At the wondrous sounding of the trumpet of the first archangel,
firmly secured chambers and tombs will burst asunder,
the chill which has frozen the men of this world will thaw,
bones will come together from every side
as their heavenly souls go to meet them,
returning to their proper dwellings.
- Colum Cille, Altus Prosator, Irish, 6th century
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
- 1 Thessalonians 4.16-18
The Celtic Christian outlook on life was decidedly other-worldly. “Things hoped for” and “things not seen” (Heb. 11.1) were real to many of those from within that tradition, and powerful in shaping their aspirations and manner of life.
Many of the great Celtic saints lived the here-and-now moments of their lives within the framework of, and along a path leading to, a coming then-and-there. They knew what glorified bodies looked like, because they contemplated the risen Christ in all His glory. They glimpsed the new creation by meditating on the prophets and studying the beauty, majesty, and wonder of the world around them. They looked and longed for the City to Come, and for the glorified bodies in which they would see Jesus face to face.
While fruitful and productive in their earthly lives and ministries, they never regarded these as the final horizon of their lives, but merely as proving grounds for their proper dwellings in eternal glory. All their work, their devotions, and their everyday activities and responsibilities were carried out with a view to where they were going, and not merely where they were, what they were becoming, and not just what they were.
Celtic Christian leaders like Colum Cille struggled to bring their lives in the present into conformity with what they knew their lives would one day be in glory. This explains why in many of them, like Colum, we find such longing for the Lord’s appearing, and for them to finally assume the proper physical dwellings – bodies and all creation – which were intended for them from the beginning.
Paul was of a similar mindset. He expressed the desire to depart this life and to be with Christ (Phil. 1.23), and he urged those who read his epistles to look forward to the coming day of transformation. He instructed the Thessalonians to encourage one another, not simply in the hope of improved conditions in this life, but of a coming glory which will be beautiful and satisfying beyond description.
Too many Christians today don’t know how to practice the life of heaven on earth, as was said of the great Brigid. We are too much a people of the here-and-now, and not enough of the then-and-there. We like ease and comforts, but we balk at a life of discipline.
The eyes of our hearts should be set on Christ, exalted in glory, and on our coming resurrection; and we should encourage one another to keep focused there, and to live for the then-and-there in every moment of the here-and-now.
It makes a difference what we take as the ultimate horizon for our lives. What glow, just over the hill, just around the next bend, are you striving toward? What is your greatest hope for peace, joy, and bliss?
Of course, we know that eternity with the Lord holds joys and pleasures that nothing on earth can match. But do we have to wait for these until after we have departed this life?
Not at all. We may enjoy foretastes of them and visitations to them here and now, as we seek the Lord in prayer and in His Word, and go forth from His glorious Presence to live as signs and portents of it.
Let us long for our proper dwellings, and live each day to prove that these, indeed, are our longed-for home. Thus we may bring the eternal blessedness that awaits us there into the places and lives of those among whom the Lord is pleased to send and situate us in this time.
Look to your proper dwellings, and be encouraged.
1. As you think about setting your mind on Christ and His glory, what do you see?
2. Whom can you encourage today to look to our proper dwellings for hope and strength?
Psalm 84.5-12 (Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Blessed are they whose strength is founded in Your strength, O Lord of above.
All whose hearts in You are grounded journey in Your strength and love.
Though they week with tears of sadness, grace shall all their way sustain.
In Your Presence, filled with gladness, they shall conquer all their pain.
Lord of hosts, my prayer receiving, hear me, help me by Your grace!
In Your courts I stand believing; turn to me Your glorious face!
Lord, our sun, our shield, our glory, no good thing will You deny
to those who proclaim Your story, and who on Your grace rely.
Lord, help me to realize my proper dwellings, beginning now, so that I live each day to…
The Christian’s vantage point
Christians look at time differently from their unsaved neighbors. Our vantage point is more robust, hopeful, promising, and fraught with power. Our book, Vantage Point, can show you how to begin living more toward the City to Come. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.