Where there is not future, there is little motivation for the present.
Years ago, a small town in Maine was proposed for the site of a great hydroelectric plant. Since the dam would be built across the river, the entire town would be submerged. When the project was announced, the people were given many months to relocate. During that time, all improvements ceased. No painting or repairs were done. The town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though most had not yet moved away. One citizen complained, “Where there is no future, there is little motivation for the present.”
This is why it is so important to true perspective of our future. For the Christian, our future is almost too wonderful to imagine.
We have a Promised Future.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. (2 Corinthians 5:1-2)
When it comes to theories about death, we often hear the words “we think”… “we believe”… “we hope.” But this chapter begins with “we know.” Paul says there are certain things about our future beyond death. What do we know?
We know that we now live in a tent. A tent is a temporary place to stay. It’s fun to camp in a tent, but let’s face it, it’s not home. There’s no fireplace, no cozy chair, no soft bed. It’s cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and leaky when it rains. And the older it gets, the more it sags. Eventually, it frays, tears, and finally rots and we throw it away.
We know that a permanent dwelling awaits us when we die. God is preparing a place for us and He gives us an inner longing for it. We groan, not just because of our temporary body, but because we want our permanent body.
C.S. Lewis said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. . . . It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.”
What know what our new body will be like. It won’t get sick, get tired, forget things, tempt us to do wrong. We will have a perfect body.
Just like we can only be one place at a time, we can’t be here and Heaven at the same time. As long as we are here, we are absent from the Lord. That’s what causes Paul to grown – he wants to be with Jesus. But as soon as we are absent from here, we are with the Lord. There is no purgatory – our spirit and soul are with Jesus. Paul was confident that He would have a new body in a new place with an old friend – Jesus.
A mother was trying to explain death to her dying son: You remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed, it was not where you belonged. And you would only stay there a little while. In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come – with big strong arms – and carried you away. Death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in there other room – our own room where we belong – because the Lord Jesus loved us.
We have Potential Rewards.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
The Judgment Seat of Christ is the not the Great White Throne Judgment when people will be sentenced to Heaven or Hell. The judgment of a Christian’s sin has already been made at the cross. Our sins are paid for. The Judgement Seat of Christ is the reward for a believer’s works for Jesus. Jesus will look beyond the quality of our work and judge its quality.
The Greek word Paul uses for ‘seat’ is ‘bema.’ It is the raised platform from which decisions of right and wrong are made. It was used for handing out awards to competing athletes. If the athlete conducted himself within the rules, he was handed his reward.
Throughout Scripture we are told of at least five rewards (crowns) Jesus will hand out.
- Crown of Righteousness– given to those who love the Lord’s return – 2 Tim. 4:8
- Crown of Glory – given to godly leaders who serve as faithful examples to others – 1 Pet. 5:2-4
- Crown of Life– given to those who endure patiently through trials – James 1:12; Rev. 2:10
- Incorruptible Crown– given to those who discipline their body and live in self-control – 1 Cor. 9:25-27
- Crown of Rejoicing– given to those who win souls to Christ – 1 Thess. 2:19-20
What do we do with these crowns, if we should earn them? We cast them upon the glassy sea before the Throne of God. I believe Jesus will pick up our crowns and wear them as evidence of His work through us. I hope you have a great future.
David Peterson, former pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, told about a time when he was preparing his sermon. His little daughter came in and said, “Daddy, can we play?” He answered, “I’m awfully sorry, Sweetheart, but I’m right in the middle of preparing this sermon. In about an hour I can play.” She said, “Okay, when you’re finished, Daddy, I am going to give you a great big hug. He said, “Well, I’ll look forward to that. Thank you very much.” She went to the door and (these are his words) “Then she did a U-turn and came back and gave me a chiropractic, bone-breaking hug.” David said to her, “Baby, you said you were going to give me a hug after I finished.” She answered, “Daddy, I just wanted you to know what you have to look forward to!”