Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas to all the followers of my blog and Facebook page!

I so very much appreciate each one of you and all the valuable comments many of you have made during the last several months.

I also want to thank those of you who have edited chapters from my book on the Thrill of Hope page. (The revised Introduction and first three chapters are currently out on that page, if you are curious.)

The purpose of my blog is to point believers to the reality and joys of eternity. If anything, the events of this past year demonstrate and continue to show that the hope of so many rests solely on the things of this brief moment in time.

It’s so easy to live with an earthly focus as though this life is all we have and then anxiously strive to get all we can from this moment. I find myself needing to resist this way of thinking almost everyday.

The words of 1 Peter 1:13 correct my earthly focus time and time again, “. . . set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Today, John Eldredge sent out this quote from his book, The Journey of Desire, describing the importance placing our hope in Jesus’ appearing rather than the things of this life. He said this regarding our failure to do so:

I read passages like this [1 Peter 1:13], and I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Fully? We don’t even set our hope partially on the life to come. Not really, not in the desires of our hearts. Heaven may be coming. Great. But it’s a long way off and who really knows, so I’m getting what I can now. For most Christians, heaven is a backup plan. Our primary work is finding a life we can at least get a little pleasure from here. Heaven is an investment we’ve made, like Treasury bonds or a retirement account, which we’re hoping will take care of us in the future sometime, but which we do not give much thought to at present.

My prayer for the coming year is that as we continue to look forward to the hope we have as believers, we will more and more focus our eyes on what is to be rather than the shifting and disappointing sands of this life.

A much, much better day is coming; we will never ever be disappointed with the joys Jesus has for us in eternity.

Jesus is our strong tower, our rock, and He is coming for us someday. I believe that will be soon, but He is patient not wanting any to perish, but for all to come to repentance and find the life He so freely gives to all of us.

Maranatha!!!!

The Promise of Jesus’ Return

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Picture by Pol Sifter

Imagine the entire state of Texas covered two feet deep with silver dollars. If you have ever spent any time driving in Texas, you realize this is a huge number of coins. In addition, let’s say one of the coins is painted red.

What are the odds that someone could be blindfolded, walk into Texas, and pick up the red coin on the very first try? The chances of doing so would be exceedingly low, almost nonexistent. Peter W. Stoner, the former Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College placed the likelihood of doing so at 1017 or 1 in 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000.

Peter W. Stoner joined with Robert C. Newman to write the book Science Speaks in which they calculated the odds of any one person in history fulfilling eight key prophecies regarding the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Their calculation came out to the number above, 1 in1017 or same odds as the blindfolded person walking into Texas and picking up the red silver dollar on the first try.

Old Testament Prophecies of Jesus’ First Coming

In all, Jesus fulfilled forty-eight clear and specific prophecies during His first coming. Christmas reminds us of so many of these prophecies.

The prophet Micah, whose ministry lasted from about 750-700 BC, predicted Jesus’ birth in the town of Bethlehem (5:2). The scribes and chief priests knew this, but failed to investigate the claims of the wise men (Matt. 2:1-4).

Matthew recounts Isaiah’s prophecy and fulfillment that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a Son whose name would be Immanuel (see Isa. 7:14 and Matt. 7:22-23).

Other prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth include the killing of the Jewish children in Bethlehem (Jer. 31:15) and the journey to Egypt to escape the killing (Hos. 11:1).

I am sure you are aware of the many other prophecies that Jesus fulfilled through His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Including the specific promises referenced above, there are over 300 verses in the Old Testament that speak of Jesus’ first coming.

The Promise of Jesus’ Second Coming

What about Jesus’ Second Advent? Are there as many Bible references to it?

Yes, Dr. Grant Jeffries estimated that there are about 2,400 verses in the Bible dealing with Jesus’ return to the earth.

The Old Testament prophets speak often of Jesus’ return to earth as King and of His rule over a restored Israel. Isaiah 9:6-7 speaks both of Jesus’ birth and future reign on the throne of David. Isaiah 25:6-9 depicts the Lord’s future rule as a time of feasting, of the elimination of death, and of the wiping away of all tears.

Zechariah 14:9 says, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” Many verses in the Psalms echo this same hope such as 99:1, “The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake.”

Jesus describes His second coming in a couple places in the book of Matthew (24:29-31; 26:64). Almost the entire book of Revelation speaks of events leading up to Christ’s return, His coming in great glory and power, His defeat of the antichrist, and His future kingdoms.

