For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV).
If you don’t believe in Christ, these verses together are complete nonsense. It’s understandable why non-believers would think this; it really is. No honest person could blame you for feeling that way, thinking that way, and, yes, believing that way (because un-belief is a conscious belief. It’s a choice.). If you reject these things taught about Jesus Christ in the Bible, then none of what Paul says here is sensible. There is no crown of righteousness. The Lord doesn’t judge because there is no Lord or post-existence judgment. Jesus Christ, if He existed, was just a man. Those who long for His appearing have wasted their time because there’s nothing.
And you’d be right about that last point, how there’s nothing…for those who unbelieve.
You’d be wrong about the rest. Not only does the Bible provide countless examples of life after death, of God being the God of both living and dead people (meaning the dead still exist), of those who once had physical life returning (such as Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration), but the Bible talks about the after-life being a very real, tangible thing for those who reject Jesus as much as for those who accept Him. “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth:” there are six specific times in Matthew and Luke when Jesus talks about how eternal separation from God – weeping and gnashing of teeth in anguish – is a real thing. When we die, we don’t simply stop functioning or transform into oblivion. There are consequences for what we believe here and now. For those who choose to reject Christ, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And for those who choose Him? For us, there will be the ultimate graduation ceremony. The communion of saints that is living in Jesus’ presence is where we will be crowned with His righteousness. He will meet us, embrace us, bestow on us His eternal life and peace. We’re part of that eternity now, part of heaven now even while we’re here on the Third Rock. We get to embrace His peace, His honesty, His righteousness, His love now…and we get to share that with others, especially those who struggle with that. Not out of compulsion: out of caring, out of love.
We get to do that. Christ doesn’t force us: He invites us. Will you take up His invitation?
For further reading: Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42, Matthew 17:1-8, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 24:51, Matthew 25:30, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36, Luke 13:28, 2 Timothy 4:9
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.