In the first Odd Thomas novel by Dean Koontz the character Stormy believes that this life with all of its struggles and hardships is the easy part, the trial run for the adventure, the real battle that is waged in the next. It’s basic training for what will come, she says.
There is truth to that, though not in the way it first appears. The next life will have no sin, no suffering for the redeemed of the Lord. Sorrow and sighing will flee away, Isaiah 35 tells us. With an eye to verses like that, it is impossible to think that this is basic training for the world to come. This is the war, then is the rest. And Scripture speaks this way as well. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Eph 6:12-13 ESV)
Yet…this life is training for what is to come, and our preparation now means everything then. Here we begin to worship the Lord, then we will live in worshipping the Lord. Here we begin to love, there love is made complete and perfect. And refusal now means refusal then. For this life is the beginning of repentance and faith, and if that fails us now, it will fail us then. Our Lord calls us to carry our cross and follow Him now, and if we refuse now, we will refuse then. While there is no sin in Heaven, repentance must continue, for repentance is turning away from ourselves and turning to God in its barest sense; we won’t have new sins to repent of in the next life, but our repentant lives will continue.
Here we practice. There we serve.