Preparing for Death 4 (Scroll down for parts 1-3)

2 Corinthians 3:18.

We have been meditating on the fact that the Lord sees everything we have ever done for Him, and nothing escapes His attention. The day will come when, as Christians, we will gain our inheritance given to us in Christ before time began.

34Then 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. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 37“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” 40“The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40).

I find it interesting that the believers had forgotten the acts of kindness that they had done, but God hadn’t. He recorded every act of kindness, and He will reward us openly at the Judgment Seat of Christ. To whom was He referring to in calling some the least of His brothers? I think it would be those around us who are little noticed. Perhaps, they are those who cannot help themselves, those sick, or in prison. He is ever close to those who are poor in things of this world, those that are strangers to us, those who are in bondage to a religion of works. He wants to use each of us to set them free, to visit them, to feed them—not only bread and water but also to give them the Bread of Life, too (John 6:35).

The Reward of Christlikeness

Preparation for eternity can only take place while we are here on Earth because we graduate to eternity with the character that we have at death. I believe that our “position” or “rank” in heaven depends on how much of the servant nature of Christ we have demonstrated while on Earth. To whatever degree the character of Christ has been imprinted on your life while on Earth, that will be your degree of reward in eternity. The word character was first used to describe the imprint on paper of the letters of a printing press. God has sought to divinely imprint the nature and the character of Christ deep into your soul for others to read.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

When we come to Christ, our spirit is renewed or made alive from its dead state of being apart from God (Ephesians 2:1, 5), but there is still work that needs to take place on our soul—our mind, will, conscience and emotions. God wants to renew and transform that inner part of us as we meditate on His Word and are obedient to His Spirit. King David said it well in the Shepherd’s Psalm: “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3). Peter, in his first letter wrote: “For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Our mind, will, and emotions are to be brought under the leadership and guidance of the Spirit of God. Character is the goal of our faith. We will be rewarded by how much of the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ is in us. Help us, Holy Spirit, to die to ourselves that we may put on Christlikeness.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

Preparing for Death 3 (Scroll down for parts 1 & 2)

We are carrying on our meditation from yesterday about preparing for death. We saw that every one of us that belong to Christ are building something with our lives and that there will be a reward when Christ comes. Paul the apostle wrote:

10By 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. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their 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. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

In verse 10, Paul says that each of us is building something. He reminds us to build with care. All labor in the Kingdom of God is built on the foundation of an intimate relationship with Christ. All other good works are just wood, hay and stubble. The quality of the building materials depends on the motives of the deeds done. There are a number of things that are significant about it, the first being that before Christ, their work will be shown for what it is (v. 13), every motive and every act will be brought out into the open. This thought is revealed elsewhere too:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17).

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

The author John Bevere writes: Many have the erroneous idea that all future judgment is eradicated by their salvation. Indeed, Jesus’ blood cleanses us from the sins that would have kept us from the kingdom, however, it does not exempt us from the judgment of how we conducted ourselves as believers, whether good or bad.[1]

At last, all will be made known. All things will be uncovered. We will find out the great mysteries of this life. Nothing will be hidden. We shouldn’t take this just in the negative, for there are acts of kindness that many of us have done in secret before men, but God has seen the desire and motive of our hearts and will reward us openly. There will be others who have had no notoriety, but who have been laboring quietly in the backwaters of some jungle someplace where their labor has been sweet to our God. Some of you have given generously and sacrificially to care for the poor and have done it to God alone, in that you have kept it a secret from men. “…your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:18).

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward (Matthew 10:42).

The Lord sees everything we have ever done for Him, and nothing escapes His attention. The day will come when we will gain our inheritance given to us in Christ before time began. What a day that will be. Keep on, Christian! Your reward is waiting for you!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

[1] John Bevere, Driven by Eternity, Warner Faith Publishers, Page 186.

Preparing for Death 2 (Scroll down for Part 1)

In my forty years of studying the Bible in-depth, I have come to the conclusion that there are three judgments we are told about in the Word of God. The first one, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27), happens at the point of departure from this world. This judgment concerns what a person has done with the free offer of a pardon as to his or her sin. The believer in Christ will not be judged according to his sins. He is secure in what Jesus has done for him at the cross. At death, those who have placed their trust in the Savior’s finished work on the cross, their spirit goes to be with the Lord and will return with Jesus at the Second Coming of Christ: “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). When they believed and trusted Christ, something happened deep within their soul—they passed from a state of death and slavery to Satan to having eternal life imparted to them:

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24 Emphasis mine).

When a believer dies, he or she is separated from their fleshly body, but is very much alive and with Christ. When Jesus comes and the Rapture and resurrection take place, the believer is given a new body, a glorified body no longer dominated by the sin nature inherited from Adam. We will look at the topic of the Resurrection Body, i.e. what it is like, in a later study.

