Kingdom Come (Revelation 20)

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What you just saw was a good and brief explanation of the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is THE GOSPEL, THE GOOD NEWS THAT LEADS TO SALVATION. It’s the gospel I preached on Easter three weeks ago and again last week at the Sonrise Music Festival.
Its the Good News that you and I get to be citizens of the Kingdom of God in good standing because Jesus Christ, the King, paid the penalty for our Treason, our sin of sitting on his throne, by dying on the cross. And then he guaranteed us who follow him a life after death with him in the Kingdom to come.
Jesus, our Lord and King, conquered death and the grave so that all who believe in him and swear their allegiance to Him as Lord and King will be forgiven of their treason and have eternal life with him.
That’s the Gospel! The Good News I’ve been talking about for a few weeks! And it’s glorious!
And while the Kingdom of God is already and always has been ruling the creation, ruling the earth, it is not only the “Upside Down” kingdom because all of it’s ways are the opposite to our natural human inclinationsit has also been the “Invisible Kingdom” because it exists above and beyond the natural physical world we live in. It is the Spiritual kingdom behind what we can perceive with our five senses. That is why it requires faith to understand it.
But this will not always be the case. There is a coming day when the Kingdom of God will become the physical ruling Kingdom over the whole earth, with Jesus himself as it’s king and those of us who are his subjects now will be ruling with him for a thousand years…in what we call the Millennial Kingdom.
Which is what I will be talking about today and next week.
So, let’s pray and get into it.

The Kingdom that Jesus is going to set up and rule when he comes back is commonly referred to as the Millennial Kingdom. And the reason for that, is because in Revelation 20, we are told that it will last for 1,000 years – a millennium. Which, is actually the only detail about the MK that Revelation gives us. All other details are found in the Old Testament prophets.
But let’s go ahead and start in Revelation and see where it takes us.
Revelation 20
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 anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
Revelation is written by John, the Disciple of Jesus, many years after Jesus rose from the dead. He had a long and detailed vision in which God gave him pictures of the future. The previous 19 chapters lay out details of the seven years of Tribulation in which many interesting and horrific things happen, culminating in the War of Armageddon, and finally the return of Jesus to earth. When Jesus does come back, he defeats all the armies of the Antichrist and saves the remnant of Israel as promised by God long ago.
Part of his defeating of the Antichrist involves throwing him and the False Prophet into the Lake of Fire, and here in chapter 20 we witness the imprisonment of Satan in the Abyss. He will be locked away so that during the thousand years of the MK, the people will be free from his lies and temptations. At the end of the thousand years he will be set free again for one last battle, which I’ll get to in two weeks.
Now that all of the enemies are dealt with, the Kingdom is ready to be set up. John continues…
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
There’s a lot going on here at the beginning of the thousand years to get the kingdom set up.  John speaks of thrones, and judges, and people being resurrected and ruling with Christ for the thousand years. Since we are talking about God doing stuff, it would seem that it could all happen in an instant. But it turns out, we learn from the prophet Daniel that all of this actually takes exactly 75 days.
Daniel did more than escape from a lion’s den. He is one of our major sources for end-times prophecy. I highly recommend reading his book.
Where the 75 day interval comes in is in the last chapter where Daniel has a vision of angels that are talking about the end of the world. One of them spells out how the second half of the tribulation is going to be 3.5 years – which is a number we see multiple places talking about the tribulation. Sometimes it is spoken as “a time, times, and half a time.” Sometimes it is 42 months, and sometimes it is 1,260 days. All time spans that equal 3.5 years on a 360 day year calendar, which is what the Jews used in ancient times.
So, it is well established from numerous sources that the Tribulation will be 7 years long with a significant marker at the exact middle which divides the period into two halves of 3.5 years or 42 months or 1260 days each.
But in one of the last things the angel says to Daniel, he gives him a different length of time. In speaking about the time after the midpoint of tribulation, he says..
Daniel 12
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.”
The “abomination that causes desolation” is what happens at the midpoint, so here the angel is saying that there will be a span of 1290 days until that abomination is cleared out, and that those who make it past the 1335 days are blessed.
And since we know that Jesus comes back on day 1260 after the midpoint abomination, that gives us 30 plus 45 more days, totaling 75 days in which several things must happen before the Kingdom is fully set up.
Some of those things include scenery adjustments.
