Christ appears in Heaven for us!

When the apostle encouraged us to “set our affections on the realities of heaven,” he specifically identified it as the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.” 

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands… he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24).

 What makes heaven so desirable is not the absence of anguish and suffering (as great as this will be), nor the presence of angels and fellow believers. Heaven is so desirable because it is the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.”

The apostle Paul spoke about his death with this perspective. “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

After Jesus finished His mission of bearing our sins and being raised from the dead, He returned to heaven and took the seat of highest honor to appear before God “for us.” These two words “for us” are amazing!

In the highest court, those who know Christ as their Savior are represented. Let these words settle deeply into your heart: “Christ went into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us.”

In Colossians 3:3-4, the apostle reinforced his call to focus on heaven by writing: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Reflection

“The Christian’s whole and only status before God is in Christ. True and wonderful though this is, however, the sphere of the Christian’s existence is still here on earth. He is still beset by temptations; he is hampered by weakness and frustrated by failings; he falls short of ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13); the perfection for which he longs is not yet. He needs a holiness not his own, made available to him by the Lamb of God who has made atonement for his sins and who now interposes himself as his representative in the heavenly sanctuary. And this is the representation which Christ fulfills as he appears in the presence of God for us” (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 349).

For deeper meditation on Christ’s representation, see: Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-27; John 2:1-2. The apostle John said those who confess their sin (I John 1:9), have an “advocate” with the heavenly father (I John 2:2). The N.I.V. translates advocate as, “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” It pictures a legal setting with Christ as counsel for the defense. And His position as advocate is based on His redeeming work (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

“Our advocate doesn’t plead that we are innocent…He acknowledges our guilt and presents His vicarious work as the ground for our acquittal” (John R. W. Stott, I John, TNTC, pp. 81-82).

We must guard against misguided understandings of representation. We should not picture a dualistic situation where a well-pleasing son is trying to persuade a hostile father to look on us with favor. God was the one who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (II Corinthians 5:18-21).  God “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32; cf. 1 John 4:9-10).

Reflection

“The intercession of the Son, then, is in no sense a pleading with the Father to change his attitude toward us. Nor does the Father have to be reminded of the full redemption that he himself has provided for us in his Son—the very thought is preposterous! The presence in heaven of the Lamb bearing the marks of his passion is itself the perpetual guarantee of our acceptance with God, who gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. In ourselves, however, though we have the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ and though we are united to him in love and trust, we are unworthy because Christ has not yet been fully formed within us (cf. Gal. 4:19) and we still sinfully fall short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). This consideration explains our continuing need of the advocacy and intercession of him who alone is accounted worthy before God (cf. Rev. 5:1-10). It is in his worthiness that even now we rejoice in the blessings of the divine favor, for by the grace of God his merit has been reckoned to us as our merit, his heaven has become our heaven, and his eternal glory our eternal glory” (Philip Hughes, Hebrews).

 Do we need the assistance of saints or angels to bring us to God?

“To imagine that saints or angels can be influenced to intercede for us is not only delusion; it is to cast doubt on the perfect adequacy of the intercession of Christ on our behalf and thus to deprive ourselves of the fulness of the security which is available to us only in Christ. Our Lord clearly taught that no man can come to the Father except by him (John 14:6) and that our requests to God are to be made in his name (John 14:13f.; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26), precisely because there is no other name which avails and prevails with God (cf. Acts 4:12) (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 353).

Christ alone is our mediator, advocate, intercessor, high priest, and way of access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 14:6). “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He (Jesus Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2; cf. Hebrews 7:26-27). “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:18). 

Let your heart dwell on these great words: “Christ went into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).

Steve Cornell 

 

Encouragement from Jonathan Edwards

“Now, it is for the abundant comfort of believers, that their own Redeemer is appointed to be their judge. That the same person who spilled his blood for them has the determination of their state left with him, so that they need not doubt but that they shall have what he was at so much cost to procure.”

“What matter of joy to them will it be at the last day, to lift up their eyes, and behold the person in whom they have trusted for salvation, to whom they have fled for refuge, upon whom they have built as their foundation for eternity, and whose voice they have often heard, inviting them to himself for protection and safety, coming to judge them (Adapted from: “The World Judged Righteously by Jesus Christ” Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)).

_____________________________________________________

Remind yourself often that the one before whom you will stand is your advocate with the father, “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (I John 2:1-2). He is your “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) and “not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). He “…is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Identify with this prayer

“O God of Grace, You have imputed my sin to my substitute, and imputed His righteousness to my soul.” If Jesus had not been made sin for me and I had not been made righteous in him, where would my hope be placed? (see: II Corinthians 5:21).

Steve Cornell

Warnings for Church leaders (and others)

 

As one entrusted with spiritual leadership, I must meditate often on the truths in these five texts. 

