The Nightmares of Yesterday

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As I drove away I thought, “My faded memories of yesterday are real, not just bad nightmares from so long ago.” I had gone back to the town and to the church building where I was the pastor many years ago. I remembered my high hopes and great excitement for the new ministry opportunity. I absolutely loved being a pastor and desired to accomplish great things for the Lord. Everything in my life suddenly turned upside down while there, however, rivaling any bad dream of my past.

I also felt a deep sense of peace and calmness in my heart on my way back home. Yes, the trials were exceedingly painful and severe, but the Lord had delivered me through all of them. The restoring process was quite long, but Jesus has healed me from all the wounds and resulting fears and panic attacks.

During the long healing process, I wrote the story below for myself, to focus my thoughts on the future rather than on what had happened in my past. Perhaps this is why biblical prophecy remains such a passion of mine; it continues my focus on the future.

Here is what I wrote about 25 years ago:

____________________

The Land of What Will Be

The past is a lonely place. We so often journey to this land by ourselves, relive its memories in the solitude of our minds, and linger there, thinking about what might have been.

This barren land of What Might Have Been bears a striking resemblance to Neverland where Peter Pan fled to escape reality. Like boys refusing to grow up, we so often refuse to let go of the faded dreams of our past, now only a faint memory. We tenaciously hold on to the past not realizing that there is only air in our hands. I know; I have visited this deserted isle many times.

Our stay in the land of What Might Have Been is risky. There the pirate of our souls attacks us with his sharp arrows:

“You fool! You should have known better.”

“HA! You got what you deserved.”

“You are the guilty one!”

“It’s all your fault, you know, you should have seen it coming.”

And on it goes in the land of What Might Have Been. No overgrown boy in tights flies to our rescue in this realm. We are there seemingly all alone, feeling the pain, shouldering the burden, and soaking our pillows with tears.

Failed plans, broken relationships, crushed dreams, and telephone conversations with old friends can all take us back to this desolate isle where hard as we might try, nothing changes.

There is another land, however, called What Will Be. It’s a joyful place. Those burdened with the past rarely feel the great joy and happiness of this brighter shore.

Two Men on a Journey

There were two men, however, who with help were able to leave the barren land of What Might Have Been and experience the joy of the land of What Will Be.

As we join these men traveling to their home in the early evening, we notice their heads hanging low. They are despondent, like many of us at times. As tears run down their cheeks, they rehearse the events of the past few days. The one who was to save their nation had been killed, put to death as a common villain.

“If only . . . . If only he had lived. What would it have been like? Freedom from bondage. A safe home for our people. If only he were still alive. Can you imagine how great that would be?”

As they languished in the land of What Might Have Been, a familiar stranger approached from behind and asks, “What are you guys talking about?”

“Are you the only one in this country who does not know what has happened these past several days, how Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed and put to death?” they reply. “Now, to make matters worse, women have visited his tomb and reported that it is empty. They say an angel told them that He is alive. What could have happened to the body?”

Undaunted, the stranger becomes their teacher explaining the ancient Scriptures to them. “The prophets clearly foretold that the Messiah would have to suffer first, and then enter into His glory,” He tells them. Beginning with Moses, he then proceeds to give them a course on Old Testament prophecy far surpassing all that had ever been given since that time.

As the two men approach their home, they feel their hearts burning with hope. They invite the stranger in for supper; and there, as He gives thanks and breaks the bread, they recognize Him.

“This is our Master. He is alive! He has risen from the dead! He is here, in our home, eating at our table!”

As soon as these disciples recognized Jesus, He vanished. Immediately, they got up and raced back to Jerusalem, their feet barely touching the ground.[1]

Our Call to Hope

The same Savior who brought hope and joy to those saddened travelers so long ago knows all about our shattered dreams, crushed hopes, and troubled hearts. He comes alongside us in our pain and feels all the pangs of our loneliness.

Yet He also stands at the edge of the desolate land of What Might Have Been and bids us to leave this desolate territory.

It is not a call to fame and fortune, at least not in this life. We may discover that our circumstances do not change. They may even get worse. The disciples who reveled in the resurrection that first Sunday long ago would face years of persecution for their faith. Except for John who suffered banishment, they would all be put to death for proclaiming the resurrection.

What, then, is the appeal of the land of What Will Be? Hope!

This is not, however, the type of anticipation we think of when we express a desire that the weather will be sunny and warm tomorrow. It may storm all day or even snow.

This hope is certain. Our future joy is just as sure as Christ’s resurrection, which guarantees it with absolute certainty for all those who know Him.

But how does this hope sustain us?

The Example of Jesus

Jesus Himself gives us the best illustration of how it works.

First, consider all that He endured. Betrayed by a trusted companion. Condemned in phony and illegal trials, although He had never done anything wrong His entire life. Denied by a close friend. Beaten, whipped, and mocked by the very men He had created. Nailed to a cross, the cruelest form of execution ever imagined. Scoffed and ridiculed while gasping for air on a cross full of splinters. And worse of all, separated from His beloved Father in heaven.

How did He survive all that? What kept Him from losing His mind? How was He able to forgive and reach out to others in midst of such cruel torture?

Hebrews 12:2 explains how He did it, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Can you imagine a joy so great as to carry someone through all that torment, grief, and agony? Jesus could.

And the good news is that He is willing to share it with us. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus spoke of His home in heaven (the place of joy that sustained Him on the cross) and promised His followers that He would return to take them to a special place He was preparing for them inside that home.[2]

The glory of this future gathering in heaven caused the Apostle Paul to proclaim that the sufferings of this life were really nothing compared to the joy and splendor we will experience in eternity.[3] (If you think Paul had an easy life, read II Corinthians 11:23-33.) Jesus revealed to Paul that the future joy of eternity would make his enormous earthly afflictions seem small in comparison.

