Saturday, August 26, 2017

170827 Not in the Dark

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
There is consistent teaching throughout the New Testament concerning the fact that Jesus Christ will come again! Jesus himself promised, more than once, that he would be coming back. In some of his last teaching to his disciples he stated, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). On the Isle of Patmos, John saw the Revelation. In the very beginning we are told that “he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Revelation 1:7). We should join with John in saying “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
One thing we can be absolutely certain of is…
The day of the Lord is coming. Let’s look at the words of the Lord Jesus found in Luke 17:22-24. And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.
God, in his own time and in his own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. The promise of Scripture is that Jesus will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth. When he does the dead will be raised and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unbelievers will be sent to hell which is a place of everlasting punishment. The believers in Christ, in their glorified bodies, will receive their reward and dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Remember it was Jesus who said, “And they will say to you, ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.” (Luke 17:23) I urge you not to go after these people who claim they know when Jesus is coming again. There is great danger in getting caught up in the WHEN while losing sight of the WHY!
Bible believers have the word of God and, though we cannot know everything about the future, God knows everything! In the Scriptures he has told us about the major events yet to come in the history of the universe. We can be absolutely certain these events are going to happen because God is never wrong and God never lies.
In the words of Jesus…
It will be a surprise to most people. Let’s continue with Luke 17:26-29. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—
Jesus gives us an insight into what was going on in the days of Noah. While Noah and his sons were building an ark the world around them was going on with their everyday tasks. They were eating and drinking. They were marrying and being given in marriage. We can assume from that description that they were not paying much attention to Noah and his family. The ark to be constructed was a very large venture for four men. I assume, and I realize that is dangerous, that they employed workers. What did their workmen think about what was going on? Did they think of the Ark is a huge oddity? Did they consider it as having some strange meaning? I believe, according to Genesis 6, the period of time spent in Ark building was 120 years. At least that is the period of time God said his Spirit would abide with man.
The other example Jesus used was the days of Lot! When we read the account in Genesis we see that the people of Sodom were busy with their normal activities. They were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building and threatening Lot’s houseguests! They were totally unaware of the disaster that was about to happen! Fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all as soon as Lot was out of danger.
Using these examples we can see that when Christ returns…
Life will be going on. Jesus described the scene for us in Matthew 24:38-41. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
Again we look at the situation in the days of Noah. Life was going on day by day. And then Jesus said that Noah entered the ark and the people of the earth were unaware of their situation until the flood came and swept them all away.
In the same manner people will be about their day-to-day activities when Christ comes again. Two men will be working in a field. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will be taken and the unbeliever will be left. Luke adds to the account that two people will be in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. He speaks of daytime activities and nighttime activities going on at the same time. We know that when it is day for us in the Western Hemisphere it is night in the Eastern Hemisphere. That could be a simple explanation of Jesus’ description.
The people of earth will be unaware until Jesus appears in the air and calls his people. We do not know the day or the hour.
There is a great danger in following a leader who claims to know when Jesus is going to return. In fact, I would say that anyone who claims to know specifically when Jesus is coming back is automatically wrong! Many people have been deceived by groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses only to find that the day comes and goes with nothing particular happening. Meanwhile people have begun to withdraw from long-term commitments. They might take their children out of school. They might sell their houses and make other life altering decisions based on these false claims.
Bible believers agree that Christ is coming again and that there will be judgment of unbelievers and a final reward of believers. We believe that believers will live with Christ in the new heaven and a new earth forever. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will rule and be worshiped in a never-ending kingdom. There will be no sin or sorrow or suffering.
And by the way we do not even know the month or the season no matter how people will try to explain to you that they do. We are left enough hope in Scripture that we will have some grasp on what is happening. The Bible tells us that…
We are not in the dark. Let’s return to 1 Thessalonians 5:5. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
Many people take this, and other passages, to mean that we will not go through any kind of tribulation period. I take it to mean only what it says. We are not in the dark about the things God is doing in the world. And…
Since we are light we should be alert. Let’s continue to read 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Since we belong to the day and are light in the world we need to use the light we have to draw others towards Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus is the light of the world and since we follow him we will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12). That light in us comes from Jesus. Because he is the true source of light (John 9:5 and John 1:4-5). The purpose of the light is to give us day-to-day direction according to Scripture and cause us to be attractive to people who are still in the dark.
