By the time this message is published and distributed, the clock will have struck twelve on the night of December 31, 1999. Revelers all over the world will have hailed in the new millennium. The arrival of the Twenty-first Century should be a reminder that time is sacred, that it is rapidly passing, and that it is subject to being abused. Many have predicted and are continuing to predict the world’s destruction and the end of the age. In God’s own time the end will come, Armageddon will be fought, and life as we know it today will grind to a sudden halt.
The swift succession of the years should heighten our expectation of the Savior’s return. We don’t know the date of His coming, but of this we are certain—every passing day brings it that much closer. For the rebellious and unbelieving, the end-times will portend dark days ahead. But for God’s people, the end of life here will mark the dawn of a bright new age. There are promised rewards in Bible prophecy for those who have chosen to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 21:25-28, Jesus describes some alarming signs that will occur in the heavens in connection with His second coming. The Bible says, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
There will be disturbances in the sun and the moon (verse 25). Heavenly bodies will be moved out of their orbits (verse 26). Great tidal waves will sweep over land areas (verse 25b). Fear will overwhelm people of the world, but for believers, the coming of Christ is a signal that our full redemption is close at hand. There will be a number of rewards for God’s people, and so, in verse 28, Jesus says, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” Jesus says, “Stand up straight; don’t be discouraged; don’t walk around with downcast heads—but instead, look up into the face of God and thank the Lord that your redemption is close at hand, that your salvation will soon be completed, and that your earthly journey is soon going to be over.”
The primary purpose for prophecy is not to fill us in with lots of details about coming events, but to encourage believers with the news that our future will far surpass anything that we can experience here on earth. For Christians who face the illnesses and frailties and frustrations of life, it is comforting to know that we can look forward to something far better than what this world has to offer. In Titus 2:13, Christ’s coming is called “a blessed hope.” In Hebrews 6:19, this hope is called “an anchor of the soul.” What are some of the rewards prophesied in Scripture?
1. The Restoration of Justice
The word “justice” refers to fairness. In essence, it means “getting what one deserves.” None of us, with our limited knowledge, knows who deserves blessing and favor, and who deserves suffering and punishment. Only our omniscient God knows about justice, and who deserves what.
There are many obvious injustices in this world. Most of us are familiar with some of the injustices of life:
- The rich take advantage of the poor.
- The powerful abuse the weak.
- Innocent children are tossed to and fro when parents decide to divorce and remarry.
- Criminals are acquitted and set free, sometimes because of a mere technicality in the law.
- Tyrants die peacefully in their beds, while some of God’s choicest saints suffer lingering illnesses and excruciating pain.
Why is it that the righteous suffer, and the wicked often go on day after day without any seeming problems? Massive injustices here in this world go unpunished, while many noble examples of unselfishness are never rewarded.
The instinct of justice remains strong in all of us. One of the first sentences a child learns to say is, “It’s not fair.” All of us are concerned about fairness, and yet in the final analysis, many things in life do not seem to be fair. It is helpful to remember that we are living in a fallen world, where good behavior is not always rewarded, and where bad behavior is not always punished. Sin has twisted justice and made life in this present world unpredictable—and sometimes even ugly.
The Bible has never claimed that there will be perfect justice in this life; rather, the Bible teaches that this life is not the whole of reality. This life is not all there is. There are times (here in this life) when it appears that evil conduct is not being punished. A drunk driver is cruising down the road and is responsible for an accident; he is unharmed, but two or three innocent people die. Such experiences make life seem unfair.
We sometimes are inclined to question God’s dealings with the human family. Why was Job’s wife spared, when the rest of the family were all killed? After all, she’s the one who encouraged Job to “curse God and die.” Why did the righteous Job have to suffer, when all the while his blasphemous wife seemed to go scott-free? What about the brothers of Joseph? Joseph was thrown into a pit, and then into prison in Egypt. He suffered much more than his brothers, yet they are the ones that threw him into the pit and then lied to their father and tried to cover up the crime.
