Posts filed under: Life

rapture

There may be one event that Christians are looking forward to more than any other.  It is an event that is called the rapture.  This event in history is unlike anything that has ever taken place.  This event takes place as Jesus keeps His promise to return and take every believer to be with Him for eternity.  What an event!

While this may be one of the most anticipated moments in all of history, it has shocked some to find out that the term “rapture” cannot be found in the Bible.  If the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, why do we expect it so much?  We look forward to this event because while the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, the teaching of the rapture is all over the New Testament.  It is interesting that the terms “Trinity” and “missionary” are also not found in the Bible, but the teaching of both of these terms is saturated throughout the Bible.

The term “rapture” actually comes from the Latin term rapio meaning “to seize or to carry away.” One of the clearest references to this event is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  It is this event that brings great hope to the people of God.  I want to look at four “hopes” that the rapture brings to those who trust in God.

4 Hopes of the Rapture

  1. The hope of reuniting.

At the rapture event, there is a great reunion that takes place. First (and foremost) there will be a reuniting with our Savior face-to-face.  Can you imagine it?  In the blink of an eye, all of our hopes and questions about Christ will be revealed and made plain.  I know that it has not been common practice of a Baptist to dance, but I just have to believe that there will be a little “cutting of the rug” going on at this moment.  We will see Jesus face to face and experience His fullness like never before.

If that weren’t enough, the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone on before us into glory.  I’m sure that we all have someone who has been dear to us that we have had to let go far too early. The beautiful hope that a Christian has is that there is never a “good-bye” for believers.  It is simply a “see you later.”  There is coming a day when we will be reunited with our loved ones who have trusted in the Lord and gone before us.  What a day that will be!

2.  The hope of God’s revenge.

Revenge is a strong word and seen by many to have some negative connotations to it.   We are taught from an early age that we should not be vengeful… that we should not seek out our vengeance against another.  Romans 12:19 tells us “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

There may be times when we are wronged and want to get even. Our vengeance will never bring about the result that God desires.  This in no way says that we are to be anyone’s doormat, but rather we have One that will take up our cause and bring about the perfect result in due time.

The rapture event is not just a deliverance for us as believers, it is an indication to creation that the holy God of the universe is not going to let sin go unpunished.  In the rapture, God removes His chosen children out of the way of where His wrath will be poured out.  We should praise God for the ways that He looks out and cares for us.

3.  The hope of release from a troubled world.

This world in which we live is filled with trouble.  It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that we face trouble around every corner in this world.  Jesus told us that it would be this way in John 16:33 = “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are times that our hearts seek out relief from the troubles of this world.  You may be at a point where all you see around you is trouble.  That is one of the effects of sin that entered in the Garden of Eden.  We seek deliverance because something in our hearts tells us that this isn’t right… we weren’t created for misery … there has to be relief.  There is, and that relief is found in Jesus!  When a person comes to faith in Christ, the troubles may not evaporate before them, but the sting of our troubles vanishes before the peace that comes through the Holy Spirit.

The rapture event is a reminder that the troubles that we face here in this world are for but a moment. There is strength for the battle today, but there is coming a full deliverance when our Savior splits the sky and calls us home, and no trouble will ever be able to touch us again.

4.  The hope of unending life.

When a person places their faith into Jesus Christ alone, he or she is promised what the Bible calls “eternal life.”  This is a life that never ends.  This body may one day stop breathing and the heart may stop beating, but this is not all that there is.  Life goes on past the grave.  Each and every person who has ever lived is still alive today in heaven or hell.  Now hell is called the second death because it is the eternal experience of God’s judgment on our sin.  But for the one who has chosen to allow Christ to pay their penalty, and trusted in His going through hell on behalf of us, that person experiences life forever in heaven.

The rapture event is the reminder to all who place their faith in Christ and follow Him only that eternal life is not just something that we sing about or talk about in church services… it is a reality.  Paul taught about this event in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.