The Bible teaches us that we are to maintain a good report with those who are on the outside. We are to maintain such positive relationships that the outsiders will listen to us when we bear witness to Christ. God created mankind to glorify himself. And the light of Jesus Christ in us is part of that glory. We were created to enjoy God and delight in him! In order to do that…
We must focus on Jesus’ revelation. Let’s check out the words of Peter found in 1 Peter 1:13-15. 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. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
While we’re waiting on Christ to return we have a responsibility. We need to clear the battlefield which is our mind. I don’t know if you’ve noticed -- but I certainly have -- the enemy uses all kinds of influence around us to affect our mind. The result is confusion and backsliding.
Peter is in full agreement with Paul on the subject. We are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds rather than being conformed to the world (Romans 12:2). So a part of our preparation for battle is to be sober minded. We are to stay away from foolish thoughts and worldly ways. We have a responsibility to allow Christ to control our minds because our warfare is not won by our strength but it is won by divine power that destroys the enemy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). We are to be obedient to Christ and live a holy life set apart to him.
Our Lord Jesus who lives in us is the light of the world and we have a responsibility to push back the darkness and bring in the light.
We should not be concerned about whether we will be successful…
Since we have spiritual armor. Let’s return to 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 6, he discussed in more detail the whole armor of God. Here in 1 Thessalonians he gives us the shortened version. Since we are light we should be acting like light. We are to be steady and sober. Our breastplate, that covers our vital spiritual organs, are faith and love. Our helmet is the hope of salvation.
In our modern world we have a problem with the word “hope” because of the way it is used today. One might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain today”, or, “I hope I win the lottery”. There are many other ways that we might use the word. Most of them would not have anything to do with what we surely expect. The words “hope of salvation” do not mean that we do not know if we are saved.
Biblically, “hope is the confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the Word is true, has occurred, and or will in accordance with God’s sure Word.” ( Since we have this hope…
We should encourage one another. Now let’s read 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
We live in a very pessimistic world. We are surrounded by so much wrong! Most people that we deal with are not very happy or encouraged. They live in the dark. But since we are light in this world we have great confidence that God will do what he says he will. Therefore we are able to encourage one another. This evil world is going to come to an end. Our Lord is coming and we can rejoice in that. As a part of our encouragement of each other we should live a life that is obviously filled with hope. If indeed we have hope in Christ then we have confidence that our Lord will come for us.
As we can see, several passages teach us that we cannot know the time when Christ will return. Be very careful with anyone who wants to tell you that they know when he will return. We have seen cult groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, prophesy again and again dates that failed. All Christians who take the Bible as their final authority agree that Christ will return and the world we live in will one day come to an end! In the meantime we should rest in the promises he has given. And be prepared! Have you placed your faith in him? Today can be your day.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

170820 Looking Forward to Jesus

1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The Apostle Paul clearly expected Christ to return during his lifetime. He includes in each chapter of this letter some teaching regarding the return of the Lord Jesus. Obviously he expected this letter to be encouraging to his dear friends in Thessalonica. Paul could see that the gospel has borne fruit among the people there. Now he wanted them to understand how to live in expectation.
With confidence in the fact that…
Jesus delivers his people from wrath. Let’s see how Paul explained it to the Colossians. Colossians 1:12-14. Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus, in physical form, is currently in heaven. Please don’t be discouraged by this fact because heaven doesn’t seem to be so far away. When Saul of Tarsus, on the Damascus Road, seem to be as far from heaven as one could get Jesus suddenly appeared in the clouds above him. When Saul had stood holding the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death Jesus appeared in the air. In both these cases heaven seems to be just beyond the veil that can be drawn back when we have a need. So we are waiting for the son of God who will return in the same way he left. You remember the event! He was speaking to his disciples assuring them that they would have the power they needed to live the kind of life necessary to please God. And with that power they would become witnesses to him. Then the curtain was drawn back and he ascended from the earth on the clouds! This Jesus, will be coming back in the same way he left. He will take his people and by the power of his resurrection he will deliver us from the wrath to come.
Many people teach that the God of wrath is an Old Testament concept! I’m here to tell you that almost 40 times the New Testament speaks of the wrath of God! Jesus, himself, stated that the one who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36). When we come to the end of our physical existence we either face eternal death or eternal life. Either we will live in the joy of our Lord or we will live under the wrath of God. Both existences continue for an eternity.
Paul had learned much from his ministries. Observing what God did in the lives of new believers gave him hope. In fact, we are told that…
Those people were Paul’s hope. Let’s go back to 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
Paul was totally encouraged by these people who had come to faith in Christ as a result of his preaching. He was able to see that faith in Christ released God’s grace so that we can rejoice in hope. Even difficulties come into our lives to improve our hope. Paul would later write to the Romans and tell them that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who’s been given to us.” Romans 5:4-5
Christ died for us so that we can possibly live for him. Even as we look around the room today we can rejoice in what we see. There are people here who seemed to have no hope until Christ came into their life.
