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June 10, 2018 Getting Ready for the Most Important Day of Your Life

 

 

 

Scripture reading: Rev 20:1-6; 2 Thes 1:3-5; Col. 3:23-25

 

[I. Introduction] There were two farmers, Hank and Joe, who lived on adjacent properties.

They were in the middle of a long drought that had left their land parched, making it almost impossible to grow crops.

One day Joe looked over his fence and saw Hank working on building a new dam.

“What are you doing that for? There’s no water.” Joe said.

“The rain’s coming.” replied Hank.

Joe looked up at the cloudless sky, shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

A couple of weeks later, Joe looked over the fence again and saw Hank working on a new irrigation system.

“What’s the point of doing that? There’s still no water.” Joe shouted.

“The rain’s coming,” replied Hank.

“That’s what you said last time,” Joe muttered under his breath as he turned around and walked away.

A few weeks later, large black clouds started to fill the sky and then the rain finally fell, breaking the drought with a massive downfall that had the potential to change the future for all of the farmers in the region.

Hank looked out from his farmhouse as his new dam and irrigation system filled with precious water, ensuring that he would benefit from the rain for a long time in the future.

Joe was relieved to see the rain, but he was unprepared and his property soon dried up again.

A few months later, Joe looked over his fence at Hank’s luscious farm with envy. “Why is he so lucky?” he asked himself.

Hank looked back at his neighbor’s dust bowl of a farm with pity. “Why is he so foolish?” he asked himself.

 

Things will not remain as they are now.  There is a day coming where how we have prepared “in a time of drought” will determine how we fare in the future. I am speaking of the next age. We are in a time of drought now regarding the blessings of God – there are actually many blessings of God; we simply do not see them all – but a day is coming when everything will be very different. God’s blessings will be poured out upon the earth in a measure never seen before.

 

Prior to that age, though, will be the Judgment Seat of Christ. When Christ returns to the earth he will judge those alive on the earth and he will judge his own people. That day will be the day that the rain comes. Will you be ready?

 

The judgment of Christ of his own people is the most important day of your life. It is more important than your birth. It is more important than your marriage. It is more important than the birth of your first child. It is more important than any of those days because all those days have mainly to do with this life. But the day that you stand before the Lord Jesus Christ will have to do with where you will be during the next age. This life is fleeting. It is only 70 years if we are kept from disease or accidents; or, if by reason of strength, possibly 80 years (Psalm 90:10). But the next age will be at least a thousand years (Rev 20:4-6) and it may be far longer.[1]

 

I fear that many of us are like Joe. We see every day the same and we expect there to be little change. Like Joe, many of us are not adequately preparing for the day that the rain will come.

 

[II.] We must prepare ourselves because there is a kingdom that is coming and it will be of longer duration and more glorious and wonderful than the present age.

 

When the Scriptures mention the kingdom of God, especially in the New Testament, it sometimes refers to the first coming of the Christ, in other words, the present age,  the age of the church. Other times it refers to the kingdom as yet to come. The more frequent denotation in the NT is to the kingdom in its full manifestation – the one that is yet to come. This is what we ought to be praying for: “Thy kingdom come, may thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Presently, God’s will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. [2]

 

From this passage we can determine that the kingdom that is coming, in experience, is of much longer duration than the present age. This is because those who enter the kingdom will live throughout its term, unlike now where we live 70 to 80 years.

 

We also learn that it is more glorious than the present because Satan will be bound and will be unable to deceive us, neither will he nor his demons be agents of temptation.

 

It will be more wonderful than the present because Christ will be physically present and we will wonder at his beauty. The curse will be partially but substantially lifted so that animals will no longer eat one another nor harm people (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:19-25). There will no longer be deserts, but the land will be lush and well watered (Isaiah 43:19-21; Lev. 26:3-4; Deut. 11:13-14).

 

We must prepare ourselves because there is a kingdom that is coming and it will be of longer duration and more glorious and wonderful than the present age.

 

[III.] We must prepare ourselves because not all Christians will enter the kingdom. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, unfaithful Christians will lose their entrance into the millennial kingdom and will be banished for its entire duration. They will then be resurrected at the Great White Throne judgment after the millennium (Rev. 20:12).

 

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.

5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—[3]

 

Some will be considered worthy (vs. 5) of the kingdom of God. Some will not. Who will be considered worthy to enter the kingdom? Those who are steadfast and who maintain a trust (faith) in God in the midst of affliction (vs. 4).

 

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. [4]

 

To become a child of God we only need to be born of the Spirit of God. In order to be an heir of God and Christ we must first become a child. Once we fulfill that condition (the Holy Spirit fulfills it through faith) then we inherit the kingdom (that is what it means to be an heir) only if we suffer with him in this life.