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NIV)

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Thought: On that day my “work will be shown for what it is” not for what I want others to think it is. 

I Corinthians 4: 2-5 (NIV)

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust (stewards) must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring  to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

Thought: What will happen when the Lord comes? My work will be shown for what it is because He “will expose the motives of men’s hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NIV)

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For 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” (cf. Romans 14:12; John 12:42-43; Matthew 22:16; Proverbs 29:25 cf. Proverbs 3:5-6).

Thought: The words “all” and “each one” remind me that I cannot skip this appointment and I won’t be hiding in a group session but will have a personal session with the Lord. “Good or bad” will be determined when the Lord exposes “the motives of men’s hearts.” 

Matthew 6:1 (NIV)

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Thought: There will be no “praise from God” if my motive was to seek the affirmations and accolades from men.

 Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Thought: I must shine so that others will see my good deeds without the motive of being seen in a way that does not glorify my Father in heaven.

 

Appearing before God

 

Two passages: (90 sec on Audio clip)

1. II Corinthians 5:9-10

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Second Corinthians five not only establishes the fact of future accountability before God, it also sheds light on the nature of that accountability. In these verses, we learn of a future evaluation of our present lives will focus on “the deeds of the body.” These deeds will prove to be either “good” or “bad” (bad means “worthless” or “of no enduring value”). This will happen at our “appearing” or “being made manifest” before Christ’s judgment seat. But what does this involve?

“To be made manifest means not just to appear, but to be laid bare, stripped of every outward façade of respectability, and openly revealed in the full and true reality of one’s character. All our hypocrisies and concealments, all our secret, intimate sins of thought and deed, will be open to the scrutiny of Christ…for it is only the divine gaze which penetrates to the very essence of our personality: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). The conduct of our lives should constantly be influenced by the solemn remembrance that ‘there is no creature that is not manifest in God’s sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5). In that day of manifestation both the hypocritical and the hypercritical will be shown for what they really are.”

“’Because much is required of those to whom much has been given,’ comments Tasker, ‘the thought of the judgment seat of Christ has for the Christian a peculiar solemnity. It is not meant to cloud his prospect of future blessedness, but to act as a stimulus.’ The incentive is to Christian living that is marked throughout by complete integrity, both in what is apparent and in what is not apparent to one’s fellow-men, so that the outward, instead of concealing the inward person, corresponds to it. It is only in Christ, through the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, that this wholeness of being, free from division and dissimulation, can be realized. ‘Let us then imagine Christ’s judgment-seat to be present now,’ urges Chrysostom, ‘and reckon each one of us with his own conscience, and account the Judge to be already present, and everything to be revealed and brought forth. For we must not merely stand, but also be manifested. Do you not blush? Are you not dismayed?’”  

“In the light of the ultimate realities of which he has been speaking every genuine follower of Christ should apply himself earnestly to ‘the perfecting of holiness in the fear of God’ (7:1). By ‘the fear of the Lord,’ then, the Apostle does not mean that terror (A. V., Ambrose, Herveius, Beza) which the ungodly will experience when they stand before God’s judgment throne (cf. Rev. 6:15ff), but that reverential awe which the Christian should feel towards the Master whom he loves and serves and at whose hands he will receive ‘the things done in the body’”  (cf. 1 Peter 1:17-19) (Philipp Hughes,, Second Corinthians, NICNT).

Relate this emphasis to Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

In Matthew 6:1-18 (giving – vv. 2-4; praying – vv. 5-6; fasting – vv. 16-18), Jesus contrasted those who prostituted sacred acts of righteousness to promote themselves with those who did things in secret as being seen and rewarded by the Father.  Motives of the heart appear to be the criteria for judgment. This aligns with I Corinthians 4:5- “…wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” The One who knows the motives of men’s hearts will expose them, and it will be very personal—“at that time each will receive his praise from God.”  Yet some also will “suffer loss” as their works prove to be “worthless” (i.e. of no enduring value).  (cf. Hebrews 4:12)  Perhaps 1 John 2:28 relates to this category. This might also help to explain the difference between categories of “gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw” (I Corinthians 3:10-15).

So in heaven, there will evidently be reward and loss of reward in relation to our earthly lives (i.e. “our acts of righteousness” or “deeds done in the body”). Some of what we’ve done will be of the quality that endures (done for the Lord in secret); some will disappear like fire consuming wood, hay or straw.