The Rapture for Today

Is there any wonder why Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 that we should “comfort one another with these words?”  The rapture event is a hope-filled event that will take place in the near future.  To know that we have not been forgotten… that we have not been abandoned… Praise the Lord!

But what about today?  The rapture event has not taken place yet.  We look forward to its coming.  The hope that the rapture brings us, we are to comfort and encourage one another with these words as 1 Thessalonians 4:18 tells us.

As these words, straight from the heart of God, come to us, we are not only to “pick our heads up” but we are to have courage build up within us to carry out the mission that God has given us as His children.  That mission is to take the gospel that makes this all possible to those who need it.

Just as Christ will one day come and call us out of this sinful world, He has already called us out of the world to be shining lights in the darkness. For those who have already placed their faith in Christ, He has seized you out of the kingdom of darkness and brought you into His kingdom of light.  He has commanded that each of us to live out the reality of His power through word and deed before others so that they can experience it for themselves.

There is no sitting and waiting. There will be no opportunities after the rapture to share your faith with someone so that they may receive the gift of eternal life.  That is a task for the here and now.  Jesus is coming back, and when He does, our opportunities to do what He has commanded will be over.  Those opportunities that bring about the words that every Christian should long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” are only found prior to the rapture event.

While we anticipate the return of Christ and our hopes made sight, there may be some who for the first time realize that they aren’t ready.  Larry Norman (Christian musician of the 1970s) had a famous song, “I Wish We All Been Ready” that spoke about this event.  They are not ready because as they examine their hearts, they realize that they have never truly followed Jesus Christ.  They have not called out to Him in confession and with repentance given themselves to Him wholly.  The beautiful thing about this is that you have been given another opportunity to respond.

For others, you might have made that decision already but you realize that you have been lazy with your faith.  You have answered the call for you to come and receive God’s salvation, but you have turned a deaf ear to what God is calling you to do now.  You know that you should be sharing your faith… you know that you should be following Him in all areas of your life, but you haven’t been.  God has graciously called out to give you another opportunity to answer His call of “follow Me.”

This post was adapted from the sermon that I shared at the South Calhoun County Revival at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Calhoun City, MS on October 26, 2016.  

Last night was a big night in the Stephens household.  Our middle son, Sam, has had his first “loose tooth” for a little while now.  I knew that this day would come.  I personally was dreading this day because Sam is not one to take pain or blood well.

Last night, as we were tucking the boys into bed, Sam pipes up and says, “I’m ready for my tooth to come out!”  We had been checking it and seeing how wiggly it is, and we knew that it was about time for it to come out.  So we proceeded to grab some tissues and get to work.

I was bracing for an all-out fiasco, but what I found was quite different.  Sam was so excited that he was going to get to experience this “big boy” event in his life.  The main trouble that we had was keeping him still as he couldn’t sit still from excitement.

After a little while of wiggling and pulling, out popped this little front tooth.  Sam did a little happy dance and was eager to show his onlooking brothers his tooth that was missing.  I cannot explain the relief that I had that it was not “the end of the world.”

As Sam was so eager to show his brothers his tooth that had come out, I looked at our oldest son, Drew, and said to him, “Thank you.”  You could see the confusion on Drew’s face as I said this to him.  I explained that because he had done so well with this event in his own life, his brother was not afraid to go down that path.  Drew’s example before his brothers had been one tool that had given Sam the courage to face this with no fear but rather excitement.

It is hard to see how God is using some of the events in our lives.  We may wonder, “God, how is this going to be used in any way?”  The truth is, we never really know who is watching us and how what happens in our lives can be exactly what they need to face what is coming down the road for them.

God never wastes a moment… even when it is a young boy losing a tooth.  God can use even that event to build up those around him.  Take heart and remember that God is not just working in and on your life, but He is also working through you in others’ lives as well.

On Wednesday nights at Bethany Baptist Church, we have started a series where we are going through the New Testament letter, 1 Timothy.  I thought that I would share a little of my notes from what I shared with our fellowship.  This is what we talked about this past Wednesday.

In the passage that we will look at tonight, we will see how Paul focuses on the truth of God’s gospel.

