Long Life And Talents
Vol: 128 Issue: 30 Wednesday, May 30, 2012
One of the major dichotomies of the Christian life is that for Christians, to die is gain. All of us want to go to heaven, this old earth is nothing but sin and misery. But the dichotomy is that we’ll cling to this life with both hands until the last second, praying for long life even as we eagerly acknowledge our joy at the prospect of going Home.
“Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3)
It appears hugely contradictory. The Promise is that we will live long upon the earth as a reward for honoring our parents. Given our doctrine that to “die is gain” it would seem illogical to reward believers with long life on the earth.
As the old saying goes, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Atheists are quick to point out the seeming inconsistency to that position as ‘evidence’ that our faith, no matter how staunchly we might defend it, is really just a sham, like whistling past the graveyard.
Everybody dies, notes the atheist, so the whole heaven and hell thing is a fairy tale; the ‘opiate of the masses,’ Marx called it, self-administered to give some sense of eternal meaning to the inevitable.
After all, if heaven was real, wouldn’t we be standing in line at the edge of the cliff waiting for our turn to jump?
It is, of course, a deliberately misleading argument. Personally, I have no fear of BEING dead. I know in Whom I have believed, and, like Paul,
“I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
But BEING dead is different than GETTING dead. To my way of thinking, fear of death is more a fear of GETTING there than it is of BEING there.
So a promise that includes ‘my days being long upon the earth’ is attractive, not because I am not eager to be in heaven, but rather because I am not particularly looking forward to the ‘jumping off’ point.
Dying prematurely means all one’s chances to do right have been used up. I will stand before the Bema Seat with only those works I accomplished during my lifetime . . . and I know how much time I’ve wasted already. I can’t afford to spare another second.
While I most assuredly expect to go to heaven when I die, I would hate to show up at the Bema Seat alone, with no fruit to show for my existence.
Jesus told the parable of the three servants to illustrate:
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” (Matthew 25:15-16)
There is an eternal truth contained here that is often overlooked. He gave his servants ‘talents’ — ‘to every man according to his several ability’. The nobleman also expected them to USE those abilities to his service.
“Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.” (25:17)
Note also that the servant that was given the most produced the most. Then our attention is turned to the unprofitable servant:
“But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” (25:18)
The two servants who invested their lord’s money returned it to him upon his return with interest. The first two servants were rewarded handsomely.
The first two servants were commended:
“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (25:21,23)
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.” (25:24-25)
Saying, “at my coming I should have received mine own with usury,” (25:27) the lord in the parable ordered the lazy servant to be stripped of the one talent he had, and ordered him cast into the outer darkness, ‘where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (25:30)
These verses are often used to ‘prove’ a believer can lose his salvation, but it only works by taking the verses out of context.
In context, Jesus is teaching concerning the fate of the nations on the last day, not that of individual believers, as the next verses make clear.
“And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:32,46)
But, while the unprofitable servant story is ultimately referring to the separation into the ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ nations in the last day, it also gives some insight into what the Lord expects us to do with the “talents” He gave each of us.
As believers, we are given certain ‘talents’ by the Lord and He expects us to use them to give Him ‘His own with usury’ — that is to say, He expects us to show up at the Bema seat with more than just ourselves to show for our lives.
The Apostle Paul likens a believer to a building set on the foundation of Jesus Christ and says that it is, from then on, up to us to build upon it.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble . . .” (1st Corinthians 3:12)
Note that, although we are free to build upon our Foundation using the building materials of our choosing, our eternal security is based upon this Foundation, not our subsequent construction efforts.
Paul uses the analogy of the Bema Seat to describe the believer’s judgement — which is a different event than the Great White Throne Judgment that ends with the Lake of Fire.
In Paul’s day, the judge at the Olympic games would sit at the finish line. His job was to determine the position each runner finished, first, second, third, and so on, for the purpose of awarding medals according to placement — just as in the modern Olympics.
This conveys a singularly important truth. EVERYBODY that makes it past the Bema Seat FINISHED the race. The Bema Seat is where the Judge awards the medals based on performance. Keep that in mind as we go on.
“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.”
A person doesn’t get to the Bema Seat by mere intellectual knowledge alone. Believing is not enough — Satan believes in God, but he isn’t going to heaven.
For clarification purposes, then, those who stand before the Bema Seat are those who, by faith, repented of their sinful condition before God and accepted the free Pardon procured for them at the Cross.
And, as we’ve seen, repentance ALWAYS results in a changed life, but a changed life isn’t the same thing as a life of sinless perfection.
Individuals are redeemed or condemned according to the single criteria of either accepting or rejecting Christ.
The ‘sheep’ nations and ‘goat’ nations aren’t judged according to their perfection, either. But they ARE judged according to their performance under conviction and are rewarded accordingly.
Paul says of the individual believer who crosses the finish line and stands before the Bema Seat where their works are tried by fire;
“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.” (1st Corinthians 3:14-15)
Long life is, for the Christian, an opportunity to bear more fruit. Every morning is a second chance to do the right thing, a second chance to invest our God-given talents so that we might return His Own to the King, with usury.
One day, we will stand before the Bema Seat and our works will be judged. The only works that are of eternal consequence are those works we do that bear fruit for the King.
Every person we meet will one day stand before the Judge, either at the Bema Seat, to be judged according to one’s works on behalf of the Kingdom and to receive his rewards, or at the Great White Throne, where one will be judged according to the works done on their own behalf, where they will receive their ‘reward’ of their own righteousness.
Where that person stands in this day of judgement depends on whether or not one uses one’s God-given talent or buries it in the ground.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude: 21-25)
May our God bless us all. Until He comes. Maranatha!