Paris Peace Conference Update

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A couple weeks back, I wrote about the fulfillment of prophecy before our eyes as it related to UN resolution 2334 and the expected January 15, 2017 peace conference in Paris. The world seemed intent on finally establishing a Palestinian state at the expense of Israel’s security.

Last Sunday, January 15, I watched for news on the Paris Peace conference. I expected a big splash announcing the outcome, but saw only scant references to it. At first, I thought the leaders of the nations were purposely downplaying the result of the conference only to surprise the world with a stunning resolution at the UN Security Council Meeting on January 17.

However, such was not the case.

The Peace Conference Flopped

Once the Paris peace conference started, there was much disunity, particularly from Britain and some of the Balkan countries who objected to the harsh language of the proposed statement.  In short, the conference flopped.

The conference’s final statement did not go beyond anything that was already stated in the December 23, 2016 resolution of the UN Security Council.  The final statement added nothing new to the discussion. The heralded meeting of nations failed to live up to all expectations. Discord rather than unity prevailed at the forum of nations.

According to Amir Tsarfati, the European Union could not even agree to support the weakened statement that did come out of the conference as Britain and some of the Balkan countries refused to vote for it.

What Happened?

God’s people prayed.

Between the December 23 UN resolution and the Paris meeting of nations, calls went out for believers to pray. Many Christian leaders sent out urgent appeals for prayer regarding the conference and the future of Israel.

James 5:15 states that ”the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” As Christians prayed, God thwarted the intentions of nations in Paris. Instead of recognizing Palestine as a nation and giving them old Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria, they failed to agree on anything substantial.

However, some might ask, “Weren’t you praying against what Scripture says will happen? Prophecy seems clear that the nations will divide Israel and that Jerusalem will be the focus of the nations at the end of the age.”

Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post, the prophet Zechariah clearly spoke of a time when the world would be obsessed with Jerusalem (12:1-3). We clearly see this in all that has happened. In spite of all the atrocities happening in nearby Syria and the battle for Mosul, the nations are almost exclusively focused on Israel.

Yes, I agree that as Joel 3:2 indicates, the nations of the world will eventually succeed in dividing up Israel and will someday come against it in force to demand that Israel comply with their demands.

However, before this happens, the Bible says that something is also currently at work in the world holding back the evil planned against Jerusalem.

The Restrainer

Amir Tsarfati,* in his prophecy update after the Paris conference, pointed to the work of the Holy Spirit as the restraining force at work in France as a result of the prayers of believers all around the world.

I believe that 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 speaks of the restraining intervention of the Spirit during the last days. Paul recognized that “the mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” (v. 7). The apostle went on to say that “he who now restrains it [the mystery of lawlessness] will do so until he is out of the way.”

Paul recognized, as did the apostle John (1 John 4:1-3), that the spirit of the antichrist was already at work even as he wrote. However, the person of the antichrist will not be revealed until the restrainer, the Holy Spirit, is taken out of the way (2 Thess. 4:7-8).

The Holy Spirit, residing in the members of the body of Christ, the church, is effectively thwarting the full measure of the “mystery of lawlessness” until the time is right for the unveiling of the antichrist and his treacherous plans for the world. I believe that when Jesus comes for His church, the restraint holding back the full designs of Satan will be lifted.

In the past several weeks, I believe we have seen this in operation. The “mystery of lawlessness” was at work in the passing of UN Resolution 2334 removing Israel’s legal right to east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. However, God spread discord at the meeting of nations in Paris preventing further action, at least for the foreseeable future.

What will happen between now and when Jesus comes for us? I am not sure. We definitely see the rise of wickedness and violence in the world. Sometimes it seems as though the restraint of wickedness has already been lifted to some degree. It’s possible we may see further action taken against Israel before the rapture.

Pray and Wait

While we cannot know what might happen next or when Jesus will suddenly appear, in the meantime we wait for His return with much prayer.

We know God has a sovereign plan and prophecy will be fulfilled exactly as stated in His Word. We also know that prayer changes the outcomes of what happens around us. James said that our prayers matter, they “avail much.”

I believe Jesus is coming soon. In the meantime, we pray knowing that our prayers along with the restraining work of the Holy Spirit will make a difference.  When this restraining influence is out of the way, the world will, as Jesus said experience “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

Prayer changes things. From our vantage point, it can change the course of history. From God’s perspective, He enjoys working through the prayers of His people to bring about His sovereign and preplanned purposes.

I believe this is what we are seeing today.

Jesus will return for us at precisely the right time. In the meantime, let’s keep praying, waiting, and watching, of course.

 

*Note: Amir Tsarfati is a former office in the Israeli army who speaks around the world on the subject of prophecy

An Eternity Worth Waiting For

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Despite being bound to a wheelchair as the result of a traffic accident, he was the most joyous, Spirit-filled believer I had seen up to that point in my life. I remember Paul Lundgren’s[i] overflowing joy as he sang about Jesus and his hope of seeing Him face to face. He spoke with excitement of eternity and of his hope of walking again, this time on streets of gold.

