September 12, 2023
A fresh perspective: How followers of Jesus might be reflecting on this present life in the life to come.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
THE GLORY DAYS IN REALM I:
Take John and Jim: two World War II veterans who are now 99 years old. They used to be enemies before they found themselves in the same foxhole together during the war. Now, as dear friends, they are sitting in their local bar talking about - you guessed it: The Glory Days; the days of noble acts of courage, of taking a bullet for your friend, of giving him your last sip of water so he can survive until you get him help. Well, those days can’t be repeated now. Today, these veterans can hardly lift their beer to their mouth, never mind taking bullets for one another. Yes indeed: those were The Glory Days.
THE GLORY DAYS IN REALM II:
Take Rob and Mike: They are in the Millennial reign of Christ, drinking from a mug filled with Living Water. What are they talking about? You guessed it: The Glory Days. The days of spiritual battle in which they were “more than conquerers.” Their crowns tell the story of their faithfulness in hard times - when the world was under the control of the wicked one; crowns that remind them of the opportunities they took to exercise overcoming faith in the face of fear; to love the unlovely, to be generous givers, to pray and fast for people’s souls, to persevere in difficult times, to simply be faithful in the little things. They’re rejoicing that they took those opportunities, with the understanding that those golden opportunities are now gone, never to be repeated for all eternity - thankful that they cashed in on those opportunities. The overcoming faith that was exercised in the midst of adversities in this present life, produced for Rob and Mike an eternal glory - a greater capacity to appreciate and enjoy God, and a greater place of intimacy with Jesus, forever! It’s a glory that can only be worked into the soul in this life, not in the life to come. That’s because there will be no need for faith in the life to come. And it’s my faith (in God, in His Word) which I exercise in this life that will be rewarded. My faith is not only pleasing to God, He promises to reward me for my faith:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him. He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6. (see also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Tim. 2:8-13, Rev. 3:19-22)
And how might Rob and Mike be reflecting on God’s grace and mercy? They’re thankful not only for the empowering grace of God that brought them through those difficult times, but they are also full of thanks to God for the mercy He showed them when they gave in to fear, or yielded to temptation. These failures are under the blood - part of their redemption story…history… His-story. For all eternity, even their failures will testify of the great mercy of God. Wait. How would my failures be part of my history in the kingdom to come? Here’s an example: Remember when the Apostle Peter denied Jesus? Remember how Jesus, in His mercy, forgave and restored Him? When I see Peter in the Kingdom to come, I picture myself walking up to him and saying, “Wow - you’re Peter - the one who God mightily used to save so many people…the one who walked on water (even if it was for a short trip), …the same Peter who denied Jesus three times!” Peter then, with a big smile on his face, would reply, “Yes, that’s me. So thankful for the grace God gave me to accomplish His will, and also for the great mercy He showed when I failed.” Rather than being ashamed of his failures, he views them now as part of his redemption story. He is grateful to God for how even his failures were used to encouraged so many of us who have failed - reminding us that God is merciful; the God of the second and third (and 4th, 5th, 6th and on and on) chance. It makes sense to me, for how else would I appreciate for all eternity the mercies God has shown me in this life? I can’t even picture myself saying, “Yes! God was so merciful to me. He forgave me of…well…I know I did some dumb stuff but I have no idea what.” Rather, I’ll smile like Peter and say, “Yes, isn’t God so good and merciful - He doesn’t “remember those sins against me.” It’s not that my failures will not be remembered, but they will “not be remembered against me.”
“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. - Ezekiel 18:22 (emphasis mine)
So, not only will I glorify God for His grace but also for His mercy; grace that helped me to overcome and that taught me how to deeply love people, and also His mercies that covered me from judgment, and cleansed me as I repented. I think of the movie Men In Black and the “memory-erasing” gadget that was used. God doesn’t put this gadget on His forehead nor on my forehead, push the button and erase His or my memory of my failures. God, who knows all things, cannot un-know anything. What God does is this: He puts my failures in His redemption story for His glory. Personally, I’d rather glorify Him in my victories than in the failures of which I repented. And yet, He will be glorified in both.
