Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). I’ve written a lot on the subject of suffering. Perhaps this is because suffering is one of the few things all of us have in common. I am certainly no stranger to it and I suspect you aren’t either. And, if you’re like me, I doubt you enjoy or look forward to another opportunity to suffer!
In the midst of suffering we’re told by Jesus and the biblical authors not to worry. When it comes to our daily needs Jesus reminds us not to worry about tomorrow. Why? Because, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”—King James speak for, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).
A dear friend who is now with Jesus—Jack Kinsella—wrote, “All that is well and good and we understand it on the spiritual level. But somehow, sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes, the weight of this old world and where it is going is crushingly heavy. Sometimes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and cry out, ‘I’m losing faith in everything. What’s the point?’”
That’s a good question—“What’s the point?” I mean, really, what IS the point of suffering? Even if we try and write suffering off ultimately as a result of sin and the fall of man we still, if we are honest, have to admit we struggle over the question of why? Or, to stick with our aforementioned question: What’s the point?
On this week's addition of the Hal Lindsey Report, Hal honors his and my dear friend, Jack Kinsella. Jack went to be with the Lord on Thursday, 14 March 2013. The show is divided into three segments and Jack is featured in the last segment, at 13:15, just before Hal presents the Gospel. You can watch the video of the program below and also read my blog entry in memory of Jack by clicking here: Run Like Jack Ran. You can visit Hal's website here: Hal Lindsey.
"In the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). I just returned from the twentieth annual meeting of the Pre-Trib Study Group Conference (www.pre-trib.org). The meeting took place at the Sheraton Grand Hotel near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. This was my third trip, having also attended in 2007 and 2008. The conference was academically stimulating with several papers presented by various scholars on the Rapture and Pre-Tribulationism. Perhaps the most challenging paper for me personally was Dr. Paul Wilkinson’s paper on "The Rapture and Evangelism." Dr. Wilkinson is a British scholar from England who challenged everyone attending to be about the task of evangelism in light of the any moment return of Christ for His church. The banquet on Monday evening featured Dr. Ed Hindson from Liberty University. Afterwards I was privileged to enjoy a brief visit with Bill Koenig, a White House correspondent and director of World Watch International news agency (www.watch.org). Tuesday evening included the traditional current events presentations dealing with current events in light of Bible prophecy. Although this is perhaps the highlight of the whole conference for me, this year I slipped out after the first speaker in order to have dinner with Jack Kinsella of the Omega Letter (www.omegaletter.org) and other Omega Letter friends. When all was said and done my mind kept coming back to Paul’s words to young Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:8, which I think is summed up with this question: Do you love His appearing?
Of all the reasons we might long for and love Jesus’ return for His church, three remain in the forefront of my thinking. First of all, I want to be where Jesus is. He said, "I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:3). As believers, we should long to be with Christ above all else. I think our longing to be with Him is a sure sign we treasure Him more than anyone or anything this world has to offer. Do you long to be with Christ? Do you love His appearing? Secondly, although Christ’s death has set me free from the power of sin, I long to be free from the presence of sin. Paul wrote, "For in hope we have been saved" (Rom. 8:24). This hope includes not only the redemption of our bodies but also freedom from the very presence of sin. Personally, I cannot even begin to fathom being free from the presence of sin. But such freedom is coming and it is coming at "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13)! Finally, God has promised a great reunion in the sky for those who love His appearing. The Bible says, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus" (1 Thess. 4:14). Imagine that—our loved ones who are "asleep in Jesus" will come with Him when He appears. Asleep here simply means those who have died in the Lord. They are now with Jesus—where we long to be—and one day they are coming with Him when He comes for His church.
So what’s the bottom line? Simply put, it is this: Do you love His appearing? Do you long for and pray for the return of Jesus for His church? Or, are you busy with and focused on the cares of this world? I am amazed at the focus of Christianity today, particularly in our own country. It seems the church is more interested in the things of this world rather than Christ. We see it in so-called Christian programming where the focus is on health, wealth, and prosperity. We see it in books where the authors seem more interested in our best life now and becoming a better you. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in holy living and longing for Christ’s return. It is no wonder. Even Paul promised, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Here’s the test. Are you accumulating for yourself teachers in accordance with your own desires who promulgate what may on the surface sound and feel good but in reality is nothing more than myths? Or, do you treasure Christ above all and love His appearing? "Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13).