1 Timothy 1:12-14 = Gratitude for God’s grace

In verses 12-13, Paul gives thanks to God for the grace that has been shown to him in his life.  Paul remembers how Christ came to him and showed him great grace.  You may remember that Paul was on his way with papers in hand to arrest Christians when Jesus confronted him on the Damascus Road.  Not only did Christ save Paul, but He also called Paul to be His servant taking the gospel to people who had not heard it.

Paul admits that he was the last person whom God should have extended grace to because he blasphemed the name of Christ and persecuted the church.  That is the beautiful thing about grace.  It is getting what we do not deserve.  Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that we did not deserve God’s grace, but He extends it anyways.

As we are reminded about the amazing grace of God shown to us, are we thankful?  Does our lives demonstrate a gratitude for this grace that has been shown to us?  Do we take this grace for granted, giving a tip of the hat towards God and then going on about our merry way?  We should take time frequently to remember the grace shown to us and live a life of gratitude because of it.

Illustration: Dog adopted from the pound.  There was a boy that was taken by his father to the local pound to get a new dog.  When he saw this little puppy, the boy knew that it was the one.  He gave $50 and took the dog home.  The boy would take the dog to a local park and play with it often.  Many people would comment at how well the dog was trained.  The boy would reply that he had no obedience class training.  This dog would wait by the door for the boy to get home from school each day and would jump up and down when the boy got home.  This dog showed his love and appreciation to this boy because he rescued him from certain death.  If a dog can grasp this concept, shouldn’t we?

1 Timothy 1:15 = The Gospel in a Nutshell

In this verse, Paul gives one of the simplest presentations of the Gospel.  He states that Christ came to save sinners, and I am the worst of them all.  Paul is reminding Timothy to remember the mission.  Helping people realize their need for Christ is hard sometimes.  We may want to try different gimmicks, but it all comes to remembering that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, and Christ has come as that Savior.

This was also a means of identifying the false teachers that were trying to destroy the church.  If a person does not recognize their sin and the fact that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior and answer, then one should not give them any time.  Those who want to add things to the gospel like earning God’s favor by doing good works or other things are not from God.

God has given us a gospel that, though it is simple, is sufficient.  The grace of God shown through Jesus Christ coming to save us from our sins is all we need.  That is the message that God has given to His church to experience and share with the world.

1 Timothy 1:16-17 = God’s Purpose in Mercy

Not only did God show great grace towards us, but He also has shown great mercy.  Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.  In verses 16-17, Paul shows Timothy (and us) God’s purpose in mercy = to be an example to show others.

Our sin deserves the full wrath of God.  God has chosen to pardon those who come to faith in Him through Jesus Christ.  This mercy is not just for our benefit though.  It is to show others around us that God is patient and can turn anyone’s life around.  The mercy that God has shown to you is a testimony that someone around you needs to hear.  It is the answer to someone’s question about “Can God do that for me?”  Are we allowing the mercy that God has shown to us to be shared with others so that they can experience this wonderful gift?

1 Timothy 1:18-20

In the final verses of chapter 1, Paul encourages Timothy to fight the good fight.  It is interesting because here Paul talks about the good fight at the beginning of Timothy’s ministry, and Paul will share about the good fight in the last letter that we have that he wrote – once again to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:7 = I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.)

The life that God calls His followers to live is not easy; it is a fight.  It is a fight against the flesh, sin, and the forces of darkness in this world.  You do not experience victory in a fight by just standing around.  You have to fight.

In verse 19, Paul shares how we are to fight this fight.  He simply says to cling to your faith in Christ.  The word “cling” in this verse means “to seize or hold strongly in one’s hand.”  This would be like the young child who holds on to his or her “comfort toy.”  You do not easily pry it away from them.

Paul shares examples of two men who did not hold tightly onto the faith and who were removed from the church (Hymenaeus and Alexander).  We are not told as to what exactly they had done, but they apparently were not clinging to their faith in Christ and paying the price for it now.

