Paris Peace Conference Update

berlin-eu-european-union-federal-chancellery

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

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

However, such was not the case.

The Peace Conference Flopped

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

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

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

What Happened?

God’s people prayed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Restrainer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pray and Wait

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

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

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

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

I believe this is what we are seeing today.

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

 

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

An Eternity Worth Waiting For

wine-glasses-on-table

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

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

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

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

Eternity

In his book Desire, John Eldredge quoted Pascal as saying, “Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity . . . for want of reflection . . . we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”[ii] Eldredge then expanded on that sentiment, “We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.”[iii]

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

Let’s look at some verses from Isaiah 25:

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

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

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

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

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

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

    for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

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

    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[iii] Ibid. pp. 110-111

[iv] Ibid. p. 119

[v] Ibid. p. 123

Prophecy Comes Alive Before our Eyes

 

jerusalem-from-mt-olives-world-city-266020
Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives

 

When writers like myself talk about the nearness of the Lord’s return, I’m sure for some it brings up an image of a scruffy old man draped with a sandwich sign with the words “The End is Near!” printed in bold letters on both sides.

After two thousand years of waiting, I know many dear believers have difficulty wrapping their minds around the nearness of the Lord’s return, and understandably so.

Could Jesus really come for His church in our lifetime? Could the tribulation actually start in the coming years? Why do some believe that the end of human history is at hand?

Prophecy. With so many events aligning so closely with what Scripture predicts about the last days, it’s difficult for me to imagine that we are not getting to close to the time of the tribulation and hence to Jesus’ return for His church.

So while we do not limit God’s patience or foolishly set dates, I believe Jesus would have us be wise in discerning the signs of the times in which we live. The Lord chided the Pharisees and Sadducees for not recognizing the signs of His first appearing (Matt. 16:3). Would He not also expect us to recognize the signs of the tribulation or of His return?

So while we do not limit God’s patience or foolishly set dates, I believe Jesus would have us be wise in discerning the signs of the times in which we live.

For example . . . in just the past couple weeks the dispute over old Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria has reached a fever pitch with highly significant prophetic implications that leap out at us from the pages of Scripture.

The Prophecies Regarding Jerusalem

The prophet Zechariah, writing 2,600 years ago, said this regarding the behavior of the world toward Jerusalem in the last days:

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah.  On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it” (12:2-3).

Zechariah long ago prophesied a future worldwide preoccupation of the nations with Jerusalem to the extent that the leaders of the world would literally become intoxicated with it and eventually injure themselves coming against it. The “heavy stone” signifies a boundary stone thus indicating a fixation on the boundaries of Jerusalem.

Does this not describe what is happening today? Isn’t it bizarre that with all the terrorism and violence taking place in the Middle East, the atrocities in Aleppo, the world remains almost solely focused on Jerusalem? One agency estimates that 90,000 Christians were martyred for their faith in 2016 and yet Jerusalem consumes all the attention of the nations, just as the prophets said would happen in the last days.

The prophet Joel, who likely wrote before the time of Zechariah, said this about Jerusalem and Judah:

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land“ (3:1-2).

The first part of this prophecy has come true; the Lord has restored “the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem.”

The next event in this passage is the gathering of nations to fight against Israel with the Lord’s subsequent judgment on them. But notice the reason for His anger with the nations: it is because they have divided up His land, which is precisely what we see happening before our eyes today.

This undue preoccupation with Jerusalem and its boundaries is really no surprise. The ancient prophets said this would happen ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.

These prophecies from Zechariah and Joel long ago predicted what is currently taking place at the UN. This undue preoccupation with Jerusalem and its boundaries is really no surprise. The ancient prophets said this would happen ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.

UN Resolution 2334

On Friday, December 23, 2016 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which essentially divides up the land by making all Jewish settlements in old Judea and Samaria illegal. It gives all this land to the Palestinians. Land, by the way, that never belonged to the Palestinians in the past. Israel took that land from Jordan in the 1967 war and now has a peace treaty with that nation.

