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:

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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.

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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

I Know Him

I know Whom2

During the past several weeks, I have been writing about the resurrection and what it means regarding our beliefs about Jesus, His authority, His teaching, and His views of Scripture. I believe this represents a missing link both in the church and in our nation today. So many want to claim Jesus as a good teacher, but yet fail to believe what He says about so many things. Many Christians worship Him while at the same time expressing disbelief in many of His teachings.

A couple weeks ago, an old hymn came to my mind called I know Whom I Have Believed by Daniel W. White. The song reminded me of another reason why I trust the words of Jesus; it’s because I know Him. I have absolute confidence in my risen Savior, the One I have walked with for so many years.

Jesus said this in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” For years, I thought this referred exclusively to some sort of inner calling; I sometimes wondered if I was missing out on things He was saying to me.

We hear His voice as we read Scripture and know it is him speaking to us.

Then I realized that this verse refers to His voice regardless of how it comes to us. It includes the conviction inside our hearts that His words are true. We hear His voice as we read Scripture and know it is him speaking to us. Yes, the resurrection confirms His divinity and authority, but there’s still that inner witness of the Holy Spirit testifying to the truthfulness of His words as we read them in the Bible.

He Keeps His Promises

The words to the chorus of I know Whom I Have Believed come from the King James translation of 2 Timothy 1:12 where Paul says, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Other versions see this as the Lord keeping the Gospel message He had entrusted to Paul.

Regardless of the translation, the words point to the fact that the Lord keeps His promises. It’s curious that all the verses to the song start out with “I know not” signifying things we may not fully understand or know. We do know, however, the object of our faith and we are “persuaded” He is able to keep all the promises He has made to us. That’s the essence of our hope, is it not?

He’s Coming Again

I like the words to the last verse: “I know not when my Lord may come / At night or noonday fair / Nor if I walk the vale with Him / Or meet Him in the air.”

We may not know when He is coming, but we know for sure that Jesus is returning for us someday.  So much has occurred since this song was written in 1883 to make us believe the Lord may come for His church quite soon. But as the song says, whether we die beforehand or meet Him in the air, our hope is unshakable and unfailing. He’s coming again.

The Lord keeps His promises; He is returning to take us home just as He promised us in John 14:1-3.

Recent events have highlighted the uncertainties of this life. The devastation and flooding wrought by Hurricane Harvey shows how quickly the things around us can perish. The violence on the streets of many cities makes us wonder how much longer our nation can endure with such deep divisions. When I look at the scourge of abortion and the imposing of transgenderism upon our young children, I wonder how much longer the Lord will hold back His judgment upon our country.

Come what will around me, “I know whom I have believed.” That’s more than enough for me.

There are many things I do not know. Life is uncertain. But I do know the object of my faith and I know He will keep all the loving promises He has made to me and will not fail to take me home someday.  Come what will around me, “I know whom I have believed.” That’s more than enough for me.

 

Is It Too Late?

Ten Commandments Arkansas
Broken Ten Commandments Monument in Arkansas

When I first heard the expression, my immediate thought was “that’s it!” This fits perfectly with what I see.

I’m referring to Os Guinness’ description of current western culture as a “cut-flower civilization.” This, he says, is the direct result of the cutting off of its Judeo-Christian roots.  Guinness, an author and defender of the Christian faith, explains that while our culture still exudes some beauty from the past, it’s quickly fading away as a cut flower in a vase of water.

Putting this in my own words, I would say that cut flower people are those who believe they can continue the ideals of liberty and freedom without the roots that made them possible in the first place. They tear down of monuments containing the Ten Commandments seemingly unaware that many of these decrees form the basis for the very laws that protect their freedoms.

The Cutting Away of Our Foundations

Our freedoms, the sanctity of life, and all our laws are rooted in the belief of a Creator who gives life and establishes morals to protect and preserve life. A nation cannot exist without laws and the foundation for ours (as well as our freedoms and rights) is the Judeo-Christian worldview of our founders. Just like a flower cut from its roots, our culture has cut itself off from the very source that brought it the liberties and freedoms it now enjoys.

Just like a flower cut from its roots, our culture has cut itself off from the very source that brought it the liberties and freedoms it now enjoys.

The second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence begins with these words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Today’s prevailing belief that our rights come from the government runs contrary to that of our founding fathers who wisely saw that the tendency of the state is to restrict freedoms, not grant them.