The second judgment happens at the return of Christ and is a judgment as to rewards given to the believer. This is called the Bema Seat Judgment. The third judgment concerns those who have rejected God’s offer of a free pardon. This judgment is called the Great White Throne judgment when all those who have served self and Satan will be consigned to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:13-15). We will focus our meditation today and tomorrow on preparing ourselves as Christians for the judgment seat of Christ.

 The Bema Seat Judgment of Christ

At the Second Coming of Christ, after putting down all rebellion upon Earth, Jesus will then take His seat at the place of the Bema Seat Judgment, where the Lord Himself will sit and judge.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22).

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done (Matthew 16:27).

9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

This judgment concerns the believer’s rewards for how he or she has invested their time, energy, gifts, talents, and money. The Greek word, bēmatos, is translated into English with the words, “judgment seat.” The judgment seat was a place in the common Greek language of the New Testament for a rewards platform in sporting contests. In secular legal context, the word bēma, literally means, “to set (his foot) on.” It denotes a raised place or platform, where was the place of assembly. This is where we as Christians will be judged, I believe, as to two different things. 1) How much of the fruit of the Spirit is in our lives, i.e. our Christ-likeness or character. 2) How we have used our resources, such as our time, energy, skills and money. My prayer for you today is that you would invest your life into those things rather than the things of this world.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death. Keith Thomas

Does the Bible Teach Soul Sleep? (Part One)

Some believe that when a Christian dies, his or her soul sleeps and that he is unconscious until Jesus comes for him at the end of this evil age that we are in. The Bible does have a few passages where Jesus talked about death for a Christian as “sleep.” When Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, for instance, He called it sleep:

11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep (John 11:11-13).

He deliberately waited another two days before He even left for the tomb (John 11:6). Have you ever wondered why Jesus waited before starting the journey to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus? The Jews had a tradition that the soul of a person could hang around the body anything up to three days afterward. Jesus deliberately waited so that He could prove to the skeptics that He had authority over death, but Lazarus was not sleeping in the tomb, he was dead. John the apostle explained this to us:

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

The Lord also talked about death as sleeping when He brought back Jairus’ daughter from the dead:

49While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.” 50Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened (Luke 8:49-56, Emphasis mine).

The believer in Christ is never dead; he is separated from his body, a state that Jesus calls ‘sleep.’ When Jesus took the little girl’s hand and told her to get up, her spirit returned. Where had the little girl been? Her body was dead and laying on the bed, but the real person, her spirit, was somewhere else. Wouldn’t you like to have known what she experienced before Jesus called her back into the earthly home of her body? A person is only dead, according to the scriptures, when he is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5), and not yet a believer in Christ and receiving the life of God by being born-again of the Spirit (John 3:3). So, dear reader, have you yet received the free gift of new life in Christ? Let’s continue thinking on this tomorrow…

Keith Thomas

Come; for Everything is Now Ready

16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’…(Luke 14:16-18)

I was separated from my wife and two children for nearly three months in the year 2000 when I left them in England to start work as one of the pastors in a large mega church in Cincinnati, Ohio (I was born in England).  You bet I was counting the days for our reunion! How lonely I was without the ones I loved. It brought me to tears a number of times.  As the time grew closer for their coming and our reunion, I began to prepare everything for us to be close again.  I checked the flight times again and again, I planned where we would eat on the way from the airport, I cleaned the house meticulously where we would be staying, but most of all, I prepared myself. My time was spent in the days before their coming in much preparation.  What joy I had when they arrived, we hugged and kissed repeatedly.  I was so excited to show them around Cincinnati, the city where we would now be living.  My girlfriend (my wife of 37 years) and my two children were coming home to their own country after 18 or so years of serving God in England.  You cannot understand the joy I felt to bring them back to their family and country.

If you are a Christian this world is not your home.  Like me longing for my family, our Lord is longing for our reunion.  He has spent nearly 2000 years preparing a place for us so that where He is we shall be also (John 14:1-3).  What joy will flood His heart upon our reunion, how He longs to show us where we will be living together. It must be disappointing to Him that some would not even be watching for their reunion day–their hearts are not beating with the same passion that is in His.  There are some who are just not aware of the days in which we are living; they are asleep and are not lovingly watching for His return. These are days of preparation. Before Passover and deliverance from Egypt the Jewish people went through days of preparation (they still do) as the Passover lamb was brought into the house for four days before it was slaughtered (Exodus 12:3-6). The houses of the Israelites were swept completely clean before Passover because it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and every crumb of yeast or leaven was swept up and gotten rid of. Yeast or leaven speaks of sin. In the preparation time before our deliverance we are to get ourselves ready to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). We are to be ready and watching for His return. This is no time for sleeping spiritually. Turn off the TV! Forget the sports! People are dying without knowing the Savior! We must do what we can to reach them with the truth! Prepare yourself for eternity!

Prayer: Father, keep me awake in the midst of a world that wants to drug me to sleep.  I really want to be wide-awake and sensitive to you so that I may walk in eager anticipation for that great reunion day. Amen!

Keith Thomas