Jesus Christ is not merely a figure from the past. He is "Jesus Christ, risen from the dead" (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour, the living Lord, stands at the centre of our future. He does not only speak to us from the past. He also speaks to us from the future. What is He saying to us? How will He affect our present way of living?
Jesus speaks to us from the future. He calls us on to heaven, but He does not turn us into dreamers who are so "heavenly-minded" that we're not learning to serve the Lord right now. We sing of our heavenly hope: "On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share; when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there."
What is to be our present response to this glorious hope? - "Let us labour for the Master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care. Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there."
We do not lose ourselves in beautiful thoughts about the future. When we think of the future, we are reminded that there is work to be done here on earth. The Bible does not encourage us to get all starry-eyed about the future. The Bible speaks about the future in terms of both salvation and judgment.
Here, in 1 Corinthians 15, the emphasis is on salvation. Nevertheless, there is also the warning against turning from Christ and bringing ourselves under judgment.
Paul opens this great resurrection chapter by describing the Gospel in this way - it is "the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved" (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). This is a marvellous description of how the Gospel changes our lives, but notice the next few words - "if you hold it fast - unless you believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:2). We must hold fast to the Gospel. We must remain faithful to Christ. If we turn back from following Him, the Bible speaks to us of the future - not in terms of the great salvation which we await, but rather in terms of the great judgment from which we must flee. To those who have become careless, the Word of God says, "How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).
When we think of the future, we must think of both the Gospel promise concerning salvation and the Gospel warning concerning judgment. This Gospel, which speaks of both salvation and judgment, is not merely a message concerning the future. It is a present challenge. The future is to affect our present way of living.
The glorious Return of our Lord Jesus Christ is not a purely futuristic event which has absolutely no bearing on our life here and now. Jesus' Return is full of relevance for our life today.
When the Bible speaks about the Lord's Return, it does two things. First, it announces the Lord's Return. It tells us that the Lord will return. Second, it calls for our response. It calls us to live in the light of the Lord's Return.
There is one wrong attitude we must take care to avoid. We must not sit back and say, "Let's just wait and see what happens." We dare not think like this. We dare not live like this. We must get ready for the Lord's Return.
At the heart of 1 Corinthians 15, there is a very challenging verse - "Come to your right mind, and sin no more" (1 Corinthians 15:34). Whenever our thoughts turn to the Lord's Return, we must hear the challenge of the future. God says to us, "Jesus is coming again. Come to your senses. Don't keep on going your own way, the way of sin. Go Jesus' way, the way of faith, the way of obedience." If we are to know the blessing of God in our lives, there must be a willingness to go the Lord's way.
This is emphasized in the words of the benediction chorus: "May God's blessing surround you each day, as you trust Him and walk in His way." We enjoy the blessing of the Lord as we trust Him and walk in His way. "May His presence within, guard and keep you from sin. Go in peace. Go in joy. Go in love." The way of peace, joy and love is the way of being guarded and kept from sin. Let us never imagine that we will ever discover peace, joy and love whenever we are intent on going our own way, the way of sin, rather than the Lord's way, the way of discipleship.
In our thinking about the Lord's Return, it is very important that we do not forget that the decision between salvation and judgment is one which must be made here and now. The Bible speaks of the Day of the Lord's Return as a Day of salvation for the Lord's believing people. The Lord's Return will also bring a Day of judgment for all who turn their backs on the Saviour. The Bible also speaks of another day of salvation, another day of judgment. That day is today. This is precisely what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 - "Now is the day of salvation." Now is the time for making your decision for Christ. Now is the time for faith in the Saviour. Jesus underlines the importance of our present response to Him. He does this, in John 3:18, when He speaks of those who are already under judgment because of their unbelief: "he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God."
The Lord awaits for our response now. May God help us to put our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. May God help us to await Christ's Return with joyful expectation.