Look for the Returning Jesus
LHC: Message Forty-Two (980823AM)
Week 42: Look for the Returning Jesus
As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you look for the returning Jesus!
SUNDAY: Home At Last “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 8:11, emphasis added Are you getting ready for the ultimate banquet? The greatest party of all time is approaching! The King of Kings, the Lord of the Universe, is preparing a wedding feast like none other! In the most breathtaking location imaginable, He is spreading an immense table. The greatest names of all times will be present and seated. At dinner the invited guests will be rubbing shoulders with Adam and his lovely wife, Eve. One of their twin sons, Abel, will be sitting with them as well as Seth and his wife. Not too far away will be the amazing preacher, the earliest known prophet, Enoch and family. His great grandson Noah and family will be nearby. On down the long table lavishly set will be the likes of Job and clan, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph— with all their various family members. What a reunion as Moses and Elijah walk around talking with guests and visiting with old friends! Further on, Jeremiah sits in rapt attention with Daniel and Isaiah as Ezekiel points out again the wonders they see about the Banquet Hall—angelic creatures moving about, choirs of angels singing, and the brilliance of the galaxies radiating the glory of God shining down upon the gathered saints. Interspersed with all these Old Testament saints will be multitudes of beaming faces well known to us. Matthew and the rest of the twelve will be at the entrances to the twelve gates that the guests will stream through on their way to be seated at the banquet. Paul, at one gate, is weeping for joy as he finally sees so many of his spiritual children and grandchildren. Because he died before many of them had grown up, it is a very precious reunion. At another gate, John also weeps for joy as he returns to this place he saw from Patmos. Saints of all the ages are taking their places; a name card with a special name (uniquely theirs, and known only by them and their Savior) marks each seat. And then the party begins. With glorious enraptured souls the hallelujahs begin to echo down the aisles of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Expectantly, each guest personally invited by Jesus looks up. And then they see Jesus, the glorious and majestic Savior, as He comes to each and all, calling them by name, extending His nail-scarred hands, and touching them with His love. We have come to the culmination of the desires
of all hearts of all saints of all time. It is the wedding banquet, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and it is the scene of Revelation 19 when those who have loved Him, and waited all their life for Him, honor Jesus. It is the assembly of those who have and love the testimony of Jesus. The first ten verses of Revelation 19, which we will cover this week, have these very glorious themes: the Celebration (vv. 1–6) and the Consummation (vv. 7–10). There are four hallelujahs in the first six verses, and in verse 7 a calling to the celebration starts. If verses 1–6 are the celebration preparation, then verses 7–10 are the consummation of all that God has promised. It is hard to put these things on a time line chart, however. God knows the end from the beginning. What that means is that when you are God, and you are outside and above time, the beginning of Creation, the present time, and the consummation of all things are all equally happening at the same time. We are linear: when we try to illustrate time, we draw a straight line and mark events on it. But to God, past, present, and future occur all at the same time—the end and the beginning are all equally before Him. If you think about it, in a very real sense, that means that at this banquet Enoch, Paul, and the people at the end of the Tribulation will all get there at the same time we do. Chronologically, it is different times; but in eternity it is all happening at the same time. Thus, John was actually seeing these events because everything is unfolding before God simultaneously. Amazing! In physics, time is a different dimension than space and matter. There is something beyond that that the scientists cannot quite quantify—and it is God. I believe that everyone is going to get to the banquet table at the same time. That is why I don’t believe that the bride of Christ refers to only the church; I believe it encompasses all the saints of all time. The Bible never specifically says that the bride is the church, only that the church is an espoused virgin and is going to be married (1 Corinthians 11:2), like Ephesians 5 says. Israel is His wife, but the saints are all collectively coming to the marriage supper and will be married to the Lord in Christ. What these verses picture is a marvelous event! God does not distinguish between pre-Flood saints, pre-Abrahamic saints, preMosaic saints, pre-New Testament saints, pre-Tribulation saints, pre-millennial saints, and pre-eternity saints. In heaven, there is one great merger of them all. As