  • A massive war was just fought, so there are bodies to be cleaned up.
  • Also, the various plagues of the tribulation have left the earth in pretty bad shape – actually uninhabitable (and it won’t be from global warming). Jesus will spend part of the interval literally regenerating the earth – bringing it back to a state probably similar to how it was when it was first created. Part of that will include Jerusalem becoming an elevated city where Christ will rule from high above all other cities. There will be other geographical changes as well, but  I’ll talk more about that stuff next week as I talk about what life will be like in the MK.
  • Today I want to focus on the human resources department – meaning who are the people that are going to populate this MK?
On the day that Jesus comes back to earth – ending the war of Armageddon in likely a matter or minutes or hours – by the end of the day, after the Beast and all who took his mark are destroyed, there will be three groups of people physically remaining on the earth.
One group will be the church, the bride of Christ, all of the Christians that were raptured out of the earth before the tribulation and returned with him as he came from the clouds to defeat the Beast’s armies. Hopefully every one in this room will be a part of that group.
When the rapture comes, and Jesus snatches us up to heaven, we will be given new bodies – glorified bodies like what He got when he rose from the dead. This is different than just having a soul in heaven. We will have actual bodies that will be similar to what we have now, but much better. And these are the same bodies we will have when we return to the earth with Christ and rule with him for the thousand years.
The Apostle Paul, writer of most of the New Testamant, describes it this way…
1 Corinthians 15
51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
That is the hope of the believer in the unseen Christ in the here and now. That on that day we will see him and we will live with him and reign with him.  And here at his second coming is when that hope becomes a reality.
The other group of people that will be on the earth the day Jesus comes back are the normal human beings who survived the tribulation. These will be people who were not raptured with the church seven years earlier, but had to endure the hell on earth that is the tribulation. And they somehow never took the mark of the beast and survived.
That group of normal humans can be further divided into two groups – those who are believers and followers of Christ, having come to faith in Him during the tribulation, and those who are non-believers.
And even the group of surviving believers can be further divided into the believing remnant of Jews that survived and finally recognized their Messiah – and the believing Gentiles.
Not all of these survivors will get to enter the Thousand Year Kingdom.
In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus preaches what is commonly called his “Olivet Discourse” – called so because he was on the Mount of Olives as he preached it. It is found in three of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I did a detailed teaching on this just before Christmas if you want the full scoop. But for now, just know that he spends time talking about what to expect in the end times, and in chapter 25 of Matthew – he gives three parables or stories to illustrate different major events of that period.
The first parable in chapter 25 is about the wise and foolish bridesmaids (or virgins) and is a parable about the rapture, when Jesus will return at an unexpected time, so we must always be ready.
The second parable is about a master who trusts his money to his servants and has certain expectations when he comes back. That parable is about the judgment for rewards for the members of the church. I’ll talk about that before we are done today.
The third parable is actually not a parable at all, but a true story about the future when Jesus comes back. You can tell it is not a parable by the language. Each of the other parables begin with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” the clue that this is a parable – a story to represent something else. This one doesn’t begin that way at all.
Let’s read it.
Matthew 25
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
This story is often used as a motivation for helping the less fortunate in our community, like the poor, and those in jail. We use the term “least of these” when referring to any kind of unfortunate group of people that need our help – like the unborn babies our country murders by the millions.
And while those are all noble causes, and things the church SHOULD do, and I think it’s fine to use this story as a motivator for such things. That is actually not what this story is about.
This story isn’t a story at all. It’s Jesus predicting the judgment of the survivors of the tribulation.
It begins with, “When the Son of Man [Jesus] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.” That’s exactly what is happening at the second coming. Jesus is coming to rule as King.
God the Father promised him this before the creation of the world. We see this in the prophetic Psalm 2.
Psalm 2
7 He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
That was Jesus, speaking through David, about a conversation he had with His Father, in which Jesus was promised the nations as his inheritance, the ends of the earth as his possession. And now, here at the end, he’s claiming it.
Back to Matthew…
Matthew 25
32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
At the end of the tribulation, apparently there will be survivors scattered over the remaining inhabitable land. Jesus will gather them all to Jerusalem, which is where his throne will be, and divides them into two groups.
One group he calls sheep, and the other he calls goats.
Jesus often used shepherd/sheep terminology when talking about his followers.
John 10
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.
