Mark 8:1-21; 2 Samuel 19; Daniel 12
One Christian argume…er…discussion revolves around the end times. We have those, uhm, discussions that revolve around the question of whether or not Jesus returns before the millennium, and if so whether that happens before during or after the Tribulation, after the millennium, or even if there’s a millennium at all. We get into argume…er…discuss it so vigorously that we will sometimes break fellowship with those heretics who don’t agree with us. Er, figuratively speaking that it. Some try to avoid the arguments claiming to be pro-millennial because they’re for it; others claim to be pan-millennial believing that it will all pan out in the end. Those people get castigated for not taking this seriously…as if God is going to base our salvation not on faith in Jesus Christ and His grace, but on our proper understanding of a truth He didn’t state clearly in His word. (Maybe there’s a reason for that?)
There is one element that all of those beliefs do agree on: there will be a final judgment. Some take glee that those who are evil will get their just desserts. I don’t think God does, and I think that’s why the end of times keeps getting delayed. Ultimately though, the end will come in the way God decides and at the time He decides. Ultimately, there will be a final judgment. Daniel describes it this way: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)
A belief in a judgment at the end of life seems to be a common theme in most religions. Even those religions that believe in reincarnation base your next life on your behavior in this life. Daniel’s description of the last judgment comes in the midst of his description of the final battle between good and evil; between God and His people against the forces of darkness. It is a judgment that seems incomplete in light of the last judgment we see in the Revelation of John, but it is a reminder that how we follow God is important. Some are raised to everlasting life. They will live forever with God. Others will experience shame and everlasting contempt. We no longer believe in “shame” in our culture, so that idea may seem foreign, but those who get this everlasting shame will no doubt remember how they rejected God’s ways and remember it eternally. They will remember that they could have followed God and they refused, and that shame will burn in their hearts forever. They will be treated with contempt; it’s not that they’ll be hated, they’ll be ignored and treated as if they didn’t exist.
For those destined to everlasting life, there is a theme: light. Everlasting life is a gift granted to those who have made Jesus their Savior. While Daniel didn’t know that, he described the situation accurately. Those who are wise (and have turned to Christ) will shine like the brightness of heaven. We could debate what that means, but the meaning isn’t as important as the reason why. I believe that they’ll shine like this because of Jesus living through them. This isn’t a “say the prayer and get everlasting life insurance” kind of belief that makes one wise; this is a commit your life to Jesus and live for Him each day kind of faith. Those who lead others to righteousness, which comes from faith in Christ, will shine like the stars. The description of heaven here isn’t very detailed; in fact, no where do we have a detailed description of heaven. What we do believe, though, is that heaven is an eternity spent in fellowship with God. I’m not exactly sure what the last judgment will look like; I’m not exactly sure what will happen to people once they’re judged; I just plan to live for God each day, and trust Him with the outcome.
Oh Lord, let me live for You each day, and let my example lead others to You.