LEAD! A.12 Christ’s Return

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In Which Christ Comes Back to Judge and Remake the Earth, and We Receive Our Reward

The End. Christ’s Return is the completion of our theology. Faith will be made sight, all nations will bow before Him, and we will dwell in the fulness of the Father’s eternal presence as His kingdom comes at last. Our sin will be no more, for the Spirit’s work of salvation and sanctification is finished as His bride is conformed to His character.

Though not everyone will be happy about it…

Adoration

Psalm 75

Bible

Revelation 20:11 – 21:8

Revelations is probably the most misinterpreted book of the Bible. Since Christ left, practically every generation of Christians were certain that Christ would return in their lifetimes — a track record which should make us wary of similar claims today! [C-1]

Yet even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and someday history really will come to an end. Christ will return — and not as a humble babe, but as a triumphant king:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Christ’s installation as king truly is the end of the world. The old order or creation will be completely undone — including death itself:

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is [the Book] of Life.

The Bible repeatedly hints at two kinds of judgement, represented here by different books. The Book of Life is a recurring theme in Scripture, and in the New Testament is associated with believers in Christ. The other “books” are often called the “Book of Works”, for:

And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

None of the dead can escape this review:

The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Intriguingly, Death itself gets judged as well:

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Passages like this are sometimes misunderstood to imply that we are graded “on a curve”, and that heaven is for those whose good deeds outweigh their bad.

Yet, while the dead are explicitly judged by the Book of Works, the passage doesn’t even mention the consequences of that judgement. Conversely, the penalty for not being in the Book of Life is extremely severe [C-2]:

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Anyone who fails to submit the name of Christ will miss out on His renewed kingdom:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

The sea often symbolizes trouble and danger, neither of which is part of the new creation:

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Unlike pagan religions, which see history as cyclical or never-changing, Christianity is inherently progressive: we begin in a garden, but end in a city. [C-3] We start with God as our Father-Creator-King, but find our consummation in Christ as our Savior-Redeemer-Husband.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

The curse of Genesis 3 is finally lifted, and we can at last dwell “naked and unashamed” in God’s life-giving presence [C-4]:

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

What a glorious vision! And it is no mere fantasy, but a divine promise – in writing, no less:

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, [fn] “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And we can trust in that promise — and that vision — for both are rooted directly in the character of Christ:

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

Christ is our source and our destination, the cure for our disease and the satisfaction of all our hungers. And everything He has is ours, as His heirs [C-5]:

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Though not everyone will enjoy those riches:

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Christ is coming. The same God who created the universe, whom we rebelled against, will reestablish a new heaven and a new earth. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life will enjoy eternity in His presence, the way life was originally meant to be lived.

Are you ready for His return?

Conversation

  1. When do you think Christ will return? If you turned out to be wrong, what difference would it make?
  2. How would you respond to someone who says, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you do more good than evil?”
  3. Does your faith look backward to the Garden of Eden, or forward to the City of God?
  4. What aspect of heaven do you most often think about and look forward to? How has your understanding of heaven shifted over the years?
  5. What must we overcome to inherit Christ’s promises?

Decision

  • Repentance: Which of the sins in Revelation 21:8 are you susceptible to?
  • Action: Are you sure your name is in the Book of Life? What can you do to make sure?
  • Worship: Praise God in advance for the joy of heaven.

Explore More

For Next Week

Enjoy your vacation! We’ll see you in January when we begin a new series on Christian Character, and learn what it means to overcome.

References

Blue Letter Bible. “Revelation 20 – New King James Version.” Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008. 15 Nov 2008. < http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Rev&c=20&t=NKJV >

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