As a high schooler who prized involvement in sports (despite an overall lack of athleticism), his joyfulness amazed me. He could not do what I enjoyed doing the most and yet I had never before seen anyone so joyful or so in love with Jesus. Paul Lundgren knew his hope resided in eternity and as a result he could rejoice despite the paralysis in his legs. To this day I am still humbled as I recall his amazing perspective of life.

Isn’t this what our thrilling hope is all about? Isn’t this what we are waiting for? We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Jesus will return for us and we remain with him forevermore.

In recent posts, I have emphasized Jesus’ soon return for His church, especially in light of daunting current events. However, I thought it might be good to focus our thoughts beyond His appearing, to the eternity we will someday celebrate with Him.

Eternity

In his book Desire, John Eldredge quoted Pascal as saying, “Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity . . . for want of reflection . . . we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”[ii] Eldredge then expanded on that sentiment, “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.”[iii]

We all fight this tendency, do we not? We focus far too much of our attention on this life rather than eternity. It’s far too easy to think of this moment as all we have, but so much of Scripture speaks of our life in eternity and the joy that awaits us there.

Let’s look at some verses from Isaiah 25:

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

What pictures come to mind when we think of eternity? Does feasting with the best wine and food imaginable match your picture of eternity? Do you envision a time with no more death, sorrow, suffering, pain, or tears? Do you see endless joy?

So often our eyes remain focused on this life that we miss our coming celebration when we are forever with our Savior.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations. With sheer delight we will cry out, “This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” There is much emotion and excitement in these words. Someday we will express our overflowing gladness and forever celebrate with the One who saved us and gave us eternal life.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations.

Our lives in eternity will not disappoint even our most imaginative or fanciful pictures of what we think it will be like. Jesus has great plans in eternity for me and for everyone who believes and thus hopes in Jesus, our wonderful Savior. Let that sink in a little more; the Lord not only has plans for our current lives, but also for when we reign with Him in the millennium and then for all eternity.

The Isaiah passage dispels our inclinations to dismiss eternity as nothing and solely focus on what we can attain in this life. We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Our future life will be marked with ever increasing joy and unimaginable blessings. We will rejoice in our great salvation as we realize its full extent. Our waiting will not be in vain.

I do not believe we will experience sadness over anything lost from this life. Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” brings wonderful assurance of the joy that awaits us (Rev. 21:5). We will not mourn the loss of our current life and the things we currently enjoy.

Our coming eternal joy will supersede all the things of this life and never fade away. The newness of eternity will never fade; we will always celebrate Jesus and all the wonders of our future lives.

The New Earth

My eternal focus did not include a restored earth until I read John Eldredge’s book Desire several years ago and began to think about the new earth of Revelation 21. Eldredge said this about it, “How wondrous this will be! Creation can be so breathtaking now. What shall it be like when it is released to it full glory?”[iv] I love to explore nature and enjoy all the wonderful views of the mountains, lakes, and oceans. Such enjoyment of nature will not be lost in eternity; creation restored to its full glory will be even more spectacular.

John Eldredge added this about our hope for a renewed creation:

Our search for the Golden Moment is not a search in vain; not at all. We’ve only had the timing wrong. We do not know exactly how God will do it, but we do know this: the kingdom of God brings restoration. The only things destroyed are the things outside God’s realm—sin, disease, death. But we who are God’s children, the heavens and the earth he has made, will go on. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together” (Isa. 11:6 NIV). . . If all we’ve got are halos and harps, our options are pretty limited. But to have the whole cosmos before us—wow.[v]

Our view of eternity can be so terribly dull compared to what God has revealed about it. The new earth alone will be amazing beyond anything we can comprehend. Although we do not know everything of what our eternal existence will be like, what we do know is far more than enough for us to cease making “a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing” as Pascal urged us to do.

The grandeur of what lies ahead will be so much greater than anything we can ever conceive. We will forever have kingdom responsibilities perfectly tailored for us. We will not feel one second of boredom or frustration in eternity. The newness of eternity will never cease.

As our realization of the wonders of eternity and the new earth grows, our tendency to search for our “golden moment” in this life fades. It’s not that we quench our desires; it’s just that as John Eldredge stated in the above quote, our timing is all wrong. Everything we long for in our hearts is coming, but it’s in eternity rather than this life. Our hope as believers rests in the future Jesus is preparing for us.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives?

This does not at all imply that we ignore this life and not enjoy what the Lord provides for us here. It’s just that we recognize our inner longings for unending joy and realize that such feelings point to eternity.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives? If we know Christ as our Savior, this is our future. We will spend eternity in the most beautiful city imaginable with access to all the beauty of the new earth.