Our Eternal Hope

Our hope is this: Jesus has shed His own blood so that we might possess eternal life and enjoy a future joy far beyond anything we can imagine here on earth. And He has risen from the dead to demonstrate that this is no pie in the sky promise. It is real. It is certain. He is coming again.

Will we return to the land of What Might Have Been in a vain attempt to recapture failed dreams? Will we put our ultimate hope in earthly tomorrows that hold no certain promise except that they themselves may someday become candidates for the bleak realm of What Might Have Been?

Will we let Jesus transform our grief into joy as we look forward to the tremendous joys of eternity awaiting all who know Him as their Savior?

Or, will we place our trust in the One who has cancelled all the charges against us and promised us a certain and secure future, one that even the worst of circumstances on earth cannot destroy? Will we fix our eyes on eternity and let that gaze be our strength in a troubled world? Will we let Jesus transform our grief into joy as we look forward to the tremendous joys of eternity awaiting all who know Him as their Savior?

We have a choice. We can remain in the land of What Might Have Been and let the enemy of our souls ravage us with his relentless charges. Or, we can put our lives in the hands of a loving and gracious Savior who longs for us to experience the love, forgiveness, and joy He so freely offers to all who trust Him. The land of What Will Be is real and a place of overwhelming joy and all-encompassing hope.

____________________

This forward gaze to eternity sparked considerable healing in my life in the years after I wrote this story. This is one reason I am so passionate about writing about our hope. It’s not just a matter for theologians to debate, it’s something that redeems our troubled past, relieves our fears of the future, and gives us an unfailing hope for what lies ahead. This is why I write about our thrilling hope; it’s so much more than theology to me!

Where is your ultimate hope today? Does it rest in this troubled and chaotic world or in Jesus and His promises of a glorious eternity?

    [1]Luke 24:13-35

    [2]John 14:2, 3

    [3]Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18

Why Such Little Excitement?

 

Alaska Sunrise
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

We have so much with which to be excited as we look forward to Jesus’ appearing to take us home, but so often we lose our eagerness for it. Why does this happen? Why do even seasoned students of prophecy sometimes lose their eagerness for eternity? Why do I lose my excitement for what lies ahead?

It’s so easy to live as though this lifetime is all we have, is it not? We get up, go to work, drive home, eat, watch TV, and go to bed. We do a hundred different things throughout the day that focus our attention solely on this life and soon we forget about forever.

We dwell in the anxiety of the moment rather than in the thrill of hope that comes from a joyous expectation of what lies ahead.

I am not saying we must concentrate on eternity all day long; we would never get anything done at work or at home. But so often we go about our daily routines with a one-world perspective oblivious to the joys ahead for us in eternity. In essence, we live as though we have no hope beyond the grave despite what we claim to believe. We dwell in the anxiety of the moment rather than in the thrill of hope that comes from a joyous expectation of what lies ahead.

Why do we lack the eager anticipation of the apostles and early believers regarding the return of Jesus? I believe this happens for a variety of reasons:

Misconceptions

How often have we seen depictions of lonely glorified believers sitting on clouds strumming harps? With such a caricature of eternity, it’s no wonder believers lose their eagerness for heaven. Such a picture dampens our anticipation and understandably so.

Better to live for the moment than wait for an eternity of loneliness sitting on a cloud somewhere in the sky.

Scripture, however, tells us we will reign with Christ in his earthly kingdom and then forevermore throughout eternity. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better than the popular misconceptions of heaven?

Yes, we will sing praises to our Lord throughout eternity; this will be an unstoppable response at seeing the wonders of eternity and fully recognizing all that Jesus did to bring us home. However, our life in heaven will be so much more exciting and better than sitting on hard pews during a lengthy worship service.

I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, but someday we will be far more than aspiring angels jumping into icy waters to earn our wings. Scripture says we will “judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3). I am not sure of all that implies, but it certainly distinguishes us from them.

“I’ve Heard That Before”

Back in the 1960s’ and 1970’s, eschatology became a hot topic. Many churches emphasized the imminent return of Jesus. I remember Jack Van Impe coming to my church to teach on prophecy for an entire week. I felt the excitement of waiting for Jesus’ soon return. He could come at any time!

However, many decades have passed since that time. Believers in large numbers have lost their expectancy of Jesus’ soon return and often respond with “I’ve heard that before” to messages telling them to be ready for it. Having looked for Jesus’ appearing for so long myself, I understand the sentiment that finds it difficult to remain watchful as the years fly by.

Yet as we see prophecy begin to be fulfilled in our world today at an amazing pace, if there was ever a time to be watchful, it is now! The signs increasingly point to the soon beginning of what we know as the tribulation and thus to Jesus’ soon appearing that happens before its onset. Can it be much longer before he returns? Don’t let the phrase, “I’ve heard that before,” take your eyes off the prize! Jesus could come at any moment!

Silence

Unfortunately, rather than increase their focus on Jesus’ return for us as the signs multiply all around us, many churches remain silent. Such silence not only takes our eyes off eternity but also deadens our joyous expectation of Jesus’ appearing. How can believers today look forward to something they never hear about?

The passing references to everlasting life that we do hear from our pulpits fail to excite us. Assurances of an undefined eternity do little to instill eagerness in us for it. This is why we need a renewed focus on what Scripture reveals about the joys ahead for us rather than bland affirmations of heaven, which do so little to stir our hearts, relieve our anxieties, or comfort us in the midst of sorrow.