Almost every epistle in the New Testament makes reference to Jesus’ appearing to take His church back to His Father’s house as Christ first introduced to His disciples in John 14:1-3.

The Bible is full of references to Jesus’ return and what that will mean for the end of history as we know it. As such, it has great implications for our lives.

What Does This All Mean?

In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus chided the Pharisees and Scribes for not recognizing Him as the Messiah. While they recognized the signs of an approaching storm based on the sky, they could not “interpret the signs of the times.” They missed recognizing their Messiah due to their misunderstanding of prophecy.

What does that say for us who have eight times more verses relating to the end times than what they had for Jesus’ first arrival on earth?

What does all this tells us about our hope?

  1. Jesus’ return to earth is an extremely important event in God’s eyes. Why would we have so many more verses regarding Jesus’ return than for His first coming if this were not the case? Clearly, the Lord wants us to be ready and watching as He so often instructs us in Matthew 24-25. If Jesus chided the Pharisees for ignoring the signs of His coming, how much more does He expect us to be aware of the indications of the end times?
  2. The study of future things is not something to be ignored or overlooked. God gave us 2,400 verses for a purpose; He intends for us to know about His return and be aware of the signs of His return. This subject is not simply something for theologians to discuss; it’s intended for all of us to study and know.
  3. We are not meant to live solely focused on this life. Clearly, the multitude of verses points us to eternity over and over again. We are not meant to live as though this life represents the sum total of our existence.

The Lord intends us to put our hopes in eternity and let the joy ahead for us filter back to relieve our anxieties and fears.

I like the way Paul David Tripp refers to our lack of attention to eternity:

        It is an item on each of our theological outlines, but we don’t actually live as though we believe it. We all say that we believe that this is not all there is. We say we really do believe that there is life after this one ends. Our formal theology contains the fact of a new heaven and a new earth to come. But we tend to live with the anxiety and drivenness that come when we believe that all we have is this moment.[i]

In 1 Peter 1:13 the apostle says, “. . . set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Our hope is not in this fleeting life where disappointments and frustrations so frequently rule the day. All too quickly our health fades and then what?

That’s why Scripture so frequently speaks of Jesus’ return and our future hope. It’s meant to relieve our striving as though this life were all that matters.

Prophecy gives us hope for tomorrow. Regardless of what we face today, a much, much better day is coming.

Prophecy gives us hope for tomorrow. Regardless of what we face today, a much, much better day is coming. As followers of Christ, we will live forever in immortal bodies that will never grow old or get sick. That alone should make us rejoice.

Since Jesus fulfilled all 48 specific prophecies regarding His first appearance on earth, He will certainly fulfill all the prophecies of His return. We can count on all the predictions of the last days coming to past just as the Bible tells us. God’s Word will never fail to come to pass.

Jesus is coming again!

Maranatha!

[i] Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies – A daily Gospel Devotional (Wheaton: Crossway 2014), March 11

What is This “Christmas Spirit?”

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I must confess that I have enjoyed several of the Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel during the past few weeks. My wife and I watched them together; I think we are just romantics at heart.

With many of these movies, I can predict not only the outcome but also the sequence of events that eventually brings the unlikely couple together. Things rarely get resolved before the last seven and a half minutes of the movie. Despite knowing the ultimate outcome, they somehow hold my interest until the very end (although sometimes I would like to see more of the story after the couple finally realizes they are in love, but that’s just me).

One thing, however, has bothered me more this year than in previous years. Many of these movies emphasize the “Christmas spirit” as though that is of ultimate importance.

What is this “Christmas spirit” and why does it matter? Obviously, I do not expect these movies to end with a presentation of the Gospel message. That would be great, but perhaps not a logical expectation for Hallmark.

However, this phrase still leaves me wanting to hear more. What is this “spirit” without Jesus? Why would we even want to celebrate the holiday without emphasizing the life and hope the Lord gives to us?

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Jesus is the reason for the season. This has been stated so many times that I fear we simply gloss over the words without taking them to heart. The truth embodied in this phrase is, however, at the root with my disappointment with the elevation of the so-called “Christmas spirit” that usurps the celebration of Christ’s birth as the sole purpose for the holiday.

Do you ever wonder why much of the world celebrates the birth of Jesus? There have been many men and women in history who have accomplished great things. We benefit from the sacrifices of many who gave their lives so that we could be free. It’s not that we demean their contributions or their service in any way; we just do not get our families together, give gifts, and celebrate their births.

