Future Grace

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to take many airplane flights. One of the lingering impressions is the sight of eager faces circling the airport’s doorway, waiting for those who are deplaning. As passengers come into view they are greeted with delighted shouts and joyful hugs. If parting is “such sweet sorrow,” then reunion is sweet happiness. The anticipation of such reunions encourages the travelers!

Prior to a flight bound for Atlanta, I bumped into a friend at the airport terminal where passengers gathered for boarding. We had half an hour to catch up on news. I told Brian that I was looking forward to seeing my father later that morning in Atlanta. When our plane landed there, Brian deplaned before I did. As he went through the door into the terminal, he saw an older gentleman to whom I bear a noticeable resemblance. Taking a chance about his identity, he said to my dad, “are you waiting for John? He’s on the plane and will be out soon.” My father was a bit mystified as to how this stranger recognized him, but was glad to hear that I would eventually emerge from the jet! Our reunion was a happy one.

As I reflected on the memories of people eagerly awaiting the arrival of loved ones, I imagine the joy of true believers in Christ when they will one day see Him face to face. Oh the joy of the family reunion we will have with those who have “fallen asleep in Christ” (1 Thess. 4:14). The cluster of blessings promised to believers are aspects of “future grace.”

The apostle Peter’s hope

This grace gripped the heart of the apostle Peter who had been warned by the Lord Jesus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish” (John 21:18).  This Disciple wrote to the early church regarding his predicted martyrdom: “I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent [the mortal body], to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me” (2 Peter 1:13,14).

How would you have felt if you knew that martyrdom awaited you? Could you have maintained a joyful life and a fruitful ministry? Peter did, and he mentioned a vital resource that fortified him. Peter was assured of his destiny in heaven and focused his hope on future grace (1 Peter 1:3-5).

He instructed those who faced persecution under the infamous emperor Nero:

“Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

To “gird up your loins” is a figure of speech meaning “prepare your minds for action” (NIV). Having done so, we are to “be sober” and grasp the implications of God’s truth, including  future grace. This is the “grace that is to be brought to you” (as a child of God). And when will this grace be distributed? It will be given “at the revelation of Jesus Christ”—at His Second Coming.

What are some blessings of future grace that believers can anticipate?

1. We will see the glory of heaven.

Those who die in Christ are “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:7). Our Lord reassured the disciples the night before His crucifixion: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). This hope sustained believers in the Old Testament era who saw this life as a pilgrimage en route to the future glorious kingdom: “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb. 11:16;13:14).

2. We will see Christ in His glory.

“Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Peter had affirmed the importance of faith. By faith the Christian loves Jesus, although He is not now visible on earth (1 Pet. 1:8). Yet, we echo the hymn writer,

“And Lord, haste the day,
when the faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
even so it is well with my soul.” [1]

3. Believers who are living on earth at the moment of Christ’s return will bypass physical death.

Paul spoke of this newly-revealed mystery:

“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible [body] must put on incorruption [the resurrected body], and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory'” (1 Cor. 15:51-54; see 1 Thess. 4:17).

4. The believer will be given a glorified body.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20,21,).

This hope is not an escapist wish for “pie in the sky by-and-by.” Rather, it is a purifying, practical, and  sanctifying hope. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2,3; see  Rom. 8:23,29; Titus 2:11-14).

This vision of future grace should grip our hearts. J. F. Strombeck noted the vital importance of this:

“Vision plays a great role in the lives of men. A vision will keep a man in a straight course until it is realized. It will bear him up during days of severe trial and hardships. It will cause him to deny himself things that might interfere with the fullest accomplishment of his vision. A vision is a great disciplinarian … It is because of this power of vision to transform the very life of a person that grace teaches the believer to look for the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. This being true it is hardly to be expected that the proper outlook on life will be found among believers who do not look for this great event and are not aware of its importance to them. It is unthinkable that when this truth has gripped a person it will not leave a deep and lasting impression on his life.” [2]

No wonder hope is included—along with faith and love—in the special triad of Christian graces (1 Cor. 13:13). This grace sustained the apostle Peter in the days leading up to his martyrdom, and it can sustain you in your difficulties as well. Where have you set your hope? Let’s joyfully anticipate the blessings of future grace!


[1] “It is Well with My Soul” by H. G. Spafford, verse 4.

[2] Disciplined by Grace , by J. F. Strombeck (Moody) p.124.

Most Christians dwell on the grace they have already experienced, which is wonderful to contemplate. As John Newton put it, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” (see Eph. 2:8,9). As we grow spiritually, we learn that grace is essential in this present time in order to live the Christian life. As we humble ourselves and admit our need, God “gives more grace” to express His life through us (James 4:6; 1 Cor. 15:10; Rom. 5:10). But, Like Peter, we need to rejoice also in future grace.

This article is copyrighted 2000 by John Woodward. Permission is granted reprint this for non-commercial use. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

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