Rapture

Dancing with the Scoffers

Dancing with the Scoffers

Scripture tells us the last days will marked by those who mock our hope in Jesus’ imminent return. The apostle Peter reveals that in the last days scoffers will appear ridiculing such hope with this question, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4).

How can we recognize these modern day scoffers? Below I list five ways they make themselves known:

The Twinkling by Terry James

The Twinkling by Terry James

You and many others who have chosen to read this commentary are likely in agreement. We find ourselves at a time in which the future is indeed murky. The very fact makes it a time of uneasiness–of profound uncertainty.

With so many existential threats (factors portending possible, even probable, future disruption for our lives), many look to the 2020 presidential election with a shadow of oppressiveness clouding their thoughts.

The Rapture in Church History

The Rapture in Church History

What did the early church believe about the rapture? Is there evidence that some believed Jesus would take His church out of the world before a time of tribulation?

Of course, we must base our beliefs on the words of Scripture, which is our only sure guide. But because the our belief is relentlessly mocked is something that cannot be true because no one in the early church believed it, I provide evidence to the contrary.

7 Reasons to Regard the Rapture as a Unique Event, Part 1

7 Reasons to Regard the Rapture as a Unique Event, Part 1

We live in a time when believers are “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). This is especially true in regard to the return of Jesus. Today, we face a myriad of differing “schemes” regarding the rapture and other end time events.

How do we find our way in the midst of such confusion?

7 Reasons to Regard the Rapture as a Unique Event, Part 2

7 Reasons to Regard the Rapture as a Unique Event, Part 2

In my last post, I began listing reasons why we should regard the rapture as a separate event from the Second Coming. Much confusion exists today over this mater.

Because so many today fail to make the distinction between the two events, or fail to even believe in a rapture, it’s important to understand why it is different than the Second Coming.

The Rapture, What's to Fear? Part 1

The Rapture, What's to Fear? Part 1

As his wife and those closest to him gathered around his bedside one evening, they believed this would be the last time they would see him in this life. Louis Talbot, the longtime president of Biola University and driving force behind the formation of Talbot Theological Seminary, was in the hospital suffering from pneumonia. Many in the room, including Carol his wife, believed he would not survive the night.

Seeing the tears stream down the face of his wife, Talbot responded with these words, “What’s the matter with you? For this I was born. For this I’ve lived all my life—to see my Savior face to face. It will be all glory. I can hardly wait.”

Why Such Silence in Our Churches?

Church in the woods Why are our churches so silent on the matter of Jesus’ return? Jan Markell, in a recent article, noted that 90% of pastors do not preach or teach about the return of our King, the Lord Jesus.

It was not like this during the early days of the church. The sense of imminency for Jesus’ appearing spilled over from the pages of the New Testament into the early centuries of the church.

Today, we see signs of the approaching tribulation everywhere we look. Yet, few pastors even mention the Rapture, the tribulation, Jesus’ Second Coming, or the Millennium. Why do so few truly understand the times in which we live?

Pastor Tom Hughes of The 412 Church in San Jacinto, California recently wrote an article titled, "Five Reasons Pastors Don't Teach Bible Prophecy." Briefly, his reasons are as follows:

  1. They don’t understand prophecy
  2. They fear offending members of the church
  3. They sense it will scare people
  4. They fear people will stop giving
  5. They fear looking like fringe groups who take things to an extreme

I agree that these things play a role in the current silence regarding prophecy. However, I believe they are symptomatic of far deeper issues impacting the church today.

False Teaching

From the very beginning, Satan opposed prophetic teaching. By the time the ink was barely dry on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, false teachers delivered a message to the believers in Thessalonica contradicting what Paul wrote concerning the timing of Jesus’ return for His church.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul promised the young believers in Thessalonica that Jesus would come for them before the judgments of the “Day of the Lord” (see 5:9). I believe these judgments include the entire seven year tribulation, but that is a topic for another time. Almost immediately after the church read Paul’s first letter, false teachers caused a great panic among these believers by telling them the “Day of the Lord has come” (see 2 Thess. 2:2).

It took only a matter of weeks or perhaps months for Satan to attack our hope embodied in the rapture.

In other words, either they had missed the rapture or Paul was mistaken about the Lord’s return for His church. It took only a matter of weeks or perhaps months for Satan to attack our hope embodied in the rapture.

In his second epistle, Peter warned of false teachers who would arise denying the basics of our hope for Jesus’ return. “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Are not many today echoing this same refrain? Does this not sound like the day in which we live?

The current pervasiveness of false teaching on Jesus’ Second Coming should not surprise us. The Bible clearly warned it would happen. It started during the days of the apostles and continued on from there.

In church history, the first prominent naysayer concerning the promises of Jesus’ return was a man named Origen who lived in the early fourth century AD. Influenced heavily by the pagan philosopher Plato, he taught that the promised millennium would be a spiritual kingdom, not something tangible and visible. The Council of Nicea in AD 325 condemned his many wayward beliefs, which included reincarnation as well as the belief that everyone, without exception, would someday be saved.

Many false teachings regarding prophecy persist today and I believe this makes many pastors hesitant to talk about the times in which we live. Rather than become embroiled in controversy or appear extreme, they remain silent. Rather than offend people, they avoid the subject altogether.

As a result, many false ideas regarding Jesus’ return continue unchecked by sound scriptural teaching.  The lack of sound teaching about prophecy only serves to further the spread of false teaching.

A Failure to Recognize That We Are at War

The avoidance of teaching about the Lord’s return blinds many to another reality.

Many preachers correctly apply the message of our spiritual warfare to the battles of our everyday life and Satan’s attempts to derail our walk with Jesus. Yet few go beyond this struggle to talk about the prophetic implications of the devil’s geopolitical war against the Lord, Israel, followers of Christ, and God’s Word.

The battle is not between good and bad people, between political parties, or even between politicians we admire and those we do not. As Ephesians 6:12 makes clear, our battle is against demonic forces of varying powers, not flesh and blood. We have a target on our backs, an enemy raging about as a roaring lion seeking to stop Jesus’ soon arrival on earth and destroy us in the process.