But we do so with Jesus. Why is that?

One verse that has caught my attention more than once this past year is 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” What, you may ask, does this have to do with Christmas?

It has everything to do with it. If Jesus is still in the grave, there would be no such thing as Christmas, no holiday season, no gift exchanges, no feasting on good food . . . I think you get the picture. Jesus claimed to be one with Father. If He had remained in the grave, no one would have believed that He was God in the flesh. The church would not have even begun yet alone endured for two thousand years.

If Jesus is still in the grave, there would be no such thing as Christmas, no holiday season, no gift exchanges, no feasting on good.

Because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive, we have reason to celebrate His birth. He brought light, life, and hope into a dark world. He is truly the reason for the season, apart from Him it would not exist.

Without Jesus, the world would have remained a dark place, without hope and light and life.

Jesus is the Word that Became Flesh

The Gospel of John describes Jesus’ birth in this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father (1:1, 14).

Jesus’ birth represents God becoming flesh so that through His death on the cross we might inherit eternal life. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus came to give us life; He walked out of grave to prove He alone can forgive our sins and bring us safely to heaven. This is why the angels proclaimed Him as “Savior” in announcing His birth (Luke 2:11). He is indeed the Savior of the world; there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12).

This sentiment has no ability to save us or deliver us from our sins. It gives us no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth any more than other great people.

This is why it matters that we go beyond some feel-good “Christmas spirit.” This sentiment has no ability to save us or deliver us from our sins. It gives us no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth any more than other great people.

The apostle John also tells us this in regard to Jesus’ arrival on earth, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We have a choice. To reject the Savior is to spurn ones only chance of eternal life and thereby endure an eternity apart from the presence of God.

This is what Christmas is all about: it’s the Son of God becoming a man so that through His death we might have eternal life. It’s because of His birth, death, and resurrection that we have life and hope in the midst of a dark world filled with despair. Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the only path to the Father (John 14:6).

At Christmas, we celebrate the entrance of life, light, and salvation into the world. It’s so very much more than simply tradition or some fleeting warm fuzzy feeling of the season.

I’m not opposed to the spirit of celebration that surrounds Christmas each year; it’s just empty without a focus on Jesus and His message of salvation for the world. Without His words of life, this so-called Christmas spirit leaves us with no ultimate hope once the new year arrives.

If you do not yet know Jesus as your Savior, please call out to Him today. There are no preconditions for coming to Him apart from recognizing your need of forgiveness for your sins and your need of the life He freely offers to you. He changes us; we do not change to be acceptable to Him.

Does the Pretribulation Rapture Favor the “Lucky Few?”

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A common objection to the pretribulation rapture states that this position must be wrong because it provides a way for believers in the United States to escape persecution. If Jesus returns before the rapture, then Christians in America will be the “lucky few” in church history to escape violent opposition because of their faith.

I first heard this argument while attending seminary and dismissed it because it used human reasoning rather than the words of Scripture.

However, given the continued popularity of this sentiment, as voiced by the blogger I recently read, I decided to address this matter.

The intent of this post is not to prove the pretribulation rapture position, but rather to show why the need of Americans to suffer persecution is an invalid argument against it.

What is the Argument All About?

The blogger I mentioned previously makes the following point against the pretribulation rapture:

Third, with the Pre-Trib scenario, there is little or no reason to think the “last” generation of Christians will undergo anything resembling what all the preceding generations of Christians had to face in the way of persecution and trials. Does this point to a fair and impartial God? I believe this is inconsistent with Scripture and history, and it thereby allows for the immediate translation to heaven of a “lucky” few who will arrive on the shores of Glory with empty hands and perhaps relatively unchanged hearts.[i]

In other words, the pretribulation rapture cannot be true because it allows a “lucky few” number of Christians to escape persecution while all other generations of believers have had to endure it.

It’s Never Been Equal

In response, I would say that the violent persecution against the church, to which this blogger refers, has never been equal among churches in the same era or even across generations for that matter.

In Revelation 2-3 we see a wide variety of experiences regarding persecution. The church at Smyrna suffered greatly (2:8-11) while other churches experienced significantly lesser amounts of oppression. Jesus promised the church at Philadelphia that they would escape “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell on the earth” (3:10). Presumably, other churches would experience this time of testing or persecution while they would not.