The sheep are those who follow Jesus in obedience and allegiance. The goats are those who reject his rule.
In the ancient and modern Near East sheep and goats are frequently herded together. Sheep are docile, gentle creatures, whereas goats are unruly and rambunctious and can easily upset the sheep. Because they do not feed or rest well together, the shepherd often separates them for grazing and for sleeping at night.
And here at the end, the people are being divided like sheep and goats. The sheep are on his right in the place of honor. The goats are on his left in the place of dishonor.
Matthew 25
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Jesus offers those on his right entrance into the Kingdom that has been prepared and planned for this moment since before the creation of the world. Then he lists several things that they apparently and unknowingly did for him. And at their surprise, he points out that  ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
While these are good things to do for the less fortunate here and now, what Jesus is more likely referring to with regard to these survivors of the tribulation – are things they did during the tribulation. And specifically, things they did for the least of THESE…my brothers and sisters.
Who exactly is he talking about? The grammar would indicate he is referring to people who are standing near him. That’s what “THESE” implies, as opposed to “THOSE” –
Most likely, he is referring to the surviving remnant of the Jews – those who he kept safe, out of the reach of the Beast in Bozrah during the second half of the tribulation. And he might also be including any Christians living during that time as they would be a very marginalized and even hunted group of people in need of all these things Christ is talking about.
Basically, Jesus is commending these believers on acting in accordance with their faith by helping others in need during a time when such actions risked exposure and possible execution.
Jesus is saying to all these believers, who had been living out their faith in actions, well done! You have shown your true colors by your aid and assistance of each other and especially my remnant. Now, come into the Kingdom and share in my happiness!
Then he turns to the goats on the left who had not done any of these good things and says,  “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.”
Now, those who have a shallow understanding of Scripture might start thinking this is talking about works-based salvation. That the sheep were saved BECAUSE they did these things and the goats were condemned because they didn’t. But that is to misunderstand the cause and effect.
No one is rejected from entering the Kingdom on the basis of their deeds – only their allegiance to or rejection of the King.
BUT Scripture tells us over and over again that you can tell where someone’s heart allegiance lies by what they DO.
Jesus said, by their fruit (actions) you will know them. That “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
In other words, the fruit is determined by the root, not the other way around.
In other words, the sheep did these things BECAUSE they were Christ Followers.
Because when you are truly a follower of Christ, when your roots are in Christ – you will produce fruit of obedience to Him and his word, and do the kinds of things these sheep did.
If you are not a true Christ Follower, and your root is in yourself – that means you are following a different master and you will produce fruit/actions that show it.
In other words, the goats loved their own lives more than they loved Christ, so they did not chance helping those in need. And anyone who loves their own life more than Christ is not his true follower.  Jesus himself said so,
Mark 8
35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Jesus, in talking about the sheep and the goats, is talking about entrance into the kingdom here at the end of one age and the beginning of another. All the survivors of the tribulation that became followers of Christ during that time will now get to populate the regenerated earth with all of it’s new and awesome features that we will talk about next week. The survivors who had rejected Christ to this point will be sent to hell and ultimately the lake of fire with the Devil, his demons, and all human beings that have rejected Christ through the years.
My suggestion is to accept Christ as your King now, before he comes back to earth, so that you won’t have to worry about the sheep and the goats judgment.

So, that’s one group of people that will populate the regenerated earth. The believing Jew and Gentile survivors of the Tribulation. These will be the only natural people that are still in their earthly bodies.
The other groups will include us – the resurrected church, and will also include all the Old Testament believers and Tribulation martyrs that will now be resurrected during this 75 day interval.
That’s what John was talking about where we started today in Revelation 20.
Revelation 20
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
John specifically calls out the Tribulation Saints – those who were martyred, killed for their faith during the reign of the Beast in the tribulation. They refused to take his mark, and so they were beheaded. But now they are getting new bodies as they are resurrected and join the church in the government of the Kingdom.
John calls this the “first resurrection.” Which can be a little confusing since we know that there have been resurrections before this point. Basically, in studying these things we believe the “first resurrection” is not the first resurrection event in chronology, but first as in priority. This concept is prevalent in Scripture of “first” meaning first of importance rather than first in time.