Although some are threatened, our basic rights remain intact. Unless we return to seeing God as both the giver of life and our rights, however, our liberties will fade just as surely as a flower cut off from its life-giving roots. Our freedoms cannot survive indefinitely in the current environment. We see the unmistakable signs of this withering all around us.

The Withering of Our Culture

What are the signs of the withering? First, truth no longer matters. I struggle to know what to believe; fake news confronts me everywhere I look. People have no qualms about lying to prove their point; it’s all about the ends justifying the means, getting the desired results regardless of the path taken. Politics now consists of ridiculing one’s opponent; mocking has replaced debating issues. In many of our churches identity has replaced God’s Word as the starting point for discovering truth.

The second sign consists of the deplorable racism, hate, and resulting violence we see on our streets. Several weeks ago, we saw the vileness of several radical racist groups spill over into violence in Virginia. Both extremes use racism to recruit activists and stir up hatred. The words of 2 Timothy 3:1-7 have never been more relevant. Many today are indeed “slanderous, without self-control, brutal.” These things sadly characterize so many in our nation who use violence to silence and bully others.

The third sign is that of rejecting God as the creator of life. Jesus said that God “from the beginning made them male and female.” The wholesale repudiation of Jesus and His words was clearly seen a couple of weeks ago as the state of Minnesota decided to introduce transgenderism teaching into grade school classrooms telling young children that “your genitals don’t make you a boy or a girl.” I grieve for the irreversible damage this is causing to the youth of our country. The little petals are quickly falling to the ground, are they not?

The little petals are quickly falling to the ground, are they not?

Other indicators of the withering abound in our culture. Congress continues to fund an organization that performs one thousand abortions a day and then profits from selling body parts from these precious unborn babies.  Sex trafficking remains a huge problem in our nation while efforts by our President and some members of Congress to end it are stymied by many rich and powerful people who themselves are involved in this great evil that tragically harms so many of our children.

How much longer can our rights and freedoms persist in such an environment? Without a sense of the sanctity of human life, respect for individuality, or the cherishing of our freedoms and justice, all which flow from our Judeo-Christian roots, the government will at some point forcibly impose its solutions upon the resulting chaos. This will be the beginning of the end or perhaps the end itself of so much that we cherish.

Is It Too Late?

Is there any hope? Are we as a nation headed for disaster amidst the continuing strife, divisions, and resulting violence? Can we be reconnected to our roots or is our situation just as impossible as replanting a cut flower in the ground?

Millions of believers across our land continue to pray for our nation and its leaders. Nothing is impossible with God; He is sovereign and He can do all things. Jesus has already delayed His return to earth for a long time waiting for as many people to repent of their sins and find eternal life in Him (2 Pet. 3:9).

On the other hand, the storm clouds of the tribulation quickly approach. When this time of trouble arrives, the world will experience God’s response to its rejection of Jesus and His word. This seven-year period of history will be the worst all of all time as the Lord pours out His wrath upon the world because of its refusal to repent of its many sins (see Rev. 9:20-21).

So many biblical prophecies regarding the last days are coming to fulfillment before our eyes. The signs Jesus gave regarding the tribulation and His return are everywhere; it’s almost as if Jesus was reading from today’s popular websites as He addressed His disciples in Matthew 24. If the tribulation is ever so close, how much more so must the rapture be since it occurs before the tribulation?

Where are we? Is the flower about to fade away with no hope of restoration? I am not sure, but I do see a few things:

1) There is no hope for our nation apart from Jesus. The cutting away of our Judeo-Christian foundations was in essence a rejection of the words of our Lord and Savior. Only Jesus can deal with the hatred in the hearts of many in our nation. The violence we see on our streets will not end apart from people turning back to Him. Tearing down statues will not heal wounds or relieve hatred.

2) As followers of Christ, we must stay away from the anger around us as we point others to Jesus. Our hope does not rest in our culture turning itself around or in any political leader. While we cannot remain silent as strife overtakes our nation, we must remember God’s love in graciously forgiving all our sins as we call people to repent of theirs. One former pastor of mine put it this way, “we are just one beggar telling another where the bread is at.”

Don’t get caught up in the strife of this world and forget the overwhelming joy that awaits all of us whose trust is in Jesus.

