GCL A.12 Christ’s Return: His Judgement, Our Reward

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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…

Memory Verse: “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.'” — Revelation 21:3 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading

  1. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings
    • 31. The Return of Christ: When and How?
    • 33. The Final Judgement and Eternal Punishment
    • 34. The New Heaven and New Earth
  2. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (pdf)
    • 98. The Return of Christ
    • 100. Heaven
    • 101. The Beatific Vision
    • 102. Hell
  3. 31. The Return of Christ: When and How?
  4. 33. The Final Judgement and Eternal Punishment

Adoration

Read Psalm 75. How does God judge?

Bible

Revelation 20-21

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!

[Discuss: When do you think Christ will return? If you turned out to be wrong, what difference would it make?]

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 conquering king:

{20:1} Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

{2} He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

{3} and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

And a righteous judge:

{4} And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then [I saw] the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received [his] mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

{5} But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection.

{6} Blessed and holy [is] he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

This thousand year period (“millennium”) is a subject of great debate. Does it refer to a future time of Christ’s earthly rule over sinful man, the present Church Age, or something else entirely? Alas, we probably won’t know for sure until it is all over:

{7} Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

{8} and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number [is] as the sand of the sea.

{9} They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

{10} The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet [are]. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The important thing is that someday all uncertainty and confusion will be over, because God Himself will straighten everything out:

{11} 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:

{12a} 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 “Books of Works”, for:

{12b} 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:

{13} 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:

{14} 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 Books of Works, the passage doesn’t even mention the consequences of that judgement; only Death and Hell are punished at this time, as far as we know.

Conversely, the penalty for not being in the Book of Life is extremely severe :

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

[Discuss: How would you respond to those who say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you do more good than evil?”]

Conversely, those who submit to the name of Christ will experience the fullness of His renewed kingdom:

{21:1} 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:

{2} 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. We start with God as our Father-Creator-King, but find our consummation in Christ as our Savior-Sanctifier-Husband.

[Discuss: Does your faith look backward to the Garden of Eden, or forward to the New Jerusalem?]

{3} 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:

{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:

{5} Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “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:

{6} 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:

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

[Discuss: What must we overcome to inherit Christ’s promises?]

Though not everyone will enjoy those riches:

{8} 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, as His eternal bride:

{9} Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

{10} And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

No longer falling short of His glory:

{11} having the glory of God. Her light [was] like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

{12} Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

{13} three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

Being built on the foundation of the apostles:

{14} Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

{15} And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.

{16} The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.

{17} Then he measured its wall: one hundred [and] forty-four cubits, [according] to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.

Rich beyond our imagining:

{18} The construction of its wall was [of] jasper; and the city [was] pure gold, like clear glass.

{19} The foundations of the wall of the city [were] adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation [was] jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,

{20} the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

{21} The twelve gates [were] twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city [was] pure gold, like transparent glass.

But the city’s greatest treasure can not be seen:

{22} But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Though we can see everything in His light:

{23} The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb [is] its light.

{24} And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.

{25} Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).

{26} And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

[Discuss: How do you picture Heaven? To what do you most look forward?]

But will you be ready for His return?

{27} But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Decision

  • Repentance: To which of the sins in Revelation 21:8 are you most susceptible?
  • Action: Are you sure your name is in the Book of Life? If not, how can you make sure?
  • Worship:  Praise God in advance for the glory of heaven.

For Next Session

Our next module will focus specifically on conforming our character to that of Christ.  Try to read through the book of Proverbs, and meditate on how Wisdom is contrasted with Folly, Mockery, and Simplicity.


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