This is why Paul Lundgren could rejoice. He knew his paralysis was temporary; he looked forward to forever when he would walk again. Is this not our hope as well? We all look forward to a time when the heartaches and physical infirmities of this life will be at an end and we will forevermore be with our Savior.

[i] Paul Lundgren was a Christian singer from around 1970 with no relation to current singers with the same name. I heard him sing in Rockford, Illinois. He was not a widely known singer but sang in churches at least throughout northern Illinois at the time.

[ii] John Eldredge, Desire, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.110.

[iii] Ibid. pp. 110-111

[iv] Ibid. p. 119

[v] Ibid. p. 123

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

Book Notes

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For anyone who is interested, I have placed the introduction and first two chapters of my book (very much still in progress) on the “The Thrill of Hope” page, which can be accessed by the link on the top of this web site or on the side margin.

My book is about reconnecting believers with the joyful hope ahead for them in eternity. The truths of Scripture regarding our destiny provide great comfort for the frustrations and anxieties of this life. I believe the hope of eternity, so prevalent throughout the New Testament, can help heal our deepest fears. It did so for me.

Right now, the title of the book is The Thrill of Hope, but I am thinking about changing it to Comforted by Eternity.

If you are so brave and highly courageous as to read any of my sample chapters, excerpts of which have appeared in some of my previous posts, let me know if you see any typos or grammatical mistakes or things that do not make sense. Maybe something just needs to be deleted.

Does the book has the potential to speak to people who are hurting and fearful?

And, do you think Comforted by Eternity is a better title?

Please, please feel free to ignore this post. If only a handful of my readers look at a chapter or two, that would be great.

In the future, subsequent chapters may also appear on this page.

Thanks so much!

Thanksgiving Ramblings

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“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.”[i]

Since this is my first Thanksgiving with a blog, I thought I would share some things on my heart in that regard. I have much with which to be thankful this season.

Of course I am thankful for my wife, my family, and all my extended family and friends.

There are a few other things, however, that occupy my thoughts today as I think of the coming holiday.

Living Waters

First of all, I am thankful for Jesus, the source of eternal life. He alone is life. That has been so easy to forget during the heated debates of the past few months.

One passage that jolted me back to reality was Jeremiah 2:11-13 and in particular verse 13, “. . . for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” The imagery of God’s Word is so rich, is it not? Who would ignore a reservoir full of fresh clear spring water to dig out a muddy hole in the ground that cannot hold any water?

While I remained mindful that Jesus was my only hope during this the past election season, at times it did not come across as clearly as I would have liked. As I reflect this morning, I see that putting one’s hope in any person or ideology or even in religion is the same as digging a porous hole in the ground thinking all the hopes you put into it will be there in the end. This never works out well. Such hopes eventually turn muddy and evaporate like water in a muddy pool.

It’s certainly not wrong to be passionate about things in this life. The problem comes when we forsake the Lord in the process and allow our ultimate hope to rest in anyone or anything other than Jesus.

In responding to the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus spoke these words, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[ii] How easy and equally foolish it is to put our hopes in the things of this world that ultimately disappoint. Only Jesus has the words of life. I have tasted the muddy waters of politics and it’s so refreshing to get back to my true source of hope and feel His life bubbling up inside my heart.

Jesus is the Word of God. He became flesh so that we might have eternal life. He is the fountain of living waters that will never fail to refresh us with life.

God’s Sovereignty

Another verse that comes to mind this morning is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Notice that the Lord does not say that all things are good, but through the apostle Paul the Lord assures us that he is able to bring together all things for our good, although we frequently wonder how in the midst of our suffering.

In late August, issues with a-fib kept me awake for most of the night. I saw my cardiologist later the next day and he put me back me on a heart monitor for a month. Ugh! That was the last thing I wanted.

However, it was through wearing the monitor that my doctor discovered a flutter in my heart and saw my continuing issues with a-fib. As a result, he sent me to another cardiologist to talk about an ablation. That doctor ordered a stress test.

The stress test revealed an “abnormality” and that led to a cardio catheterization, which I had yesterday, Tuesday. My cardiologist found a blockage (85-90%) in one of the arteries in my heart and fixed it with a stent. If the blockage had remained undetected, it could have led to a heart attack or perhaps a stroke.

So what began as a miserable night struggling with a-fib led to the fixing of an issue that could have led to very serious health consequences if left undetected and untreated. God is so very good and He indeed works in mysterious yet wonderful ways!

While I am able to now see how God worked through a terrible night a few months back, often we do not see the purpose in what happens right away or even in this life.

Yet we know God is sovereign in all things and for that I give thanks this morning.

Hope

In June of this year I retired from my career as a financial analyst to pursue my love of writing. I felt the Lord leading me in this direction and in particular guiding me to write about our hope as believers for eternity. The lack of emphasis on the Lord’s appearing and future things became a growing burden of my heart and led to my decision. This remains a burden even as I write this morning.