Back to the "glory that shall be revealed in us" through God's grace and our faithfulness in this life: of course, being in the Millennial reign of Christ and living with Him forever is going to be ultra-glorious. But this side of glory - the time we are living in now - is, in a sense, an even greater opportunity for glory. It’s a kind of “glory time” that can never be repeated.Understanding that this is a concept most Christians never consider, allow me to reiterate: most would agree that a certain kind of character is worked into us only through adversity and difficult times; no pain, no gain. This is the reason Paul was so excited about - get this: trials and tribulations! Listen to this man, who is either crazy for “rejoicing in his sufferings,” or else he’s very sane - seeing something in the future that we don’t yet see:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” - Romans 5:1-5 (emphasis mine)
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (emphasis mine)
He delighted in what? In insults and difficulties? When was the last time I delighted in an insult or a difficulty? Maybe Paul and those other heroes of the faith saw something I haven’t yet seen. Moses too, saw his future reward, which gave him perspective and, by faith, counted his suffering as heavenly currency; great riches! Moses considered…
“…the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” - Heb. 11::23-26
And what was the reward? He knew he would share a greater place of intimacy with King Jesus in His coming kingdom. And this great reward is for any individual who is an overcomer:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me. To the one who overcomes, I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” - Jesus (Revelation 3:20-22)
As followers of Jesus, we want to experience intimacy with Jesus, but I’ve noticed that with many, the thought of co-ruling with Jesus and taking on positions of authority is not a pleasant one. Perhaps it’s connected with the thought of taking on more responsibility. However, true intimacy is always connected to authority. The more authority God gives you, the more intimacy you have with Him. If you want to have a close relationship with the CEO of your company in which you’re employed, then you need to be a faithful worker and “move up the ranks.” As the CEO recognizes your faithfulness and loyalty to him and to the company and promotes you, there may be opportunity to spend more time with him or her, enjoying each other's company.
Yes, all who are born again are in God’s family forever and share a degree of family intimacy and authority with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but which brother would have a greater opportunity for a deeper, more intimate relationship with his father: the one who worked with his father, carrying on his business or the one who didn't? Similarly, your loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus will not only give you a greater degree of intimacy with Him (both now and in the kingdom to come) but He will also confer on you kingdom authority - positioning you in a closer place with Him.
God built this longing for companionship and co-rulership with Jesus into our very design - it wasn't an afterthought. God didn't say, "I've created these beings, redeemed them...now what am I going to do with them?" Scratching His head, He then. says, "I've got it! I'll make them companions and co-rulers with My Son!" No. This is God’s original design and destiny; His purpose for each and every human being. But we only have this life to invest in this intimate relationship with God which will be rewarded in the kingdom to come with an actual eternal place of intimacy.
This is not a "works-based" salvation. We are saved [justified] by grace through faith in Jesus. But what we do after we've received Jesus and His wonderful gift of eternal life will determine our place with Jesus in the life to come. The Apostle Paul called this "the prize" for which he diligently worked and from which he didn't want to be disqualified (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). This is why Paul also exhorts us to "...work out your salvation [not justification, but our sanctification] with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure..." (Philippians 2:12b, 13). Our fear and trembling is not about losing our salvation - that's a free gift of God. But we can be disqualified for our reward - the prize of an intimate place with Jesus in the kingdom to come.
In other words, the believer can either be a saved follower or a saved fool. The saved follower - denying himself, taking up his cross and, as Jesus' apprentice, experiencing intimacy with Him by joining Him in His love for all people; or one can be a saved fool - living for only this-life, forfeiting an intimate relationship with God, both in this life and in the life to come. There will probably be some saved fair-weather-friends in between those two, but you get the idea. C. S. Lewis said, "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither." The Apostle John said, "And now, little children, abide in Him [in His love for all people] so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink in shame at His coming." (1 John 2:28). To say it in another way: this life really counts! We will either have reward or regret when we stand before Jesus on That Day. Jesus Himself said, "For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done." (Matthew 16:27)
There are conditions for this intimacy now and co-rulership in the kingdom to come. By God's grace, we must overcome: “To the one who overcomes I will grant the right to sit with me on My throne...he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:21-22). We can either align with our design and destiny, or we can move away from it - making efforts to hone out a life for ourselves that fits our comforts and conveniences. And this life is all we have to overcome the flesh, world and devil; to learn the lessons that give Jesus reason to confer on us this dignified position with Him in the kingdom to come. As Jesus inferred, not everyone has an ear to hear this. Some will dismiss this idea of co-ruling as "self-serving" or "selfish." Again, not everyone can hear what Jesus is saying here, and that's just the way it is.