“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses...I charge you in the presence of God,...keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:11-14). C.H. Spurgeon once quipped, “I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two.” Life is all about choices. It seems to me I face a daily barrage of choices—some minuscule some not. It’s the “some not” with which I am most concerned. These choices often look me square in the eyes with a simple yet profound question—will I believe God? And by “believe” I do not mean passive acknowledgement but active faith. I meet people all the time, from all walks of life, who readily acknowledge they believe the Bible yet for some reason fail to make a personal, life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ. They refuse to join the fight—the good fight of faith which Paul admonishes us to fight in his first letter to young Timothy. I am convinced if one is not fighting the good fight of faith then he or she probably doesn’t belong to God. The good fight of faith is a serious matter, indeed—one I like to describe with the phrase “Fight for Joy!”
How do we fight for joy? In 1 Timothy 6:11-14, Paul offers three principles we must employ as we fight for joy. First of all, we are challenged to flee from some things while pursuing other things. To put it plainly, we are told to flee from a desire for earthly treasures and instead pursue a heavenly treasure—Christ Himself. We do this as we “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Secondly, we are told to get in and stay in the fight—the good fight of faith. This is where I am faced with the question of will I believe God? If my answer is yes then the next part is not necessarily easy but it is settled— how long will I believe God? Paul says I am to fight the good fight of faith until I “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” In other words, I fight for joy—the good fight of faith—until I see Jesus either at my death or the Rapture of the Church, whichever comes first. He drives his point home with a third principle: “Keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, keep on believing until Jesus comes. I like the old Southern Gospel hymn--Keep on the Firing Line— which says, “If you’re in the battle for the Lord and right, keep on the firing line; if you win, my brother, surely you must fight, keep on the firing line; there are many dangers that we all must face, if we die still fighting it is no disgrace; cowards in the service will not find a place, so keep on the firing line.” Friend, keep fighting the good fight of faith until you see Jesus! Like Paul, be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This is the Word of the Lord!
C.S. Lewis once said, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?” It is easy for me to say I believe God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. But it is only when life throws me a curveball and the bottom drops out and I’m stripped of everything but Jesus that I truly discover what I really believe. Then the question as to whether or not I will believe God becomes very real and of utmost importance. Don’t wait until the bottom drops out. Settle right now—once and for all—no matter what happens you will believe God and that belief won’t be merely passive acknowledgement but an active and vibrant faith in the one who has promised, “He who believes in Him will not be disappointed” (1 Peter 2:6).
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16). We are one year closer to the return of Christ! With each passing year it becomes more and more evident we are living in the last days. So many things occurred in 2010 that it is difficult for me to summarize them all in one Thoughts to Ponder. It is clear to me that the United States is quickly going the way of the world. In fact, I am convinced America has crossed the line with God and our being given over to judgment is a foregone conclusion. Therefore, rather than follow my previous pattern of summarizing where I think we are in Bible prophecy I have decided to offer a few insights on living faithfully in a pagan and hostile society.
Peter begins his letter with a greeting to Christians “scattered” throughout the world. These were Christians who, like Israel of old, were scattered throughout the world. Their situation was one of suffering and trial. The sufferings and trials to which Peter refers are those that often come to Christians as they live faithfully in a pagan and hostile society. Such trials take the form of slander, riots, police action, and social ostracism. It is clear to me that America has become just such a society. The Christianity that once was part of the fabric of our nation that created some cultural props to hold us up and to give us a biblical morality and some divine standard in which to judge behavior is now gone. Moral freedom reigns as god. What was once done in secret has now emerged as outright open rebellion against the Lord God before whom we will all one day stand and give an account. This open hostility is clearly evident as the enemy seeks to marginalize those who truly belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider these words uttered by a military leader concerning those who might oppose certain lifestyle choices based on religious conviction: "But these people opposing this new policy will need to get with the program, and if they can't, they need to get out. No matter how much training and education of those in opposition, you're always going to have those that oppose this on moral and religious grounds just like you still have racists today." Did you get that? He subtly tied biblical Christianity to racism. This is the kind of slander and social ostracism about which Peter wrote and we now experience. So the question is how do we live faithfully in this pagan and hostile society?
