The Future

The Future

Introduction

Yesterday is past, today is present and tomorrow is future. Yesterday’s decisions and actions define today’s choices. But tomorrow is still out of reach. Who wouldn’t like to have a glance into the future? Mankind is naturally curious and would like to find out what lies ahead. However, Deuteronomy 18:10-11 warns: “Let no-one be found among you who?… practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” Does this mean that our future is like a closed book? Not at all.

The Bible makes many references to the future. Jesus too talked frequently about it. For us, it is important to study these statements very carefully. However, we are not to speculate about specific time-tables of things to come. We acknowledge that our understanding is limited and our knowledge of certain bible passages is incomplete. We depend on God’s Spirit revealing to us what we need to know. To live in a close relationship with the Lord is the most important thing!

Life after Death

We realize that our physical life, compared with eternity, is very short. A man reaps what he sows, we are taught in God’s Word. Jesus, at his first coming to this earth, talked about two options we have to choose from: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). And: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Mt 7:13b). Today is the key to life: either we are for Christ, which means we accept him as our personal Lord and Saviour and have eternal life, or we are against him and reject him, which results in the eternal tragedy of being separated from God and his Kingdom forever.

Where we stand today

After Christ’s death on the cross, where he paid for all our sins, God raised him from the dead. This was the confirmation that God accepted this sacrifice of His Son in our place. Forty days later, Christ returned to His Father. The disciples received a tremendous promise: “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). Ten days later, Christ’s followers were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). With that new power they were able to fulfil Christ’s commission to go into all the world to bring the Good News to all the nations. Ever since, we live in the time of the Church, the time of grace. Today is our time to accept Christ’s offer of salvation and be part of the body of Christian believers (the Church) waiting for his second coming.

What can we expect?

The Jews as a nation have rejected Christ. This benefited us as Gentiles. The Good News and salvation was brought to us. However, the apostle Paul tells us: “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26 NLT). What will happen, when “the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ”?

The Rapture

Before God saves “all Israel” (the Jews), the present body of believers (the Church), will be taken up into the presence of God. The apostle Paul explains: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever” (1?Thess 4:16-17). What a glorious day! – Please note, we are not to speculate when this will happen! Jesus says: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).

Up in heaven

The raptured saints (those who have been snatched away from the earth), will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2?Cor 5:10). There, our works will be assessed, according to the materials we have used in building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ: “…?gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw?…?the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (see 1?Corinthians 3:12-16).

Because Christ has paid for all our sins and debts, we do not need to fear further punishment. Christ’s work is sufficient for the past, the present and the future. However, what has resulted from our life will be assessed. Works done in our own strength and good intentions are like wood, hay or straw. In contrast, things which have been the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives compare to the fire-proof materials of gold, silver or costly stones.

The Great Marriage Feast

Before it comes to the climax of the blessed marriage celebration between the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and his Bride, the believers, one thing must be settled. The accuser of the Saints will be removed. “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev 12:7-9). What a great victory for our Lord!

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:6-7). How privileged we are! This is our eternal destiny – to be one with Christ!

The Great Tribulation

After the salt of the earth, the Church, has been removed from earth, there is nothing to stop evil from gaining the upper hand. Antichrist will reign for 7 years. The first 3½ years he will act with some moderation, misleading Israel into believing he is some sort of a peace-maker. Then, however, he will show his real face and will desecrate the temple. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 24:15 (NLT) “…?The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about – the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.”

When the devil is thrown out of heaven, he will be let loose on earth, using all his evil power to torment the people. The diabolical triunity, Satan, Antichrist and the False Prophet will install a reign of terror, fear and destruction.

This is the time when everyone will have to make a final choice: “He (the beast) also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666” (Rev 13:16-18).

There has been a lot of speculation about this number 666. Fear and pressure have been exerted on believers. Let’s make it clear: a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Saviour will not be faced with that choice. We will be snatched away at the Rapture event. We will not be on earth during this second period of the great tribulation. For those, however, living during that awful time, the decision to accept the mark of Satan will be irreversible. But remember, God’s power is bigger than Satan’s power. Fortunately, the great tribulation will last only a limited time. Then God will intervene!

The Return of Jesus Christ in Power and Glory

At this point Christ will come to display his full power on this earth. Jesus refers to this event in Matthew 24:28-30 and further details are written in Revelation 19:11-16. The earth will be shaken in its foundations. The saints, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, will accompany the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Jesus will put his feet on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3-4) and the mountain will split apart.

The consequences of Christ’s return

Antichrist and the False Prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. …?The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur” (Rev 19:20).

Satan, the deceiver, will be bound for 1,000 years: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended” (Rev 20:1-3).

The saints of Old Testament times and those who have died during the time of the tribulation, will be raised to life (Mt 24:31 and Rev 20:4).

Christ will judge the nations: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ’Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world?…’ Then he will say to those on his left, ’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Mt 25:31-46).

The Millennium

This word is the Latin expression for 1,000 years. In Revelation 20:1-7 we are told that Christ will set up his kingdom here on earth and will reign on the throne of King David. Christ will be in the centre of everything and it will be a time of peace, justice and great glory. Here are a few points to take note of:

Satan will be bound and will have no power to deceive or mislead people.

The rebirth of the nation of Israel: “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31).

God’s covenant people will be gathered: “In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people” (Isaiah 11:11).

