THE JUDGEMENT CHRISTIANS WILL FACE

Bible Reading:  Isaiah 11:1-5; Acts 8:36-43

The judgement both for believers and the ungodly will happen at the time of Christ’s coming at the resurrection. Here is the order that Scripture lays out for us: death, paradise, Christ’s coming, the resurrection of the dead in Christ, those who are alive in Christ caught up to meet Him in the air and then the judgement.

When Paul speaks of the Christian being judged he speaks of unfruitful works being burned up with fire. What exactly are those works? In John 15:5 Jesus says that without Him we can do nothing. The works that will be burned in the fire are the things that we did that were not done in partnership with Jesus. It is possible to do amazing things without depending upon Jesus and His Spirit, but those things will not be eternal and will not survive in the fire. They may even be good things but ultimately be unfruitful and a hindrance to the best.

Many years ago I heard a seemingly successful pastor, who had built a large church, repenting of having done this without reliance upon Jesus. He had used management techniques, people skills, and an amazing natural charisma, and had depended upon his own ability. The result was that the people came together and did things together but somehow Jesus was not at the centre. Prayer and dependence upon Jesus were a minimum.

The things that will survive are those things done at the command of Jesus and in humble dependence upon Him. They will be acts of love and service to others. The writer to the Hebrews says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do” [Hebrews 6:10].

Questions:

Isaiah 11:1-5 is a prophecy about Jesus and speaks of the way He will judge. What do you think is the meaning of the phrase, “He shall not judge by what His eyes see or decide disputes by what His ear hears”?

What conclusions do you draw from this passage about the way in which Jesus will judge?

CHRISTIANS WILL BE JUDGED

Bible Reading:  1 Corinthians 3:10-16; Hebrews 9:27

“We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ” [2 Corinthians 5:10]

On the cross Jesus bore the judgement for our sin. He who was without sin became sin for us so that we might become righteous. Once we are born again, as His children, we will not face the eternal judgement that will condemn us to hell.

However, the Bible clearly states that all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ. For the Christian this is a judgement related to our works and deeds whilst on earth. It must be emphasized that salvation is not the issue. It is our works that will be judged. Even though all we did was burned up in the fire of judgement the believer will be still saved, and as Paul puts it, “… saved, only as through fire“ [1 Corinthians 13:15]. The believer’s sins, committed after conversion will not be judged – the blood of Jesus has washed them away.

Paul says, “… each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” [1 Corinthians 3:13 ESV]. Paul likens our Godly works to gold, silver and precious metals. These works, done for Jesus and in accordance with His will survive the fire. The things that will be destroyed are likened to wood, hay and straw.

Tomorrow we will consider more fully what the works are that will be burned in the fire on the Day of Judgement.

Questions:

As a Christian how does the fact that you be judged for your works impact you? Are there things that you would immediately want to change?

Paul writes about works that are like wood, hay and straw that will be burned in the fire of judgement. What do you think are the kind of works that will not survive the fire?

DOES GOD GIVE A SECOND-CHANCE

Bible Reading: Hebrews 2:1-18

“…. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” [verse 3]

One of the most tragic experiences I have had occurred in a Christian coffee shop set up in a church in Derbyshire. Each night young people would gather and spend time together. Part way through the evening there would be a short challenge in the form of a five-minute epilogue from God’s Word. On one evening there were a group of leather clad young motor cyclists in the coffee shop and after I had given the challenge one of them came up to me. He spat in my face and told me in vivid 1960’s language what he thought of me. None of us knew that night that he would be killed in a motorcycle accident. The following evening one of his friends came to speak me and made this statement, “God keeps His promises doesn’t He, and not with words!”

It is dangerous to neglect the salvation that has been offered to us in Jesus. Some people think that they can delay this decision but forget that the only moment they can sure of is the present moment. The Bible says, “Do not boast of tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” [Proverbs 27:1]

The rich farmer who neglected his soul was called a fool. Jesus said that his soul would be required of him that night [Luke 12:13-21]. He had wasted his opportunity and it was now too late. It is the same with the rich man who was in hades – it was too late [Luke 16:19-31].