2. I Corinthians 3:10-15

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

“Every believer is building upon the one foundation that has been laid, namely, Jesus Christ; upon this foundation he is secure for all eternity; but he is to take heed how he builds on this foundation, that is, the day of Christ’s tribunal. The picture used is that of a trial by fire, and the materials envisaged are such as are either destroyed by fire (wood, hay, stubble) or resistant to and indeed purified by fire (gold, silver, precious stones).  The Christian whose work abides after the test will receive a reward, whereas he whose work is consumed will suffer loss—‘but he himself shall be saved’ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).”   (cf. Revelation 1:14-17a)

“The declaration of Christ’s judgment-seat is not the ultimate of salvation or damnation; for it is the redeemed alone who stand before it, and their doing so results either, on the one hand, in their hearing the Lord’s ‘well done’ and the receiving of a reward, or, on the other hand, in their suffering loss, that is, through failing to receive a reward.  The rewards themselves vary in proportion to the faithfulness and diligence of each individual (cf. Luke 19:16ff)”  (Phillip Hughes).

Life and service for the Lord is an accountable stewardship of various talents, gifts, opportunities, and abilities. The Lord’s parables stress this truth. Reward and loss are a certainty but their exact nature is not as clear.  Evidently, the quality of each person’s work is either temporal or enduring.  Acts of devotion done for temporal glory will have no eternal significance. But there will be awareness of loss.  I Corinthians 3:10-15 is most likely a reference to efforts at building Christ’s Church. Do we build based on worldly wisdom or Christ and His teaching? In verse 15, it’s the man’s work (evidently in building the church) that could be burned up, while the man himself is spared.

This is “one of the most significant passages in the New Testament that warn—and encourage—those responsible for “building” the church of Christ.  In the final analysis, of course, this includes all believers, but it has particular relevance, following so closely as it does vv. 5-9, to those with teaching/leadership responsibilities.  Paul’s point is unquestionably warning.  It is unfortunately possible for people to attempt to build the church out of every imaginable human system predicated on merely worldly wisdom, be it philosophy, ‘pop’ psychology, managerial techniques, relational ‘good feelings,’ or what have you.  But at the final judgment, all such building (and perhaps countless other forms, where systems have become more important than the gospel itself) will be shown for what it is: something merely human, with no character of Christ or his gospel in it. Often, of course, the test may come this side of the final one, and in such an hour of stress that which has been built of modern forms of sophia usually comes tumbling down.”  (Gordon Fee, First Corinthians, NICNT,)  (cf. the seven churches in Revelation 2/3)

Prayerfully reflect on these Scriptures:

  • Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
  • Psalm 19:14  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight.”

Those who think heaven is gained by good deeds on earth

If you’ve been expecting to be received into heaven based on human effort you have been mistaken—seriously mistaken!  Such a thought must be seen as an offense against Jesus Christ.  He came and gave His life for our salvation precisely because we were helpless sinners who are unable to rescue ourselves! What have I said?  Good works, the deeds done in this life could never be adequate to purchase our eternal salvation—only the blood of Christ accomplished this for us.

So if you thought it was possible for you to make yourself acceptable before God, confess to Him your sin of thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.  Confess your need of Christ alone to save you from your sins and the eternal judgment your sins deserve.  Don’t be blinded by pride and religion!  Flee to Christ for salvation!

Connecting earth and heaven

We Christians, who know very well that good works do not accomplish our salvation, must take the connection between this life and heaven seriously.

  • Do you see the importance of 2 Corinthians 5:9-10?
  • Memorize these verses along with Hebrews 6:10; 10:24-25.
  • Do you anticipate God saying to you: “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
  • The great puritan Richard Baxter wrote, “Live now as you would wish you had done at death and judgment.”

Steve Cornell

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ

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

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My mind often travels to this place where one day I will stand. As a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, I must give an account of my service. My appearance before His judgment seat is closer with each passing day. Anticipation of this appointment causes me to do some deep personal evaluation and has a purifying influence in my life. 

Sometimes, I even “need to repent of my repentance,” as the Puritans confessed. Why? Because even in my repentance my heart might take pride in how repentant I am.

I quickly join my puritan brothers to pray, “O God of grace, I have no robe to bring to cover my sins, 
no loom to weave my own righteousness;
 I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
 and by grace am always receiving change of
 clothing, 
for You always justify the ungodly;
 I am always going into the far country, 
and always returning home as a prodigal,
 always saying, Father, forgive me,
 and You are always bringing forth
 the best robe.” 

In such times, my heart attaches with greater awareness to my Advocate with the Father, “Jesus Christ the righteous one” (I John 2:1-2). I often recount my need for a “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) with deep gratitude that He is “not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15), but one who “…is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

I also join the puritans and pray, “O God of Grace,
You have imputed my sin to my substitute,
and imputed His righteousness
to my soul.” If Jesus had not been made sin for me and I had not been made righteous in him, where could I find hope? (II Corinthians 5:21).

