It might be good to back up a bit and review exactly what it is that we’re close to. Remember, the disciples asked King Jesus what would be “the sign of your coming, and the end of the age.” Unknown to them, this was a complicated question, involving the second and third return of the Lord and the ends of three “ages”.
(There are more Biblical “ages“ before these, but they aren’t directly relevant to what we’re discussing here.)
The sign of His coming – two more times. Before this Earth is destroyed by God and replaced with the New Earth, King Jesus will have arrived on it three times. He came first as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 to be crucified for the sins of the world. His “Second Advent” is the one Christians of the Church Age are told to “look up” for: His return to remove His Church, the “Body of Christ”, before the Great Tribulation. His third arrival will be as the Conquering King Who rules the world “with a rod of iron” for a thousand years from His physical location in Jerusalem.
The end of the age – three ages ending.
1. The first or “Church Age” began after the resurrection of King Jesus with the Holy Spirit descending on and into the disciples on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. That age will end with the Rapture, the 2nd return of Christ to remove his Church from the earth, and the removal of the Holy Spirit from earth, since His job here is done. We who are believers in Jesus will also be removed, since [huge grin] our job here is finally done! THAT is the return of Christ which Christians of our age are told to “look up” for.
From Matthew chapter 24: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
“Listen! I am telling you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash [in an atom, the Greek says], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1st Corinthians 15:51-52)
First age ends, second age begins…
2. Simultaneously with the Rapture, the second age, which we call “the Great Tribulation” or “the Apocalypse” will begin. Jesus said, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22) This second age will end in Christ’s return (for the third time) and the Battle of Armageddon. Second age ends, third age begins…
3. The Millennial Kingdom – after the sudden destruction of the “kings of the earth” and the imprisonment of the devil for a thousand years, King Jesus will begin His rule over the entire earth from Jerusalem, the Millennial Kingdom. This age ends and what some call “Eternity Future” begins – God’s Eternal Kingdom, the new heavens, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem.
Hmmm … this might be a good time to give ourselves a spiritual examination. Ask ourselves, “Do I want to come face to face with King Jesus in my present spiritual condition? Am I living in a way that is pleasing to God? Living a holy life, as much as I can? Being, not just speaking, a witness to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in a human heart?”
I’m not standing in a pulpit preaching to others here. I’m one of you, a still sinful believer who needs to continuously examine himself in the light of God’s Word with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure.” (1st John 3:3)
King Jesus doesn’t desire to punish us. He wants to reward us. But there are rules. The Christian life is not a contest in which “participation” or “feel-good” prizes are awarded. Salvation, yes. Rewards, no.
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1st Corinthians 9:25-27)
How will it be with us when we face our King?
God grant that we may not make ashamed the One Who died in agony in our place. God grant that we each have at least some rewards. God grant that we not be ashamed even to face each other in God’s Kingdom. There will be no “stolen glory” there.