The silence in so many churches regarding the amazing truths of eternity sadly dulls our anticipation of the amazing joys ahead for us in forever.

Without the exciting biblical vision of our future hope, it’s difficult to imagine how heaven can be any better than IPhones, smart TV’s, electronically-equipped cars, comfortable homes, and a host of other items that add enjoyment and comfort to our everyday lives. Can heaven really surpass the comforts and wonders of this life? Yes! Absolutely! The silence in so many churches regarding the amazing truths of eternity sadly dulls our anticipation of the amazing joys ahead for us in forever.

Not only that, the silence in many churches adds to the prevailing confusion about Jesus’ appearing. Without sound teaching about our hope, many Christians fall victim to false teachings that take away their hope in Jesus’ return and keep their eyes focused on earthbound goals and aspirations where hope and joy eventually fade away.

Teaching Without a Two-world Perspective

When churches ignore a biblical two-world perspective that includes eternity, they can unwittingly make things such as happy marriages, good parenting, and wise financial planning, our ultimate hope rather than Jesus’ return. Of course, biblically-centered teaching on such matters is absolutely essential. Without a two-world perspective integrated into such instruction, however, these things can easily become the consuming focus of our lives rather than our hope in Jesus’ appearing and eternity with Him.

The danger comes from placing our hopes on temporal results where so many factors, including the sinful choices of ourselves and others, negatively impact the outcomes we so greatly desire. The New Testament teaches believers to expect difficult times in this life (James 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:6, 4:12-13). Scripture promises us paradise in eternity, not now. We set ourselves up for great disappointment when we define anything in this life as our ultimate hope, even if it’s biblical and desirable.

To Sum Up

With all the things of this life continually shouting for our attention, it’s sometimes difficult to stay focused on Jesus and what He is now preparing for us in heaven. Even as someone who often writes about such things, I also feel the pull to put too much of my hope in what I see around me. But I also know from experience that it’s my hope of eternity that relieves anxieties and encourages me on a daily basis.

In today’s stress-filled world, we need more than dull platitudes regarding eternal life. We need our eyes fixed on our wonderful eternal inheritance that is reserved in heaven just for us (1 Pet. 1:3-4, 13). Once there, we will wonder why we ever thought that anything in this life could even come close to comparing with the joys of eternity.

 

It’s the Resurrection Part 2: Jesus’ Claims

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Since gravity is true, regardless of our ability to jump we always come back to the ground (I return a bit quicker than most since I can’t jump very high). If we drop something, it goes down rather than up. If we trip, we fall unless we regain our balance in time. Since gravity exists, certain things naturally flow from that.

If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself.

Likewise with Jesus’ resurrection, since He rose from the dead certain other things are necessarily true as well. If Jesus can predict the timing of His rising from the dead, it follows that we can trust the claims He made about Himself. It’s an unbreakable chain.

Think about it for a moment, if He indeed walked out of the tomb on the third day exactly as He predicted, and we know for certain He did, this adds an undeniable authority to everything else He said does it not? It validates beyond any doubt all His many other assertions. The empty grave establishes the credibility and supernatural character of Jesus; He is no ordinary man.

Let’s consider some of the key claims Jesus made about Himself in this light.

Jesus Claimed to Be God in the Flesh

I want to revisit Jesus’ claim to be God as this is crucial to building my case for why I believe what I do. In John 10:30 Jesus made this remarkable statement, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death because they recognized Jesus was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament. They regarded His claim as the height of blasphemy.

In John 14:8, Philip said this to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” In response, Jesus told his disciple he had already seen the Father, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). Jesus claimed to be the perfect revelation of His Father in heaven. He claimed to be God in the flesh.

When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). When we look at Jesus, we see an exact reflection of our Heavenly Father who by His word created the universe out of nothing.

Can you see how Jesus’ resurrection plus His claim to be God in the flesh adds unmistakable value to all His other assertions?

Jesus Claimed to be the Only Way of Salvation

Jesus’ claim to be the only way of salvation is perhaps His most controversial one today. People recognize Jesus as someone great, but dismiss the necessity of putting their faith in Him alone for their salvation. They do not see Him as necessary for their lives.

Jesus made this claim about Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Perhaps the most recognized verse in all of the New Testament, John 3:16, echoes this exact same exclusivity, “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 said it’s only those that believe in Him that do not experience God’s wrath, but receive eternal life

The brutality of Jesus’ death adds further weight to this truth. If we could save ourselves by keeping the Law, being moral, or by our good works, do you really think that the Father would have allowed His Son to endure such extreme agony on the cross? Of course not!

If there was any other way of salvation, do you not think the Father would have spared His only Son such a brutal and horrendous death? Absolutely!

Jesus suffered and died precisely because there was no way for the Father to provide eternal life apart from faith in Christ and His death in our place.

Jesus Claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life

In the next claim we will consider, Jesus again emphasizes that He alone is the way of salvation. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said this about Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. . . .” In claiming to be “the resurrection and the life” Jesus promises that all who believe in Him will live, even if they die.

We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely to eternity.

Do you see the essential relationship between this claim and Jesus’ resurrection? If Jesus’ bones are buried somewhere in Israel, then our belief that we will rise again to new life someday is also buried with them. When Jesus physically walked out the grave, He demonstrated His ability to give eternal life to those who believe in Him.

This is why only He can offer salvation to a lost humanity. We have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves; only He is capable of bringing us safely from this life to eternity. That’s why it’s so necessary that we put our trust solely in Him.