you reflect upon the prayer below, imagine that you are at that banquet even now and think of the delights you shall soon experience with Jesus. My Prayer for You This Week: Father, the love that sent Your Son to die the most cruel and humiliating death imaginable to pay the penalty for our sin is beyond comprehension! Now, not only are we going to be able to get to heaven, but also You are preparing a banquet for all Your saints to celebrate with the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. You are going to allow us to be married to our Savior forever! Oh, Father, we do not understand the concept of spiritual union with You, the awesome God of the Universe. But what we can understand is that it is going to be glorious, and that there is something we need to do here to get ready for that wedding—to make sure that we have the appropriate attire. We pray that Your Spirit would touch our hearts with the
fact that with every day that goes by, the marriage celebration is getting closer. And it is such a special day that we ought to be sure that we are getting ready. We ask that You would bless our hearts through Your Word this week, and may we respond in a pleasing manner to You. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
MONDAY: A Celebration of Jesus’ Salvation and Judgment “I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’ ” —Revelation 19:1–2, emphasis added What we are going to see in Revelation 19:1–6 is God’s greatest celebration of all the ages. Verse 1 starts off with “Alleluia!”—which is the same word as “hallelujah.” There are 144 mentions of this word in the Bible; four of these are in verses 1–6. Seventy-six are in the Psalms where it says “may God be praised”; sixty-four occur in the rest of the Bible. “Alleluia”—meaning “Praise God”—is an imperative. Each “alleluia” in these celebration verses is related to one of these themes: a celebration of Jesus our salvation (v. 1); a celebration of Jesus the judgment (vv. 2– 3); a celebration of Jesus we worship (vv. 4–5); and a celebration of Jesus our sovereign (v. 6). A Celebration of Jesus Our SALVATION: “I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor, and power belong to the Lord our God!’ ” (Revelation 19:1). This is the first celebration of salvation because Babylon, the false worship of God in world religions, has been overthrown; materialism and Satan’s kingdom have also been overthrown. Finally, as God is gathering all to the banquet table, salvation is celebrated. We should recognize that, all through the ages, each saint has been saved the same way. I am saved because I personally looked back and believed that Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God—who bore the pain and paid the price of my sins with His own blood on the cross. Adam, Enoch, Job, and Abraham all looked forward to that same Lamb of God—the One who would come as a sin offering. All of us who are redeemed believe in a substitutionary atonement. They looked forward to the cross, and we look back. The people in the Tribulation and Millennium will look even further back to the Substitute. All who are saved say, “I cannot save myself; Someone paid the price in my place, and that was God in human flesh, the Lamb, Jesus Christ.” That is what is complete here: He has brought His redeemed to be with Him, and He is now there in their presence. Here is why it is so hard to make a time line chart of this: do the events in chapter 19 verses 1–10 (heaven exalts over Babylon) have to happen before verse 11 (Christ on a white horse)? What is absolutely remarkable is that John is seeing these events from God’s perspective. We know that they are going to happen precisely as God wants them to happen, but Revelation cannot be charted well. Why is that? As soon as my chart doesn’t match your chart, you won’t listen anymore due to human nature. As 19:10 tells
us, this book was written to draw us to worship Christ, and this banquet does, too. This is a celebration of His salvation completed, and at this point we will forever be in the presence of God and the saints of all times! How can all that take place before the Millennium is over? From God’s perspective, no one is going to be late; that is why I believe that everyone gets to the banquet at the same time. Yes, those who are already dead are absent from the body and present with the Lord. How does that work? I don’t know. I am not God, and I can’t figure that one out. But I do know that Scripture assures us that those who die are immediately in the presence of Christ. I also know from Scripture that the Old Testament saints before the cross went to a place of waiting for the presence of Christ. When Jesus finished His work on the cross, He went and got them, and took them to live in His presence. And I know that all the people in the future, who have not yet trusted in Christ, are going to have to do that. Do what? God is not going to let anybody be late and miss this great event. He will work it out, so you needn’t worry, just file the matter in your “too hard to understand” folder—and trust Him! A Celebration of Jesus the JUDGMENT: “For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’ Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’ ” (Revelation 19:2–3). Praise God! Jesus has judged the harlot—the false religions of the world that corrupted the church. Is this celebration proper? Isn’t it fascinating that hell is talked about at this banquet? To God, it is not distasteful to talk about hell. You can praise God that the same One who promises that our life will be endless also promises that the judgment of the unrighteous will be eternal. To us, it is hard to understand the two at the same time. It is too awful to contemplate. But God is just and righteous, and He says, “I have so freely offered this salvation that if some reject the offer, it is righteous that I judge them forever.” If you struggle with that, as I think all of us do, look at these verses: Psalm 104:35; Romans 12:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:30. As Psalm 104:35 reveals, when you worship God, part of the worship should thank God for His sacrifice; the other part should thank Him that He is going to condemn sinners to eternal destruction who refuse His free gift of salvation. Romans 3:5 asks, “Is God unjust who inflicts wrath?” No—God is just. So then, the answer to whether it is proper to celebrate God’s judgment is repeatedly yes. As He said at the overthrow of Sodom: “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).
TUESDAY: A Celebration to Worship Our Sovereign Jesus “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’ ” —Revelation 19:4–5, emphasis added
A Celebration of Jesus We WORSHIP: The twenty-four elders may represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. The twelve foundations of heaven are the apostles, and the twelve gates are the twelve tribes. All of the Scriptures were written through the Jews, and the apostles were the foundation writers of Jesus Christ’s gospel of the church; these two groups of twelve merged together. The four living creatures represent all the angels that worship God. They are the ones saying, “Amen! Alleluia!” That is a celebration of worship. But the number twenty-four is only used in Scripture when it relates to priests; so the church plus Israel’s twelve plus the apostle’s twelve may speak of all of us as Christ’s priests in worship. The “voice came from the throne” could be God speaking, or a voice He creates out of the throne. “His servants and those who fear him, both small and great” are bondservants—those who will be in heaven, at the Marriage Supper, and those who will enjoy God forever. These are His servants, and His servants worship Him. Worship and bowing before Him acknowledges that God is who He said He is, and thus obedience is His due. A bondservant is someone who does what the Master says. Those who are going to be in heaven are those who have given themselves up to do the will of God. What is a servant? The Greek word for “servant” (Strong’s # 1401) is doulos, which means “a slave, bondman, man of servile condition; one who gives himself up to another’s will; devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.” In Philippians 2:7 we see that Christ’s servants have His mind; in Colossians 4:12 they are prayerfully minded servants; and in 2 Timothy 2:24 they are gently minded servants—God’s servants who don’t strive and fight to get their way. The transformed slaves of God will be there to celebrate worshiping Him. He longs for servants whose hearts well up and say, “God, You are who You say You are! I believe that, bow my life before You, and joyfully want to do whatever You say!” Sometimes we all struggle with obedience, but the direction of our life should be toward greater service to Jesus Christ—because this is what we are going to do forever. Do you recall the parable of the ten virgins? They were waiting for the groom to come for them. While he was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. At midnight they heard the announcement that he had arrived. The five wise virgins arose and took oil in their vessels with their lamps; the five foolish virgins were not prepared, and their lamps went out. As a result, the foolish ones were not allowed into the wedding because they didn’t have any oil for their lamps. Bible scholars often say “oil” is the Holy Spirit. But oil here does not mean the Holy Spirit because the oil is to be purchased, and the Holy Spirit cannot be purchased. What may fit here is that the burning oil represents their Spirit-energized lives—being and living in righteousness as visible saints of God. They could put on an act for a while, but they eventually ran out of oil and never purchased more. (They never were actually living in righteousness and doing good works.) So when they came to the door, their lamps were out; there were no good works in their lives and they are excluded from heaven even though they thought they were going there. If you are saved, you will do good works, which prove that you are going to heaven. There are a lot of foolish people in the church today whose lamps are out. They are not consumed with the desire to be righteous, and to live out Christ’s righteousness. When the Bridegroom comes, they are going to be locked out.
