“Pie in the Sky By and By”

by Glenn Conjurske

There are certain liberals, neo-evangelicals, and others who sit in the seat of the scornful, who like to cast sneers upon the preachers of the old-fashioned gospel. These old-fashioned folks, it seems, are “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good,” and the gospel which they preach is a gospel of “pie in the sky by and by,” which ignores the “real needs” of the human race. These scorners have discovered a better kind of gospel, whether it be the old social gospel of the liberals, or the modern gospel of self-indulgence of the evangelicals. Theirs is not a gospel of self-denial here, and eternal life and heaven hereafter, but a gospel of “living it up” on the earth—-a gospel of “making the world a better place in which to live”—-a gospel of “abundant life” here and now—-a gospel of “a wonderful plan for your life,” with but little thought for eternity—-a gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity in this life—-a gospel which promises “the best of both worlds”—-a gospel, to tell the real truth, of self-indulgence and worldliness.

I take my stand with the old gospel. Nor am I moved at all by the sneers of the scorners. It shall be my glory if I can but merit their reproaches, as it is my glory to preach the gospel of “pie in the sky by and by.” This is the real gospel of God, which was preached by Christ and his apostles, as well as by the great evangelists of history. God help me never to preach any other.

Our Lord Jesus Christ preached, “He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12:25). He preached, “Go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” (Matt. 19:21). He preached, `Blessed [happy] be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.” Yea, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:20-23). Thus plainly did the Lord preach the loss and the lack of all things here, as the way to wealth and happiness there.

He was equally explicit on the other side: “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” (Verses 24-25). Those who choose the “good time” here and now, are headed for a bad eternity. They have their laughter now, and they shall have their mourning and weeping then. Those who choose to have their pie here and now shall have no pie in the sky by and by. They have received their consolation, all they are ever going to get.

All of this indicates quite plainly that this gospel of abundant life and prosperity here and now is not only not the gospel of Christ, but is directly against the gospel of Christ. I have heard a modern evangelical preacher contend that even if there were no resurrection and no heaven, he would yet live just the same life he now lives. He indeed expects the best of everything hereafter, but meanwhile his kind of Christianity gives him the best of everything here, so that he would have no reason to change his course, though the dead rose not, and heaven did not exist.

Not so thought the apostle Paul. He preached a gospel that places all of our hopes in the resurrection, eternal life, and heaven—-and makes us “of all men most miserable” if in this life only we have hope (I Cor. 15:19). Paul would certainly have changed his course if there were no pie in the sky by and by. “Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?” Why do we suffer all of this toil and poverty and reproach? If the dead rise not, “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (Verses 30,32). Thus Paul agreed with the modern evangelical in one point. If there were no heaven, no resurrection, and no eternal life, Paul would adopt the same kind of life that the modern evangelical has adopted already. But there remains one great difference between Paul and the evangelical: Paul never dreamed that he could have the best of this world, and heaven too. He preached the same gospel which the Lord Jesus Christ preached in the passages quoted above, that you must choose whether you shall have your good things here or there.

Paul powerfully rebuked the Corinthians (I Cor. 4:8ff.) for being rich and full now, for reigning like kings now, while the apostles of Christ, who preached the true gospel of God, were last in this world, “the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things.” (Verses 9,13). He beseeches them (vs. 16) to be followers of him. He sends Timothy (vs. 17) to put them in remembrance of his ways. If that does not avail, he will come himself, and use the rod to correct them (vss. 18-21). The gospel which Paul preached was, “If we suffer [present tense], we shall also reign [future tense] with him.” (II Tim. 2:12). “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; IF so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:17-18). The glory to come, the things above, the hope set before us, the crown of life, the resurrection from the dead, this was where Paul’s hope was fixed, and this is the end of the faith which he preached. As for this life, he expected nothing but poverty, reproach, toil, and persecution.

The apostle Peter preached the same gospel, fixing men’s eyes upon the “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4), “the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs. 13). For the present, he speaks of little but trials and sufferings. Suffering, indeed, seems to be the theme of his first epistle. “Think it not strange,” he says, “concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (I Pet. 4:12-13). Thus Peter, with his Lord and the other apostles, fixed men’s hearts not upon the fleeting joys of earth, but upon the joy of the Lord into which we shall enter in the resurrection.

But has the gospel nothing to offer us here and now? To be sure it does. “God wants us to be happy” is one of the favorite arguments of the adherents of the modern gospel of self-indulgence. The real gospel of God has no quarrel with that. “Happy are ye,” writes Peter, in the same passage in which he speaks of partaking of the sufferings of Christ; but that happiness has nothing to do with fun and games, or worldly wealth. It is “Happy are ye, for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you,” and all of this “IF ye be reproached for the name of Christ.” (I Pet. 4:14). Peter speaks also of greatly rejoicing, even with “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” but this is though now ye are “in heaviness through manifold temptations,” or trials. (I Pet. 1:6,8).

Paul speaks in exactly the same vein. “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” This is something for this life. This is now: “we are.” But it is “in all these things.” In all what things? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, IN ALL THESE THINGS we are more than conquerors.” (Rom. 8:35-37).

Thus the true gospel gives to us fulness of spiritual blessings, along with the prospect of complete happiness and glory hereafter, in the midst of present poverty, persecution, reproach, and hardships.

But does not the true gospel also offer us something of the things of this life? Paul utterly repudiates the prosperity gospel of those who suppose that “gain is godliness,” calling them “men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth,” and commanding us, “from such withdraw thyself.” (I Tim. 6:5). He goes on to exhort us, “having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.” (Verse 8). Yet he says also that “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (I Tim. 4:8). What promise has godliness for the life that now is? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”—-that is godliness, and here is the promise—-“and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). All what things? “What ye shall eat,” and “what ye shall drink,” and “wherewithal ye shall be clothed.” (Verse 31). In other words, food and raiment, the very two things with which Paul exhorts us to be content. The promise, then, which the gospel gives us for this life is a promise of the necessities of life, and nothing more than this. And this promise closely follows the explicit command of Christ not to lay up treasures upon the earth.

Elsewhere the Lord gives another promise to godliness: “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, WITH PERSECUTIONS, and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30). This is a promise of the necessities of life in the fellowship of the saints. The persecutions which drive the servants of God from one city to another (Matt. 10:23) necessitate this hundredfold recompense of what they have left for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s—-houses and lands and brothers and sisters among the saints of God wherever they go. But this promises no possession of such things, but only the temporary use of them according to our need—-and all of this with persecutions, while our hearts and our hopes are set upon the real substance of the true gospel, eternal life in the world to come. This is the true gospel of the word of God—-the gospel of love and joy and peace and victory in the midst of poverty and persecution here and now, and “pie in the sky by and by.”

Glenn Conjurske