3) Regardless of what happens next, we have no reason to fear. Whether Jesus comes for us today or next month or sometime in the more distant future, He is our hope regardless of what we might suffer in this life. We have an amazing and joyous eternity ahead for us that will be spectacular beyond our wildest imagination! Don’t get caught up in the strife of this world and forget the overwhelming joy that awaits all of us whose trust is in Jesus.

He is coming very soon to take us to His Father’s house.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If not, please call upon Him before it is too late to do so. He lovingly waits to forgive all your sins and give you an amazing hope that is truly out of this world and joyous beyond your imagination!

 

A Trust that Cannot Be Broken

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What causes you to trust the words of another person? Your answer no doubt includes the previous trustworthiness of that individual. Has he or she told the truth in the past? Does he or she have experience or expertise in what they are saying to you? Many considerations go into believing the assertions of someone you know even if you are not conscious of them.

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in His words. We know His claims are true because of His resurrection. It follows that what He says about Scripture is of utmost importance and of necessity must be true. If Jesus is God as He claimed, how could He possibly be wrong in His opinion of the Old Testament?

Because Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do, we know we can have absolute confidence in all His claims.

Previously, we looked at Jesus assertions regarding the validity of Genesis. Now we will expand that assessment to the entire Old Testament.

“If You Believed Moses, You Would Believe Me”

Jesus always spoke with the utmost reverence for Scripture, which in His day consisted of what we know today as the Old Testament. He frequently quoted from it and repeatedly referred to its words as something that must be fulfilled (Matt. 22:29; 26:54; Luke 33:37; John 13:18). He criticized the religious people of His day for not knowing it, “But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matt. 22:29).

Jesus confirmed the authority of Scripture. In John 5:39-40 He said this to the Jews who by this time were seeking to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” A little later he added this, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46).

The tremendous respect of the Jewish religious leaders for Scripture was correct, but they did not fully believe what they read. If they had, they would have recognized Jesus as their long awaited Messiah.

 “Scripture Cannot be Broken”

In John 10:35 Jesus said this, “. . . and Scripture cannot be broken.” With these words, Jesus asserts that the words of the Old Testament are absolutely reliable and accurate. They cannot be found lacking in any way. They stand firm; they cannot be twisted to mean something else or neglected as having no value for us.

In Matthew 5:18 Jesus made this strong statement about the Law, which in His day could refer to the entire Old Testament as well as well as just to its first five books, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Scripture will more than pass the test of time; it will endure forever. Everything written on its pages must be fulfilled. Jesus regarded the Law as unbreakable truth that would stand forever.

This is bad news for us. If we cannot be loosed from the demands of the Law, we are in deep trouble. The good news, however, is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). He lived the morally perfect life we could never live and fulfilled all the other demands of the Law as well. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins to which all the sacrifices in the Law pointed. He took our place on the cross bearing the punishment of the Law for our sins.

No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

Because the Old Testament is God’s Word and as such “cannot be broken,” Jesus needed to fulfill its demands in our place, which He did. This is why Christ is the only way to eternal life as He claimed in John 14:6. Only He fulfilled all the demands of the Law in our place. No one else has ever claimed to do that for us. No one else could ever do that for us!

“Everything Written about Me . . . Must Be fulfilled”

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Jesus talking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus shortly after His resurrection. I would love to know all the details of that conversation, but we are left with just a summary, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).

It’s no wonder the hearts of the two listening burned within them as He spoke (24:32). What an amazing time it must have been to listen to Jesus spend perhaps an hour or two explaining how all of the Old Testament looked forward to His coming.

That evening, as He appeared to the rest of His disciples, He spoke these words, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). Now we understand a little bit more about His respect for the Old Testament; it all spoke of Him. As such it tells us much about both His first and second coming!

To Sum Up

Just as with the book of Genesis, Jesus regarded the entire Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God. As such, it’s accuracy in its original manuscripts cannot be broken; it stands forever as the inerrant Word of God. Why am I so confident in Jesus’ evaluation of the Old Testament, you might ask?

First, I know the character and trustworthiness of my Savior. If He as the most loving and self-sacrificing person who had ever lived verifies the integrity and accuracy of the Old Testament, whom am I to question it? Secondly, Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus did not come as an opposing view to the God of the Old Testament. He came to fully reveal Him to us. He is the Word of the everlasting God made flesh.  Thirdly, Jesus accurately predicted the timing of His resurrection from the dead. Has anyone else ever done that? I can trust His words.