Israel will repossess its land. Ruined cities in Israel will be rebuilt. Wasteland will become like the Garden of Eden (see Ezekiel 36:33-35).

The throne of David is going to be re-established: “For this is what the Lord says: ’David will have a descendant sitting on the throne of Israel forever’” (Jeremiah 33:17).

In the Millennium there will be tremendous changes. Humans and animals will have more than enough food. Isaiah 11:6-7 describes total harmony: “The leopard will lie down with the baby goat; wild animals will live side by side and not devour each other and the little child will lead them all.”

Spiritual life will change dramatically, because we will live daily in the personal presence of Jesus Christ, who is the ruler on the throne of David. “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Worship and adoration of God as well as the celebrations in the temple will be so extraordinary and fulfilling, it cannot be compared with anything we have experienced so far. Everybody will come with great joy and expectations to Jerusalem to praise our wonderful Saviour.

For a short time at the end of the 1,000 years Satan will be released from his prison. The tribulation survivors, the ones who have not accepted the mark of the beast, as well as those who have been born during the Millennium, will be tried and tempted by Satan. They will still have the human nature like Adam and Eve. But in the presence of Christ they will also have the power to resist evil.

Now the time described by the prophet Isaiah is drawing close: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). But before this can happen, we will witness the Final Judgment Day.

The Great White Throne

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done” (Rev 20:11-13).

So far, we have talked about the believers of the New Testament who were part of the Rapture. Then we considered the saints of Old Testament times, and those who died during the time of the tribulation, who were raised to life to be part of the Millennium (Mt 24:31 and Rev 20:4). But what about the rest of human kind? It is now their turn to face the holy and just God at the Great Judgment. There will be no escaping, there will be no cheap excuses and no putting blame on others. Every person who has ever lived will be confronted with his or her deeds, thoughts and attitudes. Sin, rebellion in whatever form, separates from God and will at this moment be brought to light. Good deeds, popularity or even honourable achievements will not be able to save anyone. “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Eph 2:9). “However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5).

What counts, is the righteousness of Christ alone. Let’s not miss the chance to accept God’s free gift of salvation today, during the time of grace. We receive this gift only through faith in Jesus Christ. “Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:18-20).

By the power of the Holy Spirit those who trust Christ as their Saviour can become a new being and have their names recorded in the Book of Life! This is the real criteria! Because?… “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).

The Second Death – Hell

“Then death and the grave (Hades) were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death” (Rev 20:14).

In the New Testament we find about 160 texts which speak of the terrible consequences awaiting the unrepentant. The Lord Himself spoke about 70 times of this fact. Hell is the banishment from the presence of God: “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2?Thess 1:9). Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his wicked angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, ’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Mt 25:41). The Bible repeatedly says that both heaven and hell are eternal, everlasting! “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Mt 25:46). Over time, man has tried to negate or play down these tragic facts, but God’s Word is true, unmoveable, and will find its fulfilment.

The New Jerusalem – Heaven

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev 21:1-2).

This is what we are longing for! Even in our most beautiful dreams we do not come close to imagining how totally magnificent, how special this place will be. Here are a few facts:

Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many rooms?… I am going there to prepare a place for you?… I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

“God will wipe every tear from our eyes” (Rev 21:4).

“Never again will we hunger; never again will we thirst” (Rev 7:16).

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev 21:4).

“There is no temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22).

“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev 21:23).

“We will see his face, and his name will be on our foreheads” (Rev 22:4).

This is God’s eternal plan for you and me, for all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord! Hallelujah!

Peter Oppliger

Application to your personal life

Answer the questions below. You might need a separate sheet of paper for the answers. Discuss your questions with another Christian leader.

  1. Our source of information is the Bible. Why should we not speculate about the specific timetable of things to come?
    See Acts 1:7 and 1?Cor 13:9-10
  2. How is it possible to know where our dwelling place will be in eternity?
  3. We know that Jesus was born on this earth, lived, died and rose from the dead. Why did he come to this earth that first time?
  4. Christ is going to come to earth a second time (at the Rapture). When the trumpet sounds, he will appear on a cloud. See 1?Thess 4:16-17. What three things will happen next?
    a....................................................................................................
    b....................................................................................................
    c...................................................................................................
  5. According to 2?Cor 5:10, what will happen after the Rapture?
  6. God has planned a marriage feast for the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and his Bride (the believers) in heaven. Before this happens, there will be a war. Who will be fighting against who and why? See Rev 12:7-9
  7. The diabolical trinity refers to the ruling evil powers on this earth during the tribulation. Which three persons are meant by this?
  8. Why do all those who have accepted Jesus Christ in their life have no need to fear the number 666?
  9. Christ will return to earth one more time in power and glory. He will put his feet on the Mount of Olives and reign for 1,000 years (Millennium). Look up the given Bible references and list the consequences of Christ’s return: 1. Rev 19,20, 2. Rev 20:1-3, 3.Mt 24:31 and Rev 20:4, and 4. Mt 25:31-46
  10. What does this mean to you: “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no-one will take your crown” (Rev 3:11)?
  11. Good deeds cannot save us, what counts is the righteousness of Christ. In view of this, how does Mt 25:46 teach leaders in the church to address the topic about heaven and hell? Is your teaching well balanced?
  12. What is the best preparation for the future?
  13. People talk about the God of Love! What are we to think about the righteous God, the God of Judgement?