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August 6, 2017 The Coming Age

Scripture reading: Luke 20:27-40.

 

[I. Introduction] This blessed teaching of our Lord in this passage of Scripture contains several truths. The most obvious one is that there is going to be a resurrection. Death is only temporary. Those who belong to Christ will rise with glorified bodies. Those who reject Christ will rise also - to a resurrection of damnation, but they will still rise.

 

We also learn that marriage is a temporary fixture in God’s eternal purpose. Marriage will be done away with one day and our love and devotion will be focused completely on our Lord.

 

We see that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are living right now even though their bodies have long been dead. Therefore, we know that all will be conscious and alive after physical death.

 

Presently, though, it is important to see that there is an age coming that will be very different from the age that we live in now. I wish you to see that there is a coming age and our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, and our preparation should be for that age, without neglecting our goals and preparations for the age we live in. But our priority must be the age to come.

 

The first matter we must be clear about is that salvation from damnation is solely because of the grace of God and it becomes ours on simple faith.  We believe in what Christ accomplished on the cross. We believe in his resurrection. We repent of our sins – this means that we renounce them and we begin following Jesus as our Lord and not ourselves. Then we are bound for heaven and, eventually, the New Jerusalem, which will be established on the earth. Good works have nothing to do with receiving eternal life.

 

            For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9             not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [1]

 

The second matter that we need to see is that the age that is coming will be what Jesus and the apostles called “the kingdom of God.” That expression may sometimes mean the age we are in now because there is the hidden aspect of the kingdom where Christ’s rule is being experienced in the church when the members of the church are living in obedience to their loving Lord. However, that connotation is only found a few times in the New Testament. The preponderance of use for the “kingdom” refers to the age that is coming.

 

When Jesus returns to the earth he will establish his visible kingdom. This next age in God’s plan is sometimes called the Millennium because it is identified as lasting for 1000 years in the book of Revelation.

 

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.[2]

 

From this passage we see that the devil will be bound for a thousand years and that some followers of Christ will reign with him during that thousand years. It may be that the coming kingdom will last a literal thousand years. However, since the book of Revelation is filled with symbolism, it is just as likely that it will not be a literal thousand years but that the thousand years symbolizes a long and complete period of time. We can say that the coming kingdom will last at least a thousand years, maybe several thousand years.

 

A passage from the Old Testament that also reveals the future kingdom – both future to the original readers and future to us – is found in Isaiah.

 

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

and a little child shall lead them.

7    The cow and the bear shall graze;

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

8    The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

9    They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. [3]

 

Clearly, none of these things have happened yet. If you put a leopard and a goat together now, there will only be one animal left after a short period of time and it won’t be the goat. I remember visiting a place called Cat Tales Zoological Park in Spokane when we lived in Washington State. It is a zoo that has large cats. Our children were very young. Kai was 7, Coulter was 6, Clark was 4 or 5; Christian even younger. It was either Clark or Christian who was running past the leopard cage and you could see the look in the leopard’s eyes as he began to stalk our boy. He wanted to make a meal of him! If steel bars were not between them he would have. How much more a goat than a human!

 

If a lion and a calf are together, there will only be one animal left after a short time. Bears eat cows and lions do not eat hay. This passage is about an age that has not yet come. But it is not speaking of the eternal state yet. For, there is another passage in Isaiah that refers to the same age and it reveals that death is still around:

 

   I will rejoice in Jerusalem

and be glad in my people;

no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping

and the cry of distress.

20    No more shall there be in it

an infant who lives but a few days,

or an old man who does not fill out his days,

for the young man shall die a hundred years old,

and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. [4]

 

Death will still be present, but if someone were to die at a hundred years old they would still be a young man! Hence, the few passages that we just read describe not the present age nor the eternal state when death is done away, but an age in-between. It is an age that will be glorious and marvelous – an age better than any the earth has ever seen since Eden was closed to us.

 

This is the kingdom that is coming. This is the Millennium.

 

[II.] We must prepare for the age to come because Jesus spoke of it more than any other subject.

 

Consider how many topics the teachings of our Lord and Savior cover. There are many dozens. The two topics that Jesus spoke about more than any others were the coming Day of Judgment and the coming kingdom. For example, in the gospel of Matthew these topics take up about 80% of Jesus’ teachings in medium to long sections.[5]

 

Surely, our Lord taught most regarding those subjects that were most important. The coming age calls to us all. The coming age will be, even for the believer in Christ, either a long time of blessing or a long time of disappointment.

 

We must prepare for the age to come because Jesus spoke of it more than any other subject.

 

[III.] We must prepare for the age to come because not all followers of Jesus will inherit the kingdom. Many Christians are under the grossly mistaken impression that all believers will enter the kingdom, regardless of how they live. They may make an exception for false professors – those who have made a mere profession of faith but who have not been born again. Of course, if a profession of faith is empty, if no change of heart or life has taken place, then all agree that not only will that person not enter the kingdom, but neither will they ever see God. Their destiny is the lake of fire.

 

Yet, it is also true that not all genuine believers will inherit the kingdom. In Ephesians 5 we read:

 

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4             Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5             For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6             Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [6]

 

Those who are sexually immoral (that means any sort of sexual activity outside of marriage) will not inherit the kingdom. But neither will the impure – this reaches even into our hearts. It is not just sinful activity that excludes. Even our thought life must be pure. Now, before everyone loses all hope, it is not the errant thought here and there that makes one impure. We still possess a sinful nature and occasional thoughts will enter our minds that are not godly. It is when we choose to dwell on them or nurture them that we become impure. We are commanded to guard our thought life.[7]

 

But the apostle even says that the covetous will not inherit the kingdom. We must be changed now or we will be changed later, that is, during the kingdom age if we are excluded!