I am not sure where this path will lead. I hope to eventually have books published, but this may not be what the Lord has in mind. Already through my writing the Lord has opened up paths to minister to hurting people in need of reassurance and hope. Maybe that will be the full extent of what He has for me.

Regardless, I am thankful for the hope I have in Jesus for His leading down this path. He is life, as I said earlier, and He is the sum total of my hope.  He will never fail in the promises He makes to all His children. He is coming soon to take His church up to His Father’s house in heaven.

There are a million “What ifs?” but only one hope, one source of life: Jesus is His name.

What if the blockage in my heart went undetected? What if something had happened before the catheterization? What if the Cubs had lost the World Series?  (Okay, I need to get back on point.) There are a million “What ifs?” but only one hope, one source of life: Jesus is His name.

Jesus is and will always be a spring of living water in my soul. What greater hope could there be other than that? What greater certainly for tomorrow could there be apart from our risen Savior? Who more deserving of all our thanksgiving and praise than our Jesus?

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[iii] That was true two thousand years ago; it is equally true today. Jesus is who He claimed to be and is coming again, just as He said. Jesus is the spring of living water; He is the way, the truth and the life.

Maranatha!

[i] Psalm 100:4

[ii] John 4:14

[iii] John 14:6

Leah’s Story

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The following is an essay written by Jessica Kleeberger, the sixteen year old great niece of my wife, Ruth. This is my first post from a guest writer. Her story fits well with a passion of my heart and I did not think I could express it any better than what she wrote.

Kim twisted in her seat to get a good view of the clock, tapping her fingers impatiently against the back of the hard plastic seat. Five minutes passed. Her eye fell on a magazine resting on a side table, and she began to flip through it indifferently. Here was a recipe for the ultimate brownie, there an article extolling the wonders of organic farming, next a promotion for a book with a rather nondescript cover…Ten minutes passed.

Kim, having little patience for the delay and even less for the typical waiting room publication, gave up looking at the magazine and reached for another at random in the stack. She suppressed a groan as she looked at the cover of a slender mother, dressed stylishly in a crocheted shawl and hugging a grinning child. Parenting. Just the thing she hadn’t expected, or wanted, when she had gone out for a celebratory date with Dylan. If only she had not joyfully flung all caution to the wind as she threw herself into his arms. Now parenting was just the thing she could be facing, if the pregnancy tests she had done at home had been correct. Fifteen minutes passed.

Finally, a woman with a white coat and bouncy step emerged from the hall, a clipboard and a sheath of papers cradled on her arm. “Kimberly Wilson?” she asked, pausing in front of her chair. “I have the results of your test.”

Yes, the results said she would be a mother, but she was not a slave to mere ink, contorted into the shapes of letters on a piece of paper. She had options, the nurse said- This was her body, her choice.

Kim thought of all the anti-abortion flyers she had read. They had said that the baby had a unique DNA pattern, the only one of its kind in the world. That life began at conception. She pushed the thoughts out of her head. The nurse was right: This was no one’s choice but hers.

“Take a few days to think about it if you like, dear,” the nurse said, patting her on the arm.

O0o

A few nights later, Kim was awakened by a rustle. She pried open her eye lids, heavy with slumber, and glanced around the darkened room. It was empty. The sound she had heard must have just been the house’s foundation creaking in the wind- she always had been a light sleeper, awakened by the least of nightly noises. She snuggled back down under her blankets, already drifting back to sleep. Her eyes popped open again when she felt something touch her shoulder, and, thinking she must be getting paranoid, she rolled her head over on the pillow to see what it-

“Aaargh!” she shrieked, rocketing up onto her knees and yanking her blankets around her. Only a wild, desperate grasp at her bed post saved her from falling backward off the bed. In front of her stood a shadowy figure, too small to be an adult but seeming almost too still to be a living child.

Kim lunged for the lamp on her nightstand. Her fingers missed the knob, brushing against the lamp, and she barely managed to catch it as it teetered on the edge of the stand. Taking a deep breath and willing her shaking fingers to cooperate, she steadied the lamp and turned it on. The child hadn’t flinched and was staring at her complacently, unstartled by Kim’s panicked flurry. It was probably just an illusion caused by glow of the lamp, but it looked as if the little girl’s eyes, glinting and shimmering like the reflection of starlight on a lake, were silver.

“You frightened me. How did you get in? Where are your parents?” Kim paused for breath, then blurted out, “And who are you?”

“A voice for those who do not have one. Or my little angel. That’s what my Father calls me.”

“A- voice?” Kim murmured, not believing her ears.

She smiled, but it was, Kim thought, a smile far too sad for such a small child. “My mom called me Leah, though. You can call me that.”

Then, although Kim’s stomach was still too slender to bely her pregnancy, Leah tiptoed up and kissed it. The touch of her lips, which felt like the feathery, light brush of angel wings, was swift and gentle, too innocent and reverent for Kim to be offended by it or repulse the gesture. “Hello, little guy,” Leah whispered.

