If you have read any of the fictional books called the “Left Behind” series or seen any of the “Left Behind” movies, you know they are fictional and just another novel as far as I am concerned because they are not even in the league of a historical novel, which behind certain fictional character there are true historical events that actually took place. These books however are not based upon true Biblical theology and scripture and they teach a theology that I do not agree with for their “Christian characters” are not Christian at all but very worldly, compromising and fleshly, rather than spiritual or faithful or full of faith and standing for the faith once delivered to the saints.
However they do remind us all that Jesus return is imminent, in more ways than one. Ultimately the question is this, what does the imminent return of Christ motivate us to do and how does it affect our life and walk. This is a question that has been asked for 2,000 years. Believers have been impacted both ways regarding the idea of the imminent return of Christ. Does it motivate us to work hard for the kingdom, give sacrificially, give of ourselves and be faithful to the Lord and be busy for the kingdom of God or does it motivate us to put on white robes and head for the mountains like some have when they believed a false prophet say that Jesus would return on a certain day and they wanted to be closer when He appeared in the sky. That in itself is so silly, because when the rapture takes place and men are translated in the twinkling of an eye, it won’t matter if you on a mountain top on in a valley in respect to the time it will take for you to then be with Christ.
History is full of examples of both groups or types of believers concerning the return of Christ and the rapture of the church. For example there is John Wesley who believed in the imminent return of Christ and for him it was a motivator to work day and night, till 3am in the morning, to pray for hours and ride horseback by the thousands of miles, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ because he believed we should work as hard as we can and do all that we can for Jesus before He returns.
On the other hand, Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who is an expert in the history of revivals around the world, gives us an example the other way. For example, he tells us that back in 1843 in New England in the
there was a man named William Miller. He pronounced to his followers that he had studied the scriptures and methodically calculated all the prophesies in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel and that he worked hard and diligently and came up with the date for the return of the Lord Jesus and said that it would be on March 21, 1843. United States
So, the people worked, prayed, got themselves ready, put on white robes and headed for the mountains. Why? Because they said that made the distance between them and the Lord up in the clouds shorter. But we will not be wearing robes of white as seen in the book of Revelation because we put on one and are wearing it when the rapture takes place. This is really silly. Anyway, when the day came and went and nothing happened, they came back to the jeering and mockery of their neighbors. And I must say a well deserved ridicule.
Then within a few days, Mr. Miller announced that he made a terrible mistake and that he rechecked his calculations and realized that he had made a mistake of one year. And when that day came and went and nothing happened, many not only left from following and listening to Mr. Miller, but they also the faith altogether.
Dr. Orr tells us that whenever someone has tried to fix a date and there was a date movement that took place in the
, throughout history, they were all followed by a falling away from the faith my many who had believed the false prophecies for now they didn’t believe anything in the Bible was true. United States
Yes that was 1843 and 1844, but if you can remember 1988, there was a book that sold 5 million copies in the United States alone, plus foreign sales, titled, “The Rapture 1988 and 88 reasons Why”. Why what, why Jesus Christ was supposed to come back in September 1988, around the 11th, 12th or 13th of the month. It and another book called “Borrowed Time” were written by Mr. Edgar C. Whisenant. It came and went and nothing happened. Then the author took a page from Mr. Miller and tried to cover his tracts. Then this man quickly announced that he had made a mistake by one year and the return would be in September 1989. And it came and went as his first predicted date and nothing happened. But he became a millionaire with his scam because people just won’t believe and follow the Word of God. If they did, he wouldn’t have made any money at all.
Then in 1994, another date setting prophet came to prominence, his name is Harold Camping. Mr. Camping's predictions were based on a complicated mathematical formula that tied Christ's return to the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which ended on September 27th that year. He published a book entitled "1994?" In this book he dated the Rapture of the church and many other things in prophecy.
Why were many people deceived and misled by these men? First because they didn’t search the scriptures for themselves, because they followed a man without proving what he said by the scriptures, and because they didn’t question what they were teaching and prove all things and know for themselves what they believed and why but were like so many today, following a pied piper. They followed men who misused and misapplied scripture and used it for their own purposes as well as for personal gain.