Jesus spent all of His ministry warning people who think they are going to heaven but are not, because they are not doing what He said (see Matthew 7:21–23). These people believe that He is Lord by their words, but their works do not flow from a personal relationship with Christ. Who will get in and spend eternity with Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit and all the redeemed of all times? Those who do His will. The person Jesus was speaking of most clearly was Judas. He is the prime example. Judas prophesied and preached in Jesus’ name; he cast out demons and did other wonders. But Jesus will look at him, and all the other Judases that have filled the church since, and He will say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21–28). How do you know if you know Him? Your works will determine your destiny. They won’t get you into heaven, but the nature of your works, if driven by the Spirit, will show that you are going to heaven. That is the catastrophic problem now—people perceive that they can be saved without having a transformed life. Jesus said that those at the Marriage Supper have a transformed life. That is the message of Revelation. A Celebration of Jesus Our SOVEREIGN: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Revelation 19:6). Jesus is above all: all things are through Him, and to Him, and for His glory! What is this attribute of our God? Isaiah 40 clearly develops His absolute sovereignty. What is His name? The Old Testament name Shaddai (Strong’s #7706; used 48 times) means “the all- sufficient God, the God who is enough.” In the New Testament, God is called “the Almighty” ten times (nine times in Revelation and once in 2 Corinthians 6:14). It is the key word for God in the Book of Job as he discovers in all his struggles that “God is the God who is enough.” As you contemplate His glorious sovereignty, doesn’t it just make you want to burst forth and sing: “All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all: Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all.” I hope that is your spirit because, if it isn’t, you will feel out of place at the ultimate wedding banquet.
WEDNESDAY: The Consummation — The Wedding Banquet “ ‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’ And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ ” —Revelation 19:7–10, emphasis added Look at verse seven above. The result of the elements we have looked at is this: we should be glad and rejoice and give Him glory because the marriage of the Lamb has come! His wife has made herself ready. You cannot get ready for heaven in heaven. We are talking about your time on earth—choices you have made and are going to make. If you are the wife-to-be of Jesus Christ, at that moment you are going to be shown for what you did to get ready.
We can learn how to get ready for that great day by understanding how royal weddings were celebrated in the ancient Near East. In that culture, a wedding feast was inseparable from the wedding which involved a weeklong series of meals and festivities, and was the highlight of all social life. For a royal wedding such as the one Jesus mentions here, the celebration often lasted for several weeks. Guests were invited to stay at the house of the groom’s parents for the entire occasion, and the father would make as elaborate provisions as he could afford. A royal wedding, of course, would be held in the palace, and a king would be able to afford whatever he desired. A wedding feast that a king prepared for his son would be a feast of all feasts, and Jesus was therefore picturing the most elaborate celebration imaginable. The fact that it was a wedding celebration was incidental to the purpose of the parable in Matthew 22, the only mention of the groom being that of identifying him as the king’s son. No mention at all is made of the bride or of any other aspect of a wedding. The point is that because the feast represents the greatest festivity imaginable, given by the greatest Monarch imaginable, for the most-honored guests imaginable, a royal wedding feast was chosen as the illustration of the ultimate celebration.1 As we discover in the testimony of Jesus in Revelation 19:1–10, we are with Jesus as He celebrates His union with His wife and bride. Why did Jesus never marry while on earth? He was waiting for His perfect bride in heaven. As His perfect bride, on your way to the table at that heavenly banquet, what gift are you going to have with you? What is your offering of love to the One who loves you with an everlasting love? Marriage is a biblical symbol for the relationship between God and His people. Note these excerpts from Old Testament verses where God is speaking to Israel: “For your Maker is your husband” (Isaiah 54:5); “I am married to you” (Jeremiah 3:14); and “I will betroth you to Me” (Hosea 2:19–20). Salvation—knowing God and being a child of God—is the highest relationship we can know on this planet. God said, “I want you to have the closest human relationship with Me that you will ever know on this planet, only more glorious.” But because of Israel’s continued unfaithfulness, God divorced them: “I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce” (Jeremiah 3:8). In the New Testament we have the symbolism of the church as Christ’s bride: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son [and] the wedding hall was filled with guests” (Matthew 22:2, 10). In Matthew 25:1, Jesus told the parable of the virgins who took their lamps and “went out to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1). In Mark 2:19, He said, “ ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?” In John 3:29, Jesus said that the friend of “the bridegroom” rejoices when hearing “the bridegroom’s voice.” In 2 Corinthians 11:2 we see His godly jealousy when He says, “I have betrothed you to one husband.” And in Ephesians 5:23, Paul states that “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23). As a godly marriage grows in its love, so a relationship with Jesus grows in its love. As the intimate relationship of a husband and wife is meant to be the closest and deepest sharing known on earth, so the relationship we have with the Lord is to be the deepest, closest, and most intimate—and that begins now, while we are still here on
earth. As a loving marriage is meant to bring our truest joys, so is a genuine relationship with Jesus. Marriage demands loyalty and faithfulness, so we must offer absolute loyalty to our Lord Jesus.
THURSDAY: Whom Do You Love? “ ‘He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.’ ” —John 14:21, emphasis added When I was engaged to my wife, Bonnie, I was not in America most of those months. I spent ninety-six days touring forty-two countries. Everywhere I checked into a hotel, I went to the manager’s desk and gave them my name. They would look me over, and then pull out a letter for me; Bonnie had found me in the most remote parts of the world. I dropped my baggage to the floor, and sat down wherever I was to read her letter. It did not matter to me whether I found my room or not—I read the letter from the one I loved. Do you know that you have a letter waiting for you every day from your Beloved One? Have you dropped your “baggage” lately because you long for the One you love? As a godly marriage brings the most precious joys we can know on this planet, so does a genuine relationship with Jesus. It gets sweeter as the years go by! That is why I love to get to know saints who have been in love with Jesus for a long, long time. They have discovered the great joys of living by Matthew 22:37: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ” Now we come to the wedding banquet in Revelation 19—the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. But what can we bring to the Lamb as a wedding gift? What gift is worthy of giving to our Beloved at our wedding celebration? How can we express our love to the One who loved us so much that He gave His very life for us? When I am out shopping with Bonnie, we often meet people who are shopping for baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, and so forth. Most people are very particular about what they buy for those they love. And the greater the love, the more particular they are in the choice of their gift. They want it to be special, useful, and needed, and even want to wrap it to show how important it is. Have you ever thought that you are going to get to give something to Jesus? Do you know what He wants? He has completed His wedding registry in His Word. Have you been listening to what He says He loves and wants so much? There are at least ten elements of daily life that He will reward whenever He sees them in us. Do you know what they are? Are you practicing these reward-getters at every opportunity? First let me sketch them; and then we can ponder ways to seek for Christ’s “Well done!” Most importantly, Jesus loves to see His character reflected in us. How? Here are the first three of the ten elements that represent the gift He desires from each of us. Element 1—Christlike Disposition in Adversity: “ ‘Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they
persecuted the prophets who were before you’ ” (Matthew 5:11–12). When you are attacked, maligned, or defrauded in any way, remember Stephen. Where did he look for an example? He looked at and followed the example of Jesus! Element 2—Christlike Secrecy in Spiritual Disciplines: “ ‘But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. And when you pray, . . . go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. . . . Moreover, when you fast, . . . anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly’ ” (Matthew 6:3, 16–18). Jesus loves for us to do secret and sacrificial things—and to be excited to do them even though no one finds out. Start acting like Jesus did. He went out to commune before day sometimes. He stayed up all night in prayer other times. The key to success is to have an unbelievable longing for God! Element 3—Christlike Attitude Toward Possessions: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . ; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21). Take some of your stacked possessions and overnight them to the Bank of Heaven. Jesus says, “Give and you will have forever. Keep and you lose forever!”