Kim gaped at Leah. “How did you know I was pregnant? And how do you know it’s a boy?”

She shrugged. “He tells me.”

“Who’s He?”

“He is my heavenly Father, and he sent me to show you something.”

“Show me something? In the middle of the night?”

“Why not? Here.”

Before Kim could respond, the child was clasping her hand in a warm, gentle grip. The room with its familiar furniture, cluttered with keepsakes and trinkets, faded in front of Kim’s eyes and vanished.

“What’s happening? Leah, what have you done?” Kim cried, leaping to her feet and trying to yank her hand out of the child’s. Leah didn’t let go. “Shhh, just wait. It will be okay,” she murmured. “Look.”

Something about her quiet confidence made Kim obey, and she was startled to see herself reclining in a hospital bed, cradling a baby. She could see him perfectly- the blonde down on his tiny skull, the squinted eyes that opened to reveal pale blue slits, the tiny fingers curled into fists.

“Joseph,” Leah said softly at her side. Kim, eyes riveted on the scene, tore them away long enough to glance at the little girl. “Joseph?”

“Joseph. Your little boy,” Leah explained, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. “I can show you more.” She raised her hand and flicked her small fingers against each other, but she lacked the coordination to produce a crisp snap. Nothing happened. When her second attempt did not produce any better results, Leah let out a small, annoyed huff and moved Kim’s hand to her shoulder.

“Here, hold on to me.” She clapped her hands, and Kim found herself looking at a sandy haired toddler. Joseph again, Kim supposed.

His arms were crossed, and his lips turned up in a pout. She saw herself again, an expression of frustration and sadness evident on her own face. The baby had been cute, Kim reasoned, but it seemed parenting still cost more grief than it was worth. Then, Joseph’s face changed. She saw the childish anger fade from his eyes, and his lips trembled. “I sorry for being naughty, Mommy!” He flew into his mother’s arms, and she snuggled him close. “I forgive you.”

Watching, Kim could almost feel the warmth of the hug. Just as she was almost wishing she could experience the small arms wrapped around her waist and marvel at how much love the small limbs could give, Leah’s clap yanked her out of the scene and into another.

There was a boy leaning against a school wall, a backpack slung over his shoulder. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small white bottle. He unscrewed the lid and raised a handful of pills to his mouth…

“Hey, Steve! Wait!” A voice called. A boy ran up to the wall, bending over and placing his hands on his knees while he panted for breath. The clear blue eyes, filled with concern, revealed what Kim had instinctively felt- This was an older Joseph. Joseph took a deep breath and flicked an unruly shock of hair- now darkening into a pale brown- off his forehead. “Steve, you don’t have to take those.”

“I can’t do it anymore, Joe,” the other boy replied shakily, and Kim thought she could see traces of tears in his eyes. “Nobody cares.”

“I do, Steve. You’re my friend, and I don’t want to lose you,” Joseph said softly, moving to place a hand on his shoulder. “I want to help, and I’m not going to leave you alone until you feel better. Come on, and we can talk to Mr. Benson. He can help. I’ll come with you.”

“I don’t know if this will work, man, but… thanks.”

“Anytime.”

What she felt was not a small amount of surprise, and to her amazement, there was also a thrill of motherly pride- pride in this boy whose compassion had saved a life and surprise that the small group of delicate cells growing inside her could do something so important. How might the world be different, she wondered, if all those fetuses had had their chance to save a life, to write a book, to give a speech, to love and give? Kim, wrapped up in the drama in the scene, almost didn’t notice Leah’s smile and whisper: “That was a good one, but I like this one, too.” She clapped.

Joseph’s hair was completely brown now- at least, what little of it Kim could see peeking out from under his graduation cap. His eyes, dancing with joy and tempered with solemnity, looked up and met Kim’s eyes for a moment. Not the eyes of the well-dressed Kim who stood in front of her son to accept roses and a hug from him- No, that woman was different.

She had changed from the Kim who sat in the doctor’s office contemplating whether not to abort a fetus. Yes, she had learned frustration, weariness, and self-sacrifice as only a mother could, but she had also known love, pride, and joy as only a parent could. Her son had changed her. And Kim wanted the change her hypothetical future counterpart had found- she coveted it. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“My son,” she whispered, then a sob escaped her lips. “I want my son. I want to give him a chance- And I need him to give me one.”

Leah squeezed her hand, and whispered, “You still have a chance.” She stared up at Kim, looking sympathetic and far more knowing about matters of life and death than Kim thought any child anywhere should look. Leah clapped her hands.

Kim bolted upright in her bed, breathing hard. She looked around for Leah, but there was no sign of a little girl- just the shadows cast by her curtains, the keepsakes from last summer’s trip to Washington, and the nest of blankets she was tangled in. And- inside of her- the most important thing of all: her son. It had all been a dream, but her choice was made.