Those who believe in Jesus will someday rise again to a glorious and wonderful life. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees this for all who truly know Him as their Savior.

Jesus Claimed to be the Long Awaited Messiah

If I was a Jewish Christian living in the first century AD, this would likely have been the first claim of Jesus that I would have mentioned. Jesus claimed to be the long awaited Messiah spoken of throughout the entire Old Testament. He is the Christ that the prophets, beginning with Moses, said would come to Israel one day.

The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

Interestingly, Jesus first claimed to be the long awaited Messiah while talking with a Samaritan woman, “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26). The woman knew of the hope for a Messiah and Jesus simply responded saying that He was the One, the hope of Israel.

This sampling of Jesus’ key claims about Himself helps us understand why the resurrection is so foundational to all that we believe. The remarkable claims Jesus made about Himself are true because Jesus walked out of the grave on the third day, exactly as He predicted. If not for His resurrection, all of His claims would be meaningless because He could not be God. And if not God, then incapable of keeping the many wonderful promises He made to us.

However, because He rose from the dead, we have hope. He is our risen Savior.

These claims of Jesus are building blocks upon the sure foundation of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus. From here, we will keep on building. In the coming posts, we will take this a step further; we will start looking at some of the implications of Jesus claims. My next post will seem a bit off topic at first, but it will soon be clear how it relates.

 

Our Eternal Home

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Recently, we went with friends to see the movie In Our Hands: Battle for Jerusalem. The movie showed the background to and the fight for the city during the Six Day Way in 1967. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the movie was the joy of the soldiers upon reaching the ancient outer wall of the temple.

Fifty years later, the city of Jerusalem remains the focus of the world’s attention and will remain so until the Lord returns. Then, the city will be miraculously restored from the ravages of the tribulation as Jesus will reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years upon the throne the David. It was David, by the way, who made Jerusalem the capital of Israel three thousand years ago.

As such, it’s fitting that our eternal dwelling place will be called the “New Jerusalem.” The Apostle John described this city in Revelation 21:9-22:5. An angel took the apostle to a mountain where he witnessed “the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God” (21:10). One commentator refers to the “New Jerusalem as “heaven’s capital” city.[1] Let’s look at a few of the features of our future and glorious eternal home:

Dwelling place of God

John first describes the New Jerusalem as the “dwelling place of God” with us as “his people” (21:3). It already seems remarkable that God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us as believers. Here, however, we will share our eternal home with the Lord himself; he will dwell with us in close physical proximity. We will belong to him as “his people” forever secure enjoying eternity with our Savior. It will be more wonderful than we can ever imagine.

As the dwelling place of God, the city will be continually illuminated by the “glory of God;” there will be “no need of the sun or the moon” (21:23). I like the phrase at the end of the verse, “its lamp is the Lamb.” Jesus came to the world as a light shining in darkness; here he will not only shine spiritually, but physically as well. The cycle of day and night will be something of the past; nighttime will not exist in the New Jerusalem (v. 25). Our future glorified bodies will not require sleep so there will be no need of darkness to help us sleep.

Absence of Pain and Sorrow

Death, pain, sorrow, and weeping will not exist in the New Jerusalem. The apostle puts it this way, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). Try to even imagine such an existence with no sorrow, no loss, and no pain. Pastor and commentator John MacArthur wrote this about the absence of pain and sorrow:

What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, of tears for any other reason.[2]

Unimaginable Beauty and Size

We would expect such a city to be amazing in appearing and that is just what we find in John’s portrayal of it. As John saw the city descend from heaven he described its appearance as “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (21:11). Later, the apostle listed all the jewels adorning its foundation and described its street as being of pure gold (21:18-21). This all speaks to the unimaginable beauty of the New Jerusalem. Its appearance will be spectacular beyond anything we have ever seen in our lives.

The apostle also provides the measurements of the huge city in 21:15-17. The city will be a square cube 1,364 miles long on each side and 1,364 miles tall. If superimposed upon the United States, it would take up over half of the country with just its width and length. It’s understandable why the angel took John to a high mountain to view the New Jerusalem; the apostle needed that perspective to take in the city of such incredible size.

River of Life

In contrast to the Webster dictionary definition of heaven as the dwelling place of the “blessed dead,” the New Jerusalem will be a place of life, of rich abundant and never-ending life. Revelation 22:1-2 records this about the city, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

In heaven, we will be more alive than we can now possibly imagine. Our joy will never end. Life will flow unceasingly in our eternal home.

Death will be forever banished in the New Jerusalem. We will enjoy life there to the fullest. In heaven, we will be more alive than we can now possibly imagine. Our joy will never end. Life will flow unceasingly in our eternal home.

The New Jerusalem will be spectacular beyond what we can imagine. Through the apostle John, we have a glorious picture of this amazing city. I believe we can also assume that John struggled with the limitations of human language to adequately describe the wonders and beauty of this city. I believe the New Jerusalem will be more spectacular than anything we have ever seen in our lives and the new earth will exceed the wondrous beauties of creation all around us.

We will dwell in the most beautiful home imaginable and enjoy God’s creation, which will be even more breathtaking than the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor and glory.

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 a spectacularly beautiful home with access to God’s new created order on earth totally free from all the effects of sin and the curse. We will literally have the best of both worlds. We will dwell in the most beautiful home imaginable and enjoy God’s creation, which will be even more breathtaking than the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor and glory.

This is our eternal and living hope in midst of all the aches and pains and disappointments of this life. Such hope sustains us in the midst of suffering, heals the deep wounds of our past, and gives us courage to face an uncertain future. Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He is who He claimed to be and that His promised return is just as sure as the rising of sun tomorrow morning.