Does the fate of previous generations of the church in America imply God’s unfairness because they did not suffer open persecution for their faith? Absolutely not!

Many generations of believers in America have faithfully walked with Christ and died without experiencing the intense persecution to which the blogger refers. Does this imply God’s unfairness because they did not suffer such open persecution for their faith? Absolutely not!

As I said in my previous post, a huge difference exists between wrath and persecution. The same Jesus who said His followers would experience persecution for their faith in this life also promises to take His church out of the world before the wrath of the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1-9).

What About Christians in the Middle East?

The blogger’s argument only applies if the church exists just in the United States. If the biblical truths of the rapture apply to the church worldwide, then how are we to make sense of this line of reasoning?

Christians throughout the Middle East face torture and death for their faith. Muslim Jihadists routinely crucify and behead children as well as adults because of their love for Jesus.

Just this past week, Muslim extremists ignited an explosion at a Coptic church in Egypt; the bomb killed dozens of Christians. in Nigerian, Boko Haram has murdered thousands of believers and burned down countless churches. Never before in history has the church experienced such severe persecution as we see today.

Many in America also face opposition for their faith. Christian bakers have lost everything as a result of standing up for what they believe. The shooter in Oregon last year singled out Christians to be killed while sparing Muslims from death.

When applied beyond the orders of our nation, this argument against the pretribulation rapture falls apart. God’s Word must be the source for our theology, not the experience of a limited section of the church.

What Does it all Mean?

The Lord tests the faith of every believer. Regardless of our experience on earth, no believer will arrive in heaven “with empty hands and perhaps relatively unchanged hearts” as this blogger asserts. This is a hurtful assertion that contributes nothing to the argument for or against the pretribulation rapture.

Our hope for eternity, regardless of what we experience, is Jesus and Him alone. And, He is returning for us just as He promised He would do.

The Lord tests the faith of those who follow Him. I have yet to see an exception to this.

Our hope for eternity, regardless of what we experience, is Jesus and Him alone. And, He is returning for us just as He promised He would do.

Throughout eternity, Christians from a multitude of nations, with as many stories as people, will sing praises to God for how He delivered them through their times of suffering. Many will be martyrs for Jesus while others will have experienced lighter persecution by comparison.

Regardless, we will have one great theme in common. We will all ascribe glory to Jesus alone for His safe deliverance through all we experienced in this life. In that sense, we will all equally stand before the Lord empty-handed as regardless of what endure on earth. He will be the only One worthy of all our praise and adoration for bringing us safely home.

Or salvation comes solely by grace through faith; it’s never a matter of what we do or even experience that makes us any more or less worthy of eternal life or for God’s deliverance from His wrath.

His righteousness is all that matters now and forevermore!

Maranatha!!!

[i] John Miltenberge, Rapture

Is The Pretribulation Rapture a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card?

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During the past year, the Lord called me away from my career as a financial analyst to pursue writing on a fulltime basis. His call began with a stirring of my heart as I saw the ridicule of the pretribulation rapture on Facebook and I felt a strong desire to defend my beliefs.

I am not a scholar. However, a careful and prayerful study of many passages in the New Testament over a period of many years has led to my deep conviction that the rapture happens before the start of the tribulation. I have studied opposing viewpoints as well.

I recently read a blog post arguing against the pretribulation rapture. In doing so, the writer made three common arguments, ones based more on human reasoning than on the Word of God. At first, I dismissed the post.

As I later reread the article, however, I felt compelled to answer his attacks on the pretribulation rapture. I have heard similar arguments over the past several decades; they are not new.  However, in the past I have not written out a response to them.

This is the time to do so.

I will respond to this article in a series of three shorter posts rather than one lengthy post.

A Get-Out-of Jail-Free Card?

The first argument of this blog post is that the pretribulation rapture offers believers a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Here is his exact quote:

First, believing I won’t have to endure the awful end-times tribulation period, fosters in me an “early-out” mentality, in which I don’t need faith to live my life. Waving my get-out-of-jail-free card, all I need do is simply hang on, and hang out until my sudden extraction. How does this jive with Jesus telling us that all who believe, will ‘suffer persecution’ ? It doesn’t. Perhaps what He meant to say was, “All (but the last generation) would suffer persecution.” But that’s simply not what He said, and I always credit the Son of God to have said what He meant to say. Doesn’t wisdom begin with that? [i]

In other words, this writer believes that the pretribulation rapture offers believers an “easy out” of the persecution of the tribulation. Since the church is not experiencing opposition at the moment, in his opinion, our belief in the pretribulation rapture thus represents a desire to miss out on such oppression.