Only a worldview through the lens of biblical prophecy offers any sense to the war that daily rages throughout the world.

Satan sees the signs of Jesus’ soon return and it should not surprise us that he is doing everything he can to prevent it. He tried to eliminate the Israelites before Jesus’ first coming; it makes perfect sense he would repeat his strategy with the Second Coming.

Satan knows Jesus will someday return to a restored Israel and his only chance at preventing this is to utterly destroy Israel. We see this in the current massive buildup of weapons aimed at Israel. Scripture describes a great battle in Ezekiel 38-39 where many nations come against Israel. However, God will intervene and rescue His people.

When Satan’s initial attempts to destroy Israel eventually fail, he will use his man, the antichrist, to attempt to stop Jesus’ return to earth. The coming world order will be the mechanism for this coming evil leader to attempt to kill all Jews along with all followers of Christ. We see his plans for this new world order everywhere we look.

We see it in the dramatic growth of the occult and open worship of Satan. We see it in the pictures of small children in agony after another attack of chemical weapons in Syria. We see it in scenes of Christians lined up to be executed. Alas, we also see it in refusal of many politicians from both parties to take a firm stand against the ghastly murder of the unborn and sale of their body parts.

We see it in the hatred toward both Jews and Christians sweeping through the world. This is all setting the stage for the arrival of the antichrist (1 John 2:18). A world aligned with God would never accept the evil designs of the coming world order. The devil must destroy biblical faith and the Judeo-Christian foundations of right and wrong if he is to accomplish his purposes through the antichrist.

As followers of Christ, we are caught up in a war we cannot ignore. An understanding of the times in which we live not only gives us insight into the war around us, but also gives us the courage to push back against the enemy.

A Failure to Recognize Our Place in God’s Redemptive Story

I believe the silence in our pulpits regarding prophecy results not so much from a lack of understanding of prophecy as it does from a failure to grasp the full extent of the glorious message of the Gospel. There is a future tense to the Gospel; one in which Jesus’ returns to earth, binds Satan, and sets up His righteous kingdom over all the earth.

As believers, we are born into God's redemptive story. Of course there is an enemy. Have you ever read a great story where there was not an adversary, someone opposing the hero of the story? So often we enjoy great dramas not realizing they also speak to our struggles and ultimate victory over our greatest foe.

Of course there is an enemy. Have you ever read a great story where there was not an adversary, someone opposing the hero of the story?

So yes, we are at war and that is where the good news begins. John Eldredge compares our adventure to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo played a vital role in saving the world of his day from the evil Saran. Eldredge calls it living mythically; grasping the reality of the great adventure of redemption of which we are all a part.

The magnificent story of our redemption includes Jesus’ saving work on our behalf in the past as well as His current work inside us through the Holy Spirit. However, we are also saved in hope of a glorious future, in hope of the completion of our adoption into God’s family and the redemption of our bodies (see Rom. 8:24).

Our salvation points to the future. Is this not why New Testament believers lived in constant expectation of Jesus’ appearing? The Rapture represents the completion of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf when we receive our immortal bodies and are caught up to forever be with our Savior.

We are not simply spectators in God’s glorious redemptive program; we are active participants. The spiritual kingdom, on whose behalf we now engage as warriors, will someday become a glorious physical kingdom in which we will reign alongside Jesus.

We all play a role in this great undertaking. Our mere presence on earth restrains Satan’s plans for world dominance; or more precisely, it’s the Holy Spirit inside each one of us that now restrains the work of the coming antichrist. Our prayers . . . our prayers make a great difference in the battle into which we were born the moment we trusted Christ as our Savior.

Do you understand why Satan works so hard to keep believers from understanding the true nature of the battle and their amazing role in God’s glorious plan of redemption? Believers with eyes focused on earth-bound hopes are much less of a threat to his ultimate plans.

Things are not as they seem; there is a much greater reality than what we see with our eyes.

Just like the ending to Beauty and the Beast, the Lord will someday gloriously transform everything we see; He will make all things new. The coming transformation of God’s people and His creation will make the ending to Beauty and Beast seem rather dull by comparison.

A proper perspective of our place in the Lord’s redemptive story negates all the factors that keep many pastors from talking about prophecy. The subject may very well scare us at times; our role requires courage, faith, and a heart devoted to bringing God the glory due His name.

The call of Jesus, repeatedly echoed by His apostles, is to watch and be ready for His return (read Matt. 24:42-51). His last spoken words to the church in Revelation 22 also echo this same plea for readiness.

This perspective energizes our faith and determination to serve the Lord in making disciples of all nations.

Why did Jesus encourage both fervent watchfulness and a passion for reaching the lost? Why is it so critical that we hear both messages from our pastors and teachers?

Stay tuned . . . .

Will Any Believers Be Left Behind?

left-behind-picture I was terrified! Had they left without me?

As I frantically searched for my mom and dad, that question kept popping into my mind. Maybe they thought I was with my older sister. Maybe each thought I was with the other. Where were they? I had just looked away for a moment and now they were gone!

Not only was I two thousand miles from home, I was alone in Chinatown of all places. We were visiting my sister who lived in southern California and had spent the day sightseeing before ending up in Chinatown for supper and to do some shopping.

After what seemed to be a very long time, although it was perhaps only a minute or two at the most, I finally located my mom and rushed to her side.

Somehow, in all my panic, I knew my parents would never leave their second-grader behind in such a strange place.

And yet, I am hearing of more and more Christians who believe the Lord could possibly leave them behind when He comes for His church. Theologians refer to this as the partial rapture theory, which teaches that only those who are watching for the Lord’s return or are ready for it will go to heaven when He comes for His church.

Will Jesus leave any believer behind when He comes for His church? No, He will no more leave any of us behind than a loving parent would leave his or her child behind in a store or anywhere else.

Let me explain why I am so sure of this.

An Unbroken Link

In Romans 8:30 the apostle Paul assures us that all who are justified will be glorified. This is an unbroken link. As believers, our glorification is just as certain as our justification.

All those in Christ will be glorified. Why would Jesus delay this for some while completing it for others? That does not make any sense. Scripture nowhere supports such a thought.