Lastly, Jesus is my Savior. What does it say about my future hope if He as someone who claimed to be God was wrong about something as critical as Scripture or about anything for that matter? I trust his ability to take me from this life to forever.

Do you trust Jesus enough to agree with Him regarding the words of Scripture?

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.

 

It’s the Resurrection, Part 1

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During the 1992 presidential campaign, candidate Bill Clinton posted a sign in his office that read, “It’s the economy, stupid!” The purpose of these words was to remind him to focus on the economy as he believed that to be the winning issue in his quest to be president.

Similarly, if someone were to ask me why I believe what I do, I would simply say, “It’s the resurrection!” This is the foundation of my faith. My hope stands or falls upon its validity. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19, followers of Christ “are of all people most to be pitied” if Jesus did not rise from the dead and as a result we only have hope in this life.

The resurrection is the bedrock of my faith upon which all the other blocks fit and find their meaning.

Because Jesus physically walked out of the grave, I have hope for all eternity and it adds certainty to what I believe. The resurrection is the bedrock of my faith upon which all the other blocks fit and find their meaning.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Lee Strobel, an avowed atheist at the time, accurately recognized that if he could disprove the resurrection, he could discredit Christianity once and for all. When his wife became a believer in Jesus, he set out on a two year quest to prove that her faith rested upon a hoax. Strobel, an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune at the time, employed all his skills and resources into disproving Jesus’ resurrection. After extensive research and countless hours examining the evidence he amassed, Strobel realized he could not dispute it. He ended up asserting his faith in the very thing he had worked so hard to disprove.

After giving his life to Jesus, he wrote the book Case for Christ and since then Strobel has become a world famous speaker as well as author verifying the claims of His Savior.

J. Warner Wallace is a highly recognized police detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Some of the cold cases he has solved have been featured on NBC’s Dateline. He became famous as a result of his ability to discern the validity of statements made by witnesses, which in many instances led to the solving of the crime.

One day Wallace began to wonder what would happen if he applied the same successful tests he used of witnesses in criminal cases to the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. What he discovered radically changed his life; he followed the path of Strobel in turning from atheism to saving faith in Jesus.

Wallace later wrote a book entitled Cold Case Christianity demonstrating why the Gospels are reliable witnesses, especially in regard to the resurrection of Jesus. He found that the Gospel writers passed all the tests he used to determine the validity of witnesses in all his other cases. We can trust these writers.

Why is the Resurrection so Crucial to Christianity?

Lee Strobel was correct in his initial assumption that if he could disprove the resurrection, he could debunk the Christian faith. Why is it so critical to our faith as believers?

During His ministry, Jesus made many radical claims. As recorded in John 10:30 He said, “I and the Father are one.” The Jews who heard these words immediately picked up rocks with which to stone Him to death. They recognized He was claiming equality with the Lord God of the Old Testament and such outrageous blasphemy could not be tolerated.

Besides claiming to be God, Jesus also repeatedly predicted His death and the timing of His resurrection. In John 2:19 he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Although misunderstood at the time, it later became clear he was talking about his body as the temple that would be raised in three days. Matthew 17:22-23 records these words from Jesus, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” Jesus clearly predicted his death as well as the timing of His resurrection.

Do you see how all of His claims are tied into the validity of His resurrection? He claimed to be God. If His bones are still in a grave somewhere in Israel, it means He was a liar. Everything He claimed rests upon the validity of His promise to rise from the dead on the third day. If Jesus was wrong about that, how can we trust him regarding anything else?

However . . . since He indeed walked out of the grave on the third day, this changes everything. He can absolutely be trusted in all that He said.

The evidence is clear; Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. His grave is empty. Opponents of Christianity do not deny the historicity of the empty tomb, but instead seek to prove theories to explain it. Lee Strobel, as an atheist, sought in vain to explain away the empty tomb as he realized he could not dispel the fact that it was indeed empty when the women arrived early that morning.

Jesus is the only person ever to accurately predict His death as well as the precise time that He would rise from the dead.

My purpose in writing these series of articles on the resurrection is not to prove the historicity of it, but to rather show why it matters in the foundation of my faith and why I believe what I do as the result of it. If you desire to read about the proofs for the resurrection, the books I previously mentioned in this article by Strobel and Wallace are great resources. The book Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison is an older but also great book in this regard. A blog site called “Reasoned Cases for Christ” is also an excellent resource.