Persecution Versus Wrath

First of all, there is a significant difference between persecution and the wrath of God that will be poured out on sinful humanity during the tribulation. Approximately half of the world’s population will die in the judgments of the tribulation. This is not the “persecution” of the church; it is God’s judgment on the world to bring them, as well as Israel, to repentance.

No one who advocates a pretribulation rapture does so to escape persecution. It is God’s wrath we seek to avoid and understandably so. Who wouldn’t want to miss out on that!

We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises us such a deliverance.

This is not an “early-out mentality” whatsoever. The Lord, through the apostle Paul, says the church will miss the pouring out of God’s wrath on the earth during the tribulation (1 Thess. 5:9). We believe we will escape this wrath because the Lord promises us such a deliverance.

The rapture is the promise of a ceasing of persecution for the church after which the Lord’s judgment falls on a Christ-rejecting humanity. This, I believe, is the message of 2 Thessalonians 1.

The Church Is Being Persecuted Today

Second, the writer’s point only makes sense for believers in America. For most believers in our world today, the rapture is most certainly not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Many believers across the world are experiencing fierce persecution; they have seen loved ones brutally killed by ISIS and have left all their belongings behind while fleeing for their lives.

What this blogger describes applies only to the church in America. It’s a totally invalid argument in almost every other nation of the world where believers are currently undergoing intense oppression.

Yes, Jesus says His followers should expect persecution and this is what we see in many places in our world and even to some extent in America. The tribulation, however, is God’s wrath poured out on a sinful world that refuses to repent. It’s far worse than “jail.”

As a defender of the pretribulation rapture, I am not looking for an easy out in regard to persecution. I may yet experience fierce opposition for my faith. Who really knows what we will face tomorrow?

I am, however, looking and waiting for Jesus to take me home before the coming period of wrath overtakes the world. That is a much, much different matter than an escape from persecution!

Our Great and Glorious Expectation

In Philippians 3:20 Paul wrote this, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word he used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event.  It implies a deep heart-felt longing for whatever is expected.

In this case, it’s the return of Jesus to take His church back to His Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3).

Paul characterizes believers as recipients of grace who as a result look for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

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 characterizes believers as recipients of grace who as a result look for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

I could cite several other verses from the New Testament that point to Jesus’ appearing as our immediate hope, our great and glorious expectation. Believers in the New Testament, regardless of their circumstances, eagerly awaited Jesus’ return.

We may yet face fierce persecution in the United States; we almost certainly will face dark times in our lives that will test our faith. We do not know where the path of following Christ will lead us

One thing is certain, Jesus is our hope. Our great expectation is that of seeing Jesus face to face. It’s a wonderful anticipation that brings hope and joy in the midst of the most painful of circumstances and calms our fears.

Our great expectation is that of seeing Jesus face to face. It’s a wonderful anticipation that brings hope and joy in the midst of the most painful of circumstances and calms our fears.

No where does the New Testament tell believers to await the pouring out of God’s wrath such as will characterize the entire seven years of the tribulation.

The pretribulation rapture is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” It’s the promised cessation of persecution for believers while the Lord judges a sinful world in order to bring them and Israel to repentance.

The pretribulation rapture is precisely what Jesus promises us through the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The same Jesus who tells us to expect persecution in this life also promises to deliver us from the wrath of the coming tribulation.

[i] John Miltenberger, Rapture

 

God Speaks Through the Fire

 

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Picture of the burned page of the Bible from the Facebook page of Isaac McCord

 

Sometimes we hear or see something that sticks with us and we just know it’s significant. Other things may distract us from it for a while, but we cannot shake the sense it must be important. Such was the case with a story I read last week.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Isaac McCord of Tullahoma, Tennessee made an amazing discovery.  As he helped clean up an area of the Dollywood Theme Park damaged by the fire, he spotted a piece of paper under a bench. The frayed and wet page turned out to be from the Bible containing a few verses that survived the fire.

Many news websites carried pictures of McCord holding the page of Scripture recovered from the fire. This partially burned page form the Bible is pictured above.