Jesus will not fail to keep any of His many promises to us.

_____________

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Revelation 12-22 (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), p. 265)

[2] Ibid, p. 269

Eternity Amnesia

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As I read Paul David Tripp’s devotion today about “eternity amnesia,” I was struck by how well his comments help us understand the madness we see around us in the world today and also, sadly, to some degree in the church.

I’m referring to Tripp’s June 7 devotional in his book, New Morning Mercies, which I read again this morning. Because his words are so pertinent to the time in which we live and to our needs as followers of Christ, allow me to share some of what he wrote:

“It is sad how many people constantly live in the schizophrenic craziness of eternity amnesia. We were created to live in a forever relationship with a forever God forever. We were designed to live based on a long view of life. We were made to live with one eye on now and one eye on eternity.  You and I simply cannot live as we were put together to live without forever. But so many people try. They put all their hopes and dreams in the right here, right now situations, locations, possessions, positions, and people of their daily lives. . . . They demand that a seriously broken world deliver what it could never deliver even if it were not broken. . . .

“Your eternity amnesia makes you unrealistically expectant, vulnerable to temptation, all too driven, dependent on people and things that will only disappoint you, and sadly susceptible to doubting the goodness of God. Recognizing the eternity that is to come allows you to be realistic without being hopeless, and hopeful when things around you don’t encourage much hope.

“And Scripture is clear—this is not paradise, and it won’t be. Rather, this moment is a time of preparation for the paradise that is to come. . . .”

“The evidence is clear—there just has to be more to life than this. This broken, sin-scarred mess can’t be all there is. And Scripture is clear—this is not paradise, and it won’t be. Rather, this moment is a time of preparation for the paradise that is to come, where everything that sin has broken will be fully restored to what God originally intended it to be.”

Dr. Tripp asked this penetrating question, “Are you experiencing the schizophrenia of have eternity hardwired into your heart but living as if this moment is all there is?’

His comments sum up my motivation for writing. I write to remind myself and others that this life is not all there is. I seek to draw the attention of Christ-followers away from the drudgery of day to day living to the glorious eternity awaiting them in eternity. For those who do not rest upon Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life, my desire is that they find true life and hope in Christ and in Him alone.

Yes, I have strong convictions regarding the timing of Jesus’ return for His church. But my overriding concern is that we do not place our hope in the fleeting things of this earth but look to Jesus’ return and the joy ahead for us.  I know just how easy it is to slip into hoping in the things of this life while forgetting the wonderful and glorious promises of life ahead for us in eternity.

Is not the angst and hatred we see many times on social media the result of putting all of ones hope in the things of this life rather than eternity? I am so grieved by what I see because it shows a longing for paradise in this life, which will never happen, and reveals a lack of any hope beyond our short stay here. Our lasting and yes eternal hope rests solely in Jesus and His promise to return for us, to take us to forever be with Him.

Who else but Jesus could accurately predict His death and the exact timing of His resurrection?

Jesus’ resurrection makes His promises sure. Who else could accurately predict His death and the exact timing of His resurrection? And, if His words are that accurate, then we can absolutely trust His warnings of the coming tribulation, His promise to return for His church, and His vivid description of His return to earth after the tribulation.

It’s when I forget about eternity that this life takes on a frightful dimension (and I get too caught up in making comments of Facebook, ones that I later regret).

One the other hand, it’s the sure hope of eternity that has sparked so much healing in my soul from the wounds of my past and keeps me joyously pushing forward in spite of the aches and pains of this life and in spite of the shifting winds of politics.

Let me close by repeating Dr. Tripp’s question (that by the way a year ago shaped the title of this blog), “Are you experiencing the schizophrenia of have eternity hardwired into your heart but living as if this moment is all there is?’

Maranatha!! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

 

 

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

A Clash of Kingdoms

lightning

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we continue to see rioting and violence spread across America. Chants of “not my president” and “not my country” are common. Some of the demonstrations have turned anti-American with the burning of American flags and even deadly as a protest blocking traffic kept an ambulance from getting to a hospital in time to save a man’s life. Regrettably, attacks persist on both sides.

In addition to my initial anger at seeing violence fill our streets, I feel sorrow for the protesters. Their shepherds promised them a greener pasture while failing to warn them of the approaching dark clouds, fierce storms, and certain delays for their hopes.

Although not explicitly talked about or even recognized, the underlying reality in all we see about us is a clash of kingdoms. On the one side is the humanistic gospel that somehow through a powerful and benevolent state we can find the long sought harmony between all peoples, eliminate poverty, and forever preserve the environment.

On the other side is not what you might think. It’s not the call to restore America’s greatness again, but what it represents.

Do you remember God’s response to those who built the tower of Babel? They defiantly sought answers in the unity of mankind apart from the Lord. God, knowing where their rebellion would take them, responded by dividing the world into nationalities and a host of varying cultures, languages, and people groups. God split the world into nations so our hope would reside solely in Him, not in human government or in mankind.

The ultimate clash is God’s kingdom versus globalism. And, the election of Trump represents only a small bump in the road for those seeking the establishment of this coming world order. They already have much in place. . . .

What is Agenda 2030?

You might be tempted to think this talk of a world order is all a conspiracy theory and that perhaps I’ve gone way over the edge. Let me explain why hopes for this future world government are real.

The blueprint for this new world order is called “Agenda 2030” and you can read about it on the UN website. This is not a secret initiative and no effort whatsoever has been made to hide it from us.