If we want to experience the victory that Christ has given us in Him, we must cling to Him and follow Him with all that we have.  You cannot go into a battle half-hearted.  When someone does, that is when they fail.  The Bible calls us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and if we hold to the faith that saved us, we will experience that victory.

This was a statement that one of my sons made to me the other night. We were getting him ready for bed and trying to get him to lay down in his bed. He made the comment that he was afraid. I tried to console him with the words that the Lord was with him so he wouldn’t be alone. 

I thought that I had got him to a point of comfort until he said, “But He is invisible! I can’t see God!”
I will be honest that this statement caught me a little off guard. I wasn’t quite expecting my 6 year old to be at that point yet. But he is. 

This got me to thinking. I wondered about how many people in our world who do not believe in God or are trying to figure out the “God thing” are making the same statement about God: “I can’t see God.”

I am not saying that a person should physically see God to believe in Him. To see the Father is impossible because (1) He is holy and we are sinners – sin cannot stay in His presence and  (2) God is spirit (John 4:24). 

Even though we may not be able to physically see God, is there a “picture” that He has given to help us know Him better? I believe there are two. 

  1. Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus was a physical representation of who God is. One reason He came to earth was to give the world a picture of what God was like. 
  2. The Church. While Jesus came and gave a clear picture of who God was, He is not present in the manner He was during the first century. So where does the world look to “see God”? Answer: the Church. The Bible calls the Church the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Being the Body of Christ, the Church is supposed to show creation a clear picture of God.

With my son’s statement of not being able to “see God,” it makes me ask the question: “how are we as the Church doing at showing God to a world that is looking for Him?”

I came across a Bible verse the other day that really hit me hard in the gut.  Have you ever had that happen?  Ever had a Bible verse that you know that you have read over many times before, but all of the sudden… BAM! Right in the gut.  That was me.

God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. (Proverbs 28:9 NLT)

When I read that, I was like, “Did I read that correctly?  Maybe it is a translation issue…”  So I checked out other trusted translations…

He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (NASB)

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. (ESV)

Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law – even his prayer is detestable. (HCSB)

It did not take long to realize that there was no issue with translation.  The Word said what it meant. There is such a thing as detestable prayers.
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It is hard to imagine that God’s stomach might turn at that some prayers that are offered, but that is exactly what that verse is saying. It is in those times – the ones where what you read cannot be right in your mind – that you begin to put it to the context test. How does this verse measure up with the rest of Scripture? When you do that and remove your thoughts from the equation, it is easy to see why this verse is here.
Proverbs 28:9 says that these detestable prayers are offered by those who have ignored God’s laws. These are those who have already heard from God but chosen to ignore what He has said. How many times do we hear/read God’s truth from His word and choose to ignore it? When we do that and then come to God expecting Him to answer our prayers as we wish, we play God for a fool.
I do not like it when people ask me for advice and refuse to do anything I advise. When that person comes again needing some advice, what do you think is going through my head? Could it be that God goes through the same thing when people come to Him to bail them out or help them but have refused to do ANYTHING that God has previously commanded?
I believe that God hears our prayers. It is not a question of ability. But do our prayers bring detest or delight?  The answer to that question is determined by what we have done with what God has already given us. It could be that before God answers our prayers, He needs to get us into position for the answer. That position comes from obedience to what God has commanded prior to the request.
There have been many false teachers that have come on the scene using verses like “But if you remain in Me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (John 15:7 NLT) to float the thought that one can make God do what they want. This makes no logical sense whatsoever to me. Who do we think that we are talking to when we pray? If we are praying to the God of the Bible, then maybe we should revisit Revelation 1:12-18to get a glimpse of exactly who we are praying to. He is the living God of the universe and answers to NO ONE!
If you look carefully at John 15:7, you will notice that there is a similarity with Proverbs 28:9. Both passages talk about the importance of obeying what God has already said in reference to what we would like those Him do in the future. If we want to see God do even greater things in our lives, we need to make sure that we are already doing what He has shared with us.
Are the prayers that you are praying today detestable or delightful to God?