God gives us many opportunities to turn to Him but when death comes the opportunity has passed. Some people respond by saying that God is unkind not to give a second chance but this not so – He gives many opportunities but only in this life. The writer to the Hebrews makes it very clear – NOW is the day of salvation!

Questions:

How would you respond to someone who says that God is cruel not to offer people a further opportunity to repent after death?

Many years ago Billy Graham preached a sermon entitled “Road blocks on the road to destruction.” What are some of these obstacles that God puts in the way of the unbeliever in order for them to be saved?

What do you think are the main reasons why people neglect God’s salvation?

PARADISE IS A PLACE OF LOVE

Bible Reading:  1 Corinthians 13:1-13

For some people it is a quite a shock to realize that a believer does not go to heaven when they die, but they sleep in a place called Hades, also called Paradise [Luke 23:43], where they are awaiting the resurrection at Christ’s coming.

This sleep has nothing to do with what some people call soul sleep. In fact we will be very much conscious. Lazarus, in the place of the departed dead, in the story told by Jesus, was very much conscious [see Luke 16:19-31]

Paul spoke very clearly when he said that for him to live is Christ, but to die is gain. What is the gain if it is simply being asleep? Elsewhere Paul speaking of death said, “absent from the body, present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8]. He expected to be with Jesus when he died. The place where we as believers will be will a place of love and of the presence of Jesus. The word paradise speaks of a garden.

I recently heard of a man who had a remarkable out of the body experience. He was sitting in his car, when he clearly heard a voice say, “Open the car door!” The voice surprised him but he stopped the car and opened the door. At that moment he had a massive heart attack and fell out of the car door. People saw him fall and came running to help him. He testified that he could see what was happening from above and saw the paramedics pumping his heart and trying to revive him. Then he was taken to a beautiful place where everything was perfect, the trees, the grass, and sky. But what struck him most was the amazing sense of love. The whole place was bathed in love.

Then he was back in his body. He made a remarkable recovery and at a later date returned to thank the paramedics. They asked how he knew them when he was unconscious, to which he replied that he had been watching them from above after his soul and spirit had left his body. The thing that has most remained in this man’s memory was the amazing love that he experienced.

In 1 Corinthians Paul says, “These things remain, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. Faith and hope are wonderful but love is the greatest of all. Why is this?

One day we will not need faith anymore because we will have received that which we believed for. Hope will also no longer be necessary because we will have attained that which we hoped for. But whilst faith and hope will no longer be necessary, love will still be there because God is love. He gives us faith, and His gives hope but He is love!

DO WE GO STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN WHEN WE DIE?

Bible Reading:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In 1 Corinthians the apostle speaks of death as sleep [1 Cor. 15:6,20,51]. When Lazarus died Jesus said that he was asleep and spoke about waking him up [John 11:11]. Because his disciples were confused Jesus then told them plainly that Lazarus was dead [John 11:14].

The Church in Thessalonica was anxious about what happened to those believers in Christ who had died and Paul writes to allay their fears. He begins to address the issue with the words, “I do not want you to be ignorant brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” [1 Thessalonians 4:13].

The Bible speaks about righteous believers whose trust is in Jesus going to a place at death called paradise. In the Jewish understanding, Abraham’s side [Luke 16:22] and paradise were the same place. This was the place of faithful people who had departed this life. When Jesus spoke to the dying thief on the cross He said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” [Luke 23:43]. The word paradise comes from a Greek word ‘paradeisos” which means “garden.” Strong’s concordance refers this word back to the Garden of Eden.

The Bible paints a picture of believers after death in a beautiful place, experiencing the presence of Jesus and waiting for the day of resurrection. This is clearly only temporary and not our final, eternal destination.