A closer look:

The evaluation of each believer will be a time of personal accountability when our works will be evaluated by the Lord (Rom. 14:10-12; Heb. 13:17). The result will either be reward or loss (I Cor. 3:11-15; cf. Phil. 3:5-8; Rev. 3:11; II Cor. 5:10) and possibly even shame (I Jn. 2:28). Judgement is not about destiny. Our eternal destiny is settled in this life. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). Judgment is focused on our service — the things done while in the body. 

Evaluation of service for God is based on the motives of the heart behind the service (I Corinthians 4:5). Our motives have some relationship with the quality and enduring significance of our service (I Cor. 3:11-15; II Cor. 5:10).

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave the best explanation of the concern for motives. He warned about doing “works of righteousness” (like giving, praying and fasting) to be seen by man (Matthew 6:1-21). If being recognized by others is my motivation in service, in Jesus’ words, “you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). There will be no enduring fruit and reward for such service.

Our deeds will be “good or bad” in relation to an enduring quality. Service for the Lord endures (like “gold, silver and costly stones,” I Corinthians 3:12-13) when done “in secret.” Jesus said, “…your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:4,6,18). Service that is without enduring quality and without reward (like “wood, hay or straw”) is the kind that is done for attention and praise from man. Jesus warned against prostituting what is sacred to promote yourself.

The apostle taught that each person’s work “will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light” (I Corinthians 3:13). When the Lord comes, “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (I Corinthians 4:5).

This is a soul-searching consideration because motives are slippery. I need to do regular “gut-checks” to be sure that the affirmations and accolades from people do not control my service for Christ. It’s not that I shouldn’t care what people think and how my life affects them, but that I must not allow it to occupy a controlling place in my heart — in the “why?” portion behind the “what” of life. We are not to hide the light of our deeds but we must learn to let our light shine before others, “that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Like the apostle, I must always ask, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Pray often:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24).

grateful for mercy,

Steve Cornell

10 tests for spiritual inventory

 

Complacency and Christianity cannot co-exist because the Christian life is an examined life. 

“A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (I Corinthians 11:28). “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (II Corinthians 13:5).

Word of Caution:

This 10 point inventory is primarily meant for personal use not for judging others. It could be used to help others as they desire to examine their own hearts. But I offer this word of caution because lists and tests are too often used legalistically beyond the explicit requirements of God. It is wise then to examine our hearts and to guard our hearts with this caveat in mind. 


1. The test of anger: What makes you mad? 

“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed (provoked within) to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). “He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5)

2. The test of humor: What makes you laugh? 

“There’s a time to laugh, and a time to cry” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21) (See: Ephesians 5:3-4)

3. The test of music: What makes you sing? 

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18-19). “Let my tongue sing about your Word,
for all your commands are right” (Psalm 119:172)

4. The test of anxiety: What makes you worry? What do you fear?

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25). “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28; cf. Ps. 111:10; )
(see also: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; I Peter 5:6-7; Isa. 41:10)

5. The test of money:
 How important is it to you? What do you do with it?

“Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Prov. 3:9a). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Loving money condemned: Luke 16:14; I Timothy 6:9-10; II Timothy 3:2

6. The test of value: 
What is most important to you?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well: (Matthew 6:33; cf. Colossians 3:23). Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2;15-17). “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37)

7. The test of influence:
 What difference are you making in others?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16; cf. Philippians 2:14-16)

8. The test of companionship: What kind of people do you prefer to be with?

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (II Cor. 6:14-15)“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20) (cf. Psalm 1:1-3;Proverbs 22:24-25;Amos 3:3;I Corinthians 5:9-13;

9. The test of speech:
 What do you like to talk about?

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45)“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:32). Brothers, do not slander one another” (James 4:11; cf. Prov. 11:12-13; 16:28; 18:7-8; 21:23)

10. The test of time: What do you use it for? How well do you use it?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Our final spiritual inventory: 

II Corinthians 5:9-10 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For 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.”

I Corinthians 3:10-15—“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his 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 man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Steve Cornell

The final judge of all people

Reflect on this great excerpt from the writings of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).

It comes from his work titled: “The World Judged Righteously by Jesus Christ.” Don’t miss his word of encouragement in the last two paragraphs.

“Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained.” — Acts 17:31

_________________________

“The person by whom God will judge the world is Jesus Christ, God-man. The second person in the Trinity, that same person of whom we read in our Bibles, who was born of the Virgin Mary, lived in Galilee and Judea, and was at last crucified without the gates of Jerusalem, will come to judge the world both in his divine and human nature, in the same human body that was crucified, and rose again, and ascended up into heaven. Acts 1:11, “This same Jesus that is taken up from you into heaven, shall come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven.” It will be his human nature which will then be seen by the bodily eyes of men. However, his divine nature, which is united to the human, will then also be present. And it will be by the wisdom of that divine nature that Christ will see and judge.

