What Time Is It?
It’s a question many people are asking as we look at world events of natural disasters and terror. Technology is advancing quickly and powerfully, nations of influence are turning away from the truth and Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.
So people are asking, “What time is it? Are we nearing the end?”
Last week’s post was about the simple truth that Jesus is returning. He’s coming back for His people. We are not forgotten or forsaken. We are on the winning side and being faithful to God in the midst of our doubts, trials and troubles, matters.
After Jesus returns, God tells us that certain things will happen. We will face judgment and spend our eternity in one of two places.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV
So in your future, you have an appointment with death and an appointment with judgment. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a reward in Heaven. If you are not a believer in Jesus, you face suffering in Hell.
Let’s start in the last chapter of the last book in the Bible, Revelation 22.
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Revelation 22:12-13 NIV
There is a judgment, a reckoning coming for each one of us. If you are new to Christianity, don’t miss this, we do not get into Heaven by doing good things. The only way we enter Heaven is through our faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t get into heaven because of what we do for Christ. We get into heaven because of what Christ did for us.
As a Christian, it’s important to know that your good works do not qualify you for Heaven. It’s also important to know that your good works determine the rewards you receive in Heaven.
The Judgment Seat of Christ.
This judgment happens right after the return of Christ for the Church. At Christ’s return the dead in Christ will rise from the grave and the believers who are alive at that time will be raptured.
Dead believers bodies will be resurrected into new, glorified bodies. While living believers bodies will be changed into new, glorified bodies.
“Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed — in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51 ISV
At Christ’s return, we call that the Rapture, the dead in Christ are raised and the living are transformed. Then, those believers will be judged at The Judgment Seat of Christ. If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, that’s you.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV
The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for Christians only. At this judgment you’re not judged for salvation or damnation. You’re salvation has already been determined by your faith in Jesus Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for rewarding you for the good works you have done on earth.
The Greek word translated as “judgment seat” is the word “bema”. The Bema Seat is not the seat where the judge sits to issue a verdict of guilty or innocent. The Bema Seat was where the judge would sit to issue awards after the Greek athletic games. The Bema Seat held the judge who rewarded people for how they ran the race.
Imagine Jesus Christ rewarding you for your faithfulness on earth. This judgment is actually a very joyous occasion for believers. This is where Jesus Christ will, hopefully, say to you, “Well, done! Good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”
At the Bema Seat, runners were rewarded with crowns of olive leaves. The judge would place crowns of olive leaves on their heads.
Incorruptible Crown: Run a Faithful Race
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
Runners in the Greek games would do their best trying to win. They go through extensive training, discipline their bodies and practice self-control. They do all of this so that they can win a wreath of olive leaves, a crown that is going to wilt and whither and dry up.
The crown we receive in heaven is imperishable. It is not subject to decay. It’s enduring and indestructible.
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NIV
Paul doesn’t run without aim. Who’s in control of you? Are you in control of your body or is your body in control of you? Paul says I discipline my body and make it my slave, so I won’t be disqualified. Disqualified doesn’t mean you don’t get into heaven. It means you don’t win this crown.
Crown of Righteousness: Love His Returning
This is the crown for those who long for Christ’s return.
“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 NIV
Crown of Life: Those Who Suffer
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV
Those who are martyred or killed for Christ or endure great hardships for Christ receive this crown. There are other crowns, other rewards identified in Scripture. For Christians, how you live on earth determines how you’ll be rewarded in Heaven.
In the future, there are two judgments and two resurrections. The first is the resurrection of those who are in Christ. They are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you’ve trusted in Christ, you’re in that group.
The second resurrection, the second judgment is for non-Christians. If you haven’t trusted in Christ, you’re in this group. That’s known as the resurrection of the dead and the judgment is the Great White Throne Judgment
This judgment takes place before God establishes the New Heaven and the New Earth. It doesn’t determine your rewards in Heaven, it determines your level of punishment in Hell. If you trust in Jesus Christ, you don’t have to go there.
What Will Heaven Be Like?
John had a vision of heaven in Revelation 21 that gives three specific descriptions of what Heaven will be like.
“I saw a new Heaven and a New Earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Revelation 21:1 NIV
1. God will establish a New Heaven and a New Earth.
Notice that our final destination is not just Heaven, but a New Earth. That’s why whatever you enjoy on earth, you’ll enjoy on the New Earth and the New Heaven. The only difference is there won’t be any sin.
