In this episode, we address some commonly asked questions related to the end times using the truths we have discovered in this series. Using the entire Bible – from the prophets to Paul’s letters, we explore the truth of the end times and what it means for our life on Earth. In the final analysis, we are urged to be faithful witnesses and to not be afraid of death.
Is Satan interested in serving? Yes. He’s interested in you serving him. Is he interested in him serving you? No. But that’s what Jesus came to do. I came to serve, then rule. Service first, then rule. And that’s what he’s doing. He’s qualifying a new group of leaders, those who will serve. That’s who he wants to share the throne with.
When you think of it that way, it gets scary in a different way. There are a lot of things that come up, how does this work kind of stuff.
So let me just go through and ask some questions and answer them.
First question might be: What happens to the believers who are not in this first resurrection in Revelation 4?
Well, let’s go to Philippians 3:11. It might give us some clues.
This is Paul writing, and he says in verse 10, That I may know Him—Jesus—and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death—
Does that sound like he wants to be a faithful witness and not fear death? It sure does. That’s what I want. Why? If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Now we know that Paul unequivocally states that every believer will be resurrected. That’s 1 Corinthians 15. If you are a believer, and you don’t think there’s a resurrection, you’re to be pitied because that’s our whole hope is that we’re going to be resurrected.
But this word is a different word. It’s the only time it occurs in the New Testament, and it’s exanastasis. It’s the out-resurrection. It’s a special resurrection. Maybe this is the first resurrection.
And first is the Greek word proto, and it can mean first in line or most important. You know that phrase the first will be last, and the last will be first? If that means the first in line will be the last in line, and the last in line will be first in line, then it doesn’t make any sense, right? But what it is is the last in line will be the first most important.
And the parable that that comes from is the last guy to show up got the same reward as the guys who had been working all day, and Jesus is making a point: I’m going to judge, and I may give the people who start way late in life and just finish well more than someone who is mediocre for all of his life.
That’s very encouraging. It’s never too late to start. That’s a great thing.
So this proto, this first might mean the most important resurrection as opposed to the first in line. In fact, the first in line doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense because the dead in Christ rise first and the rapture has to have happened before this.
So there’s some special resurrection that seems to take place for the overcomers, which would make some sense.
And clearly Paul, who believes everybody’s going to be resurrected, sees this as something to attain. And how do you attain it? Be conformed to his death by sufferings. Be a faithful witness unto death.
I don’t think that one’s a particular problem. It fits.
What about the believers who miss this? Well, this one gets really uncomfortable. We’ve already covered it, but we’re going to cover it again.
In Revelation 2:10. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison—that’s in his calendar. He knows it’s going to happen. He’s just warning them. —that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.
Here are these people who are standing in the face of the fire of tribulation, and he says hang on. I’ll give you the crown of life, and you won’t be hurt by the second death.
We see in Revelation 20:14, Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Apparently, this lake of fire can hurt. But if that’s hell, that’s impossible to comprehend. But hell’s been thrown into the lake of fire. If it’s the face of Jesus, then it kind of makes sense because look at 1 Corinthians 3:11 with that in mind. Paul speaking again. And the context here is there’s an argument among the people of who they’re following. “I follow Apollos.” “Well, you’re a lowly because I follow Paul.” “Apollos baptized me.” “Paul baptized me.” “Well, I was discipled by Paul.” “Then I’m better than you.”
Paul says, you know what? You’re judging based on something that’s really messed up. What you should be worried about is not me versus Apollos. You should be worried about you at the judgment seat. That’s what you should be worrying about. That’s the point here.
Verse 11. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward—Nikao. Share my throne with me. A crown of life. That’s a reward. —If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss—You don’t get the reward. —but he himself will be saved.
We’re not at issue here. None of this that’s at issue is “Are you a believer or not?” That’s not at issue. Who takes care of that? If we sin, what do we have? An advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
What sins were covered? All of them, for all time, past, present, and future. We don’t have to worry about that.
What we’re talking about here is the reward of life. What did your life matter? Who did you become? And what is your life going to be like from now on? And our choices have a huge impact on what that is.
