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June 24, 2018 Getting Ready for the Most Important Day of Your Life, Part Two

 

 

Scripture reading: 2 Thes 1:3-5; Col 3:23-25

 

[I. Introduction] (Recount the parable of Joe and Hank.)

 

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?

 

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.

 

Thus far, we have seen 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.
  • The kingdom age, the next age, is not the eternal state. It is a time between the present era and the New Jerusalem (which will also be upon the earth). All true Christians will live and enjoy the New Jerusalem – the new heavens and the new earth.[1]
  • Not all Christians will enter the kingdom. Only those who are worthy will enter the kingdom. Only those who overcome will enter the kingdom.
  • The passage in Colossians is quite instructive about these matters and is often overlooked.

 

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. (Colossians 3:23-25, ESV)

 

We noted 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 disciplined somehow for the wrong that he has done. That we are disciplined in this life there is no doubt. Verse 25 informs us, clearly, that divine discipline will continue in the next life if the believer does not learn from God’s discipline in this life.

 

This passage, and many others, reveal that 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.

 

So, we have seen that not all genuine believers will inherit the kingdom. Only those who overcome will do so. If this is true then where do the unfaithful Christians go during the millennium? This is what we shall explore today.

 

Before we answer this question let us understand that:

 

[II.] Inheriting the kingdom and entering the kingdom are not two different things; they mean the same thing.

 

Some readers of the Bible, seeing the force of these passages (and others) try to reason that a Christian might not “inherit” the kingdom, that is to rule and reign with Christ, but will still be able to enter in. They propose that all Christians will enter the kingdom, the next age of bliss, but not all will reign as co-regents. For them, the danger for unfaithfulness is seen to be only a loss of crowns.

 

We must be clear, then, that Scripture teaches that all Christians who enter the kingdom are glorified kings and queens[2]. One man of God has summarized this truth succinctly:

 

“To lose the crown is to lose kingdom entrance.”[3]

 

And so, the great accolade to the Lord Jesus in heaven, found in Revelation 5, includes a holy proclamation about those who have been redeemed by his blood and have overcome:

 

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.” [4]

 

And, in Hebrews chapter 12, where the context is a believer’s birthright and inheritance, the chapter concludes with these words:

 

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. [5]

 

Receiving the “birthright (vs. 16),” “inheriting the blessing (vs. 17),” “inherting the kingdom,” and “receiving a kingdom (vs. 28),” even the phrases “His rest” and “that rest” (4:10,11) all refer to the same thing: entering the kingdom.

 

Watchman Nee, a man who I believe was given exceptional insight into God’s word said this:

 

Once a Western missionary told me, “If I cannot have the crown, at least I can have the kingdom.” …What is a crown? It is not merely a hat beaten with gold and studded with diamonds…What is a corwn? A crown represents position in the kingdom. It also represents glory in the kingdom…When one loses the crown, he loses the thing that the crown represents. We have to see that the crown is the symbol of the kingdom…The crown is a reward for the overcomers, and the throne is also a reward for the overcomers…There is no such thing as losing the crown but still having the kingdom.”[6]

 

So, inheriting the kingdom and entering the kingdom are the same. If there is a loss of inheritance then there is also the forfeiture of entrance.

 

Now we can address the question, Where do the believers go who do not overcome? As we do we must keep in mind the reality of self-deception. The dynamic of self-deception is that people do not want o believe bad news.

 

This is a common reaction to bad news both among the lost and among God’s people. The lost, by and large, refuse to believe that there is even such a place of punishment after this life and, if they do believe there is such a place, there are few who will believe that they might end up there. They deceive themselves. But, God’s people do the same thing!

 

Let us not be self-deceived, but let us receive and even love every revelation of God – the good news and the bad news. You see, the bad news in God’s word is a warning to us so that we will not find ourselves in conditions that are miserable or terrible.

 

The simplest answer to the question is that:

 

[III.] Unfaithful Christians will go into outer darkness after the Judgment Seat of Christ and during the millennial reign. This can be seen in the Parable of the Talents. [Read Matthew 25:14-30]

 

Observe:

 

  • Those to whom the listeners and readers of this parable are meant to identify with are called “his servants.” That is, servants of the Master. They belong to the Master.
  • Over and over again, disciples of Christ are called his servants. This identification can be found in verse after verse. Just to look at two: “even on my male servants and female servants

in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

(Acts 2:18 ESV)

And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him,

small and great.” (Rev 19:5)

  • If time permitted it can be shown that the talents are gifts of the Spirit. Only believers receive the gifts of the Spirit.
  • This parable follows, without interruption, the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In fact, they are linked together by the preposition “for” which begins verse 14. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins it is even more clear that all the virgins represent genuine believers. Since both parables are communicating similar messages, the characters in the parables are all believers.

 

Hence, those who do not inherit the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness during the time of the Millennium. Even this exclusion is a matter of God’s grace. It is gracious because the time outside the kingdom will purify the hearts of God’s people and, when the Great White Throne Judgment takes place, those who were cast out will not suffer eternal judgment but will finally be prepared to enter the New Jerusalem.

