“‘When the Day arrives and you’re out working in the yard, don’t run into the house to get anything. And if you’re out in the field, don’t go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get it on God’s terms.'” Luke 17:31-33.

Jesus issued a warning about “looking back”. ‘Don’t do it!’ He said, ‘because it has serious implications.’ Of course, here He is speaking both literally and figuratively, Literally, it would be as impossible to go back into the house for anything as trying to retrieve possessions from a house that had just been hit by a bomb. The implication is – don’t leave decisions regarding your eternal destiny to the last minute because there will be no ‘last minute’.

Secondly, in the life that awaits us after the present order of things has changed, there will be no need for coats and other precious possessions. Who will need identity documents, bank cards, investment policy numbers, digital and electronic equipment or any of the other things that are a vital part of our present lives? Everything that makes life easy in this present order of things will go up in a ball of fire.  The life that Jesus promised is life in a different dimension altogether.

‘Looking back’ has spiritual implications as well. The letter to the Hebrews addressed this problem to a group of Jewish believers who were tempted to abandon their faith in Jesus for their old way, to evade the persecution that threatened their lives. Jews were tolerated in the Roman Empire at that time, but not Christians, because they challenged the supremacy of Caesar. Going back might save their skins but not their souls.

The writer pointed out, firstly, that to go back was to abandon the truth that Jesus alone is supreme over angels and even over Moses who was the man they revered the most in their religious lives. Jesus was perfectly qualified to be both High Priest and sacrifice.

Secondly, to return to the types and shadows of Judaism was to exchange reality for rules and ritual and, by implication, to renounce the efficacy of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice of atonement for animal blood that had no power to forgive sins. That would be a backward step from the spiritual reality of removal of sin forever by the blood of the Lamb to the promise only symbolised by animal sacrifices.

This is a serious reversal of status from the kingdom of God back to the dominion of darkness under the rule of Satan; from life back into death; from light to darkness; from freedom to slavery. It would be a considered decision that living in bondage to the devil and in the fear of death is better than being a beloved and treasured member of the family of God with all its blessings and privileges. Who, in their right mind, would make a choice like that?

And yet there are many who make that decision by default – what the book of Hebrews calls ‘neglecting so great salvation’. Neglect – doing nothing. When tough times come, instead of holding on to the promises of God in spite of suffering, as did the great heroes of the faith recorded in chapter 11, people ‘neglect’ to stay in the Word, to believe what God says rather than what circumstances say, to trust in God’s love and faithfulness and to wait patiently for His plans to be fulfilled. They look back to what they think is the security of being in charge of their own lives.

Some even foolishly look back to the ‘pleasures of sin’ which are both temporary and unfulfilling, and abandon life for the futility of pleasure that eventually leads to death.

In order to gain and experience the life of God which can never end, we must let go of this selfish, self-centred and self-controlled temporary existence and follow Jesus because He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’, and He alone can take us the Father.

Luella Campbell

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