The problem lies not in the goals so much as in the methods employed to achieve them, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Agenda 2030 consists of seventeen “Post -2015 Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 targets to achieve those goals.[i]  On the surface many of these goals, though not all, seem laudable as they seek to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty,” preserve the environment, and establish worldwide peace. Who wouldn’t want such things? The problem lies in the methods employed to achieve such ends, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Goal ten makes it clear that this new world government will be socialist, which means that a group of elite rulers will decide upon the distribution of wealth across all nations. This goal is to “reduce inequality within and among nations.” How can this be possible apart from a governing board deciding upon the fair distribution of wealth within and among nations?

The goals of the Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved without enforcement at a high level, a socialistic world order where the elite will dictate the wellbeing of the masses.

Though not all agree with me on this point, many who have studied the goals of Agenda 2030 believe they cannot be implemented apart from a powerful group of the rich controlling the world.

Is America Committed to Agenda 2030?

That’s fine for the UN to have those goals, you might be saying, but do they really affect the United States? Is our country really committed to such a sweeping and fundamental change of the world leading to the elimination of nationalism as we know it? Yes!

The following statement is taken from the Whitehouse website:

2015 is a pivotal year for global development. World leaders gathered in New York today to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“2030 Agenda”). The adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which sets out a global development vision and priorities for the next 15 years, captures the hopes and ambitions of people around the globe for meaningful change and progress, including here in the United States. Through the adoption of this historic framework, the United States joins with countries around the world in pledging to leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty and prioritizing policies and investments that have long-term, transformative impact and are sustainable. Under the Obama Administration, the United States has committed and helped mobilize more than $100 billion in new funding from other donors and the private sector to fight poverty in the areas of health, food security, and energy. In the United States, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda coincides with a growing bipartisan consensus on the importance of global development, and direct philanthropic contributions from the American people, who annually provide substantial support for emergency relief and development around the world. . . .[ii]

In his address to the United Nations in 2016, President Barack Obama spoke these words, “I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security.” That sounds a lot like Agenda 2030 to me.

The United States is firmly committed to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 goals, which are nothing less than socialism at an international level rather than on a national level. President Obama made it clear that involvement in this new world order means giving up freedoms. In other words, we surrender our individual rights to international law. This is nothing less than socialism packaged under the guise of the “common good.” It always is!

Billionaire George Soros is a leading proponent of this coming world order and speaks openly and often of the need for a worldwide financial system to replace the broken economies of countries such as the United States.[iii]

Many people, including myself, think it’s likely a devastating worldwide financial collapse will be the opportunity to demonstrate the need for such a global economy and hence a worldwide government with real authority beyond what the UN currently possesses.

Will Agenda 2030 Succeed?

Will there ever be such a world order? Will Agenda 2030 succeed?

My answer may surprise you. Yes! It will surely succeed at some point.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some point be briefly realized on earth.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some future time be briefly realized on earth.

I say this because Scripture foretells the future existence of just such a kingdom. Beginning with the Prophet Daniel in the sixth century BC, the Bible clearly warns that a future world order will at some point overtake the world. Throughout the book he wrote, Daniel prophesied of a kingdom that would envelop the entire world and facilitate the rise to power of someone we refer to today as the antichrist.

The book of Revelation also clearly prophesies of this same coming domain. The global financial system advocated by George Soros is what we see in Revelation 13. Under the leadership of the antichrist, however, it will turn oppressive and deadly. Such a worldwide economic system must already exist by the halfway point of the prophesied seven-year tribulation for this future satanic leader to manipulate in the manner described in Revelation 13.

Jesus’ Kingdom

My hope most definitely does not consist of the vision to “make America great again.” I am not against this sentiment, it’s just that my ultimate expectation rests in the manifestation of a much greater kingdom, one to which I already belong. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Bible teaches that this currently invisible domain will someday crush and destroy the existing world order at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel pictures the arrival of Jesus’ kingdom as that of a rock demolishing the kingdoms of this world (2:43-45). The prophet also prophesied of the coming of “one like a son of man” who would be given kingdoms and dominions of this world once this final world order is crushed (7:8-14).

Jesus later claimed to be this “one like a son of man” who would crush the domains of the world and setup His everlasting kingdom on earth (Matt. 26:64).

Psalm 2 is just as current today as it was 3,000 years ago when first penned. Verse 1 asks, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?” This Psalm clearly speaks of the clash of kingdoms we see today. In the end, Jesus receives the kingdoms of this world as His inheritance from the Father.

Earlier, I said that the election of Trump only signifies a small bump in the road to those dreaming of a heavenly paradise on earth with a united humanity. If Hillary had won, I would have regarded the reality of Agenda 2030 as being a step closer.

Even the full implementation of Agenda 2030, however, cannot stop the coming kingdom of my wonderful Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is alive. He is coming again just as He promised.

Jesus, the good and true Shepherd, will bring about a kingdom that will far exceed all the dreams that could be possibly imagined by proponents of the new world order. Those who know Jesus will enjoy this paradise on earth and in heaven forever. Those on the left are seeking a temporary paradise that will surely disappoint them in the end.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

Does this mean we ignore the wellbeing of those around us until the Christ’s kingdom comes? Heavens no! Only that we do so knowing that lasting peace for the world and the healing of creation only comes with Jesus’ return to earth.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

In Jesus alone there is no hate, only love. He died on the cross so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life.

If your trust for eternity is not in Him, please turn to Him before it is too late.

 If you as a believer have your hopes set on the things of this life, please recognize such hopes must be redirected to God’s eternal kingdom and Jesus’ soon return to take us home.

