Some wistful thoughts about the future

Kingofkings

One of the great benefits of being a Christian is having a deep sense of abiding hope; with economic turmoil all around us, immorality becoming the norm in American society, and the rise in secular humanism, it would be very easy  to get discouraged and long for “the good old days.”  Yet for the Christian, “the good old days” can never compare to the “better new days” coming.  Our hope for the future is never tied to the current occupant of the White House or science or education or any of the things unbelievers put their hope and trust in.  In fact, on the subject of hope, the Apostle Paul made these comments about those fearful of death versus the hope we as Christians have—

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.  (1 Thessalonians 4:13—18, tNIV)

As verse 18 says, that is certainly an encouraging passage of Scripture.  We know that Paul is referring here to the wonderful doctrine known as the “rapture,” the great “catching away” of believers prior to the Tribulation and the revelation of the Antichrist.  My personal hope for the future is really grounded, not necessarily in the rapture, although I expect that if I live long enough I will experience it!; but rather in the revelation of my Lord Jesus Christ.

A revelation of Jesus Christ

At the rapture of the Church, Christ will be revealed in all His glory to all who believe.  But there will be a greater revelation of Jesus Christ further in the future—

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;” and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.  (Revelation 1:7, tNIV)

The Bible teaches that some day, maybe sooner than we think, Jesus Christ will “catch away” His people—saints long dead and those alive.  But it also teaches that some day Jesus Christ will return literally, visibly, and physically to the earth, descending from the clouds for all the world to see—

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory”  (Matthew 24:30, tNIV)

Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and will receive for Himself a kingdom, only to return after receiving that kingdom—

A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  (Luke 19:12, tNIV)

This will happen in heaven when Jesus receives the saints from all the ages; we make up His spiritual kingdom.  However, Daniel 7:13—14 describes how Jesus will receive His earthly kingdom—

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  (tNIV)

The Bible is replete with references to the beginning of the reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.  Here is just a handful—

  • Zechariah 14:1—3;
  • Matthew 25:31—46;
  • Joel 3:9—17;
  • Revelation 16:13—16; 19:11—21.

Those accompanying Christ when He returns

When Christ returns to the earth, a large contingent of beings will be coming with Him.  What an amazing sight that will be!

  • Angels will be coming with Him.

According to Mathew 13:41—42, the accompanying angels will have a very specific, if unpleasant, task to perform—

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (tNIV)

Furthermore, the angels will be present when living unbelievers are judged when the Lord returns according to Matthew 25:31—41; Revelation 19:17—19; 2 Thessalonians 1:7—10).

  • Redeemed saints will be coming with Him

There are numerous verses and passages in Scripture that testify to the fact that when Christ returns, angels will be with Him as well as saints.  Consider—

To those who are victorious and do my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— they ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ —just as I have received authority from my Father.  (Revelation 2:26, 27, tNIV)

[I]f we endure, we will also reign with him.  (2 Timothy 2:12a, tNIV)

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?  (1 Corinthians 6:2a, tNIV)

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  (Revelation 20:4, tNIV)

The future kingdom

In the spiritual sense, the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God is here now.  Jesus Himself testified to this fact when He began His earthly ministry—

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  (Matthew 4:17, tNIV)

But as you look around, who can see God’s kingdom on earth?  It cannot be seen right now because it is being built in the realm of the Spirit.  However, when Jesus Christ returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He will build a literal, visible, and physical kingdom on earth.  He gave some hints about this kingdom yet to come—

For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  (Luke 22:16—18, tNIV)

All the Apostles believed in a future kingdom, especially Paul who said this—

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”  (Acts 14:22, tNIV)

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.  (2 Thessalonians 1:5, tNIV)

In the future literal, visible, and literal kingdom, Jesus Christ will be the great sovereign of the entire world.  He will be King over every nation and every people.

Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’  (Daniel 7:27, tNIV)

This passage, along with Luke 22:30 specifically promises a position of authority to the apostles.  It is certainly fitting that the apostles, who were Jewish, should inherit special positions governing Israel in the future kingdom.

However, promises of positions in the Lord’s kingdom were not only given to the apostles.  Consider what was promised to the faithful Gentiles of the church at Laodicea—

To those who are victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  (Revelation 3:21, tNIV)

And let’s not forget that that the parables of the bags of gold and the ten minas teach us that certain positions and rewards in the kingdom will be determined by the quality of faithful service rendered now (see Matthew 25:14—30; Luke 19:11—26).

A long awaited deliverance

As I read what I have just written, I am struck by a couple thoughts.  First, this is exciting stuff!  I feel sorry for liberal Christians who don’t have the hope I have because they view the Bible as a book full of symbolism and stories not intended to be taken literally.  That’s sad; my view of the Bible is that it is meant to be taken literally whenever and wherever possible.   Rather than be encouraged and ignited by reading the Bible the way it was meant to be read–literally–some people would rather cling to their liberalism and be miserable.  The other thing that strikes me about this wonderful hope we have is what Paul wrote in Romans 8:19–23.   This is such a powerful passage!  All of creation, Paul wrote, is longing to be set right.  This “restoration of all things” is linked to the Second Coming of Christ.  If all creation longs to be made right, how much more do Christians long to meet their Savior and stand shoulder to shoulder with Him?

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  (Romans 8:23, tNIV)

Imagine…the day we see our Lord face-to-face; we won’t need eye glasses to see Him!  We won’t need to be pushed into His presence in our wheelchairs.  Our arthritic aches and pains will a dim memory of the past!  How great will that be!

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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