Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Things to Come

New Jerusalem

by Dennis Pollock

Some years ago I was involved in an evangelistic outreach during Mardis Gras on Galveston Island. I joined another brother and we walked through the massive crowds, sharing Christ, and carrying a sign which he had made. The sign had a question plainly written on it which asked, "Do you know your future?" I thought it a little different than the typical evangelistic message you might see on signs, but figured it might make people think, so I gladly took turns with the brother carrying the sign and talking with anyone that wanted to talk. As it turned out we had a number of people who were intrigued by the question, and came up to us asking, "Can you tell me my future?" I suppose they thought we were psychics or fortune-tellers. It didn't take me long to see that this was a great open door to share the gospel, and I began to respond, "Yes, I do know your future. Let me tell you what the Bible says will happen to you in your future days." Then I proceeded to tell them what would be the case for sinners and what would be the case for Christians as their years unfold.

In this short article I want to do the same for you. But since space limits me, and since the majority of you reading this are probably Christians, I will confine myself to the future of the believer. I can speak very confidently about these things not because I am psychic or some kind of a prophet, but because I am a Bible reader, and the Bible is a sure guide to things to come. Jesus spoke of a divine Helper who would indwell His people, and declared, "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth… and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:13). Since He, the Holy Spirit, is the One who has inspired the sacred Scriptures, and since we know He tells only the truth, we can be confident that what He tells us about the future is absolutely trustworthy. And He has said a great many things about our future.

What's ahead for the believer?

While the future of believers may vary a great deal in the particulars, there are some things which will be common to all Christians. The first thing to know is that you will live a short life. Now before you start to protest that you are already 86 years old, you need to see that from the Bible's perspective life is extremely short. James writes, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." Though when we were young it seemed like time passed so slowly, and we would never make it to adulthood, the older we get, the faster time seems to rush by. Billy Graham was once asked the greatest surprise of his life and ministry. He said it was how quickly the years passed. Sometimes we wish we could hurry time, but in reality there is no need. Blink once and your children are grown; blink twice and their children are now grown. The psalmist writes: "You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor." The old adage is surely true: "Only one life, twill soon be past…" For this reason we must make the best of the few years we are given.

A second common feature for all believers is that our lives will contain joy. Jesus is our guarantee of joy. He declared, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." Paul writes that the kingdom of God is not food or drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Jesus encourages us: "Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." To know and abide in Christ is to know joy. Ours is not the long face of the guilt-ridden, or the expressionless face of the stoic, or the cast down face of the depressed. We are to carry the joy of the Lord in our hearts, and thus make the Lord Jesus attractive by the delight and joy we find in Him. One of the greatest PR campaigns our Lord accomplishes in the earth is when the unbelievers see how much the children of God are enjoying their walk with Jesus, and the lives and the assignments He has given them. It is one of the best ways we can, in Paul's words, "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."

Third, our lives shall include difficulty and suffering. I know this seems to contradict the previous thought about living lives of joy, but what we need to realize is that the joy of the Lord is not primarily circumstance-driven. It is joy "in the Holy Spirit" and the Holy Spirit's joy is never limited by the degree of pleasantness we find in our present circumstances. The same Jesus who has promised us His joy has also promised, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." I am a firm believer in claiming the promises of God, but this is one promise I have never bothered to claim. I have found that tribulation seems to find us whether we stand on this promise or run from it with all speed. Peter tells us, "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thinghappened to you." Paul went further still, however, saying, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." The truth is this: As children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we willneed, and God will see to it that we have difficulties from time to time, in order that His strength may be manifest through our weaknesses. You can claim the promises, you can stand on your favorite verses about deliverance, and you can shout at the devil all day long, but you are not going to change God's mind on this. Written into the script for your life are difficulties which will arrive exactly on time, endure the necessary length of time determined by the Father, and leave precisely on schedule. And Peter says, "Don't think it strange!"

Fourth, as one of Christ's many branches, you will live a fruitful, productive life. At least, this is how it is supposed to be. Sadly there are many professing Christians that do not seem to pursue the abiding life, but if you are one of Jesus' abiders, you will surely be fruitful. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." One thing you notice about trees and vines – they never hop. Kangaroos hop, rabbits hop, grasshoppers hop, but trees and vines just don't hop! They grow because of long, grasping roots that reach deep into the soil anddrink in moisture and vital nutrients from earth. Trees and vines are made to be planted and to stay put. And branches belonging to trees planted by rivers do especially well! In Psalm one we read an Old Testament version of the abiding life. The Scripture says of the man who meditates in God's law day and night, "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." To meditate in God's Word continually and to feed on Christ there, is to be guaranteed fruitfulness and spiritual success. This is not a guarantee just for beautiful people or talented people or smart people. This is a guarantee for anyone with enough sense to get into the word of God and feed on Jesus Christ. To use Peter's words, "you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

After our short lives of joy, tribulation, and fruitfulness, we shall experience a great interruption. Without so much as an "if you please" we shall be called upon to exit this present world. Regardless of what worthy projects we are involved in, how many loved ones cherish and depend upon us, or how many plans we have made for the future, all shall be left behind along with our now useless body. The Bible speaks of death this way: "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish." In Ecclesiastes we read: "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." But nowhere is it said any better than in Philippians, where the apostle Paul writes, "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." The joy we have known increases a thousand-fold, the tribulations we have endured fall away entirely, and we find ourselves face to face with the Lord Jesus, the One we have trusted and served during our short tenure on this earth.

The next major event for the believer will occur on the Day of Christ when we will stand before Jesus for the judging of our works, and the distributing of rewards. To many this sounds unbiblical. You may be thinking, "Wait a minute! We are saved by grace, not works. How can you talk about a judging of our works and giving of rewards?" Truly we are saved by grace. In Ephesians we read, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." So if we are saved by grace what is this talk of having our works judged and being given rewards? The answer is that though we are saved by grace, we will be rewarded for the works we have done in our service to Christ. Throughout eternity we shall enjoy rewards given for the prayers we have prayed, the people we have blessed, the sacrifices we have made, the money we have given to the cause of Christ, and the souls we have led to Christ. One of the last things Jesus says in the Bible is, "behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work." There will be divine compensations for our service. Paul writes, "knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord." The judgment seat of Christ for the believer is not a place where we will be punished for our sins and mistakes. Jesus' blood has forgiven and paid the price for those things. The judgment seat of Christ will be a place where our lives are reviewed and appropriate rewards distributed. Jesus declared, "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."

The final stage of the future of the believer is the best of all – we shall reign with Christ. First our reign shall be on this present earth during the Millennium, a one thousand year period where Jesus is given the nations as His inheritance. "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psalm 37:11). Finally our reign with Christ shall be in a place described as New Jerusalem which will endure forever. Some folks have erroneously assumed that heaven will be a 24/7 nonstop eternal song service, but the Bible never says we shall sing forever. It does tell us that we shall reign forever (Revelation 22:5). Jesus promises us, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." We who live meekly as servants of Christ and peacemakers in this world are destined for a throne, where we will rule and reign with Christ forever and ever.

Such is the promised future for the believer – a future described and guaranteed by the One who is called the Spirit of truth. And what shall be our response? I can think of none better than to follow the apostle Paul's admonition: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."


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