Preparing for the Future

Future

It is wise for us to be preparing for the future. However, when many people think of this, their mind goes to things like summer vacations, saving for college, and planning for retirement. While there is certainly nothing wrong with making these sorts of preparations, we need to place a priority on preparing for our future that extends beyond our lives here in this world.

The Reality Presented in the Scriptures

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

When we consider what the Bible teaches about what will happen in our future, there are three important points we need to remember.

First, this world will one day come to an end. Peter wrote about this in his second epistle: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). A few verses earlier, he wrote, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Many refuse to contemplate the possibility that this world will not be around at some time in the future. Yet the Scriptures teach that this world will one day be destroyed and that this reality is part of God’s plan.

Second, our souls will live on past our time on earth. Jesus told the penitent thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Both Jesus and the thief would be dead before the day was over (Luke 23:46; John 19:31-33). However, Jesus affirmed in His promise to the thief that there was a life after death. Death is not the end of our existence. This is why Jesus told His disciples, “Lazarus has fallen asleep” (John 11:11) even though He knew that Lazarus had already died (John 11:13-14). Unless the Lord returns first, when our time on earth is over, our bodies “will return to the earth” and our spirits “will return to God” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Third, after this life is over, there are only two places we could go. If the Lord has not yet returned, our spirits will go to Hades where we will be in either paradise or torment (Luke 16:22-23). After the Lord returns, we will either be sentenced to hell (Matthew 25:41) or be welcomed into heaven (Matthew 25:34) where we will either face “eternal punishment” or enjoy “eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). There is no third option. Neither home is temporary. Also, once we are in one of those places, there will be no opportunity to go to the other.

How We Prepare for the End

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:28-29).

We know there are only two options for our existence after death – “eternal punishment” or “eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). We will be judged by the Lord to determine which of those options will be our fate. This judgment will be based upon “what [we have] done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Knowing that our eternal fate is determined by what we do in this life, we need to be sure we are diligent to prepare as we should. How do we do that?

First, we must practice righteousness. John wrote that the one who “practices righteousness” does not need to “shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28-29). Knowing this, we should seek to know what it means to practice righteousness. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The word of God shows us how to be righteous and equips us to do everything that would be pleasing to Him. Therefore, to prepare for the end, we must do what the Lord has instructed us to do in His word.

Second, we must obey the gospel. The first point about practicing righteousness is about the overarching principle of doing what the word of God teaches. Paul told the Romans that “the righteousness of God is revealed” in the gospel so that we can “live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17). Therefore, to practice righteousness is to obey the gospel. Paul explained later in his letter to the Romans what this meant: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). This “form of doctrine” (KJV) or “pattern of teaching” (NIV) was shown earlier in the chapter: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ will obey Him (cf. Luke 6:46). Paul said this meant they would repent (turn away from their sin) and be baptized into Christ. If we want to be prepared for the end, we need to be sure we have obeyed the gospel by turning from our sin and being baptized to have our sins washed away (cf. Acts 2:37-38).

Third, after we have obeyed the gospel, we must remain faithful to the Lord. Jesus told the Christians in Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). The Hebrew writer explained that we must have “endurance” so that we “may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36). If we “shrink back,” the Lord “has no pleasure in [us]” and it will result in our “destruction” (Hebrews 10:38-39).

The Importance of Readiness

Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).

We know this world will come to an end (1 John 2:17). We also know that our lives will come to an end (James 4:14), provided the Lord does not return first (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Yet we do not know when these will happen – either the day of our death (Luke 12:19-20) or the day in which the Lord returns to judge the world (2 Peter 3:10; Acts 17:31). Because of this, we need to be ready at all times.

The Scriptures warn of the fate of those who are unprepared. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-12), Jesus described five wise virgins who had plenty of oil for their lamps as they waited for the bridegroom who was delaying and five foolish virgins who ran out of oil and had to go buy more. While they were gone, the bridegroom came and they were shut out of the wedding feast and were not permitted to enter. Jesus offered the parable to emphasize the importance of readiness and not being caught unprepared. He said, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

The reason why the world still stands is because God is patient. In responding to the charge from the mockers who claimed God would not do what He had promised (punish the world) because of the amount of time that had passed, Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Paul told the Romans, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

The fact that the world is still around means that God is being patient and giving us the time and opportunity to make things right with Him. Rather than being like the mockers who scoffed at the idea of the Lord’s return (2 Peter 3:3-4), let us use this time to do His will and prepare to meet Him.

Paul reminded the brethren in Philippi, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21). Let us eagerly await the coming of Christ so that we can finally and eternally be home with Him in heaven.


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Comments

  1. Stephen tetteh says

    It is worth reading, May God help us to endure to the end. Amen!