God sees fit, that he who is in the human nature, should be the judge of those who are of the human nature. John 5:27, “And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” Seeing there is one of the persons of the Trinity united to the human nature, God chooses, in all his transactions with mankind, to transact by him. He did so of old, in his discoveries of himself to the patriarchs, in giving the law, in leading the children of Israel through the wilderness, and in the manifestations he made of himself in the tabernacle and temple. When, although Christ was not actually incarnate, yet he was so in design, it was ordained and agreed in the covenant of redemption, that he should become incarnate. And since the incarnation of Christ, God governs both the church and the world by Christ. So he will also at the end judge the world by him. All men shall be judged by God, and yet at the same time by one invested with their own nature.

God seeth fit, that those who have bodies, as all mankind will have at the day of judgment, should see their judge with their bodily eyes, and hear him with their bodily ears. If one of the other persons of the Trinity had been appointed to be judge, there must have been some extraordinary outward appearance made on purpose to be a token of the divine presence, as it was of old, before Christ was incarnate. But now there is no necessity of that. Now one of the persons of the Trinity is actually incarnate, so that God by him may appear to bodily eyes without any miraculous visionary appearance.

Christ has this honor of being the judge of the world given him, as a suitable reward for his sufferings. This is a part of Christ’s exaltation. The exaltation of Christ is given him in reward for his humiliation and sufferings. This was stipulated in the covenant of redemption. And we are expressly told, it was given him in reward for his sufferings, Phil. 2:8-12, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

God seeth meet, that he who appeared in such a low estate amongst mankind, without form or comeliness, having his divine glory veiled, should appear amongst men a second time, in his own proper majesty and glory, without a veil. To the end that those who saw him here at the first, as a poor, frail man, not having where to lay his head, subject to much hardship and affliction, may see him the second time in power and great glory, invested with the glory and dignity of the absolute Lord of heaven and earth. And that he who once tabernacled with men, and was despised and rejected of them, may have the honor of arraigning all men before his throne, and judging them with respect to their eternal state! John 5:21-24.

God seeth meet that he who was once arraigned before the judgment-seat of men, and was there most vilely treated, being mocked, spitted upon, and condemned, and who was at last crucified, should be rewarded, by having those very persons brought to his tribunal, that they may see him in glory, and be confounded. And that he may have the disposal of them for all eternity. As Christ said to the high priest while arraigned before him, Mat. 26:64, “Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

It is needful that Christ should be the judge of the world, in order that he may finish the work of redemption. It is the will of God, that he who is the redeemer of the world should be a complete redeemer; and that therefore he should have the whole work of redemption left in his hands. Now, the redemption of fallen man consists not merely in the impetration of redemption, by obeying the divine law, and making atonement for sinners, or in preparing the way for their salvation, but it consists in a great measure, and is actually fulfilled, in converting sinners to the knowledge and love of the truth, in carrying them on in the way of grace and true holiness through life, and in finally raising their bodies to life, in glorifying them, in pronouncing the blessed sentence upon them, in crowning them with honor and glory in the sight of men and angels, and in completing and perfecting their reward.

Now, it is necessary that Christ should do this, in order to his finishing the work which he has begun. Raising the saints from the dead, judging them, and fulfilling the sentence is part of their salvation. And therefore it was necessary that Christ should be appointed judge of the world, in order that he might finish his work (John 6:39, 40, chap. 5:25-31). The redemption of the bodies of the saints is part of the work of redemption; the resurrection to life is called a redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:23).

It is the will of God, that Christ himself should have the fulfilling of that for which he died, and for which he suffered so much. Now, the end for which he suffered and died was the complete salvation of his people. And this shall be obtained at the last judgment, and not before. Therefore it was necessary that Christ be appointed judge, in order that he himself might fully accomplish the end for which he had both suffered and died. When Christ had finished his appointed sufferings, God did, as it were, put the purchased inheritance into his hands, to be kept for believers, and be bestowed upon them at the day of judgment.

It was proper that he who is appointed king of the church should rule till he should have put all his enemies under his feet. In order to which, he must be the judge of his enemies, as well as of his people. One of the offices of Christ, as redeemer, is that of a king. He is appointed king of the church and head over all things to the church. And in order that his kingdom be complete, and design of his reign be accomplished, he must conquer all his enemies, and then he will deliver up the kingdom to the Father. 1 Cor. 15:24, 25, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.”

Now, when Christ shall have brought his enemies, who had denied, opposed, and rebelled against him, to his judgment-seat, and shall have passed and executed sentence upon them, this will be a final and complete victory over them, a victory which shall put an end to the war. And it is proper that he who at present reigns and is carrying on the war against those who are of the opposite kingdom, should have the honor of obtaining the victory, and finishing the war.