FRIDAY: Loving Like Jesus! “ ‘And I have declared to them Your name, . . . that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.’ ” —John 17:26, emphasis added Remember: Jesus loves to see His character reflected in us. Now here are the seven remaining elements of daily life that we can give to our Beloved Bridegroom. He desires the following from each of us. Element 4—Christlike Loving of the Unlovely: “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35). Do you have a neighbor, co-worker, or relative who is unpleasant to you? Show them love and offer kindnesses in the name of Jesus! Element 5—Christlike Serving of the Unfortunate: “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14). Now look at this verse: “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Pick new social companions. Befriend the handicapped, the poor, the informally educated, the lonely, the shut-ins, the dying, the prisoners, and any others God puts in your path. That is the body of Christ—nonshockable, accepting, color blind, and incredibly generous. Make plans right now to use your house, your car, and your money to minister His love unto the least of persons, those who cannot do anything in return. And Jesus will reward you in heaven!
Element 6—Christlike Investment in People Over Things: “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). Jesus counts souls invited in. He counts lives touched by the gospel, by prayer, by deeds of kindness. What have you done this week that He has counted? Have you prayed for people and given out the gospel? Investments in people last forever; investments in things don’t! Element 7—Christlike Devotion to God’s Will: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24). What are you called to do this week? Go to school? Then act like you are a Rhodes Scholar for Jesus. Go to work for your company? Be as productive as if it were your own. Are you home rearing children? Raise them like you were Mary raising Jesus! Elevate whatever you do as if you were doing it for Christ. Element 8—Christlike Loving Expectancy: “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Does a newlywed husband need to be told to look forward to seeing his beloved after work? Does a new mom need to be prodded into loving that sweet little bundle of joy? Long for Jesus the way He loves to be loved! He wants us to have the fervor of a newlywed with Him. Element 9—Christlike Endurance in Trials: “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). What are you struggling with? If it is health, you can be rewarded for having a good attitude. If it is adversaries, you can be rewarded for how you treat them. Regardless of the type of trial, you can be rewarded for how you respond to adversities if your responses are Christlike! Element 10—Christlike Focus on the Word: “Love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments . . . that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (2 John 5–8). Jesus rewards those who love Him so much that they get His Word into their lives. Are you overflowing with the world—or the Word? Do you long for His Word more than anything else?
