By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
As we embark upon another New Year, our thoughts naturally turn to the future. We all wonder what will happen over the course of the next 366 days of 2016—and many people would probably give anything if they could know that information with certainty.
As believers in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, we are blessed to have such certainty with regard to the broad sweep of the future. We will consider that in this brief meditation upon the meaning of the New Year in light of Bible prophecy.
The title of this short article could be taken in either one of two different senses.
First, it could be understood in a very subjective sense. Do you remember wondering on New Year’s Day of 2015 what the future would be like in a year? As we enter 2016 we surely realize that this is how the future looks! Whatever your circumstances, and whatever 2015 was for you, I pray that 2016 will be a year of spiritual growth and blessing.
In a much more significant sense, however, the Bible tells us objectively how the future looks going forward. As we move into that future, taking this first day of the New Year as a stepping stone, we as believers in Jesus Christ need not do so with apprehension. Rather, we can go forward in the confidence that God provides and the grace that He dispenses—all based upon His Holy Word.
How does that future look? Here are three basic truths that will guide us:
The Future Involves a Translation
The next event on God’s prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church. Sometimes we speak of this in terms of the church being “translated” from earth to heaven (Heb. 11:5, KJV).
The church has a very unique place in God’s prophetic plan. Since the rapture relates only to church age saints, it (like the church itself) was not revealed in the Old Testament and is therefore specifically called “a mystery” (1 Cor. 15:51; cf. Rom. 16:25-26). Remember, the Hebrew prophet Daniel became physically ill trying to comprehend the message he received about the future of the Gentile nations (cf. Dan. 7:15-16, 28; 8:27). We can only imagine how he would have struggled to attempt to understand the meaning of the church age!
At the time of the rapture, church age believers who have died (“the dead in Christ” [1 Thess. 4:16]) will be resurrected and glorified, while living believers will be glorified without ever experiencing death. Thus, while the term rapture is the broader term covering all who are involved in this event, it may also be precisely referred to as the resurrection/rapture.
The New Testament does not allow us to know the timing of the rapture (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2), nor does it give us any specific signs that point us to the rapture. We are called to live as those “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Thus, this phase of Christ’s second coming is imminent.
The Future Involves a Test
Believers in Jesus Christ are looking forward to the any-moment return of the Lord in the rapture, but as we do so we must also bear in mind that directly following that great and blessed event we will next be called to stand before the Lord and give an account to Him. This test is called “the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10).
While this judgment is the subject of a considerable number of passages in the New Testament, here we will consider only three.
The first is 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. In this passage, Paul teaches that Christ’s judgment of church-age believers will be based on His infinite knowledge of eternal truth rather than our limited understanding. Among other things, this surely implies that He will “(discern) the thoughts and intents of the heart” on that day in which “we must give account” (Heb. 4:12-13).
Remembering that “to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48), we must seek to use our time wisely and well for His glory in 2016.
Another year is dawning:
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
May the Lord help each of us to shape how our own futures look—in light of His revealed plan for how the future looks. Failing to do so by even refusing to trust in the One who gave all for us, and whose coming we await, the unbeliever faces a very different type of future.
The Future Involves the Tribulation
To this point we have considered only the future of believers. I would be remiss, however, not to warn any unbelievers reading these words that they face the certainty of being left behind at the time of the rapture unless they place their faith in Christ as their Savior from sin—trusting in His death as the payment for that sin and His resurrection as the proof that the price was paid—before the time of His return.
So much can, and will (in future blogs, charts, booklets and books) be said about the coming seven-year period of tribulation which follows the rapture. For now, let me encourage you to read just one passage about it: Revelation 6:12-17. That should surely cause you to re-think your desire to enter into that horrible time.
How does the future look for you? If you know Jesus Christ by faith, it has never been brighter. If not, I implore you to trust in Him today.
His Word tells us exactly how the future looks!
Copyright © 2016 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
 For example, see <http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/rapture-in-history-and-prophecy>; Internet; accessed 31 Dec. 2015.