How Will I React When I Actually See Jesus the First Time?
Our eyes met for the first time in several years and my dad’s reaction was very unexpected. He simply started crying…unabashedly and loudly. It was the weirdest sensation to see my father crying like that.
During life, he had shed a few tears here and there, but nothing like this. The tears flowed and he sounded like me when I had fallen on a nail when I was around 10 years old. Your crying cannot outpace your pain. In fact, it cannot even catch up to the pain. It was unnerving to see and hear your own father cry like that, to say the least.
I had walked into his hospital room with fear and trepidation. It was August, 1998 and unfortunately, I had not seen my dad in several years due to tension that existed between us. It was one of those unfortunate situations that seems to occur between family members. He had shut the door because of the way I had responded to him. I was not innocent either, of course.
Without going into detail, suffice it to say that I had always been a bit afraid of my dad. I loved him and certainly believe he loved me in his own way. However, as a strong Italian who also happened to be the oldest son in the family, he was only approachable on his terms. This led to an on-again, off-again relationship with him after I turned into a young man, married my wife, and started my own family. For him though, our relationship never changed. He always saw me as his son first, and then (maybe) a husband or father. He came first and that created tension between us as I tried hard to balance being a husband and father as well as a son. The tragedy is that my dad could shut the door on you so easily. Of course, I realize he did it out of self-preservation, but knowing that didn’t make it easier to deal with then since I also have similar issues with pride and arrogance.
So when I walked into the hospital room it was because a friend of his had called to say that he had been taken to the hospital after being found in a catatonic state, staring at the TV. Turns out, he had advanced stomach cancer, the kind that exhibits no real signs. It simply hit him one night out of the blue and to the hospital he went. He had emergency surgery and by the time we got there, he had literally just come out of it, still groggy and waking up from the procedure. We were told he had experienced a stroke during surgery as well.
I’m sure I was the last person he expected to see there.
As he came out of things and began to make out his surroundings, his eyes caught mine. That day we saw him in the hospital room, a few years had gone by and I truly did not know what to expect. Once he saw me, I tried as casually as possible to say, “Hi Dad.” I really don’t remember what I said after that.
What I do remember is how he reacted to my presence. He did an actual double take, then started wailing like a baby! I had never heard or seen my father cry like that. This man – who had been so unapproachable most of my life – was crying, with huge sobs racking his body, tears flowing down his cheeks. In fact, because of the air tube going down his throat, he was in danger of cutting off airflow. We had to calm him down and he began to relax a bit.
As far as I knew, he was not a Christian. I’m not sure he could even really grasp it. Several weeks later, after what appeared to be an honest to goodness rally on his part, he left this life and passed into eternity. My dad had always had a very unique way of viewing God and salvation, holdovers from his days as a Roman Catholic. In essence, his understanding of God was strictly on his terms and outlined in dos and don’ts. It was always a bit strange to talk to him about it and I learned I couldn’t push much. I spent a good deal of time in prayer over the years for his salvation.
I wasn’t there when my dad actually passed into eternity as we had returned home by then and we lived three hours away. My mother was with him and she later told me she had spent a good amount of time talking with Dad and praying over him during the time we had returned home and he had passed.
She said as he got close to passing, he seemed to indicate that he could still hear her and even responded to her regarding his need for salvation. The nurse who happened to be in the room at the time was very supportive and encouraged my mother to continue talking and praying because medically, one of the last things to go with respect to a patient who is moments away from dying is their hearing. They hear everything whether they can provide any clue that they are in fact hearing is a separate issue.
So my dad is now in eternity and I can only hope there was enough faith there for God to impute Christ’s righteousness to him prior to his passing. I fully believe that God will do whatever it takes with each person who is open to receiving salvation, using even the smallest sliver of faith (Luke 17:6). There was so little that passed between the thief on the cross and Jesus before they both moved from this life to the eternal realm, yet it is clear to me that we will see that thief in heaven (Luke 23:43).
As my father moved into eternity, into God’s Presence, I can only wonder what my father saw and how he may have reacted. More importantly, what was God’s demeanor toward my father? How did my father react to the realities of the eternal state beyond this temporal realm? Did God see my father as “righteous” or was that legal declaration sorely missing? Oh my…give that some thought.
Because of the fact that God recently saw fit to point out to me that my sin nature is as disgusting as ever and more of it needs to be excised out of me, my thoughts went back to my dad’s own reaction to my presence in his hospital room. His weeping seemed so out of character because he was normally such a very strong man. His very presence intimidated.
Yet, in that moment, as he lay there on his hospital bed following what was thought to have been life-saving surgery, he was very weak and very vulnerable. At that moment, there was no discernible pride on his part. He was literally undone. He could do nothing except cry, agonizing over past hurts, some hurts that he had caused or not forgiven. I wasn’t perfect either. That is very clear to me.
All this has caused me to wonder what it will be like when I see Jesus for the very first time? I’ve envisioned myself jumping for joy, filled to overflowing with love and peace, shedding tears of joy, understanding finally what it means to be truly accepted into the beloved. That’s what I’ve envisioned. Is that correct?
Because of what happened recently in my life and also because of my dad’s reaction to me in that hospital room, I think I can safely say that my reaction at seeing Jesus will be more like my dad’s reaction to seeing me. I will be broken and rightly so. There is no excuse for the way I will have treated Jesus here even though I can, with confidence say that I am a Christian. No words can rightly excuse my behavior toward Him in not following Him in absolute submission daily without complaint. There is no excuse. Only sin. Sin. Death-causing, God-hating sin.