Peter offers three principles we must faithfully apply. These principles are captured with three words: (1) Prepare, (2) Keep, and (3) Fix. First of all, we are to “prepare your minds for action.” This is military imagery meaning we are to pull in all the loose ends that might otherwise hinder our walk with Christ. The image is one of gathering and fastening up a long garment so that it would not interfere with one’s activity. This gathering up would include dealing with sin, and that which is wasteful and useless. Secondly, we are directed to “keep sober in spirit.” This means to think soberly or to get your thoughts right. Will I think the way the world thinks or will I have the mind of Christ? Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we are to have the mind of Christ. The world says one thing but God says something altogether different. Finally, we are to “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, everything we think, say, and do is to be thought, said, and done with a view to the return of Christ—our blessed hope—and the reward He will bring with Him for those of us who truly follow Him. Paul wrote, “We have as our ambition to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:9-10). How are we to apply these principles? Practically, we are to obey God by living a holy (separated) life: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” We are to live faithfully in whatever pagan and hostile society we find ourselves. Regardless of what form our trials and sufferings take—slander, riots, police action, social ostracism—we are to live holy and faithful lives. As 2010 draws to a close it is clear the world is headed to an appointment with God—judgment is imminent. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow”(James 1:17). The Bible says that God is forever faithful. I believe that. However, I will also be the first to admit that simply because I believe something to be true does not mean I always act like it. Like you, I face a daily bombardment of uncertainties, challenges, and circumstances that are inherent in a fallen world. Sometimes these uncertainties, challenges, and circumstances catch me off-guard. Sometimes they turn my world upside down. Sometimes they leave me with more questions than answers. It is during times like these we must endeavor to turn our attention to and meditate upon what I believe to be the greatest truth about God’s eternal character—His faithfulness. The Bible is crystal clear on this point and leaves no room for debate. God always has been, and forever will be, faithful.
James, writing about the God who gives perfect gifts to His children, says this about Him: “There is no variation or shifting shadow.” The use of the words variation and shifting is interesting. In using these words, James is probably referring to the sun, which because of the Earth’s rotation, “varies” its position in the sky throughout the day. This variation in position results in shifting shadows on earth. It’s a great illustration because we have all seen shadows and we have all witnessed the shifting of shadows brought about by the varying position of the sun throughout the day. But James reminds us it is not like this with God. God is the “Father of lights,” meaning He is the Creator of the sun and stars—the heavenly bodies that give off light. And unlike these heavenly bodies that are constantly changing or appearing to change, the “Father of lights” does not change. He is faithful and with Him, “there is no variation or shifting shadow.” This is in perfect agreement with Malachi 3:6, which says, “For I, the Lord, do not change.” Because God does not change, we can count on Him to be faithful—always! The same thought is captured in Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations.” This basically means His truth endures. Because His truth endures, because He is faithful and forever will be, the Bible says, “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Because God always has been, and forever will be, faithful, we can believe Him. Abraham did, and the Bible says, “It was credited to Him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Sarah believed because, “she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11). This is the Word of the Lord!
I do not know what is transpiring in your life right now. I only know what is going on in my own. But this much I do know—God always has been, and forever will be, faithful! When God told Joshua to meditate upon His Word (Joshua 1:8), He was basically charging Joshua to meditate upon His faithfulness. Joshua was about to embark on the greatest challenge of His life—leading the children of Israel into the Promise Land. He needed to be assured of God’s faithfulness. The Psalmist wrote, “Oh how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Only those who love the Word of God and endeavor to meditate upon and obey it will believe God. And only those who meditate upon God’s faithfulness can face the uncertainties, challenges, and circumstances that life throws our way. Remember, no matter what happens in this life, God is faithful—He always has been, and He forever will be, faithful! No changes on this earth can cast a shadow on the unchanging Father of lights. “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us” (Heb. 6:17-20).
“Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”(Matthew 16:3) We use the phrase down to the wire for any situation which is tense because its outcome may not be decided until the very last moment. However, when it comes to end-times Bible prophecy, the outcome is clear. The question is simply when? Personally, I believe when is a whole lot closer than most people are willing to believe. Few of us realize the lateness of the hour. Many in the Church have ignored the Bible’s warning concerning the end-times and, as a result, have no idea how to “discern the signs of the times.” I believe, based on Scripture and current events, that it is overwhelmingly clear we are nearing the end of the Church Age. The birth-pains Jesus described in Matthew 24 indicate that Daniel’s Seventieth Week will soon begin (see Daniel 9:24-27). However, before this prophesied seven year period can start, the Church must be removed. Therefore, if Daniel’s Seventieth Week is on the near horizon, how much closer then is the Rapture of the Church? It is mind-bogglingly close!
If the return of Christ for His Church is as close as many prophecy teachers believe it is, me included, what should we as believers do? I believe we must raise the bar in our walk with Christ. This is not the time to get lazy, max out your credit cards, and cruise on into heaven. No, now is the time to get more serious than ever about your walk with Christ. One reason I believe this is because I also believe that persecution against followers of Christ will increase as the time of our departure nears. We are already seeing this. Satan will stop at nothing to suppress God’s truth. One of his primary ways of doing this is through silencing Christians. One example of this clever deception is the recently signed hate-crimes law. Regardless of what its supporters want you to believe, its ultimate purpose will be to silence anyone who opposes the abhorrent lifestyles it claims to protect. Therefore, in order to prepare for the coming increase in persecution it is imperative we raise the bar in our walk with Christ. To begin with, we must pursue holiness with a passion. 1 John 3:2 says, “It has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” Since we are going to be like Him, which includes both physical changes of the resurrection body and spiritual changes of purity, no sin, and righteousness, let’s be as much like Him now as we can. In fact, John goes on to write, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). This raises another very important issue—that of false hope. I know far too many people who think they are right with God because they walked a church aisle but whose lives today give little evidence they belong to Christ. Paul said, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Secondly, we need to go to our knees in prayer. We should be praying for His will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Thirdly, we must raise the bar on personal and corporate Bible study. By this, I mean the verse-by-verse study of God’s Word. Our goal in life ought to be to know God as intimately as possible this side of glory. The only way that is going to happen is through careful Bible study and concerted prayer. Finally, we must preach Jesus. By preach Jesus, I mean share the gospel one on one and corporately. Jesus said, “You shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). If the Rapture occurred today, how many of your family, friends, and loved ones would be left behind? What are you doing about it? Hopefully, you are going to your knees in concerted prayer and preaching the Gospel of our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our duty and calling in these last days, as we recognize the signs of the times in which we live, is to stand firm on behalf of the Lord. Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). He repeated this in the next chapter, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). I can think of no better advice for those of us so fortunate to live during the most exciting time in history—the time leading up to the return of Christ for His Church. There is no better time to raise the bar in our walk with Christ. There is no better time to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). When it comes to the end-times, we are coming down to the wire. Therefore, make sure you are ready to meet the Lord in the air! “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
“So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). Every so often I receive a mass of emails in response to a particular Thoughts to Ponder. My recent one, There’s a Change Coming, is one such example. Many responded telling me how encouraging they found the article to be. Speaking of Christ’s return for His Church, some even asked, “Do you really think it’s that close?” Short answer—yes! Just a casual familiarity with Bible prophecy reveals we are mind-bogglingly close to this amazing, life-changing, earth shattering event. But of course, there are always mockers. Those who say, “Look, every generation of Christians believed Christ would return in their lifetime.” This is true. But the difference between those generations and this present generation is this—our generation has more reason to believe Christ will return in our generation than any previous generation ever imagined. And it all boils down to predictive prophecy—the Bible’s track record of 100 percent accuracy, 100 percent of the time!
