The New Heaven and the New Earth

.... After the Great Day of the Lord and the final judgment, the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. And there shall be no more pain, for the former things will have passed away. (Revelation 21:4).
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And now the vision of mankind’s eternal destiny with God unfolds:

.... "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God."

(Revelation 21:1-3)

.... Please notice that even now, the tabernacle of God is with man on the earth, rather than being in heaven, in the new city that descends from heaven: New Jerusalem. This is a city with twelve founda- tions, named for the twelve apostles, and twelve gates of pearl, named for the twelve tribes of Israel (from which we obtain the phrase ‘the pearly gates’). But the really important understanding is that the Lord God Almighty is there, and the Lamb, and their glory illuminates the city as a light (Revelation 21:22-23). And thus we shall ever be with the Lord.
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Furthermore, in this far distant glimpse into our future, it is interesting to note that nations will still exist on the earth:

.... "And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life."

(Revelation 21:24-27)

.... From the throne of God and of the Lamb flows a pure river, that those who wish may drink of the water of life freely (Revelation 21:6). On either side of the river grows the tree of life, bearing 12 types of fruit, each in its season. And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2).

.... "Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power."

(1 Corinthians 15:24)

.... In many ways, the last chapter of the last book of the Bible (the Book of Revelation) is a mirror image to the first chapter of the first book, Called the Book of Genesis. Throughout the toil of the ages, God has pursued the course that would restore His fellowship with mankind through Jesus Christ alone, that Jesus might be all in all, and that He may be glorified in His Son.

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Congratulations, you have now completed the Basic Discipleship Course! Please continue reading your Bible through the rest of the New Testament, then read the four gospels and the Book of Acts a second time. After that, please return to Genesis and read the entire Bible straight through.

.... Through this you will have the academic background you need to become a strong Christian, but your most important lessons will be learned in walking with Christ and applying the things you’ve learned. Through seeking Him and abiding in Him, as He changes your life into His image, may you bring forth fruit to eternal life, to His glory! Amen.

The Day of the Lord

.... After the curtain is drawn on the Millennial reign of Christ, and the enemy is cast into the Lake of Fire, the time for the second resurrection will come. This is also known as the Resurrection of Condemnation: for the purpose of this event is to prepare the unsaved for eternal judgment:

.... "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works."

(Revelation 20:11-13)

.... Jesus said that those who hear His word and believe in Him have everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but will pass from death into life (John 5:24). But the words and deeds of the saints, from their lifetime, will be used to form of testimony against those others in condemning them:

.... "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here."
(Matthew 12:41-42)
.... Every time we heard the word of Christ in our lives and humbled ourselves to believe Him, it not only served to justify ourselves but to condemn unbelievers by our own example. For if we could walk with Him humbly, despite our many weaknesses, by His Grace, then no one else can have an excuse for not doing the same:

.... "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence."

(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

.... In particular, God will be glorified through us in the ways we were conformed to Jesus’ image, for in exactly such ways His life shines through us the most: "that, as it is written: ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:31). He has been glorified in us through our obedience; and now He will be glorified in the lives of the unsaved as well -- but this time, through pronouncing judgment on them (Proverbs 16:4).

.... "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."

(Revelation 20:14-15)

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.... With this event, the world as we have known it will pass away, and the new world will come. We will continue this discussion in our next, and final, posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Philemon

The Millennial Reign


.... When Jesus returns to the earth, He will initiate a series of judgments in the earth itself to prepare it for His thousand year reign:

.... ". . . and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed."

(2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

.... The severerest possible judgment will fall on all those who outrightly troubled Christians (above), upon those who would have opposed the reign of Christ (Luke 9:27), and on those who knew Him, yet were disobedient. All these shall be cast into the everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41).

.... Nevertheless, the world will not end at this time. It is evident from the Scriptures that people and nations will remain on the earth even after Jesus returns and His reign begins. But who are these people, and what is their relationship to the kingdom?

.... We know, for example, that those who claimed to be Christians yet never really knew Him were left outside, so they will probably form a part of the nations that remain (Matthew 25:10-12). At least they were not disposed against Him. Apparently, unbelievers who were likewise unopposed to Him will remain in the earth as well. "For he who is not against us is on our side." (Mark 9:40).