The resolution also gives the Palestinians control of all of east Jerusalem; something Israel will never accept. It’s now illegal, according to the UN, for Jews to go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

As a follow up to this resolution, seventy nations will gather in Paris, France on January 15, 2017 with the stated goal “to promote a “two-state solution” as the way that lasting peace will be brought to the Middle East.”[i] Many believe the objective of the conference will be to draw up a UN resolution to this effect that will be presented to the UN Security Council before January 20, when Donald Trump becomes the president.

It’s the prophecies of Zechariah and Joel coming to life before our eyes.  Christian author and speaker David Hunt said this several years ago regarding the Zechariah 12:3-4 passage:

“Consider how remarkable even this one prophecy is. Who could have imagined when the Old Testament was written that all the nations of the world would be involved in deciding the fate of Israel? And this involvement of all nations in dividing Israel has occurred exactly as prophesied and is still in the process of being implemented.”

This fascination of the world is even greater now than when David Hunt wrote these words.

Author Michael Snyder wrote this regarding the tension building in Israel regarding what might happen in the January 17 meeting in Paris, “In Israel, there is a tremendous amount of concern that whatever is agreed upon at this conference will immediately be used as the basis for a UN Security Council resolution that would permanently divide the land of Israel and create a Palestinian state. “[ii]

What’s the Significance?

Why is the current activity regarding Jerusalem and Israel such a big deal?

It may very well be another issue that brings the nations of the world to Israel’s doorstep at the end of the tribulation. However, it’s rather easy to see how the current UN resolution as well as the result of the upcoming meeting in Paris on January 15th could become the impetus for military action against Jerusalem such as prophesied to take place just before the Lord’s return to earth.

Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated that Israel will never give up the old sector of Jerusalem. He clearly stated in his response to Resolution 2334 that Israel will not agree to its terms. If the world further seeks to impose a two-state solution upon Israel, it will be met with the same resistance.

Can you see why so many students of prophecy believe we are in the last days? We are already seeing events shape up in the world that could easily set the stage for the great battle at the end of the tribulation, which I believe is at least seven years away.

I pray that President Obama does not allow passage of any UN resolution forcing a two-state solution upon Israel. I very much believe this will lead to disastrous consequences for the United States as well as set the stage for the Great Tribulation. It will lead to greater violence, not peace, and possibly ignite a series of events leading up to the battle of Armageddon.

I also recognize that the refusal of the United States to block such action against Israel may be a part of the fulfillment of end time prophecies. Perhaps we might even expect it even though our hearts react strongly against such action by the UN.

If the UN votes to officially take land from Israel and give it to a newly formed Palestinian State, will it not be yet another bright flashing sign pointing to the nearness of the Lord’ return?

Is this not exactly what the prophets Zechariah and Joel said would happen in the last days?

I believe such a vote would signal the approaching of the tribulation and even sooner appearing of Jesus for His church.

Even if not, it certainly represents prophecy coming alive before our very eyes.

Maranatha!!

[i] Michael Snyder, Circle January 15th: 70 Nations Will Gather In Paris to Discuss the Creation of a Palestinian State, Online article from the Website, The Economic Collapse.

[ii] Ibid.

Does the Pretribulation Rapture Favor the “Lucky Few?”

dice

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

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

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

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

What is the Argument All About?

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

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

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

It’s Never Been Equal

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

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

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

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

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

What About Christians in the Middle East?

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

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

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

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

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

What Does it all Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His righteousness is all that matters now and forevermore!

Maranatha!!!

[i] John Miltenberge, Rapture

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

Jesus Remains our Only Hope

hope-post-photo

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

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

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

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

People Still Need Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Return is Still our Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Still Need to Pray

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

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

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

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

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

We must continue to pray often for our country.

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

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

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

[i] Matthew 24:44

Will the Waiting Ever End?

black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for Jesus’ Appearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for the End of Suffering

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

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

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

I love the response recorded in Isaiah 25:9 of those enjoying the feast of this still future day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Someday we will echo those very words as we praise the Lord.

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

The Scoffers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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