It is for the abundant comfort of the saints that Christ is appointed to be their judge. The covenant of grace, with all its circumstances, and all those events to which it has relation, is every way so contrived of God, as to give strong consolation to believers: for God designed the gospel for a glorious manifestation of his grace to them. And therefore everything in it is so ordered, as to manifest the most grace and mercy.

Now, it is for the abundant consolation of the saints, that their own Redeemer is appointed to be their judge. That the same person who spilled his blood for them has the determination of their state left with him, so that they need not doubt but that they shall have what he was at so much cost to procure.

What matter of joy to them will it be at the last day, to lift up their eyes, and behold the person in whom they have trusted for salvation, to whom they have fled for refuge, upon whom they have built as their foundation for eternity, and whose voice they have often heard, inviting them to himself for protection and safety, coming to judge them.”

From: “The World Judged Righteously by Jesus ChristJonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

“Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained.” — Acts 17:31

Preparing people to meet God

“Christian mission can never be reduced to preparing people for this life.” (D. A. Carson)


In “our materialistic culture, passionately focused on the comforts of this life and pleasures of the now,” D. A. Carson calls for “the urgent restoration to our vision the ultimate importance of heaven.”

“Did not Jesus insist that his followers store up their treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21)? Did he not frankly warn them, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5)? “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37).”

“Not only does Scripture insist that we are “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27), it announces that all of history is directed toward the new heaven and the new earth—or hell. More precisely, it is directed toward a renovated universe in which “the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb” are at the very center of everything. Life here and now that is not shaped and controlled by this perspective is not merely frivolous, it is culpably rebellious.”

“Thus Christian mission can never be reduced to preparing people for this life. It can never be properly Christian if all that it aims to do, if all that it accomplished, is to effect some reforms in government, or to improve social, moral, and economic standards.”

“I cannot imagine a church profoundly shaped by Scripture that will not want to reform government and improve social, moral, and economic standards. But if that is all the church is trying to do, if it is all that individual Christians are trying to do, they have lost their moorings. There is a primacy to preparing people to meet God which, though its horizon is eternity, will also change how people live here and now” (D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God, pp.434-435).

University students respond to survey about heaven

 

Surveys have consistently indicated that the majority of people in the USA believe there is a heaven. Most also believe that heaven is granted based on the good things done in this life. In a survey we conducted at the State University in our town, 53 of the 65 students who responded acknowledged belief in heaven and confidently expected to be welcomed there upon death. 37 of the 53 based their expectation on the kind of life they’ve lived on earth. Only 7 out of 65 professed belief in heaven but were uncertain about being welcomed there.

Consider some of their answers:

1. Do you believe you will go to heaven?  Why?  Or why not?

  • Yes, I am really a loving and caring person and believe that I will go to heaven.
  • Yes, everybody does.
  • Yes, because I haven’t done anything really bad and everyone’s a sinner. If I’m going to Hell, then probably most people are.
  • Yes, God forgives all of us.  We make mistakes and learn from them.  We’re not really bad people.
  • First, purgatory, then eventually I will go to heaven.  You must go to purgatory first and work your sins off.
  • I’d like to think I will, but I don’t know if I’ve lived my life to deserve it.
  • Yes, because I do my best to live by what I learned.
  • Yes, I try to do what I feel is right.
  • I hope so. I try to do good things in my life.  I know I sin a lot. I try not to sin, though.
  • I’d like to think so because I try to be a good person and I confess my sins to a priest.
  • Yes, I believe that I try to do the right thing.
  • I believe those people who try to do what they believe is right will go to heaven. Based on that, yes, I think I will.
  • Yes, because I think I do what is right and I live my life as a good person.
  • Yes, I am a good person and believe in God.
  • Yes, though I am not a “good Christian” I believe that some of my personal values are like the Christian values.  Since I hold these values very important, I have done the necessary things to receive passage to heaven.

Did you notice the repeated emphasis? Eternal life in heaven (according to the respondents), is given to those who deserve it for the way they’ve lived on earth. I suspect that most people would think this makes sense — especially if they come from a culture strongly committed to entitlement. I am really not too surprised by these responses. Their answers are consistent with all religious teaching outside of Biblical Christianity.

But the answers from these students are completely opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. God did not look down from heaven and say, “What a great group of humans! I think I’ll send my Son to die for them” (See also Romans 5:8).  If being accepted with God could be accomplished by human law-keeping, Christ died needlessly! (see: Galatians 2:21). Emphatically, the apostle wrote: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).

But having understood this important truth, consider another question:

  • Is it possible that we (in evangelical churches) have so emphasized non-works salvation that we have failed to adequately appreciate the eternal significance of our good works? Asked differently, if we all get heaven as a free gift of God’s salvation, does it really matter how we live on earth?  If it does, in what way? Is there eternal significance to our earthly lives?