In other words, since God justified us when we were His enemies, how much more shall we be delivered from the coming wrath, including that of the tribulation, now that we are His beloved children?

Furthermore, while we were in the position of being enemies of the God, He saved us by grace and bestowed on us the very righteousness of Jesus (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:5-6, 2 Cor. 5:21). As Paul says in Romans 5:9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

In other words, since God justified us when we were His enemies, how much more shall we be delivered from the coming wrath, including that of the tribulation, now that we are His beloved children?

We receive eternal life totally by grace through faith. Why would the completion of our faith be based on merit or work? God’s grace leaves no room for boasting. Are some believers now to have a reason to boast because they were included in the rapture?

Absolutely not! Our salvation from beginning to end is all by God’s grace.

No Such Distinction

Scripture passages dealing extensively with the rapture make no distinction between believers who will be raptured and those who will not. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says “the dead in Christ will rise first;” They will all be raised to meet the Lord in the air. After which Paul says, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. . . .”

Paul earlier in verse 14 said this, “God will bring with him those who have fall asleep” indicating those who have died in Christ. Regardless of our maturity level at the time of death, we will all go to be with Jesus and then return with Him at the rapture to be joined with our bodies.

My question is this: If there is no distinction for believers who are now with Christ regarding their part in the rapture, why would there be such a difference for living believers? Why would living believers be held to a different standard in order to be included in the rapture?

Would not this mean it is safer to be dead when Jesus returns? How crazy is that!?

Paul emphasizes that we will “all be changed;” we will all go to meet Jesus when He appears. We are all saints regardless of our maturity or anticipation of the Lord’s return for us.

In writing to perhaps the most worldly and divided church of all the early New Testament churches, the apostle makes it clear that at Jesus’ return “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). If he was ever going to make such a distinction to indicate a partial rapture, here is where he would have done so when addressing the subject for the church at Corinth.

Instead, Paul emphasizes that we will “all be changed;” we will all go to meet Jesus when He appears. We are all saints regardless of our maturity or anticipation of the Lord’s return for us.

Assumption of Eagerness

The New Testament writers assumed that all believers eagerly anticipated the return of Jesus for His church. This became a term of identification for early Christians. The result of turning to the Gospel from idols meant that the Thessalonian believers naturally waited for Jesus’ return (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Paul characterized believers in this way in several passages throughout the New Testament in places such as Philippians 3:20 and Titus 2:11-13.

When the writer of Hebrews says in 9:28 that Christ “will appear a second time . . . to save those who are eagerly waiting for him,” he is referring to all believers in the same way Paul does in many of his texts.

The apostles did not envision followers of Christ who were not eagerly awaiting His return for them.

 Confusion of Rewards Versus Readiness

Some also use 1 John 2:28 to support their assertion that some believers will be left behind. Here John says, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” This verse speaks to the need to be ready for Jesus’ return; it says nothing of anyone being left behind.

I believe this verse actually confirms that all believers will be taken in the rapture. How is it possible for someone to feel shame in Jesus’ presence if they are not with Him? Saints who are not walking with the Lord when He returns will experience shame, but they will not be left behind.

2 Timothy 4:8 indicates that those who love Jesus’ “appearing” will receive a reward referred to as a “crown of righteousness.” Those who eagerly await Jesus’ return and thereby walk closely with Him will be rewarded. This does not exclude others from the rapture.

What is the standard?

If some believers are to be left behind at the rapture, how is that to be determined?

Is it based on eagerly watching for Jesus appearing? For me, that often changes several times a day. There are times when I am conscious of awaiting His return and other times when my mind is preoccupied with other things. How can this be the basis for who goes or who is left behind?

Others say that maturity in Christ is the standard with the tribulation used by God to purify fleshly believers. Again, what is the standard for this? What passage supports such a works-based approach to our deliverance from the tribulation?

By placing the emphasis on our behavior rather than God’s grace, the partial rapture theory actually undermines our anticipation of Jesus’ appearing. How do we eagerly look forward to the rapture if our focus is totally on our readiness for it?

Our place in the rapture is solely determined by God’s love for us as His dear children. Nothing more; nothing less!

In 1 John 3:1-2 John says, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. . . . Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Our place in the rapture is solely determined by God’s love for us as His dear children. Nothing more; nothing less!

The key question regarding readiness is: Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you called out to Him for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life?

I John 5:12 says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” If you have not put your trust in Jesus, please do so before it is too late. He is coming soon!

Desire Breeds Hope

lake Before settling into my new calling as a writer, my wife Ruth and I decided to take a road trip to celebrate my retirement from a long career as a financial analyst. We greatly looked forward to our trip: to our stay at a bed and breakfast in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina and then to our time exploring Savannah, Georgia.

Before we left on our trip, Ruth and I spent much time thinking and talking about our vacation and what we would do. Our anticipation of hiking in the mountains, exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, and dining at seafood restaurants in Savannah increased our desire for the day to come when we would at long last leave on our trip.

When it comes to our glorious future, however, many churches remain mostly silent regarding our life to come. How can we eagerly await Jesus’ appearing and eternity if we seldom, if ever, hear about it?

"Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul." John Eldredge

John Eldredge referred to this disconnect in his book Desire, “C.S. Lewis summed it up, ‘We can only hope for what we desire.’ No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.”[i] Later Eldredge added this statement regarding this connection of desire with our hope:

Whatever it is we think is coming in the next season of our existence, we don’t think it is worth getting all that excited about. We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.[ii]

Passing references to the fact that we possess eternal life do not impassion us, especially in America where so many of us enjoy comfortable lives. Without a vision of what to expect in eternity, it’s difficult to imagine heaven can be any better than our current existence with smartphones, widescreen TVs, and all the comforts this life can offer.

It’s The Specifics!

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he provided specifics of what America would look like with the ending of racism. His vivid picture of racial equality inspired a nation. If he had simply called for the ending of racism without his detailed vision of what it would look like, his message most likely would not have given so much hope to the crowd that day.

Likewise, it is the specifics of our spectacular hope that focus our hearts on eternity. As Eldredge noted, “bland assurances” of a distant eternity do not cause us to desire eternity nor do they give us hope.