Thus, this “first resurrection” encompasses all who are resurrected to eternal life rather than eternal death. That is the second resurrection that will happen later. The “first resurrection” began when Christ rose from the dead. He was both first in chronology and first in importance. The rapture of the church will include a mass resurrection. At the midpoint of the tribulation the two witnesses will be killed and resurrected. And here at the end of the age, we see the martyrs of the tribulation being resurrected.
We also learn from Daniel that the saints from before Christ will also be resurrected. People like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua, Moses, David, and so on. We will get to meet all the heroes of the Old Testament, because they get new bodies too and we will interact with them while living in the Kingdom.
That’s in addition to the seven years we already get to hang out with the likes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, and others of the New Testament who joined the church in the rapture. I can’t wait!
So, as you can see, this 75 day interval is going to be rather busy. Lot’s of moving parts. Whole bunch of people showing up with new bodies. People all gathering at Jerusalem to be judged. Remodeling the surface of the earth, and so on.

All of that will be pretty cool to watch, but there is one thing that is going to happen that will be of particular application to you and me, or at least those of us who plan on going up in the rapture rather than take our chances in the tribulation.
We will get judged too, but not in the same way that the sheep and the goats are judged. We will be judged for rewards and places of authority in the Kingdom based on what we did with the lives we have been given. In other words, your place and status in the thousand year Kingdom will be a direct result of what you do with your 50 to 100 years of life in the here and now. And as far as we can tell from Scripture, there is no “American Dream” in the Millennial Kingdom. Where you start is where you stay.
Jesus talks about this in the parable just before this bit on the sheep and goats.
Matthew 25
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This one is a parable, so the elements of this story represent something else. Clearly, the “man going on a long journey” is Jesus himself who has entrusted us, his disciples, his servants to manage his affairs while he is gone. To each of us, he gives certain abilities, spiritual gifts, talents, and such that he expects to be used in the service of growing his holdings. And what are the holdings that Jesus is interested in?  More people to add to his Kingdom. More people forgiven of their treason and adopted as sons and daughters of God.
Now before I talk about the good servants, let me talk about the wicked one. Again, those that look at this parable in a bubble while ignoring the larger concept of how salvation works might think he is called wicked because of what he did – and they would again be wrong.
This is yet another example of the true cause and effect. The root produces the fruit. Again, the only unforgivable sin that will end a person up in hell instead of heaven is the rejection of the forgiver. No amount of good can get you into heaven, and no amount of bad can keep you out. Jesus Christ built the bridge, and the only reason people go to hell is because they try to jump across instead.
Anyway, the servant isn’t wicked because he didn’t earn any return. He didn’t earn any return because he was wicked. Did you hear the way he describes the master?  Clearly he has a very negative view of him and thus does not know him at all. He is more concerned with his own neck than with caring about what the master wants. These are the outward actions of a heart that has rejected the King. And so he gets what all those guilty of treason get.
Whereas the outward actions of a heart that is devoted to the King will look like what the two good and faithful servants did. The truth about their hearts’ allegiance manifested in their actions of using what the master gave them for the master’s benefit.
And so, the master commends and rewards them.
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Basically, Jesus is pointing out once again that you will know them by their fruit. You will know who the true believers are by how they live for the master. Because that is what it means to be in the Kingdom – you live for the King.
In other words, Jesus did not save you and give you all of your unique talents, skills, personality, and such to use for your own benefit. He saved you and gave you all those things so you will use his gifts for HIS benefit – which will in turn result in your benefit – both in the here and now and in the age to come.
This is why Jesus tells us to store treasures in heaven rather than on earth.
This is why faith is about confidence in the unseen rather than the seen.
This is why Paul urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices as our proper worship.
My friends, this is why the New Testament especially is full of language urging us to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) Because this earthly life is simply training for the next life. Your whole life is a test, a training, a  practice for the REAL life that will begin when Jesus comes back to rule.
It’s similar to a sports team, where your playtime in the games depends greatly on how well you perform in practice and how much you sacrifice to be the best at the sport – the same will be true for us in the Kingdom.