 

Another warning from our Lord is the Parable of the Unfaithful Manager found in Luke 12.

 

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. [7]

 

In order to understand a passage of Scripture it is very helpful to know who the original audience was. To whom was the speaker speaking? To answer that we only need to look at the larger context. Going back to verse 22 we read, “And he said to his disciples.” In verse 32 he says,

 

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

 

It is clear, then, that he is speaking to his disciples and not to a general audience. Let us consider further evidence within our immediate text.

 

[1] Verse 35, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” The oil for our “lamps” is the Holy Spirit. Only believers have the Holy Spirit.

 

[2] Verse 36, “be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast.” Only believers are waiting for their master. The unbelievers have no master in their reckoning of things. Neither are unbelievers waiting. They most often put out of their minds the coming of the Lord Jesus.

 

[3] Verse 37, “Blessed are those servants…” We have already seen that the disciples are called servants over and over in the pages of the NT.

 

[4] In verse 38, if they are awake He says “blessed are those servants!” Simply being alert makes them blessed. This could never be said about an unbeliever.

 

In verse 40 Jesus says, “You also must be ready.” So, Peter, not yet having received the Holy Spirit, is not certain that Jesus is referring to them. He thinks, as many still do today in parables similar to this one, that Jesus is referring to a general audience. He asks, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”

 

The Lord answers him by asking a question. “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master will set over his household to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” (vs 42) Jesus is speaking of those in the church who minister to others. He is letting Peter know, “Yes, this means you and the other eleven.”

 

Note in verse 43 he says, “Blessed is that servant.” He will get a reward. But here is a key to the whole parable. Note in verse 44 he says, “But if that servant says to himself…” and then goes on to describe unbecoming behavior. It is the same servant! One cannot say one is a true servant and one is not. It is the same servant acting in different ways.

 

So, the place where the unfaithful Christians go is a place where there will be “beatings” (vss. 47, 48). These are not literal beatings because the “beatings” are what happens in the earthly situation that the parable describes. They represent the spiritual reality of what happens to the unfaithful during the kingdom age. The “beatings” represent a time of divine discipline – some severe, some light. Putting the unfaithful manager “with the unbelievers (KJV, NASB, NIV)” corresponds to the “outer darkness” in the Parable of the Talents.

 

Our Lord was very wise. When he taught his disciples he balanced his teachings which were designed to motivate his own to works of service. He balanced them with both positive motivators (rewards, crowns) and with negative motivators (divine discipline or dispensational punishment – these mean the same thing).

 

Some only want to hear about the positive motivating promises and some do not want to hear about either one. They only want to hear about love as the supreme motivator. Now, I will agree that love is the best motivator. But those who either only want to hear about positive promises or want to hear about love alone severely underestimate the fallen nature of man, including their own. They wrongly esteem their own love for the Lord to be greater than it is. But the Lord did not underestimate the corruption that resides in the hearts of even his own children. The fall was great and it is still with us. We will not be rid of it until the eternal state. Because the Lord knows the hearts of his own servants he knows that we need motivators to keep us in his loving service. He gives both kinds – positive and negative. We need both kinds.

 

[IV. Conclusion] There is a great day coming! I do not refer to the great day of judgment that every person who ever lived will face. That day is coming, too. I am referring to the Judgment Seat of Christ for his own people.

 

We must get ready for that day! This day ought to be upon our minds often. It will be the most important day of our lives. It is important because:

 

  • The kingdom that is coming will be of longer duration and more glorious and wonderful than the present age.
  • Not all Christians will enter the kingdom. Only those who are worthy will enter the kingdom. Only those who overcome will enter the kingdom.
  • Those who do not enter will be cast into outer darkness during the entirety of the next age.

 

Let us get ready by being about our Father’s business:

 

  • building the kingdom of God now,
  • overcoming sin in our lives,
  • sharing the gospel,
  • making disciples,
  • baptizing them, and
  • teaching them to observe Christ’s commandments.

This does not mean church leaders and teachers. We all, each one of us, must get ready in these ways. And, every one of us can do it because we have the Spirit of the Living Christ within us!

 

Lord, move us! Get us ready, we pray!

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The phrase “new heavens and new earth” usually refers to what has become to be known as “the eternal state”: a time when all sin is done away with and all the redeemed are fully transformed. However, once or twice in Scripture the phrase also refers to the renewed earth upon Christ’s return, which would include the millennium. Hence, using the term “New Jerusalem” as does the apostle John in Revelation, is more precise.

[2] The NT does not use the term “queen” at all. However, the promises of ruling and reigning with Christ are given to all members of his body without respect to gender. Therefore, it is appropriate to use the word in the same sense as the word “king” is used, that is, not as an absolute sovereign but as a co-regent under the rulership of Christ, the Lord of lords.

 

[3] J D. Faust, The Rod: Will God Spare It? (Hayesville, N.C.: Schoettle Pub. Co., 2002), 82.

 

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 5:10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 12:25–29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] Watchman Nee, The Gospel of God, Vol 3 (Anaheim, CA: Living Stream Ministry, 1990), 401; cited in Faust, 83.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 12:35–48). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.