Ruth and I grew in our excitement of our trip to the South as we talked about the specifics of what we would do on our vacation.

It’s the details of the Lord’s return for us, our roles in the upcoming millennium, and our eternal home that arise desire in our hearts for what is coming and magnify our hope.

We do not know all of the details of our immortal bodies, our roles in judging the world, or what our upcoming existence will be like. However, what Scripture teaches us about these things is more than enough to inspire us each day with desire, even longing for what lies ahead and generate hope in our hearts for Jesus’ appearing.

Hard Pews and Hollywood

Our desire for eternity is frequently deflated by popular misconceptions of what it will be like.

Many see eternity as an unending church service as John Eldredge also notes in his book Desire, “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea of eternity is an unending church service . . . . we have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky. . . . And our heart sinks.”[iii]

Of course we will sing and worship the Lord throughout eternity; I am very much looking forward to that. Scripture, however, also speaks of our reigning with Christ during the millennium and then forever. We will have thrilling kingdom responsibilities and forever enjoy a restored earth. We have an amazing future; one we can be excited about and celebrate!

Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven

Hollywood does not help us in this regard with its rather depressing pictures of eternity. Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul asks, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” This sounds entirely different than hard pews or what Hollywood would have us to believe about heaven. That does much more to peak our interest than the bland pictures we often visualize in our minds.

The Ploy of Satan

While churches do not fill in the blanks regarding our eternal hope, Satan actively works to introduce teachings that destroy our hope and take our eyes off eternity. First, his false teachers generate so much controversy that many pastors stay away from the subject just to be safe.

Secondly, the teachings of many leave us straining to identify what hope is left for us. If all of the New Testament prophetic passages have somehow already been fulfilled and those in the Old Testament reduce to allegories of the church, where is our hope for the future? We are left with just hope of the “sweet by-and-by.”

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today? Such teaching seriously undermines any desire for eternity and squashes all hope. We are left with no specifics of eternity and no reason to take our eyes off this life and desire something better.

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today?

Scripture teaches that we possess an amazing and thrilling hope for all eternity; one that should excite us and focus our hope all the more on what is to come.

It’s understandable Satan would not want us to hear about the thrilling details of eternity since that would fill our hearts with hope and longing for Jesus’ appearing to take us home.

It’s not understandable, however, that so many pastors neglect prophecy and in so doing dampen the desire and thereby the hope of those in the pews.

As John Eldredge so aptly stated, “No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” But once we hear what the Bible teaches about our hope, we cannot help but desire for what is to come.

Jesus is coming soon! The more we understand what that means for us the more we will desire His appearing.

[i] Eldredge, John, Desire (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pp. 64-65

[ii] Ibid., pp. 110-111

[iii] Ibid., p. 111

Does God Keep His Promises?

israeli-flag “Israel’s future guarantees our salvation.” (Amari Tsarfati, prophecy speaker)

In other words, if God can break His covenant with the likes of Abraham, Jacob, and David, what does that say about His promises to us? If God does not keep His covenants with Israel, what does that say about His character, His faithfulness to us as New Testament believers?

Do you see the implications? Refuting those who claim God replaced Israel with the church is not merely some meaningless squabble among theologians. It’s so much more than that! The debate has far reaching implications impacting where we put our hope each day as we step out of bed.

Refuting those who claim God replaced Israel with the church is not merely some meaningless squabble among theologians.

Because God is trustworthy, our hope in His promises remains secure. Eternal life is a done deal for those in Christ.

Why, however, are we so confident that God’s promises to Israel remain in effect?

It Begins with a Question

I like to begin the defense of Israel’s continuing place in God’s program with the question the disciples asked Jesus just before He ascended back into heaven, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Earlier, such kingdom hopes led to arguments among the disciples as to which of them would have the greater positions of honor in Israel’s restored kingdom (Mark 10:35-40). Although such arguing seems to have ended, they clearly expected to soon be a part of this glorious realm.

Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  Jesus did not contradict or refute the premise of their question that He would restore Israel someday. Instead, He simply told the disciples they could not know the timing of this restoration as it was something the Father alone had determined “by his own authority.”

Why Would They Ask Such a Question?

The confidence of the disciples regarding a future kingdom raises certain questions in my mind. After watching the Jewish leaders reject Christ and demand His crucifixion, what made the disciples so confident the Lord would restore the kingdom to these very same people? Why did the disciples think Jesus would soon initiate a glorious restoration for the very same people whose rejection had led to Him being mercilessly mocked, scourged, whipped, and nailed to a cross?

Many people in the history of the church certainly used this behavior on the part of the Jews to justify their belief God had forever rejected Israel. But the not the disciples, the ones who watched their fellow Jews reject Christ and witnessed His suffering. They remained confident of the Lord’s intention to still give Israel an amazing kingdom in spite of her recent condemnation of her Messiah.

Why So Confident?

Why were the disciples so sure of this after all they had witnessed?

The Old Testament prophets provide us with the answer. After His resurrection, Jesus spent time explaining to His disciples how He fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (Luke 24:25-27; 44-47). With all this recent insight from their Master regarding how He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, the disciples still believed the Lord would restore Israel as a nation.

Either they were still terribly confused and had not at all understood Jesus’ recent teaching, in which case the Lord surely would have corrected them as He had done earlier (John 14:8-9); or, they based their question on what Jesus had recently taught them regarding how He fulfilled prophecy.

I believe the disciples correctly understood Jesus’ teaching on how He fulfilled Old Testament Scripture for both His first and second coming. They assumed the Lord would one day restore the fortunes of Israel because that is precisely what Jesus taught them after His resurrection.

The Grand Story of the Old Testament Prophets

The Old Testament prophets tell a grand story; one I am sure Jesus repeated to His disciples after His resurrection. It is a story of great hope for the people of Israel revealed in the midst of their rebellion and impending judgment for their sins.

The prophet Zephaniah, for example, not only warned of imminent disaster upon Judah but also prophesied of a glorious future for the nation, “At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord” (3:20). The disciples used the same terminology as Zephaniah in their question to Jesus in Acts 1. Could the Lord have quoted this same verse to them before His ascension? I believe that is highly likely.