The New Earth will be just like the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Even walked in the cool of the day with the Lord and experienced uninterrupted fellowship with God in paradise, before we ruined it by falling for the Devil’s temptation.
Whatever you love about earth, Heaven will be similar but indescribably better. Think about your favorite place, your favorite moment. Take your best moment on earth and realize that Scripture says:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard what our God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT
2. You will never suffer again.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” Revelation 21:4-5 NIV
For those of you who hurt right now, in the New Heaven and in the New Earth, there will be no more pain, no more suffering. You will never, ever suffer again!
3. You will live with God forever
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.'” Revelation 21:3 NIV
It’s as if God is saying, “Finally it’s done, it’s restored. It’s back to the way I created it, to the way I wanted it to be.”
Our finite minds cannot comprehend the glory of that promise. We can’t even handle God in His purest form. But on that day when we’re raised to new life, when we’re in our immortal bodies clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we can walk in fellowship with God just like in the Garden of Eden before the fall and the way God intended it to be.
This all starts with you standing before Christ at the Bema Seat. You stand before the One who was crowned with thorns and He welcomes you with a Crown of Righteousness into the Heaven that He’s prepared for you.
Here’s the problem, most people today believe that Heaven is the default destination. Most people today believe that when people die they go to heaven unless they have done something really, really bad. The Bible clearly tells us that heaven is not the default destination. Hell is the default destination.
We’re not all headed to heaven, we are all headed to hell when we die unless Christ intervenes on our behalf.
Jesus said something very sobering to all of us in Matthew 7.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 NIV
There are a lot of people traveling on the broad path that leads to the true default destination, Hell.
The Final Judgement: The Great White Throne
Christians will not be judged here. This is a judgment for non-Christians, for non-believers. How you live as a believer matters and how you live as an unbeliever matters as well. This is how John describes the Great White Throne Judgment.
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-12, 15 NIV
If anyone’s sins are not covered by Christ, if they have not responded to the grace of God and are judged by their works alone, their name is not written in the Book of Life and they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. That is the default destination.
Now, you may be thinking this is not fair of God to send people to Hell. Let’s talk about what’s really not fair. Have you ever known someone who hurt someone else severely and they were not held accountable for their actions? What happens when you see that take place? When someone does some horrible injustice to someone else and there are no consequences, we think someone should have to pay for that.
That’s exactly what happens at the Great White Throne Judgment. God takes all of the sin from all of history and says, “There will be payment for the sins that were not covered by the blood of Christ.” Not only is that fair, that’s what we call justice!
What’s not fair is when those of us who are Christians, stand before the One who was crowned with thorns and He gives you a crown and lets you into heaven. Because really we all deserve the Lake of Fire. The only reason we don’t wind up in the Lake of Fire is because Jesus took the punishment for our sins upon Himself.
He was innocent, we are guilty, yet He paid for our sins on the cross. It’s not fair that many of us are rewarded and get to go to heaven. It’s not fair that that His blood covers our sins and that He suffered on our behalf.
The Gospel means good news. So when Jesus puts a crown on your head, thank God that He’s not fair. That’s why we should want to live a life worthy of His rewards.
It’s not that you’re trying to gain access to heaven, you’re already accepted because of your faith in Jesus. But out of a response to everything that Jesus did, you want to live a life not for our own pleasure, but for His eternal glory.
Those of you who are Christians, would you say, “Yes, I want to give in His name, I want to serve, witness and make a difference in His name. I want my life on earth to bring glory to Him in eternity. I want my life here to be worthy of the rewards in Heaven.”
It’s time to make a decision to pursue those rewards.
Check Back on your discussion from last week. How has the promise of Christ’s return affected how you lived this past week? Did you find any comfort, make any preparation, or change your focus in light of this truth?
Hear the Word
Read: Revelation 21:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Revelation 20:11-15 and Matthew 7:13-14
1. What is one idea from the message that really stood out to you? Why did this idea grab your attention?
2. Knowing that one day you will be judged and rewarded, what changes might you need to make in your life today?
3. Is there any pain in your life that you’re ready for God to bring to an end? What is it?
4. How does it make you feel knowing that God wants to live with you forever?
5. Why do you think so many people choose to take the broad road that leads to destruction?
6. What one thing you will do this week as a result of something you learned from this message?
Tell Someone Else
Who is someone that you would like to encourage regarding the hope of a reward for the good works that they have been doing? Maybe you could write them a note of encouragement this week!