The Bible predicts a number of events that will be in play just prior to Christ’s return for His Church. If we were witnessing just one or two of these events, we might have reason to believe Christ’s return was still far off. However, the fact that we are now, for the first time in history, witnessing all these events in play—setting the stage for Daniel’s prophesied Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:27)—gives us greater assurance that the Rapture of the Church is indeed close at hand. There is now a nation called Israel. No end-times prophecy could be fulfilled without an Israel. On May 14, 1948, against all odds, this tiny nation no bigger than the State of New Jersey, became a nation again. It occurred in less than 24 hours, sovereignly fulfilling numerous prophecies, particularly Isaiah 66:7-9. In verse 8 of that passage, Isaiah asks, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” History has confirmed for us that yes, such a thing can and has happened. Israel’s return to the land is no accident of history but the sovereign fulfillment of God’s promise. The Bible also predicts Israel’s enemies, the Palestinians in particular (they are no peace partner), would try to steal Israel’s covenant land as their own (Ezek. 35; Psalm 83). The prophets also predicted, in the last days just prior to the Lord’s return, the whole world would come against Israel over the issue of Jerusalem. Zechariah writes, “It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (12:3). We are witnessing this unfolding right before our eyes! Even the United States, Israel’s historic supporter, has now sided with the rest of the world in demanding that Israel cease settlement activity in its covenant land and divide Jerusalem. When you mess with Israel, especially Jerusalem, you mess with the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8). That basically means that we as nation are now actively poking God in the eye. This is not a good position to be in as it invites catastrophic judgment. But it does show how close we really are to hearing Jesus shout from heaven! One more prophecy I would draw your attention too is that which Daniel mentions in chapters 2 and 7 of his prophecy. In both chapters, Daniel prophesied a revived form of the Roman Empire in the last days. We see the stage being set for this in the modern European and Mediterranean Unions. As of today, they are one vote away from a major step forward, and that vote will come soon. And just as Daniel prophesied, they are “partly strong and partly weak” (2:42). Out of this union, Daniel tells us ten kings (or nations) will arise. And from these ten kings, an eleventh king will arise who will, “make a firm covenant with the many for one week…” (Dan. 9:27). This is where we are today—the world is longing for someone—anyone—who can solve the Middle East problem. The only thing standing in his way right now, according to Scripture, is the true church. Once Christ removes His Church, this “man of lawlessness will be revealed” (2 Thess. 2:3).
I’ve only touched the surface. Space will not permit me to talk in detail about other prophecies in play this very moment—the march to globalism and the rise of global governance, economic upheaval, and the rise of an Iranian led, Russian equipped coalition that will attack Israel in the last days, apostasy, natural disasters, deception, calling evil good and good evil, and many, many more. The point is this: it is all coming to pass, exactly as the Bible predicts. Therefore, we can conclude God’s Word is true, its message of salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) is true, and Christ’s coming for His Church is very near (1 Thess. 4:13-18). So, my question to you is simply this: Are you ready? If Jesus came for His Church today, would you be caught up with all the saints of all the ages or would you be left behind? “I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place…For this reason, you also must be ready”
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will 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 imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). A friend of mine mused recently, “There’s a change coming.” I could not agree more. However, I suspect the change he has in mind and the change I have in mind are not one and the same. As I study the Bible and Bible prophecy, I am amazed at just how relevant and true the Bible really is. I wonder just how in the world anyone of any intelligence could fail to put two and two together and see that the Bible really is true and its prophecies are rapidly staging for final fulfillment. Sadly, many continue their mockery of Scripture—they are content to embrace the passing pleasures of sin and the promise of eternal separation from God. But despite the mockery, the Bible is clear—we are in fact living in the last days of world history—there’s a change coming! It is a change that will affect both believers and unbelievers. This change, known as the Rapture of the Church, will occur at any moment. It will involve the snatching away from this world all true believers in Christ while leaving unbelievers behind for the cataclysmic judgments of God’s wrath.