Because I know with absolute certainty that Jesus walked out of the grave with a physical body, I not only have hope in His return for me, but also confidence in His words. This is at the heart of all I believe.

Jesus is the only person ever to accurately predict His death as well as the precise time that He would rise from the dead. Because of this, He can be fully and absolutely trusted. We will examine this further in part 2 as we continue look, one step at a time, at how Jesus’ resurrection impacts our faith as well as our confidence in him.

Stay tuned . . . .

 

 

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.

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

[2] Ibid, p. 269

Eternity Amnesia

Sunrise

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!

 

 

What is Truth?

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As I sat in class the first day, I begin to realize it was not what I expected. I should have dropped the course and signed up for another one. But I delayed in deciding upon an alternative and ended up stuck in the class.

Rather than a course dealing with the various methods of accounting as I expected, it ended up being about the philosophy of accounting. Later it morphed into a discussion of truth itself.

The professor asked us to read an article he wrote in which he asserted there was no such thing as objective truth. All truth statements were thus in one sense equally valid and perhaps also equally invalid in the same the way. No one belief system was better than another; objective truth could not be known.

In the next class period, I pointed out that such a statement contradicted itself. Wasn’t he making an objective truth statement while denying the possibility of such a statement? His statement itself was an assertion of objective truth; the very thing he said was impossible.

The teacher showed respect for my beliefs and allowed me to voice my many objections to his atheistic worldview although I did not sway him in any way toward a biblical point of view. We had some interesting discussions regarding the subject of truth for the rest of the semester as I realized my purpose for being in the class.

My class was many years ago, but the questions remains today: What is truth?

It actually goes back at least two thousand years, to when Jesus stood trial before Pilate. In response to the Lord’s assertion that he had come into the world “to bear witness to the truth,” the governor responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

The ancient Roman governor mocked the whole idea of truth. Even if truth had any value, which he doubted, what did it matter at that moment? What good was bearing witness to the truth if one was going to be crucified that very day? In Pilate’s eyes, he had the power; Jesus did not, so what difference did the truth make anyway?

Jesus is the Truth

Just hours earlier, Jesus had told His disciples this, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus not only came to bear witness of the truth, He claimed to be “the truth.”

This is a remarkably bold statement in many ways. Jesus claims to be the embodiment of truth as well as the only way of salvation. In contrast to my professor’s assertion, Jesus said objective truth indeed existed and more than that, He was it. The Word had become flesh and dwelt among us as the apostle John later asserted in his Gospel.

His statement also refuted the mocking of Pilate. Truth mattered because He was the only path to the Father and to eternal life. All other belief systems lead to death; only Jesus has the words of life and is the way to eternal life. He soon demonstrated why He could make such a bold claim.

Who else through all history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection?

On the third day after being nailed to the cross, Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do. Has there ever been a greater confirmation of the truth of one’s own words? Who else through all of history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection? No one has ever risen from the dead for that matter, apart from our Lord, let alone predicted it!

This is what sets true Christianity above all other belief systems. The grave is empty. Jesus is alive. His words are truth and of supreme value.

Why Does It Matter?

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Our faith is of “infinite importance” because Jesus rose from the dead. His radical claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life,” the only path to eternal life is true because He is alive.

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If Jesus had remained in the tomb, our faith would be false and of absolutely no value. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be pitied.” The apostle told the believers in Corinth that their faith was worthless if Jesus had not risen from the dead.

In the next verse, however, the apostle asserts, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, most of the 500 people who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection were still around and able to testify to its validity (15:6). The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

So not only does objective truth exist, as validated by Jesus’ resurrection, it has infinite value. We dismiss it to our peril because Jesus is not only truth, but also the only true source of life.

If you have never put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late. We have become so familiar with the words of John 3:16 that they often lose their meaning when we read them. They do however, express the overwhelming value of the Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see the Case for Christ. The movie shows the response of Lee Strobel to his wife’s decision to trust Christ. He was not happy, to say the least. He decided to use his skills as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune to refute the claims of Christianity. He remained confident all the way through his intensive scrutiny of the facts that he could disprove the resurrection of Jesus and bring his wife back to his atheistic point of view.