And as we observe the work of God in them we are encouraged to continue in faith. Knowing his need for the evidence in their lives which produced hope…
Paul prayed that they may be established. Let’s read on 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
It is God’s intention that we grow in our love for one another. Paul desired that his friends would grow in love. We need to have that same desire for ourselves. Jesus had given us a new commandment to love one another. He wanted us to have the same kind of love for each other that he had for us (John 13:34).
Many years later, the Apostle John thought of that new commandment his Lord had given him and considered it an old commandment. That commandment is shown in the love we have for one another (1 John 2:7-8). Loving one another brings us out of darkness into the light and establishes our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father. The love that he has given us will be a solid foundation. Such a foundation will be very important to us when our Lord returns. In writing this, the first of his pastoral epistles, Paul tells us that…
He wanted his friends to be informed. Let’s read on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Apparently there were questions being raised as to what had happened to those who died. Paul was very positive in his preaching that Christ was coming soon! He was so positive that his hearers seemed to wonder that those who died may have missed out on Christ’s coming and the new kingdom that would be established. Instead of speaking of death as a horrible experience, Paul refers to death as falling asleep.
Since Christ died and rose again by the power of God. We can be assured that those who have “fallen asleep” will come with him when he returns. No one is going to miss out who have placed their faith in him! If we are alive when Christ returns we will be immediately changed from our earth suit into our heaven suit. We will be caught up in the air — through the veil — and join with all those who have gone before who are with Christ.
As we read through the book of Revelation we see how bad this world really is, and is becoming. Then we see what a glorious future awaits those who believe in Christ and we can join with John in saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
When we think of those who have gone on before we often feel a sense of loss and pain. We should not grieve as those who have no hope. We are among those who have hope of a future on the other side of the veil.
Jesus certainly felt grief when his friend Lazarus died. We don’t know the exact cause or depth of Jesus’ grief. We are simply told that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). When Stephen was martyred we are told that the devout men who buried Stephen and made a great lamentation over him (Acts 8:2). In neither case was grief expressed because they did not have hope of life beyond the veil. In fact, in both cases, they saw beyond the veil and knew that there was a future. So Paul writes to the Thessalonians with a desire that they are…
To be encouraged. Let’s read on 1 Thessalonians 4:15. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
We must be encouraged by the fact that we who are alive and are left until the coming of the Lord will rise in the air to meet those who’ve gone before. When Christ comes again he will bring those with him who have fallen asleep. Just as the angels promised, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
Those who have put their faith in Jesus and are still in their human bodies when he returns should be encouraged. John assures us in this first little letter that we are God’s children and when he appears we will be like him. We will see him as he is (1 John 3:2). Our human mind often questions “how can these things be?”
While we are in the flesh we will never know. When we are transformed into his image then we may understand. On the other hand, we may not even notice our change or care how God accomplished it. We simply need to join with Paul and his Thessalonian friends…
With no worries about those who have died. Let’s continue to read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
What will happen is very clearly spelled out in this passage. Just as the angels promised, he will descend in the same way that he ascended. With the sound of a shout and the sound of the trumpet the dead in Christ will rise. Remember, we’re talking about God! The God who spoke the universe into being can certainly speak our dead bodies into life. And no matter how our body has deteriorated or even have disappeared God is able to bring back any of it that he needs. As humans we cannot see how this will be done. But God is capable of dealing with the dead.
The living should be expectant. Let’s continue to read 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18. 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, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Obviously Paul believed that Christ would be soon returning. Now it has been more than 2000 years since that expectation. As long as we are alive we need to be prepared at any time to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
After we have died we might expect to be prepared at any time to come with him.
Because we cannot know when. Now let’s read on 1 Thessalonians 5:2. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
Paul knew that he had been faithful in teaching the soon coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He believed that these dear friends of his would soon see the living Lord Jesus Christ. We must remember that Jesus himself said that “no one knows the day or the hour not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32-33). Looking further down the page to verses 23-24 we see: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Paul closes out the letter with this wish for his people. We should also wish this for ourselves and for all those we know and love. Our desire should be that when he comes we will be completely holy. Our great encouragement is found in these words “He who called you is faithful; he will surely do it”. Thank God we do not have to depend on our ability because we would surely fail. He is faithful! He will do it!
The coming of our Lord is one of the great encouraging promises made to his people. It is God who makes us holy and without blame at his coming. We need to remember that he (Jesus) who never knew sin became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Without Christ we have no hope. With Christ we are made clean. Even though all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Even though the wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ. If we confess that Jesus our Lord was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead for our cleansing, we have hope of eternal life. Have you placed your faith in him? Today can be your day.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.