We believe in the return and reign of Jesus Christ, the final resurrection, the judgment of the unrighteous in hell and the eternal reward of the righteous in heaven.
With that one short statement we affirm that we believe some things that are completely out of fashion in today’s world: that Jesus will return and when he returns he will reign; that there will be a final bodily resurrection for everyone who has died; that all those who have placed their faith in the saving work of Christ will receive an eternal reward in heaven; that all of those who have not placed their faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ will suffer eternally in hell.
Jesus Christ Will Return
The end times or apocalypse is a very popular subject for modern media. Many books and movies depict the end of civilization as we know it. There is mass panic, mass horror, and mass death. People running from killer machines, killer aliens, and killer waves. There is chaos, destruction, loss and then a future that is very dark and depressing. The people who survive are downtrodden, depressed, and often cast as less fortunate than those who perished in the recent disaster.
Jesus tells us that monumental, even cataclysmic events will happen – wars, famines, earthquakes
– and these will be signs of his coming. So how should we respond when we see these things happening around us?
“Now when these things begin to take place,” Jesus says in Luke 21:28, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” While everyone else is filled with doubt and uncertainty, fear and distress, we should be standing tall, chins up, confident in God’s sovereignty and his ability to fulfill every promise that he has made.
All Will Be Raised and Judged
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul tells us this:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive
what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Every one of us will someday stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. What is this going to be like? Jesus uses a parable about sheep and goats in Matthew 25 to explain. In this parable we see both the reward of the righteous and the fate of the unrighteous.
The Bible teaches that we become righteous – we are made right with God – by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. We become righteous not by performing enough good works or by living a perfect life, but by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf and putting on his perfect righteousness.
The unrighteous then are those who have not been reconciled, or made right, with God. This includes everyone who has not chosen to accept God’s revelations about himself and has not placed their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the parable in Matthew 25 we learn that our actions determine our destiny because they reveal our past choices. If we have chosen Christ and have been filled with the Holy Spirit then our lives will be transformed. Godly care, selfless compassion, sacrificial hospitality, a wealth of generos- ity – these are all fruits of choosing to believe in Christ. A lack of evidence of these things, on the other hand – the absence of care and compassion and hospitality and generosity – these are all evidence of not having made that choice.
Jesus says that at the end of our earthly days, the sum of our actions will reveal what we believed about Jesus. Our actions will not reveal what we claimed to believe about Jesus, but what we actually believed.
The truth of Christ’s coming should change our lives today
We should decide what we believe about the future and then act in the present based on those beliefs. The truth about Christ’s coming in the future should change the way we live our lives today.
Romans 13:11-12 tells says that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Too often we chase things of no eternal significance, sometimes with the majority of our time and efforts. We should instead be casting these things off, not allowing them to hook into us and drag us down.
Are you familiar with this old saying: “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good”? When people say this they usually mean: “That person always has his mind on how things will be in the future. So much, in fact, that he’s kind of useless in the present!”
Generally, I think the opposite is true — we’re not heavenly minded enough! We don’t spend enough time thinking about the return of Christ and all the implications. We’re too focused on our earthly good; so focused that we lose sight of eternity. We lose sight of the fact that we will one day stand before Jesus to answer for our lives. We lose sight of the fact that everything that’s wrong in the world will be made right. But we also lose sight of the fact that righting every wrong in this judgment means that many people, people we know, will meet the fate of the goats, the unrighteous, in Jesus’ parable.
The truth of Christ’s coming should give us urgency to join God’s mission
God’s mission is to bring glory to himself by reconciling humanity and all of creation to himself. Although he would not require our help in this task, he invites us to be part of this mission. And his asking us to take part in his mission is one motivation to do so. Another motivation should be the reality of hell.
The fate of those who pass from this life without being reconciled to God will not be pleasant. 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 tells us that
“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord
and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was be- lieved.”
Those who do not place their faith in Jesus will not be reconciled to Jesus will not meet a kind fate in eternity. In fact, we believe that they will spend eternity suffering in hell. This should cause us to grieve and motivate us to share the good news of Jesus Christ as often as we have the opportunity.
The Eternal Reward in Heaven
In the opening verses of John 14 Jesus offers these words of encouragement: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
We may or may not be near the end of our earthly days, but one thing is sure: every day we live brings us one day closer to our eventual eternity. “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” For the believer, every day is one less day until the end of this part of the journey and the glorious beginning of the next. And that means there is one less day to for those who are not believers to decide what they believe about Jesus. That is great news! Great news that is meant to be shared.
Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario. He and his wife Anne Marie and their daughters Madeleine, Olivia, and Sophia own two cats and innumerable handheld electronic devices
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 12 of 12-part series
November / December 2016 The Recorder