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

inside_empty_tomb

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 . . . .

 

 

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!

 

 

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

Our Enduring Hope

Alaska Sunrise

Life in this world so easily takes our eyes off the prize that awaits us in eternity. It’s so easy to become focused on our daily routines and our attempts to get ahead in this world, that we forget about our true and enduring hope.

A quick glance of the news headlines reveals many and varied views of hope. ISIS is attempting to bring about their version of the Muslim Caliphate while Iran hopes to spread their hope of the Caliphate throughout the world. People demonstrate everywhere an attempt to further their agenda of what they believe will bring hope to their lives and those around them.

The unifying theme of all that we see from a variety of religious and political vantage points is an attempt to bring about a utopia in this world with no thought of the true and living God or of eternity.

Before we blame everyone else for this mindset, let’s take a few minutes to think about how we all do this. It’s so easy to become totally absorbed with this life, preparing for our futures and retirement that we give very little thought to eternity, Jesus’ soon appearing, and to laying up treasures in heaven as Jesus taught us to do in Matthew 6:19-21.

If this life is anything, it is exceedingly temporary.

It’s certainly not wrong to prepare for retirement. But so often we forget that our retirement years are (or will be) but a vapor that we see on a cold day as we exhale. Just as it soon vanishes, so our lives here will quickly come to an end. If this life is anything, it is exceedingly temporary.

This is why I like to watch the sunrise in the morning; it reminds me that a new and glorious day is coming in which Jesus will reign over all of the world.

Preparing for our Eternal Paradise

Because of my tendency to put far too much hope in this life, the words of Paul David Tripp in his March 11 devotional spoke to my heart as I read them again this past Saturday. Even though I am writing a book about our hope, I still need to be reminded of the futility of living for this moment in time rather than for eternity.

I liked his contrast of outcomes: “Here’s the real-life, street-level issue: if you don’t keep the eyes of your heart focused on the paradise that is to come, you will try to turn this poor fallen world into the paradise it will never be.”[i]

Many world leaders have sought to establish their own version of a paradise in this life. Many people seek to do the same thing with their private kingdoms. Often, I find this same desire in my heart.

But just like a two year old boy demolishing a tower of blocks, events along with the passing of time have a way of annihilating all earthly hopes that are built solely on the shifting sands of this life without regard for Jesus or for eternity.

Signs that Point to Eternity

Tripp went on to point out how we all have a longing for eternity, for a lasting paradise, because it was put there by our creator. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity into each of our hearts.

Somehow, deep down, we all know there has to more than the world we see around us.

Somehow, deep down, we all know there has to be more than the world we see around us. “Our cries are more than cries of pain; they are also cries of longing for more and better than we will ever experience in this fallen world . . . All the things that disappoint you now are to remind you that this is not all there is and to cause you to long for the paradise that is to come.”[ii]

We all experience disappointment in this life. At times we all see our hopes dashed and come crashing down like a poorly constructed tower of blocks. In a way this is a good thing if it causes us to remember that our ultimate hope is not in this life. Our hope does not reside in the kingdoms we attempt to build for ourselves, but in our Savior’s eternal kingdom to which we as His followers already belong.

Tripp’s last bit of advice in his devotional for March 11 was this, “Live in hope because paradise is surely coming, and stop asking this fallen world to be the paradise it will never be.”[iii]

The trouble comes when we put all of our hopes in this life with no thought of eternity or of laying up treasure in heaven.

This life will end and so will all of our efforts to make this life a paradise. Those of us who know the Lord as their Savior will then begin experiencing the true and lasting outcome of our hope, eternal life where we will forever share in the all joys Jesus has in store for us.

Does that not sound far better than anything we can gain during our short temporary lives on earth?

It does to me; the challenge is to keep this vision before my eyes amidst all the ups and downs of this life.

This forward looking vision to what Jesus is preparing for me in eternity has so often been the catalyst for healing in my soul. With this hope, this world would be a much darker place.