___________________________________________

[i] The goals and targets of Agenda 2030 are posted on the UN website at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[ii] FACT SHEET: U.S. Global Development Policy and Agenda 2030 on the Whitehouse website at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/27/fact-sheet-us-global-development-policy-and-agenda-2030

[iii] Interview with George Soros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf6fWN6KlRI

Jesus Remains our Only Hope

hope-post-photo

In the aftermath of the election, I believe the biggest mistake we can make as followers of Christ is to put our hope in President-elect Donald Trump or think the rapture is not close because of his election. I am glad he won, but we dare not put our trust in him.

Some conservatives are saying Trump has given us hope. I disagree. Our hope comes from the Lord and Him alone. That has not changed. Perhaps on a human level, we see a brighter future than what we envisioned a week ago, but that can rapidly change.

Here is what Psalm 118:8-9 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” I am truly grieving today for those on both sides of the past (and continuing for some) election battle whose hope was placed in a candidate rather than the Lord.

In spite of the results, Jesus remains our only hope.

People Still Need Jesus

Many, many people in our nation need the Savior. This has not changed. The battle lines are firmly drawn, but the battle is not about politics or even who won the election.  The election has intensified the divide and all the more clearly revealed why so many need the Savior.

I feel great sorrow for those who are putting their hope on the temporal things of this world

I feel sorrow for those who are putting their hope on the temporal things of this world. With each passing day I understand a little bit better what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

What Scripture says about the end times is unfolding before our eyes. I very much believe we are living in the last moments of human history. The election has not changed my belief that Jesus may show up very soon. What I see on the news further convinces me that nothing has changed in that regard.

Much can happen between now and January 20, 2017. We need to remain vigilant in our prayers both for the safety of our newly elected leaders and for the Holy Spirit to work mightily in the hearts of people who so very, very much need the healing and the hope that only Jesus can give.

Jesus’ Return is Still our Hope

In addition, my hope remains fixed on Jesus’ return for His church. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Despite what many of us regard as a victory, that does not change the focus of our hope.

It’s tempting to think that the rapture may not happen as soon as we thought because of what has happened. Those thoughts have crossed my mind a few times since Tuesday.

Jesus, however, said this about His return, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”[i] We must guard against thinking that somehow this turn of events in our nation has delayed Jesus’ return to take away His church. The election results did not surprise the Lord or cause Him to adjust any plans.

The events of last Tuesday call us to renewed anticipation of the rapture. If there ever was a time when we might think Jesus has delayed His return, might not this be the time? Scripture tells us Jesus will return in precisely such a time as when we think He might not appear.

In almost every epistle of the New Testament, the apostles directed the hope of believers to Jesus and His imminent appearing to take us home.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:3 Paul said this about the coming of the Day of the Lord (or what we refer to as the Great Tribulation), “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Our world leaders today continually echo this assurance of peace exactly as the apostle said would happen before Jesus’ return for His church.

In almost every epistle of the New Testament, the apostles directed the hope of believers to Jesus and His imminent appearing to take us home. While it was not called the rapture at the time, this hope in the imminent return of Christ carried over into the early centuries of the church. Nothing has changed since that time to divert our hope to anything else but Jesus. Nothing.

We Still Need to Pray

I believe we need to continue praying and fasting for our nation; we cannot remain on our reckless path without dire consequences. The Bible contains both a message of love for the world and one of warning if people continue to reject its message.

I am not saying this because I am eager for God to judge the world. Heavens no. We pray earnestly because we know what is coming and want as many people to find eternal life as possible.

Is this not why Jesus has waited so very long to return? He does not want anyone to perish but for all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He died on the cross because He so dearly loves all of us; this is why we both pray and warn others of what is to come before it is too late.

Yes, I took a strong stand in the election and I am relieved Trump won. However, a Hillary victory would not have diminished my hope. I realize my passion during the election could have easily been mistaken to assume my hope was in Trump or that I thought he was an ideal candidate. Such was most definitely not the case.

My passion remains for people who need the Lord; much still needs to happen to turn America back to the Lord.

We must continue to pray often for our country.

I feel uneasy about what might happen next in our nation. The election is over, but half of our nation remains committed to a vastly different vision for our nation. We must continue to pray often for our country.

The door to change is now open enough to allow a sliver of light to seep through; it can quickly close just as quickly.

I am not taking victory laps as a result of the election, quite the opposite. Any joy I might have had in Trump’s victory has been greatly tempered and that shock has brought me back to the realization of how very much people need Jesus, His healing touch, the living hope found only in Him.

[i] Matthew 24:44

Will the Waiting Ever End?

black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting

With my little transistor radio in hand, I followed every pitch. I heard the crack of the bat as Hank Aaron hit a deep fly ball. I was sure he had ended Ken Holtzman’s bid for a no-hitter; I remember the disappointment in the voice of the radio announcer as he described what he believed would be a homerun for Aaron. However, the wind was blowing in that day at Wrigley Field.

As Billy Williams, the Cubs’ outfielder, went back to the wall, he seemed to give up on the play. Then at the last second, Williams put up his glove, caught the ball, and preserved the no-hitter. (I later saw a video clip of the catch.)

I thought the Cubs were well on their way to winning the National League pennant that year. However, the New York Mets, not the Cubs, won the World Series in 1969.

Today, 108 years since they last won the World Series, the Chicago Cubs are now the reigning champs! It seems surreal to write those words. Did they really win last night?

If the Cubs had won it all last year, their fans would still be celebrating today. The storyline, however, would not be near as dramatic. Since last night, every mention of the Cubs’ victory contains a reference to the 108 years of waiting.