 

When Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans the disciples were under persecution. Their suffering was great and they lost much if they remained faithful. In times and places where there is a Christian influence on society, as in the United States, there will still be suffering if one is truly faithful, but it will be of a different sort. It will not be as dangerous nor of the same magnitude as in times of great persecution, but there will still be some. As one author has written:

 

Even in an age when persecution is limited, one must nevertheless often endure great losses in money or esteem in order to confess Christ and stand for his whole truth.[5]

 

If one lives their life in such a way as to avoid all controversy, all discomfort, all inconvenience (“I can’t miss my lunch you know…I plan to go shopping, I don’t have time to reach out to others with the gospel…”), all suffering for the gospel’s sake, then they will not be co-heirs with Christ.

 

What are we beginning to see? Eternal life is a gift, but inheriting the kingdom is conditioned upon faithfulness and works. Eternal life is a gift, but the inheritance is a reward. You must understand the difference between a gift and a reward. A gift is unmerited. It is gratuitous. It doesn’t depend upon the recipient. It depends on the giver. A reward is earned for work done well. It depends on the giver and the recipient.

 

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. [6]

 

Note four things about this passage:

 

  • It is written to and about servants of Christ. It is for everyday Christians. It is not for unbelievers.
  • It is an admonition to work. Not only to work, but to work heartily! It is a sad but true report that there are many Christians today who are not working for the Lord. There are also many who work but are not working heartily.
  • The reward that the Colossians can expect to receive (and us!) is the inheritance. In other words, the kingdom!
  • The wrongdoer, who is a Christian, will be punished somehow for the wrong that he has done. Perhaps “punished” is not the best word to use. For, it is a blessed truth that Christ has borne the punishment for all of our sins if we have placed our faith in him. But there will be a “paying back.” Elsewhere in Scripture it is called divine discipline. That we are disciplined in this life there is no doubt. Some will question whether there will be discipline in the next age. However, verse 25 should remove all doubt.

 

21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.[7]

 

To sit with Jesus on his throne does not mean to literally sit in the same chair that he is sitting in. Obviously, if there are a million Christians who overcome they cannot all fit on one throne. To sit with Christ on his throne is an expression meaning to rule and reign with him. It means to be co-heirs with him in the kingdom age.

 

See that this promise is, again, conditional. It is to those who overcome. Overcome what? In the context of the letter within a letter – the letter to Thyatira – it is to overcome sexual temptation (vss. 20-22), to overcome sin by repenting (vs. 22; 3:3), to overcome the divine discipline that happens to us in this life (vs. 23) {i.e., to not blame God or murmur against him when we are disciplined}, to overcome the temptation to not work for the Lord (vs. 26). To put it simply, to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil!

 

Not all Christians will overcome. This is because not all Christians are getting ready for that day. They are, like their predecessors in ancient Israel, “at ease in Zion.”

 

Oh! Each one of us – I include myself – must prepare. We must get ready! What a sad time that would be if we are found to be without a reward on that day! What a sad day to be excluded from the kingdom!

 

[IV. Conclusion to Part One] Thus far, we should see that:

 

  • We must prepare ourselves for the most important day of our lives – the Judgment Seat of the Lord Jesus Christ because
  • The kingdom that is coming will be of longer duration and more glorious and wonderful than the present age. And,
  • Not all Christians will enter the kingdom.

 

The Day that is coming is more important than any day in our lives. It is more important than a day of rain to farmers. Joe did not prepare for the rain. He lost productivity and he saw his neighbor, Hank, get blessed because he had prepared. What Joe lost was only in this life. We stand to lose far more if we follow his example of unpreparednesss.

 

For those who have not yet given their lives over to the Lord Jesus, you are in a far more perilous and terrifying position. You will face God at the Great White Throne Judgment once the kingdom age is completed (Rev 20:11-15). If you are not found to belong to the Lord Jesus on that day then you will be judged for your sins. The judgment for unforgiven sins, according to Jesus, is the lake of fire forever!

 

God calls upon you to repent of your sins, that means to renounce them and turn away from them, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for sins. His blood can cleanse you and make you whole! He has risen from the dead to both prove the truth of the gospel and to impart new life.

 

For the one who is not a Christian yet, repent of your sins and believe the good news that is brought to you today. Do not delay. You are not promised tomorrow, only today.

 

For the follower of Christ who is unsure of your reward, God calls upon you to lay aside your seeking after comfort and to enter into the labor of your Master so that you will also be able to enter into his rest – the kingdom!

 

Do not wait for another day. You are not promised tomorrow, only today. Resolve today to live for Him, to labor for him, to be an overcomer!

 

[1] It may be that the “thousand years” is a symbol for a long period of time. The period of time itself may be many thousands of years. If this is the case then the Judgment of Christ’s own on that day takes on even more importance.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 20:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Th 1:3–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:16–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] J D. Faust, The Rod: Will God Spare It? (Hayesville, N.C.: Schoettle Pub. Co., 2002), 80.

 

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:23–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: New King James Version. (Rev 3:21).