James 5v7-8 (TNIV)
Be patient, then, brothers and sister,
until the Lord's coming.
You too, be patient and stand firm,
for the Lord's coming is near.
My question: what is it about the Lord's coming that motivates the brothers and sisters to remain patient in the face of suffering?
Why this question?
Because I don't recall ever being challenged by a pastor or other fellow believer to be patient until the Lord's coming, nor to stand firm because the Lord's coming is near.
I have to admit the idea of the Lord's coming does not motivate me towards any ethical action or missional obedience. I have other ideas that motivate, but not the coming of the Lord. I suppose I could summarize it like this: I obey the commands of Christ because obedience is good in itself, the present outcomes of obedience are their own reward.
However, in reading through the New Testament Epistles this past week, my idea was seriously challenged. Paul repeatedly challenges his friends to endure, to keep the faith, to obey, to be pure until the Lord comes.
So what happens when the Lord comes that motivates me to be patient and stand firm and love and all the other ethical and missional commands given to us by Jesus?
When the Lord comes, several things happen:
1) When the Lord comes, all the dead in Christ will be resurrected with new bodies - not made from dust of the earth but made from "dust" of heaven.
2) When the Lord comes, following the resurrection of the dead in Christ, those who are yet alive in Christ will experience a transformation of their bodies as well.
3) Once all the saints have been resurrected and transformed, Christ will exert his authority over all the earth and bring all peoples to judgment.
4) All the saints will be reward for their faith in God and obedience to him; their good works for which they were saved will be judged and they shall be rewarded accordingly.
5) All those who did not believe in God or obey him by the light they had (Torah for Jews, Conscience for Gentiles) will be condemned and cursed accordingly.
6) Once all peoples have been judged according to God's righteousness, all evil will be overcome with good and the Restoration of All Things will be made complete.
7) Jesus - the Creator of All Things shall Make a New Heavens and a New Earth such that God Himself will dwell with the Saints; Earth shall be as it was intended - bearing the scars of the past (like Jesus' resurrected body) but exuding all the restored glory of its Creator.
8) Everything shall be Good.
It is making more sense to me why James and Paul would urge fellow believers to stay patient, to stand firm in the faith, to not waver in doing good and resisting evil: for when the Lord comes, we want to be found doing the kind of work that Jesus commanded us to do, the kind of work that contributes to the Age to Come, the kind of work that characterizes the final work of Christ.
And if we die before the Lord comes, don't we want to die doing the kind of work for which - when we are resurrected - we will resume?
Even more than that, Jesus regularly invites people to do good, to obey based on the reward they will receive in the Age to Come. There is something about the good we do in this life that has an impact on the Life to Come. Good is its own reward, but good is also rewarded in the Life to Come, if we do the good that God requires of us, that he invites us to.
Consider the essence of the commands given us in this life, commands that can still be obeyed in the life to come:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Be patient, kind, no need to envy or boast.
Worship the Lord and Serve Him only.
Do everything for the glory of God.
Seek peace for the city in which you dwell.
And so on.
To summarize: the Lord's coming is near - either death soon for most people, or the Lord's coming is closer now than it was yesterday. The Lord's coming brings reward for those who endure in faithfulness to Jesus - especially in the face of suffering. The Lord's coming is not about escaping this cesspool of an earth; the Lord's coming is about bringing and end to sin and evil and restoring the wounds and weariness of Creation. The Lord's coming is about Christ's final preparation for God's people to dwell with God Himself. The Lord's coming motivates us to good deeds done in humility and wisdom for by our deeds we will be judged, and our deeds done in this life determine the kind of life we have in the Life to Come.
Admittedly, this is still alot for me to absorb. It is new. Even if the teaching and doctrine is very old.