.... "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while."

(Revelation 20:1-3)

.... During the thousand years reign, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). The nations, undeceived, will live in a time of abundance and harmony.

.... Also during the Millennium, the kingdom will be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6-7) and the saints will rule and reign with Christ as a royal priesthood (Revelation 20:6). As discussed in our previous two postings, some of the saints will be given authority over the earthly tribes or cities, or authority over kingdom tasks, during this extended time. The kingdom will have a capital or central place of government in the holy city of Jerusalem, the city of the great king. From there the saints will rule in Jesus’ presence, going out and coming in (John 10:9).

.... There is reason to believe that the financial empires, built by Christian stewards as discussed in one of our previous postings, will also remain in the world during this time, and will continue to grow. Through them, the wealth of the nations will be brought into Jerusalem:

.... "Therefore your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession."

(Isaiah 60:11)

.... However, the 1000 years of peace includes some perplexing questions. Many of the people of the nations are clearly unsaved (Revelation 20:7-9), and all of them have missed the first resurrection. So can they still be saved during this time? The answer is unknown, but a hint is given that, perhaps, at least some of them could still be saved (Revelation 21:24).

.... At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released from his prison once again:

.... ". . . and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them."

(Revelation 20:8-9)

.... The Lord will defeat Satan in this rebellion, and Satan himself will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). The Lord’s triumph in defeating Satan will also bring the Millennial Reign to an end, and usher in the second resurrection, also known as the Resurrection of Condemnation. That will lead to the Great Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, which is also known as the Great White Throne Judgment -- and then to the second death in the Lake of Fire, where the disobedient and unrepentent souls of the ages join the devil in his eternal place of punishment.

.... We will discuss this further in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: Titus 3

The Judgment of Ministers

.... In our previous posting we discussed the judgment of Christian stewards, or market- place ministers, who handled kingdom resources including finances, and how they will be rewarded by the Lord. But of course, the most important type of stewardship is found within the ministry itself, since it effects the lives of other Christians:

.... "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

(1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

.... Just as marketplace ministers settled their accounts with the Lord on the Day of His return, other types of ministers must give a special account of themselves on that day (1 Corinthians 3:13). Since all types of human ministry include some form of teaching, they will actually receive a stricter judgment than other Christians (James 3:1). This is because others may act on their counsel, advice or lessons in a way that brings either benefit or harm to them and to the kingdom as a whole, depending on how well the teacher was able to point them to Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11).
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Therefore, when He returns, the Lord will review their teachings by fire to test their quality and determine their influence in building His kingdom. In explaining this concept, Paul speaks of his own teaching ministry as a premise, then speaks of the teaching ministries of others in a broader, following sense:

.... "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."

(1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

.... For ministers who serve the Lord well, having always pointed others to Him, a crown of righteousness will be awarded on that day:

.... "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."

(2 Timothy 4:8)

.... Furthermore, at least some of these ministers will be awarded kingdoms in the Millennial reign. This is similar to (and sometimes greater than) the rewards given to Christian stewards, which we discussed in our previous posting. For those faithful Stewards were given authority over cities; but at least in the case of apostles, an even higher reign is envisioned:

.... "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

(Luke 22:28-30)

.... Apostles, who helped bring the gospel to a nation originally, seem to reign over those same tribes or nations in the resurrection, at the national level. But what of prophets? What of evangelists, pastors and teachers, as well as every other form of ministry? And what about ordinary Christians who were not a part of the actual clergy?
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The Scriptures do not contain enough information for us to know if all Christians will rule in the Millennium in such a way. But it is certain, at least, that all will rule and reign with Christ Himself in the sense of sharing in His exalted status, as kings and a royal priesthood within His kingdom, and upon the earth (Revelation 5:10).