 

Of course, Paul is writing to the “saints” (vs 3), not the lost. Not all saints (that just means Christians) will inherit the kingdom.

 

Paul gives the same warning to believers in his letter to the Galatians. There he adds many other works of the flesh which, if we are honest, we observe in the church: strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, divisions, and envy to name only some. He states, “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”[8]

 

Indeed, Paul’s many warnings comport with the words of our Lord who said:

 

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [9]

 

There was a wealthy man who ran a car dealership. Sometimes car dealers do not have the best reputation. But this man did. He was both honest and a hard worker. Over a 25 year period he built up his dealership as a start-up on a small corner lot in a bustling Mid-Western city to one of the largest and most successful dealerships in the entire Mid-West. People would fly in from other states because they knew they could get the best deal on an auto anywhere. Because he moved such a large volume of cars he was able to keep his prices close to his cost. He had a dynamic and friendly sales staff any of whom were a pleasure to do business with. Not only was the dealership a goldmine but he owned a mansion that was fully paid for – no mortgage.

 

The owner’s health began to decline. He had two sons and a daughter. The oldest son was very much like his dad. He was honest, a hard worker, and followed the advice of his father. He had organized his life in accordance with the principles that his father and mother taught him. During High School he worked at his father’s dealership just cleaning up: sweeping, mopping, cleaning the bathrooms and break rooms, emptying the trash. He did his job well. After graduation he became a salesman. He applied the same diligence to selling as he did to cleaning and he was successful. So much so that, after a number of years, he became the manager of sales and Vice-President of the dealership.

 

The other son and daughter were fraternal twins. The daughter had no interest in the car dealership but she went to college and graduated with honors. She married a godly young man and started a family. In many respects she was like her older brother, respecting her parents and following their advice.

 

Her twin brother did not apply himself as did his siblings. He worked at the car dealership in High School too. After his older brother took on the salesman job he began to take over his cleaning duties. However, his father noticed that the quality of his work left much to be desired. He dad had to frequently show him where he failed to do his duties. “Maybe menial labor is not his forte,” his father thought. So, when he graduated from High School he gave him a salesman position. But that didn’t turn out so well either. He would show up for work late. He would talk to people but not that many sales were made. His sales were so poor that he had to let him go. Every job he had after that one did not last more than a few months. His personal life was even worse. He neglected his father’s advice there, too. He got into trouble with drinking, ending up in jail. Not just once but three times. He got into brawls. And, he kept company with loose women and questionable men.

 

The mom passed away. Knowing that his own time on earth was short the father drew up a will. He left the dealership to the oldest son. He left the mansion to his daughter. And he left one new car to his other son. In his will he explained that he loved his son and he hoped that the distribution of his assets was not to be understood as a lack of love. Only as a reflection of responsibility and stewardship. He wanted what he worked so hard for to be taken care of. He was a wise father.

 

Our heavenly father is like this. We can be his children but we will only be his heirs if we live in accordance with his will. Therefore, we must be true to our calling so that we can fulfill our destiny to rule and reign with Christ in the coming age.

 

We must prepare for the age to come because not all followers of Jesus will inherit the kingdom.

 

[IV. Conclusion and Application] There is an age coming and Jesus spoke of it more than almost any other subject. Therefore, we must be looking forward to it and prepare ourselves for it. It is God’s kingdom that will encompass the whole earth. Not all followers of Jesus will inherit the kingdom. This should be an incentive for us to be all the more diligent to enter the kingdom.

 

How may we prepare? I will say two things about preparing for the kingdom: how not to prepare and the best way to prepare.

 

[A.] There is more than one way to be ready for entering the kingdom. And, there is one way we ought not to use in getting ready. We must not view the Bible as a book of rules to live by and then try to obey all the rules. If we obey enough rules, we may think, then I will get to enter the kingdom. This is nothing more than what the apostle Paul calls “the works of the law,”[10] sometimes just “works,”[11] sometimes just “law,”[12] and a couple of times “the letter.”[13]

 

If we seek just to obey “do’s and don’t’s” we will find ourselves powerless to live the Christian life and we may even feel as if it is drudgery. It is the path to failure.

 

[B.] We need to see that Christ is the life-giving Spirit who imparts life by grace. What is grace? Most of us know that grace is the favor of God that comes to us without merit – not because of anything that we do or deserve. This is an objective understanding of grace.  But, do you know what grace is experientially?

 

Grace is God Himself coming to us to be our enjoyment! When Christ comes as the life-giving Spirit. He imparts Himself into us as life! This is not a one-time experience, but it ought to be a daily experience.

 

When the Triune God comes to us, we enjoy Him and every facet of the Christian walk becomes enjoyable! That is grace! This grace brings freedom from every bondage and we have liberation from obligation, too. Obligation is gone because we enjoy obeying the Lord and it does not feel like an obligation! That is the life of God. That is grace!

 

The way to forsake all sin, the way to cease being addicted to entertainment, the way to prepare for the kingdom, is to just enjoy the Lord!

 

“Lord, come to me as grace and be my enjoyment. Amen!”

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 2:8–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 20:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 11:6–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 65:19–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] Passages more than 6 verses in length.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 5:3–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] Prov 4:23; Romans 8:6; 12:2; Phil 4:7; Col 3:2.

[8] Gal 5:20-21.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10] Gal 3:2

[11] Rom 4:2

[12] Rom 4:14

[13] 2 Corinthians 3:6