For two years he dedicated himself to proving that the claims of Jesus were a sham and He was still in the grave. One morning, after remaining at work all night to review the evidence, he came home and uttered these simple words to his worried wife, “I believe.”

What makes the truth claims of Jesus stand far above those of my cynical professor? He rose from the dead just as He said He would do. He is alive.

And if He is alive, He is the only path of salvation. All the founders of all the world’s religions, philosophies, and belief systems are all dead. As such they offer no life, no hope . . . nothing at all, only death.

Speaking just weeks after Jesus’ resurrection the Apostle Peter uttered these words, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”[i] He confirmed the words of Jesus, salvation is only found in Christ.

In the same way the early church began to look for His return. For if Jesus said He was returning for them, they knew He would do what He said.

We also look for His return because based on His track record of truth, if He says He is coming to take us to His Father’s house, He is certainly going to do it. Of this there can be no doubt.

Maranatha! Our Lord come!

 

[i] Acts 4:12

Understanding the Times Part Three: So What?

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So what???

So what if we do not hear sermons on prophecy?

As long as we are focused on the Gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission, does it really matter that so many preachers ignore our hope for eternity?

Isn’t it enough that people come to know the Lord as their Savior? Why do we need to venture into controversial matters such as the Rapture? Will that not detract from our message of hope for the world?

While it’s common to hear such reasoning, is it really scriptural? Are there valid reasons for preaching and teaching about the Lord’s return . . . even at the risk of “upsetting” some Christians?

Yes! Absolutely!

Here is why I believe it is so essential that we teach, preach, and write about Jesus’ return for us.

All Scripture . . .

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Since “all Scripture” is “profitable” for our maturity, for our spiritual growth, why would we ignore such a large portion of it?

The topic of Jesus’ return, and all the events surrounding it, is second only to salvation as the most dominant theme in the New Testament.

There are an estimated 1,845 verses in the Bible that speak to Jesus’ return. Seventeen Old Testament books deal prominently with this matter while 23 of the 27 New Testament books of the Bible refer to Jesus’ appearing for His church, the Second Coming, and the events surrounding His return. Dr. David Jeremiah, my source for this information, states that the topic of Jesus’ return, and all the events surrounding it, is second only to salvation as the most dominant theme in the New Testament.

My question is this: if all Scripture is “profitable” for us, does it not stand to reason that prophecy deserves our attention? Why would the Lord give us so much information regarding His return if He intended our church to remain silent on the topic? He gave us the Bible to build up the church in the faith and teachings on His return and eternity are a key part of the message intended to accomplish that goal.

How does Paul conclude the sections in 1 Thessalonians where he deals with the Rapture? He commands his readers to use the good news of Jesus’ appearing to encourage one another (4:18; 5:11). Our hope is to be a means of comforting each other through the storms of this life.

The Lord did not inspire large portions of Scripture dealing with His return simply to satisfy the curiosity of scholars; He did so to give us hope and bring us to maturity in Christ. Prophecy is not there just for the sake of speculation, it’s essential for building us up in our faith.

Not only does Scripture emphasize the Lord’s return and our hope for eternity, it’s something Jesus emphasized as well.

Jesus Commanded Us to Watch for His Return

After answering His disciples’ questions regarding His return, what did Jesus command them to do?

He instructed them to “stay awake,” to be “ready” for His return (Matt. 24:36-44). He then told them a parable to encourage watchfulness based on the fact that He would return at a time that many would not expect (Matt. 24:45-51). In other words, He could return at any time.

Can you see why the early church emphasized watchfulness and readiness for the Lord’s return? This awareness came straight from the words of the Savior delivered to the early believers through the teachings of the apostles, most of whom heard Jesus’ command to be watchful.

The Second Coming is in no way imminent. It’s not something we currently anticipate because many prophetic events must happen before Jesus returns and stands upon the earth.

Many assume the Matthew 24 passage to be an exclusive reference to his Second Coming. However, Jesus’ Second Coming will not surprise those of His followers who are alive at the time. We know Jesus will return to earth 1,260 days after the antichrist defiles the temple. Anyone living at that time, who understands Scripture, will know the day of Jesus’ return to the earth. They will know the day.

The Second Coming is in no way imminent. It’s not something we currently anticipate because many prophetic events must happen before Jesus returns and stands upon the earth.