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Titus 2

The Judgment of Stewards

.... When Jesus returns to the earth He will rule and reign for a thousand years. At the end of that period will come the second resurrection and the Day of the Lord, when the unsaved will be judged before Him (Romans 2:6; Matthew 12:36). But Christians stewards will play an important role in between, during the millennial reign itself, so a special judgment will be held for them for this purpose. Two parables explain this stewardship and special judgment at length (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-27).
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.... In the begin of each of those parables, the Lord called certain of his servants who had already gained a degree of business savvy, and entrusted them with start-up capital. They were to use this money to do business for His kingdom until He returned (Luke 19:13). Thus, they would become ‘marketplace ministers’. They were to gain by trading until the day of His coming, when He would settle accounts with them.

.... "And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.'

(Luke 19:15-17)

.... Let’s think about this arrangement and its practi- calities. The concept of making a profit includes an understanding that all of the expenses will be met along the way. Accordingly, God has ordained and financially blessed certain Christian businessmen who will raise financial empires, now in this world, to help fund the needs of His kingdom until the Day He returns. They are to be savvy enough to help with the kingdom's financial needs and yet, at the same time, increase their own business holdings more and more. As a basic mechanism for transferring these funds to the kingdom, a ratio of their profits such as tithing most naturally suggests itself (Deuteronomy 14:22).
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As seen in both of Jesus' parables, some stewards will do better than others. Those who behave wastefully will be punished. But those who do well will receive new charges in the millennial kingdom itself, in relation to the abilities they’ve shown. In the quotation above, one steward received authority over ten cities; in Matthew’s account they could received charge over various other affairs of the kingdom as well. But in regard to the Millennial kingdom, why would this be important to know?

.... "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

(1 John 3:2)

.... At this point we must venture into some areas that are not clearly defined in the Scriptures, but let’s make the best case we can with some of the things that we do know. We know that presently, in this world, the nations, cities and regions are spiritually ruled by principalities and powers of a demonic nature. These demons are fallen angels. But throughout the thousand year reign, we know that these same demons will be bound and so their dominions, of necessity, will be vacated (Revelation 20:1-3).
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On the other hand, Jesus told us that in the resurrection, when we are glorified with Him, we will become equal to the angels (Luke 20:36). We will also be much wiser then, for we will be glorified in Him, and we will be able to represent Him truly.
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.... It seems most likely, therefore, that these faithful Christian stewards, now glorified and obtaining Christ-like wisdom, will be appointed over cities in the spirit realm in a manner that replaces the fallen angels who will be bound during this same period (1 Corinthians 6:3). In other words, they may very well become the new ruling powers over earthly realms during the millennial reign.
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Although all Christians will rule and reign with Christ during this period in the general sense of sharing in His exalted status, this particular type of reign seems to be reserved for Christian stewards, including apostles and other ministers, on the basis of their proven faithfulness. Therefore, persons having this ministry must always seek to please the Lord in the financial and ministerial decisions they make. We will discuss the similar judgment for ministers in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: Titus 1

The Judgment of the Saints - Part 2

.... In our previous posting we saw that God would greatly prefer to handle the issues of ours sins through our own confession and repentance, now in this life time, and to grant forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. For once we die, or once Christ returns (whichever comes first), we will reach a cut-off point:

.... "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."

(Hebrews 9:27)

.... Any sin that remained in our lives at that point will become an issue for judgment, as the Lord Jesus Christ judges the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1).

.... As mentioned in our previous posting, the Lord will take into account the motives of our heart and our sincerity in seeking to please Him (1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 John 3:21). But conversely, if we know in ourselves that we were holding something back from Him, God knows it even more fully than we do; and because we did not deal with it beforehand, He will have to deal with it now (1 John 3:20). We will not come into condemnation, yet punishment may still follow:

.... "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."

(Luke 12:47-48)

.... In this passage, we see that ignorance is not a complete excuse for our sins. But neither is it a barrier to the Lord in forgiving them, while we are still alive and there is time to seek Him and to do something about it. Forgiveness in such ways is ours for the asking, and we may ask as often as necessary:

.... "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression."