She rubbed her stomach, feeling a closer connection to the tiny being inside her than she ever had before. Her choice would mean changing diapers and signing report cards, bandaging scraped knees and washing laundry as dirty as only a little boy can make it. It would not be easy, but it would be worth it. The little one inside her was potential. He was sleepless nights and tears. He was love. He was a human life. He was Joseph.

“I choose you, Joseph,” Kim whispered. “My son. I choose life!”

O0o

He was just as she had seen him in her dream- the blonde down on his tiny skull, the squinted eyes that opened to reveal pale blue slits, the tiny fingers curled into fists.

There was a knock on her door, and a woman poked her head inside the hospital room. “Hello, I’m Victoria. I volunteer here in the maternity ward, making hats for the babies. Can I give you one?” She held up a tiny, knitted blue hat.

“That’s so nice of you,” Kim smiled. “I would love one. Please, come in.”

Victoria tiptoed into the room, unwilling to disturb the baby.  “Oh, he’s precious,” she whispered.

Kim glanced up and was surprised to see tears in the woman’s eyes. Victoria looked up from Joseph’s face and met her eye. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said faintly, and offered a sad smile that Kim found strangely familiar but couldn’t place. “Your baby is just so beautiful, and this is my first day volunteering here.”

Her voice trembled, and she fumbled in her pocket for a tissue to dab her eyes. “I chose an abortion a few years ago, and I’ve regretted it ever since. That’s why I decided to start coming here to visit new moms- it’s my way of saying I’m sorry to my little girl, if she can see it looking down from heaven.”

At Kim’s confused look, she smiled through her tears. “No, scientifically I don’t know her gender, but I’ve always been sure in my heart that it was a little girl. Each year, I think of her and how old she would have been, what milestones she would have passed…”

Victoria’s voice trailed off, and Kim realized the woman had grey eyes, almost silver, which combined with her tears faintly resembled starlight reflected on a lake. When she smiled again, Kim recognized it.

“My baby would have been seven years old this summer,” Victoria murmured. “I call her Leah.”

Written by Jessica Kleeberger as “A pro-life persuasive Story.”

 

 

Habakkuk in the Morning

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I need the message of Habakkuk this morning!

As I look at the evil and injustice flourishing in our nation, discouragement looms at my doorstep.  Habakkuk helps me close the door to such feelings of despair.

The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet’s complaint of violence and injustice in Judah:

2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,

    and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!”

    and you will not save?

3 Why do you make me see iniquity,

    and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me;

    strife and contention arise.

4 So the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

    so justice goes forth perverted.

Does this not describe our nation today? Is this not our world!?

My heart grieves as I think of all the violence all about us, of the despicable practices of abortion clinics, of the growing violence toward police, and of the almost daily terrorist attacks that claim the lives of so many innocent lives throughout the world.

I’m horrified by the actions of Planned Parenthood as well as by both political parties that not only refuse to take action against the selling of baby parts, but continually vote to continue taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Just this week, Hillary celebrated the anniversary of Planned Parenthood. We live in evil times!

BTW, Hillary believes Christianity must be changed to accept abortion and if elected she will have a Supreme Court that will fully back her in this matter.

We see “iniquity” prospering throughout our nation as never before. Twenty years ago I never could have imagined that our Supreme Court would someday rule in favor of same sex marriage or that a candidate of a major party would fervently support this along with a host of other sins so clearly forbidden in Scripture.

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation?

The prophet saw that the law was “paralyzed.” Could there be a more apt description of what is happening in our nation? The rich and powerful are not called to account for their evil and yet bakers who stand by their biblical convictions face obscene fines.

Truly, justice is “perverted” in our nation as the “wicked surround the righteous.”  The institutions that we as nation rely on to bring the wicked to justice are now stained with political corruptness.

I see a nation one election away from surrendering to an oppressive and socialistic world order that will, as President Obama clearly stated recently at the United Nations, “take away some of our rights and freedoms” for the “common good.” The recently uncovered e-mails reveal that Hillary is totally on board with this evil agenda to subject America to this satanic and demonic world government.

The message of the prophet, however, calls me to a higher perspective far away from the feelings of despair that lurk nearby.

The Lord Sees

The Lord saw all the evil in Judah during the time of Habakkuk; He sees everything today.

His response to the wickedness of Judah was already on the way, even before the prophet voiced his complaint (1:5-11). God was raising up the Babylonians who in about twenty years from the time of Habakkuk would begin their conquest of Jerusalem.

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

It’s so easy to think the Lord does not see the vile things done today in our abortion clinics or the lewd display of evil around us. We think He would surely have done something by now if He truly saw the violence and injustice that daily surround us. How could He possibly let this continue so long?

The Lord sees and just as in day of Habakkuk, we can be sure God will respond in a similar way to the wickedness around us unless we repent as a nation.

