Its Value (cont)
Third, the true Christian hope is a great incentive to holiness of life and diligence in service. This is primarily because we are going to meet our Lord for the first time face to face, and immediately after that at His Judgment Seat give account to Him of our lives as Christians and service for Him. There will be no escaping that review with the One who knows us completely. The present effect of this prospect is very salutary, as 1 John 3.3 indicates: "And every one that hath this hope set on him (Christ) purifieth himself, even as he (Christ) is pure" (1 Jn 3.3, RV). Our destiny is to be made perfectly like our glorious Lord. Therefore, let us seek by His grace and the constant filling of the Holy Spirit to gradually become less different in character and ways from Him now in anticipation of that day of the consummation of our hope. We are His Bride, preparing our wedding garments even now (see Rev 19.8). Peter, when speaking of the later dissolution of the present heavens and earth by fire in the final judgments of the day of the Lord, also spoke of the present effect these solemn truths should have upon every believer today (see 2 Pet 3.11-15). So the consideration of both the positive and negative aspects of future events and our part in them should have a deep effect upon us now. We must respond by stirring ourselves us up to ever-increasing holiness of daily life and untiring diligence in service during the remaining period of the Lords longsuffering towards both unbelievers and ourselves, and by ensuring harmonious relationships with our fellow-saints in the Body of Christ. Am I ready to meet my Lord and look into His kind, but searching, eyes, unashamed before him?
Fourth, the hope of the Lords personal return has always been a great assurance and comfort to believers facing death, both their own and that of other believers. 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18 is the classic passage on the subject, being a revelation given by the Lord to Paul. Those who die physically after trusting Christ, but before the rapture of the Church, will not miss out on any part of their future inheritance in Christ, but be resurrected slightly before the living saints are raptured to meet the Lord in the air with them. We shall all be reunited then with each other and ever afterwards be with the Lord we love and look for. This passage further confirms that there will be a generation of Christians who will never have to die. It could be ours! This is our "blessed hope" (Tit 2.13), although that passage may also have in view the "glorious appearing" of Christ when He descends to the earth later to judge and reign.
1 Corinthians 15.51-57 further reveals that, at the first resurrection and Rapture, the present earthly bodies of all the saints, whether dead or alive then, will be instantly transformed into the perfect likeness of Christs own spiritual and incorruptible body of glory, never to be touched by death again. What a victory Christs resurrection was for Himself and all His people! Death has always been an unnatural event for mankind; we were not originally created to die, but sin brought death into the whole world system. Hence, mankind, believers included, all fear death. It is "the last enemy" that will be destroyed under Christs mediatorial kingdom (1 Cor 15.26). But this chapter clearly reveals that death is a defeated foe since the resurrection of Christ, so that it is just a matter of time before it is eliminated from Gods universe in the lake of fire and believers are all rescued from its clutches.
There are many promises given to us as believers naturally fearful in facing death one day, assuring us of the personal presence of the Lord in the event and the wonderful prospect thereafter of immediately being present with Him, who is our truest Home for eternity. This, Paul assures us in Philippians 1.23, is "very far better" than continuing to live in this world. Do we really believe this truth? Are we really ready, if need be, to die and be with Christ? Equally, are we really eagerly awaiting our possible rapture to heaven before completing our natural earthly lives? Or do the things of earth and this life still hold us back from entering into the good of all that Christ accomplished for us in His death and resurrection?
Fifth, the Christians hope is Christ-exalting, resulting directly in our worship and appreciation of Him. Revelation 19.10 asserts that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy". Christ is the centre and key to all prophetic Scripture. As the Lamb of God slain at Calvary, but now glorified in heaven and on the throne of God, He is the basis of all redemption, the subject and object of universal worship, and the only One worthy to judge the world and reclaim it for God. Our eager hope is to join the heavenly chorus of worship heard by John in his vision of Christ "in the midst of the throne" (Rev 5.9). But how much do we really appreciate our Lord and Saviour today?
Finally, the Christians hope is glorifying to God. Gods consummating purpose in the whole creation of the universe is that at the end of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, after He has subjected the whole world to Himself, Christ will surrender the authority of the whole Kingdom to God His Father, and as Man be subject to the Father, in order that "God may be all in all", given His rightful place in His own universe (1 Cor 15.24-28). When we give God His rightful place in our lives, all will ultimately be well, despite present trials and opposition, and we shall also, incidentally, but abundantly, be eternally blessed in Christ, made perfectly like Him and with Him in glory. The predicted end of our Christian hope gives God all the glory. Do we also now?
The Christians hope, therefore, is somewhat different from the hope of Israel, mentioned at the beginning of these articles, although both centre upon the person and work of Christ, the Jewish Messiah as well as the Christians Lord and Saviour. The main differences can best be appreciated if we compare the last few verses of the New Testament, which largely concerns the Church, the heavenly people of God, with the last few verses of the Old Testament, which largely concerns the nation of Israel, the earthly people of God. The former speaks of a faithful Jewish remnant of true believers who appreciate the Lords (Jehovahs) name. These are preserved through the burning fires of His fierce wrath upon earth, and rewarded afterwards when Christ comes as the Sun of righteousness to judge the wicked and heal the wounds of the believing remnant. It ends with a stern warning that, if Israel does not repent when the latter-day Elijah comes before the great and terrible day of the Lord, He will smite the earth with a curse (Mal 3.16-4.6). The latter, by contrast, is a personal message from the Lord Jesus Christ addressed to the same local churches as are addressed in the first three chapters of the book. The Lord Jesus speaks as the Root and Offspring of David, which gives the Jewish connection and the millennial aspects of the matter, but also as the Bright and Morning Star, which appears before the Sun of Righteousness ever rises, as in Malachis prophecy (Rev 22.16-21).
This would tend to confirm what we have already indicated, namely, that Christ will return for His Bride, the New Testament Church, before He comes to rescue His people Israel and reward the faithful believers amongst them, in fact, before the Great Tribulation begins. Certainly, the Lord Jesus ends His personal message to us by saying, "Surely I come quickly", which supports the truth of the imminence of His return for us, other predicted events occurring after that great event. Surely, we would wish to re-echo Johns reply to this promise, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus". The Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, has promised to come back again for us very soon. That is our true Christian hope. But, are we really waiting for Him, ready for review, and careful to please Him only? To this end, may "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen" (Rev 22.21, RV). For, unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament ends with a blessing bestowed in view of our living, joyful, and glorious hope in Christ.