sign of reverence.

We ought to pay attention to what the ungodly say in verses 13-15. By the way the word for “spoke to one another” is the same in 3:13—”But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’” By saying—

1. Serving God doesn’t pay for us in this life.
2. We mourn over sin, but the sinners are the happy ones.
3. Evil people sin with impunity, yet they escape punishment.

What did the God-fearing speak about? We cannot know for certain, but I think they countered what the ungodly said about God. Life in this world with God is difficult. Life in this world without God is impossible.

The Fear of the Lord

Servile or abject fear is not to be understood [fear of punishment], but filial fear [fear of marring the relationship], by which we fear to offend God. The expression describes that reverential attitude or holy fear which man, when his heart is set aright, observes towards God. (See Proverbs 1:7, below.)

Speaking to each other words that encourage includes positive words about who God really is and what will happen at the final judgment. We should remind each other that reward in this life in not final. God will reward His faithful servants in eternity!

God settles all His accounts, but not necessarily in this life

One time an atheistic farmer in New England tried to rob God of His glory. He wrote this letter to the newspaper in the Fall: “I bought my seed on the Sabbath, I sowed it on the Sabbath, I watered it on the Sabbath, I fertilized it on the Sabbath, and I harvested it on the Sabbath. Now it’s October and I have the largest crop in the valley.”

The editor printed his letter and simply added one sentence: “God does not settle all of His accounts in October.”

It might seem as if the ungodly and the wicked prosper and grow, and that all goes well for them—even if they thumb their noses at God and directly defy His commandments.

We can trust God to make all wrongs right. We can wait upon Him to bring justice to His children. All accounts will be settled, whether it is in this life or the next. Indeed, He does not settle accounts in October.

 [See Kennedy, D.J., below.]

16 The Lord paid attention and heard them… .

II. We can encourage each other’s faithfulness by reminding each other God hears everything we say, especially prayers. 16b. 

Alan Redpath quotation 2 croppedI once heard the late Alan Redpath speak in the late ’60s at the Ben Lippen Conference in Asheville, NC. We could eat supper in Greenville, SC and make it to the evening meeting at Ben Lippen in time (especially if the driver had a heavy foot on the accelerator). Redpath related the story of his problems in Chicago 1953-1962 as pastor of Moody Memorial Church in the sermon at Ben Lippen that night. (I used two written accounts to refresh my memory.)

At one of Alan Redpath’s lowest moments, Tozer phoned him and invited Redpath, who had been so successful in Great Britain and would be successful again after he left Chicago, to meet him on a beach along Lake Michigan for prayer. Tozer regularly prayed (April to October) on the lake front, between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Redpath said he didn’t go often, but when he did go, there was the Lord’s servant on his face waiting before the Lord, and it was holy ground. (See Biser, below.)

It was early in the morning, at daybreak, when Redpath arrived [one day]. Tozer was face down in the sand crying out to God in prayer and worshiping him. He was oblivious to all else. Redpath said the way that he prayed for him that morning helped turn his life around and put him back on a right course. He would face the failure of his Chicago ministry with renewed power and the aid of the Holy Spirit.


Moody Church had had a couple of short pastorates since Harry Ironside, pastor from 1929-1948, had left. It was obvious to Redpath that the leaders compared every new pastor to Ironside. A.W. Tozer himself was disliked by a wide array of evangelicals in the Chicago area, and beyond, and thus he often missed the ‘big opportunities’ that he might have enjoyed had he not been so outspoken.” Tozer was a good prayer partner for Redpath because of his experiences with criticism and discord.  (see Armstrong & Biser, below.)

We can and should minister to our fellow believers in the area in which we share the same hurt. II Corinthians 1—

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

Has God permitted us to be hurt deeply? We will recognize hurt believers when we see and hear them. We should use the opportunity to minister out of our painful experiences.

16c and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.

III. We can encourage each other by realizing God remembers everything we do for Him. vs.16c 

While the ungodly complain and distort the image of God, the godly can meet to counteract the errors of the ungodly. We can also connect God to our problems by praying together.

Cottage Prayer Meetings

When I was a boy, people in my home church told me about cottage prayer meetings that always preceded the special meetings referred to as “revivals.” They realized a church cannot schedule revival, but it can prepare for it.

Prayer before special meetings was the norm before and after WWII, dying our only in the 1970s. These used to be called “cottage prayer meetings” and they were common in some parts of America in the first part of the 20th century. They were still common in the 1960s and 1970s. But they have gone by the wayside in most churches. Special meetings are not preceded by special prayer, and the result is a lack of spiritual power. We tend to depend more on advertising, enthusiasm, decorations, special music, and the dynamism of the speaker.

Pelham Baptist Church in South Carolina, was pastored by Harold B. Sightler from 1942 until 1952. Consider the following testimony about the power of prayer for revival and evangelism—

“In 1946 only three people were baptized at Pelham, and so in early 1947 a week of prayer meetings were held at night at the church, prayer only, for revival and salvation of souls, with no preaching or singing. People began to get saved, and the church grew. The prayer meetings continued, and by 1949 were being held on Sunday nights after church in a pasture. These often drew a hundred people and sometimes lasted until one o’clock in the morning. A rock altar was built around a tree. Each represented a person being prayed for by name” (James Sightler, “Observations on Dr. Harold B. Sightler’s Early Ministry and the Heritage of Tabernacle Baptist Church,” http://tabernacleministries.org/Church/ history.php4).

We can and should meet with like-minded believers who will pray and encourage us and other fellow-believers.

Majesty, Worship His Majesty: Written by Jack Williams Hayford

Power flows from the throne of God in answer to believing prayer!

Sources I Used

Armstrong, J. H. (2008). “Why A. W. Tozer Has Been a Great Blessing to Me” blog post daccessed 29 September 2021 from https://johnharmstrong.typepad.com/john_h_armstrong_/2008/06/why-a-w-tozer-h.html

Biser, D. (2014). Accessed 29 September 2021 from https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/call-to-prayer-a-great-place-to-start-psalm-27/

Haack, D. (2017). “Idols in Our Modern World.” blog-post accessed 2 October 2021 from https://ransomfellowship.org/article/idols-in-our-modern-world/

Kennedy, D. J. (2021). God Will Settle All Accounts. devotional. Accessed 11 November 2021 from https://www.djameskennedy.com/full-view-devotions/20211003-god-will-settle-all-accounts

Proverbs 1:7. (1909). From The Pulpit Commentary; accessed 2 October 2021 from https://www.biblehub.com/proverbs/1-7.htm

Reverence. (2007.) Sermon Central blog accessed 29 September 2021 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/48554/christian-values-by-sermon-central