—He will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
We have people who say, hmmm, so you mean if I sin now, if I have death, loss, condemnation, all of which are so fun, then all I have to do is just stand in front of Jesus and have my whole life burned away, how long’s it going to last? No, no. If you’re asking that question, you don’t get it. That’s not the point.
The point is not “How long is it going to last?” The point is, don’t do that! Don’t fear death! Live a life that is completely the resurrected life. Put to death the old life; live the resurrected life because this is where you’re going to go.
Just think about it as a possibility here: Jesus’ face is here at the judgment seat. And if we have gold, silver, precious stones, what would that sun-melting light do to a diamond? It would just shine so bright that it would blind everybody.
What would it do to gold? It would just purify it to the point that it was so beautiful nobody could stand it.
And what’s it going to do to wood, hay, and straw? So suffer loss.
What does that mean? Do you mean we can have remorse in heaven? Is it possible to have remorse in heaven?
Well, we looked at Isaiah last time. Remember what Isaiah said when he was in the throne room, and he meets Jesus? What did he say? “ I don’t speak too well. I need to clean up my vocabulary. I’m a man of unclean lips. I wish I could change that!”
No problem! We can fix your lips. Order up a lump of coal that’s burning hot and bring it over here. Here. We’re going to burn your lips off. Aren’t you glad? “I have my lips cauterized.” That’s in the throne room that that happens.
So, yes, I think we’re still going to be learning. We’re still going to be learning. Does discipleship stop when we get to heaven? There’s this idea that we’re going to spend our lives in heaven. That’s wrong. Who’s in heaven? Where’s this throne here, this great white throne? Where is it? It’s in heaven, right? Who’s there? Everybody! The wicked and the righteous, they’re all there in heaven.
Where are they all going? To the new earth. We’re going to spend our eternity in the new earth. We get to talk about that really soon. And that’s going to be awesome. We’re not going to spend our life in a—This image that we’re given, which, by the way, comes from Greek philosophy, not the Bible—this image that heaven is an Alzheimer’s clinic with hymns piped in, where I just play my harp and drool. You know, the eternal drool. There’s nothing in the Bible that has anything to do with that.
We’re going to be learning! We’re going to be growing! It’s going to be adventure! It’s going to be excitement!
You may be thinking, if I’m not an overcomer, is it going to be excitement? Yes. Let’s just peek ahead to 21:4. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes—Is there going to be remorse? Yes. Is it going to last forever? No.
Have you ever done anything bad in your life? Raise your hand—no, you don’t have to do that. Were you remorseful? Did you learn and move on?
You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t learn and move on.
If you think about it, do you still have a twinge? But then you say, I learned. And you moved on.
If you had a wasted life, or you had bad things that happened in your life, things that you wish you could do over again, would you rather just erase the memory and go into the Alzheimer’s clinic and drool? Or would you rather learn from it, incorporate it into who you are now, and then move on to life with all that stuff burned away, and incorporate it as, “I wish I had learned it on earth, but I got it now”? Which would you rather have?
C. S. Lewis, I think, got this. In his book The Great Divorce he depicts people on the edge of the new earth. And there’s this guy who has a lizard that’s on his shoulder. And this lizard is his victim voice. He’s always a victim. Circumstances, he can’t overcome. It’s always somebody else’s fault. He’s always telling him, this is really horrible for you.
And this angel figure that’s talking to him keeps asking, “Can I kill that thing?”
“No, no. I need it! I need it!”
And they have this conversation. “Can I kill that thing?”
Finally he says yes. And he kills it. And it’s the most painful thing that ever happened to him. And then the lizard turns into a beautiful white stallion, and he rides off.
I think that’s kind of what we’re talking about here. We have this idea, well good. Then I want as much wood, hay, and stubble at the—No! No, you don’t want wood, hay, and stubble. Keep going on. You don’t want to be going into the new earth and everybody’s, “It smells like smoke.” No, you don’t want to do that! That’s not what we want.
Verse 15. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.
So this is a big deal.
Now is there any precedent for this, that judgment fire would apply to believers? Absolutely! The whole Old Testament is full of it.