SATURDAY: Clothed With Christ “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” —Romans 13:14, emphasis added In Revelation 19:8 John sees saints clothed in their “righteous acts.” What is this? Isn’t salvation by grace alone? Are these works that He is speaking of? Yes, and yes! God has paid the full and final price in Christ for our salvation. However, we were saved for a purpose. Look at Ephesians 2:8–10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith . . . ; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The “righteous acts” in Revelation 19:8 are not to be confused with the righteousness of God imputed to us at conversion (see Romans 3:21–22). We can only receive this gracious gift since it can never be earned. All the good deeds of an unsaved person amount to dirty bandages full of filth (see Isaiah 64:6). Apart from Christ we can do nothing, so any righteous deeds we wear are the result of yielding to the Holy Spirit, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (see Philippians 2:13). Oh, what a blessing to be such channels in His hands! Revelation 19:8, therefore, is referring to the righteous acts of believers during their earthly lives. When will these acts of righteousness be revealed? At the Judgment Seat of Christ. Here are the main portions that deal with this event. It is a REFLECTION of our SANCTIFICATION—in our body: “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all [be presented] before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). It is a REVELATION of our SELECTION—of our building materials: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. . . . If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11–16). It is a RECEPTION sponsored BY OUR SAVIOR: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, . . . whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Now then, here are some probing questions that might make you squirm a bit. Has it ever occurred to you, Christian, that you are making your own outfit to wear at this Marriage Supper of the Lamb—the greatest of all events? What are you putting into this special wedding garment? In the old world a father spent years building the bride’s hope chest, and spent years selecting items to lovingly fill it. Are you giving your preparation for heaven that much care? Are you being sanctified by continual washing by the Word? What good are you doing for God that will be spared by the flames of His refining fire? (All self-glorification will burn up and all self-gratification will go— everything done in the energy of the flesh will turn to soot.) What building materials have you provided that will survive? Finally, will you be wearing the fruits of a good and godly life? The pure white linen of a self-sacrificed life lived in dedication to Christ is a stark contrast to the purple and scarlet of the harlot of Revelation that lived for self alone. Think about it! Make a Choice to Live in Hope: You cannot get ready for heaven in heaven. Choices you have made and are going to make will determine both your wedding garment at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the type of room in the mansion He’s building for His bride. And that determines what rewards you will receive in heaven. What are these rewards, and how are they described in Scripture? What we know about rewards is given in terms that are more general than specific. The following are those Christ has promised.
The Promise of His Crowns: This seems to be used as a symbol of victory, authority, and responsibility. On display at the Bema seat will be five great crowns for loyal and trustworthy servants of Christ. To steadfast believers tested by prison and persecution even to the point of death, God will give a crown of life (Revelation 2:10). A never-fading, never-tarnishing diadem awaits the self-sacrificing pastor-shepherds of the flock (1 Peter 5:2–4). Everyone who ran life’s race with patient endurance and perseverance will receive a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Evangelists and soul winners can eagerly anticipate receiving the crown of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19– 20). Finally, all who overcome will be handed a wonderful victor’s crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). The Promise of His Treasure: This reward stresses their eternal value and security (see Matthew 6:20; 1 Peter 1:4). The Promise of His Commendations: This is seen in those passages where a reward is administered in the form of acknowledgements such as “Well done, good and faithful servant” (cf. Matthew 25:21; Luke 19:17; 1 Corinthians 4:5b). The Promises to His Overcomers: Rather than a general promise to all believers, these rewards could refer to a special blessing of those believers who overcome unique trials and tests. (See Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26, and others.) The Promise of Special Responsibilities and Authority for Him (cf. Matthew 19:28; 24:45–47; 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17–19; 22:29–30; Revelation 2:26). I encourage you to ask the Lord to work in you whatever is necessary to give Him the greatest gift possible at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Get excited about this time of great praise and rejoicing! Just think: the King of Kings and the Lord of the Universe is preparing a wedding feast like none other, and, if you are a Christian, you are invited! So make the choice today to live in hope by lovingly preparing yourself for His return! Are you eagerly looking for the returning Jesus? Can you honestly, and with great joy, sing this song? I pray so! Christ Returneth! It may be at morn, when the day is awaking, When sunlight through darkness and shadow is breaking, That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory, To receive from the world His own. It may be at midday, it may be at twilight, It may be perchance, that the blackness of midnight Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory, When Jesus receives His own. While hosts cry “Hosanna,” from heaven descending, With glorified saints and the angels attending, With grace on His brow, like a halo of glory, Will Jesus receive His own.
O joy! O delight! Should we go without dying, No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying, Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory, When Jesus receives His own. Refrain: O, Lord Jesus, how long, how long ‘Till we shout the glad song Christ returneth! Hallelujah! hallelujah! Amen, Hallelujah! Amen. —H. L. Turner (19th Century) 1 Adapted from Matthew 22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), in loc.