Why should we consider this and take the time to deal with it? Because first the fixing of dates for the return of Christ is designed by the enemy to take our eyes off our goal and to divert our attention from our calling in Jesus Christ. This fixing of dates is designed to distract us from God’s work and from doing God’s work now at this very moment. This fixing of dates is designed to pull us away from the mandate that Jesus gave us. That mandate had nothing to do with trying to second guess God or figure out what Jesus said only the Father knew. How hard is that to believe and accept? If men cannot believe this statement of Christ in Matthew 24:36, then what can they believe that He said or that the Bible says? Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” To believe Christ is to leave it there.
Back to our mandate. What is that mandate? Simply put in Luke 19:13, “Occupy till I come.” It means to be busy, to be occupied doing something, to do business till I come, to work hard till I come and to give His kingdom and His gospel full attention until He comes. Let’s put the text within its context. Jesus was telling a story. In verse 12, Jesus said, “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”
This is not fictional, this was happening in Jesus time. Herod had gone to
Rome to be appointed by Caesar and then returned to Jerusalem. Many of the things that Jesus talked about were things that were happening at the time that they could understand. He told word pictures and parables of natural things to teach them spiritual truths.
The amount of money that Jesus spoke of the servants being given was equal to three months wages at that time. He gave it to them and told them to put it to work, occupy till I come, invest this money until I come. Then it says that many revolted against the king and they were taken into judgment. But for those who received the money, the ten believers, some worked hard and invested wisely what was entrusted to them. They worked hard and watched over their money, but some did not.
The story didn’t tell us about all the ten, but he told us about three. These are of vital importance. He is trying to tell us that with these that there are only two possible believers and not three. There are those who occupy themselves with God’s work in this life and those who don’t. It is those who work hard for the Lord and those who don’t. Those who take advantage of every opportunity they are given for the Lord to see that the gospel is preached throughout the world and those who don’t. Those who are faithful to God concerning the resources he gives them, and those who have not. Those who have given of themselves freely, of their time and talents and abilities and those who do not. Those who serve God with all their heart and soul and those who don’t. That is what Jesus is talking about here.
So the first one we are told got 100% return on his investment. The second got 50% return on his investment. Then the last one, the poor beggar, comes in with the principal amount of money with no interest whatsoever. Listen carefully. In heaven there will only be two categories of Christians. Those who receive rewards for what they have done and those who get in by the skin of their teeth, so to speak, saved but ashamed before Christ and those who have been faithful servants and gained eternal rewards. They make it to haaven, rather than being in hell, but receive no eternal reward. The question is where do we stand?
1 Corinthians 3:11 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” What does that mean? It means that everyone who will make it to heaven, will make it on the foundation or the basis of putting their faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is their only hope. That is the only thing that can get you to heaven. Not because you were religious, not because you worked harder, not because you gave money to the church, not because you kept some rules or by being busy for business sake, for there is only one foundation and that is Jesus Christ and it is the only basis on which we can get to heaven.
But then after the salvation that will take us to heaven, it is a whole different story. When you get to heaven you will receive rewards based on the level of your faithfulness. When you get to haven you will get rewards on the basis of your service to the
kingdom of God and the sacrificial giving of yourself for His kingdom. Your reward will be based on the level of the opportunities that you took that God gave you for His kingdom and the gospel. Your reward will be based on the level of your use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you have received. Your reward will be based on all these things that you did for Jesus, out of a right heart and motive, out of love. If you did any of those things for self, or for recognition, to be seen and applauded by man, for pride of position or whatever else that is not for the glory of God and because you love Him, then for those works there will be no reward.
1 Corinthians 3:12 “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;” Paul talks about their faithfulness and service. The building supplies given will determine the quality of the building they are building. The word will prove itself.
1 Corinthians 3:13-14 “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” The fire will test the building that you are building for Jesus each and every day of your life. God is going to put a fire under it to see what it is made of. If it is gold and silver, if it is love and faithfulness and genuine work for His kingdom, then it will stand the test of the fire and shine like the sun. But if it is nothing but faking, religiosity, show, taking and receiving and doing nothing for the
kingdom of God, if the motives are not right, then it will turn into nothing more than a heap of smoldering ashes and you will be exposed and ashamed before Christ and all creation. Make no mistake, there will be weeping in heaven on the day of the judgment seat of Christ.