Here is where the account turns prophetic. The verses rescued from the fire are from the book of Joel, mainly from the first chapter. The verses that are most visible speak of the coming destructive fire of the day of the Lord. Joel 1:5 says, “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” Another verse visible on the page, Joel 2:1, speaks to the nearness of this “day of the Lord.”

So what is the “day of the Lord” referenced in the verses on this frayed page of the Bible? In Scripture, the “day of the Lord” refers to events surrounding the return of Christ to earth. It includes the judgments preceding His arrival, His return in great power and glory, and the kingdom Jesus will establish on the earth.

I believe judgment portion of this day includes all of the seven year tribulation on the earth as described in detail in the book of Revelation.

To recap, here is what we know regarding this remarkable story:

1)  The deadly fire in Tennessee burned for several days destroying many homes, businesses, and sections of the Smokey Mountain National Park.

2)  The fire destroyed or damaged many places in and near Gatlinburg, including a building containing a King James Version of the Bible.

3)  After the fire, the only remaining page from this Bible contained verses from the book of Joel that speak of the nearness of God’s fiery judgment on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

I do not believe it’s a coincidence that an entire Bible is destroyed by fire except for verses that relate to the Lord’s coming fiery judgment on the world know as the day of the Lord.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

As we see our world increasingly reject Jesus and His Words, as we see the violence throughout  our world and grieve as the most innocent among us are murdered each day in abortion clinics, and as we see evil in our world grow worse every day, it’s easy to think the Lord does not see and has forgotten His promise to setup His righteous kingdom someday. Does He really see what’s going on in our world? Will He ever bring justice to the nations?

Christ is coming again!

The finding of this page tells me that the Lord indeed sees what is happening today on the earth and has not forgotten both the warnings and promises He made through the Old Testament prophets and throughout the New Testament. Christ is coming again!

We do not know when Jesus will return for His church and the tribulation will begin. It may be very soon or it may be years later. Jesus said we would not know the day or the hour of His return.

We sense from this discovery, however, that time is running out on our world.

The world needs Jesus more than ever. All the judgments described in the book of Joel are surely coming and are about to be poured out on a Christ-rejecting world. God is not distant; He’s not asleep. He sees the evil throughout our world and He will surely respond.

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

Before then, we have the opportunity to repent. The Lord, through the prophet Joel, also called upon the Israelites of his day to repent and return to Him (Joel 2:11-14). His words apply to us today as well, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

It’s not an accident that these verses from the book Joel are now everywhere on the news for people to see.

If anything, God is saying that this day is getting ever so close. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you eagerly waiting for His return as the apostles encourage us to do throughout the New Testament? Do you realize this world is not your home?

Do you know that you stand at the portal of eternity?

If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so. If you need more information, please contact me and I will walk you through what is means to call upon the Lord.

A Peanut Butter Sandwich with the Jelly

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I was startled by what I saw on my computer screen. It showed 47,444,396 views for the song I was listening to on YouTube. I had never seen such a high number, although other songs may very well have such a number or even exceed that total.

The immensely popular tune is Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin.

Chris Tomlin is an amazingly talented singer and I am never surprised by the popularity of any one of his songs. However, with the title, Whom Shall I Fear, I cannot help but believe its popularity relates in some degree so our search for hope, for something to relieve the anxieties so many of us experience.

We live in a society that breeds fear. If it does not come from the threats all around us, it pops up in the form of broken relationships, financial hardships, illnesses, and the setbacks of growing older.

Is there any relief? Is there any hope?

Yes, His name in Jesus. The Lord is our “strong tower” (Proverbs 18:10).

It’s our expectation of the future Jesus promises us that relieves so many of our apprehensions.

We Groan

We groan. Okay, I know this does not sound like a positive first step toward finding a balm for our worries, but stick with me.

In Romans 8:23 Paul says, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” The Greek word for “groan” is sometimes used of the expression of a deeply felt emotion, a “sighing in the sense of longing for something.”[i]

What exactly are we searching for as we groan?

We know from Ephesians 1 that our adoption as sons and daughters into God’s family is complete as is our redemption (see Eph. 1:5-7).  It’s all a done deal; we need not worry about that anymore.

So why do we groan?

We cry out because we have yet to fully experience our adoption and the redemption of our bodies to the fullest extent. Recently, my a-fib acted up again and for two hours in the middle of the night I often groaned as my heart sometimes raced and at other times palpitated wildly.