In Ecclesiastes 8:12-13 we find this warning, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”

Far too often we mistake God’s patience for His lack of interest or unwillingness to deal with sin. As Solomon points out, such a perspective ends in tragedy for those who believe the Lord does not see or care about their wicked lifestyle.

It’s a Matter of Faith

Habakkuk convicts me of my unbelief. Yes, I know all the warnings of Scripture concerning His judgment of nations and of wickedness, but at times my thoughts do not reflect a belief He will actually judge evil or punish the wicked in this life.

Habakkuk begins his book questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The prophet Habakkuk provides us with two amazing statements regarding faith.

The Apostle Paul later quoted his words in 2:4, “. . . but the righteous shall live by faith.” In midst of the calamity about to descend upon Judah, the Lord says that those who know Him will “live by faith!”

As the book ends, we see the prophet proclaiming that regardless of any calamity he might see, he would still “rejoice in the Lord” (see 3:17-18). Habakkuk starts out questioning God’s absence and ends with an amazing statement of faith despite the lack of the Lord’s blessing.

The message of Habakkuk assures us God will not let evil continue unchecked. At just the right time, the Lord will show up and deal with any society that rejects Him and openly flaunts its rebellion toward Him.

We see this clearly in Psalm 37. The Lord not only sees the evil about us, but laughs at the wicked because He knows what’s ahead for them. I know this message is true, but do I live by faith believing God will someday soon intervene in our world?

The test of faith often comes as a result of God’s patience; He often waits a very long time so people have as much opportunity as possible to repent and avoid His wrath.

It’s a Matter of Waiting

As the Lord responded to Habakkuk regarding how he would deal with the Babylonians for their sins, He said this in 2:3, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

There’s that pesky word “wait.” Is this not where our faith so often falters?

We know Jesus is returning soon. We recognize all the signs for the beginning of the Great Tribulation on the earth. And yet . . . we wait.

We see horrific violence in the world and daily hear “rumors of war” like no other time in the history of humanity. Every week I read a story about how World War III is about to start and I wonder how much longer the Lord can delay His appearing to take away His church. And yet . . . we wait!

I remember a particular thunderstorm from my grade school years in Rockford, Illinois. In the midst of the wind and rain, everything grew perfectly calm for several seconds. Then suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning and loud crashing thunder interrupted the tranquil moment. Although the lightning struck harmlessly on our property, it set our neighbor’s home on fire.

I sense we are in the calm before the storm. Despite all the threats of violence and rumors of war throughout the world, our nation seems eerily peaceful on the surface.

I Thessalonians 5:3 speaks of a time when “people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’” ahead of the “sudden destruction” that will mark the beginning of the day of the Lord or the Great Tribulation.

The leaders of the world today often proclaim “peace and security” not realizing they are fulfilling prophecy. I believe the “sudden destruction” of 1 Thessalonians looms over the world at this very moment.

How long will this last? We cannot know. God is patiently waiting for as many as possible to repent and find eternal life in Him. However, I believe the rapture and subsequent Great Tribulation are rapidly approaching.  How much longer will the Lord wait?

Yes, I need the reminders from Habakkuk this morning as I recover from my angst of the past couple days when everything seemed so murky.

Habakkuk reminds me of God’s sovereignty; nothing escapes His notice and or diverts Him from His purposes. His Word will not fail!

The Lord will not let evil go unchecked. At precisely the right time the Lord will show up, much, much to the dismay of those who now reject the Lord and so openly flaunt their rebellion toward Him.

Will Any Believers Be Left Behind?

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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!

The Rapture, What’s to Fear?

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What causes fear in us at times regarding the rapture? Does our apprehension arise from its abrupt nature or its unexpected timing? Does the unknown or the supernatural cause anxiety to rise within us? Perhaps we do not want our dreams for this life to end so soon.

I suspect many of us at times can identify with a least a few of the above reasons.

Does Scripture give us any help to relieve our apprehensions and hesitations? Is there a way to look at the rapture that sparks delight and hopefulness rather than dread or even disdain?

I believe there is.

One of the most comforting pictures of the rapture in Scripture is that of the bridegroom coming for his bride. Both Jesus and the apostle Paul purposely used language to invoke images of the Jewish wedding customs of their day when speaking of Jesus’ return for His church.

The Marriage Covenant

Jewish marriages in the first century AD began with the groom making a covenant with his bride. The groom “would drink a cup of wine with her which sealed the covenant and he would pay the bridal price for her to the father.”[i] The bridal price ensured that the groom would follow through on the covenant.

Do you see the similarities with what Jesus did for us in purchasing our salvation on the cross? He paid the price with His blood so that we, His church, might become His bride.

Jesus’ words regarding the cup of wine He drank with His disciples in the upper room resemble those spoken by a groom sealing the marriage covenant with his bride, “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood . . .’”[ii]

The drinking of wine from a cup and the announcement of a covenant both spark images of the Jewish marriage customs as well as point to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the new covenant.