Our Bible reading today clearly states that when Jesus returns the dead in Christ, those waiting for His coming in paradise, will rise first [1 Thess. 4:15]. But what about those who are still alive on the earth when Jesus comes? On that day they will be taken up from the earth to meet with Jesus in the air and so those who had died in the Lord and those believers who were still alive on the earth at His coming would be forever with the Lord. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to comfort one another with these words [1 Thess. 4:17-18].

Question:

Many people say that when we die we go to heaven. This is clearly not what Paul says in Thessalonians. How does what Paul writes change your own thinking?

Something to do:

Read carefully these verses in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and then compare them with 1 Corinthians 15:23 and 15:51-53

 

OUR TIMES ARE IN GOD’S HAND

Bible Reading:  Psalm 31:1-24

“My times are in your hand” [Psalm 31:15]

Susanna was one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. I had the privilege of having her as a student in the Bible School where I was teaching. She was always full of joy and her face shone so bright.

One day I decided to ask Susanna what was the secret of her shining face and such joy, and she told me one of the most astounding stories I have ever heard. She lived in her native India, and when she was twenty-one became very ill and was hospitalized. Susanna became unconscious. She was obviously not aware of this but found herself in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He spoke with her and then told her to go back and serve Him. When she woke they were putting her body into the grave. She had been dead for twelve hours. She quoted our verse today to me, and told me that her times are in God’s hand and that like David she trusted Him and was content with that.

When David wrote this Psalm who was going through a difficult time but was trusting God. He struggles with his own sinfulness [verse 10]. He is slandered and those near to him turn away from him [verse 11,13]. He is persecuted [verse 15]. Yet in all this he trusts God who knows his trouble and his adversity and has not handed him over to his enemy [verses 6-8]. God has been kind to him, and kept him in His presence.

How wonderful to trust God where we cannot trace and know that our times, whether in life or death are in His hand. The hymn writer penned these words:

“I’ll praise Him in life, I’ll praise Him in death,

 I’ll praise Him as long as He lendeth me breath”

Questions:

Would you today, willingly surrender your life totally to Jesus and trust your times into His hand, knowing that He makes no mistakes? 

Susannah had a remarkable meeting with Jesus and He spoke with her face to face. We may not have had an experience like that but as Peter writes, “Whom having not seen we love.” As you read Psalm 31 today will you pray the prayers that David prays in the Psalm?

TO LIVE IS CHRIST TO DIE IS GAIN

Bible Reading:  Philippians 1:12-30

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” [Philippians 1:21]

Here is a remarkable statement revealing Paul’s attitude to life and death. He is a prisoner in Rome. He is in chains [Philippians 1:7] and if found guilty might face death as a martyr, but he is ready for that [Philippians 2:17].

As Paul faces death he is ready, if that is what God intends for him, but if the Lord allows him to remain alive then he will live his life fully for Christ. He is not bargaining with God to extend his life and making a promise to serve Him more fully if he does so. If he lives he will continue to serve Jesus – something he has already been doing, but if he dies then he counts that as gain.

It is not so much that he wants to die but longs for the closer presence of Christ that death would bring. He is hard pressed between the two options because he also has a strong sense of duty continue to serve the church in Philipi so that they might grow and mature in their faith.

Whether he lives or dies Paul will not be ashamed but will magnify Christ.

What a magnificent view of life and death. No fear here – just a sense of the gain that death will bring, but also a commitment to serve Christ and see others grow and mature in their faith.

Questions: 

As a Christian how do you view death? Do you see it in the same way that Paul sees it? 

Paul is determined that whether he lives or dies he will not be ashamed. Are you seeking to live life in such a way that when you face Jesus you will not be ashamed? What do you think this means?

