Believing the doctrine of the Bible that Jesus is coming and that His coming is near, the people of God will then live in hope of that coming.
For the instituted church, this living hope will take form in a holiness that consists, among other activities, of preaching, defending, contending, and suffering.
There is also the personal calling of the individual believer and of the children of believers. Hoping for the coming of Christ, each is called to a holy life. He is called to keep himself from the filthy, vile, depraved conduct of the world that increases in lawlessness at the end: revelry; drunkenness; drugs; fornication; adultery; homosexuality. This is the urgent call of the apostle in Romans 13:11-14: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness … rioting … drunkenness … chambering … wantonness … strife … envying.”
Note the “therefore”! Because the Day of Christ is near, therefore we ought to cast off the works of darkness. Walking “honestly,” or decently, in the light (which is holiness) is how we will live, because of our hope.
One evil to be as carefully guarded against as it is enthusiastically and pervasively promoted by the world is fornication. Fornication is any and every sexual relation with someone other than a man’s one wife or a woman’s one husband. It is sexual relations of the unmarried. It is sexual relations of the married man with a prostitute. It is sexual relations of a married man with another man’s wife without recourse to divorce and remarriage. It is sexual relations of a married man with another man’s wife even though they have divorced and remarried. It is all sexual relations of men with men and women with women, regardless whether a state that sinks away into the abyss of anti-Christian revolution against God’s very law in nature decrees homosexual connections to be marriage.
In a powerful passage addressed to Christians who were living in a culture, like our own, that pursued and accepted fornication as freely as it did the gratifying of the belly by eating, the apostle grounded the call to flee fornication, not in the danger of sexually transmitted disease but in the resurrection of the body. I Corinthians 6:13, 14 flatly rules out fornication, whether for the young Christian or the old Christian, whether for the unmarried or the married member of the church, on the basis of our hope. “Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.”
The hope of the resurrection of his body will also then be the motivation, why the child of God flees fornication, for example, by avoiding the pornography readily accessible, we are told, on the Internet.
No warning of the believer who lives in the West at the beginning of the twenty-first century dare ignore the evil of earthlimindedness. This is the madness of an unbounded pursuit, whether by rich or poor, of earthly possessions and pleasures as the very purpose of life. According to Jesus, this is the great danger in the last days: eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building, as the main thing (Luke 17:26-30).
Usually this groveling in the dirt of the earth (by one originally made to know God!) is the source of every immorality. According to Ezekiel, it was the cause of Sodom’s homosexuality: “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness” led to “abomination” (Ezek. 16:49, 50). So is sheer earthlimindedness—the rejection of the Creator for the creature—the cause of homosexuality in Western civilization today. But it is possible that one be earthliminded, while decent in his conduct—and damned.
What keeps us from devoting ourselves to the earth, to earthly life, and to earthly pleasures, even as we live earthly life to the full? Hope for Christ’s coming! We have a wife as though we had none, we weep as though we wept not, we rejoice as though we rejoiced not, we buy as though we possessed not, we use this world as not over-using it, because the time is short and the fashion of this world passes away (I Cor. 7:29-31).
This is negative.
One who expects the coming of Christ and the final judgment will also be active in a life of good works. My main purpose here is not to mention all kinds of good works that Christians are called to do, but to point out how the Bible grounds our life of good works in our hope of the coming of Christ.
Scripture makes our hope of Christ’s coming, with the resurrection and the final judgment that accompany Christ’s coming, the basis and incentive of a vigorously active life of holiness. Luke 19:11ff., the parable of the pounds, teaches that we must use our gifts, abilities, possessions, and position to get gain for Christ with a view to the judgment that He will conduct at His coming.
The same parable, and other passages of Scripture, motivate us to a life of good works with a view to the reward that we will receive at the judgment. Hebrews 6:10 specifies our labor of love to each other. God will not forget our work and labor of love that we show to His name by serving the saints. This includes our mutual labor of service in marriage and the family. Husbands may forget the service of their godly wife. Shame, shame, shame on them. Children may forget the labor of love of their believing parents. Shame, shame, shame on them. God does not forget one such act of service, whether in the congregation or in the home. Comes the day when it will be rewarded, including the least of the acts, about which we will say, racking our brain, “When did I ever do that?”