The Lord, in no uncertain terms, declared through the prophet Jeremiah that Israel would always remain a nation in His sight.[i] If the sun comes up tomorrow morning, Israel remains a country before the Lord. If we see the moon or the stars tonight, Israel still exists. Based on this passage alone, it’s easy to understand why the disciples expected to see a restored Israel even after watching the Jews reject and crucify the Savior. Perhaps Jesus discussed these verses from Jeremiah with His disciples after His resurrection. That would explain their continuing hope for Israel’s restoration.

Many more such passages from the Old Testament prophets could be quoted with promises of a future restored kingdom for Israel. Those who seek to replace Israel with the church ignore many great promises from the Old Testament regarding Israel as well as the Apostle Paul’s clear denial that God had rejected His people Israel (Rom. 11:1).

Our security rests in God’s faithfulness; He is a covenant keeper. That’s why we regard Israel’s hope as the guaranty of our hope.

Our security rests in God’s faithfulness; He is a covenant keeper. That’s why we regard Israel’s hope as the guaranty of our hope. He will keep His covenants with Israel despite their rebellion and sin. His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 was unconditional; it never depended on the worthiness of his descendants to inherit the Land and still does not.

In the same way, our salvation never depended on us nor will it ever depend on our behavior! God will keep His promises to Israel and to us. It’s impossible for God not to keep His Word regarding the future of His people.

He is faithful forever!

[i] Jeremiah 31:35-36

 

 

The Dangers of Silence

Compared to when I was growing up, the church is deafly silent on the matter of future things. What is going on that makes our churches so quiet on prophecy? Why do pastors gloss over prophetic references in their sermon texts avoiding references to the future hope of believers? The Apostle Paul refers to our hope of Jesus’ imminent appearing in almost every book he wrote, yet somehow the topic never comes up in sermon series from these epistles.

Some might ask: Why does that matter? Does it really make a difference if our churches remain quiet on future things?

I believe it makes a huge difference! Here are a few of the dangers resulting from the current pervasive silence on eschatology, or study of future things, in our churches:

1. Postings on the Internet can become the main source of information on prophetic matters rather than God’s Word

When churches remain silent on prophecy, believers who are curious look for answers where most everyone else looks for answers today, on the Internet. There they find a wide array of teachings and opinions, some biblical but many bizarre and misleading. Some believers possess the needed scriptural discernment to sort through the mess, but others lack this and as a result become easily swayed by what they read. Even well-grounded Christians can fall prey to the misinformation on the Internet if they are not careful.

A quick question for pastors reading this: Is the Internet really the only place you want those in your church studying prophecy? Would it not be better for you to provide the biblical guidance they so desperately need?

2. False teachings flourish

Without sound biblical teaching in our churches on future things, people become misled by what they read on the Internet or in various books on eschatology. The silence of so many churches on future things has opened the door wide for false teachings to flourish. This is precisely what we see today; teachings that deny our hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing are rapidly growing in popularity.

When pastors fail to proclaim the “whole counsel of God,” they do not provide the needed protection against the enemies of the Gospel (see Acts 20:26-30). Paul called these false teachers “grievous” or “fierce wolves” and rightly so. Sound biblical teaching on eschatology is so greatly needed today with the presence of so many false teachers.

3. Believers look to this life for their hope

Churches that ignore the two-world perspective of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 focus the hope of believers on this life rather than eternity. We need teaching on such things as healthy marriages, parenting, finances, etc., but without an eternal perspective these things quickly become the goal and hence the hope of many. When the focus of teaching and preaching becomes this life alone, those listening will of course put their hope in this life. It’s no mystery when churches ignore our thrilling future hope that those in the pews regard this life as their home. This is the case in so many churches in America.

I am not saying that pastors want those in their church to regard this world as their ultimate home; their silence on prophecy, however, accomplishes this end whether intentional or not.

4. Believers are not prepared for what is coming

The storm clouds gathering on the horizon threaten to sweep away all of the props of this life, all the things to which so many of us look for our hope. Are we prepared for that to happen?

Today we read of threats from massive terror attacks, powerful earthquakes, deadly volcanoes, global wars, as well as total economic collapse. It’s not just the portrayers of doom saying these things, but respected and knowledgeable experts in each of these areas predicting such things.

Yes, Jesus may come for His church before any of these things happen. That, however, still represents a different hope than that of many of Christ’s followers today. Those in Christ will not miss out on the rapture. But will those also look to the things of this world as sources of hope be among those who feel shame once in the presence of their Savior (1 John 2:28)?

In addition, can we really be sure that the violent persecution of believers we see throughout the world will not occur here in America before Jesus returns for us? Are we ready should that happen?

How much longer can our churches keep quiet about our hope? As prophecy starts to be fulfilled all around us in dramatic ways, why are our pastors not pleading with us to look up because our redemption is near? Paul certainly was not silent regarding the hope Jesus’ soon appearing and he did not see even a small fraction of all the telling signs we see today.

This is why I write; I feel an urgent need to turn our eyes toward the return of Jesus and the thrill of our eternal hope. We cannot know for sure when Jesus will return, but we see signs all around us of the coming tribulation and we sense it cannot be a whole lot longer till He returns for us.

Today a great need exists for followers of Christ to know the source of their ultimate hope and why they can be confident, based on Scripture, of that hope.

Temple Update, Part Two

priest-omer-barley-sacrifice-altar-2 This time the story jumped out at me; I did not initially overlook it as I did with the last temple news item, not even for a moment.

Last week, I posted a story about the Temple Institute starting a school to train Levites to be priests in the temple. Yesterday, August 29, I saw another news report regarding the temple that again spoke to me regarding the nearness of Jesus' return.

The Breaking Israel News website reported yesterday that the Sanhedrin has appointed the high priest to serve in the new temple. Here is an excerpt from the opening paragraph of the story from the website:

“A significant step was recently taken towards reinstating the Temple service when the nascent Sanhedrin selected Rabbi Baruch Kahane as the next Kohen Gadol (high priest).  . . If the political conditions should change, allowing the Jews access to the Temple Mount, they will be required by Torah law to bring the sacrifices. Rabbi Kahane is confident that if that should happen, Temple service could begin in less than one week.”