Scripture makes it clear that in the Millennial reign of Christ, there will be the removal of all adversities. What we call The Evil Trinity - the (sinful) flesh, world and devil - will not be present in the coming Kingdom: the flesh (our bodies) will be resurrected and glorified (no more of those crazy pulls), the world will be a happy place (Jesus will be the righteous King reigning) and the enemy will be bound (no accuser or tempter). Hallelujah! No more adversities. No more sinful flesh, world and devil! But, with the removal of these adversities will also be the removal of those golden opportunities for character and reward. They are forever gone. And it’s my proven character that Jesus will reward. I’m sure there will be some kind of growth in the coming Kingdom, but not the kind that builds proven character into our souls through troubles and tribulation. And we develop this character only in this life. This thought should awaken us to the beautiful and purifying fear of the Lord: focusing on Jesus and His Kingdom, and joining Him in His love for all people, living by faith in His word, knowing that if I stray from His word, I can forfeit great reward both in this life and in the life to come. This is what happened to the disobedient children of Israel when they didn’t take to heart His word, but instead, hardened their hearts:
“…the word they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united with those who listened with faith”…Today if you hear His voice don’t harden your heart…” Hebrews 4:2b, 7b (emphasis mine)
That’s why Paul gave us this perspective - that our present sufferings aren’t worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). Paul understood that without holding on to our future hope in glory, we would not have the courage to endure the trials and testings of this life. And whatever character produced in me in this life is sealed for eternity. I take that character with me into glory. Those who think, “I’ll just wait until glory to do all those noble, loving deeds that Jesus prompts me to do…” will have a rude awakening when they find out the opportunities are gone…forever.
The reward of a greater place of intimacy with our King Jesus is indeed something that can only be attained in this life, and will be finalized at the Judgment Seat of Christ - the Bema - the believer's final judgment of his/her works. This will determine your eternal reward based on faithfulness, obedience and how well you've loved with a pure motive (see 2 Corinthians 5:7-11; 1 Corinthians 3:9-17; Matthew 5:42-48; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, 1 Timothy 1:5; John 15:9-15).
This crazy time I'm living in today, a time of troubles and tribulation, with all its opportunities for building character and attaining His reward, will never be repeated in the life to come. Therefore, the opportunities afforded me today should be looked at as a privilege, a blessing, for this is the only shot I have at enlarging my capacity to enjoy God and secure an intimate place with Jesus in the kingdom to come. I am truly living in The Glory Days right now, and the glorious opportunities are before me every day.
You might as well give up on trying to fulfill all your desires in this life. Because we are fallen creatures in a fallen world, I guarantee your desires cannot be fully satisfied in this life. But they will be fulfilled in the life to come. C.S. Lewis put it this way, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Yes, God grants and fulfills many temporal desires and we ought to receive these blessings with thanks and joy. But to pursue total fulfillment of those desires will leave us high and dry. Rather, we are to pursue Jesus and His Kingdom in this short life which is "but a vapor" - as apprentices of Jesus, joining Him in His rich love for all people. The victorious warriors are those men and women who see this life as a training, purifying time in preparation for the glorious kingdom to come - like a bride preparing for her wedding: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to Him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and His bride has prepared herself." (Rev. 19:7).
Missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred for his faith, wisely said, “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” C. T. Studd wrote, "Only one life twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last." Therefore, be encouraged and count this present time as a precious gift from our Lord. My brother and my sister, I hope these following words of encouragement (below) will get you so thrilled with this precious gift of life our Lord is granting you, that you’ll seize the day with a renewed devotion to your Lord, joining Him in His love for all people - for we never know when it will be our last “Glory Day!”
"Be courageous. This is the day to live by faith in His Word and not in fear. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. You bear His image - He shares with you His beauty, truth & love. Let your light shine in this world. You are being prepared for a great eternal kingdom - to co-reign with Jesus, your Lord. You are His precious one in whom He delights. You belong to Him! Forever! Love well. You’re invited to be Jesus’ Friend, His partner…the qualification being: to love others as He has loved you (John 15:12-14). Take all those opportunities in this life, today, to join Him - to partner with Him in love for all people. All. People. His power flows through the heart that aligns with love (2 Tim.1:7). Suffer well by drawing close to Him - it’s a great privilege to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Do those noble, small acts of obedience. Be faithful in the little things. Do all your work unto Him and not for people’s recognition or reward. Make sure God’s recognition and reward are enough (Colossians 3:23-25, Galatians 1:10). Be willing and ready to share the Gospel - this wonderful Good News: “Believe in Jesus Christ and receive His awesome gift of eternal life!” Then, in the Kingdom to come, when we’re sitting down drinking Living Water together, we’ll have much to rejoice over and very little regret as we reflect on those Glory Days we’re living in right now."
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (emphasis mine)
Therefore, whether we are at home [in this body, in this life] or away from home [and with Him], it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him. For we [believers] will be called to account and must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives, the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord [and understand the importance of obedience and worship], we persuade people [to be reconciled to Himl]. 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 Amplified Bible [addition mine - in brown]
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. - Prov. 9:10
Contact Michael @ firstname.lastname@example.org