Beloved, Christians can talk all they want about the last days, the end times, the soon return of Christ, and spend their lives calculating dates until they are blue in the face, but if they have not taken advantage of the opportunities that God has placed in their hands, to serve the living God, to reach the lost, to equip the believers, they will miss out on the rewards. Those who do lots of work and talk but produce no fruit for the kingdom, they will see their works turn into smoldering ashes. Jesus said, “Occupy Till I come.” He didn’t say calculate days, talk to each other, hold hands and sign songs, fight among yourselves until I come or don’t spend more than 60 minutes on Sunday in church until I come, he didn’t say debate the finer issues of theology until I come, He didn’t say take pride in debating each other over styles of worship until I come, but He said, “Occupy till I come.”
Do business till I come, work hard and be diligent until I come, share the blessing I have given you until I come, witness to your neighbor until I come, tell others about me and disciple others till I come, serve others until I come, take advantage of the opportunities I put in your hand until I come. He wants us to be a living epistle read by all men, until He come.
The question is; what will we do with the opportunities God has given us? Will we accept them or not. Oh, we have heard it said - things like, when you give to the Lord, the Lord gives you back, or if you give to God with a small shovel, he will give it back with a larger shovel. Yes, it is true, but why? It is true because God sees your capacity to manage what he has put in your hands, because he notices your faithfulness and then he enlarges your capacity, increases your opportunities and responsibilities. He increases your blessing based on your faithfulness. To the one who returned 100% gain to the Lord, he said you be in charge of ten cities. To the man who returned 50% he said you be in charge of 5 cities. But to the poor man who returned nothing but the principle, Jesus told him, in Luke 19:23 “Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”
He is saying, you could have at least put it in the bank and gotten a little interest. So then the result was that the Lord said, take what that man has and gave it to the man who had ten. Luke 19:24-25 “And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)” They must have thought like socialists, hey, he already has ten. Notice Jesus reply. Luke 19:26-27 “For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” The one who has will be given more and the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away from him.
That seems rough and unfair to men, but not to Jesus. It is the way he works whether we like it or not. And He is just and justified in all that He does and anyone who things otherwise won’t be in heaven. It is why Jesus said over and over, those who are faithful with little will be faithful with much. Those who are not faithful with little will not be faithful in much. The when I have a lot of money, I will give a lot to the Lord is empty words, no you will not. If you won’t give when you have little and be faithful with a dollar, you won’t be faithful will a million dollars.
What do you think of your heavenly reward? What do you think you will get? Many, if you ask them would say, “Well, I never really thought about it.” That is honest and fair enough. They don’t think about it. Others would say, “Well, I don’t work for the Lord to give to Him for a reward.” Well, that is hypocritical. Why? As far as Jesus is concerned, he wants you to work for a reward. He is telling us to work for His kingdom, for the gospel for a reward.
Hebrews 6:10-12 “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” That means to inherit what has been promised. We have been promised an inheritance. 1 Peter 1:4-5 “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Hebrews 9:15 “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Colossians 3:23-24 “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” I think we have quoted enough verses to establish this fact of an inheritance for our labor of faith for Christ.
Listen, all of us work hard in our jobs. It is necessary for a believer to work hard, not just to please the boss but because we work for the Lord and represent him in our jobs. You work for Jesus to reward you. So, Jesus is saying, as you work hard in your business, work hard for my kingdom. And that refers to every believer, not just the preacher and teacher in church. Be passionate for the gospel. There is nothing in life that can give us the reward that Jesus can and will if we are faithful to Him. There is nothing like hearing, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” Matthew 25:21, 23.
Keep going for the reward. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” When you don’t think you’re making a difference, keep going for the Lord, for that reward. When others judge your motives, keep going and looking for that reward.
Our master has gone away and said, Occupy till I come. Whether he comes first or we die first doesn’t matter, the end result will be the same. Is he going to find us, like those who went to the hilltop to wait for his return, or working and ministering to others till he comes. We have to ask, what is our deepest longing? What is our deepest desire? Let us lay down our arguments, our egos our self serving maneuvers and insecurities and set our eyes on the prize, like the Apostle Paul. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
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