The picture above is of the newly selected high priest offering a barley sacrifice to God on the streets of old Jerusalem. Just think, if the temple is built anytime soon, this man is headed for an encounter with the antichrist who will defile the temple halfway through the tribulation.

The training for the priests, the selection of a high priest, the formation of the Sanhedrin, and the sight of sacrifices offered in Jerusalem all represent significant events and raise many questions in my mind. The first question that comes to my mind is, “What am I missing?”

News reports out of the Middle East lead us to conclude that Jewish access to the Temple Mount is years away at best and likely will never happen. Yet under the radar of most news media we see intensifying of preparations for the third temple. That they could be ready within a week to start temple services surprises me. Why are the Temple Institute and the new Sanhedrin so dedicated to preparing for the temple and its services when they do not even have access to Temple Mount?

Do those making all these intense preparations know something we don’t? Is there a secret agreement already in place that allows future Jewish access to the Temple Mount and the construction of the third temple? Is this just wishful thinking on the part of those forming the Sanhedrin and selecting the high priest? Or, do they have a basis for their optimism in making such preparations?

I have more questions than answers. But I can’t help thinking all this activity points to something we do not know. I think they have a reason for their optimism; I believe their careful planning represents much more than wishful thinking.

My speculation regarding the temple is just that. Yet, the preparations for temple worship represent the fulfillment of prophecy right before our eyes or at least its beginning. Way back in AD 180 a prominent church father named Irenaeus spoke of the antichrist defiling a future temple in Israel (the Romans destroyed the one of Jesus’ day in AD 70). Yet we are the ones seeing all the preparations for this long-awaited temple referenced in both Matthew and Revelation. Will we also be the ones to meet Jesus in the air before we die?

We cannot know the day or hour that Jesus will return. However, as we see the world setting up exactly as we would expect before the beginning of the tribulation we cannot help but thinkthe rapture is getting close.

At times I get the sense everything is set and already in place for the tribulation to begin. Yet the Lord is holding it back, delaying its start, to give more people the opportunity to trust Him and find salvation in Him. Someday, however, the waiting will be over and in the “twinkling of an eye” we will be with the Lord.

A Sign of Jesus' Soon Return

templejan202016 It happens with such frequency we sometimes miss it. We see a news story that speaks to our living in the last days and we pay little attention to it. Twenty years ago we might have fallen off our chairs reading it in the newspaper; now we quickly scroll past it on our smartphones.

That happened to me earlier this month when I first came across a news item from the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. On August 4, the Institute announced the creation of a school to train Levitical priests for eventual service in the future temple in Jerusalem.

Could you have imagined this headline twenty years ago? A school for Levites to train for service as priests in the temple! Many of us would have been looking up for the Lord’s return upon reading that, now we almost miss it amidst so many other signs of Jesus’ soon return.

So is the training of Levitical priests significant in terms of prophecy? Yes, I believe it is!

Scripture tells us Israel will have a temple during the tribulation. A study of Daniel 9 and Matthew 24 reveals that the antichrist will defile the temple half way through the tribulation. Jesus referred to this as the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24:15. The Apostle John received instructions to measure this temple during one of his visions of the tribulation (Rev. 11:1-2).

Building the third Jewish temple in Jerusalem, however, is not like building a home or even a school or church, far from yet. It’s so much more than simply a physical structure.

Consider all the Old Testament passages that speak to the design of the temple, its furnishings, the order of worship, the sacrifices, and the functions of the priests. Add to that centuries of tradition and rabbinical writings that also need to be carefully researched so that everything in the new temple, including the color of the priests clothing, exactly matches the temples of the past. This is a huge task! I have just begun to describe all that needs to be done in preparation for the Jewish third temple.

Since 1987, the Temple Institute has worked feverishly to prepare for the building of this temple. In 2015 they spent $100,000 on architectural designs for the future temple and earlier in 2016 announced the completion of the huge golden altar for sacrifices. Over the past three decades the Institute has extensively researched everything relating to the construction of the temple, its consecration, and the order of worship and crafted many of the furnishings for the temple. The school for training Levitical priests further demonstrates Israel's readiness for the building of the temple.

With all the advance work completed by the Temple Institute, the temple can be constructed, furnished, and staffed with priests in a relatively short amount of time. This makes it possible for the rapture to occur even before Israel even has permission to build its temple. Twenty years ago, this might not have been nearly as feasible, especially if Israel wanted the third temple and its observances to match that of the past two temples.

Do you see it? This current intense preparation for rebuilding the temple culminating with the training of Levitical priests is just one more flashing arrow pointing to the nearness of Jesus’ return for His church.

Prophecy speaker J D Farag compares this to seeing Christmas decorations in the stores. When we begin to see these displays in the stores we not only realize Christmas is coming soon, but also know Thanksgiving is even closer. If we see signs pointing to the nearness of the tribulation, we know the Lord’s appearing is even closer because of His promise to return for His church before the time of tribulation overtakes the world.

The Christmas lights are brightly shining, are we ready for Thanksgiving? Jesus is coming soon!

Addendum for Prophecy Nerds:

If you are a prophecy nerd like me, you may find this added note interesting.

Some today suggest the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem will be part of the agreement Israel agrees to with the antichrist. Daniel 9:27 tells us about the covenant the antichrist will make with the “many." If the temple is a part of this deal, it would explain how Israel could build the temple even though the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently occupies much of the Jewish temple mount.

At this point, it seems impossible that the Muslims would ever let Israel build its temple there.

The antichrist, however, may be the one to persuade the Arab nations to go along with the construction of the temple particularly if they get something in return for the concession. Would they be able to sense his deceitful motives?

The building of the temple alongside the Al-Aqsa Mosque appears to correspond to an interesting instruction John received regarding the measuring of this future temple (Rev. 11:1). The angel told him not to measure “the court outside the temple” since it was “given over to the nations.” Could the presence of the Muslim mosque explains this curious exception to the measuring the temple? I think it’s possible, maybe even likely!