How can God, who is almighty and good, allow injustices (such as those just mentioned)—how can He allow them to continue? If He does nothing to correct these evidences of unfairness—either God is not all powerful and He cannot do it; or God is not totally good and does not really care about correcting injustice.
It is very clear from human experience that God has not established justice on earth during this age, but the Bible makes it just as clear that He can do it, and that He will cause justice to abound in the age to come.
We read about the establishment of justice at a number of places in the Bible:
Romans 12:19 says, “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”
Romans 2:6-8 says, “(God) will render to every man according to his deeds.” The Apostle Paul goes on to say that those who continue in well-doing will receive “eternal life.” But those who are contentious and do not obey the truth will receive “indignation and wrath.”
In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, we read, “Seeing it is a righteous (just) thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you . . . rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord . . . .”
When Jesus comes again, wrongs will be righted. The proud will be scattered; the ungodly will be sent away empty; the righteous will be exalted. In Revelation 6:9-10, when the fifth seal was opened, John saw under the altar “the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Those who were martyred for the cause of Christ will be vindicated. In the days of the Roman Emperor Nero, young Christian girls were gored to death by angry bulls; strong men were tied to the stake, covered with oil, and set on fire. All this happened while Nero drove his chariot through the Vatican Gardens lighted by the illumination of burning bodies at night.
One of the anticipated rewards promised in Bible prophecy is that justice will be meted out in the world to come. Wrongs will be righted. Things that seem unfair will be set straight. When Jesus comes again, He is not going to come as a lowly Nazarene riding on a donkey. He is going to come as a mighty Conqueror and He will set things right on this troubled earth.
2. The Glorification of Our Bodies
When Jesus appears for His people, our vile bodies (the lowly bodies which we occupy here on earth) shall be changed, and will be “fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). In 1 John 3:2 we learn that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We are going to be like Jesus, not only in that we will be sinless, but we are going to be like Jesus in the sense that we will get new bodies when Jesus comes.
Our present bodies at death will rot in the ground, but when Jesus comes, those bodies will be resurrected and transformed, made perfect, and will be glorified like the resurrection body of the Son of God. The new body is described in 1 Corinthians 15:35,42-45. “But some will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? . . . it is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
The new body (at the time of the resurrection) will be an incorruptible body. Verse 42 says, “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” The new body will be imperishable; it will not be subject to decay. Our present bodies are perishable. The average life-span in the United States is 75 years, but the processes of aging and wearing still go on. When Jesus comes, we shall receive a new body which will not be subject to disease and decay.
The new body will be a powerful body. Verse 43 says, “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” Our present bodies are frail and weak; our new bodies will be full of strength. Our present bodies become tired and exhausted. They need rest and food and medical care, but when our bodies become like Christ’s glorified body, they will be invested with new and wonderful powers—free from the limitations of time and space.
The new body will be a spiritual body. Verse 44 says, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” The earthly body is subject to the laws of nature. If you jump out of a third story window, you are going to fall. Gravity will pull, and your body will splatter on the ground below. Our new bodies will be subject to the laws of the spirit world. They will not be limited by space, barred by locks, or hampered by distances.
The body of Jesus (after His resurrection) was different from His former body, and yet it had many similarities.
Jesus’ body was different (after His resurrection):
- He entered rooms through closed doors.
- He traveled distances in short periods of time.
- He appeared and vanished at will.
Jesus’ body was similar (to the body He had earlier):
- He still ate food.
- He still bore the marks of His suffering (the nail prints).
- He still had the same tone of voice. His vocal cords had not changed, for when He said “Mary,” she recognized Him early in the morning most likely by the tone of His voice (John 20:16).