In view of the reward that we will get, we can be patient now as regards the seeming lack of fruit on our work, or recognition, or gratitude even by those whom we serve. There are husbands in the church who take their wife for granted, who never say “thank you,” and who even treat her shabbily besides. They should be horsewhipped publicly. It is doubtful whether they have the living hope in them of Christ’s coming. But the wife may not walk out, because “my husband did not appreciate me, because my husband abused me in this way.” Nor will the Christian woman, though strongly tempted. She serves her husband with the hope of praise and reward from God in the Day of Christ.
The final judgment is also the incentive to us patiently to bear injustice in our life. James 5:7, 8, which calls the workingman to endure injustice from his employer in view of the coming of the Lord which “draweth nigh,” applies as well to injustice at the hands of civil government, or an evil neighbor. There may be no retribution, no taking of matters into our own hands, no avenging of ourselves.There need not be. We wait for God to avenge us, as He will in the judgment.
Anticipation of the final judgment motivates us to live godly lives simply because our judgment will be according to our works.
The truth of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of our own resurrection at His coming cannot but move us to “abound” in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Cor. 15:58).
Even the reality of eternal hell plays a role in the active life of holiness of the individual child of God. Eschatology works holiness, and eschatology includes the truth about hell. In the struggles and temptations of his life, deeply conscious of eternal hell as he is deeply conscious of eternal heaven, the elect believer, without for one moment supposing that he might perish there, sacrifices whatever of pleasure or of self-fulfillment, indeed, whatever belongs to the necessities of earthly life, that would tend to bring him to hell. His motivation in painfully denying himself is the desire to be everlastingly with God in the bliss of heaven, rather than to be everlastingly cast away from God’s presence in the torment of hell. “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43).
Let every Reformed Christian, indeed every Protestant, note well: There is no calling to church or Christian to “Christianize the world” before Christ comes. There is no calling to get the upper hand and dominate in society. I challenge anyone to find such a calling in all the New Testament Scriptures. Where among all the many exhortations by Christ and the apostles to the church and the saint is such a thing even hinted at?
Nor is our life of holiness based on the “success” of such a life in history, as though the church evangelizes because she expects the majority of mankind to be converted in some great revival and as though the individual Christian obeys the law because he expects that this obedience will eventually propel him and his cohorts into power.
On the contrary!
Insofar as the basis of our present holy life lies in the future, the basis is the coming of Christ, the resurrection of our body, the final judgment, and our reigning with Christ, first in heaven after death and then in the new world after the judgment.
The calling of the believer that follows from his hope is not only that he live a holy life, but also that he die a holy death.
There is a distinctively Christian way to die. This is to die at peace, falling asleep in Jesus with no more uproar in soul or behavior than when one falls asleep of an evening after a hard day’s work. Abraham Kuyper described this Christian way of death, and called us to it, in his In the Shadow of Death.
He who can die bravely and in the power of faith must also do it. Also in dying you shall not be merely passive, but in holier sense be active. In dying, too, you have a task, a calling, a sacred duty to fulfill. Your last piece of work on earth. But a task, at your account; for which all your life long you have to prepare yourself; and of which you shall give account to the Judge of your heart and your thoughts. This task touches also your loved ones. Your death must leave behind a fruit for them. Presently your love can no more benefit them, but can still do so in your dying. For the impression of an heroic and believing deathbed always leaves behind a glorious preachment. An impression not easily wiped out. And thus likewise you have to die honorably for God’s sake. For God’s honor, over against Satan and his satellites, hangs by it; hangs by it, that also in the dying of His child the power of faith be manifest.
This is the way to die in view of being immediately with Christ as to the soul and in view of the resurrection of the body.
Nor is there any interest on the part of the Christian in the prolonging of his physical existence by the use of extraordinary medical measures. Even when he is in the prime of life, and healthy, he hardly knows what to choose, whether to be with Christ, which to him is far better, or to live for the sake of the service he may render to Christ in the world.
As the hope of the resurrection of the body at the Day of Christ results in a distinctively Christian way of dying, so it also produces a distinctively Christian way of conducting oneself at the death of a loved one who died in the Lord. We give the loved one a decent burial, as the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) requires:
The Scripture directs that the bodies of the faithful, as being temples of the Holy Spirit, which we truly believe shall rise again at the last day, should be honorably, without any superstition, committed to the earth; and, besides, that we should make honorable mention of those who died in the Lord, and perform all duties of love to those they leave behind, as their widows and fatherless children. Other care for the dead we do not enjoin.
We also display the comfort of the gospel by not grieving uncontrollably, as though we had no hope (I Thess. 4:13).
What a wonderful, motivating power is the hope of the gospel by the work of the Spirit of Christ in our lives. We live in holiness. We die in peace.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” come quickly.