Our Unfailing Advocate

gavel advocacy I remember Jay Leno on the Tonight Show mentioning that his whole life was videotaped for security reasons. Leno’s purpose in saying this was to introduce some incident between him and his cat, which he wanted us to assume was totally impromptu.

But what if . . . what if our entire lives, every waking moment, was somehow captured on video? Furthermore, what if this was available for any enemy of ours to use against us?

Far-fetched you might say?? Revelation 12:10 refers to Satan as “the accuser of the brethren” and as someone who “accuses” us as believers “day and night before our God.” Satan is able to recount incidents (and perhaps replay events) from my life and then bring charges against me, “Look at this display of unbelief! Did you see that lack of faith in his display of anxiety! Jonathan claims to be your child, but look at his prideful behavior. Surely he is not who he claims to be.” Satan never gives up in his relentless efforts to accuse us both in person and before our Father in heaven.

However, I John 2:1 says that when we sin, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Whew! I have someone to defend me before my Father, a never-failing advocate on my behalf. We are never left defenseless against Satan's attacks.

Romans 8:33-34 further describes this courtroom scene in heaven, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Because we are justified before God, Jesus never fails to intercede on our behalf and defend us against all charges made against us.

When Scripture says we are justified, this signifies God’s proclamation that we are righteous solely because of Jesus and His death on the cross for our sins. Justification is a legal term indicating a judicial pronouncement made in a court of law. All the legal claims against us have been forever cancelled; they are nailed to the cross and we bear them no more (see Col. 2:13-15); God declares those in Christ forever righteous in His sight. Jesus is our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). In addition, Jesus remains our advocate, our defense attorney, always ready to defend us before the Father.

Romans 8:1 sums up this wonderful news, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Notice the apostle does not say there is “no condemnation” for the religious or for the moral or for those who always obey God. No, the promise is for those “in Christ,” for those who have a saving relationship with Jesus.

Satan can bring a whole flash drive full of condemning videos; it will never change God’s verdict of righteousness on those of us who know Jesus as our Savior. Jesus is the one who continually defends us and when you think of it, could there possibly be a better defense attorney in the entire universe?

Recently, someone asked me to make a value judgment on a politician’s character based on a short video of less than a minute. While the incident on the video certainly put the man in a bad light, I could not agree it exemplified his entire life. As I later reflected on the discussion regarding the video, I realized I am no better than that candidate. A great number of equally condemning videos against me could be paraded before my Father in heaven to which I could only lower my head in shame.

My confidence, however, rests solely in Jesus and His righteousness. He is my only defense against all the countless charges made against me, past, present, and future. This is what it means to be justified before Him: no future charge can ever change our righteous standing before God or interfere with our hope of someday reigning with Christ. Jesus is not only our unfailing advocate, but coming soon to take us to be with Him in heaven.

He alone is the reason we are secure in our hope of spending eternity with Him. This is why we can confidently look for His appearing. He alone is our unfailing hope.

Romans 8:31-32 says this about those in Christ, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Some might claim, as they did in Paul’s day, that such grace opens the door to more sin. However, as the reality of what Jesus has done and continues to do for us sinks increasingly into our hearts, it energizes our desire to serve and love Him all the more.

Praise God for His amazing grace, love, and mercy! So undeserved but welcomed with much thanksgiving!!

An Election of Extremes

IMG_3511 (2) This has been an election cycle of extremes.

Interest this election is sky high while satisfaction with the candidates seems lower than ever.

On the Republican side we saw a record number of choices. On the Democrat side, the matter was decided long before anyone cast a vote in that primary.

Donald Trump wants to make America great again. Hillary Clinton wants to continue America’s current descent toward globalization.

One candidate has been in politics all her life while the other has never been a politician or held office.

But what does it all mean from the standpoint of eternity?

On the one hand . . . the world appears to be racing toward what Scripture describes as the Great Tribulation. The signs of this abound all around us:

Everything Jesus said would happen leading up to the Great Tribulation is happening now.

The world today closely resembles Jesus’ description in Matthew 24:9-14 of what the world would look like leading into this time of tribulation. It’s almost as if the Lord was glancing through headlines from today’s newspapers as He talked to His disciples long ago.

Everything Jesus said would happen leading up to the Great Tribulation is happening now.

Then there is the prophecy of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39, which has become an infallible predictor of how nations in the Middle East have aligned themselves over the past ten years.

Through the United Nations, the world is well on its way to forming the one world government spoken of in Daniel and the book of Revelation. Given the right circumstances, this new world order could appear almost overnight.

In his September 20, 2016 address to the United Nations, President Obama said that nations like the United States would have to "accept constraints" for the common good of this coming world order. That would mean, according to the President, that Americans would need to give up some of their freedoms for the sake of the world order.

Based on what President Obama said, we can be sure that this new socialistic world order is well on the way to reality and when it comes Americans will lose many of their freedoms, not just "some" as he indicated.

Given what we see in the world today with the approach of the tribulation and the rise of the one world government, we as believers may soon be celebrating in the very presence of our Savior.

Given what we see in the world today with the approach of the tribulation and the rise of the one world government, we as believers may soon be celebrating in the very presence of our Savior. Our joyous hope in the Lord’s appearing could soon be reality.

On the other hand . . . we do not know the day or hour Jesus will return to take us home to be with Him. It could be today, or it could be several years from now. We just do not know.

We may remain earthbound a little longer as salt and light in a world increasingly dominated by Satan’s kingdom of darkness.

While this year’s election may hopefully delay our nation’s path to globalization, apart from a massive spiritual revival things remain bleak for our nation. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Our nation's current leaders fervently support Planned Parenthood who not only performs abortions but harvests the body parts for profit. It does not get any worse than this. How much longer will God’s patience last? The Lord hates abortion much more than any of us! It's only a matter of time before He shows up to stop this.
  • The disrespect of our nation’s leaders for the laws of our land has led to attacks on authority that threaten the stability of our country as never before.
  • Our nation is quickly becoming a borderless country decreasing protection and safety for its citizens and increasing the chances for anarchy.
  • We are rapidly approaching $20 trillion in debt and as a result even a small economic crisis could bring down our entire economy and wreak havoc for all of us.