It’s the Rapture that will catch many unprepared; that’s the event that Jesus says will happen at a time we may not expect, similar to a thief showing up in the middle of the night.

Furthermore, what were Jesus’ last spoken words to His church? In Revelation 22, he states three times that “I am coming quickly.” Some versions of the Bible translate “quickly” as “soon,” but word here more aptly describes the speed of an event rather than its nearness in time.

Jesus commands us to watch for His return to take us home. His final words to His church emphasize the need to be ready since when He comes for us, it will happen quickly. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:52, those who are alive at the time of His appearing will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

Jesus’ Soon Return Inspires Us to Serve Him

Many today argue that a focus on eternity diverts our attention from taking the Gospel to all the nations of the world. As a result, they emphasize obedience to the Great Commission at the expense of Jesus’ instruction to be watchful for His appearing to take us home.

They forget one thing. The same Jesus who commanded us to take the Gospel to the lost also instructed us to watch for His return; especially as we see the signs of the end of the age occur with greater frequency and intensity, as we do now.

It’s not an “either or.” Both represent obedience to Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples. In fact, I believe that an emphasis on eternity adds fervor to our passion to see people come to saving faith in Jesus.

C. S. Lewis said this regarding the connection between our hope and evangelism, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said this, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since because Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Lewis blamed our lack of preoccupation with our eternal hope as the reason for our failure to impact the world around us.

I believe C. S. Lewis is correct in his assessment. I suspect Lewis would not have agreed with all my views regarding the Rapture. However, I agree with his recognition that an earthly perspective hinders our work in making disciples. It’s an eternal perspective that drives us forward in spreading the Gospel just as it did for the apostles.

Consider the example of Paul.

In Philippians 3:14 the apostle says this, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I realize that some commentators believe this “upward call” is the call to salvation. However, why would Paul press forward toward something he already possesses?

Although some will disagree, I believe the “upward call” is the return of Jesus for His church. Just a few verses later, Paul describes believers as eagerly waiting with great anticipation of Jesus’ return for us. Does not this fit better with the prize that drove Paul forward?

Yes, the call of salvation is a wonderful reality for all who believe. The word “upward,” however, fits much better with a sense of going up into the heavens such as what we will experience at the rapture. The word was used in the time of Paul of being called up to the stand to receive a prize for winning a race.

I believe Paul regarded the Rapture the imminent prize igniting his passion for serving the Lord.

One common theme we hear today is the lack of giving among believers and how that limits the mission of the church to reach the lost with the Gospel. However, what do we expect when our preaching emphasizes this life to the exclusion of eternity?

During this past tax season I worked at an accounting firm. There I saw many tax returns with people putting large sums of money into their retirement accounts with very little allocated toward giving to churches or even to charities for that matter. It’s natural for those who have no hope in Jesus to do so. But what about believers? Are they not following this pattern as well?

Of course, it’s certainly wise to prepare for retirement. However, when pastors push the reality of eternity to the far distant future, then believers will naturally pour most of their expendable resources into preparing for their future on earth since that represents the only real hope they have before death arrives and eternity begins. It’s only natural to do so if retirement is our only immediate hope.

I confess that if I had believed there was no chance of Jesus coming in my lifetime, my pattern of giving over the past couple decades would have been much different. I would also have placed a greater emphasis on my final years on earth rather than my eternal retirement.

A focus on reaching the lost that ignores our eternal hope is self-defeating by its very nature. While some may press forward undeterred by a lack of understanding regarding the times in which we live, most believers who only hear an earthbound message of hope will soon fall by the wayside occupied with preparing for their future on earth rather than some far and distant eternity, which scarcely seems like a reality to them.

So why should we stress prophecy in our teaching and preaching?

  1. It’s a large part of the Scriptures given to build up followers of Christ in the faith.
  2. We obey Jesus by watching for, and thereby talking about Jesus’ soon appearing to take us home. We obey the Apostle Paul by using our hope of Jesus’ appearing to encourage others.
  3. An emphasis on eternity arriving at any moment energizes followers of Jesus to use their gifts, talents, and resources in the effort of making disciples of all nations.

I am not at all downplaying the necessity of evangelism and missions. I am saying that our anticipation of eternity is the fuel that drives the church forward in this regard. We will not get very far by draining the fuel out of this engine.

Eternity is the future tense of the Gospel we share with the world.