JESUS IS COMING BACK

Bible Reading: Matthew 24:1-51

One of the clearest statements in the Bible is that Jesus is coming back to earth. The world as we know it will come to an end. When Jesus ascended into heaven an angel said to the watching disciples, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” [Acts 1:11]. John, the apostle, affirms this in the book of Revelation, “Look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye shall see Him” [Revelation 1:7]. Christ’s coming is mentioned throughout Scripture. The world will one day acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bow before Him, both in heaven and on earth [Philippians 2:10-11].

The disciples asked Jesus what would the sign of Jesus’ second coming. He did not tell them when He is coming but gave them a clear picture of what would happen before He comes. Then He gave them four warnings. Firstly, don’t be deceived by people who say they are the Christ [Matthew 24:4]. Secondly, don’t be afraid because of the awful things that will happen on the earth before Jesus come [Matthew 24:6]. Thirdly, Don’t give up when things become difficult [Matthew 24:13]. Fourthly, He says don’t be surprised at His coming because He will come when people are not expecting Him to come [Matthew 24:44].

John Wesley was once asked, “What would you do that is different if you warned that Jesus is coming in the next twenty-four hours?” Wesley responded, “I wouldn’t change anything. I would carry on doing what I am doing now!

Questions:

How would you answer the question that was put to John Wesley? Are there things that you would be embarrassed about and want to change?

In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus tells the parable of five wise and five foolish virgins. This has to do with Jesus’ second coming. What is the message of the parable and how does it apply to you?

JESUS IS PREPARING A PLACE FOR US

Bible Reading:  John 14:1-18

Jesus finished His work of redeeming us on the cross, making it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to know God and be saved, but what happened when Jesus left the earth to go back to His Father in heaven?

Firstly, He took back for Himself the glory that He laid aside when He came to earth. He prayed before His death and resurrection, “O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” [John 17:5]

Secondly, Jesus is interceding for us before His Father. Through Him we come to the Father [Hebrews 4:13-15]. He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us [Hebrews 7:25]. The Greek word ‘entunchano’ translated as intercession has the meaning of someone pleading on behalf of another. Jesus stands before the Father on our behalf.

Thirdly, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and He has promised that He will come again to receive us to Himself that we might be with Him forever [John 14:1-3]. The great thing is not the type of home that we will have but that we will be living in the presence of Jesus and enjoying Him forever.

Fourthly, He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is the conquering King far above every principality and power. All things are under His feet and He is the head over all things to the church [Ephesians 1:20-23].

Finally, He receives His faithful children when they leave this present life. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he looked into heaven and saw Jesus, standing at the right hand of God. As they stoned him he called on God, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” [Acts 7:55, 59]. Can there be any greater reward than to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

Questions:

Read through todays passage from John 14:1-18. What promises does Jesus makes to us in this passage?

What comfort do you find in what Jesus says in John 14:1-18? What does Jesus say about the Holy Spirit?

OUR HOPE IS IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-58

“Because I live, you shall live also” [John 14:19]

Why is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead so difficult for many people to accept when it is more historically verified than many other things that we take for granted. In this chapter the apostle Paul is addressing some in the church in Corinth who were denying the resurrection.

He begins with a list of those who saw the resurrected Christ including five hundred people who saw Him at one time. The resurrected Christ had even appeared to him. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead then our faith is in vain and we become false witnesses. But Christ did rise from the dead!! Death is the last enemy to be destroyed [verse 26] but Jesus has conquered death. The sting of death was sin but Jesus destroyed it on the cross. He died to set us free and rose again that we might have life.

Christ is the first to rise from the dead never to die again. Others were raised from the dead, but then later died. One of those who was raised from the dead was Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, but at a later date would die. To Martha Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:25-26]

Jesus was resurrected never to die again. Paul makes course clear the course of events – Jesus is the first to rise from the dead. Literally, He is the first fruits, and after Him, those who belong to Jesus, when He comes will be raised from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:20-23].

Questions:

The gospel is good news. What are the key statements that Paul makes about the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11?

Why is the resurrection so fundamental to the Christian message?

What does it mean that Christ is the first fruits of those who rise from the dead?