I hope and pray for a more conservative supreme court; I truly believe this matters. But can this alone change the course of a country steeped in rebellion against God? I don’t think so.

I want to see America great again, but also one that returns to the Lord and honors Him. I cannot imagine a strong and prosperous America apart from a sweeping spiritual revival across our land. How can God bless us as a nation if we continue our support for the vile practices of Planned Parenthood?

With each passing day the forces of evil gain a stronger foothold in our nation. Without revival there is no hope for our nation. We are on a path to destruction regardless of who wins in November. The Lord is patient so His judgment may not fall in the near future. Unless however, we change our course, He will show up much to distress of those who so vehemently rejection Him now.

My hope, however, resides in what we cannot see: the sovereign working of the Lord’s purposes as the world races toward the coming tribulation while we as believers wait expectantly for the Lord to take us home!

I will vote and pray for our country.

My hope, however, resides in what we cannot see: the sovereign working of the Lord’s purposes as the world races toward the coming tribulation while we as believers wait expectantly for the Lord to take us home!

Maranatha!

Jesus' Appearing

cropped-kumamoto-japan-aso-cloud-45848-large-jpeg.jpg I could think of nothing else.

I even tried extra cleaning around my house, but to no avail.

We met on eHarmony months earlier and now our relationship had turned into a romance. Ruth lived three hours away so sometimes weeks would go by without seeing her. But now she was on her way to see me and I eagerly awaited her arrival.

What if we anticipated the arrival of our Savior in a similar way?

The apostles taught New Testament believers to live in eager anticipation of Jesus’ appearing. This hope brought a joy-filled two-world perspective that not only transformed their daily lives, but enabled them to literally change the world.

Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul characterized believers as recipients of grace who looked for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

The apostle reported this same connection with the Gospel on the part of the Thessalonians, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). The natural consequence of turning away from idols to serve God was that of expectantly watching for the Lord’s appearing. In both verses above, Paul equates belief in the Gospel with an eager anticipation of Jesus’ return for His church.

A recent GEICO commercial portrays a spy fleeing from both armed men and a helicopter. His phone rings as his adversaries appear ready to capture him. Thinking the call is from those coming to rescue him; he answers the phone shouting “Where are you?” We then see and hear his mom calmly talking about squirrels in the attic after which the narrator says, “If you’re a mom, you call at the worst time. It’s what you do.” Reflecting on what Paul said in Titus and 1 Thessalonians, we might expect him to say something similar: “If you believe the Gospel message of grace, you live in expectancy of Jesus’ appearing. It’s what you do.”

Philippians 3:20 states, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word Paul used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event.[i] This word implies eagerness and even a longing in our hearts for a future event. The same word is used in Acts 17:16 of Paul’s restless longing for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. After the apostle’s recent troubles in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, he very much desired to see them again. In Philippians, Paul applies this same deep longing to our anticipation of Jesus’ appearing.

The Apostle Peter instructs us to focus our hope entirely on the “grace” to be brought to us at Jesus’ appearing. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:13). Jesus’ future appearing is our hope in this life. As believers, we focus our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus appears to take us home. It’s what we do.

Our hope does not reside in anything in this life. Everything we see is fleeting and temporal. Earthly treasure can evaporate overnight. Politics and leaders continually disappoint us. Our hope resides solely in Jesus and His return to take us home to be with Him.

1 John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” When Jesus appears and we see His great glory, He will transform us to be like Him. This anticipation of Jesus’ appearing works to transform us, it purifies us.

From this sampling of verses, we see the apostles repeatedly direct the focus of our hope toward Jesus’ appearing. As believers, we wait in joyous anticipation of seeing Jesus face to face. Why would the apostles keep directing hope of the early church to Jesus’ return for His church if was not a possibility in their lifetimes? Nearly 2,000 years ago the early church waited with the realization they could see Jesus at any moment (see 1 Thess. 4:15). We walk in that same anticipation today; the delay has not diminished the reality of this hope or our anticipation of the joy of seeing our Savior face to face.

[i] Brown, Colin, editor, Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969) p. 244.

(Excerpt from The Thrill of Hope)

Our Future Immortal Bodies

inside_empty_tombWe have so very much to look forward to when Jesus returns for us. If we are alive at the time of His appearing, Jesus will instantly transform our aging and achy bodies into an eternal body just like His. If we die before the rapture, He will bring our dead bodies to life again never again to be subject to the illnesses of this life or to death (1 Thess. 4:16-17). All this happens amazingly fast, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). It will all be finished in less time than it takes to blink our eyes.

In 1 Corinthians 15:52b-53 Paul says, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” The Lord, through the apostle Paul, promises that all believers will someday possess immortal bodies. We will live forever in the bodies we receive when Jesus comes for His church.

Philippians 3:20-21 adds this about our future bodies, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body. . .” Our future bodies will resemble Jesus’ resurrection body. We will be like Him just as John promised in 1 John 3:2.

This exchange of bodies, our deteriorating and aging bodies for immortal ones like Christ’s, will be like swapping an old rusted out Ford Pinto held together with duct tape for a brand new shiny Porsche Carrera. Only our new bodies will never deteriorate, grow old, or wear out as even the best-built cars will do over a long enough period of time. I can scarcely imagine having a body that will never grow weary, get sick, or age. No more achy backs and sore knees! Our new bodies will be immortal; they will never die.

Consider the implications. No more doctor and dentist appointments. Taking pain relievers and medicine . . . a thing of the past. No more stubbed toes, sprained ankles, or broken bones. Can you imagine never getting sick again? No more flu, colds, allergies, cancer, heart disease, or any ailment you can name. Our new bodies will be immune to all disease!

Think of all the effort we put into maintaining the health of our bodies. How much do we spend each month just to maintain our bodies? We take vitamins, exercise, and try to maintain a healthy diet. Imagine not needing all of the products we purchase for our hair, skin, and teeth. I can scarcely imagine a body that does not require daily upkeep.

Indeed we have an amazing hope. This world is not our final home nor our current bodies the end of our existence.

(The above post is from my current writing project, The Thrill of Hope.)