Connecting earth and heaven:

The Bible makes a clear connection between earth and heaven in relation to the way we live on earth.  And although the connection does not affect or influence the eternal security of our standing with God, we must never allow ourselves to think that it doesn’t matter in eternity whether we lived faithful and obedient lives on earth.  Of course, faithfulness and obedience are the fruit of genuine conversion, but not all believers adequately understand their connection with eternity.  To understand this connection we need to establish two basic points.

1. Future accountability to God – 2 Corinthians 5:8-10

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

This is the undeniable fact of future accountability before God (cf. Romans 14:7-12—where once again we find this emphasis on human accountability before God).

“To have the glorious hope of being transformed into the likeness of Christ at His appearing in no way absolves us from responsibility for the manner in which we conduct ourselves now. If our deepest longing is for that consummating moment when we shall at last be transfigured into His image, then it should be our present concern to progress daily, by the grace of God, towards the goal of Christlikeness.  Love for the Master because of His matchless love for us should be sufficient incentive for us to follow devotedly in His steps.  But there is a further consideration, to which the Apostle draws attention here, namely, that even for the Christian there is to be a day of reckoning.  We must all, apostles and the rest, whether living or dead at Christ’s coming, be made manifest before the tribunal of Christ”  (Philip Hughes, Second Corinthians, NICNT, 179-180).

“All the implications and consequences of being made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ will not be known until the day itself arrives; but meanwhile the Christian is left in no doubt that he is regarded by God as fully answerable for the quality of his present life in the body”  (Hughes, 182-183).

Although all the implications and consequences of our future appearance before Christ’s tribunal are not known, Scripture is not silent about it:

2. The nature of future accountability to God

Second Corinthians five not only establishes the fact of accountability, it also sheds light on the nature of that accountability. In these verses, we learn of a future evaluation of our present lives and the focus is on “the deeds of the body.” These deeds will prove to be either “good” or “bad” (bad means “worthless” or “of no enduring value”). This will happen at our “appearing” or “being made manifest” before Christ’s judgment seat. But what does this involve?

“To be made manifest means not just to appear, but to be laid bare, stripped of every outward façade of respectability, and openly revealed in the full and true reality of one’s character.  All our hypocrisies and concealments, all our secret, intimate sins of thought and deed, will be open to the scrutiny of Christ…for it is only the divine gaze which penetrates to the very essence of our personality: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7).  The conduct of our lives should constantly be influenced by the solemn remembrance that ‘there is no creature that is not manifest in God’s sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5).  In that day of manifestation both the hypocritical and the hypercritical will be shown for what they really are.”

“’Because much is required of those to whom much has been given,’ comments Tasker, ‘the thought of the judgment seat of Christ has for the Christian a peculiar solemnity.  It is not meant to cloud his prospect of future blessedness, but to act as a stimulus.’  The incentive is to Christian living that is marked throughout by complete integrity, both in what is apparent and in what is not apparent to one’s fellow-men, so that the outward, instead of concealing the inward person, corresponds to it. It is only in Christ, through the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, that this wholeness of being, free from division and dissimulation, can be realized.  ‘Let us then imagine Christ’s judgment-seat to be present now,’ urges Chrysostom, ‘and reckon each one of us with his own conscience, and account the Judge to be already present, and everything to be revealed and brought forth. For we must not merely stand, but also be manifested.  Do you not blush?  Are you not dismayed?’”  (Hughes)

“In the light of the ultimate realities of which he has been speaking every genuine follower of Christ should apply himself earnestly to ‘the perfecting of holiness in the fear of God’ (7:1).  By ‘the fear of the Lord,’ then, the Apostle does not mean that terror (A. V., Ambrose, Herveius, Beza) which the ungodly will experience when they stand before God’s judgment throne (cf. Rev. 6:15ff), but that reverential awe which the Christian should feel towards the Master whom he loves and serves and at whose hands he will receive ‘the things done in the body’”  (cf. 1 Peter 1:17-19) (Hughes).

Relate this emphasis to Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

In Matthew 6:1-18 (giving – vv. 2-4; praying – vv. 5-6; fasting – vv. 16-18), Jesus contrasted those who prostituted sacred acts of righteousness to promote themselves with those who did things in secret as being seen and rewarded by the Father.  Motives of the heart appear to be the criteria for judgment. This aligns with I Corinthians 4:5- “…wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” The One who knows the motives of men’s hearts will expose them, and it will be very personal—“at that time each will receive his praise from God.”  Yet some also will “suffer loss” as their works prove to be “worthless” (i.e. of no enduring value).  (cf. Hebrews 4:12)  Perhaps 1 John 2:28 relates to this category. This might also help to explain the difference between categories of “gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw” (I Corinthians 3:10-15).