In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul describes the Rapture of the Church as a mystery. In Scripture, this term always refers to truth hidden in the past but now revealed in the New Testament. In other words, a mystery in the Bible is not some Hardy Boys style story where we are trying to uncover some mystery. It means truth that is hidden until God chooses to reveal it. Such is the case with the Rapture of the Church. You will not find any mention of the Rapture in the Old Testament. Perhaps this is because the Old Testament prophecies primarily deal with God’s plan for Israel. Its first mention is in John 14:1-3, where Jesus promises to return for His Church after an undetermined period of time. The event itself is specifically explained and detailed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Paul focuses in on the mystery of the resurrection—“we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” This change will happen “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” Many confuse this trumpet as the last of the seven trumpet judgments of Revelation 11:15. However, unlike the Revelation trumpets, this is not a trumpet judgment. This is the last trumpet of the church-age, when all true Christians will be removed from the earth. It will happen quickly—“in the twinkling of an eye”—a phrase Paul uses to capture just how rapidly this event will take place. It is the time it takes for light to travel through the front of the eye, be reflected off the retina, and then exit the eye. This equates to an infinitesimally small fraction of a second—10 to the negative 43 to be exact—as far as the division of time can be measured. So, this change that is coming will happen very quickly. In less than the time it takes to blink, all true believers will be taken off this earth to heaven—changed from mortal to immortal, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). I don’t know about you, but I am praying for and looking forward to this change with great anticipation! I believe it will happen very soon.
But what about the rest of the world—those who are left behind? There’s a change coming for them too, as the Rapture changes everything for the unbeliever as well. “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe the lie, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:8-12). With Christians out of the way, Satan will be able to move in with his program of complete deception. And for those who rejected the truth, judgment will follow. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can escape all these things by simply forsaking your sin and embracing the free gift of eternal life Christ offers. “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14).
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God…And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation”(Romans 5:1-11). A major theme of the book of Romans is righteousness from God. It appears more than 30 times in one form or another and describes the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holiness—a standard man falls woefully short of according to Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the true Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals that on the basis of faith—and faith alone—God will give His righteousness to ungodly sinners. Furthermore, Paul argues in Romans 5:1-11 that not only does God justify sinners on the basis of faith alone, but they are eternally bound to Christ, kept by His power and not by any human effort. Churches and groups that add to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—and there are a lot of them—are nothing more than false religious systems dispensing false hope, which is really no hope at all. According to Dr. J.C. Ryle, one of these so called churches, that boast more than a billion followers, is nothing more than “a huge organized idolatry.” Speaking of this same false religious system, Dr. John MacArthur describes it as, “a pseudo-Christianity…the best front for the kingdom of Satan.” I could not agree more!
With so much deception in the world today, one might rightfully wonder how to determine a false religious system from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). The Corinthian believers faced the same danger many face today—falling prey to satanic lies, thus abandoning simple devotion to Jesus Christ in favor of the sophisticated errors of false teachers and religious systems. A church that departs from the simplicity of the Gospel is no church at all but a false religious system that enslaves its followers, leading them straight down the “broad road that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13). Dr. Loraine Boettner, speaking of this same so called church that boasts more than a billion followers says, “The [miserable] evidence of [this church’s] steadily increasing departure from the simplicity of the Gospel, a departure so radical and far-reaching at the present time (1965) that it has produced a drastically anti-evangelical church. It is clear beyond possibility of doubt that [this religion] as now practiced is the outgrowth of centuries of error. Human inventions have been substituted for Bible truth and practice, [so that now, a false gospel is preached].” It is no wonder Paul wrote, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7). In other words, a false hope is no hope at all!
So the question is this: Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation or are you trusting in your church membership, your participation in your church, your confirmation, your baptism, communion, anything other than grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Any church or religious system that goes beyond the simplicity of the Gospel message—grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—is so far from what Scripture teaches that it is garbage, or to use the Greek word Paul uses in Philippians 3:7, it is “dung”. So my appeal to you is simple. If you are in a church that teaches you must do something in addition to believing, don’t just walk, but run as quickly as you can away from that church. It is a false religious system that will leave you eternally lost. Only by believing the true Gospel can one be saved and have the assurance of eternal life with Christ. Only faith alone in Christ Jesus yields true hope. Anything else is a false hope that will never satisfy. Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). This is not a simple acknowledgment that He is God but a deep personal conviction, without reservation, that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” is that which results in justification by faith (Rom. 5:1)—a one-time legal declaration by God with continuing results. In other words, God declares the sinner no longer guilty but now righteous in His sight. This is the essence of reconciliation (Rom. 5:11) between God and sinners. So again, are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation? If the answer is no, then you are still lost and facing an eternity separated from Christ and the joys of heaven—no matter what church you attend. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
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