The Bible says that when Jesus returns, He will “change” our lowly bodies so that they will be “fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). We don’t know all the details. There are mysteries beyond our grasp. But in light of the prophetic Scriptures, we have every right to anticipate a new body when Jesus returns. Surely we shall say with the Psalmist, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
3. The Entrance Into Our Heavenly Home
Jesus teaches that His followers will go to Heaven when life here on earth is ended. He spoke this promise: “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 unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). We do not find in Scripture complete details describing what Heaven will be like, but in Revelation 21:9-22:5, the curtain is drawn back, and we are given a glimpse of Heaven—a little foretaste of the glory that is to come.
Heaven will encompass the vast spaces of the universe. The New Jerusalem described on the last pages of the Bible is a kind of capital city “let down out of heaven”—but that City itself is large and spacious and of great magnitude.
The New Jerusalem is a large city, shaped like a cube (or a pyramid)—1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide and 1500 miles high—with dwelling places at various levels. There will be no housing shortage in Heaven. There will be plenty of room for all who believe in Jesus Christ.
The New Jerusalem will be a beautiful city. It will sparkle with jasper and precious stones (Revelation 21:18-21). There won’t be any concrete or asphalt. Heaven will be a beautiful place where believers will experience fellowship with Christ (Revelation 22:4), rest from labor (Revelation 14:13), and everlasting joy (Revelation 21:4).
The book of Revelation pictures Heaven as having trees, fountains, fruit, robes, music, light, friendship, love, and the actual presence of God the Father and God the Son.
The Bible also describes a number of things that won’t be in Heaven. There will be no more curse, no more pain, no more night, no more death, and no more tears. One pastor tells how he visited a young man in the hospital and tried to comfort him. The young fellow was incurably ill with cancer. The pastor began talking about our wonderful Savior, and the heavenly home that lay just ahead. Tears began to trickle from the young man’s eyes, and the pastor wiped them with his handkerchief. The weeping young man said, “Just think, the next time these tears are wiped away, my heavenly Father will most likely do it.” Revelation 21:4 says that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
Christians in the Western world today don’t seem to talk much about Heaven. Why should they? There’s hockey and football; there’s travel and television; there are exotic foods and fancy fashions; there are crafts and trinkets and shopping trips; there are stocks and bonds and money markets. There are so many fascinating and exciting things to talk about in this materialistic age that Heaven is ignored by multitudes. Many folks have it so good here in this life that the attraction of Heaven is almost forgotten.
Those who see this world as their home, look upon “leaving it” as a supreme tragedy. But those whose hearts are fixed on doing the will of God thrill at thoughts about Heaven. The excitement of seeing Jesus, and dwelling with Him, and being like Him—these things should thrill our hearts and cause us to love the Lord with a burning devotion for doing His will.
We are to be constantly watching for Jesus’ return. We must not assume that the coming of our Lord will be long delayed—just because He has not come at the turn of the new millennium. Jesus spoke about end-time events and then said, “Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). And in Matthew 24:44, He said, “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”
Horatius Bonar looked at the sky each morning, and said, “Perhaps today, Lord . . . perhaps today.” And before going to bed at night, he often looked out the window and said, “Maybe tonight, Lord, maybe tonight.” One of these days—when things are proceeding as usual—Jesus will come. Banks will open in the morning for another day of business transactions. Children will go to school like they normally do. Mothers will face another day with its duties of homemaking. Farmers will go out to cultivate the fields. But suddenly life will be different! Those who belong to Christ will be snatched out of this life and taken into the Father’s presence. Unbelievers will face the judgment of God. One poet described it as follows:
“Some glorious morning, sorrows will cease;
Some glorious morning, all will be peace.
Heartaches all ended, school days all done,
The heavens will open, Jesus will come.”
The prospect of going with Jesus one of these days, and the prospect of living eternally in the New Jerusalem—should be a powerful incentive to live a life of obedience now. The Bible says that “every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). If you are not saved, then let this message become an incentive to turn from your old ways (Acts 3:19), receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior (John 1:12), and make a commitment in Christian baptism to follow Jesus as your Master (Matthew 7:21).