The Work of Christ - Future 1 - How Christ Begins His Future Work

The Work of Christ
by Arno Gaebelein

1. How Christ Begins His Future Work.

The beginning of Christ's future work is revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. This Scripture contains a great and unique revelation, unknown in the Old Testament. The Lord had made the promise to His disciples, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). He did not tell them in what manner He would keep this most precious promise. In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians the Lord gives the details of His coming for His own, and how He will fulfill the promise given to His disciples. He promises that He will descend from heaven with a shout. When He accomplished His work on the cross, He gave a shout, for He cried with a loud voice "Tetelestai" -- "It is finished!" As the risen One, He met His beloved ones and said "All Hail!" The Greek gives only one word, "Chairete" -- "Oh! the Joy!" This is His resurrection shout, the shout of joy and victory. And when He ascended He went up with a shout (Ps. 47:5). First Thessalonians 4:16 tells us He is going to descend with a shout. He passed through the heavens in His glorious ascension and entered into the presence of God, His Father. Some day He will arise from the place He occupies on the Throne of God. He will leave the place on the right hand of the Majesty on high and pass out of the third heaven. Once more He passeth through the Heavens, not upward but downward. He comes to call His Saints to meet Him. The meeting-place is not the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem or any earthly place; the meeting-place will be in the air. We repeat, this is a revelation, which is not found in the Old Testament prophetic Word, nor did the Lord announce it fully in His earthly ministry. According to the passage containing this revelation, the shout of the Lord as He descends into the air will be followed by the resurrection of the dead in Christ. All the Saints of God will be raised physically from the graves. This includes the Old Testament and New Testament believers. When this shout is heard and the righteous dead are raised, all belonging to Christ and living in that day, will be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. For the sake of some, we add, that all who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who received eternal life and the Spirit of God, belong to Him and their blessed Hope and destiny is to be "caught up ... in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." Some teach that in order to share this rapture certain attainments are needed. Such, however, is not the case. No service, suffering, separation or any works we do, could ever fit us for such a marvelous event. Grace has accomplished it for us. In 1 Cor. 15:51-52 we read: " Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment ..." The "all" means all that are Christ's at His Coming, independent of their knowledge about dispensational truths, independent of their waiting for Him, or any other thing. That they belong to Him and are redeemed by His precious blood is a sufficient title to be caught up and to meet Him in the air.

Of this double company, saints who died and who will be raised from the dead, and saints who live and will be changed in a moment and caught up to meet Him, we find a hint in His words in John 11:25-26. "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (Resurrection). And whosoever liveth (when He comes) and believeth in Me shall never die (The changing of living believers). Believest thou this?" May we answer Him, Yea, Lord, I believe. We may not understand all the details of this wonderful event, an event which will come suddenly, but we can believe His promise and wait daily for its glorious fulfillment. This is the blessed Hope of the Church. For this we are told to wait. Ere He begins His judgment work, before the last scenes of tribulation and wrath can be enacted upon this earth and He returns as the King of Glory to claim His blood-bought inheritance, He will come into the air to meet His redeemed host and co-heirs. This is the first event in connection with His future work.

The Judgment Seat of Christ.

All judgment is to be executed by the Lord Jesus Christ. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). Up to the present time no judgment work has been done by Him. Nor have His people received their crowns and rewards for service and faithfulness. The meeting of the Saints in the presence of the Lord will be immediately followed by the judgment seat of Christ. "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom. 14:10). "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 Cor. 5:10). No unsaved person appears before this judgment for they were not raised from the dead, nor changed in the twinkling of an eye. This judgment concerns only believers. This judgment, however, does not decide their eternal salvation. That was settled when they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The words of our Lord in John 5:24 make this clear. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). The works and the service of His people will be dealt with by the Lord in this first judgment act in His future work. Of this we read in I Cor. 4:5 "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the hidden counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."

Everything will be made manifest before that judgment seat. The unconfessed sins in the believer's life will be brought to light and all hidden things will be uncovered. Then the works of the believer will be made manifest. "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (I Cor. 3:13-15). It will be the time when God's people will receive their rewards and crowns. Then the Apostles, the faithful martyrs, the self-sacrificing missionaries and servants of God will receive praise and reward for their labors. The judgment seat is the award seat of Christ. In view of this the Apostle wrote to the faithful Thessalonians: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (I Thess. 2:19-20). And the Apostle John exhorts: "And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we [the apostles and teachers] may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His Coming" (1 John 2:28). All believers in Christ are saved and have eternal life; but not all receive a reward. Their works will be consumed by the fire of that judgment, for they were nothing but wood, hay and stubble. They will go rewardless, while the faithful saints, who toiled and served, who spent and were spent, following closely in His steps, will receive rewards. What these will be, no Saint does know at this time.

When all is accomplished in connection with this judgment seat of Christ, He will lead His Saints into the Father's house, that they may behold His glory (John 17:24). He will present the church to Himself, "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). He presents His church "faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).