As believers, we yawn at the mention of waiting 108 years.

The year was approximately AD 50. That’s when Paul preached the Gospel in Thessalonica causing many of the people in that town to turn from idols to Christ and as a result, wait for Jesus’ return (1 Thess. 1:9-10).

Yes, it’s been 1,966 years since the apostle preached that message of hope to the Thessalonians and still . . . we wait. The longsuffering Cub fans have nothing on us in terms of waiting.

Waiting for Jesus’ Appearing

Almost every epistle in the New Testament contains a reference to Jesus’ soon return for His church. As the apostles preached the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, their preaching included Jesus’ future appearing as something that could happen at any moment.

In all their preaching and writing, they assumed we would wait in great expectation of Jesus’ return.

In Romans 8:23, Paul wrote that we as believers “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Then in verse 25 he added, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Notice the emphasis on waiting “with patience” for what Jesus promised us. We believe; we hope for what we do not see; we wait.

In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul used the same Greek word for “wait” to describe the believers in Corinth as those eagerly awaiting Jesus’ appearing.

In all their preaching and writing, the apostles assumed we would wait in great expectation of Jesus’ return.

In Philippians 3:20 Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus, Christ.” As believers, we live in eager expectation of seeing our Lord at any moment.

Peter instructed his readers to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Peter’s instructions echo Paul’s words on waiting.

The apostle John also emphasized our hope in Jesus appearing as something that would have a purifying effect on us (1 John 3:2-3). James added these words, “The coming of the Lord is at hand . . . . the Judge is standing at the door” (5:8-9).

The New Testament church waited for Jesus’ appearing as something that could happen at any moment. We refer to His return as something “imminent;” it can happen at any time. That was the hope of the New Testament church and nothing has changed since that time to diminish such anticipation, unless you count the passing of a couple thousand years.

Waiting for Justice

Along with waiting for Jesus’ return, we also wait for His justice to prevail in our world.

We frequently hear daily terror attacks somewhere in our world. We read of brutal atrocities committed against believers in places throughout the Middle East and in Nigeria. Scenes of intense suffering as a result of all this violence appear on television and Internet news sites.

The stories of Planned Parenthood profiting from abortion through the selling of body parts grieves me deeply. Does not the Lord see this? How can He let this continue? Where is He?

I’m almost embarrassed to recount the number of times I have needed to go to Psalm 37 for God’s perspective on those things. I did so this morning as I felt stirred by another instance of evil prevailing and needed the reminder of the Psalm.

And what do I find in Psalm 37? The Lord, through David, tells me this, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devises . . . For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (vv. 7 and 8).

I have a tendency to fret and hence the need for the Psalm.

Psalm 37 is clear on two things: First, God will surely judge wickedness. Second, we may not see it. This is because Lord patiently allows time for sinners to repent. I’ve benefited from this many times as He graciously gave me time to return to Him in my life as a believer.

So many times I wish the Lord would show up and punish the evil I see in the world. However, I believe that day is coming and in the meantime, I wait. We wait. Sound familiar?

Waiting for the End of Suffering

Tonight, my wife and I are going to the visitation for a baby boy who died earlier this week of cancer at the age of seven months. We do not have to look far to see great suffering in our world. Little Lincoln endured so much pain during the three months in which cancer ravaged his tiny body.

Notice the tender touch of the Savior; the text does not simply say Jesus will end our tears but will gently “wipe” them away from our faces.

In my favorite passage from Isaiah, the prophet tells of a great celebration and foresees a day in which the Lord “will swallow up death forever . . . and wipe away tears from all faces” (25:8). Notice the tender touch of the Savior; the text does not simply say Jesus will end our tears but will gently “wipe” them away from our faces. He is able even now to ease the grieving for little Lincoln.

I love the response recorded in Isaiah 25:9 of those enjoying the feast of this still future 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.” Someday we will echo those very words as we praise the Lord.

Notice that even in eternity, after all suffering and pain have ended; we will emphasize the waiting as we rejoice in our great salvation.

The Scoffers

The apostle Peter tells us that in the last days some will give up on the waiting and mock our hope in Jesus’ return. In 2 Peter 3:3-4 he says, “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’”

The Lord knew the wait would be long and many would give up believing in His return and push aside their hope.

We see this all around us today. Many today mock the rapture. They cannot believe the Lord would keep us waiting almost two thousand years for His return. Surely we have misunderstood prophecy; there must be a different interpretation to the passages regarding His appearing.

“Jesus has already returned,” the scoffers tell us, “your hope is not to be found in His return.”

But is this not why Peter warned against such scoffing? The Lord knew the wait would be long and many would give up believing in His return and push aside their hope. He knew scoffers would arise and through Peter warned us about these modern day naysayers.

Today, Chicago Cub fans celebrate the end of a 108 year wait for a World Series victory. Someday, perhaps very soon, we will celebrate the end of a much longer wait, that of waiting for Jesus’ return to take us to His Father’s home (John 14:2-3).

Some old Cub fans, like me, doubted the Cubs would ever win the World Series, However, if there is one thing their victory teaches us, things we wait for can happen.

I am not making that same mistake with Jesus’ return. He is coming again, just as He promised.

When that happens, we will not complain about the wait. But like Cub fans today, we will greatly rejoice that the day has finally arrived.

Will Any Believers Be Left Behind?

left-behind-picture

I was terrified! Had they left without me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain why I am so sure of this.

An Unbroken Link

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Such Distinction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assumption of Eagerness

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

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

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

 Confusion of Rewards Versus Readiness

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

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

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

What is the standard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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