The Announcement

Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.[iii] He would not see his bride until he completed his work on the honeymoon chamber and returned for her.

Once he confirmed the marriage covenant with His bride, the groom announced he was going to prepare a place for his bride in his father’s house.

Jesus’ words in John 14:2-3 mimic this announcement of the bridegroom, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I believe Jesus purposely chose words to show how His actions resembled a groom leaving to prepare a place for his bride with a promise to someday return for her.

The Return of the Bridegroom

Similar to Jesus’ words regarding His return, the Jewish bridegroom returned later to take his bride back to the place he had prepared for her.

The Jewish groom enjoyed coming as a thief in the night to quickly snatch away his bride and take her back to his father’s house. He arrived at his bride’s home with much fanfare as his friends shouted and blew a shofar or trumpet to announce his surprise arrival. The groom then took his bride back to his father’s house for seven days.

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul speaks of Jesus coming for His church with a shout or the “voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (v. 16). In John 14:2-3, Jesus stated that the purpose of His return for us will be to take us back to His Father’s house. There we will remain for seven years while the Great Tribulation takes place on the earth.

The Comforting Message for Us

The brides of Jesus’ day did not fear the arrival of the bridegroom. The bride looked forward to the surprise return of her bridegroom; this was an expected and exciting part of the wedding festivities.

This picture of the rapture provides much comfort for us because of the following reasons:

1. He’s preparing a place for us!

Jesus is now preparing a place especially for us. This is frequently overlooked in teachings regarding the rapture.

We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine. Jesus is designing and preparing it with our specific needs and desires in mind. The best five star hotels on earth cannot compare to the place Jesus is getting ready for us.

The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. We can be sure this place will be amazing beyond anything we can imagine.

The rapture represents Jesus return to take us to the place He has prepared for us. Would not the brides of Jesus’ day eagerly anticipated seeing the place their grooms had prepared for them?

2. The Rapture is a groom returning for His bride!

While the element of surprise in the rapture may alarm us at times, it helps to remember this was part of the excitement for Jewish weddings of the first century AD. The groom was not coming to harm his bride, but to take her home to begin their exciting adventure together.

Rather than be something to fear or even dread, the bride joyously anticipated the day when the groom would snatch her away and take her to his home. Her groom’s surprise appearance represented a key part of the love story they would share for the rest of their lives.

So it is with Jesus’ return. He’s taking us away from this life to something wonderful, to an eternity full of wonder and amazement, which we will enjoy in new immortal bodies that will never be subject to illness, pain, gaining, or death. Jesus is coming as a bridegroom coming for His bride; it’s an act of love to give us a much better life than we can imagine.

3. The Rapture will lead to much celebration!

Once the bride and groom had spent seven days together, the feasting began. They joined their attendants, friends, and invited guests for a huge celebration of their wedding.

This is in our future as well. Revelation 19:6-10 describes the “marriage supper of the lamb” that occurs in heaven before we return to earth with Jesus. Just as with the marriage celebrations of Jesus’ day, I do not believe this will be just a sit-down dinner lasting a few hours; it will last several days, at least!

4. It’s the alternative that should be frightening to us!

Here is where the comparison breaks down a bit. During the seven days the bride and groom spent together in the honeymoon suite, the bride’s attendants and friends of the groom began celebrating.

During the seven years we are with the Lord in heaven, however, the Great Tribulation will occur on earth. Evil will flourish. Humanity will experience God’s wrath as a final call to repentance. It will be a time of great suffering and much death upon the earth.

Whenever I am tempted to fear the Lord’s return, I think of the alternative. We will be sooooo much better off being with the Lord than remaining on the earth. I believe the “sudden destruction” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 happens shortly after the rapture.

It’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.

Truly, it’s the alternative of Jesus not coming for us that should frighten us. Jesus is coming to lovingly take us out of this world before the terrible judgments and destruction of the tribulation.

Just as with a groom coming for his bride, the rapture represents Jesus’ love for His church. Will Jesus’ return surprise us when it happens? Most likely! Will He in love tenderly welcome us to the place He has prepared us? We can count on that.

The wedding imagery of the rapture helps us see it as an act of love rather than something to fear or dread. It’s meant to change our perspective, to help us look forward to Jesus’ return for us with excitement rather than anxiety.

When anxious thoughts of the rapture creep into your thinking, remember it’s not about striving to replace fear with hope but of looking forward to Jesus’ appearing as a bride getting ready for her groom’s arrival.

Jesus does not want us to be afraid of His return for us but rather eagerly anticipate it as the beginning of eternity or our time in paradise. He’s coming to rescue us out of this world and take us to a place of amazing beauty and joy, beyond all we can imagine.

[i] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website

[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:25

[iii] Winston, Joy, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Article on the Rapture Ready Website