(Psalm 19:12-13)

.... We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for the deeds done in his body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10). This can entail loss, but actually it’s main purpose is to assign rewards:

.... "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

(Matthew 16:27)

.... As such, our judgment will be very thorough, yet also very selective. For every idle word we speak, we must give an account on that Day (Matthew 12:36). Yet God will be merciful to our unrighteousness for Jesus’ sake, and our sins and lawless deeds will be remembered no more (Hebrew 8:12). Furthermore, by His blood, Jesus has washed clean every record in heaven that was against us, and granted us a clean slate (Colossians 2:14). So ideally, the good things from our lives will be the only things that remain for review:

.... "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen!"

(Jude 1:24-25)

.... But what is the criteria for God's judgment? Remember that He has set His seal on Jesus alone, and Jesus Himself is our fruit to eternal life (John 6:27). So God is looking for something interpersonal. He wants to see the ways in which we died to ourselves to become Christlike, as the life of Jesus shined through us. He wants to see how we glorified Him in those ways, or rather, how He glorified Himself through us.

.... "that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

(1 Corinthians 1:31)

.... Our fruitfulness will be most evident in the Christlike love we have shown for others:

.... "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world."

(1 John 4:16-17)

.... ... and our fruit will remain most readily amongst our own Christian brethren, with whom we have labored in Christ to build up the body. Therefore let us resolve not to cast a stumbling block before each other, but to help each other with our eternity in view (Romans 14:10-13)

.... "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy."

(1Thessalonians 2:19-20)

.... "we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus."

(2 Corinthians 1:14)


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Daily Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 4

The Judgment of the Saints - Part 1

.... The Bible tells us in unmistakable terms that all men are sinners: "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." (Ecclesiastes 7:20). But the Day of Judgment is not God’s preferred method for dealing with our sins. In the greatness of His love, God sent His only begotten Son into the world to offer His life as a ransom for us all, that our sins may be washed away by His blood (Revelation 1:5).
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After we become Christians, if we sin again, we must take the matter back to God with confession to seek forgiveness again, as at the beginning. And again, the blood of Christ will cleanse us:

.... "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellow- ship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

(1 John 1:7-9)

.... And when God forgives our sin, the matter is disposed of forever:

.... "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

(Hebrews 8:12)

.... Jesus taught us to examine our hearts for sin, and to seek forgiveness, as often as we pray (Luke 11:2-4). His intention is that we keep very short accounts with God. And with a similar intention, Paul told us that we should constantly and honestly examine our motives (2 Corinthians 13:5).
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.... God would greatly prefer to deal with our sins in this manner, so they are not even mentioned in the Day of the Judgment of Christ (Ezekiel 18:22). But if our hearts fret against Him and we refuse to judge ourselves, and continue to harbor some sort of sin or unforgiveness in our heart, He has another method for dealing with our sins, short of taking it to that day:

.... "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world."

(1 Corinthians 11:31-32)

.... As a last-ditch effort, God may address our unrepentant sin by punishing us in this world and chastening us now – which, though certainly unpleasant, would be far better than allowing it to proceed to the Judgment Day, which may actually result in our condemnation!
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.... Basically, He does this by allowing us to reap what we have sown in order to bring us to a true repentance. At the end of this process we’re going to repent anyway, so why would we be so stubborn and do this to ourselves? How much better to simply humble ourselves before Him in the first place?
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.... Ultimately, God’s intention is that we should arrive before Him, on the Day of His return, with a slate that is already as clean as possible. It is greatly to our advantage to be of the same mind and lend ourselves to this! But even so there is a human weakness which may prevent a perfect presentation:

.... "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God."

(1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

.... Paul told us to judge ourselves constantly (1 Corinthians 11:21-32), and for himself, in doing so, he believed himself to have a clean conscience before God (Acts 23:1). Nevertheless, he recognized his own limitations. God may very well know some things about him and he didn’t even know about himself, and God may yet find fault in those areas, so this process is not an absolute defense. But thanks be to God, that He takes into account our sincerity in trying:

.... "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God."

(1 John 3:21)

.... We will continue this discussion in our next posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 3

The Resurrection of the Just

. . . a.k.a. The First Resurrection

.... When Jesus returns to the earth, He will bring with Him those who had previously fallen asleep in Christ. Descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, He will gather together all who have made a covenant with Him through His death, burial and resurrection:

.... "The Mighty One, God the LORD, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: "Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge. Selah."