It’s kind of like the difference between the world in a video game and the real world. I’ve never been much of a gamer but I occasionally like to play games on my phone, like word games, and racing games. In the racing games, the more you play, the more fake money you earn with which you can buy upgrades for your car. But as you get each upgrade, the levels just get harder, and so you keep playing and keep getting fake money and upgrades with seemingly no end in sight. It’s fun at first but then you start to realize that each level is really the same with just different graphics and bigger numbers for both the prizes and the cost of the upgrades. And by the time you realize that, you’ve been playing for hours only to look up from your phone to see that the real world has passed by and despite all the upgrades and fake money I earned I actually accomplished nothing at all. Nothing that will have any bearing on my real life, and with just a couple of clicks of my finger the game is deleted and all that I “accomplished” is gone. Erased from the digital realm where all that data is kept.
And I believe that this life is similar when compared to the real life that awaits us in the Kingdom to come. So many of us spend our days working our butts off to earn money to spend on upgrades for our houses, furniture, cars, vacations, clothing, and so on – only to find that the more money you make, things just cost more and look different.
But in the end, when this life is over, it will have all been for nothing and you will stand before the Lord with empty hands – nothing to give him out of all that you earned for yourself.
Paul talks of this…
1 Corinthians 3
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
He is speaking in allegory. He’s not talking about building physical things, but spiritual. He’s saying that only those things built on the foundation of obedience to Jesus Christ will survive the fire and will be rewarded. But everything else we do and build in this life that is not for the glory of and in service of the King – will be burned up and count for nothing in the next life. As Paul says, you yourself may still be saved – but as one just barely escaping the flames.
But I would argue that the chances of getting into heaven by the skin of your teeth are slim and only possible for those who have faith just before death, like the criminal on the cross next to Jesus. He had no opportunity to do anything for Jesus in the hours before he breathed his last.
For those like us in this room, who likely have years left in our lives with the full knowledge of the eternal rewards and consequences for our actions, don’t think you can make Jesus your Lord and then spend the rest of your life living for yourself thinking you are good to go. The simple fact that you have no intention of doing what Jesus commands is evidence that you are actually not in the kingdom at all.
This fact is illustrated by an interchange Jesus had with a rather good person who did all the right things….
Mark 10
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Sadly, too many people look at that story (not a parable, but something that really happened) and think it means we have to live a life of poverty to follow Jesus. Not true. Jesus was simply showing the man where his true allegiance lies. He was fine following commandment five through ten that Jesus quoted. But when told to give up his possessions, it showed that he was breaking commandment number one – “You shall have no other gods before me.”
He may have been following all the other commands, but it wasn’t out of love for God, but love for himself. And all his good works and all his riches now count for nothing.
Jesus then turns this interchange into a teaching opportunity that I think we can all benefit from today.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
In those days (similar to the prosperity gospel of today) it was believed that financial prosperity was a sign that you had earned God’s favor. And lack of financial prosperity was a sign that God was displeased with you. So, for Jesus to say that it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom, was like us saying it’s hard for Billy Graham and Mother Teresa to enter heaven. To their ears this sounded like heaven was an impossibility.
To which Jesus responds…
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
In other words – it is by GRACE through FAITH that we are saved – not by anything we can do, but by the miraculous grace and mercy of God that he forgives our treason through the death of His son. Salvation is indeed impossible for us, but made possible through the cross.
Now, we know that now, but his listeners didn’t know that stuff yet, so Peter speaks up and tries to make himself look good in comparison to the rich guy who wouldn’t give up his stuff.
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
To which Jesus responds with a beautiful promise that is applicable today.
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Sadly, many have used this as a prosperity gospel, suggesting you will get 10,000% return on whatever you give God. But that’s not what he said.
He’s saying, in the course of following Him, as you leave that which you are attached to in this life more than Jesus – things, family members, friends – you will receive 100 fold of what you left both in the here and now and in the next life.
What does that look like?
It’s called the church.
There’s a reason the church is called a family. If you came from a non-believing home and you have become an outcast because of your faith – you became part of a larger family that all love you in a way that not even blood relatives can. You now have many brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers, and children.
And even though we don’t operate this way much in the modern world – when the church first started as we read about in Acts – people in the church literally did give up homes and land and such, but gained a community worth so much more. A community that took care of each other’s needs such that no one was in need for anything. If you lack nothing, then quantity does not matter.
Basically, the main part of the reward in the here and now is getting to be a part of His church, his body, his family, which can replace 100 fold anything you have to leave in order to follow the King.
Then, in the Kingdom to Come, you will be rewarded even more as our Lord Jesus says to you
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
I don’t know about you, but that is what I live for every day.
Let’s pray