So in heaven, there will evidently be reward and loss of reward in relation to our earthly lives (i.e. “our acts of righteousness” or “deeds done in the body”). Some of what we’ve done will be of the quality that endures (done for the Lord in secret); some will disappear like fire consuming wood, hay or straw.

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

“Every believer is building upon the one foundation that has been laid, namely, Jesus Christ; upon this foundation he is secure for all eternity; but he is to take heed how he builds on this foundation, that is, the day of Christ’s tribunal. The picture used is that of a trial by fire, and the materials envisaged are such as are either destroyed by fire (wood, hay, stubble) or resistant to and indeed purified by fire (gold, silver, precious stones).  The Christian whose work abides after the test will receive a reward, whereas he whose work is consumed will suffer loss—‘but he himself shall be saved’ (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).”   (cf. Revelation 1:14-17a)

“The declaration of Christ’s judgment-seat is not the ultimate of salvation or damnation; for it is the redeemed alone who stand before it, and their doing so results either, on the one hand, in their hearing the Lord’s ‘well done’ and the receiving of a reward, or, on the other hand, in their suffering loss, that is, through failing to receive a reward.  The rewards themselves vary in proportion to the faithfulness and diligence of each individual (cf. Luke 19:16ff).”  (Hughes)

Life and service for our Lord is an accountable stewardship of various talents, gifts, opportunities, and abilities. The Lord’s parables stress this truth. Reward and loss are a certainty but their exact nature is not as clear.  Evidently, the quality of each person’s work is either temporal or enduring.  Acts of devotion done for temporal glory will have no eternal significance. But there will be awareness of loss.  I Corinthians 3:10-15 is most likely a reference to efforts at building Christ’s Church. Do we build based on worldly wisdom or Christ and His teaching? In verse 15, it’s the man’s work (evidently in building the church) that could be burned up, while the man himself is spared.

This is “one of the most significant passages in the New Testament that warn—and encourage—those responsible for “building” the church of Christ.  In the final analysis, of course, this includes all believers, but it has particular relevance, following so closely as it does vv. 5-9, to those with teaching/leadership responsibilities.  Paul’s point is unquestionably warning.  It is unfortunately possible for people to attempt to build the church out of every imaginable human system predicated on merely worldly wisdom, be it philosophy, ‘pop’ psychology, managerial techniques, relational ‘good feelings,’ or what have you.  But at the final judgment, all such building (and perhaps countless other forms, where systems have become more important than the gospel itself) will be shown for what it is: something merely human, with no character of Christ or his gospel in it. Often, of course, the test may come this side of the final one, and in such an hour of stress that which has been built of modern forms of sophia usually comes tumbling down.”  (Gordon Fee, First Corinthians, NICNT,)  (cf. the seven churches in Revelation 2/3)

Prayerfully reflect on these Scriptures:

Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Psalm 19:14  “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight.”

Final word to those who think heaven is gained by good deeds on earth:

If you have been expecting to be received into heaven based on human effort you have been mistaken—seriously mistaken!  Such a thought must be seen as an offense against Jesus Christ.  He came and gave His life for our salvation precisely because we were helpless sinners who are unable to rescue ourselves! What have I said?  Good works, the deeds done in this life could never be adequate to purchase our eternal salvation—only the blood of Christ accomplished this for us.

So if you thought it was possible for you to make yourself acceptable before God, confess to Him your sin of thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to think.  Confess your need of Christ alone to save you from your sins and the eternal judgment your sins deserve.  Don’t be blinded by pride and religion!  Flee to Christ for salvation!

Final word to believers about connecting earth and heaven:

We Christians, who know very well that good works do not accomplish our salvation, must take the connection between this life and heaven seriously. Do you see the importance of 2 Corinthians 5:9-10? Memorize these verses along with Hebrews 6:10; 10:24-25. Do you anticipate God saying to you: “Well done, good and faithful servant?” The great puritan Richard Baxter wrote, “Live now as you would wish you had done at death and judgment.”

Steve Cornell

Footnote: On degrees of reward, see Dan. 12:2; Matt. 6:20-21; 19:21; Luke 6:22-23; 12:18-21, 32, 42-48; 14:13-14; 1 Cor. 3:8; 9:18; 13:3; 15:19, 29-32, 58; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 6:7-8; Col. 3:23-24; 1 Tim. 6:18; Heb. 10:34-35; 11:10, 14-16, 26, 35; 1 Peter 1:4; 2 John 8; Rev. 11:18; 22:12; cf. also Matt. 5:46; 6:2-6, 16-18, 24; Luke 6:35; 19:17-19.