(Psalm 50:1-6)

.... In a previous posting we described how the dead in Christ have already received a prima facie judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Now those who are alive in Christ and remain will be joining them, beginning with a prima facie judgment of their own. Basically, this is to determine whether they were truly abiding in Him or not. For Jesus Himself spoke of this in a series of three stories, recorded in Matthew 25.

.... "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom."

(Matthew 25:1)

.... In the first of these stories, the kingdom of heaven is likened to ten virgins. All ten were a part of the kingdom, but it turned out that only five of them really knew Him (v 12). Despite their religious intentions, a relationship was simply never formed with the other five, so they were left outside like the unbelievers. (Scriptures like Matthew 7:22-23 speak of those in the same category.)

.... At the end of the same chapter, Jesus gave another story to describe the next step in this prima facie judgment. It is the familiar story of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Once again, the story envisions those who were still alive at His coming. They had made it this far because they did develop a relationship with Him. But Jesus now applies a ‘litmus test’ to see if they were sincere or disobedient in terms of fruitfulness in their relationship.

.... As we read this passage, we find that the ‘litmus test’ was as simple as giving someone a glass of water in the name of a disciple (Matthew 10:42); but for all of that simplicity, a great multitude could never, even once in their entire lives, claim to have passed this test of sincerity. They were totally unfruitful. So in the end, it was an acid test after all:

.... "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

(Matthew 25:46)

.... And it is in this sense that Paul would later speak, in telling us that Jesus would return:

.... ". . . in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."

(2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

.... And therefore, Peter also speaks of those same persons:

.... "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."

(2 Peter 2:20-22)

.... Sandwiched between those two stories, in Matthew 25, is another instructive story of judgment pertaining to Christian stewards. This has a special bearing on the millennial reign so we will discuss it further in another posting. But we will also give further discussion to the judgments of the saints in the postings that follow.

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Daily Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2

The Second Coming of Christ

.... Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He promised to return to the earth one day and receive us to Himself:

.... "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

(John 14:3)

.... When He returns, He will come without warning as a thief in the night (1 Thessa- lonians 5:2). He will come walking across the sky with clouds, and every eye shall see Him (Revelation 1:7). He will shine like the lightning coming out of the east into the west (Luke 17:24), bringing with Him those who sleep in Christ, as the Resurrection of the Just begins to unfold. And those of us who are alive and remain on the earth will be caught up together with Him in the air:

.... "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
(1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

.... "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."
(1Thessalonians 4:14-17)
.... The event described in this passage is sometimes referred to as the rapture, although the phrase itself does not appear in the Bible. 'Rapture' means to ‘catch away’, and it is true that we will be caught up into the clouds to be with Jesus when He returns. But it also leads to the common assumption that, when He returns, He will be taking us away to heaven.

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Certainly, if we were to die in Christ today, we would go to Paradise, which seems to be part of heaven (Luke 23:43). We discussed this in further detail in a previous posting. But in this passage, Jesus is coming to the earth from heaven, and for the next 1,000 years He intends to rule and reign on the earth.

.... "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"

(Revelation 11:15)

.... This will initiate a special period known in Scripture as the thousand years reign, or millennial reign; and we, as Christians, shall reign along with Jesus. For He has "made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:10).

.... "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."

(Revelation 20:6)

.... Coincidental with His coming (and preceding the millennial reign itself) will be the first resurrection, which is also called the Resurrection of the Just (Luke 14:14). And once again, at this point (and as discussed in a previous posting), a prima facie case will be made for every person who is still alive at His coming, to determine if they will make it in this resurrection or not. We will discuss that further in our next posting.

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Daily Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 1

The Resurrection of Jesus

.... When Jesus died and rose again, He became the firstborn from the dead. In almost every way, we will follow His pattern in our own resurrection so let’s discuss this as a model (1 Corinthians 15:20). It is of primary importantance to understand that His resurrection was not merely spiritual in nature but extended to His whole being, to include His soul and body as well:

.... "Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave My soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption."

