A final characteristic of new life (at least of what we will look at) is hope. The Scriptures teach us that everything is heading toward a decisive change; that God’s kingdom, begun by Jesus, will one day cover the whole earth. So suffering, conflict, injustice and death are not the final word.
And the promise is that if we are faithful to God and our Lord Jesus now, we will enter into the fullness of the kingdom and be blessed in that day. So we have something to look forward to. As followers of Jesus we have hope.
The focus verse for this lesson comes from Matthew 5:5:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Lets begin by looking at . . .
Now there are lots of things that Christians disagree on about the specifics of what will happen when or before Jesus returns. Here are some things that are more clear:
1. Jesus will return. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father . . .” – Matthew 16:27. He also said, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” – Mark 13:26.
The angels said to the disciples after he ascended into heaven, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” – Acts 1:11.
2. It will be a worldwide, public event. There have been several splinter groups or cults that are based on the idea that Jesus has already, in a sense, come in a private or spiritual way. (Usually they set a date, and then when it doesn’t happen, it gets spiritualized). After warning his disciples about false teachers who say, ‘Jesus is over here,’ or ‘over there’ – Jesus said, “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” – Luke 17:24. He is saying, you won’t be able to miss it. There will be nothing hidden or secret about it. When Jesus returns, everyone will see it.
3. No one knows the time. Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” – Mark 13:32. The phrase, “that day or that hour” means any time. We simply don’t know the time of his return. And if the angels don’t know, and the Son doesn’t know, that is, Jesus doesn’t know you can bet that no human knows! As Jesus says plainly in the next verse, “You do not know when the time will come” – Mark 13:33.
It is as the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” And if it is not our place, we should stop trying to figure it out!
Closely connected to this is the point that . . .
4. Jesus could come at any time. Jesus said of his coming “ . . . you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning.” – Mark 13:35. He goes on to say in the next verse that he could come “suddenly.” – Mark 13:36. He also says, “the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” – Luke 12:40.
The point of all of this is that the time of Jesus’ return is not known and could happen at any time. (Now, in Matthew 24:14 Jesus said the gospel must be preached to all nations before he comes. But does this mean every person? Or every actual nation? Or every tribe or subgroup? We don’t know. Paul said in his own day that the gospel had been preached to all creation – Colossians 1:23.)
5. Jesus will rule over the earth. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world . . . the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne . . .” Matthew 19:28. This throne speaks to his rule as King over the earth.
Jesus said to the earthly rulers who were judging him at his trial – “. . . you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:62. Jesus will be vindicated and he will one day come and rule over all things, from the right hand of God.
6. We will be raised to new life. We are talking about resurrection here. New bodies that will live forever, without suffering. Jesus said that “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” – Luke 20:35-36.
In a reference back to Daniel 12:2-3, which speaks of the resurrection and the saints shining as stars, Jesus says, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” – Matthew 13:43.
7. It will be a time of judgment. “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. Everyone will give an account to him of everything they have said and done (or not said and done that we should have).
With regard to followers of Jesus, 0ur obedience will be judged. Jesus speaks to the final day when we will stand before him – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23.
Also, our work for the kingdom will be judged. This is from the parable we have looked at in Matthew 25:14-30 (the parable of the talents).
- Those who work hard at serving God and working for the kingdom will hear these words from Jesus – “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” v. 21.
- But Jesus will say of those who do nothing – “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – v. 30.
8. All things will be made new. He talks about “the new world” in Matthew 19:28. It says literally, the “regeneration.” Another translation renders it “the renewal of all things.” (NRSV). This is the new creation, when the heavens and the earth will pass away (which Jesus speaks of in Mark 13:31) and then there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
9. There will be a Messianic banquet. It will be a big party, a celebration. Jesus said, “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 8:11. He talked about his disciples eating and drinking, “at my table in my kingdom” – Luke 22:30.
He said at the Last Supper, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:29. He is waiting for us!
This is what we have to look forward to:
We will be raised to new life – Luke 20:35-36. You can’t die anymore. Death is defeated. You will have a new body, like Jesus’ supernatural body and like the angels have.
- We will enter the fullness of the kingdom of God, which will never end. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- We will see God. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We will be close to God and be able to be in God’s presence.
- We will have joy with Jesus – Matthew 25:21. We will enter into the joy of our Master.
- We will be blessed and comforted for persecution and hardships we have suffered – Luke 6:22-23; 16:25.
- We will be rewarded for our work – Matthew 25:14-31. Hard work and sacrifices will be remembered and blessed.
- We will “inherit the earth,” as our focus verse says – Matthew 5:5. It is our destiny, not to be in heaven, but to be on the earth in God’s presence.
- We will rule with Jesus. Matthew 5:9, says “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” This last phrase, “sons of God” refers to those who rule under God. Jesus also talks about how there will be varying levels of rule in the coming kingdom, based on what we have done here now – Luke 19:17, 19; Matthew 19:28.
The call to be ready
Since we don’t know when Jesus will return, we need to be alert and ready. Jesus talks about this over and over again. In Mark 13:33-37 he says,
“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
The message is clear, we are to be ready and alert, so that we will not be caught off guard and so that we will be able to enter in and receive the blessings.