Q. In 1 John, John makes the statement “abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” I’m pretty sure that the phrase “when He shall appear” is in reference to the rapture. My question is, are there going to actually be believers who are ashamed at His appearing? And why would they be?
A. You’re speaking of 1 John 2:28. John was referring to the Lord’s statement in John 15:5 that if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit but apart from Him we can do nothing. Believers who don’t abide in Him but spend their life pursuing their own personal agenda will discover at the Bema Seat judgment that they have nothing to show for the years they spent on Earth as a Christian. Like wood, hay, and stubble their life’s work will be burned up in the flames of judgment. They’ll still be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
I think it could be embarrassing for them to realize that in their preoccupation with the things of this world, they essentially wasted their entire Christian life. This is why Paul said that in view of God’s mercy we should not conform to the pattern of this world. Instead we should offer our lives as living sacrifices to God and be transformed by the renewing of our mind to discover His will for our life (Romans 12:1-2).
According to recent polls a large majority of people who claim to be born again Christians could find themselves in this situation when they stand before the Lord. They won’t receive any condemnation from Him, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). But I don’t know how they’ll be able to avoid feeling some momentary regret that they didn’t devote more energy to putting their faith into action, especially when they finally see everything they’ve been given.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).