(Psalm 16:9-10)

.... This is important because some of the modern cults teach against the bodily resurrection of Christ. They believe His resurrection was merely spiritual in nature, so it follows that our own resurrection would be merely spiritual as well. But let’s see how Jesus Himself would answer them:

.... ‘So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." . . . But He was speaking of the temple of His body.’

(John 2:18-21)

.... "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."

(Luke 24:39)

.... After His resurrection, the apostles were able to touch Jesus, hold Him with their hands, and eat and drink in His presence (1 John 1:1). And when they did so, they were touching a living promise that we, too, would be raised from the dead one day.

.... Still, there is one area of difference between the bodily resurrection of Christ and our own, which stems from a unique quality of Jesus. We saw in Psalm 16:10 (which is quoted above) that when Jesus died His body did not suffer corruption -- whereas our own mortal bodies, following death, will begin to do so. His body, before and after, was the same. But what about our own?

.... Let’s borrow another concept from Jesus to explain this:

.... "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain."

(John 12:24)

.... In this passage, Jesus spoke of His own death and resurrection to come. In a similar way, when we die, our mortal remains will be ‘sown’ into the earth, like a type of seed:

.... "And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain-- perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body."

(1 Corinthians 15:37-38)

.... So our bodies become like seeds that fall into the ground, die, and begin to decay. Yet in some essential way, from that same, original essence, springs forth a new, resurrected body on the Day that Jesus returns:

.... "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"

(Job 19:25-2)

.... Paul tells us, in fact, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. So even those of us who remain alive at His coming will be changed in this essential way:

.... ". . . . in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."’

(1 Corinthians 15:52-54)

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6

The Dead in Christ

.... When Jesus left this world and returned to the Father, He issued an invitation and a promise to us all:
.... "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor."
(John 12:26)

.... "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
(John 14:2-3)
.... Therefore when we reach the end of our mortal lives and pass from this world to the next, the most important thing to understand is that we will follow once more in Jesus' footsteps, and in a fuller sense come into the presence of the Father and of Jesus Himself:

.... "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better."
(Philippians 1:21-23)

.... "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord."
(2 Corinthians 5:8)
.... Those who are dead in Christ have really only died to this world – which is considered a benefit and a blessing in itself (Job 3:18-19; Isaiah 57:1-2). In the sense that really matters, in which they are one spirit with Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:17), they have not truly died at all, but have passed from death into the truer, fuller life. Therefore in the sense of this world, they are usually not referred to as being ‘dead’ but as being ‘asleep’ in Christ (John 11:11-14; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:6,18).
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.... In other words, in this sense, ‘asleep’ simply means that they are at rest from the labors of this world. Let’s follow the life of Jesus again in order to demonstrate this point:

.... "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."

(1 Corinthians 15:20)

.... We know that during the three days of His death, Jesus was very active in the heart of the earth, among the dead. He certainly was not asleep in this way! (Genesis 3:15) We also saw, from the story of the rich man and Lazarus, that everyone else in that realm was active and aware. They still had compassion and feelings (Luke 16:26), they could feel pain or comfort (as appropriate), they’ve all kept their memories, and they've all kept up with the latest news, apparently brought to them by the new arrivals (v 29). They cared about the loved ones they left behind, and their families still mattered to them (vs 25-28). Even in Hades itself, emotions such as love endured: "for love is as strong as death . . . many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it." (Song 8:6-7).
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Furthermore, the people in this realm were aware of the concept of justice and of judgment to come (Luke 16:25). The same thing would be seen at a later time, in the revelation of the souls of the martyrs, who were under the altar:

.... ‘And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"’

(Revelation 6:10)

.... In this passage we also see that they were aware of the passing of time, as they waited for the day of His glory and the resurrection of the dead.
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.... The dead in Christ are presently in a place of rest and repose, called Paradise, and in this place they never express regrets, doubts or apprehensions over themselves nor worry about their own future. But they do care about the ones they’ve left behind, in the hope that they will one day join them. Likewise for ourselves, on this side of death, we can have no greater comfort than to know that a departed loved one has gone to this place to be with the Lord, and that we will one day see them again.
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But Paradise, in itself, is still a holding place. This situation will change again on the great resurrection day, which we will discuss in our future postings.

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Daily Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5