Remember, though Christians are declared “righteous” because Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to our account, we still have the tremendous responsibility of maintaining fellowship with our God. Unlike human relationships, our broken fellowship with God is always our fault. I can spend the remainder of my days out of fellowship with God and still be counted “righteous” because of my saving faith in Jesus. Once we are legally declared “righteous,” nothing we can do sets that judgment by God aside. However, we can ruin our fellowship with Him any time we want to do so through sin. Even though that broken fellowship does not constitute a loss of salvation, it is still horrible and should be avoided at all costs.
When I leave this life, will I be at a point where I am out of fellowship with God? Will I be harboring some ridiculous anger or pride-filled arrogance that causes me to step away from Him just as the Prodigal Son did with his own earthly father (cf. Luke 15:11-32)? Interestingly, the Prodigal Son never ceased to be the son though he was completely out of fellowship with his father, something he later made “right” after he came to his senses.
The tragedy is that yes, being out of fellowship with God could define me at that point in my life. If that is the case, then I would have every reason to become completely undone in His Presence. I will see my abject folly, stupidity, and hate-filled pride for what it is, compared to the all-encompassing love, justice, holiness, and forgiveness that defines my Lord. Yet, in this life, we provide ourselves with so many excuses to not be like Jesus, don’t we?
If I leave this life harboring resentment, an unforgiving attitude, or filled with a pride that I failed to allow God to remove, when I see Jesus I will literally be “undone,” overcome with the grief of knowing that I should have done better.
Because of that, I will not be able to stand in His Presence and lying prostrate before Him in a growing puddle of tears is the only proper reaction to His perfection and immensity. My inner being will be crushed. My sin will be so evident that if it could, it would kill me (but I will already be dead). My lowliness when compared to Jesus will be so evident and so stark that I imagine breathing will become exceedingly difficult. Is it any wonder that Paul cries out “O, wretched man that I am!“?
I will have nothing to offer as an excuse. I will not be able to defend myself and will have no desire to try. I will have nothing to say and I will be a man of unclean lips, though still declared righteous. It seems so incongruous, doesn’t it? It makes no sense at all. But that is God, taking something we can make no sense out of and having it make perfect sense to Him.
The Bible states that I am counted righteous because the righteousness of Jesus has been imputed to me through my faith in His completed work (cf. Philippians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 23:6; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 1:17; 3:23; 4:3; 8:1-4; Galatians 2:20, etc.). I am righteous. That will never change.
Is it any wonder though that the Accuser of my soul (and yours) can accuse us every step of the way for sins we have actually committed, yet God can point to our faith in Christ and the perfect redemption of God the Son? Interestingly enough, the question is forever settled.
Faith allows God to impute (literally give away or appoint) to my account, His righteousness, replacing my abject filth with it. Because of that, though Satan’s accusations against me are correct (from a legalistic standpoint), his accusations cannot stand. To his unmitigated chagrin, hatred, and frustration, Satan can never get beyond this foolproof argument presented by God Himself. We are righteous if we have placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus.
But there is a tremendous responsibility that each and every Christian has in this life. It is to take seriously how God now sees us and live in a way that exemplifies the declaration that we are righteousness. This is the “working out of our salvation” that Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:12-16. We do not work for our salvation. We allow it to be worked out in and through us. This only occurs through our willful submission to Him on a daily, often moment-by-moment basis. That is the practical aspect of being a Christian. That is our “yoke” with Christ, which we are to take up daily. God Himself takes care of all the legal ramifications connected to our lives in His court of law.
What Paul says to the Philippians, he says not to warn them they could lose their salvation. I do not believe such a thing is taught in Scripture. Paul is teaching the believers at Philippi (and us) to understand that there is a very practical aspect of our salvation that should be worked out and seen in our lives daily. Non-Christians should see it working. Other Christians should see it working.
I think it is safe to say that I will be one of the people for whom God wipes the tears away. I also believe – unfortunately – that I will be shedding quite a few of them because of the realization then that I spent too many days wasted on my own efforts, filled with pride and arrogance, unwilling to allow God to move me from strength to strength because I failed to wait upon Him and submit myself to Him.
Revelation 21:4 sums it up, mixing both negatives with positive outcomes.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
The tears mentioned above are tears of sadness, not joy. They are due to our sin compared to the absolute, unwavering perfection of God Himself. They can’t be tears of joy because God wipes them away. As my son would say, it’s a time of “feels” where we see our abject poverty for the things we’ve done apart from God.
Folks, if you think you will initially stand in His Presence waiting to hear “Good job!”, think again. There is business that needs to be taken care of first.
You will initially most likely be so aware of your own sin and failures that you will become undone. It will only be due to God’s reminder that we have been legally declared righteous that we will be able to stand at all and only after He wipes away the tears brought on by tremendous sadness because of how many times we failed Him in this life. Then, we will be correctly prepared to hear the words, “Good job!” Of course, we will also know at that point that anything “good” we did was only during those times we allowed Him to work in and through us for His glory.
Brothers and sisters, consider all things lost that you might gain the fullest possible measure of Jesus in this life. Keep your sin list very short. Submit yourselves to Him daily. Willingly humble yourself under His mighty hand that He will lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). He’ll do that in His time (not yours), when it’s best for you and brings Him the most glory.
But do not make the mistake of thinking you will not shed tears for Him to wipe away because of how you will actually see your own sinfulness. I believe it will be severely palpable, even for the briefest of moments (1 Corinthians 3:12).
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: humble, humility, imputed righteousness, righteous, salvation.