I asked the Lord for relief, but in response He seemed to say this was necessary to teach me about remaining focused on my hope. If I was going to write about peace in the midst of turmoil, I needed to trust Him for peace in my soul even when my physical heart gave me much cause for alarm. So I groaned in hope of a better day.

We groan because the redemption of our bodies is not yet complete. We hope in spite of what we currently experience.

We groan because the redemption of our bodies is not yet complete. We hope in spite of what we currently experience.

We Hope

Paul goes on to say this in Romans 8, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”[ii] Our hope is in what we do not yet see, that of Jesus completing our salvation in the sense that we will someday fully experience what we already possess by faith, our adoption into God’s family and the redemption of our physical bodies.

Notice that we are saved “in this hope” of someday seeing this completion of our salvation. Jesus’ return for His church, which we often refer to as the rapture, signifies our full experience of our salvation. The culmination of the Gospel message is Jesus’ appearing to take us home to His Father’s house as He promised in John 14:1-3.

I believe the catching up of the church to forever be with the Lord was a key part of the New Testament proclamation of the Gospel, not something to be taught to believers much later if at all.

Because we have lost sight of the future promises embedded in the Gospel, we sometimes act as though our salvation is totally complete and it’s up to us to follow all the principles of Scripture to somehow live out our redemption. We behave as though the completion of our salvation depends solely on us.

Can you see how this focus adds an enormous amount of stress to our lives? Every day, the futility of hoping in the things of this world hits us hard, but yet we do not lift up our eyes above the daily grind to the One whose hope will never fail us. Instead, we remain committed to making a better life for ourselves now instead looking up to all that is promised us after Jesus appears.

Even if we are somehow successful for a season in limiting the scope of the Gospel to our current lives, ultimately we cannot escape the futility of placing our hope in the moment rather than in eternity.

Even if we are somehow successful for a season in limiting the scope of the Gospel to our current lives, ultimately we cannot escape the futility of placing our hope in the moment rather than in eternity. Everyone’s health eventually fails. Divorce can strike despite our noblest efforts to prevent it. Finances can fail even after the wisest of planning. Medical science can only do so much.

Everyone experiences sorrow and frustration in this life at some point. No one is immune.

Oh, but a much better day is coming. This is why we groan as children of God. We know we were not created for simply a life of frustration and sorrow. There has to be more than what we see and there is.

This is the Gospel. We are saved in the hope of Jesus’ appearing to take us home. The rapture is the future tense of the message of salvation.

We Wait

Because our hope is sure, we “wait eagerly” for it. Despite not seeing it, “we wait for it with patience.”[iii]

No one likes to wait, but it helps when we wait for a sure thing.

With my a-fib, I am scheduled to undergo an ablation early next year that may or may not fix the issue, although my cardiologist assures me the percentage is quite high it will resolve my problems. So I’m waiting in hope this will fix the problem, but I cannot be absolutely sure it will do so.

When Jesus returns, I know with absolute certainty the matter will be resolved; I will have a brand new body that will never perish (see 1 Cor. 15:49-54).

When it comes to waiting for Jesus’ return, we wait in absolute certainty He will show up to take us home.  Paul David Tripp referred to our hope, which includes His arrival, as the “expectation of a guaranteed result.” Tripp went on to say:

It is being sure that God will do all that he had planned and promised to do. You see, his promises are only as good as the extent of his rule, but since he rules everywhere, I know that resting in the promises of his grace will never leave me empty and embarrassed . . . . So even when I am confused, I can have hope, because my hope does not rest on my understanding, but on God’s goodness and his rule.[iv]

Because our hope is secure we wait in confidence of what we will be in eternity. As Chris Tomlin sang, with Jesus in control, we have no reason for fear. The tragedies of life may overtake us for a season, but our ultimate hope never changes.

Jesus is coming to take us away to forever be with Him. It could be today or tomorrow or next month or next year or perhaps even further down the road.

As Paul said, we do not see our hope. We see signs of the fulfillment of prophecy all around us, but we do not see Jesus coming for us and will not until He appears.

While we do not see our hope at the present time, we know He will complete our salvation, bring us home to our Father in heaven, and complete the redemption of our bodies. There is no doubt about this.

The preaching of the Gospel without the promise of Jesus’ soon appearing is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the jelly, the sweet hope of His return.

[i] Colin Brown, editor, Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969) p. 423.

[ii] Romans 8:24

[iii] Romans 8:25

[iv] Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies – A daily Gospel Devotional (Wheaton: Crossway 2014), September 3