___________________

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

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid

A Confusion of Roles

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The anti-Trump sentiment has hit a fever pitch in recent weeks over his immigration policies. Even though President Trump’s initiatives differ little from the policies of other recent presidents, this has not stopped the fierce condemnation of his executive orders. Many forget that President Obama stopped all immigration from Iraq for six months in 2011 citing similar reasons for his travel ban that President Trump is giving for his actions.

I saw that over 100 evangelical leaders recently joined together in posting an advertisement in the Washington Post condemning President Trump’s temporary travel ban on immigrants from seven countries where terrorist activity is high.

On the other side, many other Christian leaders such as Franklin Graham and prophecy pastor JD Farag are voicing strong support for the temporary travel ban mandated by the President’s executive order.

Why is the Christian community so divided on immigration? Does Scripture give us any guidance in sorting out these various viewpoints?

What is going on here? Why is the Christian community so divided on this issue? Does Scripture give us any guidance in sorting out these various viewpoints? I believe it does.

The Role of Government in the New Testament

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (NKJV). Since my early years of attending Awana, this verse has always stuck with me. In the original, the idea of “rightly dividing” Scripture is that of making a “straight cut.” It signifies handling God’s Word accurately.

I believe that the leaders siding with the opponents of Trump are not “rightly dividing” God’s word in that they are not separating the role of the government from that of us as followers of Jesus. They are confusing the role of civil authority with that of believers. Let me explain.

The Bible teaches that the primary role of government is to punish those who break the law and in so doing protect its citizens (Rom. 13:1-7). God entrusts human government with the responsibility of intervening when a crime is committed and gives it the right to punish the wrongdoer.

Our government leaders are entrusted with the responsibility to keep us safe. This is their primary task.

When government does it job correctly, its citizens enjoy a “peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Is this not why we are commanded to pray for our leaders? Our government leaders are entrusted with the responsibility to keep us safe. This is their primary task.

Franklin Graham summed it best, “But we have to realize that the President’s job is not the same as the job of the church.” Government is chiefly responsible for protecting its citizens.  National borders are not some evil invention of humanity, they originate in God’s sovereign purposes for the nations of the world (see Acts 17:26).

Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse, has provided relief for refugees in most of the nations listed on the travel ban. Their hospital outside Mosul in Iraq even cares for wounded ISIS fighters. But as he pointed out in a recent Facebook post, caring for them in Iraq is far different than allowing them to migrate to our nation.

Graham went on to also say this, “Taking time to vet who we’re allowing to enter America isn’t too much to ask—we need to know who they are. God does tell us to help the stranger and those in need; but God doesn’t tell us to expose our cities, homes, and lives to hostile people.”

The primary role of Government is to protect its citizens. The Lord calls believers to a far different task.

The Role of New Testament Believers

As followers of Christ, we are commanded to welcome strangers as well as show mercy and compassion to the hurting. We do not take our own revenge when wronged or if a crime is committed against us or someone we love. Instead, we forgive and place any resolution of justice in the hands of God alone and then with the civil authorities.

The evangelical leaders criticizing the immigration policies of President Trump cited the parable of the Good Samaritan as proof of their argument that we should welcome Muslim refugees to our nation.

The parable, however, speaks to our responsibility to minister for those we encounter in our daily walk. It says nothing about the function of government. Jesus’ words here speak solely to our duty as believers to care for the needs of the hurting that He brings our way. It’s a mistake to apply this to our government that has far different responsibilities.

I applaud the efforts of evangelicals who are ministering in Jesus’ name to the needs of the refugees who have reached our shores. They are acting as “Good Samaritans” to these people. They, along with Samaritan’s Purse, are obeying Jesus’ call to minister to the hurting both here and the Middle East. Many have come to know Jesus as their Savior as a result of these initiatives.

Much confusion results when we apply God’s commands to us as His followers to our government leaders who are tasked with much different obligations.

