My thesis for this final Wednesday in Lent is that the greatest event in the history of the world is yet to come. It is the event which brings together Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Ascension. It is the return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of every human being, the judgment of the world, and the new world—the Paradise of the new Garden of Eden—in which Jesus will live with His people, forever.
Where I have used these Wednesdays to illustrate some of the wrong beliefs about these greatest events in the history of the world, I do so, sparingly, regarding The Last Day. There are so many ideas out there. Many of you have heard of the Rapture, which teaches that both the dead and living Christians will be translated to heaven, leaving only unbelievers on the earth, the Antichrist will come to power and, after seven years, Jesus will return, defeat the devil and the Antichrist, and reign on earth for one thousand years.
Those wrong teachings came out of bad theology that took root in the 1800s. The good theology and correct teaching has been in the New Testament, all along, and goes like this.
First, “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 (1 Thessalonians 4:16).”
This will take place with no warning; Jesus will return like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), descending from heaven just as He ascended to heaven. But, He will stop short of the earth, remaining in the air above the earth.
All of the dead, from Adam & Eve up to then, will be raised. With the resurrected, all living people will meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He will separate them into two groups—the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:32-33). The sheep are the believers, and they go on His right. The goats are the unbelievers, and they go on His left.
This is going on in the air, above the earth, because God is busy destroying the earth and recreating it (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Now comes the judgment. The unbelievers are judged in their sins. Their sins had not been removed from them, for they had not lived, by grace through faith, under the salvation of Jesus Christ (John 3:36, 5:29). The unbelievers, along with the devil and all his demons, will be damned to hell, and the lid will sealed upon it so that they can never get out (Revelation 20:3, 10, 15).
Now, it’s the believers’ turn to be judged. But, the believers are not judged in their sins, for their sins had been removed from them, for they lived by grace through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ (John 5:24).
So, for what will the believers—that’s you—be judged? The Lord Jesus will reward you for the good works of your lives. As you want to ask, “What good works did we do?” Jesus has the surprising answer. It’s not that you built the better mousetrap, or won the Super Bowl, or found the cure for cancer.
Perhaps surprisingly, the good works you do are the everyday things that are right in front of you. The Lord Jesus says that when you give a glass of water to the least of His brothers, and clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned—that is, when you do all of the things that others need from you, each day, simply to live, doing these things from the love of Christ which dwells in you—you do these things for Jesus, and these are the good works for which you will be rewarded on the Last Day (Matthew 24:34-40).
Mothers and fathers taking care of their children. Workers accomplishing their tasks. Children doing their homework and the chores given them by their parents. Neighbors helping neighbors. All of the seemingly mundane tasks of life that give us opportunity after opportunity to show the love of the Lord Jesus, to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.
We were created first to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind. Then, we show that we love the Lord by loving our neighbor as we love our self (Matthew 22:37-40).
Jesus will give the crown of glory to all of His sheep (1 Peter 5:4). They are now prepared to descend to the newly recreated earth, the new Garden of Eden, the Paradise of eternal life, where they will dwell with the Lord Jesus forever, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:1-4).
Whew, this seems like a lot. I’ll summarize it:
- All people, of all time, will meet the Lord Jesus in the air.
- The believers will be gathered on His right, and the unbelievers on His left.
- The unbelievers will be judged in their sins and sent to eternal damnation with the devil and all his demons.
- The believers will be rewarded for all they did in faith toward the Lord Jesus.
- As this is occurring, the Lord will be destroying and recreating the earth.
- After the judgment, the Lord and His people will descend to the new earth, to live forever.
Oh, but I have left out a key thing: whom will you be? Of course, you will be you, but you will be the new you. From 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, we learn four things about the new us—we learn the former things and the new things.
First, these present bodies of ours go to the grave because they are perishable bodies. None of us can escape death. But, the body that Jesus will resurrect on The Last Day will not be able to die, ever again—it will be imperishable.
Second, these present bodies of ours will be sown into the earth in dishonor. It is a horrible thing for a living, breathing human being to be dead and still. It is equally horrible to be closed shut in a casket, and laid in the earth with a mound of dirt over us, or to be pulverized to ashes by cremation. But, in the resurrection, we will be raised in glory, in bodies which will never again suffer a moment of dishonor.
Third, these present bodies of ours will be sown into the earth in weakness. What is it that will kill us: will it be a disease, will we have an accident, will we simply wear out from the wearing out of old age? Whatever it is, it will weaken us to the point of death. But, the resurrection body will be one of power, never again to be weakened.
Fourth and finally, these present bodies of ours will be sown into the earth the natural bodies which they are, prone and obligated to the laws of this natural world. But, the resurrection body will be a spiritual body. This, we can barely contemplate, for there is nothing in the natural world which mirrors it.
Here is what we know, from the Word of God. We will be like Jesus, and we will see Jesus for who He is—the Son of God made man in the womb of Mary, born at Christmas, died on Good Friday, raised on Easter, ascended forty days later, and returned to earth to give us every last thing that our Father has promised.
Finally, we will be at home in Paradise, where no sin, no Satan, no sorrow will ever again visit us. Pure joy awaits.
These are the greatest events in the history of the world, dear Christians. They were promised by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and delivered to you—free of charge—by the Holy Spirit.
These are the greatest events in the history of the world, done for you that you might live in the sure and certain hope of eternal life in Paradise.
And so you do.
And so you do!
All praise to Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Alleluia! Amen.