You failed me in the wilderness. Why didn’t you believe me? I would have given you something to drink. Why didn’t you believe me? Ten times he says—and then finally he says, you know, you’re going to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. I’ll take care of you the whole time. I’ll give you clothes. You’ll be on welfare. I’ll give you food. But you don’t get the inheritance. You don’t get to go into the land.
And I’m sure some of them are like, “You mean we don’t have to fight? Everything’s free? Good. I’m good with that.”
I’m sure some people were like that. But, they missed out on the blessing of owning something, of being a part of something, of actually building something. That was taken away.
You know that Jeremiah 29:11 verse that everybody has on a cross-stitch on their wall somewhere. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you—” (NIV)
You know the verses right before that are saying so you’re going to go 70 years to a foreign country, and your whole country’s going to be destroyed. Probably a half a million people or so are going to die. But this is totally for your good! I have nothing but your best interest at heart.
And everybody’s looking, going “What?” That doesn’t sound like my best interests.
But, Babylon, who did the invasion, got the same treatment. They got invaded by the Persians. What was the difference between the two? When the Persians invaded the Babylonians, they were no more.
When the Israelites got exiled, they were refined. They became the Jews we know today. That’s where their scholastic tradition started, and they became the geniuses of the world in Babylon. That’s what happened to them. And they were blessed, even though it seemed horrible.
That’s kind of the way things work.
Can we avoid the fire? That’s a good question. The answer to that is no. We cannot avoid the fire.
Interestingly enough, what we get to choose is which fire and which place.
Let’s look at 1 Peter 4:12. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial—So the fire in the lake of fire is the Greek word pyr. And this word here, fiery trial, has as its root pyr. It’s a trial of fire. That’s why they translated it this way.
Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you—If something’s strange, what does that mean it is? Unusual, unexpected. What should we expect? Fiery trials.
Can we opt out of fiery trials? Yes and no. They will come anyway, but we can just give in to the world.
I’m sure all of you have experienced this in some fashion. The teenagers are going to go do something, and everybody knows it’s bad, probably illegal too. You say, or someone says, you know, I’m not going to participate.
What do you get if you take that stand? You get rejection. You get exiled, you get death. You get death from that clique if you do that.
Then they go and do whatever thing and get away with it, and then they get away with it, and then they get away with it. Then the authorities come. And you say, “Phew! I’m glad I endured!”
Who got the fire? Everybody. You can either have the fire of the rejection and exile from the world, and then when the authority comes, say, “Phew! I’m glad I did that!” Or you can say, “Man, this is cool! I’m getting away with it. I’m getting away with it. I’m getting away with it.” And then the authority comes, and you say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
That’s our choice. We can either live our life as a faithful witness and not fear death. That’s a fiery trial. That’s going through the fire. Have it burned away here and now with this walk of faith. Or wait until you get in front of Jesus’ face with a big bale of hay in your hand. That’s the choice.
Here’s another one. If I’m thinking to myself, I already have a big bale of hay, is there anything I can do? Do I just have to wait until the judgment seat and just suck it up?
No. We can actually burn our hay now. And here’s how. Look at 1 John 1:7. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we’re walking in the light, what do we all have? Sin! If you say you have no sin, you’re kidding yourself, right? But if you’re walking in the light, you just have sin but you’re not aware of it. We’re blind to most of our sin. Isn’t that an encouraging thought? It’s reality.
The more you grow in the Lord, the more you realize, I’m not nearly as good as I thought I was. Right? Has everybody experienced that?
So if you walk in the light, he says this: You’re good! All the stuff that you haven’t become aware of yet, I’ll just cover that over. No hay bale for you. I’m just covering it over. Just deal with what you know.
If we say, well, I don’t have any problems, you’ve got a problem!
And then verse 9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now this is given to believers. The sin of separation from God has already been dealt with. That’s done.
All you have to do is have enough faith to look like the snake on the stick and say, “I don’t want to be killed by snake poison! I looked.” That’s all it takes to become a child of God because Jesus does that. That’s new birth. We don’t have anything to do with birth. It’s just a gift.