Are we as followers of Christ commanded to be welcoming to strangers and aliens? Are we to help those in need? Absolutely! This is what Jesus taught through the parable of the Good Samaritan.

This does not, however, imply that our government should open its borders to those who intend to harm us. Its first responsibility is to protect those within its God-ordained borders.

Much confusion results when we apply God’s commands to us as His followers to our government leaders who are tasked with much different obligations.

The Need for Further Discernment

As believers, we must also be discerning of what we hear even though such wisdom is increasingly difficult amidst the avalanche of “fake news.” It’s prevalent everywhere we look. I have all too often become agitated by something I read only later to find out that the story was false or misleading.

There are several things, however, that I believe are well-supported.

We know that refugees from those nations on President Trump’s travel ban have joined in terror attacks in France and Belgium. ISIS has made it clear it intends to enter our country posing as needy refugees. The FBI has already arrested several refugees in our country for their association with ISIS.

Many of the Muslims already here are seeking to impose Sharia Law upon us rather than accept the laws of our land. Sharia Law denies all the rights we currently enjoy because of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The treatment of women under Sharia Law is both abominable and demonic.

The threat is real and we do need good measures for vetting immigrants who seek refuge in our country.

We are a nation of immigrants and we have derived tremendous strength from those who have come to our shores from other nations. This, however, has come about from those who have come lawfully to our country and then submitted to our laws.

Is our government really fulfilling its God-given purpose if it lets in those who seek to harm us and subvert our laws? Are we really wise to let in strangers who shout “death to America” and make no secret about their hatred for us? I do not believe so.

President Trump’s purpose in the travel ban is meant to accomplish two stated purposes. First, he is seeking to improve the current vetting process, which even the FBI director appointed by President Obama said was insufficient and not capable of keeping out the bad guys. Secondly, the President is seeking to make the process fair for Christians, who are by far the most persecuted group in the Middle East.

During the last year of President Obama, Christian refugees made up about one half of one percent of all the refugees from nations such as Syria. Why the shameful discrimination against persecuted believers? I am happy to hear that our President intends to correct this serious injustice.

Conclusion

Does Scripture place the same responsibility upon government and its leaders as it does upon us as followers of Christ? No. While our leaders in government do not escape responsibility for the justness of their actions, their primary purpose is to punish evil and thereby protect its citizens.

We may disagree on whether President Trump’s policies are necessary for our security and that is fine. Based on what I see here and in Europe, I believe his temporary travel ban is both wise and necessary. I pray it will result in a safer vetting process as well as the acceptance of many more Christian refugees seeking to avoid the brutality of ISIS.

Whatever the outcome of the debate, it’s comforting to know that our hope is solely in Jesus and in His return to take us home. My hope is certainly not based on the government always getting its policies correct nor my ability to always do what’s right in showing mercy to others. My hope is solely in Christ who died in my place that I might have eternal life. I would have no hope apart from Jesus.

Jesus will not fail us regardless of the turmoil we see around us every day. Even when everything we see disappoints us, we can know for sure that Jesus will remain faithful to His own forever and ever.

Never forget that He alone is our hope. He is coming soon to take us home! In the meantime, He will never leave nor forsake us. It does not get much better than that.

If you have never put your trust in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late.

Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

 

 

A Peanut Butter Sandwich with the Jelly

pb-sandwhich

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

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

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

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

Is there any relief? Is there any hope?

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

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

We Groan

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

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

What exactly are we searching for as we groan?

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

So why do we groan?

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

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

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

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

We Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Wait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[ii] Romans 8:24

[iii] Romans 8:25

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

A Clash of Kingdoms

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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

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!

The Rapture, What’s to Fear?

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

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

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

I believe there is.

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

The Marriage Covenant

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

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

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

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

The Announcement

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

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

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

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

The Return of the Bridegroom

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

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

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

The Comforting Message for Us

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

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

1. He’s preparing a place for us!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Rapture will lead to much celebration!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[ii] 1 Corinthians 11:25

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