What we’re talking about here is becoming a fellow heir of the universe. Wouldn’t you expect that to take a little bit of effort? Yeah!
So if we say we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness–What that means to me is if we say, “Look, I screwed up, and I want to change”; and then we change, then we’ve dealt with it here.
How easy is confession, folks? I think it was Gus in Lonesome Dove who said that confession is like a dry shave; it hurts!
Did you ever sit down with someone and say, “I screwed up? I’m sorry.” That’s fire. It hurts!
But here’s the deal: You get a choice. Do you want to do it now, with your spouse or your friend or your cohort or whatever it is and get the pain out of the way, or do you want to do it in front of the burning-face of Jesus with everybody watching? And by the way, you get a bonus if you do it that way. There’s a bonus.
Let’s look at Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
If we don’t take care of it here, we get the bonus of all our thoughts and intentions being laid bare as well in addition to our actions. Welcome to the judgment!
Are you getting motivated to clear it all out now? That’s the point! The point is not, how do we game the system? I don’t know how all of these sequences work. I don’t know if there’s one judgment or fifty judgments or two or three. I don’t know. There are systems out there you can look at. They may be right. I don’t know. I don’t care! I don’t care!
You know what I care about? I want to be in the first resurrection, and I want to be an overcomer. All the other scenarios you’re not supposed to aim for.
How do we become an overcomer? Be a faithful witness until death. What does that look like?
I’ve got a couple of other questions here, but I’m almost out of time, so I’m going to have to pick one.
So who judges? This is a simple answer. Who judges? Jesus does.
Are we supposed to judge anything? Yes, we are supposed to judge something. Look at Matthew 7:16. You will know them by their fruits.
We’re supposed to judge fruit. This is usually used by a preacher that’s judging whether someone’s a believer or not, or something like that.
Ahh, but look at the context! Verse 15. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
If you have a preacher telling you that they’re judging you based on fruits, what should you suspect? Beware. That’s the thing we’re supposed to judge: who to follow. You judge people’s actions to decide, who do you want to follow? That’s it. That’s the only fruit-inspection purpose we’re supposed to have: who do I follow?
What are we supposed to do with everyone else? Look at 1 Corinthians 4:5. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes—That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? He’s telling them, am I supposed to judge something?
Let’s just go back and look at the context here because they’re judging Paul, and he says, In fact, I don’t even judge myself. Do you judge yourself? Do you beat yourself up? Stop. That’s all I can tell you.
—I don’t even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself—Do you know something against yourself? Confess! And then stop beating yourself up.
Yet, I’m not justified by this—Does that let you off the hook? No! Because who’s going to judge? Jesus.
Therefore judge nothing before the time—We don’t know why people did stuff. Look, everybody has a story, don’t they? Just don’t judge people. Is anybody going to get away with anything? No! Everything’s going to be paid for either by Jesus or by his face.
—judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
Don’t worry about it. It’s all going to—You see somebody—“It’s terrible! They’re getting away—!” Nobody’s getting away with anything. Don’t worry about it. Just confess what you know and walk in the light. That’s the best you can do. You get the picture?
And what does that all come back to? Be a faithful witness today with the role I gave you, and let me worry about the rest. Look, I’ve got the future—You’re worried about the future? It’s on my calendar. Don’t worry about it. You’re worried about your sin? Do what you can do: confess it, deal with it, and change. Let me worry about the rest of it. All the stuff you don’t know—just let me worry about it. You’re worried about the judgment? I’m going to do the judging. Can you trust me? Would you rather somebody else judge? OK, good. Then trust me. I’ve got it.
Do what you need to do with what you have in front of you now, and be faithful. I’ve got the rest.
It’s cool, isn’t it? He’s in control, and we have these choices to make that change the world, totally change the world. It’s an awesome situation to be in.
So let’s begin with the end in mind. And what the end is is everything’s going to be brought to light except those things we’ve already taken care of. So what do we want to do? Take care of everything and then be faithful until death.
Is it ever too late to start? No. The last will be first. If you need a fresh start, start today. It’s a good day to start. We don’t know how Jesus is going to judge all this. But does he want us to win? Absolutely. That’s good enough.